adulting from a compromised position

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I’ve had my eye on a new t shirt that says “Wow, Look at me adulting all over the place.”

Heh.

I am 58, and I am still impressed with myself when I am competently adulting. I’ve been described as the least mature person in our family. Which is kind of funny, except for the moments when it’s true.

Kate was born an adult and at 28, she’s pretty much on her way. She has a lifetime partner, she’s on her third city, and has navigated career challenges, disappointments and reroutes. She’s in grad school, and a year from now she will be married, an architect and a year younger than I was when I became her mom.

Alex is 22 and graduating from college in a few weeks. This last weekend she came home for a breather visit (you know, taking a few moments to breath, before your last sprint to the end). We sat at the dining room table and charted her next steps for Plan A and Plan B-ish, hopefully getting her to plan A with only a few extra turns.

As Steve and I coach both of our daughters, one thing that keeps coming up for me is the slippery slope of compromise.

As in, don’t go there just yet.

Which is confusing, since they know I value the art of compromise, and believe that compromise with grace, integrity and humor is the foundation of my marriage, my business, and any successes we have as a family. Learning how to give so everyone can experience what is important to them, without giving up what is most important to you, is tricky. Not giving up too much, too soon—balanced with genuinely wanting the best for others.

Compromise is how we get stuff done. Together. Which is important, right? And it’s a sign of adulting, which is a certainly a good thing.

So even I am conflicted when I hear myself saying, “Once you start to compromise, there’s no going back…stay on your own path right now, and there will be more than enough opportunities to compromise in the future.”

I’m talking about risks not taken, projects not pursued, dream adventures that are never realized. I know there’s plenty of adventure available for those of us in our fifties and sixties. But still…the twenties…this is when you have the least baggage, the most flexibility, and dreams are still in vibrant, flourescent, glow-in-the-dark color.

Compromise enables bills to be paid, commitments kept, scheduled maintained. Stability is achieved, stress is avoided, chaos averted and relationships can be nurtured. Steve and I recognized that between the two of us we can focus on three big things at a time. That means if we are particularly focused on work, and family issues, then we have room for one more challenge. Not two more, which would make it even, but one more, which means one of us is supporting while the other is doing (or we’re both doing, which would be the perfect case, but not usually the situation). It’s a system that works for us, but it’s taken 34 years to figure it out. Compromise means that not only are you responsible for your own baggage, sometimes you’re carrying the baggage of others, too.

I’ve encouraged Alex to keep on pushing for Plan A. It’s a big ask of the universe, but at 22 she is at the most agile point of her life. Plan B is good, but Plan C and D…well, that’s when you start to give in to the safe side. Pretty soon the not-exactly-right-job in the this-isn’t-what-I-imagined-town leads to choices that require compromise…those are usually the shiny choices that come with hefty price tags, that help one forget that there ever was a Plan A. New cars to get you to work, a closet full of capable clothes to help you survive work and expensive cocktails to help you forget about work. They’re all a sign of compromise. (I can also make a case that these are signs of success rather than compromise, but that’s another post all together.)

Compromise is why we landed in Sacramento, instead of San Francisco. Sacramento has been good for us, but I do have moments of wishing that thirty years ago I had a bigger vision for our future, that I had the confidence to make a leap, rather than a sensible step. I suspect I limited Steve’s career path, and perhaps my own, by not leaping all the way to the East Coast when our friends were also leaping. We compromised for stability. That’s not a judgement, just a fact.

If I made a list of what adulting means to me, I suspect “learning how to compromise gracefully” would be at the top. A 401k, limiting one’s weekday alcohol intake, flossing regularly (plus mammograms, colonoscopies, and daily sunscreen) would follow.

But just because I believe it, doesn’t mean I want my daughters to do it. At least not yet. Maybe tomorrow, but not quite yet. Flossing, however, is non negotiable.

 

another year, another chance

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It’s January 2, and the spirit of the new year finally showed up.

Another year, another chance to get it right.

And another chance to redefine the word “right.”

How about right-ish, or right enough?

For a 58-year-old Virgo, with a healthy marriage, two grown and on-their-way daughters, a warm home and a enough savings to contemplate retirement in the near future, I spend a lot of time telling myself that I am doing my life all wrong. Which is kind of silly, and certainly not helpful.

Last year, the voices in my head were particularly noisy. I didn’t exercise enough, eat clean enough, write enough, work enough, love enough, or read enough. I wasn’t compassionate enough or enough of an activist (because if I had done more, Trump wouldn’t have the headlines, you know). I didn’t practice my ukulele enough, didn’t learn enough Spanish, or well, you get the idea. Enough already.

Why is it that we can accept a mess as a sign of progress and transition…in our gardens, in our kitchens, in our art, but we can’t accept it in our relationships or ourselves? Everything worthwhile requires a little mess, doesn’t it? Nature is messy before it is spectacular.

It doesn’t whine. It doesn’t “what if” itself. It just shows up, as is. The ultimate come as you are experience.

This year our holidays were different, delightful and a little bit messy. We had the girls here, along with Kate’s fiance, Brendan, and for the first time ever, we left our parents home alone. On the 26th we embarked on a 1500 mile road trip to visit friends, grandparents, the ocean and Yosemite. We packed so much into six days that we couldn’t remember where we just came from (“wait, didn’t we just see dolphins yesterday?”). We learned things about each other we could have lived without (such as belching and farting methodologies). Each moment was great, but stringing it all together was tricky. We made it, and we got it right enough. Some of it was ridiculously right, and some of it was weirdly right. And those moments of not-at-all-right passed quickly.

And we spent a clear, cold, beautiful winter’s day in Yosemite Valley. Alex had the flu, and spent much of her time in front of the fire at the Ahwahnee Hotel, but she did several walks with us and together we were awed, humbled and inspired by one of nature’s grandest gestures.

It was worth every mile, even the slightly messy ones (for instance, the gas mart lunch in beautiful Santa Barbara, and that really, really long 60 minutes into the LA basin).

This morning we set our alarms for 4:15 a.m. to get Kate and Brendan on their flight to Chicago. Alex leaves for Oregon on the midnight train. I spent an hour on the bike at the gym, did a few loads of laundry, and helped Alex with her resume and cover letter. Tomorrow it will be just the two of us again.

It’s a new year, and I have a new chance to get it right-ish. And if I don’t succeed, then there will be a new day, and I can start over. Just like nature. Messy, yes. Enough, heck yes. Right? Yes, right enough.

Happy New Year, my friends.

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lucky to be here

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Last week my dad had pneumonia, or not exactly pneumonia, depending on which doctor was making the rounds. He was in the hospital for a week, rocking the blue floral gown and getting his lungs back in working order. He’s 83 and has had a few (as in ten) other events, but he still has a garden to grow, a wedding to attend, and a life to keep living.

I flew to Southern California to stay with Mom and help until things stabilized. For the first part of the week we drove back and forth to the hospital, coming home to have a glass of wine and pack up for the next day. Hearing aids, a shaving kit, his iPod, new slippers, the sports section of the newspaper.

I drove him home in a car with canes, walkers, oxygen tanks and a shopping bag full of meds and equipment.

At one point I high-fived mom and congratulated ourselves on successfully transitioning from my parents caring for the kids, to kids caring for parents. I don’t know that she thought it was something to celebrate (and I am petty sure he doesn’t), but it was a moment.

I felt all the feels. I don’t need to write about them, you know what they are.

On Dad’s second day home, the two of them were sitting in their patio, holding hands, and I heard her say, “We’re still lucky, you know.”

Yes we are. On Saturday I tagged out and my brother Neal and his wife Colene, tagged in. Next week my brother Doug tags in. I’ll be back if needed.

If not, I will just remember how lucky we all are to be right here, right now. Our world is pretty messy, but there are moments of light and love and luck…so I am going to grab them when I can.

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