Monday, January 26, 2009

dig deep

We each live our lives at a certain general level of depth. It's entirely possible to go through an entire lifetime operating on automatic pilot, just as it's possible to be so sensitive, so reactive, so introspective that life becomes unbearable.

Last night, at the end of a long, eventful day and week, I found myself wondering if I was satisfied with my level of living. Was I living too much on the surface, just facing each crisis as it occurred, and not daring to go beyond that? Was I ignoring parenting issues that exist due to the absence of another parent? Was I doing a good enough job of taking care of myself? Was I making flawed decisions?

I had just watched Desperate Housewives on TV. It was a particularly moving episode, to me at least, featuring the significance of the handyman on Wisteria Lane. I bawled my eyes out, wishing desperately for such a handyman in my own life. He wasn't a "handyman", he was a "handy man", one who happened to be there at the times when each housewife needed a soft place to fall.

I rarely feel sorry for myself about being alone, but that TV show awakened memories of times in the past when I've experienced the phenomenon of having people around me to help out with life's hurdles. Usually it's my long lost mother I think of wistfully, but last night I remembered the various guys who visited my life, each helping in his own way. One built me a garage; one helped me through the trauma of losing my grandmother; one showed up at my door when I found out about my mother's pancreatic cancer diagnosis; one loaned me a very expensive piece of equipment for me to use at work.

In that frame of mind, I began asking myself if I really wanted to be alone, and if my life was really on the path I had intended. Am I in the right field of work? Are my parenting policies sound, and am I adhering to them? Am I just going through the motions of executing each day's tasks, unaware of my life's purpose and desires?

I come from a family which operated totally on that level. Questioning or deep thinking were simply not on the agenda. Not ever. I rarely see any of my family members these days because they live hundreds of miles away, but when I do, I marvel, unsure of whether the surface-level lifestyle is good or bad.

My father, for example, has his daily routine, which is never broken as far as I can tell. Tending his wife's many cats seems to be the focus of his life (and hers). They are retired, and everything is either about the cats or any impending doctor's or dentist's appointments. For social interaction they go to church and Bible study. Each night they watch TV, commenting loudly while watching, eating butter brickle ice cream.

When I visit (they won't visit me) I usually inadvertently stir up some type of trouble with my intensity. (I have been kicked out of their house more than once.) I tend to want to analyze things, face the past, and discuss any unresolved issues.

But now that I think about it, the past couple of times I visited, I had changed. I had dropped my former ways, and just hung out, trying to be like them. I can do that for brief periods.

Over the past couple of years, though, I think I've become generally more "automatic pilot" than I used to be, even when I'm not visiting them. Oh, I still react to things now and then, but it's not the same.

That change may seem positive, but as I've said, I question whether I'm missing the boat. Always the extremist, I swing dramatically one way or the other. I either spend every waking moment analyzing every thought that comes into my head, or I ignore all of it.

And I'm not sure which is preferable.


Loving Annie said...

Sometimes I think a little of both is important.

When you can - you dig deep.

When you need to relax and just let things sink in that you are processing or have learned, you go more for the auto-pilot.

If you want something different in your life, I think it is an angel asking you to pay attention. Your choices will guide you in that direction.
If they are effective, you will find happiness with them.
If they are off-course, they won't work...

It is VERY nice to have a "handy man" around sometimes.
Like you, I have to do almost everything on my own, so I understand the longing occasionally, the thought of "what if it could be different ?"

Hugs to you, and may this year produce some of the changes you desire if/when you believe in them/act so strongly,consistently on them, that you make them happen...

Betty said...

Dear Annie,

Your comment makes sense. A little of both sounds so reasonable. During auto-pilot, you're allowing things to sink in. I like that.


Lynilu said...

Wow, there are so many facets to what you say here that if I were to comment on all I want to, I'll write a long essay.

I identified with several points you make. I was thinking, "OMG, my life revolves around my many dogs!" Then as I read on, I realized that isn't totally true either.

I like what Annie says about some of each. I'm very contented to be home with The Kids, but I'm never without my outside stimulation either. I have several events each week that get me out of the house, into the company of humans (I almost said "adults" but that might be stretching it with some of my favorite grown-up people! LOL!) to rev my senses and build the relationships that are the fall-back that we all need. I miss the "handy man" in my life, but not enough to start an unadvised relationship in hopes of filling that gap. I miss having someone to problem-solve with on tough decisions, to hold the other end of something to move it or stabilize it, etc. I'm sure you would insert "make parenting decisions" in that chain. It isn't easy to be on your/my own, for sure.

I hope you find some middle-of-the-road balance in your life. I know I have, at least on most days. I know it isn't easy to find it, and I think it must be more challenging at your age and with The Child in tow. But don't give up on seeking out and identifying the support systems, the handy men and women in your life. They are there. Somewhere. And you need them, as we all do.

Keep asking yourself the questions. That is a revving in its own way, and helps you avoid becoming stagnant. You are a thinking person, one who challenges the status quo, a great advantage. You'll find the right path, I'm sure.

OK, it was an essay, in spite of myself. Sorry.

Betty said...

Dear Lynilu,

Your comment was more thorough that many of my blog posts! You and Annie are both people I admire regarding the balance of these issues, so your comment did not surprise me, for sure.

Right now I need to be asking more questions. Thank you for your valued encouragement!!!!


Laurie said...

You are you Betty....I know that
if we were family I wouldn't want
you any other way....

Being alone is hard sometimes....
I know what you mean when you
say 'handy man'...
I at times wish I had one too...
Well more like a 'handy woman'...
Yeah I'm married...Yet I still
don't have what I need....

You're a WONDERFUL mother...You are
there for the child and THAT is
important...You allow him to
speak what is on his mind...

I agree with what Loving Annie
says....You need to relax and
let things sink in and take off
the auto-pilot sometimes :)

I'm always here for you when you
need a listening ear :)

I send you SQUISHY HUGS!!!!!!

Betty said...

Dear Laurie,

Yeah, you're right- being married is no guarantee that you'll have a handy man or woman......married people are always reminding me of that.

And thanks for offering to be that listening ear. And for the squishy hugs.

Hugs back,

Monogram Queen said...

I agree, a little of both is important. Annie's advice was good.

OMG your Dad/Step Mom sound like MY parents minus the church/bible study. Substitute the grocery store for those.
I vow vow VOW not to be like that when I get older. They have money and never do anything/go anywhere and they are physically able. I want to LIVE!

Sorry for turning this comment into an "about me" moment.
Totally about you.
Try not to stress on your parenting either, the Child seems like a good, well-adjusted kid. He doesn't get into trouble in school and does fairly well academically? Well at his age that is probably the most you can hope for! :)

Betty said...

Dear Patti,

My dad/step mom definitely do the grocery store thing, too- in a big way- and I almost wrote about that in the post! Sorry to hear that you can relate...

And you're right about The Child, esp. at his age. I can't expect a whole lot, realistically. He's never in trouible and his grades are good- hurrah!!!!!


Big Dave T said...

Maybe you're just becoming more mellow. They say that happens as you grow older.

I believe that if you look back at your life over a period of time you'll be surprised at how much you've accomplished--as a mother, friend, member of the work force, etc.--even on auto-pilot.

But I also agree that sometimes you have to "get out of your comfort zone" and do something that others might see as being out of character. You almost bought that house. That probably would have qualified, right?

Betty said...

Dear Big Dave,

Yep, buying that house would have qualified. I never understood why that didn't work out. I still think of it often.

And now that you mention it, I just started doing something outside of my comfort zone. I was nominated for a committe, and won the election, and now I'm very busy doing something totally new. Even on auto-pilot, I knew I wanted to do this, and acepted the nomination. It's very out of character!