Our Longings For Longing

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Longings.

Now, there’s a heavy subject.

We all have them, ladies. They can be simple: A purse. A new outfit. That pair of designer shoes. A dozen canning jars. (Don’t roll your eyes at me over the canning jars, and I won’t roll my eyes at you over the purse!)

Or they can be bigger: An end to college. A better job. A vacation.

As age and wisdom wrap around our memories, our longings move toward that which can’t be bought, planned or easily obtained.

Meaningful friendships.

More time with someone we loved.

Peace.

And often the big one – someone who really “gets” us. A companion who grows with us, even as we grow old together.

So….we marry. Build a life. Pursue careers. Have kids. Tell ourselves we’re happy.

But in spite of all that we do to shut down any dissenting voices, we realize we still…long.

We think, “There has to be more.” More than talking about work. Paying bills. Planning the occasional vacation. Discussing the kids. Sharing an hour of TV at the end of the day.

We turn to friends and pursue interests. We keep busy with the kids’ activities. We immerse ourselves in the daily requirements of our chosen life.

But we continue to eyeball this person sharing our life, and in spite of everything that looks right….we long.

“You will long for your husband, but….”

This verse in Genesis 3:16 has different translations (some say “and” instead of “but”), and different interpretations (such as Eve wanting to control her husband – good grief, who has time for that?!). I’m not here to debate Scripture. That “but” in this verse? It speaks volumes. At least to me.

God is talking to Eve after the big debacle over that piece of fruit. She’s blown it, big time. Her perfect, simplistic life has just ended. And now, on top of all of the other losses – the Garden, no responsibility, her innocence – she’s losing her husband.

Oh, he’ll be there. She’ll see him every day. They’ll build a home, start a family, make a life outside of Eden together.

He will be there – but not present.

And she will long for more than what they now have.

And just like her, we will have longings, but…

You will long to have a partner who is not a workaholic, but….

You will long for your husband to be more involved with the kids, but….

You will long to be seen and loved for who you are, and not what you do, but….

You will long to have someone interested in the fascinating creature you are becoming, but…

You will long to have a deep and meaningful relationship with your husband, but….

That “but”. And all it implies.

Now, Adam had none of our modern distractions – and there are so many a man can choose from. There were no video, computer or phone games. No sports or fantasy teams keeping him glued to the couch all weekend. No comic books, sports cards or golf. No gyms, beater cars to fix up in the garage, or co-workers asking him to get an after-hours drink. No women at the office showing unhealthy attention while Eve was losing her mind at home caring for the house and kids.

And what about the bigger distractions? Porn. Alcoholism. Gambling.

But he must have found something. Long walks…alone. Hunting….alone. Taking off for days….alone. Letting her care for the kids….alone.

A myriad of distractions that kept him from connecting with Eve as they had. And the more she voiced her longings, the more he probably pulled away. Because isn’t that what still happens?

Gone were the long walks and long talks – together. The sweet conversations and delighted plans – made together – in a future that seemed endlessly bright and, well…endless.

Eve is probably the only woman in history to have enjoyed a perfect marriage. To have her man’s full attention. Not out of a desire to control or manipulate him (I repeat, who has time for that?!), but to have him more interested in her than an electronic screen. To share her thoughts with someone who showed her she was appealing – and not just when he wanted intimacy.

How she must have longed for that when it disappeared. And how bitter her loss.

I’m sure she knew Adam. She was probably able to recite every single thing that kept him from her side after life changed so drastically. Just as we can – because we watch it all happening, wondering what is so much more interesting than a deeper connection with us?

We learn to hide our longings. If we express them, they may be met with anger. Accusations of neediness. Silence. Even more withdrawal into distractions. Or worse, promises of change that never comes.

Longings.

So many men miss out on the compelling people we have become.

I can say with absolute assurance that I am far more interesting than the insecure, 20-something that wanted to please everyone. At 47, I am more confident. If you don’t like me, that’s fine – it doesn’t define me. We can disagree and the world doesn’t end. I will take a few close friends to many acquaintances, small gatherings to large parties. I am excited by discussions of books, current events and people being real with me.

I live for the outdoors now. Hiking, camping, the ocean. I love to travel and desperately need to connect with nature on a regular basis. The trips are vital to my sense of me – whether impulsive or planned. I no longer want or need fancy – I would rather explore new places by sleeping in a tent 20 different times throughout the year than have one stay in an overpriced hotel. Give me a million memories of my children’s delight at the seashore than one retirement trip that won’t happen if health or the economy fails.

I love animals. It makes me happy to love them. I didn’t get an education to keep the house perfectly clean to show off to people that do not know or care about the real me (because if they did, they wouldn’t care about my lack of clutter or the pet hair). Enjoying life is messy. It’s short – I really want to enjoy it. Pet hair and all.

I’m territorial about how my coffee is prepared, and no one should buy me clothing because my sense of style has nothing to do with whatever someone else is wearing. I repeat – no one should buy me clothing.

I will continue learning until the day I die. I read voraciously and teach myself new skills. I am raising two amazing girls to be strong and encouraging leaders. I am extremely well-researched and self-educated on special needs – sometimes more than the professionals I meet. I am motivated by a burning desire to have my kids reach their full potential. I am with my children 24/7 and know them, their interests, their strengths and weaknesses and what makes them tick. And should be listened to when I share that information.

I love to write, but agonize over putting my feelings down on paper. I don’t understand the unkindness so many feel comfortable spouting towards others, but am glad that I can’t. Common sense is more important than popularity. I enjoy social media and TV but can live without them. Especially if I am camping at the ocean! If it comes down to watching life slip by while I stare at a TV or phone screen, I’m going to read with my kids, work in the garden or pack up the camping equipment and hit the road for a week to enjoy the sand and surf with my children. As we did just recently.

Many women — this woman — long to be “got”. Not to have our minds read (no one wants in there!). Not to be showered with material things. Not to be told what will pacify us at the moment. But to be longed after just as much – and for the same reasons – as we find ourselves pining for the men who share our lives.

Surely a chance at Eden is far more interesting than whatever’s on that screen….and is worth working for. Worth longing for.

Isn’t it?

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And The Title of Champion Weirdo Goes To…Me!

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I….am a weirdo.

Now, those who have known me from childhood are already rolling their eyes and muttering, “Tell us something we don’t know….”, even as they recall my outer weirdness: Getting stuck in a tree at recess (elementary school)….green carpenter’s pants with red tennis shoes (my favorite outfit in the 8th grade!)….loving Air Supply when everyone else was into hair metal (high school)….the purple plaid pants that I loved so much I even wore in a drama, sigh…..

So yes, I had my own brand of nerdy geek going long before this pronouncement.

Somehow, I managed to squelch that after graduation. I moved to the city, pursued my degree, got a nice job, married a great guy, secured a promotion and a move to a bigger city, served in youth ministry, and maintained the facade of being a nice, normal adult that fit in with society at large.

But my inner weirdo kept screaming to be let out.

It started at around age 30, when I rediscovered the library and began reading more than text books and work literature again. But instead of just mysteries (my fave), I began to devour books on simplicity. Seeking a simpler life. Finding my inner happiness away from the surrounding materialism and clutter.

I stopped shopping at malls (except for big clearance sales or true necessity) and began scouring thrift stores, yard sales and church bazaars for unique treasures. My inner weirdo began to smile again.

I began job-sharing with a friend at work, and found time to write, to live, to breathe. My inner weirdo began to hum.

I started to dabble in growing things with the hope of not killing them until I’d had a chance to eat them first. My inner weirdo begin to sing.

Even as motherhood and life threw me into turmoil, the inner weirdo clamored for attention and freedom. I tried to fit into the mold expected of me. Be THIS type of Mom…THIS type of neighbor….THIS type of woman.

I’m not even sure what finally liberated that inner weirdo. Acknowledging that I’ve had failures in life — and accepting that it’s okay? Maybe. Admitting I will never be the perfect mother (whatever the heck THAT is) and being okay with that, too? Well, my kids already know I adore and enjoy spending time with them, and that’s more than many have. Knowing that I can’t please everyone, that not everyone will like me, not even (gasp!) family? The benefit of getting older is finding the freedom to let go of others opinions of you. And letting go of your opinions of them. (Why can’t we figure that out at 20?!).

My inner weirdo enjoys having a half-dozen cats…gardening all summer…camping instead of luxury vacations…hiking alone in a woods…the occasional writing project…the eternal hope that I’ll get serious and write a book….and reading a good book for so long I lose track of time.

My inner weirdo does cartwheels over canning projects…finding an old plate to love at a thrift store…meeting my kids wardrobe needs several sizes ahead at yard sales…washing and reusing ziplock bags….figuring out one more thing I can make at home instead of buy…handwashing and solar drying clothes…and going on decluttering binges several times a year.

My inner weirdo enjoys the freedom of homeschooling because it works for us…giving my children a multitude of inexpensive ways to encourage their imagination and creativity…taking unexpected travels with the Husband’s job…giving my oldest wings to pursue her interests in all things art and crafty (and closing my eyes at the mess, sigh)…teaching the youngest to try something new, even as we work together to help her control her body and temper on tough days when health issues arise. Because no one else is going to love her through it like me, her weirdo mother — or love her more.

My inner weirdo gets that by the world’s standards, I’m not…normal. I’m not marking my accomplishments with pay raises, promotions and transfers (but if your inner weirdo needs that, bully for you!). I’m not seeking fame and fortune (Except as a writer. Someday. If I ever write that book!). I drive a vehicle to the wheels fall off, and then figure out a way to put them back on. Because it’s fun! I’d rather take my kids to explore the beach for days on end than hit an amusement park. We go to the zoo on free days instead of buying a membership (because then we’re guaranteed not to use it!). We spend every sunny summer day at the pool. And I’d rather grill out with friends than eat at a five-star restaurant any day. Even if it means missing out on a chance to have a babysitter and a meal I didn’t cook that one or more persons won’t like or will need help cutting up. And that’s saying a lot!

I mean, I dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail someday. For six months. With bears. Alone.

See? Inner weirdo.

And with any luck, when it’s all said and done — my kids will be just fine with their weirdo mom.

And if I’m really lucky, then maybe — just maybe — they’ll want to be weirdos, too.

Skipping Life

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10622951_10152351301253927_1753466930769056260_n She skips. Everywhere.

Twenty feet ahead of me, untethered and independent. Completely oblivious to any dangers lurking around a corner. All momentary unpleasantness forgotten — as well as everyone around her.

She is smiling. Maybe even humming. Caught up in the simple joy of life and this happy moment.

My heart swells with inexpressable joy when I see her caught up in this secret world…and I don’t feel joy easily these days. She is so beautiful…so free. Unencumbered with the worldly cares that hold me down. Focused only on wherever she’s headed, some unknown adventure that will reveal itself if she only hurries to get there. Because walking would take too long and she must know.

It is my motherly duty to call her back at times; to remind her to be aware of what is going on around her. Don’t bump into other adults. Watch out for that tree root. Don’t step on your sister’s foot. Don’t get too far ahead.

So many rules. So many “dont’s”. So many “no’s”.

While I joke that she’s going to be a great lawyer someday — looking for every loophole, negotiating every request, and arguing a way around our “no’s” — I also find myself so fiercely proud of her determination and enthusiasm for life. She doesn’t take disappointment lightly. She feels everything deeply. And tries to do something about it even when it risks trouble. 
That’s the kind of personality that doesn’t back down. That doesn’t let others shut them in a box. That seeks joy even when there’s difficulty and unquiet around her. That forges her own way against the norm. That doesn’t take “no”.

That finds the cure to cancer.

But for now, she’s simply a seven-year-old. Skipping off to the next destination in search of fun. Oblivious to what lies around and ahead as she lives in the simple happiness of childhood.

And while I protect her and her brief, sweet innocence, she reminds me that life should be more than worry, sadness and work. That adulthood shouldn’t always be…adulthood. That adventure and excitement can still lurk around the corner. That I should let loose once in awhile and be the little girl I once was.

And just…skip.

Enough

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Felt guilty lately, Ladies?

Guilt over not working out. Over eating that piece of cake. For not having rock-hard abs. Or not throwing an extravagant birthday party for a three-year-old. For not freaking out that the 5-year-old isn’t in a Harvard-prep school. For working outside the home. For being a stay-at-home mom.

For not volunteering more of our precious free time (if we have it!). For not visiting or calling enough. For our children’s behavior in public.

And let’s face it — we guilt ourselves. Over everything we do or don’t do. For our mistakes, perceived or real. For never being enough daughter, friend, employee, volunteer, wife, mother.

For simply not being…enough.

Recently, someone who is well aware of my life, its craziness, and what is required to take care of everyone around me made a comment implying that I neglected my children. My crime? Spending time on the computer. In fact, I was accused of spending all day on Facebook.

This accusation was beyond laughable. For one, I would LOVE to spend all day on Facebook. Well, I say that now. I’m sure I would tire of it when the need to seal food in canning jars or obsessively straighten the living room for the 18th time that day took over because there are crayons, empty snack plates and children’s books everywhere and that‘s the ONE ROOM that should stay neat.

But just to browse my friends’ walls or look up interesting pages? Sounds like heaven! Instead of trying to read before the kids get up, or in snatches between interruptions every two minutes for breakfast, a snack, lunch, clothing, another snack, a piece of candy, a lost item, requests to play with friends, tattling on those friends, or to referee a fight.

When I do get the chance to spend some time on the computer, my activities probably look neurotic and unfocused. I check Facebook while perusing Craigslist for something I’m seeking, while pulling up recipes for dinner ideas (because I’m bored with cooking right now!), while researching a new article on my youngest daughter’s health issues, then checking back on this gardening topic, while looking up local classes available for my kids, don’t forget planning ideas for upcoming canning days, to firing off a short email to a friend I haven’t chatted with in awhile and probably fears I’m dead, while looking up a new homeschooling lesson, to researching writing opportunities, and maybe actually writing an article.

See why I’d rather spend the day on Facebook?!

My initial response to the comment was anger — and defense. I felt justifiably attacked. I also felt betrayed by someone who knew me better than that. I adore my children, in spite of how difficult motherhood has been.

But then I realized that this was nothing more than guilt being laid at my feet.

When we can’t get someone to do what we want, we try to guilt them into feeling they should. I’m a mom — I’ve pulled this trick before.

“How can you not take care of your toys after we’ve worked to pay for them?”

“Why do you treat your sister like this? We’ve raised you differently.”

“Why do you leave everything for me to clean up — do you think I’m a maid?”

Okay, sometimes guilting kids is the only way to get their attention when they’re on their own planet. But it’s time for the guilt-laying on women — especially this woman — to cease.

I am a full-time mom to two amazing youngsters, one of whom has special needs. She makes daily life difficult in a million small ways. There is often no peace around her, I’m up to my elbows in dirty laundry or I have to sequester her before she does something to someone or herself. She ends up in bed with me nearly every night, meaning I don’t get a lot of uninterrupted sleep. The other day, I had to physically carry her from a neighbor’s house because she refused to leave and locked herself in a bedroom. It took her a half hour just to stop screaming and crying.

I homeschool. My 7-year-old is currently working a year ahead and will be starting third grade this fall. She is the first person I have ever taught to read, and her sister is (hopefully) soon to follow. A failed attempt at a special ed class for the youngest last school year means I am educating her at home, as wel. In spite of her resistance to learning. Which makes lesson planning fun around here (eye roll).

I care for my mother, who lives three hours away, is housebound and is not social. Any change, including my bringing in additional help to keep my sanity, is met with complete and utter resistance. So for now, I’m her wing man.

I just survived my husband’s second hospitalization in 3 ½ years that nearly ended very badly because of unexpected health complications. A long recuperation at home. Major schedule adjustments.

And then there’s just the daily aspects of life in our household. I do the laundry, grocery-shopping, meal planning, cooking, dishes and cleaning. It’s rare that I get a real break from the kids. I mow the lawn and do yardwork because I enjoy it, need the exercise, and am trying to keep my husband from pulling plants instead of weeds.

I will not win a Martha Stewart award. I don’t have time for elegant dining, elaborate cooking or crafts. I am not married to my house. It is mostly clean and happily cluttered. Windows could be washed more often but we can see out of them. We have cats; ergo, we have cat hair. My children think the floor is the best spot for their clothes. And toys. And art supplies. And my kitchen is a perpetual wreck because I love to can, and unexpectedly find the real me buried in those moments when I am creating something new to eat during the winter while hearing satisfying pings as lids seal.

I am not my children’s cruise director. I’m their mother and their teacher. It is my job to raise them to be responsible citizens, compassionate and caring individuals who see and reach beyond themselves, introduce them to faith, give them a healthy work ethic, teach them life skills and manners, and guide them through their formative years. I am not here to monitor every second of their existence or make sure they are never bored. Their creative sides will thank me someday.

So it’s not fair to lay guilt on someone who wants to (gasp!) have a little bit of a life beyond taking care of everyone else around me.

I’m going to take time to connect with people on a daily basis, whether in person or via a computer keyboard. I need to converse with more than just a 5- and 7-year-old, or insanity is the least of my problems!

I am going to continue to seek out answers and ideas to help my youngest through her health struggles. I’m the only one doing it, and I’m not going to apologize for second-guessing doctors and doing my own reading. Thank God I did, or I’d still think she “just had a virus”.

I’m going to continue to educate myself on a variety of topics, so that I don’t become stagnant and stodgy at 46. Life is about learning. If I’m done learning, I can hang it up.

And I’m going to write, regardless of what anyone else thinks I should do with my precious time. I’m not sure where it’s written that motherhood means having dreams of any kind is sacriligious. That we’re supposed to give every waking moment to our children. That everyone else’s needs and wants are to be put before ours. That we are to care for everyone around us constantly — and then care for ourselves, too, because no one else does.

Ladies — drop the guilt. Do what you have to do — and then do something for yourself. Have that extra piece of cake. Call that friend and spend a half hour on the phone. Say no. Say yes. Go after your dreams again, even as a little one clings to your leg and you’re trying to get melted crayon out of the carpet for the tenth time that week.

I have a need to write. To read. To learn. To seek. It’s who I am. Whether I ever achieve anything beyond my blog and a small freelance career remains to be seen. But I’m at least doing that — and I’m not interested in satisfying anyone else’s idea of what my life should be.

No more guilt. I am enough.

And so are you.

You May Say I’m a Dreamer….

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Just a few short days ago, a young man from a wealthy, influential family killed 9 people before shooting himself.

He had planned this act for months, making a video outlining all the reasons why he was tired of his life and the way it hadn’t went the way he thought it should. The central theme of his complaints?

Women.

Women did not fawn over him as they did other men. They didn’t appreciate his gentlemanly ways. His non-jock physique. His intelligence.

In short, they weren’t throwing themselves at him the way he believed they should…so he would take out as many as he could before he left this planet.

I suspect he was too self-absorbed to contemplate the international uproar his statements of sexual rights would create.

Women from all over the globe are opening up about the daily reality — and horrific experiences — of being female in a world that seems to think of nothing but sex. (Google #YesAllWomen)

Of being female in a world where simply being female puts us at risk of harm.

I had never heard the terms “misogyny” or “misogynist” before that I recall — defining a prejudice against women in general. But this 45-year-old was schooled after reading the heartfelt comments and shared stories from other women — and men who either supported or derided them.

I can say with immense gratitude that I was never molested as a child, or raped. I led a rather sheltered childhood and was pretty naive when I graduated high school. Even by the 1980’s standards. I am so thankful to my parents for their protection in always knowing where I was, and who I was with….and that I was led to a good group of friends where the guys I hung with did not assault me and think it was their right to do so just because we were friends.

Let me point out right now — I am not, and never have been, a beauty. In my youth, I was probably only girl-next-door cute. And yet I was still not immune to the discomforts of unwanted male attention.

While it seems pretty tame now, I recall having my bra strap “snapped” in junior high by male friends after I suddenly developed a figure. (Now that I’m the mother to two daughters, I don’t find that funny in the slightest.)

At 19, I was wooed by two different 27-year-old men who certainly didn’t need to be dating a teenager.

I was then pursued by a co-worker who had been married less than a year.

At 20, I landed a wonderful office job with many terrific people. As well as one older man who liked to walk up behind me and rub my shoulders. I learned to stand up and keep a piece of furniture between us when I saw him coming.

Another older man I knew, married at least 40 years, who made me internally squirm with looks and compliments that were borderline inappropriate. And I only ever saw him at church.

A supervisor that went out of his way to create problems for just the women in our office, including attempting to hold them back from promotions and raises. And did nothing to hide that fact. (My first experience meeting a man who had issues with women simply because they were female.)

The men — mere acquaintances or complete strangers — who felt it was okay to reach out and touch my belly when I was pregnant. I learned to step back when I saw a hand reaching out.

Or let’s not forget all the times I’ve immediately been on guard when approached by a strange man while taking a walk. The apprehension I have felt just walking through a parking lot at night, keys sticking out between my fingers, glancing around on high alert.

Simply because I’m female.

And try raising daughters in a world where children are snatched out of their yards, disappear after getting off the bus, or go off to college and are grabbed by men who think it’s their right to ruin other people’s lives for their own pleasures. I don’t trust any strange man that approaches them just to “chat”. Ever.

I appreciate all the wonderful men in this world (such as my Husband) who do not catcall. Who do not ogle. Who do not grope. Who do not cheat. Who do not demand favors.

And I especially appreciate all those wonderful men (and women) raising boys to not do it, either.

While I wish for a world where my children — and girls and women everywhere — can just walk down the street free from fear or even the need to be cautious, it’s probably not going to happen.

But I’d like to think that this sad young man’s last act might have at least started the changes that will bring that to fruition. Someday.

Girl, Interrupted (CONSTANTLY!)

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I often wonder how pioneer mothers got anything done.

‘Ma! Junior is looking out my side of the wagon!’

‘Am not! Ma — she’s touching me with her rag doll!’

‘Can I have a bread and jam snack? Can I cut a piece of smoked ham? Can I open a jar of pickles?  Can I have a cookie? Can I eat that pie?”

‘But I don’t want to milk the cow….I’m thirsty NOW!’

Am I the only modern mother/wife that rarely has two minutes alone in her head before some sort of chaos erupts — or I’m needed yet again?

Before children, my free mornings allowed me time to journal, plan my day and do some writing. I’d get a work out of some type in several times a week. Yes, I worked. But in my free time, I read voraciously. Tinkered with writing. Planned for the future. Looked forward to life.

Enjoyed some solitude. (I no longer know what that word means — and just for the record, it’s taken me a week to write this due to continual interruptions!)

Now — if I’m lucky — I migh have a half hour to myself in the mornings before someone realizes Mom is sitting down, quietly enjoying the peace and a cup of coffee.

And needs me.

Some mornings might be relatively quiet with the youngest (and I can usually tell within a few minutes of her rising what kind of day it will be). Interruptions might only be at 5-10 minute intervals. (Can I have breakfast? Would you pour me another glass of milk? I want a different breakfast. I need the TV channel changed. Can I make a craft?)

Then, there are the days where I envision life bearing down on me like the giant, rolling rock in Indana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Where any plans I made can be chucked, because no one is going to allow me to get them done.

Many of the distractions are due to sibling rivalry, made more difficult with my youngest’s special needs and her refusal to care if she loses privileges. (She’s touching me. She’s on my side of the couch. She’s in my way. She won’t leave me alone. She’s playing with my toy. But i WANT that toy! She’s stupid! She’s hitting me!!….well, you get the idea.)

But the mental distractions are also overwheming. After all, I have girls. Girls that need to talk. And talk. And talk. Constantly.

A few days ago, I was outside picking dandelions to make syrup, and my oldest decided to weed the nearby fruit bed. The dialogue with herself, the weeds, me (at intervals) and a passing butterfly were almost comedic. Except that she couldn’t stop talking. For even a few seconds. I’m not even sure she was taking the time to breathe.

We only get a few hours (on good days) with the youngest before moodiness and difficulty move in. She can’t leave her sister alone. She needs to argue with me over simple things (wear a jacket — it’s cold. Put your shoes on. Don’t leave the fridge open.) She makes messes and refuses to clean them up. She tells me what she wants for lunch, and then refuses to eat it because something is off half an inch on her plate.

And if I’m honest, the interruptions are not just limited to the children in my life.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and profess my selfish desires. I don’t need jewelry, cars or expensive vacations to make me happy, people!

I just want to know what it’s like to get up for periods of time — perhaps once a month — and not be everyone’s go-to person for the day.

To be allowed to move at my pace. To think about what I’d like to do that day, and not take anyone else into consideration.

To not talk to anyone, except myself and God (who is probably tired of my complaining!).

To have hours of time to sit and write. To find that creative place inside of myself that has been interrupted into hiding out of sheer survival.

To not be responsible for another human being’s meals, clothing, lessons, entertainment, happiness and safety.

To just be me. Alone in my head.

Uninterrupted.

But for now, I’ll — oh, never mind. Duty calls…..

When You Need a Friend

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Television makes friendship look so easy.

Neighbors become besties. Couples divorce but remain confidantes. People thrown together in impossible situations invariably end up lifelong friends.

So — where is my Ethel, I ask? My Shirley? My Rhoda?

(And why am I picking shows from my childhood as examples?!)

In my youth, you would have categorized me as outgoing. Open. An extrovert to the nth degree.

I was friends with everyone — even those that would have been considered “unlovely” by the popular crowd — and talked to complete strangers with ease. A trait passed to me from my paternal grandfather, according to my Dad. I could walk into a party and find a conversation in an instant. I assumed the best of everyone, and took people at face value.

But there’s a downside to all that friendliness, openness and acceptance. When you take people as they are, you’re surprised and shocked when they don’t return the favor. When you make friends with everyone, you aren’t looking at the potential for hurt. Betrayal. Rejection.

We’ve all had friendships that, over the years, went by the wayside. Friendships from high school or college faded after graduation. Someone transferred and correspondence eventually faded. People changed and the relationship disappeared quietly by joint consent.

But we’ve probably all had at least one friendship that ended unexpectedly. Someone got mad and blew up, then refused to reconcile out of pride. A misunderstanding caused a rift and hurt feelings on both sides. One party had kids and decided to end a friendship with the childless gal (true story — guess who was the childless gal?).

Or we unwisely overlooked the warning signs and befriended the one individual who would have crushed any and all in his or her path. And probably has — over and over.

Today, everyone is a critic. It can knock you back to post something innocent on social media and have people crawl all over your heart — even those you trusted — and kick your hurts and fears to the curb, making you second guess your right to feel.

Over time, these hurts and rejections add a brick to an ever-growing wall between your heart and everyone else. A betrayal can add a whole section of wall. After all, if a person you trusted can stomp on you and just glibly walk away, how can anyone be trusted again?

But…we continue to reach out.

We feel the need to connect on a deeper level than being “Moms” or “Wives”.

So we start conversations. We attend meetings. Join groups. Find a church. Take classes.

And hope that eventually, we’ll find our Ethel.

Or be someone else’s.