Whew! I finally have internet again!
So, now you will all be blessed with the final installment of guest blogging for the holiday!Â Today’s piece (originally scheduled for Saturday) come to you from one of the first people I forged any kind of real relationship with online, Devyl.Â You can read and learn more about her on her blog http://devylgyrl.com… enjoy!
When I was a child, I was also an adult. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and my mother remarried when I was a young child. My stepfather, although a good man in many ways, was also abusive. I learned early on that although I had toys, it was better not to play with them … because even if I walked away to go use the little girls room, I would get in trouble for them being out. I also learned that he expected me to do every single household chore with him, and I had my own chores besides.
By the time I was 10, I was cooling, cleaning, and doing most of the lawnwork by myself. I had to vacuum and rake the lawn daily (we had pine trees – they made a MESS!). I was also responsible for cleaning up after dinner. By the time I was 13, I was also responsible for my sister’s (and later my brother’s too) room, and I was responsible for ensuring the homework was done before my parents got home.
You would think, with everything that I had to do daily, the evenings would be completely free … they were not. Instead, there were more chores. We had the cleanest house in the state, by far. Especially since my stepfather is a perfectionist, and if the job was not done right, I was screamed at and spanked until it was completed to his standards.
There was a place for everything, and everything was in place. We had downtime, but I usually chose to read, something I was not allowed to do while my parents watched tv, while we were in the car, or when we had company. I was not allowed to use the phone, have friends over (I can count maybe 6 times my entire childhood that I had a friend at my house: only twice for sleepovers), pick out my own clothes, style my hair (I had to brush it and let it go – no water, hairspray, moose, or any other form of help … and I was not allowed to pull it into a ponytail to contain the wildness either), wear jeans to school, use makeup, or wear jewelry.
This is not to say my childhood was all bad: I have a lot of good memories. I have a lot of GREAT memories in fact. My sister, on the other hand, who was never spanked or abused (he literally called her little princess) was so traumatized by the abuse our baby brother and I endured, has blocked out her ENTIRE childhood. This was true even before our brother died when he was 16. I find this horrendously depressing, because despite the bad, there was a lot of good in our lives, and now she has very few memories of our brother … she only remembers the teen years, when they were bickering more than getting along. Those memories, of course, make her sad.
I tell you all of this not for your sympathy … but to preface the actual reason for the blog post. Now, I’ll get more to the point!
I have always had a hard time letting loose and having fun. I am a happy person, and I see the good in a lot of things. I find myself, though, unable to find the simple JOY in things. I cannot wrestle with 10 kids and enjoy it – I worry about whether they’ll get hurt. I cannot watch cartoons (except Disney/Pixar type movies): I do not like them. I cannot stand when I child talks back to an adult – even if I know they are allowed to by their parents, or they are joking, or there is a cameraderie between them. It literally makes my blood pressure rise.
I love kids and I love getting down and dirty and playing with them – outside in the mud, inside wrestling around, etc. The problem is, once I say I’m done: I am DONE. If they keep coming back for more, I get angry. My nieces and nephews and my Tween have gotten pretty good at understanding this. Other kids get upset when I walk away. I *can* be fun … but the kids call me their “Funnest mean Aunt EVER!” because “She loves us and plays with us, but she yells too!” I have come to accept that they will see me this way because they know me well, they love me despite myself, and they ALWAYS run to the door to greet me.
Christmas this year was going to be especially hard. I’ve had the worst year, financially, than I have had … ever. I took a huge pay cut to work where I am working right now because I love the people and wanted a job. Not many other people were (or are) hiring in my area (or really, in any area right now). The pay decrease meant I had to cut out a lot of the “fun” things my Tween and I are used to doing (once a month, we would go out to dinner and a movie, or we’d get season passes to the local water park and go every week, or we’d take weekend trips to nearby family and friends just to get away from home). We are both feeling the crunch of not having that freedom.
Two weeks before Christmas, my boss told me that they had cut back on everything imaginable – going as far as to not keep adding new stock in the store, but only ordering parts when our customers pay for them first – but that despite all the cutbacks, money had run dry. Unless business picked up in a major way, I was being released as of the 30th of the month. My Tween and I immediately took back the clothes and books we had gotten her for Christmas (she was along for most of the picking-out, although she wasn’t sure if she was getting all, or part, of what she pointed out at the time), along with things we had bought our friends and family.
My friends – both here in town and from the social websites I frequent – banded together in groups and set about to ensuring Tween and I had the Christmas they felt we deserved. One of my friends bought her the three books she’d been wanting (and that I could not afford to purchase, at $20 a piece!), another group of friends sent gift cards for her Wii (the gift her father promised to send but didn’t), along with other gift cards to stores she likes. My BFF and her sister and mother bought a few things to make me feel good (a couple of necklaces, a sweater, a pair of earrings), my daughter’s grandmother finally came through on the digital camera she had been promised for her birthday (it was wrapped in “Happy Birthday” paper, but we put it under the tree anyway) and Tween and I had an AMAZING Christmas despite all the stress before-hand. Tween still believes in Santa Claus, despite her age and all the flack she gets from her friends. My friends far and wide are absolutely wonderful, and I could not have asked for a better group of people to have in my life.
My friend “A”, who is also my roommate, had bought her family a trampoline for their Santa gift this year. When I was heading to bed, she headed outside to put it together. I was not going to let her struggle alone, so despite the lack of sleep I have had (my BFF’s baby is in the hospital, and I have been with her or with her kids every night for the last two weeks), I headed outside a few minutes later. Her brother, M, came out to help too, so the three of us worked diligently in the dark with only one dim flashlight and a porch light that did not reach the actual yard. It was fun, and it was warm outside (we’re talkin 75 degrees, people! Awesome!), so we were laughing and joking and having a good time. M went to bed as soon as the actual trampoline was put together, and left A and I to do the lacing of the net to the trampoline. It took another hour or so, and by the time we were done, we knew it was almost dawn. We decided we deserved to test out the trampoline first, since we were the ones who missed out on sleep to put it together (and we couldn’t tell the kids that because Santa brought the gift).
For the first time in my life, I got on a trampoline. I am 33 years old. When I was a child, I was not allowed on them because they were dangerous. As an adult, I just never found a reason to get on one. At five a.m. on Christmas morning, I had the best hour of fun with my friend A, giggling, bouncing, jumping, playing games, and laying on a trampoline. I had found the joy in fun.
This may not seem like a big deal to you. And honestly, most people who know me would not think it was a big deal either. After all, I laugh a alot. I have fun. I love my life, no matter how hard it becomes. I am a happy person, all around. I have moments of giddyness and fun, I have silly moments, I have crazy-silly-fun moments. I *do* have fun, and the people who know me know this well.
My friend “A” recognized the joy before I did. She looked at me and said “Thank you.” I knew what she meant right away – normally I would have been worried about the kids getting hurt and asking her five million questions, or worrying about the damage the trampoline could do to the yard, since we’re renting, or I would have gone to bed as soon as it was done, instead of staying outside and playing with her. Normally, even if I had stayed outside with her, I would have either watched her, or jumped a few times and called it done.
I had found the joy in taking a few minutes with my friend to find my child-like wonder again … and to enjoy a few child-like moments, completely worry-free. We had spent a full hour on the trampoline, giggling like schoolgirls, whispering about waking the neighbors with our noisiness, then bursting out in gales of laughter because we didn’t care. We reached beyond the anger and frustration we had towards each other over the last few months and dug deep inside ourselves to forgive completely, and enjoy the moment. Our friendship is once again complete.
This is a huge milestone for me … as it was for our friendship. We have been great friends for a long time, but we have a lot of disagreements on how to handle things: I tend to be a lot like my parents (minus the abuse portion of their parenting handbook) and she tends to be a “take it as it comes” type parent: very responsible, but a lot of fun.
I doubt that my friend Soren, who prides himself in finding the joy in life and being a “big kid,” has many other friends like me … but if you happen to be reading this blog … and you happen to recognize a little bit of yourself in my descriptions of myself … take a few moments out of life and try to find the joy. Not just the happiness … happiness is easy to find. Dig a little deeper and find the joy.
I would like to thank my “Christmas Angels” once again … because without them, this would have been a very stressful and disappointing Christmas. My Tween and I do not base our happiness on “things,” but Christmas and Birthdays are the only two times she receives “things” from me. In return, she donates items (things she no longer uses, no longer wants, or she has made) to a local charity or group who distributes them elsewhere. My “Christmas Angels” brought the magic into this year’s Christmas … and it is partially due to their generosity, love, and friendship that I was able to find a little joy and child-like wonder for myself.
I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. May your 2009 be filled with the joy of learning, the joy of laughter, the joy of love, and especially the joy of LIFE.