Midway Mindset

Lessons Learned

Dear Baby Girl,

Ever since you told me you were pregnant, I knew instinctively you’d be a great mom. But, when I looked at your face as you heard the whoomp-whoomp beat of your first child’s heart, I realized you already were one. The anxiety and anticipation while your doctor swirled the ultrasound wand went on for so long that my own heart skipped a bit. The joy and relief on your face as this stranger in a white coat assured you the baby seemed healthy and strong was like nothing I’d ever seen in you.

Your eyes suddenly dissolved into puddles of parenthood.

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We are all midway through something every single day. It can be our life, school, parenthood, a career, a diet, or something as simple as learning a new skill. When we’re midway through a goal or a stage, we’ve gained perspective, our confidence has grown and we’ve probably earned a few bruises and learned some tough lessons. The flip side to that is that the initial excitement and newness have worn off and we’ve developed that awful thing we call a routine.(And the crowd says, YUCK.) We aren’t quite complacent yet, but we’ve started to take things for granted. We’re getting brave, we’re developing some mad skills, yet, all we can think about is what’s next. We are coming into our own and don’t even take a breath to realize it. We don’t see it. We don’t feel it. Perspective? What perspective? Irritation sets in. Criticism. Impatience. Boredom. We are going through the motions and often dreading every moment of it. We just want to be done and move onto the next phase, (kinda like shoveling in green beans so you can move onto the creme brulee.) When are we going to move on, move up, and get to the good stuff? When do we taste the crusty goodness?

What if we took the time to appreciate our midway points? What if we had the mindset that we are living the good stuff and making magic every single day no matter where we are in the process? What if we weren’t so hard on ourselves and recognized that we’re still learning and growing and that whatever stage we’re in is THE most important part of the process and deserves to be celebrated? What if we didn’t dream about what’s next but appreciated where we are? What if we were authentic and met each other half-cooked with gooey centers and figuring shit out? And where would we be if we then took the precious time to get messy, respect and enjoy that?

It took me a long time for this mindset to set in. I couldn’t wait to get older, to date, to get married, to have a house, to have children. I rushed it all, went through the motions, and I barely remember any of it. And some really bad things happened because of it. I didn’t savor life like I should have. I was so worried about looking ahead that I forgot to plant my feet and look down. Standing still and feeling the grass between your toes is so important.

I am midway through a lot of things in my life right now (least of which is a bottle of Pinot Noir.) Not all of it’s good. I have some serious illnesses. I’m divorced. I’m almost three years into dating a man whose longest relationship was seven years. My career is stalled. Retirement is looming and I seem to spend every spare dollar on travel instead of my IRA. Yet, I am enjoying every moment of it. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned to accept where I am, not yearn for where I’m going. Having a plan is important, but grace and appreciation for each step along the way are even better. I’m walking barefoot through life and have the Midway Mindset.

I lived in the same house in Missouri from the year I was born until I was dragged kicking and ya’lling to North Carolina when I was 14 years old. My subdivision, Apple Hill, sat across the street from the elementary school and made Leave it to Beaver’s neighborhood look like a crack den. The adults would porch sit most evenings as we launched our Schwinns from homemade bike ramps or played Kick the Can. Once the sun went down we would follow the cigarette smoke and laughter wafting into the trees and join our parents on the hard, brick ledge. In the winter months we roller skated in my basement or Radio Flyer’ed for hours until we ended up in my mom’s kitchen stripping off the wet and slurping tomato soup by the fire. Cue the Bing Crosby.
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When I was 16 years old I developed a very rare and typically fatal blood kidney disease. Spoiler alert! (It didn’t kill me.) I did, however, spend much of the first semester of my junior year of high-school in an intensive care unit receiving peritoneal dialysis, plasmapheresis and sporting a breathing tube, a catheter and an oh, so sexy, NG (nasogastric) tube. Not exactly what I wanted to be wearing to the Homecoming dance. No one ever told me I probably wasn’t going to make it past Labor Day.
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When it became party fodder that my husband and I were separating, I began getting messages from friends I hadn’t heard from in a very long time. Life had taken us in different directions after our kids had grown and gone.

They’d ask to have dinner, or perhaps, drinks. I eagerly agreed to see them. My calendar wasn’t bursting at the seams since the split. I represented my social circle’s worst fear – and who wants to have burritos with their worst fear? I was excited to re-kindle old friendships.

We would chit-chat, talk about the kids, and then inevitably, somewhere between the first margarita and the second round of salsa, they would lean across the table, take a deep breath and whisper,

“Okay. Tell me how you did it? What’s it like?”
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Like many of you, I sat and watched what happened in Charlottesville this weekend in disbelief. Though Charlottesville lies only 3 hours north of me, the footage I watched looked more like something that would happen in another country or in another time. I’ve been to Charlottesville and it’s lovely. Yet still, they came.
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A few years ago, a nice looking man approached me in the shampoo aisle of Rite-Aid. He said he hated to bother me but he’d spent an hour in the hot seat at a charity pie throwing contest the night before and wondered if I knew the best way to get whipped cream out of his ears. (Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that kind of blog.)

He smiled and said that I just looked like someone who was kind and knew stuff. Laughing, he said not everyone could meet the circle of trust criteria when it came to whipped cream in one’s ear. Now there was a man comfortable in his own skin. He had a truth – kind of a gross one – but he recognized me as someone he could share it with. It was a beautiful moment. Two truth-telling strangers and an ear full of day old pie.

What if we were all that open and honest with each other? And what if those truths extended beyond philanthropy and cream pies?
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I heard the whispering when I began dating. I felt the stares. I saw the gritted teeth behind forced smiles. My face flushed through the awkward pauses and the stammering of those brave enough to broach the presence of (gasp!) my new man.

“I’m happy for you, but…isn’t it way too soon? You really should have taken time for yourself. I’m just worried about you, that’s all.” There it is. Judgement day.

This translated to one of five hidden meanings:

1. You must have been having an affair and it broke up your marriage.
2. You’re kind of a slut if you want to know the truth.
3. There’s no way you ever loved your husband if you’ve moved on “this fast.”
4. I don’t approve of you seeing someone right now. It makes me uncomfortable
5. You clearly have lost your mind.

The people that had a problem with me dating weren’t lonely, they weren’t sad and they had certainly never been divorced. They were going home and eating meatloaf and mashed potatoes with their families and spooning their spouses at night. They hadn’t haggled with their neighbors while selling everything they owned on their front lawn or listened to the wheels of their grill while it was dragged down the street to its new home. Their spouse hadn’t decided that their birthday was the only day he was able to meet to divide their assets. They weren’t sitting home alone on Christmas Eve because they had nowhere to go. It’s a loneliness that couples who spend their weekends doing fun couple things can’t possibly understand.
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Ten years ago this August I was preparing to send my first born son Kyle off to college at the University of Central Florida. For about 300 days a year, Kyle was going to be 9 hours and 7 minutes away by car, 1 hour and 50 minutes away by plane and 13 hours and 4 agonizing minutes away by train. Not that I had counted. Though the thought of paying out of state tuition was scary, the thought of how little time I had left with Kyle under my watchful eye – and how much space would soon separate us – terrified me even more.

The crying began two days before Kyle turned 18. I was in the grocery store, rounding the corner of aisle 11. I came across the cute little jars of baby food, the pacifiers, and the diapers. My emotions started reeling like a grocery cart with a bum wheel.

I used to be the one to feed him, to soothe him and to well…you know…wipe him.

I felt sick and sad. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t wiped him in 15 years and that he wouldn’t hold my hand or hug me even if I paid him. By the time I got to the frozen food section I had the ugly cries. Tator Tots and Bomb Pops shouldn’t be so damned tragic. Clean-up on aisle 18.
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When couples separate they often share the same house or apartment long after the decision is made to go their divergent ways. My divorce was no different. We played an awkward game of suburban chicken while we both saved for a down payment on a new life.

Living together for months amidst our memories, we rested our heads at night on broken glass.

Finally, my ex screamed, Uncle. Uncle “Phil,” that is.

Ten years after my husband and I were married my college roommate married his Uncle Phil, and became my Aunt “Liz.” (Read that a few times until it makes sense. I’ll wait.) When the time came for my husband to move out of our home, “Liz and Phil” were our Switzerland. My ex had his uncle to help with the heavy lifting and my aunt came to steady me.

Phil gathered us in the kitchen and told us he had something important to say. He lovingly told us that nothing had happened yet that couldn’t be reversed or unpacked– that we could still make things right – that we could try harder. Phil said he knew in his gut that as soon as the first table or nightstand made it onto the truck that it was over, and that

this didn’t have to end with sore backs and dusty corners.

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