About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Expectations

Over and over again during the past week I have been slapped in the face by expectation.  And it hurts.  Enough already with the slapping.  I am thinking, I am thinking...and those thoughts are leading me to writing.  

My daughter got into some trouble this past Friday.  For her privacy sake, I won't go into details; but I will say that I felt as if I had been socked in the gut by a jackhammer and slapped in the face by a prize fighter.  I found myself in a situation where the blinders were off and I was looking, not at my little girl, but a young woman making some bad choices.  All of her life I have been teaching her to treat others the way she would like to be treated, to tell the truth no matter the cost, and--silly me--I thought she had been listening.  Caught up in the subsequent chaos of the weekend, I felt like a drowning woman. 

To make the weekend more complicated, my gray-area friend (that's my new name for my former high school flame who is still in the mix) says that he has no expectations of anyone or for any day and hopes that no one ever has any expectations on him.  Whaaaaaat???  The man is 42 with a solid career and to all appearances seems like one of the good guys--a smart, fun, caring, responsible human being.  Did he seriously mean that he never wants anyone to expect anything of him--ever? Seriously?  Or did he simply mean that he never wants me specifically to expect anything of him--ever?  And if that's the case:  I'm out of that game.  I simply can't play by those rules when my heart is at stake.  I have been hurt too many times by too many guys who didn't want any expectations--those pesky real life things--to get in their way.   

Right or wrong, I do have expectations of myself and of the people in my life; not outrageous expectations but expectations none-the-less.  I expect honesty.  I expect respect.  I expect to be accepted 'as is'.  I expect to operate all relationships as a two-way street.  I expect to be treated as I treat others.  I expect people to walk their talk.  I expect people to be authentic to themselves.  I expect the best in every situation.  I carry these expectations to all areas of my life:  my children, my professional peer group, my friends, my intimate relationships and even more so for myself.  

Reeling from questions about my expectations possibly being too much, completely wrong or unrealistic, I have mulled over this idea in my head to the point of insomnia.  And I have come to the conclusion that I am okay with expectations--realistic expectations--even if that means being disappointed along the way.  Without expectations, then what are we left with?  Personally, I like that people expect things from me.  To me that means I matter, that I have something important to offer, that I am needed.  Without expectations my daughter would not know the depth of my disappointment in her actions and would not have felt the remorse she did for shattering them.  

Expectations are equivalent to hope in my mind.  I have great hope for myself, my life, my children, my career and those people who touch my life.  How can that be wrong?  I know disappointment...and the past week has been one big disappointment after another...and yet I have expectations that everything will work out for the best.  

I understand that people can have unrealistic expectations or can care too much about others' expectations.  I do understand that and have had to free my mind of being a slave to others' expectations that deviated too far from my authentic self.  There is a fine line, I think.  Personally, I like knowing what is expected of me so that I can react accordingly.  I also like having expectations so that I don't compromise my truth or settle for the dreaded 'less-than'.  

At the end of the day, though, my mind is still tossing with questions and doubts, I still feel as if I have been beat up these past few days, I still want my daughter to make good choices, I still expect success and I'm still an only parent who does not have all the answers.  All I can do is expect--or hope--that tomorrow is a better day blessed with clarity. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hanging On Too Long

Moments define us.  Moments of bliss.  Moments of sorrow.  Moments of trauma.  Letting go of past moments is the problem most of us face, some more than others.  There is a point of hanging on too long.  I know because I have been there.  I reached the point where I recognized that I was no longer truly in grief mode; but rather I had become so accustomed to feeling that way that I didn't know how to break free of it.  I had hung on too long.  

After a certain point, it is easier to hang on to the grief, the identity that grief gives, then to let go.  That might sound strange, but it's true.  It becomes like a comfy blanket to hide under and is difficult to push aside after awhile, especially if you have been wrapped in it for a long time. For me at least, this was not a deliberate choice.  It simply happened.  One day I woke up and realized that I had lost years of my life while I stumbled haphazardly through the maze of grief and change.  It is hard to let go of one identity to embrace another. People who haven't walked the path do not realize the enormity of the challenge.   

Grief and the identity struggle come in many forms.  With me it was the loss of my husband, with others it is the loss of identity that divorce brings or, in the case of my friend Lisa in Denver, it is the loss of a healthy body that brings on her struggle with grief.  In Lisa's case she has become disabled due to the side-effects of an experimental drug.  She had been an avid mountain climber, runner, mother and volunteer.  Now she cannot even hold a phone due to the crippling of her fingers and cannot stand for longer than a few minutes at a time.  She often talks about how she wanted her life to be, how she envisioned herself, the kind of mother she used to be.  Understandably, she is having a hard time accepting this new reality.  

Hanging on to grief isn't so different from those who hang on to past triumphs while their present becomes a rut of neglect.  Oh yes, the good old days...the glory days.  We've all seen the group of guys (or gals) who repeatedly tell the same stories about past accomplishments.  Life was better back then, back when everything synced and life shone with a brightness that they cannot see in the present.  

Hanging on to the past is safe in some ways.  It is what we are used to.  We can rewrite at will.  No one will dare confront us if we embellish here or there, let alone highlight only the good in a marriage that wasn't exactly happy or glorify our accomplishments.   The past is like a big ol' stuffed teddy bear that we've had our entire life and cherish despite its tears, one missing eye and stained fur.  Putting that teddy bear away seems traitorous in some way.  

But we do need to be able to recognize when we have hung on too long, when the past no longer suits our present situation or personality.  It's easier said than done.  I know.  In fact, I know it is scary as hell to stop looking backward and stare into the blank page of the future.  

The risk in hanging on too long, in not letting go, is that you block happiness in the here and now.  The risk in holding on too long is that you may overlook an opportunity for love right now, an opportunity to embrace happiness when it steps in front of you, an opportunity to improve your life in ways you cannot even imagine.  If you wait too long for whatever excuse--not being ready, not being 'over it', not trusting your heart--you risk missing the chance of a lifetime and could be stuck in a loop of glorified memories.  That is a risk I am unwilling to take.  I open my hand and let go of the security of what was and free fall into the chaos of what is.  



Monday, February 15, 2010

Showing Up

Words are meaningless without action to back them up.  Intent is worthless without follow-through.  I can have a million story ideas, but they mean nothing if I don't sit down at the computer and write.  Showing up, being present, is undervalued.  


Too many people are all talk and the result is disappointment.  Disappointment not only in themselves, but the disappointment they create in others.  I am an advocate of saying what you mean--only what you mean--and promising only what you fully intend to deliver.  When I say I will be some place, I will be there.  You can count on it.  If a friend sends me a personal email, I reply.  If someone leaves me a message, I get back to them when I can.  That is how I am.  So maybe this idea of showing up is a pet peeve of mine.  


I had this talk with my daughter when she refused to go to swim team practice.  She is a perfectionist who is competitive with herself over improving her times and strokes, yet she doesn't want to practice.  I told her that showing up at practice is part of the deal.  Show up, practice, compete. We talked about commitment, about walking your talk and showing up not only for herself, but for her team as well.  I can't blame her and won't.  We've all been 13 before...even if it was a long, long time ago.  I know adults who have problems showing up in their own lives.


With parenting, there are times I wish I were far away from the present, moments when I simply don't want to show up, when I am tired or annoyed or overwhelmed or preoccupied.  But I show up anyway.  That's the deal.  


Maybe I am too black and white on this subject, but I think that in any relationship we all have an obligation to show up, to be present, to acknowledge that we care.   Whether we are working for someone, dating someone, going to school, consoling someone, running our own business, participating on a team, writing a blog post, being in a long distance friendship or meeting a friend for dinner, we need to show up.  


Life is not a party of one.  Thank God.  Can you imagine how lonely it would be if no one showed up...ever?  

Friday, February 12, 2010

First Crush Rush

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and I can't help but smile.  Memories of "all the men who've gone before" (sorry, Willy) bring out the grins and the heavy sighs.  Ah, love, it's not as complicated as we make it out to be.  Boy loves girl.  Girl loves boy.  Simple, or at least it is before we over-think it. And the simplest form of love for me was that rush of the first crush...way back when.


As a parent of two middle school aged children, I am watching them awaken to the concept of love.  It seems like only yesterday that I was taking them to tumble tots and now I am talking to them about crushes. I haven't figured out how they are aging while I remain timeless--I guess that's some kind of miracle--but the reality is that my little boy and my little girl are not so little anymore.  


Briahna, my 13 year-old, is firmly on Team Edward, giggles wildly over Zac Efron, freaks out about her hair every morning and rolls her eyes whenever a certain boy who shall remain nameless sends her a text message.  But it is that Oh-He-Is-So-Lame-He-Had-Better-Text-Me back kind of eye roll as she stares at the phone, foot tapping while attempting to look like she doesn't give a damn.


Ben, my 12 year-old, just had his first heart break.  A little 12 year-old girl broke up with him via email the night before his  surgery in January.  Oh the drama.  I never knew boys could have this kind of drama, too, but I am quickly learning that they do.  In fact, as a mother of a boy, I am learning more about men than marriage ever taught me.  And you know what?  My opinion of that gender is softening considerably because of it.


I remember my first 'real' crush.  His name was Steve and we were in 7th grade.  He was the first guy who made me blush, whose name I doodled on my notebooks and who gave me my first 'real' Valentine card.  Thinking of him now makes me smile because we were so young, so innocent and every little thing felt like the only thing that truly mattered.


No matter how many years pass or how many relationships I have, I will always remember that first awkward stumbling into the world of love beyond family relationships, the exploration into unchartered territory of human emotion.  And of course I will always remember the "Amber and Steve sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G" chant on the bus as we shyly sat together.


You just gotta love those first crush memories; school dances, cherry flavored lip gloss, uncertainty, wonder, and a real-honest-to-goodness Valentine card from that boy who thought you were worth being teased over.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Hoarder No More

Perhaps I have watched too much HGTV, but the de-cluttering mood swept me up into a whirlwind of productivity.  With brutal determination, I actually tossed out more than I kept for the first time in years.  And it felt grrrrrrrreat!  What a sense of relief!   In my closet alone, I removed four large black bags of clothes.  When I say black trash bags, I mean the kind normally used for leaves or yard work and filled them to capacity.  Immediately, the energy in the house lightened.  

My closet was the starting point; from there I moved through the house attacking room after room until I had so much stuff for charity that I could supply a house and clothe an entire African village.  Once I began the de-cluttering process, I couldn't stop myself.  I needed to---needed to--rid myself of what no longer fit in the house, what no longer meshed with our life, and what no longer served a purpose.  I became a woman possessed.  

I am a borderline hoarder---not the kind who needs an intervention on a television show (yes, you are able to walk through my house), but the kind who has issues with nostalgia.  My attic houses bags of baby clothes, toys, high school scrapbooks, college photo albums, mystery items that my late husband cherished and I don't have a clue as to their use---you get the idea.  I hold onto things because they meant something to me at one time.

I do the same with relationships, even if the pattern is now more destructive or more of a one-way street than it ever was.  I find myself remembering the good that once was, even if it's been a long, long time since it's been good in the present.  No more.  Hoarding relationships is really weird, even for me.  Time to extend the de-cluttering beyond my house.

Relationships that no longer enhance my life are like the old clothes taking up space in my closet.  They no longer serve a purpose, no longer mesh with my current outlook or perhaps we simply haven't grown in the same direction.  So I released my attachment to them, freed my energy for new people to come into my life.  

When I discussed my current frenzy of de-cluttering to a friend, I admitted that letting go of long-dead relationships was the most challenging thing to do for me, much more challenging than tossing away those size 2 jeans collecting dust in the closet.  She gave me some good advice that eased my conscience.  She said that if the relationship was bringing me down, then it wasn't a loss to let go but rather a gain in peace of mind.  Thank you, Michelle.  Sometimes it helps to hear the words from an outside party that we already know to be true in our hearts.  

I honestly don't believe that I am a rare person who tends to hang on too long either to a pair of favorite jeans that won't ever fit again no matter how much Pilates I do or that friend who I used to laugh with until dawn but who now just makes me feel judged.  Forgive me if I am not as enlightened as some who cut people off with apparent ease or never get trapped in the nostalgia loop.  I am a softie, I admit it.  I hate giving up.  For a long time that is how I viewed letting go...as giving up.  Now I see it as release.

De-cluttering my life has renewed me in ways I truly never imagined.  I feel free, unencumbered, and ready for whatever comes my way.  I am a hoarder no more.  I have made space for the new in my life.  New adventures.  New clothes.  New opportunities.  New people.  Out with the old...in with the new. 

Now if I could only win a shopping spree.  



Friday, February 5, 2010

Are You Calling Me Old?

Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Patagonia...I think of these places and sigh with longing.  I want to immerse myself in their mysteries and beauty.  I am addicted to shows like Anthony Bordain: No Reservations and The Amazing Race.  I soak up travel articles like a sponge trying to absorb as much as possible.

Fearful of turning into an armchair explorer, I revved myself up with research and printed out brochures on adventure travel.  I have a passport that's getting a little dusty.  Time to get moving and South America beckons. All fired up, my fingers flew over the keyboard looking at my options. Nothing was going to stop me from sweating in the rain forest and swatting mosquitos the size of birds.  Nothing.
And then I told someone my plan to go to Machu Picchu within the next year.  Bam.  Out came the doubts and the questions.  Didn't you hear about the recent mudslide?  Isn't that dangerous?  Isn't there camping involved?  Do you think you can handle that long hike?  Aren't you too old to take off to the rain forest, isn't that more of a 20-something trip?  Where will the kids be?  UGH!  The drain, the drag...and I want to tell everyone to shut-up.  Too old?  Out of shape?  Who do you think you're talking to?

Okay, so maybe I've gotten out of shape the past few years, but I am actively getting back in shape and making a lot of progress.  I'm working on it.  Yes, it's true I wear an ankle support when I run, but the fact is I am running!  Well, okay, I admit it's more of a run slash walk, but I am moving, baby.  And don't forget the Pilates.  If worse comes to worse, I can bend and twist my way out of a jam.
But...too old?  I refuse to accept that.  Okay...so maybe a few weeks ago a friend and I stood inside an elevator for about 5 minutes before either of us realized we weren't moving because we hadn't pushed the button.  Big deal.  And a while back I did run around doing errands for a full day before I realized my yoga pants were on inside-out.  So what?  Only my ego was harmed.  This does not mean I am old, merely distracted.  I don't see how this would impede my progress on the Incan trail.  There will be a guide, after all.  I am sure he or she will keep me focused and moving in the right direction.

Adventure travel is nothing new for me.  Maybe it's been a few years since I hiked the Mayan ruins of Lamanai in Belize, zip-lined over tree tops in Costa Rica or swam with sharks, but the spirit of adventure is still very strong in my heart.

What does age have to do with it?  And, by the way, I do not think 41 is old.  As I see it, I have at least another 40 years of adventure left in me.  Maybe I'll misplace more items along the way this time around or put my pants on inside-out, but that isn't reason enough to make me stay home.

Perhaps hiking the Incan trail in Peru isn't your idea of fun.  That's fine with me; but don't hold me back from my dream, even if it doesn't appeal to you in any way.  Keep your mouth shut and I'll do the same when you tell me of your dream of starting a boarding house for cats.
I reject the idea of 'too old'.  I reject the idea of 'impossible'.  Look at this amazing world in which we live and I will show you endless possibilities for enlightenment.  After Peru, I would love to take the kids to Argentina to see the towering waterfalls and the migrating butterflies.  Oh yes, and there is a city in Bolivia that makes chocolate, that should definitely be a side trip.  Maybe we'll get there, maybe we won't; but I am going to try.

I am a dreamer and proud of it.  And as a certified dreamer, I dream big.  Hear me?  When we stop dreaming, we die inside. I will never stop dreaming.  Even as I take my final breath, I will dream of the adventure yet to come.

Too old?  Never.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Huh? What?

This is the age of distraction.  Between Facebook, Twitter, iPhone gadgets, Wii, and other distractions that are too numerous to name, it's amazing I get any work done at all.  And sometimes I don't.  


As the Queen of Avoidance, I prefer planting virtual pineapple on my virtual island on Facebook instead of paying bills or cleaning my house.  Even if I really don't care about what people are doing every second of the day, I log into Facebook and find myself liking people's status about making cupcakes when I could be...well, making cupcakes myself. And this is a problem.  


Let me say that I love my games and distractions as much as anyone; but I have realized how all of these technological advances have affected my life.  I used to spend more time outside.  To entertain the kids, I would take them bike riding or to the park.  I was active.  My family was active.  Now...although we always seem to be busy...it simply isn't the same.  


I am too connected to the world at large.  I miss the days when I would leave the house and no one could get in touch with me until I arrived home.  If there was an emergency, by some miracle I could always be found.  My life functioned very well without email, social networking, text messaging or cell phones.  Now I am compulsive about checking messages and nearly have a panic attack if I forget my phone at home.  


There is something wrong with that.  Somewhere along the line I became a slave to technology instead of being the master of my own time.  This technology is supposed to make life easier--and it does--but there is a point where the ease becomes an easy way out of actually living life.  Life is messy.  Technology is sleek.  The temptation is clear and understandable.  


I need to unplug for awhile, even if it is one day a week without any technological distractions.  No texting (I'm already chewing my knuckles with that idea).  No checking Facebook.  No tweeting!  I can do it.  One day to play outside or play air hockey with the kids---face-to-face interaction only.  So that is what I am going to do.  I am going to pick one day every week to go off the grid.  Maybe I'll bump it up to two days a week--an entire weekend---where the only people who talk to me are the people making eye-contact with me.  


Wow.  Lofty goals, I have.  I had better tweet this!  Where's my phone?