A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

New Chapter

It’s been a while since I blogged. The days and weeks have been flying by at a blazing pace. It would be gratifying to say I have accomplished something tangible in that time, but, in reality, Life has been teaching me her lessons in the most mundane and humbling ways. Through the angry young man whose comment, “Do you want me to piss on the floor right here?” almost brought me to tears, I’ve learned patience and compassion. Through the student who asked me for money one too many times, I learned to say ‘no’. Through the gift of a lollipop from a usually sullen and frequently volcanic eighth grader, I learned that even the most difficult and obnoxious kids have goodness at their core, something I seriously questioned. And, finally, by making a HUGE mistake while proctoring a state exam, I learned humility.

These are lessons I needed, and for which I am grateful. However, during the past few weeks I also observed that life is passing me by, and I’ve been so set in my ways with my eyes focused some imaginary, far-off finish line that I’ve missed some important events.

The tulips bloomed without me this year. They are my favorite flower, but I didn’t notice that they had grown and budded and opened. A week ago, as I drove down the driveway focused on the workday ahead, I noticed a blur of crimson in the corner of my eye. From the rearview mirror the tulips waved a greeting in the early morning light, and I felt so forlorn at that moment I wanted to weep.

My nephew turned 17 last week. The gift was planned, the card bought; that part I did in April. However, April came and went, and with it my birthday, Easter and Mother’s Day. For the first time since he was born, I screwed up his birthday. Nope, that’s wrong – I totally forgot it. Instead of consciously sending his package in time to arrive on his birthday the 5th, I thought I had more time and my brain put his birthday on the 17th. Turns out the 17th is my girlfriend Virginia’s birthday. {sigh}

My eye doctor died last week of pancreatic cancer. I didn’t even know he HAD cancer. And now he’s dead. He was a caustic, drily funny man, once commenting, when I told him I liked the SpongeBob statue he had in his office to distract kids during their exams, “I hate SpongeBob.” I was at his office today and saw a tribute to him on the wall where his cat trophy used to be. He loved his cats. I wonder who took them when he passed on.

These three events together, although they might not seem like a big deal to some, made me step back and ask, “Am I going to continue to chase after some illusion that one day I will arrive somewhere?” There is no valid reason for me to run like a madman 7 days a week. Louise has been telling me for years to slow down, Richard has been trying to teach me how to say “no” (I seem to be allergic to the word). But I have been overextending myself, working seven days a week during the school year, and refusing to take vacations because I didn’t want to leave the church parishioners without music – I love them! In February this year I finally broke down and told the priest of the church where I play organ that I couldn’t work Saturdays anymore. I said I needed the day off, but, in no time, Saturdays became full of activities, too.

Last Saturday, while spending a rare moment reflecting, I realized how desperately unhappy I am. For years I have wanted to leave my weekend job, but thought I really needed the money. I complained weekly about how I would love to stay home on Sunday morning and have coffee on the deck. Richard would always say, “keep your foot in the door” or, “maybe you can quit next year”. I always listened and took that to mean I had to stay, as though the decision was his to make. After all, my Dad always made those decisions for my Mom, or so it seemed. The job was also taking its toll on me physically – I would get so stressed at being there some weeks that I would have to go outside the church during the sermon and throw up, or I would have to pull over to the side of the road on the way to work Sunday mornings and do the same. It got to where I wouldn’t eat anything before going to work. I would have some toast and tea after the 9:00 Mass if I felt up to it. I told people it was allergies and mucus at the back of my throat making me gag, but in reality it was stress shutting down my body and rejecting sustenance. I didn’t take the hint, though.

I tried to come up with other ways to make money – after all, the economy is in the crapper and prices are steadily increasing. If I could only figure out a way to earn some extra money during the week, I could quit and have weekends free. That magic solution never materialized, however, and I stayed miserable, working week after week at a job that no longer held meaning for me. My “ah-hah” moment came while preparing for last week’s First Communion Masses. I pulled out a program last Friday night for the First Communion Mass I had played in 2006 and realized that nothing had changed since then. The music selections were the same, the readings were the same, the psalm was the same, all that had changed were the names of the kids. This was a metaphor for my life! I decided then and there to quit for good. I wrote a letter to the pastor of the church and resigned as of this coming Sunday.

I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t terrified about finances. How am I going to pay for the groceries? Clothing? Incidentals like bandaids or milk in the middle of the week? Textbooks? My family gets medical benefits through my school job, but I still pay the vast majority of the premiums and take home about $10 a day, a pathetically small sum, so I rarely have cash in my wallet. Richard has drummed into me for years how important it is to keep that job because his income is uncertain and my income gets us through the “bald spots” of his work year. I was expecting a mini-explosion when I told him I quit. However, his only response was, “Good!”

This stunned me. I had expected whining and complaining. I had expected a lecture about money. I had expected a pronounced sigh and the silent treatment for a day as Richard came to grips with my stupidity. None of that happened. He was actually glad that I could finally be happy and that we could go away together. Imagine my surprise to learn that the decision had been mine all along but I had given away my power and my freedom to an imaginary keeper! When Louise found out she hooted and squeezed me in a giant hug. I was moved to tears to know that they wanted for me what I wanted for myself all along: the chance to be happy.

A few months back I wrote a post entitled “The Winter of My Discontent”. I wrote then that “there are still days when I listen to my soul whispering to me that there is more than this. I want to surrender to that seductive whisper and fall in love with Life again.” Finally, I have listened to that whisper and taken the first step to reclaiming my life. It was daunting, but I took it.

My friend Erika said yesterday that she felt the Universe was “seriously shifting some gears.” I think she’s right. Perhaps I’ve tapped into that energy and that’s where the courage to make the change came from. Perhaps my guardian angel poked me in the butt with a sharp stick because she was tired of seeing me punish myself. Perhaps God whispered in my ear, “You deserve more than this, my child”, and I finally heard Her voice. Perhaps I finally gave up the martyr mentality and took back my human right to be happy. Whatever actually happened, I have ended one chapter and started another. This new chapter is yet to be titled and yet to be written. I am certain, however, that it will be an adventure. Bring it on!

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Comments on: "New Chapter" (2)

  1. All I have to say is… it’s about time, and I’m really happy you’ve finally made this decision. I knew you couldn’t keep doing what you’ve been doing. ENJOY!!!!!!

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