Hi, My Name Is…….Um……What Was My Name Again?

This post is related, albeit very indirectly, to another post I wrote about having wanderlust.  One of my points about having wanderlust was that when you live in the same small community all of your life, people have a LOT of preconceived notions about who you are.  If you’re not careful, this can lead to a full-blown identity crisis.

As a mom, this is always in danger of happening anyway.  Our kids define us, but at the same time, they sort of suck the you out of you–it’s a vicious circle, isn’t it?  I think all moms fall victim to that “I’m so-and-so’s mom” thing.  This is partly our own fault, because we allow it to happen–even encourage it at times.  (Unless the kid is doing something bad–then they must belong to someone else.)

I don’t know if I’m hormonal (likely), if my nerves are shot (also likely), or if I’m just losing my mind (most likely), but it seems like this person that used to be me has completely vanished.  I don’t even know her anymore.  I tried to think of the last time someone actually said my first name out loud, and I’m coming up with nothing here, people.  Hopefully my memory is just bad (it is) but I don’t think that’s all it is.  Consider the following:

  • I seldom (never) go to the doctor, but there are a lot of people in this house, so it always seems like somebody is going to the doctor or dentist all the time, and I’m the coordinator.  In other words, I constantly start telephone conversations like this: “Hi, this is Evelyn’s mom,” or “Hi, this is Matt’s wife,” or “Hi, this is Mindy’s sister….” you get the idea.  (I had some dental work done several months ago, and I think the main reason I liked all of them so much is they all called me by my first name.)
  • I have officially reached the age where I am “Mrs. Last Name.”  This bothers me more than anyone could ever, ever understand.  I can correct people and they will keep doing it anyway.  It’s not that I mind having the name or anything, but I have always connected that Mrs. Last Name thing with old people.  Now it’s me.
  • Everyone around knows The Grandfather.  He’s a Baptist minister, so when I say everyone, I literally mean it.  Remember when I said that some of this is partly our own fault? I’m guilty here–if someone doesn’t know me, I say, “I’m The Grandfather’s granddaughter.” They immediately know who I am.  I have more about this, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
  • My sister is almost as well-known as The Grandfather.  When we are out, we run into people who know her, and I don’t have a clue who they are.  Here comes the kicker.  These kind but ultimately  upsetting people say, “Are you Mindy’s mom?”  Now, what goes through my mind is, “Screw you, asshole, I’m three years older than her! WTF?” What I actually say and do is grin really big and say, “No, I’m her sister.” Then she giggles the rest of the day.  I guess at least it’s making her happy. Sigh.
  • People are constantly telling my mom, “You can’t be old enough to have a daughter that old!”  While this is a compliment to my mother (who really doesn’t look old to enough to be my mom) it certainly isn’t a compliment towards me.

What happened here?  My whole life is wrapped up in other people.

Now, before anyone feels compelled to give me a lecture about how fortunate I am to be surrounded by my family and loved ones, and how wonderful it is that they depend on me as much as they do, do me a favor and shut up.  Save your breath.  I know I’m fortunate.  I have the best friends now that I have ever had, and I met them because of my kids.  I always felt sort of pointless, but when my kids were born, that went away.  I believe my job in life is to be a caretaker, and I’m okay with that.  It suits me.

What I don’t understand is how I went in so completely.  People assume a lot about me because of who I’m related to.  Here’s that thing with The Grandfather I was talking about:  A couple of years ago, before I gave up on a lost cause and started homeschooling my son, I was attending our local school board meetings and trying to do things to improve our local schools.  I was all set to give my first of a few impassioned speeches, and my turn was up.  Just as I was about to stand, the board president (against whom I have nothing personal, but who always reminds me vaguely of Patrick Star) said “Aren’t you The Grandfather’s granddaughter?” The eyes of the other members lit up as well.  Now, when my sister was in school, The Grandfather was a terror at all board meetings, demanding handicap accessibility and a million other things.  He would make a point to get quoted in the paper.  Now, The Grandfather is a good man, but very, um, frank (yeah, that’ll have to do) and he just says whatever he thinks.  So immediately all of the people there who knew him sort of braced themselves, and I felt I had a reputation earned for me before they had ever even met me.  I don’t mind too much, because I think, in all honesty, I’ve quite lived up to that reputation, but still……

Isn’t it ironic? We spend our youth trying to “find ourselves” and then we spend our adulthood trying to recover who we were when we were young.  Blah.  I don’t want to be a teenager again–no thanks.  I have no desire to live just for myself, because I think that is a selfish, unhealthy way to live.  What I want is to have someone form an opinion about me that has something to do with who I actually am.

I’ll let you know just as soon as I figure that out.  In the meantime: Hi, my name is Janice.

 

Wanderlust

I asked The Grandmother the other day if she had ever had a desire to live in a different place.  She’s lived in West Virginia all of her life, not in the same place, but almost.  She said, pretty quickly, “No.”  Every place I mentioned–New England, The West Coast,  The South–she poo-pooed right away for one reason or another (too hot, too cold, too much rain, not enough rain, weird people, volcanoes, tornadoes–you get the picture.)

It occurs to me that she is probably telling the truth.  She is the type of person who likes routine, and the known.  I wonder, though, if when she was younger she might have felt differently.  I can remember when my dad moved away to southern Alabama (then Florida, then southern Alabama again, the Florida again, then southern………well, never mind) he made the comment, “I was due a change.”  At the time I just blew that comment off, but now I’m starting to think he might have been on to something.

I would love to live in a different place.  I don’t mean just a neighboring county, although at this point I’d take that.  I’m talking a different place, with different people, a different climate even.  I am suffering from an old-fashioned case of wanderlust.

Don’t scoff–our country wouldn’t exist without it, or at least not the country the way it is today.  Why did people keep pushing west?  Why did explorers ever set out in search of new lands in the first place? (I mean, besides to rape and pillage and plunder and destroy all of the native culture.)  It’s simple:  some people are happy to stay where they are forever, and some people want to move on, to see and try new things.  I definitely belong with the latter.

I would offer a warning: beware of the Pacific Ocean.  Once you see it, it will never let you go.  At least that’s the effect it had on me.  They say the Pacific has no memory, and maybe that’s true, but what they forgot to mention was though it has no memory, it will implant itself forever in yours.  Now all I want is to live close enough to be able to see it whenever I want, to smell it and hear it and see if it as beautiful as I remember.

I hope no one would read this and think I hate where I live. Not at all.  I’m not so blinded that I don’t realize the beauty of my home.  People come from all over the world to walk across a bridge I drive over at least three times a week.  They come to a park and photograph a grist mill that is five miles from my house, and that my husband once worked in as a tour guide.  They pay hundreds of dollars to raft on the rivers that are but a few miles from my house, and my friends are their guides.  I rake up and curse the leaves that the tourists drive for hours to see.  I’ve hiked and biked the trails, driven the roads, eaten in the restaurants, and visited the parks.  I know what’s here.  It’s my home, and I love it.  Here are some more reasons:

  1. We have no common natural disasters (The Grandmother had a good point, actually.)  We don’t have hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or volcanoes.  Although it’s fairly hot right now, we generally don’t have extreme temperatures.
  2. We really do have better manners than most people.  I didn’t notice this until a recent trip to New York.  Some people can make fun of us as hillbillies, but whatever–we say “excuse me,” you don’t, we’re smarter. So there.
  3. I have travelled to many, many, many different states, and here’s a news flash–there has been white trash in every single one.  I’m not sure why other people don’t realize this.  When I worked at the park a long time ago, a tourist (we called them tourons, but with great affection, I assure you) once asked me if we seriously had dirt floors in our houses.  Really.  I wanted to ask, “Do you have dirt floor in your house, dumbass?” Of course I didn’t, but I mean, come on!  I worked in the tourism industry for years, and I swear to you I have met some of the biggest idiots I have ever met in my entire life, bar none.  I’m talking people who couldn’t read maps, road signs, huge notices on walls, instructions on a toaster over, directions to their cabin, or instructions on how to fill out the camp-site reservation form, but we’re the hillbillies.  Yeesh!
  4. I’m getting off topic here, so I’m cutting off this list.

So anyway,  I’m not knocking my home.  I could make a list of faults for you, but you could probably make a similar one about where you live, too.  I think it’s just a desire to be somewhere different, but maybe that’s not all.  Maybe it’s a desire to be someone different.  It’s not that I want to take on a new personality (although there could be a good debate on that topic I bet) but the fact is, as long as I live here, I will always be perceived in a certain way.  That’s one thing I would put on the list of faults, by the way: when you live in a small community, your family history is public knowledge.  The people that surround me day after day will never allow me to change, or to be anything more than I am now.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go somewhere and define who I am by—-gasp!—–who I actually am, and not by what someone else expects me to be, or thinks I already am?

I don’t know if my wanderlust itch will ever be scratched.  It’s a scary prospect to just pick up a life and move along, especially when it isn’t just your life you’ll be moving.  But sometimes you have to do things, even if you are afraid.  Sometimes, you’re just due a change.

Mick Jagger Said it Best

     “You can’t always get what you want…..”

     Inspired by a post on a beloved blog, “Do Sweat the Small Stuff,” and the writing prompt for Red Writing Hood,  I decided to write about a very thought provoking question……..what do I want? What an open-ended question! I ask all of you to think about it–what do you want? Probably lots of stuff pops into your mind right away, mostly material things or things that need to be completed in your life. But what do you really want?

     I thought it would be most interesting to think about the things I wanted 18 years ago and compare them to the things I want now. I don’t even know who that person was, let alone what happened to her, but I do remember some of the things that were very important to her. Here’s a list of what she wanted most in the world.

  1. To be a marine biologist and study humpback whales in both Alaska and Hawaii.
  2. To study at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
  3. To become a world-renowned expert on humpback whales.
  4. To have a home on a rocky coast somewhere overlooking the Pacific.
  5. To lead a free, unbound life, on no one else’s terms.
  6. To possibly never have children, and certainly not until much later in life, and even then most likely adopt them.
  7. To never, ever, ever, depend on anyone else.

     Now, that list just looks like a big pile of crap to me now. Not one thing on there is reality.  Here are the things that I want now.

  1. I want my children to have every possible opportunity and to never be held back by their own fears.
  2. I also want them to have a top-notch education.
  3. I never want my own fears to project onto my kids and stop them from doing something they want to do.
  4. I want them to have as little pain in this world as possible.
  5. I want to have just one month with a little money left over.
  6. I want to remember what it’s like not to worry.
  7. I want someone to invent self-cleaning windows.
  8. I want my family to be happy.
  9. I want my daughter to look at me and call me mommy. I’d sell my soul for this one. Believe it.
  10. I want to be able to find myself again someday.

     It’s not hard to see the difference between those two people.  You get married and have kids, and things change. Some things change for the good, and some things, well, not so much.  Responsibilities and obligations arose, but the truth is, most of the things I didn’t do are simply because I was too afraid to do them. That’s what happens to us all. The things we want, that we really want, we are too afraid to go and get them.  We put them off for just a while, then a while longer, and then the next thing you know, your life is so far down some other path that it is unrecognizable. 

     I don’t ever think I’ll have those things on that first list, but that’s okay. Things are different now. The essence of the dream is that it comes to an end and reality takes over. Sometimes it hurts a little to let them go, but letting go always hurts, even if you are letting go for something better. Sometimes the thing you didn’t even know you wanted turns out to be the best thing ever, and so it’s all okay in the end.

     I notice how much simpler the things I want now are. I guess I’m more easily satisfied. My dreams are smaller, but my satisfaction is infinitely greater. My children’s happiness means more to me than my own ever could. All of my hopes and dreams now are wrapped up in them.  I’m fine with that.  They are both the most beautiful part of my life, and the fact that I didn’t even know that I wanted them until I had them makes it even better.  Maybe there’s a lesson there–forget about what you want, and just be content with what you have.

     “……but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Mick Jagger

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