January 1, 2015
Shake It Off
I swear this one will be different. This is going to be the year that I let things go. I told Fozzy today that I am going to adopt 'shake it off' as my new mantra. Finding a way to shake off the nonsense of life might be challenging, but I am going to try. This year. I'm going to separate myself from the junk. Can't control it - shake it off. I can think of three specific areas that qualify for a good shake . . . speaking figuratively remember. No phone calls to DCFS, please. My family, my kids, and my job. How does the saying go? Admitting the problem brings you one step closer to the solution?
It started so long ago, I should have accepted it by now. As the middle child of 5, my birth order position sucked a bit more than most 'middles' because I have 2 older sisters and 2 younger brothers. The sisters are close and the brothers are borderline Siamese. I always wanted a dog that I could force to be my pal, but my brother was allergic. Of course. One of the sisters, we'll call her 'Jo Lynn', treated me better than the other growing up, which isn't saying much. The oldest sister, we'll call her 'Helga', disliked me. Although Helga was quiet and shy, she never hesitated to express her lack of appreciation for me. Not much to build a relationship on. She still struggles with my chatty nature, my long involved stories, and my ability to over-share. Over the years, my exclusions have included everything from a visit to the theater to see the movie Greece to a college summer trip to Ireland. The standard excuse delivered to my bruised feelings referenced my young age. The age difference between Jo Lynn and myself is less than 2 1/2 years. Helga is 2 years older than Jo Lynn. Back in the late '60's, our cousin's arrival was tucked neatly between that of my two sisters. Translation: cousin and two sisters attended movies, roller rinks, and sleep over's that no one considered inviting me to. As a note, the only other two local cousins were boys. At family gatherings my choices were to turn up my tomboy nature, which the boys tolerated for a short time or attempt to act cool enough to hang with the girls until Helga reached her limit of me.
Anyway, the baggage that strained our sisterhood growing up was like a wayward not in a pigtail. It failed to smooth out as we entered adulthood. Each time Helga birthed a girl, Jo Lynn birthed a girl, and I would soon follow up with the delivery of a chubby boy. As a result, some of our kids line up in age but not gender. So . . . Jo Lynn has a daughter very close to Mini's age, and both sisters have girls the same age as Laddie and Eddie. They do each have a son a year older than Laddie, but Jo Lynn's son cannot tolerate Laddie's presence. Of course. Even Eddie noted how his cousin would only associate with Helga's boys at my parents' house on Christmas. Shock. Helga's family and Jo Lynn's family plan and organize outings that my kids aren't included in. History repeating itself. I feel like I may be accustomed to the oversights, but watching my kids struggle creates more angst than I can stand.
About 3 1/2 years ago my dad wanted to take a group of kids to Gettysburg. He's a huge history buff (not my cup of tea), and part of the arrangement was that the participants would prepare a report on an assigned battle, battalion, or general. Helga, Jo Lynn, and I were the only offspring who had kids old enough to attend. None of us jumped at the opportunity to send a few of our kids in a long car ride with my aging father. Since I drive a white Chevy express van that seats 12, my dad devised an alternative plan. I was roped into driving my van and serving as chaperone of the girl room at the hotel. The adventure included 10 kids. My three older boys made the cut. It was a grueling weekend filled with treacherous driving in a hail storm, scary mountain descents, and of course lots of U.S. History. I videoed the entire event and later presented my dad with a 4 hour movie of the lessons he and his 'students' delivered. I drove most of the way home, which explains why we made such good time. Dad wanted my sisters at my house when we arrived to claim their children. He had reached his limit. Helga didn't answer her phone. I asked her son to try to reach her. Miraculously, she answered. I took the phone and delivered the claim-your-kid message. After she fumbled for words, she passed her phone to my mom. Oh, how handy . . . they were together. 'Girls weekend, girls weekend', my mom sang into the phone. She went on to explain that they were grabbing a bite downtown, which is where they had stayed for a weekend of shopping, laughs, and dining. Describing it today, I still get the kicked-in-the-gut feeling. Never before or since have my mom and sisters planned a girls weekend getaway. How convenient. There were no apologies. After all, it's just Ernie. She'll get over it.
I attribute most of the issues in our adulthood to Helga's divorce. Everyone in the family continues to search for ways to make Helga happy. Too bad she can't just lock me out of a house while babysitting for me like she did when we were kids. That seemed to increase her happiness back then. Jo Lynn and my mom serve as her main confidants. Perhaps because of this assigned duty, my mom and Jo Lynn enjoy countless shopping sprees together, which hasn't been a regular occurrence for my mom and I in years despite the fact that I live nearby. In spite of the distance between the rest of us and Milwaukee, my mom spends more quality time with Jo Lynn, who lived on the east coast for most of her adult life until a few years ago. In fact when my mom learned that Jo Lynn would be moving back to the Midwest, she commented to me, 'This is going to be so nice for Helga.' I felt invisible. Did she forget that they were both related to me when she made that comment? It sure HAS been nice for Helga and Jo Lynn. Nowadays there are Notre Dame tailgaters, travel plans, shopping trips, and sleepovers that the two families enjoy. A few days after Christmas, Helga's daughter snap chatted about a breakfast outing they were all enjoying before Jo Lynn's family headed back to Milwaukee after a sleepover at Helga's house. The restaurant they were at was not far from my house. We were home at the time and could have joined them. Ah, but we weren't invited. My kids were disappointed. Mini mentioned the big love-fest sleep over at Helga's house more than once. The envious, left out tone was difficult to hide. All too familiar.
Clearly that is my big shake-off. My family relationships will probably always be tough for me. I suppose I fail to understand why it is so hard to imagine boring people not welcoming my company. I'm fun. Damn it. As far as my kids go . . . normal stuff. I hope to be able to shake off their unwillingness to pick their shit up. If I can accept that we will run late because there is only one of me and too many of their activities on the calendar- add to that the kids unpredictable nature, perhaps I can simmer down and not lose it. Can't control it - shake it off. Ahh, my job. Typically no big deal, accept for the fact that I would rather find a way to make a living writing. Today I learned that my boss decided to take the reins on a project that I researched, communicated, and poured a lot of time into. Go for it, but gee whiz- I would have appreciated some form of communication before I wasted countless hours I could have used to clean out my closets . . . or to blog. Job vs. blog? Frustration vs. satisfaction? Long commute vs. comforts of home? Piddly pay check vs. potential? Maybe there isn't so much to shake off there. Seems this one I should be able to control. I'll sleep on it. Happy New Year!