I’m not so happy about this…!

happy, not happy, new yearA little over a year ago my daughter celebrated the birth of her third baby.

Her first child, Sophie, was 4, the middle boy Clark was 3, and now a baby. Everyone was thrilled: the parents, grandparents, baby, sibling, family, baby boygreat-grandmothers, aunts and uncles, and friends.

And everyone told Sophie and Clark how very lucky they were to have a baby brother.

A day after the baby was born, when the last guest left, patting Sophie on the head saying, “You must be a happy big sister!”, Sophie cuddled up on the hospital bed next to her mother, who was nursing the baby.

“MaMa?” Sophie began.

My daughter turned her gaze from her fresh, newly hatched being and gazed at her daughter. “Yes?”

Sophie whispered apologetically and guiltily, “I’m not so happy about this.”

Ah, how well we understand the misgivings, fears, and acknowledgements that new circumstances, changes, and relationships do NOT make us happy.

change, New Year

Like when my guy moved us from our perfect setting in the bay area, with moderate temps, a great group of friends, a fun job, and comfortable routines, for his new job in New England. I acted thrilled, gaily checking out the real estate, the university that our son attended just miles away in Boston, and the need for a new wardrobe for a 4-season-state. But inwardly, I was NOT so happy about this.

Yet, I jumped into a new job, tutoring special ed high school students, learning a million new facets of myself. I grew close to my mother-in-law, whom I’d never really known because we’d always lived thousands of miles away. I discovered the beaches of Cape Cod and the lakes in New Hampshire, and delved more deeply into writing (and writers) while living just a few steps away from Louisa May Alcott’s and Henry David Thoreau’s spiritual and brick & mortar homes.

I even learned to like Baked Beans, lobster, and the soundless arrival of snow.

changes, New Year

During this time, a New England friend, happily traveling throughout the world in his upper management position, was suddenly “retired early.” Oh, how he fought what he saw as a downturn in his life. How could the company possibly live without his skills? He sulked, he ranted, and he knew he was not ready to “go out to pasture,” as he spouted to anyone who listened. He was not so happy about this!

But he surprised us all in a breathtaking way by signing up for a position in a non-profit organization that trained the disabled so they could acquire jobs and make a living for themselves. My always-corporate friend now earns a salary a quarter of what he’s used to, hobnobs with women and men who have less than a high school education with tough sad backgrounds and sadder tales of struggling in this world.

His corporate experience helps him procure donations and grants, and he encourages companies (like the kind he used to work for) to hire the needy who he represents. He has made a difference, and he is a happy man –feeling a deeper purpose in his life. His hours and his attitude are more relaxed; thus, his golf game has improved dramatically!

happiness, change, journey

Can you think of the changes in your life in which you were NOT SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS?

And then what happened?

HAPPY (and maybe sometimes, NOT SO HAPPY) NEW YEAR TO YOU!

baby, sibling, sister, brother, happy

Sophie, now VERY HAPPY with her baby brother.

Just Say You’re Sorry!

http://www.orkutscraps.co.uk/graphics/orkut-sorry-scraps/index3.phpDuring my travels back East, my brother and I treat my mom to a dinner out – just the three of us – a rare occurrence. But on the way to the restaurant, my brother’s car is rear-ended – hard – as he yields to a car in oncoming traffic.

I scream (embarrassing, yes, a girly scream, but I’m sitting in the back seat and my head bobbles like a linebacker hit on both sides).

My brother does the manly thing – he curses, loudly and emphatically.

I can’t quote him, because this is a G-rated blog, or at least PG. But his expletives are descriptive enough that I worry for the other driver, who begins to unfold his tall, lean body out of his car.

I can’t tell how much damage there is, but I’m most worried that my brother’s much-loved auto is scratched/bent/harmed, and our special dinner with our mom is ruined.

I hold my breath. Usually my younger sibling (by 18 months) behaves with well-tempered patience, but when he gets pushed too far…well, things can get ugly.

My mom and I stare straight ahead, still seated in the car, while my brother and the other man inspect both vehicles.

Voices raise. With eyes closed, Mom squeaks out – “Are they arguing? What’s going on?”

I listen closely, still not turning around to actually view the scene.

“No. They’re talking in a civilized tone,” I whisper, puzzled.

“But what’s the noise?” she asks, fearfully

“Um, they’re chuckling…?”

Gently opening his car door, my brother sits back down in the driver’s seat with a small smile on his face.

“What did the guy say?” I wonder out loud.

As if in partial shock, my bro states: “As soon as I climbed out of the car, the guy says, ‘I’m sorry – it’s all my fault.’ ”

The three of us sit still, stunned.

No one acknowledges fault these days. In this litigious world, we are all grilled to NEVER SAY YOU’RE SORRY or admit fault. Never.

My brother’s car is moving us along now to dinner. Bro’s face is clear and happy, and I don’t think just because his car’s bumper saved him from a crashed and ugly fenderbender.

I think he’s smiling because the guy who hit him immediately took credit for the crash, shook hands, and said, “whatever the cost, I’ll take care of it.”

Life is full of fender benders. How we respond to them, – that’s what really counts in the long run.

After dinner, Mom with her two "kids."

After dinner, Mom with her two “kids.”

Letter to Myself, December 28, 1969

Dear Pam,

Believe, believe, believe in yourself. Truly, you’ve got to believe me in this. (Ha, get it? Believe in yourself/believe in me?).

Yes, we’re one and the same, only I’m you more than 35 years later. Strange, huh?

But you believe in strange things, don’t you?

Trust me when I tell you, you’re beautiful. You’re not fat. You’re not awkward-looking. And you’re not uncoordinated. In a couple of decades, you’ll be running 10-mile road races. You’ll be stretching in amazing yoga positions and walking an hour a day.

letter to younger self

Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you wrote a book with that title now, you’d make a fortune! You’re probably puzzled about what that expression means, but basically, continue like you are.

For a teenager, you don’t worry much now except about the large things, like “is something wrong with me because when I look out the window, trees turn gold and white and I feel like I’m flying?” and “am I really an alien who was placed here on Earth to mingle with the creatures from a different planet?”

Keep asking those questions – they’ll entertain you throughout your life. But you’re so right to not worry about whether that red mini-dress is too short, or if Bev is shunning you because her boyfriend Tim pays attention to you. In fact, Tim will leave Bev for you, but that’s another story, and I’m not supposed to tell you your future; I’m just permitted to leave you words of wisdom for that future.

Oh, be nicer to our brother. Chuck is so off your radar now, but pay more attention to him. Decades from now, you two will become good friends, even though you never live near each other, and you’ll fly thousands of miles to vacation together, and go to each other’s kids’ weddings. He’s a good guy. Stop treating him like a door mat.

Here’s another word of advice that will knock your socks off (and by the way, feel those fluffy thick socks you’re wearing now? I’m still wearing the exact same kind of socks while I sit here typing to you, oh so many years later). KEEP ON WRITING. Right now (in 1969), yes, I know you have your diary hidden in our underwear drawer, and those two short stories you wrote are stashed between the third and fourth books on the second shelf of our bedroom bookcase. Guess what? In the future, not only will you stop hiding your writing, you’ll share your stories – personal pieces as well as your fiction –  on a public ‘web’ forum for friends, family, and lots of strangers. Okay, Okay, I lost you here, but I’m not lying. Truly.

Finally, your love for our sweet dog Suzie, and her love for you, teaches you to be a good friend, a warm and loving mother, and a faithful companion to several special dogs in your future. Give her a special hug tonight.

And after mom closes the bedroom door, let Suzie hop up and sleep with you.

Happy New Year!

 Love from your future self, adult letter to teenaged self

December 28, 2012