Friday, April 27, 2012

Learning Balance

In September, this blog will be 5 years old. Since I appear to be out of new ideas, it seems like a good time for a retrospective of the last 5 years. (Incidentally, this is my 792nd post. So I don't feel too bad that the inspiration is waning!)

In my first post (which is so bad, I can't even bring myself to link to it), I mentioned why it's all about balance. That seems worthy of a first retrospective post.

For most of my life, I was not good at balance. I was often accused of being too tunnel-visioned, too emotional, just generally too much.

I certainly did learn that too much anything was usually a bad thing.

It's great to have passion, ambition, to give of yourself, but after much trial and error, I aim for balance. (Which is not to say I succeed, of course, but at least the blinders are off now.)

From the time I was 6, I devoted my life to theatre. I was always in rehearsal or performing (or both). My dream was everything. Until it wasn't.

It wasn't that I stopped wanting it, but wanting it and getting what you want aren't always the same thing. And certainly not in show biz.

There's a great song called "A Way Back to Then" from Title of Show that describes this:

But the mundane sets in
We play by the rules
And plow through the days
The years take us miles away
From the time we wondered when
We'd find a way back to then
Then came marriage(s), and those babies in their carriage(s). Then came divorce.

When you're a single parent, you simply cannot be tunnel-visioned anymore. I had to strive for balance.

I couldn't stop being me completely, of course. My girls have grown up listening to musical theatre from the womb. I have shared with them my passions. I show them by example by being involved in my community, by spending time with friends and family, by juggling our wants and needs, that there is a way to have it all by having it in smaller increments. 

While seeing the value of balance may seem elementary to most, it wasn't for me. 

Balance is something I wish I'd learned to want at a much younger age, and I hope the girls have taken in these lessons.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Waiting for their Happily Ever After

One of the reasons Into the Woods is one of my favorite musicals, if not my all-time favorite, is because it so often has the answers to life's most interesting questions. Act 1 follows the standard fairy tales and integrates them with the creation of a new fairy tale. Act 2 is what happens after "Happily Ever After," and the unintended consequences of getting what you want.

Single parenthood, for the first few years, was less than fun. Sure, it had some rewarding moments here and there, but mostly, it was just hard, exhausting, and lonely. I didn't regret the decision to leave X and I knew being a single mom was better than the alternative, but I often wondered just how this all ended up being my life.

I had so many goals and ambitions when I was younger, and few of them came to fruition. I didn't think I'd ever be okay with that. Now, not only am I okay with it, I'm okay with everything. Every unintended consequences, every mistake, and every accomplishment I have managed thus far.

I'm writing this not to pat myself on the back, but because I have to remember this when it comes to my daughters. I have to remember that they will make mistakes, they will wonder at times if they will ever be okay with things that happen, and they will come out the other side of things okay.

They already have, actually. They deserve better than the father they have, and that was hard for them for a long time, but they're okay with it now.

It's natural to want the best for my girls. It's natural to hope that they never experience the pain of their mistakes, or the unintended consequences of choices they make, or simply finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, as a parent, I do what is within my control to help guide them away from such experiences,  but the reality is, I will not be able to protect them from everything.

All I can do is hope that the things I've told them, the things I've shown them, will eventually come through when they need it. And that I'm always here whenever they might need a little help. They have already shown a great capacity to accept the unacceptable, to say "I'm sorry" when they're wrong, and to do what they can to enjoy their lives. They pursue dreams, they work through defeat, and they will eventually find themselves on the other side of any bad times. I'm almost sure of it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Balancing Identity

Riley is contemplating whether or not to audition for the next musical at a community theatre. We had a conversation about it where every other word out of her mouth seemed to be "Sylvia."

I have tried so hard to promote their individualism, but at the same time, not label them. I have not succeeded.

Their accomplishments have put them on different paths, and their own sense of who they are stems from those accomplishments, as well as their sense of their sibling.

When Sylvia has trouble in school, she exclaims that she's not Riley. When Riley tries to picture herself on a stage, she compares herself to Sylvia.

I have told them both over and over, "I don't expect you to be your sister. I love who you are."

Some form of understanding their identity is good. When they're in their element, they are confident. They aren't afraid to try new things because they believe in their own ability to conquer it.

In new areas, they can't help but wonder how they stack up to those around them. Of course, the most natural comparison is their sister.

But we all do it, don't we?

We all wonder how we compare to our colleagues, our siblings, our neighbors. In school, if we're graded on a curve, our own scores are completely related to how our classmates did.

Comparison is unavoidable.

I told Riley that I will support whatever decision she long as it's her own. Right now, I can't truly assess what she wants to do, and I think it's because she doesn't know.

At least, when the conversation was over, we were holding hands and smiling together. I hope that at least that message got through; she's always got me, no matter what.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Birthday Post

Yes, it's that time again. Previously, I've done lists based on my age. 39 seems a little daunting for that task.

It was the year I turned 30 that I left X for good. It's been the decade of change for me. Which is I'm okay with telling the world my age.

I want it to be known that as hard as it was to overcome all the mistakes I made in my twenties, I did so. I want it to be known that I'm so much happier at 39 than I was at 29.

In my 20's, I learned all the hard lessons. In my 30's, the lessons have been (for the most part) fun and exciting. I like myself SO much better today than I did on my 30th birthday.

I'm not going to bother making goals because I like seeing how things have unfolded so far. I'm more confident in my ability to see "red flags" while still remaining open to new experiences and challenges. I have done so many things in the past 9 years that I never would've imagined and I'm proud of myself for that. I don't know exactly what this final year of this decade holds for me, and that's okay. I know it will be full of challenges and sameness and thrills, and that's more than enough.

Thank you for being part of my journey.