Reclaiming the Wild Child

My hubby recently celebrated his sixtieth birthday. Yes, I’m married to a sexagenarian. Makes him sound like a pervert, doesn’t it? LOL. In our case, I think the pervert label fits me better than it does him, but I’ll never tell.

I’m sure everyone sees it anyway. I’m the one with the ink, the pink hair, the foul mouth, the preference for metal music, and the penchant for smutty romance novels. Hubby is so normal I often wonder just what it is he sees in me. He’s a trucker, and he’s the kinder, gentler half of this couple. I’m not sure even he knows what to make of me half the time, but this is who I really am. I stifled this for years; it had to come out sometime.

Hubby was the catalyst for releasing the inner wild child I hid so well for a quarter of a century. In my mid-20’s, I was attending metal concerts on a regular basis, and I had long, curly, blue-black hair. Then my cousin moved away and I lost my wild best friend, the one who attended concerts with me, and the one I laughed the longest and loudest with. I’d always been shy, but with her I was louder and more alive. I grieved her moving from New York to Texas to join the rest of her family. A short time after she moved, my father suddenly got sick and he passed away, and I suffered another crippling blow. I was twenty-eight, single, and still living at home.

Knowing I could lose my mother, too, at any time, I decided I needed to meet someone with whom I could possibly share a future so I dialed back who I was. I settled into normalcy. I cut my hair; I went back to my normal, boring brown. In essence, I grew up. I had a steady, decent paying job, and I was ready to settle down. Unfortunately, I altered who I was to fit in at work, as a partner and wife, as a mother, and in life. Giving up my wild side, I hated who I was, and I didn’t even know it. I thought it was just my natural reserve that always made me feel so damned inadequate.

I met hubby when I was twenty-nine. We married when I was thirty, and we had our first son when I was thirty-one. Life moved on fairly quickly.

Together hubby and I raised two wonderful, young men. We had our challenges with ADHD, Autism, Diabetes, Celiac disease, Asperger’s syndrome and way too much time spent with doctors, specialists, administrators, teachers and others who all thought they knew what was best for my sons. I stifled a lot over the years to see two young men through the nightmare and quagmire that was the public school system. I bit my tongue so many times when all I wanted to do was swear and lash out. As their advocate, I thought I had to hold my anger inside. I tried to put my boys first at all times. Having to deal with all these strangers who knew nothing about my sons but passed judgment anyway made me more outgoing but it also made me bury all that fury and anger deep inside.

I lost my mother when I was forty-six. Shortly after that my aged pets began to leave me, one by one; not their fault, of course. Everything dies. To get by, I buried my hurt and grief deep along with all that anger. I was probably clinically depressed and didn’t even know it at the time. I was hurting so badly I was barely functioning inside, but I made it through each day.

Something about turning fifty changed things. I hadn’t even realized that my sweet hubby knew deep down inside that I wasn’t a happy person. I was just going through the motions. He pushed. He pushed at me some more. Then he pushed even harder. Over the course of a year, he kept pushing at me. I had thought that we were happy and that we were complete. Being the saner, smarter half of this couple he knew differently. He knew I wasn’t happy, and since I wasn’t happy, he wasn’t either.

Hubby pushed hard, and he told me things needed to change. When it finally occurred to me that something was in fact “broken”, I began to get scared that maybe it was our marriage. He was the one who suggested I needed to do something really different to break out of this funk that I was stuck inside, a mid life crisis sort of gesture. So at age 51, I went back to school to start on my first college degree, and I got my first tattoo. The ink actually came first. It was something I’d always wanted to do but hadn’t because I didn’t want to disappoint my mother.

Gradually, the wild child began to find her way back. I finally opened my eyes and realized I no longer cared what others thought, and I didn’t have to fit into any molds of what I should be. I only have to do what makes me happy. I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

My marriage? It was never broken. I was. My sexagenarian hubby? He loves the wild child. Me? I’m happier than I’ve ever been, pink hair, ink, loud music, bad language and all. I wish I’d realized what was missing years ago. Me.

Images courtesy of Pinterest

Different

differentI was always a shy child, eager to please and never one for getting into trouble. I was a good girl, and I behaved myself because I never wanted to disappoint my parents. I did well in school. I was too shy to do otherwise. The worst thing I ever did was talk too much. Once I got to know someone, I usually couldn’t be shut up.

I particularly remember the first time I got in trouble for talking and my first grade teacher made me stand out in the hall for talking to a classmate while she was teaching. I was mortified and fearful that the Principal would suddenly walk by and see me there. I also remember being scolded in High School, again for talking to a close friend while a Math teacher was teaching. I also remember a High School business teacher telling another close friend that she knew the back of her head better than the front since she was always turned around in her seat talking to me. The teacher told us that she could never catch my lips moving, though.

I was good in small social situations, but I never really liked being the center of attention. High School was rough. I went to a tough school, and I spent most of my days trying to hide and not be noticed. I stood out because I was tall so I tried hard to minimize most everything else about me. If I inadvertently attracted a bully’s attention, I went out of my way to avoid it happening again. I would walk a longer, more circuitous route to avoid the place where the bullying had occurred. I even went so far as to change classes to escape that sort of interaction. I got real good at being invisible.

Once I graduated and I got out into the working world, I was told I was too shy. My first long-term job was life changing. I recall a boss telling me she enjoyed watching me come out of my shell. I certainly was never the life of the party, and some social situations remained difficult for me. It was the 1980’s, and I remember acting out with hair dye, nail polish, big earrings, shoes to go with each outfit, metal music and fast sports cars. I dyed my normal brown hair Nice ‘N’ Easy blue-black. I listened to heavy metal music (Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue). I drove Pontiac Firebirds – all brand new. I had a 1980 copper-colored Firebird, a 1982 black Firebird and a 1986 red Firebird. I was young, and I was having fun.

Then things changed. When I was 26, my cohort and partner-in-crime, my cousin moved to Texas to be closer to her branch of the family (her mother, my mother’s sister, had moved there to be near her grandchildren). I no longer had anyone to do things with. I went to a few concerts with my brother (Ozzy Osbourne) and even my mother (Phil Collins), but it wasn’t the same. Then my father died when I was 28. My world changed overnight.

As I struggled with the grief and sadness, I found myself having to suppress much of what I was feeling because my mother withdrew into herself. She didn’t want me crying in front of her so I would cry at night when I went to bed. I watched helplessly as my mother stripped every sign and piece of my father out of the house. His clothes, his pictures, and his things – they all got packed away or given away. She didn’t want any reminders. I guess it was just too hard for her. I couldn’t understand it then, and I still don’t today (29 years later). She would eventually get a few pictures back out, but it was hard on me to see him suddenly disappear from everything and everywhere.

My father’s death was the impetus that got me out of the house. I looked around and realized I was 28 and still single. I had no life. I worked, and I went home to my mother to a house that was full of love but still empty in so many ways. She actually pushed me to answer a newspaper ad, and I met my Hubby.

My husband is like me in many ways, but he’s also very different. He’s an ex-radio disc jockey so there is an outgoing side to his personality that I don’t share. He can talk to strangers. I have a harder time with that. He’d also been hurt in love many more times than I had. I had one serious relationship before him. He liked music, and he will tell you that he’ll listen to everything. He doesn’t like the hard stuff like I do, though. When we got together, I may have toned down some of the crazy in me. Who doesn’t want to put their best foot forward?

When we got serious about each other and realized that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together, I really thought I wanted what my mother had always had. I wanted to be a housewife. That was all I’d ever aspired to. I wanted to be home baking cookies. I look back now, and I wonder what the hell I was thinking. Why did I think I ever wanted to be my mother? I got pregnant fairly quickly, and I had two wonderful sons. I continued working, and I spent my days trying to fit it all in like so many working mothers. I also suppressed parts of myself, trying to fit in and trying to be the perfect wife and mother.

As a mother, I would have my struggles. I was gifted with two outstanding young men, but they would both have their problems getting through school. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Autism, and Diabetes – all would become words that I would know very well. Having to steer two young men through the school system and life is hard enough when they don’t have disabilities. Having to do it when they do have issues and need more help and advocating is damned hard. I learned so much over their school years. I also learned that I had to play nice, play by the rules of the various committees, administrators and departments. I often wanted to unleash strings of profanity, but I was forced to behave and do what was required of me. I grew in many ways having to advocate for my sons. No one else was going to speak up for them and be solidly in their corner. I had to do it.

Along the way I would also lose my mother. She died when I was 46 and that would be a hard blow. I always thought of my mother as a best friend and not just a mother. I can look back now and realize that she wasn’t perfect. None of us are. Two years after I lost her, I lost one of the best friends I ever had in this life, my cat, Raymond. Losing the two of them had me reeling. There was such a major disconnect in my life. I continued to work and did my best to put my efforts into the screwed-up start-up firm where I worked. I didn’t want anyone to know how badly messed up I was. I continued to get my boys through school. I had to. The part I came dangerously close to destroying was my relationship with my husband.

We had always been close and all of a sudden, he didn’t have me. I withdrew. I was probably suffering from clinical depression of some sort at the time, and I might have benefited from talking to someone, but I wouldn’t admit for the longest time that there was a problem. Thank God my Hubby hung in there and kept trying. He finally got through, and when I reached 50 I had an epiphany of sorts. I’d lost track of who I really wanted to be.

Losses in life, new relationships, changes in status, and dealing with disabilities and illness had forced me to grow up, get quieter, and strive to be something I’m not – a normal, mousey housewife. Working in conservative environments certainly didn’t allow the creative side of me to shine through. They squashed the fun on a daily basis.

youselfTurning 50, I suddenly looked around and realized the years of walking into a room or a social situation and trying to hide were over. I was so sure that everyone was staring at me and judging me. I was acting the way my socially anxious mother always had (hiding), and that’s not really me. I had grown so far past that. I began to realize it didn’t matter what others thought. I had to be comfortable with myself, and I wasn’t.

So I changed. It took me a long time to reach this point. I am ecstatic that I did. I am finally happy and comfortable enough to be different and let my rough edges show and not just go along and fit in where I think people want me to fit in.

Being different is what makes us all unique and valuable. I see that now.

Images courtesy of Pinterest

 

Cold and Courage

IMG_8957Well, it’s certainly a cold one here today.  May 23rd, and we are still getting frost warnings.  I had to bring the potted plant inside (again!) last night.  At least it didn’t snow here (like it did in some places in the midwest).  It’s 36 degrees at the moment, though.  I guess it’s back to jeans for me.  I’m certain I’ll see a few idiots running around in shorts and flip-flops.  That happens here whenever the sun shines – doesn’t matter what season it is.  I’ve seen them dressed like that in the middle of winter! They will dress for summer if they even get the slightest hint that it might warm up a smidge.  We Upstate New Yorkers are made of sterner stuff.  No flip-flops for me, though. Thanks anyway.

This morning I am gathering up my courage and draping it around me like a huge cape. I’m going to need it.  I am attending my first meeting of the Lilac City Writers Group.  I’ve emailed back and forth with the gentleman in charge of the group, and he seems very nice.  The hard part is meeting new people. I’m not certain of the size of the group, and I don’t know how the meeting will go. I do know they have a “business” part first and then they do a presentation of some sort. I was invited to attend the entire meeting (“business” part, too) since I am joining as a member.  They asked me to come early because they want to get to know me.  Hopefully, the self-assured, older Donna will show up and the younger, Oh-my-God-I’m-nervous Donna will not. I know the older Donna can do a great job if she remembers to smack down the younger Donna if she shows her silly self.

lion

Well, wish me luck!  I will write later or tomorrow to let everyone know how it goes!

Daily Prompt: Back to the Future

Anachronism (noun): an error in chronology; a person or thing that’s chronologically out of place. Write a story in which a person or thing is out of place, or recount a time when you felt out of place.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us ANACHRONISM.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/daily-prompt-anachronism/

Feeling out of place is something I do on a regular basis.  I think it has a lot to do with my natural reserve.  In my school years I often wore handmade clothes.  My Mother loved to sew, and we never had a lot of money so I wore dresses, blouses and slacks that she made for me.  I sometimes dressed like I came from another time.  A lot of the handmade items were prettier than store-bought, and I was fine with it until High School.  When the name brand jeans became a fad, and everyone was wearing Jordache or Gloria Vanderbilt, I was definitely a fish out of water with my hand-sewn slacks with the patchwork pockets.  They were comfortable, and I thought they were cute, but I took a ribbing over those pants.  I remember one of the “mean” girls following me to my locker and laughing loudly over my pants.  I wanted to die. If I could have gone back to the 1950’s, I think I would have at that moment.

one of my hand-made outfits
one of my hand-made outfits
a hand-crocheted top
a hand-crocheted top

When I got older, I used to go out on Friday nights with friends.  I often felt out of place.  We’d go to bars, hoping to meet that special someone.  Unfortunately, like most bars, unless you are outgoing, no one is “going out” of their way to meet you.  I sat there so hopeful, waiting for someone to realize I was pretty and funny and had a lot to offer.  No one wanted the wallflower. I think in all the years of going out, I got asked to dance ONCE. I hated going to those bars.  The only time I enjoyed myself was when there was a band worth watching.  We saw Huey Lewis and the News when they were just starting out.  They played the Penny Arcade.  I always knew I would never meet my soul mate at a bar, though.  I was prepared to be the spinster with a houseful of dogs to keep me company.

I wrote Huey Lewis a "fan" letter, and here is the postcard he sent back October 4, 1982
I wrote Huey Lewis a “fan” letter, and here is the postcard he sent back October 4, 1982

IMG_0001TILogoThere was also the time I thought that I would try to do something about my shyness and public speaking skills. I went to a Toastmaster’s meeting. People were getting up and giving speeches. There were folks in the audience who counted the number of “ummmm’s” and kept track of the distracting habits – fidgeting, hair twirling, and ring twisting.  Then they went around the table and asked the guests to introduce themselves and say a little bit about themselves.  When they got to me, I froze.  I declined to introduce myself!  I never went back again I was so mortified. Public speaking of any sort was not for me. I had to push myself to greet people publicly at work in my Human Resources job.  I often wished I could be a stay-at-home Mom instead.  That is all I ever aspired to be.

As the years passed, I got better at fitting in in public settings.  Greeting interviewees as part of my HR job taught me they were more nervous than I was.  Having a child with disabilities also helped me to grow in many ways.  He could not speak for himself so I became his advocate.  I learned rather quickly that if he was to get the services and assistance that he needed that I had to be the one to speak up on his behalf.  I was often asked to speak at meetings. It got easier as time went on.

There are still times when I don’t fit in, but that’s okay.  I’ve learned to accept myself as I am, and I don’t care as much as I used to what others think.

[I just noticed the coincidence – I mentioned Huey Lewis and the News in my post.  He had a bit part in the movie Back to the Future (the title of the Daily Prompt), and he also sang “The Power of Love” which was on the Back to the Future soundtrack.]

SOURCE:

http://www.toastmasters.org/members/membersfunctionalcategories/aboutti.aspx