To the long list of you whom I have called, intended to call, or still call, “friend”:
I know I owe you a novel, and I know it’s been ages. I think about you so much, wanting to know how you are, what’s happening in your life. Wondering what life is teaching you, how big the kids have grown… ugh… you know… just missing you. I feel like I should apologize to you for not communicating, but to be honest…I just have to do the best I can, and I have truly been doing that. Life is just full. Full, in an overwhelming, mental breakdown kind of way, and it has been on that ledge for so long, I feel like I can never quite get my footing.
I was remembering the other day about how much life changes when you add a baby to your family. When you have small children in your home, it’s like everything is put on hold… time passes and you feel like you’ve gotten absolutely nothing done. You lose touch with people, your house is a mess, you often forget what day it is, and it seems impossible to do anything you used to do; and then it hit me: Five and a half years ago, I had a baby (making me the mom of two beautiful, and all-consuming little girls), opened a business, and was diagnosed with a chronic illness all at the same time. These are those *events* that turn your life upside down, the kind that change your course and knock the wind out of you. I know that should be obvious info to me, but though I wouldn’t deny those facts, I don’t give myself the same grace that I give other people. I still want and often expect myself to be the same me that I was before, and I feel like I owe it to you, as my friend, to be that person.
The baby is in Kindergarten now (her sister about to turn 13 and make me the proud parent of a teenager), the business is bigger than me, and well, the chronic illness… it’s now more familiar to me than being healthy, and what I keep hearing in my head is: “I am the worst friend in the world.”
I know, I know. I shouldn’t allow negative self talk like this to continue playing on repeat in my head. I’ll work on that, but for now it’s sincerely a struggle not to beat myself up when I see the gaps forming in my relationships and the missed opportunities to connect with others on a personal level. So many unreturned phone calls, emails left without response, Facebook messages, party invitations, dinner invites, texts I never acknowledged, cancelled outings, and even a standing list of good intentions on my end to begin cultivating new relationships…I’m pretty sure that to a lot of people, I am perceived as a total jerk, and more importantly than anyone’s perception, I sincerely feel the disappointment associated with the degradation of these relationships. I want to make room.
My reality is this. I have a shorter day than most people to work with. In order to function at a level that my symptoms are manageable, I have to sleep about 14 hours or more a day. When I don’t do this, my symptoms slowly take over and I gradually work myself into being “grounded” and stuck in bed completely for days or weeks on end. So, as a rule, I make it my goal to get this much sleep. To keep things interesting, spontaneously, I get slammed for what seems like no apparent reason, so I am always “on call” to my illness. But, on the good days, sleep is usually the best way to keep things under control. Another part of maintaining some sort of control is with my diet. Processed foods pretty much wreak havoc on my body, so it has become a huge priority to try to keep a more natural approach to what I eat, and that has carried over into how we eat as a family. We try very hard to primarily eat “real” foods, which of course is a huge transition when this was not a previous way of life, and takes a huge investment of time, organization, and money… which, while we’re on the subject, has anyone else out there noticed a shortage of these things these days, or is it just me?? Weird. Oh well… Somewhere mixed in with the health priorities, I get small bursts of drive to seek medical care, and invest into myself by pursuing tests, going for checkups or treatments, though admittedly this gets neglected (ironically due primarily to a lack of energy), and often feels impossible to “stuff” into my day.
Next, I have a family that I love. When I am physically able, I want to spend as much time as I can, attending my daughters’ school functions, listening to them talk about their day, reading books together, chauffeuring them to activities, being involved. I’ll take it, whatever I can get. I have sacrificed so many of these things over the years because of being forced out of the game by physical limitations, but every “good day” that I have, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with my family (though it never does feel like enough time is spent here). Dates and alone time with the hubby have recently been re-defined. Attending the kids’ activities, riding together in the car, watching a 30 min sitcom (while falling asleep) at the end of the day, or having a business meeting to discuss pending decisions are now qualified as “dates”. For now, we are gonna roll with it and look forward to future seasons of a more romantic scenario.
Filling the rest of my time and life, and constantly threatening to encroach upon the above two areas would be the business. When my youngest daughter was 3 weeks old, and life was feeling rather simple and peaceful, I decided that it was a great time to go get my DBA, and pursue a dream of entrepreneurship and open my own company. My dreams and vision have always been *huge*, but I had no idea whatsoever what this journey would mean to our future. I opened a photography company, intending on specializing in family portraits, working with children, newborns, maternity sessions, etc, though my previous background was in the wedding industry. Slowly this initial vision evolved, and one step led to another, and the company gradually transitioned into a wedding photography company. I created a monster. Seriously. It is bigger than me and sometimes feels so overwhelmingly out of control I feel that I want to go to the airport and take a flight to an indisclosed location and hide. That is not a joke, but a sincere feeling of desperation at times. Obviously, it did not get here overnight… and obviously, there was a night and day effort and investment on my part to create said monster and drive it forward… but… I plead ignorance. I knew not what I did. With my husband partnering with me in this venture, we now have a team of 14 of us that actively make up this little company. We are currently holding interviews to add at least 5 more people to the team within the next few weeks/month, and looking at the growth ahead, I can only see that expanding. I love this team, and these people, and am devoted to continuing to do everything I can to provide opportunities. I am completely passionate about this. But as people generally do… each member of the team comes with their quirks, demands, differences, excuses, strengths, and weaknesses, and at the end of the day… I’m mother hen, and when people want answers, want money, or want to complain, I have to be available in this way. The number of clients that keep us in business and the demands and expectations that they place on their service from our company, combined with the pressure of handling one of the most important days of their lives, is not something that I can take lightly, and has become severely intimidating to me as we continue to grow. As a matter of fact, it is a complete discipline to stay in the moment when the time has come for me to rest or spend time with my family because of being so distracted by my emotional ties to this responsibility. As you can imagine, the whole 14 hours of sleep a day concept often gets compromised and I run myself ‘till there is nothing left, in efforts to keep up. The scary thing is, we are really just beginning. This past year has been the most rapid season of growth that we have ever seen, and the growth just keeps coming. Not to mention that we are expanding into other ventures. You see, I want to devote my life to providing opportunities to help people reach and fulfill their potential, and I also want to leave something solid behind for my family’s financial future. I have to say though, had I known that the path to this goal entailed being stretched and pushed in the ways that Derek (my husband), and I have been over the course of these last few years, I don’t know that we would have had the courage to open this door. The business is a story for another blog…or maybe a book…?
You wanna learn what you are made of?? Get sick. Or open a business. Or… hey, do both, and why not add to your family while are at it!
Ok, so there’s my life. Summed up neatly into three parts. Somewhere stuffed into all of this, are the intentions to exercise, have a spiritual life, take time to relax, aaaand, you guessed it…among other things… to connect with friends. Family commitments ebb and flow, as does the business, and as do my health issues. But I either have to choose to wait for that absolutely rare moment when all of these things align in a way that makes room in life for more, or just try my best to keep reaching out in between the cracks, and in the midst of the chaos in a very messy and extremely inconsistent way. Usually it’s the latter, and those efforts are so spaced apart and so sporadic that I often end up just opening one side of a two way effort for communication, only to walk away and get caught up and consumed by one the above mentioned components and therefore confirming my theory that I am very possibly in fact the “worst friend in the world”.
One thing that I know for certain that I can always trust and count on is the changing of seasons. For now, I’m going to put my hope into that, and embrace the “in betweens” that come along. I guess by doing that, you might say that I’m being a pretty good friend to myself, and in the grand scheme of things, maybe that will make me a better friend to you when our paths cross next.