**Edit-Or shall I say “Tons of edits”. This post has changed quite a bit from the original. I MUST call attention to the fact that I am also wearing my NEW GLASSES in this posts photo. Yup. I went with the “Naughty Librarian” pair. They rule. Now, I really must work on not tinkering with posts once they are up. You poor, pestered, feed readers! What I must do to you! I can’t help it, it’s like picking at a scab. Walk away from the keyboard, Loralee. Now. You can do it!
I know many of you will run shrieking from the length of this post. For those less drama-infused, you will just scroll down and let your eye take in a few of the more pertinent words in each paragraph. This is more a post written for me to look back on in future years and (Hopefully) measure my progress. You could just skip it, but you will be missing a ROCKING photo of me in sweats and tiara.
Don’t let the title of this post scare you. I’m not going to stand up on a desk and go all “O, Captain! My Captain!” on y’all, but I do want to talk about the phrase made famous by cardigan-clad Robin Williams.
“Seize the day”.
When I break it down, it seems like the two basic fundamentals in “Carpe Diem” are Joy (Or happiness, but for the sake of eligibility in the giveaway by Kerfloppy, we’ll just call it Joy) and Action.
Joy is something that instinctively drives us. We seek it out. We are capable of going to great lengths to try and obtain it or what we think will bring it to us. Joy can be a powerful weapon, used to motivate, heal, help and bless. Besides being a weapon, Joy is also an armor. You can put it on and wrap yourself up in it every day to combat the assault of suck that life can reign down on your head.
Joy is something that has to be renewed so it can continue being a good thing. There are times that there is NO Joy to be found because of tragedy, pain or disappointments. During those trials you have to focus on the happy memories and as much of the positive as you can. Sometimes all that is standing between you and the cuckoo house is the memory of Joy.
You have to be careful though, because memories of Joy can be bittersweet. They can comfort you, but may also make you bitter or angry that it is no longer there. Sometimes if you are in enough pain, you get stuck in the memories of happier times to shut out the pain of what is going on around you. If you stop seeking Joy or refuse to allow it to keep coming into your heart you may become stuck and swallowed up in the past. I am notorious for being so stuck in the past that I can’t move forward. I struggle with this more than anyone I know and it has hurt my life and people I love.
Granted, I have been through a lot of terrible things. It seems that I barely get my head over one wave when I’m knocked down by the next thing. BIG THINGS. To quote Steel Magnolias, “When it comes to pain and suffering she’s right up there with Elizabeth Taylor”.
I feel pretty damn old for being 32.
It seems like for the whole of my life I have my kept my head down, plowed through and felt lucky to get through the battle alive. That may work for skirmishes, but what about the whole freaking war? Is my whole life going to be like this? Am I always going to feel so weighted down and beaten?
Last year, after listening to Lucinda Williams song “You took my joy, I want it back”, I had this epiphany:
“This is no way to have a life. I am tired of just surviving this life. I want to live it.”
How do you undo twenty years of this, though? How do you change things?
Here is where the second part of Carpe Diem comes in: ACTION.
I am not saying that you cannot have Joy without Action. Heck, there are so many simple things that bring me Joy that I don’t have to do much, if anything, to experience: A gorgeous sunset or a crashing thunderstorm or watching a lady bug crawl around the sunny spot of my windowsill. Still, most of the things that bring me my deepest Joy, I have had to either work for, or at, or make the choices that bring them to fruition.
I choose to be a better mother and wife. While it is true that having children can cause some of the deepest pain you may experience, the happiness and Joy that comes from them is immeasurable. I am ashamed of it, and it is nothing I do on purpose, but after Matthew died, my natural instinct facilitated me putting up the mother wall of all time to shield me against further loss. In doing so, it partially shut out my children. It is only this past year that I have put deliberate effort into allowing them back in. When you are used to keeping the door shut it takes a lot work to pry it open and let the love and Joys back into everyday life. I am so glad I have.
Jonathan and I continue to make strides. Sometimes they are damn small, but still…they are there. More and more I feel lucky and so appreciative of him. It is not easy being married to me. It isn’t easy being married to him either, but he has come such a long way, even in the last year, that I am beginning to hope and think that both of us are up to the task.
I choose to be a better friend. I’m not a bad friend. In fact, when I want to be I can be an amazing friend. The last few years I have put my little band of brothers through an awful lot. I am trying to rectify that. For awhile, I focused on trying to specifically make it up to them. “I’m sorry! Forgive me!” While that was necessary for awhile, I think that the best way I can make it up is to just work on myself, to be a productive, functioning person that takes it one step at a time and keeps moving forward. To get pieces of the old me back and make them work in my new reality.
I choose to take time for me. This has never really been hard for me, because I am one of the more hedonistic, self-centered people I know, but I am trying to do things with that time that will be more positive and productive than retreating to my “Island” (My bed) and sobbing over the injustices and suck of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I am rather fond of being a pessimistic masochist and a good wallow with a vat of Ben & Jerry’s is a lovely way to spend an evening. It just should be mingled in with reading a good book, taking a class, writing or working on my music.
I choose to be better about my physical and mental health. I found a new therapist. Granted, I have only been once due to reunions, funerals and the like of both our schedules, but I WENT. I also go to a supplemental meeting once a week that I love. It’s really been helping. Funny, I can’t say how, exactly, but it is. I have made huge, huge, HUGE strides in the last two years. I’m focusing on trying to not repeat bad behavior. I have put in boundaries and have faced up to things and tried to work through them rather than just running away because it is easier. I am not solely responsible for this. I have had mountains of help from family and friends. I appreciate and love them more than they know.
In the physical health area, I sucked up my terror of dentists and hospitals and got a lot of things taken care of and looked at. In January I started a rigorous diet and exercise plan. For the first time in my life, I planned and MET an exercise and diet goal. I ran two miles, I lost 20 lbs. I ate an extremely well-balanced diet. I could get down on myself that this summer has put me off track, but instead, I just think about how much better I eat now that I was off of sugar all those months and that I know that I am capable of making it happen. You can drown in the negatives if you let yourself. Still, even though I am much better at my health than I was, I would like to get back on track. I felt better. My next goal is to be better about preventative care. We’re not going to talk about my Diet Coke addiction. I’m not ready.
I choose to get our finances under control and make and meet goals. I have been saving every paycheck to realize my life-dream of seeing the UK. I can’t believe I’m going. Jon and I have been working and working to pay off debt. We still have a long way to go as far as organization, both in finances and life in general. I have never been a long term planner and suck at organizing things. Ehem…this is our “Bill System”. Hey, at least I have the VIP (Very Important Papers) in a drawer all of their own. Does it really matter that the drawer is to my 19th century china hutch???
Still, I want to get everything organized and in place. Baby steps, right?
I choose to keep trying to make my house a home and a better place to be with my family. A lot of days this means not burning my house down or going fetal and sobbing on my bed. I have come very far as a housekeeper. Which is sad because I still suck at it more than most people I know. I have a lot of challenges in the area-we have a TINY house with no storage. I have two very active boys. It is easier since they are older, but it is no picnic by any stretch. I am a cluttery, low-energy person.
What saves me is that I can cook well, I am ok at decorating, and when motivated I am one of the faster workers I know. I will get into a “SUPER MOOD” and clean and clean and CLEAN. Especially when I am pissed off. It works wonders.
Even though I struggle I have always made every single place I have lived better. I try to create homeyness, even though it is not my forte. I have a lot of successes. A lot more than I did even five years ago.
Still, most of the day-to-day drudgery that is housework I just suck at. I have to will myself to do it and find ways to make it endurable. My way of coping today? I’m wearing the superfanastic TIARA that a wonderful reader (TJ) sent me in the mail. There is something about wearing my pajamas and a sparkly princess crown while scrubbing toilets that is just good for my soul. I got a pretty funny look at the MacDonald’s drive-thru, but it ‘s still worth it.
I choose to learn to like “ME” Even with all these goals and aspirations I fall short on so.many.things. All the time. Constantly. It is one of the few areas that I am consistent. I have to keep trying. Even the tiniest step forward is still a STEP. In a good direction! Hopefully, I will continue making progress, even if I fall off the ladder or wagon or earth. I’ll climb back on and keep going. I am someone who is exceptionally hard on themselves. It is abrasive to some people how much I rip on everything about me. I am so much harder on myself than I would ever dream of being on anyone else that I love.
One of my best friends has a saying when I go into this pattern. “Excuse me?! You are talking about my best friend and NO ONE is allowed to talk crap about her, so you need to shut it or we’ll have to take it outside.”
It helped put it in perspective.
I am trying to get better at it and give myself a break and realize that there are just things about me that RULE. I do a lot of things well, great, and superfantastick. I know it is such a cliche, but loving yourself is so hard but so important. I think this may be the hardest thing to conquer of them all.
For now? Well, the best part about the Carpe Diem philosophy is that it is about a DAY. A chunk. A baby step. “Tomorrow is new, with no mistakes in it”. You don’t have to swallow your life and all your aspirations and goals in one big chunk, you can take it a day at a time. My chunk today? I have to go and square off with the baskets of laundry waiting to be folded in my bedroom. Afterwards I plan on seizing the day by snuggling up with my new baby niece.
It really doesn’t get much better than that.