Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Life keeps on happening no matter how old you are or what you have going on. Wouldn't it be so much simpler if we could deal with things one at a time? Instead, life often requires that we operate in storm survival mode. We go from day to day picking thru the debris of life trying to make sense and order out of chaos.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and have enjoyed smooth sailing. In that case, you must find me one frustrating, whiny dame. You have your life management system down to a fine science. All your i's are dotted. Your t's are crossed. Lunches are laid out for tomorrow, and school doesn't even start for 1-5 weeks depending on the part of the country in which you live. Why, you'd make even the Duggar family envious! If you are like me, life has never been that seamless.

Around the time of Son #2's birth, a grandmotherly figure in our church watched my routine and said, “My! How organized you are!” I nearly fell over my own feet. (Hmmm...wonder if that stumble was foreshadowing of my Jack and Jill tumble down the hill 13 years later?) I took that comment as the highest form of flattery since this 70-year-old woman operated an in-home day care, boarded out of town guests on a long term basis, and single handedly fed half the county on any given day. I couldn't imagine that she was describing me as organized. At that exact moment, I felt as tho' I was operating in panic mode! To this day, I always feel that same sense of breathless motion most all the time.

Just a few weeks ago, a good friend, who has been known to throw a last minute dinner party for 350...and NO, I'm NOT kidding....on 3 hours notice, posted this Facebook status update:

Ok, I give up. Life has too many moving parts. I quit. I can't keep up.”

Again, I nearly fell over my own feet. (You think I would have conquered that after 6 months on a walker?) Annemarie's life has too many moving parts? Just thinking about it makes me hyperventilate. I've never seen her unprepared even if she had only a 30 second notice of her next project.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
In the year or so since I lost myself, I wonder if I just got lost amid the moving parts of life? I had barely recovered from my leg fracture and all the chaos that I set off with that stunt. My weeks included ping-ponging back and forth between my mother's ICU bed and my husband's medical crises 6 hours away. There were the daily demands of schooling a 7th /8th grader (which you can do if you homeschool). In the back of my mind I was always fretting over how to get us all moved to Tennessee and when. As if that weren't enough, I carried a beastly heavy load watching my college aged son recover from the insult my fall and I had been to his freshman year. I literally could not catch my breath, so I guess I quit breathing – emotionally and spiritually.

Maybe that sense of being lost in the universe combined with the knowledge that Son #2 was about to enter high school is what triggered my thoughts of the future. Maybe it was spending 8-24 hours a day on an ICU ward and watching as body bags were quietly escorted to the freight elevator? That certainly gives one a perspective on the transient nature of life.

Lots of days during the commute back and forth from the ICU ward or Tennessee and back, I'd find random thoughts skipping thru my brain matter. I was too tired and too stressed to think much of anything with purpose. Over and over, however, the thought came, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I have been a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, teacher, bookstore manager, disability claims analyst, homeschooling mom, and mentor over the course of my life. Yet, I knew the time was coming to re-invent myself as my empty nest approached. I could feel the future coming and knew I needed a plan to meet it head on.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
There were some secret desires I'd always had. Things I'd wanted to do and be that only God had known. Maybe a few close friends as well, but just a few. I had wanted to be a 'fool for Jesus'. The phrase was coined by a lady I never knew. Her name was Miss Minnie. She had told my friend a story about her days as a young woman. Apparently, she had experienced a disappointment in her efforts to share God's love with others that left her feeling quite foolish. If I recall the story rightly, in the heat of her hurt, she had flung herself down on her bed and cried out, “Well, Jesus, if I have to be a fool, I'll be a fool for you.”

As I began to wrestle with God in the long winter after my fall, I had given up on those secret dreams. Perhaps I had dreamed of being a fool for Jesus. Alas, I had ended up being only a fool in the eyes of the world. At least, that is what the voice from the darkness told me as my days of battle waxed long and arduous.

I had long since stopped writing much of anything besides Facebook updates. Gone was my secret desire to hide myself away and write till my fingers dropped off. Gone was my desire to mentor younger women. I no longer cared to speak before an audience and watch their faces as their countenances spoke back to me. I found myself just wanting to disappear lest I become anymore foolish in my own eyes or the eyes of others.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Lots of days I wondered: Who am I? What am I to do with myself? I'm 52-years-old, how can I not know what I want to be when I grow up? Where is the good God I've told so many people about, and why has he left me all alone in this hemisphere of the universe?

Realizing Jeff was home for good steadied me in the last 14 days of my mother's life. Knowing he was with the boys and could spend time with her gave me some measure of peace. Only at the time, I didn't really need peace because I was too numb to take comfort in having it. By the time he got home in late June, I was operating on remote control in suspended animation. I guess maybe that is what everyone goes thru when death is at the door and has been pounding on it for weeks trying to get in?

In addition to wondering what I was to do with the rest of my life, I continued to wrestle with the sense that my heart was broken beyond repair. I watched and waited for any sign that my good God was still there amid the cacophony of alarms and machines on the ICU ward. I had been his biggest cheerleader, and I was still waiting on the sideline of my life hoping against hope that he would show up. If ever I needed was there and then.

What about you, fraidy cat? Are you standing on the sidelines of your life watching and waiting as well? Oh, I'm so glad you are here! Do you know someone who is in that lonely spot, but you just can't relate no matter how empathetic you try to be? Tell them you think you know someone who can?
I'll be back tomorrow, so come again and bring that friend? Love you long and strong. See you soon. 
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Genesis 32:28
The man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That's why your name will be Israel."


  1. Thank you Again! This one was GREAT! (and one I NEEDED!)

  2. Oh, girl...thank you...I thought it was too long (nothing new there, huh?) and not really all that good. What a relief to know it resonated with you!

  3. Great reading, thanks for writing!!!! Remember the light at the end of my tunnel says, check engine!!!

  4. Oh and the photos are super!! Are they Will's??

  5. say that to all the girls! And...I dropped my engine a long time ago. I thought you knew! Yep...mostly Will's photo's. His are the ones that give Kudo's to Mad Penguin. The lousy ones w/ no credits are mine! I'm sure you see the difference....

  6. Sometimes you just have to take a break and do YOU. I know what you mean. My apartment is organized and neat but my life is like a suitcase that you have to sit on to be able to zip up!

  7. The more I read your blog, the more I realize we truly are twins!! How did we get separated?? We are so much alike, but I think you are way ahead of me in the game. I quit way too easily.

  8. Jessica-- you are so right, and it gets harder to do as you move into being a wife/mother. Take care of you so you can fulfill your roles with gusto!

    Donna -- :-) I'm not way ahead of anyone. I'm so far behind, I can't see the end of the pack. Looking forward to the day we can sit down face to face and compare twin notes! are NOT a quitter! You have had more than enough reason in your life to do so, but you have not. You are an inspiration!