Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

What I Missed Along the Way

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Like many of my blog-mates, I have few regrets. I, too, realize that my life wouldn’t be what it is if I hadn’t made the choice that I did.  Mainly, the regrets I have are things that I choice not to do. Often coming from a place of fear, I wonder what would have happened, what would have been different if I had stepped up and chosen the other option.

Just before I turned 16, my family moved across the country. Now, being a minor, I didn’t have a whole lot of say in this decision. I always wondered though, what would have happened if I would have stayed? I had a boyfriend who I was head over heels in love with. Would we have stayed together? I had close friends that I’d been with for years. I honestly wonder what I would have ended up doing with my life, since the opportunities that were presented to me in Pennsylvania directly led to my chosen career. I don’t know if I count that as a regret, but it was a definite divergence in the road and I occasionally mourn the life I left behind.

My only major regret is my lack of love life. I’ve had a few opportunities that, or a variety of reasons, I did not explore. I’ve also never made it a priority in my life, choosing rather to focus on my career or education. Yet, when I see a happy couple walking hand-in-hand, I think, “that could have been me.”  Even worse, when I see my friends with their young ones, I really start thinking about what I am missing. I never thought that I wanted to be a mom, but there is an urge there that I can’t deny. If it never happens, then I’ll be fine, but I can’t say that I never wanted a child of my own.

Wow, this was a sad week.  Next week will be better, I promise!!

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You’ve got to be kind.

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

This is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, part of a baptismal speech.   

So, Valentine’s Day is about love, and blah blah blah, and hearts and flowers and candy and music.  It’s actually a day about stuff about love, isn’t it.  It’s not a day about being kind and generous and giving of yourself.  But, I’m not going to talk about the myriad problems I have with the celebration of Valentine’s Day as a concept or as a practice.  (I’m misanthropic in many ways, and Valentine’s Day brings many of them out in me…it’s not pretty, so we’ll be ignoring it.  Thank you very much) 

I want to talk about kindness, which is the manifestation of love, is it not?  Kindness to your dear ones is a manifestation of your very real love for them; kindness toward strangers is a manifestation of a love of humanity. 

This weekend, I found out that the woman who taught me to knit had died.  She was an extraordinarily kind woman.  We worked together on the night maintenance crew at a gym one summer.  Needless to say, we had some time to chat.  She spent the minutes between wiping down the machines or loading towels into the dryer correcting my wooly mistakes and telling me how I went wrong.  I saw her from time to time over the next few years, but I moved away, and I didn’t keep in touch.  It was a sad moment when I found out that she had passed away.  It brought me back to that summer and the frustration that gave way to fascination, which eventually gave way to obsession with knitting.  But it also brought me back to the laughter and fun that she shared with me. 

We all have friends and loved ones who go through hard times.  Sometimes, if someone is having a difficult time, the only things you can do are be available, be accepting, listen and say nice things.  It might not be enough to make anything right, but it’s the very least you have the capacity to do.  It’s not hard, it doesn’t cost you anything.  In fact, there’s an argument to be made that you’re gaining something, too. 

Love (the real thing, not the schmoopy droopy Valentiney thing) is easy to feel, but difficult, sometimes, to put into action.  My point, I suppose, is that Grand Gestures of love and adoration are nice, and sometimes necessary.  But, what people really need is the small stuff.  We need the listening, the forgiving, the patience, the time. 

Afterall, we only have, at the outside 100 years here.  God Damn it…we’ve got to be kind.

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The family you make

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what defines a family.  In most cases, these definitions are strict, black and white: multiple generations sharing some genetic material.  This definition is not at all dependent on whether or not those generations of people can actually stand to be in one another’s company.  For me, though, the definition of a family is more fluid and expansive. 

I was born into a small nuclear family, but a large, bi-coastal extended one.   My paternal grandmother was a true matriarch, her clan gathered for holidays and important occasions.  We all tried to be together at least once a year.  Since her death, we still gather, but in smaller groups, at odd times, and the nuclear units tend to do their own thing more and more.  This could be because my generation is starting to form our own nuclear families and priorities are changing.  Also, dining rooms are only so big, and the family continues to grow (two new babies this year alone!)

On the other hand, there are people who are my family, even though we’re not related.  There are those people you invite into your life in ways that make the word “friend” seem insufficient.  This is something I learned from my parents.  In their lives they’ve introduced several new family members into my life.  Their friends became their family then became my family and added richness, love and warmth to our lives.  Some people just fold so seamlessly into your existence that you forget that you ever didn’t know them.  

So, I’m really lucky.  I have a wonderful, strong and happy genetic family, and I have an ever-growing real family.  I have more people to laugh with and love than I was born with, or than I ever anticipated.  That’s the beauty of life: it only is, it only ever can be, what you make it.

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