Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2300 Days (Subtitle - Embracing My People and My Place)

We are all human. Therefore, we all have some wonderful traits and some areas of ourselves that could use improvement. Here is my confession concerning the latter: When I get upset or just don't know how to deal with a situation, I become a hermit. I shut down. I close in my walls. I try to block out what is bothering me but at the expense of also keeping out the good stuff I need to have around me. The lyrics from "I Am a Rock" by Simon and Garfunkel start to sound appealing. I've been going through one of those spells recently. 

The truth is I've felt uncomfortable in my surroundings for the past year. I started looking at houses in other parts of the country. I even looked at the process for transplanting to another country altogether. I asked my kids how they would feel about moving. I called a couple of friends back in DC about possible jobs. And recently while out walking my dogs through our neighborhood, I did some mental math and realized I have approximately 2300 days until my son graduates from high school. I thought, "OK. I can make it that long. I will go to work and take care of my kids and read books and this will be fine."

For the rest of that night, I couldn't shake the fact that I was trying to convince myself to survive more than two thousand days before I could find a place to be happy. How twisted. 

I've tried to determine the genesis of my growing discomfort. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with politics. Some of it has to with the pandemic, which ultimately has to do with politics. Maybe it's realizing that I only have a few years left with my kids in the house and I'm second guessing every decision I've made for our family up to this point. Maybe I'm frustrated that I've only seen my parents once in the past year and a half. It could be that I've never really fit in with the cool moms in town. Part of it is that I'm romanticizing the incredibly diverse, large city environment in which I grew up and I'm worried my children are missing out. It could be that for years my kids and I spent a lot of time with a wonderful church family and now we don't really experience that anymore and that has led to more isolation. Could it be that my kids are older and don't spend that much time with me so my aloneness is more glaring than it was a few years ago?

Whatever the reason or combination of reasons for my discontent, the day after I actually counted the days until my son will be an adult was the day I realized that I needed to change my mindset. Because I was being dismissive of the wonderful people who surround my family and care for us every day. I was focused on what wasn't working instead of turning toward the many ways I have opportunities to be part of a community. I was becoming so consumed with fueling my own pity (gross) and focused on what wasn't working well that I could not see how fortunate I am.

As my daughter, who at fifteen often has more confidence and sense of self than I do at forty-five, tells me when I share my worries with her about how my beliefs are different than many others around us or I feel strongly about an issue that others dismiss, "Mom, don't worry about the opinions or the judgments of those who are not your people. The ones you seem to worry about the most? Not your people. Waste of energy. Spend time with your people."

She's right. I'm somehow raising a pretty incredible and insightful young woman. While I shouldn't ignore what I see as injustices or stark differences in ideologies when they affect my family or community, I also shouldn't let it bother and consume me as much as it does. I shouldn't give other people that much power. It stops me from allowing joy and happiness in the space I inhabit right now. 

Last week, my son was having a rough time. A friend took hours away from his own family on a weekend to treat him to rock climbing and lunch. The next day, that same friend came over again just to check on my son and sit with him a while longer. When my son needed help talking through a problem a couple of days ago, I knocked on my neighbor's door. He came right over and pulled a chair up close to my kid, looked him in the eyes, and spoke quietly with him for a half hour. There are a couple of dads from my girl's softball team who think of her like a daughter. They build her up and hold her accountable and look out for her. The attorneys at my office are like brothers to me. I can ask them advice about parenting or my health or home repairs and I get honest feedback from a place of caring and friendship. I could give so many more examples. These men? My people.

I have girlfriends who I can trust to be there for anything I need. We've walked with each other through births and deaths and divorces and diapers and college admissions essays. I can cry around them. I can tell them my fears as a parent or when my kids have done something that isn't worthy of a shiny social media caption without feeling embarrassed. I don't care (mostly) how my house looks when they visit. A few days ago, one of them brought me a beer as we stood on top of a hill and watched our kids sled. And we laughed together until my stomach hurt. More than decade ago, one of them offered me a bed when my marriage was falling apart and that same year a group of them held vigil at the hospital as I went into labor. We celebrate each other's joys and successes and hold one another through tragedy and confusion. I could give so many more examples. These women? My people.

And the thing is, the longer I spend thinking about all of the amazing people who are a part of my life every day, the more I realize that I'm being ungrateful and shortchanging myself on a lot of joy if I focus on what doesn't look as I hoped it would be. From neighbors to coaches to teachers to friends to the best co-workers imaginable, I have so many reasons to be content right here, right where I am today. Changing zip codes is not going to do a single thing to make me happier if I cannot make focusing on the good of primary importance no matter where I am. I hereby commit to immerse myself more in my current tribe, to expand my tribe, and to release myself from those who may not belong with me but who make beautiful members in other tribes.  

Will I still move someday? It's quite possible. After all, there is a big world out there and want to immerse myself in more of it. I may decide for a dozen different reasons that my kids would flourish better elsewhere in the next few years. Life may hand me circumstances I cannot begin to imagine. But in the meantime, I need to honor and embrace where I am and who is with me while I'm here. I'm responsible for that - for finding my happiness with my people. And for doing a better job of letting them know that I love them and appreciate them and that they are way more than enough to stop me from the absurd intention of marking the next 2300 days off on a calendar. 

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