It is what it is

I can’t believe it’s autumn already.

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(I just decided to write autumn instead of fall. Does anyone say autumn anymore? Where has that word gone? … Anyway …)

It seems impossible that 2016 is nearly three-quarters of the way gone. The days come and go like a sneeze. This is a sure sign that a) I have WAY too much going on this year, and b) I’m getting old. I’m okay with that. Like always, I still say I’d never go back in time. And I’m much more aware than ever how important it is to make each day count.

The past year has shaken me up. I have had too many reminders of my own mortality. Add to that, too much seems to be falling apart as I sit here helplessly. There is a constant worry about a loved one’s child destroying his life with drugs. (You always think it can’t happen in your own circle, until it does. And it’s horrifying.) There’s the exhausting dysfunction that continues to plague the relationships among my extended family. (Why are some so comfortable being hateful to their own blood?) Sometimes, it’s simply the thought of this county’s next leader that leaves me fearful of tomorrow.

Some days it all weighs on my heart to the point that I wonder why we bother with any of it.

The upside of aging is that while it is still and probably always will be in my nature to worry first and give a heavy amount of attention to the negative stuff, I’m learning not to stop there. There’s just so much I can do nothing about. If I’ve learned anything from losing my 47-year young best friend almost two and half months ago now, it’s that life is simply too short to waste the days giving energy to battles that can’t be won.

There’s a lot of anger and hatred between my siblings, and I guess … I’ll admit … me. I don’t want to own any of this, but if I’m honest, I’m not completely without blame here anymore than the others. I’m just as capable of refusing to see past faults as anyone else. In years past, I found myself constantly trying to fix it. Now I realize that maybe we’ll never be able to understand where each other is coming from. I’m tired of harboring resentment though, and I’m tired of feeling that if it’s going to be fixed, it’s going to have to be me who takes the initiative. As many times as that’s happened, I’m just sick of coming back to the same place again. I’m tired of swallowing my pride and opening my heart and home to others who refuse to acknowledge that they have played and continue to play a role in the fraying of our family life. Maybe it’s enough to just concede that we can’t force togetherness and we should just love each other from a distance.

There’s a woman I work with. We’ll call her Dee. Dee is the most bitter and angry person I’ve ever met. She’s constantly using sarcastic humor to express how stupid she thinks other people are. I know there’s probably a lot of history behind it, but even as I try to understand what might be beneath the surface, there’s a limit to how much thinly veiled judgement I’m willing to take. I think everyone wants to have some friends at work. But Dee? She’s alienated all but me and one other person. We are the only ones willing to eat lunch with Dee anymore. All others have gone their separate ways. This week I told that one other person that she shouldn’t take it personally if I opt not to spend my precious lunch break with her and Dee some days. I see how easily in the past, I’ve been where Dee is right now. I don’t want to fall back to that place and I just don’t think it’s good for me to spend time with a person who doesn’t ever seem to want to let go her darkness. I’ve had enough darkness. I need light in my days.

This year has been good though too. It’s shown me I am strong in ways I never thought I was. The experiences of this year have created a bond so strong between my mom and me that I never thought possible. I will never regret this, I know. But sometimes I worry that I’m falling short in my friend relationships, with the in-law side of my family, and that I should be doing more to give of myself in a wider circle.

Then often comes a reminder from somewhere else. My mom needs me right now more than anyone else needs me. She is my calling at this time. It always comes back to this. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realize that there will be other days for those other things that pull on me. My friends who have been here? They understand this and I love them for it. (Shelly! Rose!)

This year has taught me that there really aren’t any solid lines in this life. As much as we try to tell ourselves as much, there just aren’t. There’s no real black and white. As angry and abandoned as I feel sometimes with some of my siblings, I’m willing to admit that we just haven’t found a way to “get” each other. I love them, but right now, I just need to keep my distance. I don’t have enough energy to do all that I must do every day, and understand things they can’t or aren’t willing to share with me. I frequently remind myself that as much as I’d like to think there’s a way things are supposed to be, things just are what they are. I’ve come to believe that what is supposed to be is mostly an illusion anyway. Someday, it might all be made clear to me, but for now, I have to accept that there’s a lot that isn’t going to make sense. We all choose what we choose in life. We can’t do so for others.

None of us knows what it’s truly like inside the hearts of each other. Sometimes people can’t share what drives them, and rather than hang on to the hurt, we have to either accept it, or just walk away from each other. Sadly, because this world is so broken, sometimes it’s just not possible to have the relationships we imagine in a perfect world.

I’ve come to accept that with precious few hours in a day, and precious few days in this life, I have to put my energy where it’s welcomed, where it can make a positive impact. For now, that’s my immediate family, my mom, and anyone else who is willing for us to accept each other as we are. If someday it’s possible for healing with those who have drifted away, I’ll welcome it. In the meantime, I’m not going to force it.

With age and the experiences of late, my mind and heart seem to be breaking free of the limits I’ve spent a lifetime enforcing on them, in both profound and simple ways. I don’t have to hate. I don’t have to be sad. But I also don’t have to keep exposing myself to people and circumstances that make me hurt. There’s a degree of freedom in finally accepting that I can’t force life to be what I expect it to be. And when I finally begin to see it as it is, it might actually be easier to be happy.

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8 thoughts on “It is what it is

  1. Nothing I can say that will add to the depth of the analysis that you’ve done. But especially when it comes with family, even though we feel we should be close because we are ‘family’, the reality is there is no guarantee that we will connect with these people. It is just chance that has put us together as family. We didn’t choose them.

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  2. It’s taken me a long time to get to where you are, Tee. You just wrote, in essence, the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

    I am sorry for the pain and dysfunction near you and understand fully why you’re pulling back to focus on your well being and on what you can control. Your Mom needs you, you want to be there for her, and the rest of it …. just doesn’t matter. I have a sister who no longer speaks to me because I spoke up at our Mother’s funeral. My Mom was more than a birth date and an end date and a bible verse. She was a million stories and experiences in between, life lessons, laughter and love. And that’s what I spoke to and the smiles and nods in the crowd told me it was the right thing to do. This sister and I had been strained for some time but my doing a eulogy (when I didn’t live there and didn’t provide care for her like she had done and resented us for) put her over the edge. Yes it may bother me but I am not responsible for her choices. I choose how to react or respond to it ~ it’s sad that Mom’s passing has us scattered to the wind but the truth is -we were before.

    Hope you can feel the big hug in this!! Take care of you – its perfectly OK to do so.
    xx MJ

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  3. I truly believe that happiness is a choice. But that is so easier said than done!
    Your posts during this past year have been so reflective and perceptive of, not just your own life, but life in general. I know you struggle with family conflicts, difficult coworkers, your mom becoming more dependent, and just all of it. But reading your blogs gives me that feeling that writing about it is a nice outlet for you.

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  4. Tee, for one so young, you’re extremely wise, girl!! I totally “get” your feelings about family. As you know, I, too, am caring for mom and doing what I can to honor her wishes for independence and her own home for as long as possible. My only sister hasn’t spoken to me in almost three years. That’s her choice. I can’t make anybody else stop embracing drama. At the end of the day, though, I know I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror and rest assured I did the best I could, under sometimes difficult circumstances, for the one who gave me life. Right now, I believe that’s God’s will for me. Sure, it’s hard juggling work, care giving, exercise, friends, etc., but sometimes we need to focus on the immediate needs and trust that everything we put on the back burner will return in due time. Hugs, my friend!

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  5. Just when I start to think that mine is the only dysfunctional family on earth, I read a post like this! Just kidding. Really, though, I want to say two things to you.
    1. You have learned a very important lesson for your own life. There are only certain things that you can control. Expending effort on things you can’t control is useless, frustrating, tiring and so much more that totally makes it not even worth it to try! As a result, you sound happier, lighter and just more in charge of your life and your feelings. I know it took a lot of work to get there, but life is so much easier now, isn’t it?
    2. Step away from the unhappy, dissatisfied, whiny and complaining members of your family, for now. I have found that my family members who fit this description have mellowed over time to the point where I’m getting a lot more cooperation and openness in response to my efforts to get as many of us as possible back together again. Maybe you’ll have the same hopeful experience somewhere down the road.

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  6. “It is what it is.” That has become my mantra over the years, and has helped me not get worked up over things I have no control over. (And boy did I used to get worked up over things.). I feel so much peace now-a-days. Even in the most stressful of times.
    I hope you’re able to achieve the same level of peace. Not so easy, especially because you care so much about so many. But your happiness is important. Don’t allow others to take it away from you. 😉

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  7. Bitter, angry, uses sarcastic humor.
    Uh, Dee is an energy suck.
    I don’t think work is a place to add friends. You and they are together for job and paycheck. If other items relate you as “friends at work”, whatever they are get trumped by the real reason you intersect; Work a paycheck.

    I taught a Bible study decades ago. This particular class was on the Book of Joy, Philippians. 4 chapters on Joy. I like that book.

    The class was Singles , tho divorced, widowed, didn’t-fit-in-anywhere-else folks, elderly, youth….and eclectic group that needed truth on ” Joy “.

    Precisely one married couple came weekly. He was a well renowned psych-babble expert in town. His word was absolute in Court cases. His wife brought her ” trying-too-hard smile, and it looked it.

    Coffee and pastry were always provided for folks to mingle and gab about 30 minutes prior to class.
    Psycho and wife ALWAYS missed the 30 minute before class, entered 10 minutes late after class was underway. They interrupted as all eyes averted their way, and we all waited for his name brand coat to be hung up. Then, get coffee for two. Then sit down.

    Because the behavior persisted, I never took time to backtrack the lesson to fill them in.

    One woman in class never spoke, never answered questions. She was gifted with silence. Then one day as class started, she spoke:
    “I need to learn Joy all over again. A few years ago, I was a teacher. I also drank. One day at school, I drove over a student and he died. I can’t forgive myself. I lost my job, my friends, my family. After all of this, I feel numb and sarcastic about life.”.

    And in that moment, psych-babble and wife came in late, stopped the class anew (at a critical time for the teacher speaking for her first time)
    They got their coffee, Sat down at our huge table, and then, the ” Dr.” spoke immediately. He said:
    “Everybody knows that sarcasm is a dead give away for low self esteem” He smiled with pride at his diagnosis done quickly.

    But our class knew no link of sarcasm and low self esteem.

    The prognosis was easy off because he heard only her last sentence. He did not know she was a teacher, killed a child, went thru court, lost her job, etc.
    The entire class was just flabbergasted at this “wisdom of emptiness”.
    Why do I remember this after 30 years? Well, I noticed in all the classes and years since that day, the teacher coming out of her shell never spoke again.
    Mr Psycho-babble really damaged her good. It may be true, but it was not kind. (Read Philippians 4:8 on what God wants us to think on).

    Now, and in years since that class, I meet many sarcastic ” Dee” type people. I tell NONE of them that sarcasm is a dead giveaway for low self esteem. But what I DO next is to build up their self esteem anyway I can, as they speak sarcastically. Who else will validate their worth or elevate their self esteem?

    We rarely know the steps in people’s lives….. not even the beginning. We don’t know the bruises well hidden in their hearts and covered by skin we see.
    But we ALL know what that feels like.
    Help your fellow wayfarers on this path we call “Life” and leave each one, a tad better off in life….because you took the time to elevate their spirit, dignity, and yes, self esteem.

    You may be the only one HE sets in their path to water the good seeds He planted in these people, but weeds of life block the good seed growth.

    HE will always remember what you do for the least among us.

    Time to stop speechifying.
    I pray blessing to all of you… often!

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    • From someone who wallows in negative thinking constantly, i must say it is not a pretty place to be. I like being around good people because i do enjoy beautiful things. I try not to be those with dark thoughts because my skies are already cloudy and i dont need electrical storms in mine.
      i am a selfish, evil bugger who has very few friends and hated by many.
      i hate myself and i love me too.
      its all in the mind.

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