Are You A Not Enough Time Person?

Not Enough TimeWhen was the last time you could not wait to leave the presence of another person?

Do you remember when? Do you remember who? Do you recall that feeling of, ‘I cannot wait to get out of here and I don’t really care if I ever spent time with this person again’?

I do.

Now what’s important here is not really who that human was. That, dear reader, would undoubtedly lead us down a path devoid of positivity.

And I have another path in mind for us today.

So go back now, and grab on to that feeling of being done, of wanting to leave this person.

Be there. Feel it. Watch yourself retract. See how your heart leaves the room? How your spirit drifts and your mind begins planning your escape, then your next move, then how you’ll recover from it all?

Okay.

Now.

What I want you to do today is to consider its opposite.

Consider the feeling evoked by a recent email from my dad, marking the sixth anniversary of my mother’s untimely death at age 62.

“Six years without my Soulmate. Six years without your Mother. Even though she was in our lives from 32 to 48 years, it was not quite enough.”

Those words pierced me with the sharpest edge of their truth.

My time with my mom was not quite enough. Not for me, not for her. Not for my younger brother, who had 32 years with her, not for my oldest brother, who had 38. And not, heartbreakingly for my dad, who knew her almost his whole life, dated her off and on for six years, and who was married to her for 42 years.

Nope, it wasn’t enough. Not even close.

Wow. How lucky were we to have a mom and wife we could not get enough of.

This idea placed me into a whirl of awareness of the relationships in my life. How would they stack up to the idea of having enough time?

I examined.

From a full glass perspective, I could count seven people in less than a beat of my heart I could never have enough time with. Then another seven more, just as quickly, who I felt the same about. And on, and on.

There will never be enough time with my Dad. Never enough with my brothers.

I’m still charting my map of my husband of 15 years — the deep lakes of his soul, the valleys of his heart, the jagged terrain of his brain, the twisting canyon of his behavior and the winding ways of his peccadilloes, and I’ve known him for 19 years.

It’s fascinating work of which I am deeply and fervently engaged.

And that’s it. That’s the crazy thing.

Despite all we “know” as humans — about science, about the universe, about medicine, about disease, about the planets, about our solar system, about our ecosystem, about animals, about technology, about economics, about business, about art, and about history and about thermal dynamics and nanotechnology — we seem to be endlessly fascinated with one thing above all else: one another.

To the extent that spending a lifetime in a chosen person’s presence — is not enough for us.

And there’s ugliness in that time, too. There’s depression. There’s frustration, and hurt, and anger, and ineptitude and selfishness and meanness. In any relationship of depth, in moments, there are all those things.

I think I used a type of this Not Enough Time idea as a rubric when I was a young woman: I suddenly began to realize that if I didn’t really see the guy I was falling for as “boyfriend material” or — in my later years — as “husband material,” it was sort of a waste of my time to continue.

My challenge to you: how many of your relationships would fall into the Not Enough Time category?

How many people in your daily arm’s length can you say, confidently, you would not have enough time with? How many are the Not Enough Time types?

And are the people on your Not Enough Time list actually in your arm’s length on a regular basis?

It’s not a question designed to compel you to judge yourself, just to give you a new lens for how you are using your energy, how you are giving your heart, in what relationships and with what people.

And here’s a final one for you: Consider if you are the type of person who others assign that Not Enough Time label to.

I can say, in my time considering this one, it’s a big, deep, jarring question. It’s kicked my life, and the investment of my energy, into perspective.

Here’s hope.

My mom, a regular person with her faults and foibles, who suffered from deep states of melancholy at times, and experienced a rough home life as a child, and who came from a small town and a middle class upbringing with not a lot, and who occasionally yelled at us as kids and admitted to screwing up here and there as a parent, is on a lot of other people’s N.E.T. lists.

I know because these people, her Not Enough Time people, contact me.

They call me on the anniversary of her death and tell me how dearly they miss her, voices cracking. They visit me in my hometown when they come through. They tell me, openly, how being around me connects them somehow, to her, and thus feeds the part of them that misses her daily. They bless me with the compliment that being around me feels a bit like being around her, that I resemble her, that I echo her at times.

They write me notes and emails and cards and call me on my birthday all with the clear desire or expressed intention of having vicarious more time with Judy.

Not a few people, but at least a dozen — the ones who reach out regularly. And I know there are probably a least a dozen more who don’t reach out.

So, if my perfectly broken mother could inspire that connection to others, so can you. And so can I.

And we can do it with the time we have.

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Life & Death in a Movie Theater: What Beauty & the Beast Shook Loose In Me

In 1991, I turned thirteen.

I was well past cartoon years and yet when Beauty & the Beast hit the theaters, I saw it and fell absolutely in love with it. I’m not exactly sure why. I wasn’t then and am not now obsessed with Disney.

This is going to sound silly, but at the time it was pretty groundbreaking that the heroine of the Beauty & the Beast story was a brunette. I think it was Disney’s first animated major heroine since Snow White to sport dark locks. And Belle was a bookworm, and she was brainy and a little weird and creative (I could relate), and she refused to marry the most obviously available and interested guy. Instead, she fell for the tall, mysterious, desperate beast, who was gruff but well-educated and rich, and hidden away unjustly by a curse meant to teach him a lesson (oh, the dark romance of it!).

Also, he had an amazing library.

So, wow. It got me.

It got me to the extent that that Christmas, my older brother bought me a copy of the storybook. Remember, now, I’m 13. A freshman in high school, and desperately crushing on one of his friends who was a senior and who spent loads of time at our house but who never asked me out, despite hints and hours of flirting and acres of pining.

In the storybook inscription, my brother in all his 16 year-old-wisdom wrote that he thought I was too young to be pursuing love, and that most often it doesn’t work out anyway. But that sometimes it does, like in the case of he and his girlfriend. Barf. And that if it ever didn’t work out for me I could read the storybook and be comforted. It was sweet.

The 40-year-old me thinks it’s all rather interesting.

In fact, I can’t get the whole Beauty & the Beast thing out of my mind.

It’s just a weird loop.

The night after the latest Disney version of Beauty & the Beast came out, I took my two daughters, one of whom is now 13, to see Disney’s latest rendition of Beauty & the Beast in the theater.

Since my girls had put on a production of the show at their theater this year, they were positively giddy over it. They’d been counting down the days until the premier for weeks. They’d been asking when we would go. They had been swapping stories about how much they missed their production, how the Hollywood actors would play the characters, how it would all come across.

We bought Reese’s Pieces and gummy worms at the drugstore before we went. We shared an extra large popcorn and got to the theater in plenty of time to get properly settled.

As the movie started, I looked down the aisle at my daughters’ screen silvery faces. Their glee, their pleasure at being immersed in the story, the moment they leaned together to whisper a something to one another instantly sparked a river of joy in me.

Time slowed, I heard my breath in my brain and felt my heart beating in my mouth. It shook something loose in me.

And I saw something. A flicker.

I am a mother of two daughters. One of who is as old now as I was when I first saw this movie. How is this possible?

It was more than a bit stunning.

But it wasn’t just the passage of time that threw me.

It’s the fact that I am still the same person — but not at all — as when I was that 13-year-old girl watching Beauty & the Beast the first time.

I remember being 13 because I remember pining after my brother’s good friend and waiting for him to ask me to the homecoming dance, which he never did. I remember wondering why. I also remember my best friend. How we started high school together and took almost all the same classes and felt so stressed and overwhelmed and made all the same friends and how we tried out for the basketball team together. I remember being 13 because I remember loving Beauty & the Beast and relating to Belle, and memorizing all the words to all the songs.

The 13-year-old me had high hopes for love, but no vision at all that 27 years later, I would be married to my own version of “Beast” for 15 years and sitting in a movie theater with a 13 year-old of my own.

And yet, there I sat, the very same person. Or not.

I’ve been reading Deepak Chopra’s The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life for the last few weeks.

The last chapter I read was entitled, Death Makes Life Possible. It reads, “Each of us is dying every day, and the moment known as death is really just an extension of this process. … The person you are today isn’t the same person you were when you were ten years old. Certainly your body has changed completely from that of the ten-year-old. None of your molecules in your cells are the same, and neither is your mind. … In essence, the ten-year-old you once were is dead. … The reason that life seems continuous is that you have memories and desires that tie you to the past, but these too are ever-shifting. … You are dying at every moment so that you can keep creating yourself.”

I love this concept, because it feels so real and right to me.

Life is death. Death is life.

We are all dying and being born anew at every moment. Literally and figuratively.

And it’s in the moments when a talisman from the past becomes part of the present again that time seems to slow down.

Flickering.

In that space, we are suddenly an observer to the surreal passing of these two selves, reflections in opposing mirrors, a momentary glimpse of a face in a car traveling in an opposite direction, with perhaps just time enough for half a wave of recognition.

In that space, we are given a disappearing glance down the hallway of our lives/deaths, of the moments of joyous rebirth and of devouring mourning, the decay of past selves and the vibrant aliveness of living now.

All in a moment, sitting in the movie theater, as I stared at my 13-year-old, a perfect profile in flickers of silver light.

The Battle of the Tween

Once I locked my chocolate eyes on the dark round version of my Prima’s, I became filled with certainty of the connection we shared. I cannot forget the long first days, weeks and sleepless nights we shared trying to figure one another out.

She was wild and sweet, with a million distinct and curling dark brown eyelashes I knew by heart by day two.eyelash closeup

She knew me immediately and wanted me, and wanted me to know she was brave and centered and tuned into everything I felt. I knew because I felt everything she did, too.

There was never any emotional pretense between us.

Recently, Prima did something I had been expecting – she grew into a young lady. Or a grown girl. Not sure which, yet, but somewhere in between.

It happened gradually at first and Mr. Bailey and I expressed our nervousness with gentle teasing, whispered conversations and calm anticipation.

Then one morning our baby girl woke up and she was no longer little. At all. She became a pre-teen over night.

I was prepared.

Turns out, my mental preparation was crap. The pre-teen years are an emotional ambush. Mentally prepare all you want – it’s not really going to help you. Once you’ve been summoned to the battlefield you better be wearing emotional body armor and have a damn good backup plan. Or three.

In the wake of one moonrise and set, Prima was completely embarrassed by me, wanted me to disappear, needed my total attention and sage advice and seethed loathing at me.

And that was only the first morning.

Hurtled into the fighting, I felt woefully inadequate. It all seemed familiar and yet so foreign. It all made sense (I had been a pre-teen girl once, too) and it made absolutely no sense at all.

I screwed up my courage and got through the first few skirmishes with only a few minor injuries, with Mr. Bailey running the occasional air cover sortie.

'It's a twelve year old whiskey.' (I want more pocket moneyI'm boredI hate you.)

‘It’s a twelve year old whiskey.’ (I want more pocket moneyI’m boredI hate you.)

Once things seemed to stabilize for Prima, I retreated to my foxhole and completely lost my shit. How was I ever going to get through this? Just what were the rules of engagement? How was I supposed to be equal parts confidante, enemy, friend, mom, sex ed advisor, and understanding listener while avoiding any major, life-changing screw ups? Far from ever considering myself a perfect mom, I sensed the real risk of truly messing up like a looming offensive ground maneuver.

It reminded me of overcoming some of those early parenthood stages – night feedings and toilet training – only to find yourself smack in the middle of more – the biting stage and night terrors!

Parenting Prima hadn’t felt like that in quite awhile. Third, fourth and fifth grades had been pretty happy and smooth. She was confident, independent and fun to be around. And she liked us. She liked me a lot. She even told me once her friends thought I was cool!

But that time was gone.

Feeling the absence of my mom, I reached out to a friend for advice. Sobbing my woes to her over the phone in crackling voice, she heard me out. “What if I don’t get this right?!” I gulped.

“But you will,” she said.

“How? Why?”

“Two things: because your heart is in the right place, and you’re trying to do the right thing and you truly love her. And because you are Judy’s daughter and you learned from the best. You didn’t always think your mom was perfect or that she did right by you, but she set a wonderful example for you, and that’s what you’re doing for Prima. Let all that love guide you.”

Oh. So. That was pretty good advice.

A couple days later, Prima started liking me again – at least in the privacy of our home.

I soaked it in, knowing what a cunning opponent she could be – and snuck into her room that night to count her eyelashes.

Birthdays that end in 0

Do you have that person in your life, family or friend, you look up to?

They’re just enough older, prettier, wiser or more with it, than you.

You admire them publicly. Privately you adore them and wish you shared a larger portion of their special brand of magic.Image

For me, that person is my oldest brother, B. He’s turning – well it might be overstepping to say – he’s celebrating a big birthday today. So in between Prima’s strep throat, Secondo’s back-to-school malaise, torturous make-up homework, Mr. Bailey’s job interviews and remodeling our Dusty Rose (Modern Mary’s name for our humble abode) I’ve been meditating on B and how best to mark this big day.

Here’s one of B’s least favorite things to do now that he’s a certain age: talk about himself. (I could remind him here how between the ages of 13 and 18 all he did was talk about himself, his goals and his ambitions, but I won’t. Turns out, being ambitious paid off.) So I figure I can do the talking for him. As a sort of birthday gift from me, he gets words. My words, about him.

B is:

  • Driven
  • Charismatic
  • Ambitious
  • Deeply caring
  • Tenacious
  • Self-deprecating

He’s the guy you call at 2 a.m. in college when a boy breaks your heart. (Thanks, B.)

He’s the one who:

  • Flies in at the last minute
  • Breaks the news
  • Makes the plan
  • Goes for it
  • Leaves no one behind

Here’s what B. won’t do:

  • Let you down
  • Not show up
  • Quit (sometimes when you really want him to.)

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Before you go hitting another blog, rest assured B’s no saint. We’ve had our shouting matches. He’s been wrong about important things. He’s picked fights, stirred up conflict and tried to wring my neck when I was a kid and drew sunglasses on a photo of his girlfriend. (Sorry, B!) I’ve been so pissed at him I once told him to shut up (the ultimate insult in our we-can-always-talk-everything-out-civilly family) and really meant it. He’s also stubborn and persistent in an occasionally irritating way.

But he’s also endlessly optimistic, charming and understanding and a real advocate for anyone who needs an advocate (street kids, homeless, our mom when she was fighting cancer). And he’s always, always, always puts his family first. As the big brother of a big brood, who now has a brood of his own, I’m overjoyed to see all of his herding, shielding, representing first born instincts now at play with his sweet children. B is a great dad and husband, from my vantage point.

B won’t share all about his successes (many). Instead, he’s known in our family circle as a riotous teller of hilarious what-could-go-wrong-next real-life stories that happen to him. Frequently.

B told me earlier this week that one thing he’s learned about getting to an age ending in a 0 is you have to work at lot harder to maintain what you’ve got. I laughed and agreed. (As it turns out, getting the things we want in life doesn’t put us on the Coast setting. Damn!)

But here’s what I think. Getting older is only improving B. And it’s making the lives fortunate enough to be within his sphere, a little bit sweeter as he goes.

Happy Birthday, B.

The Baileys become, Those People

Before you have kids you think, “I will never be Those People.”

Those People are the ones the childless you observe “allowing” their children to misbehave in public, coddling their children with bribes (“If you’re good while we shop, Mommy will let you have M&Ms.”) and forcing their screaming children to do something they clearly do not want to do – like ride a semi-scary amusement park ride.

Not too long ago, Mr. Bailey and I became Those People. Full disclosure: I’m sure this isn’t our first foray, but it is the most egregious in recent memory.

Instead of staying home over Thanksgiving holiday we uncharacteristically decided to visit the most popular amusement park in theUnited States. We did this purely out of a desire to avoid the sadness of my first major holiday without my Mom. We had good reasons.

That’s what justified spending more than we should have on park tickets, hotel and food; the majority of the cost lying in the park-highway-robbery-tickets.

So when some of the most amusing of the amusements enticed, we tried to casually saunter into the line despite Prima’s mild protests. As we wove through the cavern-like line at a pleasingly brisk pace, Prima’s protests grew more urgent. Secondo, suddenly tuning into her kid counterpart’s anxiety, also began to chirp.

Mr. Bailey and I tried strategy No. 2 at that point: cajoling. We assured Prima it would be fun, we pointed out the other children in line, much younger than her, who looked excited: we mentioned out how smiley people were as they exited.

No dice. Prima’s protests became more urgent. Her already dominating brown eyes grew larger with fear as we approached the end of the wait to board. We could see dug heels lurking in Secondo’s eyes. (Prima’s dug heels are usually negotiable, Secondo’s are not. Ever.)

Rounding the last bend, we tried strategy No. 3: ignoring. Mr. Bailey and I talked about how excited we were, how this was our most favorite ride ever, how we were never ever scared on the ride. We expected Prima to quiet down and listen intently to what we said. Instead, she squared her jaw and began chatting, “no, no, no, no!”

Finally, as we neared the ride loading gate, we became Those People. As the park attendees eyed us sadly, and with the triple-digit cost of park tickets in mind, I took a firm hold of Prima’s wrists, and said, “Prima, come ON! Stop-shouting-It’ll-be-fun-I-promise-I’ll-buy-you-a-souvenir-if-you-do-it!” As she simultaneously shouted, “No-Mommy-no-Mommy-I-don’t-want-to-Mommy-please-no-please-no!” Mr. Bailey scooped up Secondo in the same moment this occurred, placed her in the ride and sat down with her.

Suddenly, I looked up to at least a dozen eyes on me as I attempted to physically push my terrified 8-year-old daughter into an amusement park ride. For the sake of – ahem – fun, and, let’s be honest, cost justification, and selfishness. Even Secondo looked at me, shocked.

It was the shock that got me.

“Let’s go,” I murmur, ashamed.

A kindly attendant gestured to her right.  “You can walk over this bridge to exit the ride.”

Mr. Bailey and Secondo unbuckled and hurriedly joined us for a whole new walk of shame.

It took several moments for the mortification to slough off me.

When it did, I saw the world in a new light: through the eyes of Those People.