Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Breakaway - Part 2

Read Part 1

To my 20-year-old self, it seemed perfectly reasonable to pick up and move 2,000+ miles away. I had friends to stay with, and I had skills that would get me a job in any office in no time. I had no car and very little money. But all I remember feeling was excitement.

I figured it was best to tell my dad I had a job before I left. I knew he would worry, and I so I planned to tell him a second lie when I actually did get a job and say the first one just didn't work out. No harm done, right? Well, the problem was I told him I was going to work at a Westin Hotel (I had actually put in an application there). So the day after I left, who calls my dad's looking for me to set up an interview? The Westin Hotel of course!

My dad was a wonderful father. He gave us a lot of freedom, and fostered our independence. He rarely yelled. When he was really upset he would be devastatingly silent. At least that's how I remembered it.

Thinking back all these years later, I cringe at what I must have put him through with that move. His 20-year-old daughter flies away to live with people he has never met, so far away that the possibility of visiting was slim. But at least she has a job...NOT. When he called me on my lie, I could tell he was more disappointed than angry. And concerned, of course. And hurt. Hurting him was the worst feeling in the world.

Within a couple of weeks I had a job. Finding a job wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, and it was a three-bus-ride commute! I was surprised. I had assumed that all big cities had the kind of transportation system that Chicago had. Boy was I wrong on that!

And shortly thereafter my friends asked me to move out. I don't remember exactly why the welcome mat was pulled out from under me so suddenly, but they broke up not too long after that.

So I had a job but now needed a new place to live.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The young people in my life are growing up. I see them hit those milestones like driving, first jobs, graduation, moving out...and I remember what it was like to be taking those first big steps on my own. It was exciting to say the least, but sometimes daunting and just a little bit scary.

We all have breakway moments, when we know it is time to take one of the bigger big steps. We may have no idea what that step should be, but we just know we have to take one. It's like a growth spurt. You don't recognize it when it is first starting, but soon you know that you will just bust out of your skin if you don't make a move.

By the time I was 20, I had moved out and back in with my dad twice. The first time doesn't really count as a breakaway...I lived with my grandmother for a while after my grandfather died. I'm not sure the second time exactly counts either, because it was known to be a temporary situation.

I agreed to sublet my boss's downtown studio apartment. He wanted to move to California to live with his girlfriend, but couldn't wait the three more months he had on his lease (his own breakaway). I paid half the rent for his furnished place, and then at the end of the lease I arranged for the moving of his furniture and then moved back home. I was broke a lot, and more than once had to walk almost an hour to get from work to the apartment because I lacked even the dollar for the bus. But it was a whole summer living in downtown Chicago, so who cared?

My former boss and I kept in touch, and when I expressed my desire to do something new with my life, he encouraged me to come out for a visit to stay with him and his girlfriend for a while. One conversation led to another, and I decided to make the move to California. I did some long-distance job hunting and had some good leads, but had no job lined up when I said goodbye to the life I had known, bought a one-way ticket and stepped on that plane.

My California adventure started with a lie I would soon regret.


Monday, May 26, 2008

The Kid

In the movie The Kid Bruce Willis plays Russ, a successful consultant who is about to turn 40 years old. He makes a lot of money, but is still single, has almost no friends, and doesn't want anything to do with his family, especially his father. He doesn't remember his childhood, and his left eye twitches when he is stressed.

One day Russ finds (or maybe hallucinates) a kid in his house who he soon realizes is himself from the past...about to turn 8 years old. The Kid's name is Rusty and he is chubby, has a bad haircut and talks funny. When Russ discovers that other people can actually see Rusty, he tries to figure out why The Kid is there.

At first Russ thinks it is happening so he can give Rusty advice so Rusty won't be such a "pathetic dweeb". Well, Rusty isn't so anxious to accept advice from his almost-40 self, because he sees Russ as a "dog-less, chick-less, jerk with a twitch." Each thinks the other is a loser.

In the end, they can't change the past. But they do help each other. Russ teaches Rusty to stand up for himself, and Rusty helps Russ remember and understand a horrible, life-changing event, the day when that twitch first appeared.

This story hit home for me big time. Eight was an awful age for me, with a big horrible life-changing event.

What would she say to me if my eight-year-old self saw me right now? And what would I say to her about how I got to be the me I am today? Well, it doesn't matter because the past is past. All any of us can do is move forward and make the changes we want to make in our own lives.

Although I might tell her that she won't always be a pathetic dweeb with a bad haircut, buck teeth and ugly glasses. Well, at least the hair and glasses have changed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thoughts about thoughts

Change your thoughts and you change your world.
(Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking)

Do you believe that is true? I do. But it is not easy to change one's thoughts. We get used to how we think about things and those thoughts almost become automatic. But consider what your days would be like if you adopted even one of these Peale quotes as part of your personal philosophy:

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.

Do not be awe struck by other people and try to copy them. Nobody can be you as efficiently as you can.

Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture...Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.

Think enthusiastically about everything; but especially about your job. If you do, you'll put a touch of glory in your life. If you love your job with enthusiasm, you'll shake it to pieces. You'll love it into greatness.

Try it!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The fabulous forties

"I'm gonna be 40, and it's freaking me out."

I overheard this a few months ago from a woman customer at the counter of a clothing store. The woman behind the counter told her customer not to worry, that the forties are the "best time of your life". Not surprisingly, the customer reacted with scepticism! I couldn't help myself...I walked up behind the woman and whispered "in your forties you finally stop caring about what other people think of you."

It was the thought that came into my head at the moment, but that's not exactly what I meant. Of course I care what people think about me! I still want people to like me. I want to make a good impression with my work, my attitudes and my looks (by making the most of what I have). I still want men to think I'm pretty. But I have reached a point in my life where I finally know that what other people think about me does not define me.

If I let what other people think about me define me, I would be prudish, closed-minded, judgmental, fat, lazy and lacking in self-control. I have been called some of those things to my face...quite recently in fact.

What I am is human, with desires that sometimes clash with my beliefs. I sometimes desire the wrong thing at the wrong time, or desire the right thing at the wrong time (there seems to be no right time to desire the wrong thing). Some of my beliefs have been seriously challenged lately, which is a good thing. If your beliefs cannot stand up to a challenge, they might not be worth believing in.

I don't believe everything I did 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even a few years ago. Sometimes I think I know what is best for me and the people I love, and then I see or experience something that challenges that belief. But I have reached an age and a state of being that lets me consider all sides of a situation without completely doubting who I am and how I live my life.

Perhaps the forties, for those of us who are fortunate to live this long, are a time for truly getting to know yourself. Heck, I'm almost 48, and I would have to live to 96 to consider this time in my life "middle-age"! But maybe there is just no way to know yourself until you've had these many years of experience. I don't know.

I just know that I love my life right now. And even though there are things I want that I know I can have but would not be good for me...I know I am loved. I am deeply and sincerely loved. By God and by the people in my life who truly matter.

It is a fabulous time indeed.

What is it like for a guy...

...when a big chick flick is about to come out?

According to John Kass of the Chicago Tribune, it is terrifying. He wishes to spare men the agony of being dragged by their girlfriends or wives to see a certain movie that opens in two weeks.

Click here for the full column and your free "Kass SATC Absolvo Carta".

Thank you for your service to mankind, Mr. Kass.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

If I believed in signs...

...this might just be one:

It's hard to see in this picture, but that's a DOUBLE rainbow. I've never seen such a thing in my entire life. And what was I doing when this possible sign occurred? I was hoping for some way to know I was doing the right thing.

You see, I am on a path that started long ago, the catalyst of which is a circumstance that I just found out no longer exists! So do I go through with it? Do I take the easy road, which in a way means staying stuck? Is the path I am on leading me toward something or away from something? Or both?

Or is this double rainbow just a spectrum of light from the setting sun on a rainy evening?

Sometimes decisions are forced on you, and sometimes you are blessed with too many options. With all the world is going through today, to whine that I don't know what to do because I can do anything I want seems the height of self-centeredness.

But then I saw this. And it made me feel like somebody was trying to tell me something. I am doing the right thing. I need to keep going on this path.

Memory lane - Part IV

Read from Part 1

Somewhere (almost 30 years) deep in a landfill is a box of letters. Well, I doubt there is much left of them after all this time. This was about a year's worth of correspondence from the boyfriend of my senior year in high school.

Those were the days before email and before unlimited long distance calling plans. He was in college over 400 miles away most of that year. When he wasn't, he was only 300 miles away at home. It was a lovely time in my life, and I loved our correspondence - long, newsy, sweet letters, about one for each week. Plus cards for special occasions.

I treasured those, so much so that I pulled them out to read daily for months after he broke up with me. Then I realized I had to let go. I knew I was in danger of never recovering from that breakup unless those letters were gone. It took a couple of attempts before I could finally let the garbage truck take them away.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when I started packing for my move. I started in what I knew would be the the most difficult spot - a little oriental cabinet where the last of the Daniel memorabilia had resided undisturbed since my last move. It was finally time to say goodbye to most of that.

First, I read through every sympathy card. Many tears, a few laughs and a couple of who is that?s later and I was done. The only thing left from that pile is a note from my brother, a man of few words who wrote that tears "wash the soul clean and make our hearts open to life's joy". I wouldn't part with that piece of paper ever.

But then there were the letters to Daniel during our friendship and courtship, and his to me. Not a whole lot of them, as he was not much of a writer so I didn't write much either. Re-reading my letters to him was like looking at a history book of me - my feelings, my hopes, my busy days - in my own hand. The fact that he used the back of one to calculate how much outside lighting would cost to run for an hour (37 cents) doesn't make me think he didn't treasure that letter. He kept it, didn't he?

But it is time to say goodbye to those letters as well. He's been gone almost as long as we were married. And moving on is what this year seems to be all about for me.

My mother didn't have many opportunities to give me advice. One thing I clearly remember her telling me is to be very careful what I put in a letter, because you never know where it will end up. That was good advice. But I am so glad I never let her words prevent me from expressing my true feelings on the page to the people I loved. For me, writing is still sometimes easier than verbal expression.

My memories of Daniel are fading, and that is alright. We can't live in our memories, even the good ones. We have to live in the present. And when we do, today becomes a memory for tomorrow.