Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Pursuit of Happyness

I appreciate everything I have more because of the struggles.   I had a relatively easy life, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  Like most people I saw what I DIDN’T have.  My parents were divorced when I was a toddler and in the 70’s that was a bigger deal than it is today.
I was in the minority as most of my friends came from intact homes.  I felt sorry for myself, I ‘m ashamed to say.    My mom remarried relatively quickly and we moved a lot so my step dad, a humble truck driver could get better jobs just so his step children could have more.    His nickname for me was “Brat” and I’m embarrassed to say I probably deserved it.    I had Calvin Klein’s, Izods, rocked my Ralph Lauren polos and preppy sweaters with the stupid little whales on them.   My mom wore pants with holes in them so I could have all the best brands.
Yet, I compared myself to the cheerleader who had more, shinier shoes, purses to match each pair, more stuff, better stuff.   Her dad was a dentist and she had e v e r y t h I n g.     In comparison, I didn’t have enough.  Yet, I never went without, never had to be hungry never had to wear shoes with holes in them.    I went to the doctor when I was sick, I had whatever I needed.    I was embarrassed that my step dad was a truck driver and used to walk 10 steps ahead of my mom at the mall, yet let her catch up to me at the register to pay.
My mom and step dad sacrificed so much so that we could have things.  We ate Manwich, and Hamburger Helper and now I hate myself for complaining about whatever it was put in front of me that I didn’t like, well except those nasty salmon patties that it turns out my dad hated too.   The point is that my step dad worked his ass off all week so that we could have whatever we needed.
My good fortune continued into my life.  My ex and I had good careers, bought a nice home, had a beautiful, healthy young son and I drove a Lexus in my 20’s.    I had the privilege of staying home to raise my son and we were blessed with another son.   Unfortunately, my marriage wasn’t a happy one and I had to restart a career after being home for double digit years.  Then the world kept slapping me down and the economy didn’t do my situation any favors.
Late last year, I lost my job, I’ve already gone into that here and not going to rehash it, but in my heart of hearts, I truly believe my body of hard work did not merit what happened.    It’s irrelevant to this post, but the bottom line is I’ve struggled to find work.   After beating down the bushes, I’ve basically created my own job(s) while looking.  I am trying to make a few businesses work and I know they will, this blog being one of them.   I write to entertain, inspire and because I truly believe I have something to say, something to contribute.   Following this dream is often hard and sometimes I feel selfish thinking I could provide for my family so much better if I just found something that would be more reliable. 
Hardly anyone you will ever meet works harder than I do right now.   I have trained my body to need less sleep.  I have thrown myself into learning everything possible I can about blogging, writing, social media and search engine optimization, just to name a few.    Stubborn is probably one of the first words you’d think of to describe me.  I don’t want or accept handouts, don’t believe in them.     Yet last week, I had an emotional meltdown that took me down to my core.   It was Monday and I literally worked from sunup to 11:30 at night and still had to go to the grocery store to get some necessities for the boys.     A quick check of my balance made me realize I didn’t have enough to get the things on our list.    
I lost it.  I was exhausted, drained and spent.  Through tears I had to tell my boys that we could only get a few things: milk, bread and the cheese on the list.    I literally broke down in front of them.   They both rallied and made me feel better.  My oldest son put his arm around me and was an incredible comfort.  He asked me if I’ve prayed lately about it.    Truly, I hadn’t lately prayed for help, just my daily stuff and for intentions of people around me.   
My son and I prayed for help, for guidance also for gratitude for being so tested.   I truly believe things like these make us dig deeper find out what we are made of and although I didn’t want my boys to see me like this, it was good for them.   I’m sure my parents struggled I just didn’t see it.  They hid that from me, clipped coupons, sewed the holes in their socks, whatever so I could in turn wear Calvin Klein jeans and still feel like it wasn’t enough.    You have no idea how much I hate myself for that today.
Of course you’re familiar with the expression  - you don’t know what you had until it’s gone.    The impact of those words has so much gravity on me today because I lost my mom too early and without warning.  I wish like hell I could tell her how much I appreciated her sacrifices.     I can still tell my step dad, in fact I’m going to email this post to him as soon as it’s finished.  It’s not too late to tell him how much I appreciate everything and I’m doing it today.   (Note: I don’t call him my step dad in life, just for this piece.)   He earned the title “dad” more than my “real” dad who just paid what the court mandated he pay.  While my "real dad" spent his time traveling the world, we scraped by.   
I get it now, so totally get it.  While the last year has been hard, so fucking hard we have a roof over our heads and although we might have to sacrifice our wants, we have most of what we need.  The world cannot take that away from us.  It can take away the food in our pantry, our car can get wrecked, our bodies can get damaged, but not our hearts, spirits or pride.   I’ll be damned if it’s going to take those things away from us.   We don’t have what we want and I’m embarrassed to say we have our moments when we feel poor.   However, we are not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, it’s just not gonna happen on my watch. 
I know someday when we can go to the doctor whenever we are sick or our tv works again or when we have an aspirin whenever we have pain, have fully functioning air conditioning or a dishwasher again we will appreciate them a hundred times more than we ever did in the past.   Yet, today I have to look at the list of the things I am grateful for.  I have a roof over my head, a computer that I can use to find a wealth of knowledge, a loving family and I also have readers who add so much to my life.  I’m truly blessed and I’m grateful for today, working my ass off for a better tomorrow, but not missing the simple pleasures in the present. 
The next day after my son and I prayed, I overheard friends talking about selling their old gold jewelry.  I realized this was my answer.    I had to sell jewelry that my grandma and mom had given me.   Since I’ve lost both of them, it was sad to sell pieces of them but I have my memories and that can't be taken away from me.
I deposited the check, went to the grocery and then ran into a friend, who I haven’t seen in a long time.  She knew I’d lost my job, asked how we were doing and after we caught up,  insisted on paying for my groceries.    I of course turned her down until she literally jammed the money into my pocket.    As I continued to shop, tears ran down my face.   I’m sure I looked like a fool pushing my shopping cart with tears rolling down my face, I didn’t really care.  
When I got home, my kids were so excited.   The next morning, there were 5 more bags of groceries on our front door step from someone else.    It literally felt like Christmas.  We had laundry soap, paper towels and things that I know I’d never take for granted again.   I’ve always made my kids do volunteer work; I’ve always tried to let them know how fortunate they were.  Now life taught them lessons that they’d always remember. 
I’m in my office working on a beautiful Sunday afternoon looking outside.  Yet, I’m grateful to see blue sky, greenish brown grass, puffy white clouds.    One of the things I’m privileged to do is to write.  I hope what I have to contribute is valid, and many of you tell me it is.   So, I keep doing it, it’s a blessing to me more than you know. 
Writing this blog has felt like a calling.  I’ve literally worked on it tirelessly and I hoped I had enough to share, enough to impart and I also wanted to make you laugh along the way.  I debated writing this piece mostly because of my own pride – it’s embarrassing and yet I feel so important for all of us to know how tough it can be, and how we need to be grateful for what we DO have. 
Sometimes doubt creeps in and I wonder if I’m a good enough writer to build a blog that has a following, that really makes it and then I get an email  or a tweet that tells me to keep going.    I go back to a quote that sticks out to me “… the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” Henry Van Dyke
Here’s a comment from a new reader, calling herself Joy:
Single Mom, I respect you as a woman, a single mom and a writer...hang in there, you are going to find what God wants for you...whether it is "the reader" or keep doing what you are doing...because you are helping many women like me :D
The point is I got the lesson of appreciation and I want to share it with you.  I appreciate everything so much more, I am so less selfish, judgemental and I will never take things for granted ever, including the love of family, friends and maybe someday a good man.    It’s all a part of the journey, the testing and I truly think I’m being polished and refined into the best version of me.  It's hard sharing with you and always being honest especially if It’s not  the happiest peek into my life.   Yet I do it to encourage you along your road. Thank you so much for reading, your comments and for being a part of the pursuit of my happyness.   
The Single Mom

The clip above is from one of my favorite movies, The Pursuit of Happyness.  This is an inspiring movie for me as a single mom and makes me so grateful for all the blessings I have.   It keeps me going even though I know it can take time for hard work to pay off, it's worth it.   


arlene+2 said...

god bless and keep on trucking :)

DavidRayDog said...

Big hugs & smooches SM, we love you! Good things will happen for you, I can feel it!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. :)

You'll get there, you'll see.

singlemom said...

Thank you all so much, I do appreciate it... I just hope my kids get to see a payoff from all this hard work soon. Big Smooches!!! SM

TJ said...

Darling, you are a wonderful mom. What you're going through right now reminds me of my life as a child, minus the hard-working mom part. You're going through this now so your children will never take life for granted. Now MY daughter was like YOU as a child. To push her to earn the things she has is a struggle. Your words give me hope for her future.

Again, great read!

singlemom said...

Thank you so much, TJ. Your comments really touched me and encouraged me. This piece was a departure from what I typically do and I didn't want it to come off whiney, so I'm happy you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for reading! Smooches! SM

Jenniffer said...

:'(This has got to be the best blog you've written to date. This has really really touched me. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes.. With an understanding and emotion only a Mother or Father can understand & grasp. Keep your head up, keep working hard, keep praying.. God answers prayers!!!!