unprofessional networking

Until the last few years I’ve seen myself as a bohemian mother, artist, memory maker and caretaker/gatekeeper of developing minds. I’ve viewed my life’s work as the unrealized career of a woman who struggles with organization and focus…not anymore. Actually now that I even saw myself like that, it seems like total bullshit.

I thought as my children grew up that they might be disappointed in me that I didn’t have a traditional career. Talk of the other moms who were doctors, lawyers or therapists sometimes resulted in a sense of less than for me. I assumed my children would all want the total opposite of my life—high powered jobs with days spent kickin’ ass and taking names. Not days filled with kids, carpools, chores, errands, creative work (rarely sold), homemaking and hanging out with friends.

I know many families are unable to have a parent at home, a luxury indeed (especially regarding health insurance). However, increasingly folks find themselves in work/home situations that require a lot of strategy to keep things humming along. Commuting to other cities during the week, working remotely, running home businesses or freelancing are such common scenarios of modern life.

Now, five months into the identity shift of my empty nest, I thankfully see those family years so differently. Creating a home, trying to model a healthy marriage, nurturing my community, making art and being the historian-in-chief was an education deeply connected to my values and interests, there wasn’t a moment wasted (OK, maybe a few).

My years of unprofessional networking created my superpowers.

The world should watch out for parents who stayed home to raise their families. We maybe don’t have the references, titles or 401Ks that our peers have. However, we’re digitally savvy, well practiced in the art of endless diplomacy, good listeners and mighty grateful when our efforts are acknowledged. And now with the dailyness of busy family life behind us, we can do damn near anything.

homesteading my psyche

At fifty-two, I feel betwixt and between, no longer young and not yet old. Looking back I can see my life as remarkably valuable training and experience. To hell with regrets. I can’t change a damn thing. I know myself much better in midlife and that’s truly a gift. I also know I still have a lot to learn.

Like my prairie ancestors, I have an inherent longing now to settle or “prove up” one hundred and sixty acres. A sort of cognitive Homestead Act of my midlife psyche. A bit of a gamble, rife with elements of uncertainty, the heady buzz of adventure and the resilience to know I can handle whatever comes my way.

Funny to think about cognitive growth using these terms. However, metaphorically, it works pretty well. Claim my section. Select the crop.  Prep the land. Plant the seeds. Irrigate. Fertilize. Monitor growth. Harvest. Review.

These 3 simple questions help me often and perhaps might’ve helped my prairie ancestors as well. The trick is being able to actually answer them.

What’s working?

What’s not?

What’s next?

Homestead Act of 1982 “…and that such an application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use of any other person or persons whomsoever…he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified.”    

horizontal mystery ship—for Dad

HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP

when you leave at seventeen
rarely home
more than two weeks at a time 
months, years and decades
can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood

only once
in the summer of ‘88
a recent college grad
wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled
my tonsils required more
I stayed a whole month

once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas
off to the southern hemisphere
a young pioneer 
in search adventure
and different stars

now, when visiting 
after a lifetime lived elsewhere
grey hairs visible
no matter my efforts
I find myself
sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts

driving Dad’s truck 
windows down, hair blowing 
mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty 
the prairie 
a determined cellular homesteader 
forever staking a claim in my blood and bones

I want to sneak out to the bar
play Space Invaders
sadly, no longer a standard
unlike 1982
drink beer, eat junk food
and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up

Looking back with midlife sensibilities 
I realize
those late nights in high school
tenth grade, I believe
laser focused, playing Space Invaders
provided a surprisingly valuable education 

initials entered, quarters stacked
protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens
monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance 
my peripheral vision unknowingly trained 
to notice things beyond immediate scope
bonus points pinged
while friends waited impatiently

twenty more minutes, please

under a waning August moon
only one lunar phase ago
I was still my father’s daughter
a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager
pretending time actually plays tricks
wanting desperately to disregard reality 

one more visit on the calendar
one more phone call
cheeseburger or ice cream cone 
one more evening watching
Everybody Loves Raymond
M.A.S.H. 
or Mayberry RFD

twenty more minutes, please

quarters stacked no longer
Space Invaders
the nearly forgotten teenage relic 
of a heartbroken
fifty-something
fatherless daughter

once again, 
I am protecting my bunkers
monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship
paying very close attention
to what's just beyond my immediate scope

just twenty more minutes, please

my modern fresco

fresco noun
1. a painting done rapidly (not so rapidly actually) in watercolor (interior latex & acrylic) on wet (old) plaster on a wall or ceiling, so that the colors penetrate the plaster and become fixed as it dries.
________________________________________________
My twin girls are graduating soon and I’m feeling nostalgic.
I’m not surprised I had a little trouble prioritizing things this week.
I focused on this instead, the other stuff will get done somehow.
Getting up at 4:15 to paint with the birds chirping was pure joy.
Below is the evolution & some details of the painting.
I haven’t felt “painterly” for a long time.
I do now.

Lisa Lillibridge's modern fresco

 

 

Thank you Ruby, Lena & BHS YES (year end studies) program.

I was very inspired talking about art and process.

Please Note:  I’m off FACEBOOK, please contact me through e-mail, not messenger.

fledge, far more than just a verb.

My twin girls are graduating from high school in a few weeks.

We noted when they were born that they would be the Class of 2018.

 Lucy is on the left & Willa on the right—one hour old.

FLEDGE verb (Merriam Webster)

1: to rear until ready for flight or independent activity

This definition of fledge, makes the process sound so simple, so animal.  I’m finding that this process is not so simple and requires some emotional skills far beyond natural animal instincts.  A few questions keep coming up for me.

What do I need to let go of now?

What’s at stake by holding on to my girls too tightly?  Too loosely?

What relationships do I desire moving forward?

Who am I when I no longer have kids at home?

I’m allowing myself to grieve the end of this stage of family life.

I know I won’t hang out in this emotional space forever.

If I stuff these feelings, they’ll leak out in remarkably weird ways.

Perhaps even weirder than usual lately.

_______________________________________________________________

Congratulations to fledglings throughout the land.

Happy Graduation 2018!

 

 

top rack only

On this Mother’s Day, I really wanted to be honest with myself about it all. Mothering my kids has been heart-shatteringly beautiful and sometimes just plain heart-shattering, without the beauty part to soften the daily blows. 

I can’t change anything and regret is a waste of energy anyway.  If I try to tamp the regrets down, I know they will leak out in uncomfortable ways at inconvenient times. 

Recently I noticed the TOP RACK ONLY button on the dishwasher.  “Jeff and I will be a top rack only couple probably a few nights a week when the girls leave for college.”  When I said this to myself, it made me cry inconsolably.  Damn, that’s bleak.  

These episodes are getting more frequent now as our nest nears it’s emptying…clearly a time for a little extra grace. 

When Ellis, Lucy and Willa were growing up, I often did a quick review at the end of the day, asking myself one simple question: Did I love them more than I was pissed off at them?  I don’t remember ever answering, NO.  It was all the encouragement I needed to wake up and mother them another day.

Happy Mother’s Day 2018!

what we pay attention to matters & grows.

I’ve wasted some time not understanding (or maybe believing) this simple concept.  Every day we wake up with a choice to be made, even when it doesn’t feel like a choice.

choices and attention lisa lillibridgeWho wants to wake up in the morning highly attuned to the things that make them feel like crap?  I honestly don’t, and yet, sometimes I do that to myself.

I want my anger and resentment some days.  I really want to hang out in the house of pain and suffering on occasion.  In the last few years though, I’ve increasingly become aware of the toll those days take on me and everyone in my orbit. My dark days will obviously never go away completely, but thankfully, by noticing where my attention is directed, those days are finally getting to be fewer and far between.

Once I noticed my habits and patterns I couldn’t possibly un-notice them. 

Damnit, I tried pretty hard.  Trust me, I gave it a really good shot.

I love that knowledge can be brilliantly sneaky that way.

Good luck noticing, folks.

A NOTE OF COMPASSION:  Many people suffer with devastating, lasting sadness that requires way more than just noticing habits and patterns.  I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s experience.  I’m only sharing what’s been helpful to me.  I struggle with the blues, not prolonged clinical depression.

elusive sleep & alien identity theft

Sometimes I’m unable to sleep because I’m so jazzed about something I’m working on that sleep seems like a waste of time.  However, this time it’s something else.  Lisa Lillibridge alien inside myselfI’m pretty sure it has to do with closing in on fifty-one, hormones, grief, puzzling rage, extraordinary joy, occasional alien identity theft and letting go.

Sometimes it all actually feels this alien to me and I barely recognize myself.  I know that non middle-aged women tend to believe (at least from my experience) that menopause is an excuse to explain away shitty behavior, lack of energy or out of the blue tears.  It’s really not an excuse and it’s often as confusing to me as it is to my poor family.

A generation ago, it was less frequent that Moms would be going through menopause with teenagers still in the house.  Not that it didn’t happen, but it was less common.  I feel sort of sorry for my twin daughters right now.   My relationship was different with their brother.  He was not twins.  He was never a 17-year-old girl.  He’s not living at home right now.  He was not a mirror to me the way my girls are.

My girls are living with the Many Faces of Mom during their stressful last year of high school.  Sometimes I freak out thinking that I haven’t taught them what they need to know before they head off to college in a year. I have to trust that I have and allow them to learn the rest on their own.  It’s time to let go a little bit more.

However, I feel like after going through pregnancies, nursing and giving up my sense of self to care for these little monsters (that I heart breakingly love) that I’m due a little break now.  Is that so wrong?  Isn’t that what menopause is?  Transition from one stage to another.

Nothing in my life has been as dramatic of a shift as becoming a Mom…and now in some weird way, when my girls are a year away from leaving home, my body is making me feel like I’m in the first trimester of my pregnancy.

Fatigue. Uncertainty.  Cravings.  More fatigue.  Headaches and more even uncertainty.

Nature’s cruel joke or a reminder of how tied to them I am on a cellular level?

 

It’s the last day of school…

here in Burlington, Vermont.  My twin girls will be seniors next year so I’m heading into my last year of parenting kids in high school.  I’m finding myself feeling uniquely nostalgic.  I’m not sad about the inevitable transition, but I am mindful.

Last Day of School Lucy and Willa

I have friends whose oldest or only children are graduating on Friday.  It’s big.  When my son graduated from high school in 2014, I was sort of a mess.  I believe there’s just something about transitions that requires us to take stock of our emotions.

The summer between my junior year and senior year of high school was rough for me.  I had a lot of friends in the class above me and they were all leaving for college and other adventures.  Every time during their senior year when we played a ball game, sang in a concert or went to the drive-in movie theater it felt like we were saying goodbye to our childhoods.

Last weekend in South Dakota I got to spend time with some of those friends who graduated a year ahead of me.  It was great!  I simply cannot believe how much time has passed…1983 and 1984 just don’t seem all that long ago in some ways.  I’m very aware of how my daughters are feeling this last summer before they graduate from high school…perhaps even a little too aware.

I guess to honor life’s transitions, we need to slow down a little and try to understand what it is we’re feeling…the good, the bad and the slightly confusing.

Happy Graduation Class of 2017!

 

VIDA added a photograph…

to my collection.  I haven’t seen this scarf printed yet.  I’ve placed an order though.  It’s one of my favorite photographs that I’ve ever taken.  I shot this one week after my 50th birthday.  I didn’t intend for the title—fading beauty to sound like a lament of any kind.  I truly find beauty when things are “fading” and changing.  Although I miss a few things about being younger, I was fine saying goodbye to my forties.  I like my fifties…so far anyway.

I wanted to share the image.  Here’s the link to my site.

https://shopvida.com/collections/lisa-lillibridge