On Purpose

It’s my birthday Tuesday and I will be 44.    I always take some time to self-reflect this time of year.  Ask myself the hard questions like, how am I doing?  Am I where I want to be?  Am I who I want to be? How has this year been?  What do I need to work on?

Nothing in my life has worked out as planned except maybe graduating college and getting pregnant.  I meant to be an Actress, I meant to be a Rockstar, I meant to be rich and famous.  None of that has happened.  A spiritual teaching I learned many years ago is that my mind’s eye is limited.  Therefore, it MAY BE that whatever is in store for me could end up being quite different than what I wanted or dreamed and that it was going to be OK.  Perfectly imperfect.

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I planned to have natural childbirth, no drugs.  After 18 hours of labor, that didn’t happen.  I planned to give birth, start working out again, go back  to my job and band and keep it rolling.  Get a record deal, carry the baby in the guitar case.  Instead, I gave birth and my heart cracked open and I changed completely and unexpectedly.  I held my son and thought, I don’t care about anything but this.  Since this big change was not in my plans, I was so disappointed in myself.  I had no Plan B.  I ditched the band, quit the job, moved cross country to be closer to my family, got pregnant again, got divorced, changed careers.  All the while staying true to my instincts and learning to listen.

In those years of intense change, I learned not to be so pig-headed.  I learned to listen to people when they shared their experiences and cautioned me against certain decisions.  I used to assume that when people gave me advice, they were projecting.  That they didn’t know me.  That I knew better.  I never had a Plan B because to create one would have meant allowing the possibility of failure.

I was humbled out of that mindset when I became a Mother.  I became one with humanity in a whole new way and I no longer felt like an alien. I am a Mother, one of millions just trying to raise good humans.

That’s how I found my purpose.

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For these years, with children under my roof, I am clear on what I am doing.  It isn’t what I thought it would be like and I love it.  I don’t know what my purpose will become once they are on their own and no longer need the same guidance, financial support and care.  I am confident I will have a new purpose and I will be happy with a new direction.  These years are precious though.  They matter a whole lot.

I used to wonder how people who had all the money in the world could be so unhappy.  Who am I kidding?  I still do.  Maybe some struggle for self-reliance and forced resourcefulness really does build character.  I say, if you don’t know what your purpose is figure it out!  Keep looking until you find it.  Even the search for your purpose is a worthwhile quest.  I can honestly say I am grateful things didn’t work out like I planned.  It’s all perfect.  Perfectly imperfect.

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On Halloween

I have always had the special gift of being overly confident.  I believe it is this special gift that led me to many years of delusional Halloween costumes.  I would leave the house in a simple prairie dress as “Rapunzel” only to go home soon after asking my Mom to make me a name tag so people would stop asking me what I was.  I was Rapunzel!  Couldn’t you tell from my not very long, stringy regular hair?

I may never know if my delusional Halloween costumes were endorsed by the adults around me because:

a) They were so stoned they thought it was funny.

b) I was such a convincing Salesperson that they believed me?

Take for example, the picture below.

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What was I, you might ask?  I was a Weightlifter.  Obviously.  Not sure if what gives it away is the abalone star pin, fake pearl choker or makeup under the eyes?  My  two friends with “normal” parents who went to school as clowns probably gave me the idea to try that out.  So, the next year I attempted a clown costume but again I am not sure who decided that it was legitimate???

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Pretty much nothing really says “Clown” about this except the white face paint.

70s kids had to make their own costumes.  We didn’t have Toys R Us to go to and select a plastic mask and plastic accessories from.  There was no Power Ranger or Cinderella kit so we were forced to be creative.  Determined not to have my own kids suffer, I let them buy pre-made costumes.  This is my kids in store bought but recognizable costumes.

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This gift of delusional self-confidence led to a lifetime of Halloween disappointments (not to mention, relationship failures and also big career successes).  Even in college, I was still imagining myself as something unrecognizable.

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Here (on the left) I thought I was a dead wringer for Olivia Newton John in Grease but no, not one person guessed it.

And then, I had a turning point.  A life changing moment that helped shape the next decade and perhaps more.  I went as “It’s Pat” from Saturday Night Live.

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Not only did I dress up as “It’s Pat” but I made my best friend dress up as Pat’s partner Chris and we showed up to wait tables in costume at our very sexy restaurant job.  Our very sexy restaurant job was the kind of place that hired for looks, not necessarily talent.  We all wore the tiniest of skirts and tops and made great money.  The typical Halloween costume was something sexy.  Sexy Nurse, Sexy Kitten, Sexy Construction Worker.

Two things happened for me in being highly recognizable and highly androgynous.  One was, I felt completely liberated from femininity in a way I never had and never have since.  The other was that I caught a glimpse of what it is to be famous.  Everywhere we went that night, people shouted at us.  “Pat, Pat!!!” They would yell questions at us.  “Pat, what bathroom are you going to use?” trying to get us to reveal if we were male or female.  I shouted back, “I don’t have to go to the bathroom!” and we’d keep running.  It was bizarre and thrilling and helped cement my decision to choose my next step in life which was to pursue my dream of Acting.

That was also delusional but I believe you need to be a little crazy and a lot confident to move to NYC with a suitcase, no friends, no money and no connections.  So I did.

 

 

 

On Discipline (Not the Parenting Kind)

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Last week I decided I didn’t have to do this blog anymore.  I decided, who cares (really) and why am I doing this?  I reminded myself that the goal I set of writing every week for one year was just MY goal and no one will be too bothered or disappointed if I stop now.  (Except maybe me.)

Then I had a failure at work and I decided I should write about it. One last hurrah.  Maybe just this last post to make it #20 so the number is even?  Maybe a final post about a subject so near and dear to my heart, I could end here?  Ironically, it’s the virtue Discipline I’d like to end with.

My failure at work was losing a new client after giving it my all.  I had one attempt at what she wanted and a second try to get it more to what she wanted (called in the salon business a “re-do”meaning the client does not pay).  Because I am a professional and always want to learn from my mistakes, I won’t go into details about what happened (she said/I said).  The bottom line is, I didn’t nail it.  I hate nothing more than losing clients so I reached out to my FB community for moral support.  I hardly ever complain or cry for help there so when I do, people seem to respond.  Lovingly, cheeringly and always on my side.  Which is it’s own strange form of love but when I’m down, I’ll take it.

I wrestled for a good 24 hours with this demon and at this point, I am chalking it up to needing a few reminder lessons including to “under-promise and over-deliver”, don’t overestimate my ability and the big one, don’t take things personally.  The last one is the hardest and one of the greatest teachings ever from The Four Agreements  which if you haven’t read yet, you must!

I am highly self-critical.  Which makes me excel at what I do because I will push myself harder than most. This has some bad consequences like not being content and the flip side of that coin, not even trying if I don’t think I can be stellar.  With my work I am neurotic, perfectionistic and a die-hard people-pleaser.  I am part Artist, part Scientist, part Therapist.  I am a Business Woman and a Mother and my work ethic is such that no matter what, I keep going.  And that is what this blog is about.

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A few weeks ago my Son got cut from the soccer team.  And then he got asked back on.  And in his first few games, he played maybe 1-2 minutes, sometimes 4.  By game 5 he started to play 20 and now almost half.  I asked him what was happening and he told me the Coach said he was rewarding players who MADE THE MOST EFFORT with playing time.

It isn’t easy getting ahead.  I have done my damndest at a few things I never made much progress at.  I didn’t “make it” as a Singer or an Actress and I tried hard.  I am competitive, I want to win.  I am  tenacious.  So failing eats at me.  Losing one client is torture.  And everyone can say, “It’s not you” or “You can’t please them all” or any other comforting words of wisdom but I still take it hard.  One massive teaching I have gained from watching my son compete in athletics is the lesson of loss and failure.  I love that he has already developed a thick skin for loss and an attitude that if you do your best, that’s all that matters.

In the end, did I try my hardest?  I have lost clients over the years and will certainly continue to do so for various reasons.  It’s the nature of what we do.  But can I live with myself when these things happen?  Do I know that I tried my best?  When my pride is bruised and I feel crappy do I keep going?  When I wanted to quit this blog, I didn’t.

Not yet.

On Boyhood

When my kids were itty bitty, (Daughter, 5 months and Son, age 2) I made a career change, went to Cosmetology school followed by a 3-year Apprenticeship to become a Color Specialist.  In my years of training, I made minimum wage and was a Single Mother with full-custody.  I worked extremely hard as I was setting myself up for the career I have now.

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In those years, as well as the years after on the road as a Corporate Trainer, I missed a lot.  I never had the option of being a Stay-at-Home Mom and, as I saw it, could not allow myself to feel guilt about any of it.  I had no choice but to push through and provide.  I was fortunate to have a few women who gave me really good advice that at the time I didn’t totally understand but now I do. They said to me that when kids are little, anyone (not literally but someone wonderful other than you) can care for them.  When kids are little, you know when they are hungry, they tell you when they stub their toe.  My daughter, to this day, tells me she is going to the bathroom.  What these women told me is that as kids get older, they need you more.  As your kid gets into Junior High and older, sometimes they don’t say much about their day for a few hours, if at all.  You need to be around and then, when you least expect it, they just start talking.

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This week, a friend of my Daughter’s committed suicide.  She was 11.  This was a new friend of hers so not a family I knew and I have no details on the girl’s life or her family.  It still rocked our world.  Her older Sister is in school with my Son at the high school he just finished his 3rd week of.  A lot of changes going on for him as well.

This week, neither kid has stopped talking for a second.  It reminds me of when they were babies and there was a cacophony of sound.  A constant stream of chatter and someone always saying “Mom!”.  I am so grateful to be closer to home and here for them.  I am so grateful that we have a house of communication. Even with all our arguing and (occasional) door-slamming, we have love and direct talks about our feelings.

I can’t imagine what that family is going through.  It is the worst thing ever.  This isn’t even a teen suicide.  Pre-teen.  What the hell?

I saw the film Boyhood a few weeks ago with my own kids and we all loved it.  What I loved most about it was the reminder that time is precious.  I loved the quote I heard recently by Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.” and watching the children in the film’s faces age, I held my breath for what is in store for me.  My window in getting to raise my own kids is getting smaller and smaller.  What my kids loved about Boyhood was it made their life seem normal.  Single Mom, Brother and Sister, Mom working hard to provide with an occasional difficult choice in partnership. Well-meaning but not totally together Father figure.  Their life.

I am not religious but I do pray.  I pray for the family who lost their Daughter.  I pray for the girl who must have suffered in ways we will never understand.  I pray for my own kids, family and community and give gratitude for our blessings. I pray that I always remember to count my blessings.

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On Back To School

It’s that time of year.  For some parents, this is good news and for others (like me) not so much.  I am a night owl and so are my kids and so for all of us, we dread the 6:43 AM alarm clock, lunch packing and out the door morning rush.

What made this year different than others is my Son’s attendance to a new school. Not only is the school new to him, it’s private and it’s Catholic. Oh, and it’s High School.  Quadruple whammy.  We are not Catholic and we have never attended private school and he is 13.  A moment in time ripe for social awkardness and reflections on this rite of passage we all face.

I, like him, was also 13 when I started high school.  Young for our grade.  But I already had experience with older boys, cigarettes and hid any social anxiety behind Wayfarer sunglasses and an aloof posture.

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*That’s me in the middle the Summer before Freshmen year.  Not smiling.

When I started high school, I had my same friends and frankly don’t recall feeling all that terrible.  I wanted to be a Senior already but could manage.  Any step closer to Adult was good by me.  Don’t get  me wrong, I wasn’t EXCITED to go to school as being EXCITED about anything was not socially acceptable either. My adolescence was spent as a non-participant.  I was a product of the counter-culture coupled with a too-cool-for-school nature.  If I was forced to join anything, I stood in the back.  As I have shared in other blogs, I lacked a playful spirit so doing anything which may reveal joy or vulnerability was not my speed.  At my high school, the “cool kids” didn’t join anything.  Except parties, surfing or possibly soccer.

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*This was a backyard party I attended Freshmen year but as you can see, there are grown men here (one with a mustache!).  I am actually smiling in this one, maybe because of the Keg?

My Son’s new school is known for it’s community spirit and FOOTBALL.  Neither of which I have any experience in.  My Son took the initiative to attend this school and I support him all the way and, as with all parenting, I am learning as I go.  Humbly.  The night of his Freshmen Social, I was invited to attend a Social for incoming Freshmen Mom’s at one of the Mom’s homes.  I spotted the home because of the balloons outside in school spirit colors.  I was greeted with a name-tag, also in school spirit colors.  As I entered a home full of Mom’s, I imagined this must be how my Son is feeling.  I don’t know anyone.  Where do I stand?  How do I do this?  My higher self knows this is all perfect.  My fearful self wanted to run out the back gate.

For someone who has spent their entire life and career in the public arena, I am actually pretty shy.  People have a hard time believing that but it’s true.

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*That’s me on the right, not wanting my picture taken in high school.

Being shy, introverted and not drinking, it’s not super relaxing for me to attend parties with strangers.  But I did it.  And therein lies the development of self that we all must soldier through.  Joining a new team, starting a new job, moving to a new city.  We are faced with the fear of failure, not fitting in, not being good enough, not saying or doing the right thing.  And living through it.  And maybe actually enjoying it?

My kids are having a pretty good childhood.  They don’t hate school.  They join things.  They participate. They want to be “part-of”.  They don’t share my social phobias and for this I am utterly grateful.  Because of my kids, I get to push through my own judgments and reluctance and recognize that at the root of all of it is fear.  And every time we push through our own fears, we become a little bit better and a little bit stronger.  I am sure of it.

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On Vacation

This year, my family and I rented a beach house together and will spend a week on vacation.  The house we rented is only about 35 minutes from my actual house and 15 minutes from the house I grew up in.  At a beach I grew up going to every chance I could. I was a beach girl, back in the day.

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*1985 Stinson Beach.  Crutches were mine from a non-drinking related ankle sprain.  Actually, it probably did involve California Coolers

In my beach years, I had a tan, long Blonde hair and I dated Surfers.  The beachy lifestyle continued through college (location changed) where I studied on the beach, worked by the beach, ran on the beach.  You get the idea. When at last I found I could no longer tolerate ANOTHER beautiful day, I traded health and happiness for angst and suffering NYC-style.  While in NY, I became an (aspiring) Actress, got rid of my Valley Girl accent and avoided the sun as well as overly-happy people. I learned I was actually a translucent shade of white and that I had been dating dumb-dumbs. No men in NY told me, “you think too much”.

I did have this uncontrollable urge when pregnant to dig a hole in the sand to put my tummy in so a few times in that 9 months I went to the beach.

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Besides this moment of glory, I was an Urban Dweller all the way.  When my son was born, we moved back to California to the town I live in now.  As the years have gone by (13 now), the call to be by the water gets stronger and stronger.  I realized this week sadly, that I have become that person that craves a somewhat different life than I live.  And yet I don’t know if I can change my life, at least for awhile. Wise women have told me that the 70s Feminist Tenet of “having it all” is a myth.  We can have it all, just not all at the same time.

Only after I had my kids did I start to comprehend the meaning of sacrifice. The purpose of my life became completely clear.  I felt the full weight of providing and nurturing, endlessly. The necessity of stability and the exhaustion and satisfaction of being stretched thin. Parenting, especially single-parenting, is hardcore.

The good news and bad news about my kids getting older is that I now have more time on my hands to think about ME.  For years, people would ask me how I was doing and I would be…clueless.  Me?  Feelings?  There was no “me time”.  I was thoroughly out of touch.  Yet, I found great liberation in that state.  Me? I am a Mom.  I am working for them.  I get up for them.  I clean, work, think and act for their well-being.  I loved this freedom from the self-centeredness of my past.  The total lack of Existentialist questioning.  Free from the naval-gazing emptiness I felt in my 20s.

On Vacation, we have time to reflect.  I have accomplished a whole lot in my life thus far.  And when I boil it down, I now think I will have really “made it” if I have a hot tub and can see the sunset regularly.  This week I got a taste of what that feels like.  And it happens to be a lifestyle I can’t actually afford.

Or can I?

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On Heritage Day

For many years, I traveled for work and my kids and family were troopers.  They dealt with me being gone for days at a time and often I worked 16-18 hour days while I would fly across states to teach or conduct meetings and come back.  I was on a plane every week at least twice.  As you can imagine, this was quite a juggling act as a single Mom and looking back on those years, I can’t believe we pulled it off.  Every so often, I had a complete failure and this story is one of them.

 

It was 9 PM on a school night and I had just picked up my then pre-school girl and 1st grade boy from my Mom’s house after a long trip away for work.  We were heading home when I had a sudden moment of bad-mom panic. Tomorrow is HERITAGE DAY at school, I remembered.  A wave of fear flashed over my body as I vaguely recalled the memo that suggested we research our family’s heritage and create a dish to bring to school to share.  And your child would present the dish to the class with a speech about his heritage. The memo gave no direct menu suggestions but I imagined all the lovely Mommies chopping vegetables for Borscht, pressing corn for tortillas or melting chocolate for a French pastry.  A moment of perfect togetherness whilst simultaneously enforcing lineage and traditions. Making memories to last a lifetime….

It was just as we were driving past United Liquors as I had this thought and you know what comes next.

I pulled over.

So my 4-year-old and 6-year-old perused the shelves of our local liquor store with their haggard mother trying to determine what off these shelves could pass for a representation of our heritage?  Certainly I couldn’t bring in alcohol (when, in fact, that probably would be the best representation of our heritage).  What else is there at liquor stores? Beef jerky.  Chips.  Ice Cream.  Gum. Cigarettes.

Pop Tarts

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The next day, my son attended his first grade Heritage Day with 4 boxes of Pop Tarts and gave a short speech about how Pop Tarts are a part of his heritage because whenever he or his Sister get sick, they are allowed to eat Pop Tarts.

We are all “damaging” our kids in ways they will most certainly blame us for later.  We don’t know exactly how the scars will be made.  One friend puts all her loose change in a therapy jar, for future use.  The current, ongoing complaint about me is my cooking and that my solutions are (predictably):

A) Put some Barbeque Sauce on it

Or

B) Why don’t YOU cook dinner

But that, dear readers, is not a real problem in life.  My kids will survive having a Mom that is a shitty cook.  They are surrounded by love and well taken care of.

And the truth is, those kids loved the Pop Tarts.  Better than the Borscht.