Lessons

I always start a post with a picture, usually of something I am working on, so here is my obligatory quilt picture–the finished Girl Power!

I have been pseudo-retired for almost 3 months now, the career I thought I would devote the rest of my working years to having dissolved under my feet. I have always believed that there are lessons to be learned from every life experience, each event adding to my body of knowledge, preparing me for whatever would come next. When it happened, I thought the primary lesson I was supposed to learn revolved around career decisions, learning to be adaptable and realizing that it was possible to totally redesign my professional self, choosing a path that would be more satisfying and rewarding. While I still believe this is a lesson I take away from this experience, I no longer believe it is the primary lesson I learned.

I thought perhaps I would come to realize the importance of spending time on myself for a change, learning to relax a little, be still and rest occasionally, none of which come naturally to me. Yes, I have come a long way in learning self-care, spending time doing things for the sheer joy of doing them, but still I don’t think this is the primary lesson either.

Maybe what I was supposed to learn was how fickle the notion of loyalty could be, and how no one is immune to the loss felt when loyalty and trust have eroded or vanished entirely. I walked alongside Carli when she came out and transitioned, and my heart ached for her when people she had known for over 30 years disappeared from her life overnight. This happens to trans people all the time; it’s awful and hurtful and unnecessary and deliberately ignorant, but when it happened to Carli I was still a bit of a by-stander because it was Carli’s story, not directly mine. Not everyone vanished, of course, and we treasure those people who have stuck around to witness the wonder of Carli’s transition. If someone you know is trans, I highly recommend sticking around, they are truly extraordinary people!

The last three months it’s been my turn to feel loss. I spent decades pouring myself into people I cared about, nurturing relationships, believing the respect and caring were mutual. I spent decades devoted to a career that I thought would always be there if I just kept pouring enough into it. But, as it seems to happen when things get tough, many of the people and institutions I have relied on for support sort of vanished into thin air. Like Carli’s situation, not everyone vanished. Quite a few people reached out to me, we’ve talked or texted or met for lunch. More time seems to pass between each communication, though. Moving on I suppose. Unlike Carli’s situation, the people I have known for over 30 years have remained supportive and communicative. This difference of loyalty between our long-term friends might be something I’ll have to dive into in another post.

It happens all the time to people going through divorce, or a health crisis, to people who have lost a loved one. People don’t know what to say or what to do, so they say and do nothing. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of vanishing on people who thought they could count on me, too. However, acknowledging that I feel a loss of something that was important to me can’t possibly be what I’m supposed to take away from this latest experience.

I’m starting to think that what I should be learning here is not to become jaded by the loss of people in my life, because it happens to everyone. It happens every day, in a million ways, but I refuse to let it color the way I view people or the world. People move on, they come in and out of our lives and it’s okay to let them go. More importantly, I will not let it prevent me from continuing to pour into people I care about, and when I do land in a new professional role I will pour into that new role with enthusiasm. The fear of being hurt or left behind or not being appreciated is not going to deter me from being a dedicated, caring, loving person, because without that what is the point?

Finally, the last lesson here is one that began a couple of years ago but continues to weave through this part of our lives. Carli was selling a truck and a couple stopped by to look at it. We did not end up selling them the truck, but these people have become our good friends. They were some of the first people I reached out to when things turned upside down in January. Their concern and caring is consistent and genuine; Carli and I feel supported by them and we gladly return the support and kindness. The randomness of how we met proves to me that when people are supposed to be in your life, they will get put in your path no matter what! So maybe the lesson is to stop feeling sorry for myself, realize that not everyone is fickle, and trust that people will continue to come into our lives and enrich our lives in ways we never expected.

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