Lone Tree, Colorado
Let’s start talking about traveling through life, which in my humble opinion is all about relationships and the choices we make. Life is a journey, and my journey is so much about those I have loved and lost and those I love still. I did not pack a suitcase for this next series of trips. Instead I have unpacked the experiences both old and new as I travel through this thing called life…
Somewhere along the way I got confused. I thought life was about things like career, family, education, money – the building blocks of making a great life, right?. And I did really well at focusing on these things. Good education. Check! Great career in public relations and marketing, spanning 25 years. Check! Marriage and a family, was a good mom. Check! Worked with my ex to sell a company, bringing in financial security. Check! But then, despite doing it all “right” I watched in helpless amazement as it all fell apart. It took me 45+ years to get it — these building blocks I thought were the foundation of a good life were really only the framework. The foundation of a great life are the relationships that we dedicate ourselves to and those that we allow to influence us, hold us up and move us forward. They are the “love blocks” that we build our foundations on.
Relationships are not just part of life, they are life. As we travel through this odyssey called life all of our experiences ultimately come back to relationship. Think about it – work = relationships. Either with co-workers or clients, these are relationships. Family = the most important of all relationships, and they can either boost you up or tear you down, they are so significant. Education = teachers, fellow students, all relationships that are there to teach, inspire, challenge, grow and prepare you for a career. Don’t kid yourself like I did, it all comes back to relationships.
It has taken loss to teach me this. Lots of loss. As my friend “Larry” would say, I was a knucklehead. It has taken the loss of my marriage, three Dads, a very great friend and numerous life experiences to make the point. You don’t really know what you have until it’s gone – whoever coined that was damn right. Relationships shape us. They leave a mark on our character, our souls. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes damaging. I have experienced both.
My relationship with my mother is one that has taught me so much about life. I’m not going to tell you it was all June Cleaver type of stuff. My mom was pretty much a single parent, and she was unhappy, struggling with her own disappointments through much of her life when I was growing up. Mom, forgive me here, but relationships with men were not your forte. But I did see and learn from her strength – when a relationship turned out to be as wrong as rain she always had the gumption to get out. Until Papa, her relationship decisions weren’t the best. But with Pop, she hit it out of the park. I traveled these roads with her as a child and young adult. This part of my relationship with my mother was sometimes like watching a train wreck and sometimes like watching a beautiful sunrise. I learned a lot, not on purpose, but in spite of it all. Most importantly I learned from her that none of us is perfect, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship and that when all the things in life are stripped away it is the most important relationships that are left. And those make the difference between standing on quick-sand or concrete. My mom has always been concrete. Our travels have been fun and trying, loving and tumultuous, close and distant at times, hurtful and comforting. Really, it has been one of the healthiest relationships of my life – not because it was perfect, but because it was human. My relationship with my mother has taught me to be human, to accept that I am flawed, to always be strong through the worst of times and to never, never lie down and give up.
Very different was my relationship with my father. Dad lived out of town until my high school years, so he was always the Disneyland Dad. He’d sweep into town, with dolls and gifts. I’d get to ditch school and go to the courthouse to feed the squirrels with him on his visits to Fresno. Then we would go back to my grandmother’s house and he would fight with my stepmother on the phone, all night. I would just be left to sit and listen and feel like it was my fault. Often times, actually most of the times, he would never show up when he said he would and I would sit in my aunt’s window waiting and watching for him. And nine times out of ten I would go to bed disappointed because he didn’t show. Unlike my mother, my father was weak. He was also loving and funny and charming and bigger than life to me when I was young. I adored him! But he never fought for me like my mom did. He let bad things happen. Did he love me? Absolutely. Was the relationship with him a positive one for me? Absolutely not. The relationship with my dad became strained as I became a young adult and we were estranged before he got cancer and then we tried to “make peace.” But Dad never really had the strength to ante up and face the music. He was a lover, not a fighter. He died before we could ever really heal. I dealt with the impact of that relationship well into my adult life, especially after my son was born. I had a lot of help understanding him, that relationship and its negative impact on me. It ultimately made me a great parent. But I will tell you here and now - if an angel came to me and told me I could have one wish, just one, come true it would be this…I would ask for one more day with my Dad, just he and I and no one else. So we could reach a place of understanding, forgiveness and love and be able to truly say goodbye. I would travel to heaven and back again to be able to talk to him one more time, and heal the rifts in the relationship we had here on Earth. My heart still feels this loss, this void, this need, 21 years after his passing. Relationships– when it comes down to it, this is what it is really all about.
This is a blog, not a book, and I could write chapters about each of these two most significant relationships in my life. But here is what I know…I am the person I am today because of both of them. I became who I am because of what my mom did and what my dad didn’t do. These relationships taught me both what I wanted to be and what I didn’t want to be. And these relationships continue to shape me as I travel my journey, for the older I get the more I realize I still have so much to learn.
There are so many other relationships to talk about – my children,my family, my ex-husband, men, friends….but those will come later.
I consider myself lucky to understand how important relationships are. They are the foundation of my life. They are what I have built my human self on to become who I am, who I am becoming with each new day. I am currently experiencing one of the greatest love affairs of my life. He swept in and caught me off guard and now he owns my heart. I’ve never been happier – thank you Corey Merchant for making me feel loved unconditionally and for letting me love you without end.
Life is a journey….of relationships. And I am thankful for each and every one.