Daily Archives: June 6, 2012

Quickie: “Have To” vs. “Get To”


This is gonna be quick. I hope. Famous last words. Ok, I’ll get to it.

I have a friend who is now, gratefully, in her sixth year of remission from cancer.

She is younger than I am by a couple years.

She is beautiful, graceful, intelligent, funny, a woman, a human . . .  y’know, it doesn’t matter. She’s a person.

We were on the phone one afternoon a few years ago. I was a little tired, it was late in the day and there’s a three-hour difference in our time zones. She heard me lamenting the following day’s errands and that:

  • I had to get gas for the car.
  • I had to make dinner.
  • I had to take the dog to the vets.
  • I had to shop.
  • I had to drive to soccer practice.

I was looking for some company for my misery.

The phone went silent.

She had heard enough.

She was nine months post-treatment at the time.

She said very slowly and very quietly, “You listening, Mol?”

“Yyyesss,” I said with a dash of pepper.

“Good. I never want to hear you say you ‘have to’ do anything ever again; as if it is a chore, or a huge burden. I want to hear you say, ‘I GET to go to the bank’ or ‘I GET to sit in traffic.’ or ‘I GET to pay my taxes.’ Do you HEAR me? I was staring at a life sentence. I was staring at cancer in my 30s. I was staring at death. And nothing, NOTHING makes you wish to live to long enough to sit waiting at the DMV like wondering and praying and hoping that your treatments will work,” she said.

I sat there on the line humbled.

“Mmmmokay. Yer right,” I murmured.

She changed my outlook forever that day; despite my blahs and blues, I’ve never been more happy to have them after she read me the truth.

Thank you.

You Have to Have Something for YourSelf


I had been in a state of ennui lately. Unhappy and feeling unfulfilled with myself.

There are some amongst us who love to be homemakers, and bake and sweep like Giselle in “Enchanted” or the eponymous Snow White.

I am not that person.

Phyllis Diller has a great quote: “Why bother cleaning the floor? You’re just gonna have to do it six months later anyway.” And that describes my interest (although not my involvement, I do do housework) in … well, the domestic arts. I write checks when other people paint their own walls. I garden, but that’s outside…

I do love to cook, this is true and I’m pretty good at it; it’s creative and I think that’s why I do it. But I hate planning the menus. So I set up my calendar on my computer with a menu that rotates every 29 days, yes, like a menstrual cycle (I’m coming out of my shell here, due to the post I wrote last week, and I’m not gonna talk like a sailor, but c’mon… loosen up). To counter the efficiency and forward thinking of that menu planner, I completely ignore it.

We have a vacuum somewhere. We have other things: chip clips, ziploc bags, a dustbuster somewhere. I have cleaning ladies every two weeks come to my home because I hate to clean the microwave and I hate to clean the bathrooms. (Click on that link if you want to laugh a lot.)

So it has been 13 years since I worked in an office. For a while after I left the office to stay home with Thing 1, I owned my own consulting business and wrote corporate and employee and strategic communications for several large, well-known multinational firms. Then I had another kid. Then another. That is awesome. I love my boys more than I ever dreamed I could possibly love anything. Their father is an amazing individual: patient, grounded, innovative, steady, calm and normal. In other words, he’s everything I’m not.  Well, I’m innovative too.

The thing is, I’ve been feeling lost. Purposeless and down about my situation of lacking a situation. I’ve thought openly and out loud: “This can’t be all there is… I’ve got a college degree, a proven career in communications but I have nothing but my yoga pants and some running gear and a bundt pan, no make that two bundt pans and that special brownie pan where all the brownies are corners or edges, to show for myself now.”

I’ve thought this so many times, it’s embarrassing. And I’ve overlooked the most important thing I have ever chosen to do with my life: be a mother. I didn’t place much value on my motherhood and mothering because I was so wrapped up in it for so long (I changed diapers every day for eight years) until I watched my 3-y.o. niece and her 9-month-old baby brother along with Things 1 and 3 for probably five hours last weekend. The loaners, they are the same age difference as my own first two kids and whooo-buuuoy, I totally appreciate now what I did then. I haven’t done any of those baby type things in six-and-half years. I caught myself chopping a cheese stick into pea-sized bites and making the same faces that the baby would to eat the yogurt and strained prunes I was feeding him. I cleaned his little chin with the spoon edge. I wiped him and his sister off with a warm paper towel — I haven’t had to do that in three days.

But the fact is that even with the sincerely awesome reminder of how valued we are to our children, the reality for me is that it’s damned hard,  unglamorous work. And now that my own children are in school seven hours a day and they don’t need me as much anymore, I have become, slowly without paying much attention to it, or maybe noticing but denying it (yeah, that’s more like it) a purposeless-feeling (not being, because I know I’m not purposeless) and sorta aimless woman.

Until last week. Until something cracked, like a beak pecking at a shell, I’ve come out and have discovered myself and in that discovery, I am allowing myself to Have Something For Myself: which is to really write; like tear-the-lid-off write, and to express and to be through that writing or probably more accurately: to allow that writing to BE through ME (yeah, that’s right). I’m just telling it like it is. It’s MY Something. I can volunteer for all the PTAs and bake sales and neighborhood activism I want. I can do that until I pass out, and these are important things to do, but they don’t light MY fire. And it doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, but what I’m doing appeals to me. On top of this realization is the most wonderful challenge my brain has faced in a long time: Camp NaNoWriMo which stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” The June session is underway as I type and they have another one in August. Camp NaNoWriMo makes me work my right side of my brain; the side that has been atrophying and gasping for life.

And it’s not lightly that I use that word, “woman.” I have seldom considered myself a “woman.” I considered myself a female person, I feel young and act young and do things that young people do, so when I hear sometimes in the news or read in an article that a “44-year-old Virginia woman recently . . . .” I absorb all the words, but I don’t consider myself within that reference. I usually think, “Forty-four, my God that’s OLD.”  Until recently, again.

Just a smidge of my bulletin board. I realize now that it says so much more about me than I realize. What does your bulletin board say about you? Is it a bulletin board about what you want to do or about what you need to do?

When I look back on that deep and heavy post, “real,” I wrote last week, I feel it’s appropriate to consider it as the shedding of my cocoon. I am starting to flap my wings. And it doesn’t bother me, that I’m not 26 anymore. Because I feel I have a purpose that does something other than giving to others; I have a purpose that gives to ME*. I have a purpose that feeds my soul, my intellect, my Self. I don’t care, really I don’t if the book I’m writing flops like a giant blueberry pancake. I am enjoying the process; and the process is part of the journey. And the journey is what matters.

It’s because of this purpose, this deadline at the end of the month, that I feel a part of something that is truly and uniquely and completely MINE. No one can write the words I do in the way I’m choosing to write them.

So I propose to you, my cherished reader (and I don’t do this a lot, probably because it was a symptom of my self-preservation and lack of pride that anyone would actually read what I write): if you have Something that you want to do, do it. Have Something For YourSelf. Tempus fugit. Go and Do It.

Oh, and if you’re doing it already: LUCKY YOU. Don’t stop. *Because when you give something to yourSelf, you automatically want to give to others. It’s just the way the universe works. We aren’t meant to be unhappy givers; we are meant to be happy givers who also feel free to be happy “have-rs.” When you have happily, you give happily.

Thank you.