by Jove Belle
I’m 41 years old and I’m pretty sure I’m having a mid-life crisis. And because I don’t do anything by halves, it’s been two years in the making. Two years ago, life was moving along exactly as planned. I had a fabulous job, my fourth book was in the middle of edits, and my family was picture perfect. Then my mom got sick.
I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone when I say that my mom was incredibly important to me. She taught me the values that define who I am as an adult. She was the strongest person I’ve ever known. She believed with a conviction that I’ve never seen in another, and she was so confident, so comfortable with her definition of who she was, that she never felt the need to force her ideals on another person.
She and I lived very different lives. She devoted herself to God, to the service of others. I believe god was created by men, not the other way around. She believed that being gay is truly a sin. I am a lesbian. These are some pretty polar fundamental beliefs. And we talked about them. She never once said, “I can’t condone your life.” or “I won’t talk to you or see you until you change.” Never. She loved. That’s all she knew to do and I benefited from it.
So, she got sick. Really sick. In six months I made four trips home to see her, to take care of her. I made that trip for the last time the week before Christmas 2010. I’ve yet to find the right words to describe how it felt to sit in a room and watch my mother die. The grief of loss, combined with knowing I should (and would eventually) feel grateful that she faced both her life and her death on her terms. To say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced is a drastic understatement.
I tried so hard to focus on what she needed and not on the fact that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t talk, couldn’t communicate her thoughts. A stroke will do that to a person. I tried to focus on reading to her when she was awake (she really enjoyed Corinthians and John), and not on the fact that I wasn’t sure I’d have a job to go back to since my company was refusing to grant leave (and I was refusing to go back anyway). I tried to focus on making sure she was comfortable, and not on the fact that my sisters three kids would be making the move to Washington to live with Tara and I (my mom had custody of them and my sister…well, she’ll never be able to take care of them).
January 9th, 2011 marks a clear division of my life. My life before my mom died, and my life since. Her death was the springboard for many changes (most happening at breakneck speed). We moved my nieces and nephew in with us, sold my mom’s house, remodeled our house (6 bedrooms, plus an office and a family room), Tara quit working to take care of the family. We settled into a bit of a routine after the remodel was done. But a seed had been planted in my head. I couldn’t quite get my heart back into work. Initially, the ever present question of “what’s the point?” hung over everything I did. It was impossible to find any enthusiasm when all I wanted to do was curl up and cry most of the time. I never fully recovered to my previous level at work.
Then Tara and I started talking about what she would do when Lily starts kindergarten this fall. Our neighborhood school has an all day/every day program. Tara was over the moon with excitement. For the first time in years she would have some time to herself. Then she was adrift. What in the world would she do with all the time? As a solution, we looked at coffee stands. Tara didn’t want to work for anyone else, and a coffee stand is something she could do alone, and easily be done in time to pick the kids up after school.
That conversation expanded to food carts. If you live anywhere other than Portland, the concept is probably foreign to you. But in Portland, it is the cool thing. Totally trendy. There are full city blocks that host ‘pods’ of food carts. It’s a thriving industry that defines the city. And it was something we could do together.
Before I could talk myself out of it, we purchased a food cart downtown Portland, and I gave notice at work. I still have moments of “Oh my god! What did I do?” Especially when I think about money. There’s no way I’ll make this year what I made last year. But that is secondary to the fact that I’m happy. I’m no longer trying to support an agenda that I just don’t understand and that gives me enormous peace of mind.
When we bought the food cart, Tara and I also bought something that we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else: freedom to define our own schedule. We open at 8am, and stay as late as we want after lunch. Sometimes I leave at 2, sometimes I stay until 6pm. Because only one person needs to be there, Tara and I alternate schedules. She works a week, then I work a week.
The big bonus item of my midlife crisis is that I have time to write again! For the first time in two years, I’m able to think about character development, story arcs, plot threads, etc. Not that I couldn’t think about it before, I just couldn’t do anything about it.
If you’re in the Portland area, come by and see me at work. We’re on SW 9th between Washington and Alder. Oh, and we call the place Ding Dong Daddios. If you’re hanging out online, look for me at my blog (Women & Words), or on facebook. Or you can check the Bold Strokes website since a writer with time will inevitably write books.
My point? I’m back! And I’m glad to be here.
(Author Note: This is a cross-post from my blog at Women & Words.)