Obstacles

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Lately I’ve seen a few of my friends struggling with obstacles on the path to something they want very badly. It seems like every direction they turn presents a new challenge, and they are faced with a decision to keep going, or give up and change course. We’ve all had those times. I’ve had a lot of them; some quite recently.

The last thing I wanted very badly did not come to pass. So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about obstacles. When I look back on all of times I’ve wanted something, it seems that there isn’t one time where the universe hasn’t tried to stop me from getting it. Sometimes I was still successful, and other times I didn’t achieve my desired outcome. I’m not really talking about material things here. I’m talking more about goals or dreams. It could be a relationship, or a job, but I’m talking about a place on your life path, not a new TV.

But in evaluating all of these big things, and their outcomes, I’ve learned a few things. I think obstacles will always pop up on the way to what we want. But I think there are two different kinds of obstacles. One type is designed to see if you really want it bad enough. If it’s something you just can’t let go of, then you’ll push past all of the things in your path. You could be going for a big promotion, and all sorts of things get in your way, but you push through so that you’re still evaluated for the position. Maybe you get it, and maybe you don’t, but the obstacles were there to help you decide if you wanted it bad enough to keep trying.

The other type may be the most important. It’s the obstacles that keep us from getting something that wouldn’t be good for us. It’s the same idea because at the time, you really want what you are seeking. But, it’s not a good fit for you, and so things just keep getting in the way of your achievement of the goal. You feel defeated if you don’t hit the goal, but after it’s over you can often see that you dodged a bullet, or discovered a better situation.

So how can you tell which is which? I think if you really pay attention you can tell. But, I know that personally, I’m stubborn, and even if I can see which situation I’m in, I keep pushing forward. I think you can tell by how you feel. If things are popping up left and right, and you’re frustrated, but you still feel good about the goal, then you’ve encountered the first type. However, if it never quite feels right, and you have this underlying bad feeling, then you have the second situation. Like I said, it can be hard for us to stop and evaluate when we think we want this thing so badly.

I know that the last time I was in this position, you couldn’t have told me that I was being blocked because it wasn’t good for me. I would never have listened to you, because I just wanted it so much. I thought the roadblocks were just the test of how much I really wanted it. But as time went on, the feeling just wasn’t good. There was this hint that if I succeeded, I would be unhappy. I kept moving forward though, and eventually it was clear that it was never going to come to pass.

I hope that being able to reflect on these times in my life will help me the next time this happens. I hope I’ll be able to sense the true tone of what is happening and either push forward, or let the dream go. Knowing myself, I’ll probably need a few more lessons in this idea before it sinks in. But, looking back on these moments in my life I’m thankful for the obstacles.

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What I Know About Ferguson

To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Ferguson. I’m not living under a rock, I know the basics of what happened. But, my anxiety just won’t allow me to read too much. I was chicken. I didn’t want to think about one of my sons being killed, because that’s what I do when I read about it happening to someone else. I didn’t want to think about what the police officer did or didn’t do in a situation I can’t imagine, because I have friends who are officers. I didn’t read or listen to a lot of the news about it, because sometimes I just can’t handle it. I guess to some people that may seem like I’m uninformed, or lazy, but it’s just what I have to do for myself.

But this is what I do know about Ferguson. Race is still an issue in this country. Yes, we have come such a long way, and that should not be ignored or diminished. But, we’ve still got a long way to go, and it would be better for us if we just admitted that and worked on it, instead of yelling about how it isn’t really a problem.

I have two teenage sons. They are white, and fair haired. If they walk down our street, an eye or two may glance in their direction because they’re young boys. I think we all know how teenage hormones are, and we’re all a little suspect about what they might do at any time. So yeah, they’ll get a glance. But that’s it. It’s very unlikely that they’ll get stopped, or questioned about where they are going. They can walk through a store now without me, and almost no one looks up. I know that this is not the case for my friends who have black children. Their children will get more than a few eyes on them when they walk down the street, and their children have a pretty good chance of being followed through the store. We all know this is true. We may even be guilty of being the ones giving the extra glances. I can’t ignore the fact that my sons will just have it easier than the sons of my friends. I can’t tell my sons that we’re all the same no matter what our skin looks like, because that’s just not true. Pretending that it is does them a disservice. It causes them to ignore the very real problems we still have. It causes them to think that their black friends will be treated the same way they are, and not notice when they’re not. I want them to notice when their friends are being treated unjustly.

When I was about ten, I was riding through the country with my father, and he pointed to an empty field. He told me that when he first moved to the area long before my birth, he drove past that same field and a KKK rally was going on. My child brain was shocked that something like that happened in a place within my realm of experience, but as a child, I also told myself that stuff was all gone now, and he was just talking about something that used to be. Of course, when I got older, I knew that it wasn’t gone. It still existed outside my experience though….until it didn’t.

I distinctly remember my father telling me he’d joined the KKK. He presented it as something very casual and ordinary. It was as if he’d decided to move to Alaska and knew I might be a little shocked, but would quickly understand. I didn’t understand though. He tried to explain it, to justify it, but there are some things you just can’t justify. My relationship with him was already hanging by a thin thread, and it wasn’t too long after that that I ended all contact. It certainly wasn’t the only reason I stopped speaking to him, but it was the final straw. It was also an enormous wake up call.

The number of people who join hate groups, and feel the way those groups do is small when compared to the whole of humanity. That, I am thankful for. But, to a lesser degree, many of those beliefs are still held by a lot of people. Whether we are willing to admit or acknowledge them is up to us. Not long ago I read an article about our willingness to make eye contact and give a nod of our head to other people. In that article, black males admitted that they don’t often make that sort of contact with strangers because of how they believe they will be viewed. As a female, I’m a bit hesitant to make that sort of acknowledgement of males in general, but do I do it even less with black males? I don’t know, but I’m going to pay attention to that now.

I don’t know what happened that day in Ferguson. Only those involved do. But I do know that we still have work to do on a national level, and more importantly on an individual level. We must identify our own prejudices and work on them. We must make an effort to get to know people who do not look like us. Racism is fear, and once you know your neighbor it’s a lot harder to be afraid of them.

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Parenting – Shit This Is Hard!

The beautiful, and sometimes terrifying thing about raising children, is when you see that they are their own person. They come from the DNA of two people, and are likely being raised by one or both of those people, so a certain amount of influence is there from day one. But, despite all of that, they still have their own brains. It’s amazing to watch them take the info that they are given, and come up with opinions and ideas based on that. Sometimes it is exactly what you would do in the same scenario, and sometimes you wonder if they’re really your kid.

When I look at my own children, I see my hair, my ex husbands feet. My love of reading, his love of the outdoors. Parts of us are there for sure. But there are more parts that are all their own. This is fantastic, and it’s so much fun. It’s fun to envision where they might go in life with their personalities. But, sometimes it can be a little scary too. Sometimes, you wonder if you maybe messed up somewhere along the way. Having children also really makes you scrutinize your own dreams, and makes you wonder if by pursing your own dreams, you’ll somehow mess them up even more.

This came into play for me the other night. Both kids were here with me, and I was reading a post in a Facebook group about someone who planned to spend no more than $5 on any purchase that was not a complete necessity, a bill, or food. I was fascinated by this idea, and mentioned it to the kids. One child also thought this was a fascinating idea. The other thought it was just about the worst idea ever. I asked if they thought we could do something like that. You can guess how that went. The son who thought it was a terrible idea asked if we could do it after Christmas because he wanted this or that. The other son, while he probably wants some similar higher priced items, didn’t think it was an impossible idea.

Neither child gave the wrong answer in my opinion. They’re kids, and kids want the things they see. They don’t yet grasp exactly how money works, or how you weigh the benefits of a purchase. It’s natural, and I don’t fault either for the reaction they had. But, my ex and I have been noticing a trend with the child who said “no way”, and it’s a trend toward materialism. His grandfather had to explain the benefits of paying someone to come and do a bit of work with a truck, over the cost of buying the truck himself to be used on these rare occasions. Things like taxes, car payments, and maintenance just weren’t sinking in. Again, totally normal, but so unlike myself and my ex. So how is it that two people who really aren’t tied up in owning lots of stuff, raising a child who is all about the newest and best of everything? We want him to have the world, but at the same time, we want him to value everything he has. So now we are in this weird position of thinking that somewhere along the way, we messed up, but can’t quite figure out how, since we aren’t really like that, and neither is our other child.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally cool with me that he wants different things in life that the rest of us. But, I don’t want him to go into massive debt because he doesn’t understand how money works, or how to really weigh what is important to him. So here’s where the part about my own dreams and personality come in. For a while now, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of getting even more drastic with the scaling down of our posessions. There’s so much that has made it through the previous rounds of purging that has yet to be used. I’m very motivated to scale way down,and to even eliminate some levels of my sentimental clutter.

Financially speaking, I can’t give him the Christmas he’s probably hoping for. I don’t really think I should try to be honest. Living in a blended family already gives him about five celebrations at Christmas where he’s given gifts. So, I feel like our celebration should be different. But, I’m struggling with mom guilt on all of this. If I really pare our things down. If I really make our holiday what I think it should be, how will that translate in the brains of my kids? Will it make them see the value of what they have even more? Or will they just remember it as that year my mom gave all of our stuff away and Christmas stunk? It’s so weird and scary to do set your own path in life, while bringing along these other totally unique people who aren’t old enough to yet go their own way, but whose life you alter with every decision.

Parenting….shit this is hard!

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The Things You Own

The things you own end up owning you. – Fight Club

I’ve never seen Fight Club, but when I looked for a quote that fit with the post I wanted to write, this one really conveyed my intent. When I was a little girl, and my parents were still married, we moved a lot. I only remember one house that we lived in, and it was the last house we all lived in together. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it had a big back yard and a really cool barn that I liked to play in. I would ride my bike in the alley behind it, and wait in the front yard for my father to come home from a run. We had some really wacko neighbors across the street, and some fantastic ones right next door. Life seemed really good there.

But this is the house where my parents ultimately decided to go their separate ways. There were fights, and times where the house wasn’t much fun at all. Eventually, they decided to divorce, and my mother and I moved away. I don’t really remember how I felt about leaving the house. I suspect I was more upset about leaving our neighbors than I was the house, but I’m sure tears were shed. Looking back on it now after going through my own divorce, and leaving that house, I’m very glad my mother decided to move. I’m glad that she wasn’t so tied to that life and that house, that she stayed in a miserable relationship.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the things you own. There’s nothing wrong with making your house a home, and enjoying the time you spend in it. I have a small apartment, and I have lived here a long time. I like it a lot. It’s nothing fancy, but my pictures are on the wall, my kids things are laying about, and there’s good stuff here. But, your stuff should never tie you down to a life you don’t love. My mother shouldn’t have stayed married to a miserable man just to keep our house, or cars, or a certain way of life. Your stuff should never own you.

I don’t really have a lot of things. I don’t have a big fancy house. But lately, I’ve been looking around and thinking about how much the little I do own, still owns me. How I still hold some fear about losing the things I own. The things don’t matter at all, and it is easy to forget that. It is easy to get wrapped up in all that you have amassed and created, to forget who you even are and what you really want. What matter is how you feel. Are you living a lifestyle with things that you love, but feeling miserable over all? Will you be happier if you stay there, or release the attachment to the things, and build the life you really love wherever that works best?

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my life. But, my stuff still owns me more that I think it should. I think it is time to get to a place where I know that if I lost every bit of my stuff that it wouldn’t matter as long as the people in my life remained. I want to know that I can create our happiness with a lot or with a little, and anywhere we choose.

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But You Don’t Look Sad

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Right now my Facebook feed is full of the news that comedian Robin Williams most likely took his own life at the age of 63. He was very well loved, so it’s shocking, but it’s even harder to believe that he suffered from severe depression and that’s likely why this happened. Like so many others, I’m saddened by this news. He brought so much joy to so many with his comedy, and it’s hard to believe that it’s over. But, as someone who suffers from depression, I’m heartbroken that another life was lost to it.

A few days ago a favorite social media personality posted something about how easy a certain goal was because the means to achieve it were so simple; and if you didn’t do those things, then she questioned if you really wanted it at all. I’m not going to say who, because I know how she meant it, and on any other day I would have totally agreed with her. I also knew she was speaking about normal circumstances in life. But that day that reality seemed so far from possible it was as if she was suggesting I would have the wealth of Bill Gates if I’d only do one little thing.

That day I was in the deep black hole of depression. I had actually just clawed my way out of a rather long period of it, and had some really good days, but had dipped way back down that day. I didn’t have my children, so I had come home from work thinking I’d do a bunch of things around the house and online that needed to be done. Instead, I ate dinner, and went to bed. I didn’t go to sleep, even though I easily could have. I just laid in bed and stared at the ceiling until it was “time” for bed. “But you don’t look sad” is a common thing depressed people here when they confess their illness to others. Truth is, people who are depressed often have wonderful lives. They have “nothing to be depressed about” according to those who really don’t understand it.

For me, depression isn’t really sadness. I usually don’t want to cry, though sometimes I do. It’s just paralyzing. You can see everything you are capable of, every thing that’s possible in life, every wonderful thing you have to be thankful for, and you just can’t bring it to you. You can’t feel the happiness you should, you don’t understand the gifts you’ve been given, and the potential to reach out and take what life has to offer seems like an insurmountable task. That’s how it is for me anyway. I’m sure each person experiences it in a different way.

I don’t have a relationship with my father, and the last thing he said to me was that I come from a line of people with mental illness and that I wouldn’t escape it. Well he’s right, I haven’t escaped it. I’ve never been suicidal. There’s only one point in my life that I remember understanding how someone could get to that place. I wasn’t there, but I could see where that was.

Depression doesn’t have to take your life. There is help to be had. Reach out to your doctor, your friends, family, and the world of online resources that can help you find treatment. Don’t keep it a secret. There are people who will listen and help you. If things get too bad, call the National Suicide Prevention line at 1.800.273.8255. You matter in this world.

You never know if the smiling face in front of you is fighting a tough battle inside.

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