Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm back

It's been slightly over six months now since my father died. If I had to account for how I am doing, I would have to say that I don't think I have even begun really to process the last year. It's too important to me to stay upright and functional right now.

Some of you know, some of you don't, that Dereck moved out over Halloween weekend. However, that is all I am going to say about that here. It is between the two of us.

So, my mother and I have found ourselves both newly single, and in some ways, I think that has bonded us. We are both navigating the waters of living alone (well, I live with the boys, of course), and I think that has actually brought us closer together. Pat lives here in town now. She lives just a little over a mile from my house, but I confess that I drive over to see her most days. Even though, this winter has been [perilously for the planet] exquisitely warm and mild until today. Today we got our first crispy bite of bitter temperatures and crunchy snow. No, scratch that: We had a little snow before  Christmas. I remember being nervous to let Sam drive to school, but I let him, and he was fine. This morning, I worried less. However, I am still not comfortable with it.

Yes, Sam is driving now. Life marches on, doesn't it? He is now eighteen. He nailed his ACTs and has already been accepted to Truman for the Fall. Christian is 15, and had an amazing experience at the Joseph Baldwin Academy last summer that has sparked a philosophy, politics, and religion reading frenzy. Thomas, as he prefers to be called, has adopted the task of drawing a neighbor girl from Australia out of her shell, jollying the younger sister (who is facing the fact at age 13 that her mother is terminally ill) and taking both girls to Kum & Go and buying them snacks with his allowance. He is very tall, and he takes a lot of pride in his personal appearance.

The kids had a tough year last year too. Their mother was largely absent in Utah for the six months. Then, I was devastated over the summer. Then in the fall, their stepfather moved out.

My children have had to endure hardships, all of them, that I would never in my wildest dreams wanted them to have to experience. And they have emerged tall, supportive, brilliant, creative, loving, generous, empathic, funny, and strong.

For the past couple of years-- perhaps longer, I have struggled with my career. It has been a great blessing and I have been incredibly fortunate to have had the time to devote to my family. I am grateful to work from home and to have had the flexibility last year that I had. I have been privately griping, though, about the sacrifices to my career that I've made. However, I am now, unexpectedly, in a position where I might be able to return my thoughts to building a satisfying career. And that possibility has allowed me to see with clearer eyes the fact that all of the time and commitment I have given to my kids has yielded greater dividends than any supposedly great career could have. It's true that I have barely been published (except for copious amounts of blogging); it's true that I cannot, now, have a full academic career. I will never be a reknown scholar. I may never be able to teach at a university level full time. I passed up opportunities to perform in Community Theatre, because it was important to me to be home with my kids in the evening, to have family dinner, and to tuck them in. Some of the experiences I haven't had feel more like sacrifices than others. But no regrets. None at all.

The summer was strange and intense. Right around Thanksgiving, melancholy started to rear its ugly head. I find it very difficult to concentrate on work, and I think that last year's tribulations are starting to bubble up in spite of my best attempts to tuck them back down. I find myself listening to Pandora stations I create that play Don Fogelberg, Christopher Cross, James Taylor, Steely Dan-- a lot of stuff from the seventies. A LOT. I can tell that I am reverting a lot in my mind to the safer time in my life this music conjures. I am cocooning myself, with the music, in my last real period of innocence and happiness.

My days, these days, usually begin earlier than they ever have (voluntarily) in my life. I get up, I turn on Pandora, I lift weights or do the dishes. I actually enjoy cleaning and taking care of my home now. Sometimes, in the midst of these things, I take my coffee out to the studio and have a cigarette and a cry. I tell my friends that I feel like one of those punching bags you have when you're a kid. You can punch it for awhile, and it will fall back, then spring up. It does this over and over until it's a little deflated and then its ability to bounce back is inhibited until you blow it back up.

I'm back. I'm trying to blow myself back up. One word at a time.


  1. Jen--Glad to hear you're back. What a terrible year though. Stay strong! You are fierce!

  2. Well about getting caught up. I started reading the most recent post and noticed a word "divorce" and then noticed another word missing "Dereck" and started scrolling madly to see what the hell happened. Sigh. Jeez, Jen. So much of what you're saying resonates with me, right down to the listening to the 70s music and the WHYS of that...because life was a lot freaking simpler then and the road ahead still looked full of rainbows and shit. Ugh. I've been fairly sporadic in my blogging too...some days its been too damn painful and then the good days...well, I just want to LIVE those days and not write about them so much. Plus they seem pretty freaking boring. Anyhow, hang in there and do what you have to do. I hope some of the pain is easing up.