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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3 Lessons From My Mom On Her 68th Birthday

Happy birthday to Modern Mary's mother, Judith Elaine, patroness of living and travel, literature and art.

Happy birthday to Modern Mary’s mother, Judith Elaine, patroness of living and travel, literature and art.

July 15, 1948 was the day my life became a possibility. It was a full 29 years before I was born.

It was in Youngstown, Ohio. It was the day my mother, Judith Elaine, was born.

I’m sad I don’t know much more about that day than the date. But I know enough about what came after.

I know that was the day the beautiful, creative, kind, intelligent and profoundly generous spirit who became a daughter, sister, wife, mother, cousin, friend, teacher, editor and volunteer was born.

Each year since her death, I do my best to honor her birthday. It’s a challenge because it’s a day mixed with joy and pain.

I bounce between internal reflections of her personal influence on me and external sharing about the values her life embodied and the lessons she taught us with her fully manifested Judy-ness.

My mom treasured three things above all others in her life (besides her family, which was at the top of her list). Embedded in her passion for these three things are many lessons for each of us.

They were:

  • Travel
  • Literature
  • Art

Travel was a full-body and soul experience for my mom. It gave my mother the chance to step outside her life, to traipse beyond the rigors of raising four children, working and keeping pace with her frenetic routine. It gave her the chance to breathe in the ambiance, the art and the literature of the places she roamed. It opened her mind, her soul and her heart to new possibilities. It gave her reprieve from her constant giving and allowed her to receive, to fill back up.

She was no tourist. She experienced the places she visited: rambling through shops for hours on end, purchasing huge, heavy objects de arte my Dad deemed impossible to get home, sat at cafes, read books by local authors, talked to servers and docents and desk clerks. More than that, she applied her imagination to the place. She mused over if she could live there, what her life would look like if she did, where she would shop, what the local flora was like and how the morning air felt on her skin.

In her 62 years, she did not have the travel footprint she wanted. There were so many places yet for her to experience.

Literature consumed my mom, it was a daily indulgence for her. She ate it up, and it fed her in a most glorious way. One of my most powerful images is of her sitting up in bed at night in her pajamas, with her glasses on, knees up, reading, a hot cup of Earl Grey tea gently steaming on the antique dresser that served as her bedside table. Most likely a tea cookie or two, which she stashed stealthily in cabinets we kids couldn’t get to, would be waiting next to her tea. This was her sacred space. This was the most zen Mom.

Words, books, were an escape, a constant revealer and a companion. She read everything, and was a lover of the word. She took large canvas totes of books to the beach with her every summer. She had a stack of at least 50 books on her bedside, next to her bedside, in her car, and under her bed. Selecting books to take on a trip was a challenge and required a trip to the library for just the right read. My mom knew how to release into a time and place invented or real, and she had an uncanny talent for finding just the right book at just the right time.

Her writing reflected this consumption. Although a great loss in her life was that she never viewed herself as a writer the way she rightfully should have. She wrote legendary letters and cards, brief but meaningful notes for her sleeping children in the summers before she left for her part-time job as an editor. She was a master linguist who also had the ability to infuse heartfelt directness in her written words.

Art was a place of surrender for my mom. Each city she visited included a surrender to the power of the local art museum. In her mid-life, even with four small children in school, and very little free time, she spent precious hours and days training to become a docent at the Phoenix Art Museum. All too soon, she had to resign for lack of time.

I will never forget our post-high school graduation trip to France, and the long, meandering daily trips to the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, the Georges Pompidou. We’d learn all we could about the artwork, the artists, the times in which they lived, and swap stories, wide-eyed in front of the masterpieces. We let our eyes and hearts be overcome by Gauguin’s lounging women and Monet’s Giverny bridges. We would dive in and ponder Dali’s off-kilter conglomerations of ideas and Picasso’s disjointed madonnas. Memories of those precious days feed me on days like today, as do the way my mom flung herself, headlong into the appreciation of the art.

She commissioned art from her friends who were artists. She bought sculpture or paintings or handcrafted items that spoke to her, regardless of where she was, how she would get them home, if my Dad liked them or not, and where they would go in their home. She explored her personality in art and let it be a reflection of her: quirky and joyful, dark and abstract, bright and bold.

She would have never admitted she was an artist, but she was. She took photographs, made elaborate cards, drew on hand-crafted wrapping paper, did amazingly intricate needlepoint, sewed clothing, and took drawing classes, calligraphy courses. She applied her artistic style to her amazing cooking talents as well – and once launched and ran a highly successful catering company for several years before resigning for lack of time.

Once a profoundly influential person you love leaves you, there’s abundant time for reflection upon their lives. I think about my mom and her life, every day. Each day, I’m extracting new lessons. I cast what I remember of the 34 years I spent with her in a variety of differing lights. I consider the angles that light casts, the shadows, the highlights, the mid-tones, and the dear, dear candlelight person she was to me.

Among many other sunbeams she cast, my mom’s life was a glowing illumination of full-fledged experience of travel, consumption of literature, the surrender to art. It is a recommendation to me (and each person she touched) to not just to go places or read things or look at art, but to

Experience

Consume

Surrender

your passions. And do it now.

You will have disappointments, be short-changed and confront regret. But by in large, if you push yourself into your loves, the example you set by living your passions will create a legacy of living your loved ones simply will never forget.

I know I won’t.

Happy Birthday, my dearest Mom. I love you.

There’s no (imperfect) place like home

As parents, we become poignantly aware of the briefness of childhood. Childhood is fleeting, ephemeral and its residue is comprised of the sweet sunbathed memories of swimming summer days away or bitter, gasp-ridden recollections of teasing, loss, maybe a first foray with death.20130620-120633.jpg

I know much of my role as a parent is to recognize the hyper-speed pace of childhood and do what I can to protect it, envelope it and, personally, to savor it. I work hard to make our home peaceful, loving, fun, as I view this as the hub of childhood experience. Even as I pursue this type of environment, sometimes all I can see are its shortcomings. The wall that needs repainting, the tile that we’ve been pining for the last nine years to replace, the original window in the kitchen that looks out, into the playroom. The lack of polish in the dining room: the weneeds of the place — “Weneed new furniture!” “Weneed new windows!” “Weneed a skylight here!”

Once in awhile my mother-bear-protection mode can make me blind to the sight childhood emotion provides my children.

A couple of months ago, Secondo and I are driving to pick up Prima from soccer practice. It’s nearing twilight of a spring day, the windows are open, the sun is slating at a forgive angle, dousing our town in soft light. Delighting music is playing our car, the breeze through the windows is perfectly warm. And I’m making a mental list of all the latest, most pressing weneeds — comparing our humble abode to the attractive, well-manicured homes I pass.

“Mommy!” Secondo calls, breaking my list-making. “What is the most beautiful house you have ever seen?”

I struggle to grasp my thinking and pull it into the moment. I create a quick catalog of all the places I have lived, all the countries and continents I’ve visited. Family homes, friend’s homes, homes we attended for a party, for a graduation, for a Cinco de Mayo fiesta.

“I don’t know, Secondo, I don’t know if I can think of just one. Homes are so different in different places and different styles. I guess it depends on what style, the place, things like that.”

She smiles, shakes her 5-year-old head of wavy honey-colored tresses. She gazes out the window, unconcerned with my qualified, complicated answer.

“I know mine,” she says. “It’s ours.”

Blammo.

As the ice-pick pierce of her childhood adoration of our imperfect home penetrates my heart and saltwater leaps to my eyes, I smile in spite of myself.
Sometimes, as adults, we see so many scenarios, so many possibilities and potentials, we miss what is, what abides, and what loves and loves and loves simply because it exists, as we made it, in the moment.

Two Years

Yesterday marked two years since my beloved mother’s spirit escaped from the suffering of cancer and joined the spirit of Great Love that fuels all.

 
Two years flew by. Two years crept. I am not the same person I was before. Neither is my Dad, my brothers, sisters, my husband, my children, nieces and nephews. Life is always changing, of course. Change is painful, because it requires us to shift our thoughts, accept harsh realities and rejigger our deeply held expectations (sometimes a bit, sometimes a lot). Evolving is uncomfortable and awkward but it can be miraculous — particularly in hindsight.
 
Life without my mom was once unfathomable to me. Since I can remember, which is very far back, I categorized that concept as impossible. Apparently, I was wrong. Life without my mom’s physical presence is possible. It has occurred. Her spiritual presence persists in my life and makes itself known in myriad ways, and I am thankful for these reminders. Her physical absence still represents a significant vacuum in our lives. (I think I speak for me and all of you reading this, too.) I continue to battle with that beast but I also have come to accept it a bit more. It enrages me, but I have made room for the absence, too.
 
I guess the absence has its purpose. Without it, would I recall the way her lovely (always cool) long fingers gently stroked on my face? Without it, would I hear her voice in my heart, like a song, calling my name, the names of our daughters, my nieces and nephews. Would I remember the way she would angle her head and smile at someone when she was really listening and wanted to show her sincere attention and concern? And then would I find myself doing the same (without consciously knowing it)? Without the absence, would I feel moved to cook her recipes, to read the books left untouched by her bedside, to reread her love notes and cards to me and my family over the years? Would I be able to recognize her smell when I pull on a sweater of hers, freshly taken from a box sealed up with her things? Maybe not. And that would be a true tragedy.
 
So I guess I must construct a truce with the absence.
 
I can definitively tell you that two years of additional life, love, laughter, pain, tears, joy, dancing, weddings, births, apologies, devotion, prayer, meditation, yoga, running, singing, cooking, baking, connection, new friends, enduring friendships, gardening, reading, writing, growing would not have been possible without you. 
 
Without the friends and family of each of us, without the friends of my mothers’ we never even knew, who remember her and carry her with them and who find it in their hearts to carry us, and love us, my Dad, my brothers and I would not be here today.
 
Without the love of family, the love of friends, the self-sacrifice required to hold us up, to accept us as we are (broken and healing, awkward and tentative) we would not have made it to this point. It is a debt of love we owe to the world because you have given us this gift of your love and friendship.
 
Thank you for keeping my mom’s memory with you, in your hearts, in your words, in your prayers. Thank you for loving us where we have been these last two years. 
 

Mary ama dormire (Modern Mary loves to sleep)

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love to sleep.

Whether waking or sleeping, Modern Mary makes sleep a priority. Postcard image by Trish Grantham

It might be in my genes. My father has always been a notorious sleeper. Give him 5 minutes in a comfortable chair, regardless of the hour, and he will give you a nap.

I’m not so much the napping type as I am the sleep-for-10-hours-at-a-time type. I often tell Mr. Bailey, “You know what I’d like to do? Sleep for two weeks.”

In times of stress, I like to head to bed around 9:30 and sleep, preferably, until 8 or 9 a.m.

If you’re a sleeper like me, you know dreams sometimes play a role in the experience.

Since my mom died, my dreams have become rich, offbeat and resonant parts of my nighttime routine.

It seems every suggestion or fear is immediately processed into my subconscious and put into the dream queue.

I’ve had a hard time adjusting to the absence of constant conversations with my siblings, the important conferring, the unity of our family as we fought cancer collectively. I am in the midst of deciphering what our family will be like now that my mother, the spoke, the emotional home of our unit, is gone.

In my midnight dreams, my three brothers and I are in my grandmother’s old house, together, sharing memories, looking around the dining room, theFloridaroom, laughing, when suddenly we hear the new owners arriving home. We all run into the yard, dashing like mad from our nostalgic breaking and entry.

I keep forgetting to put my hair up in rag curls at night!

I’m running blindly, trying to keep track of my brothers, desperate. Where have they gone? I catch flashes of their clothes as I dash down a set of stairs somewhere. We need to stay together, I insist.

Awake, I have fretted about the coming holidays, with their ties to home and family, memories like glittering lights on a twinkle string. They seem to illuminate only sadness without my mom.

At night, my third eye takes me to a future peculiarly reversed. It’s a future in which my father died instead of my mom. There we are in the midst of the holidays without him, all of us gathered where we always do – in my parent’s kitchen, surrounded by friends, family, trying to make sense of the first holiday without him.

In our daylight conversations, Mr. Bailey suggests we do something completely different and take a trip toNew Yorkright before Christmas.

As I lay sleeping, I dream we are stepping out of the airport into aNew York Citydecorated to the hilt with festive lights, swaying in a brisk winter wind. I feel the straps from the luggage I carry (with two kids we always have lots of luggage) dig into my shoulder as we cross a busy street to our hotel. Then we’re walking through a warm hotel, a corridor decorated with trees and ornaments and people milling, all sorts of people, here, and not home, for the holidays. It feels strange, exciting.

When I wake, I tell Mr. Bailey about myNew York dream.

“You are so impressionable,” he says, his eyes twinkling.

The dreams sometimes detract from the restfulness of my sleep, and sometimes enhance it. I wake with a sinking feeling so often it’s become a part of my morning routine. I imagine actually sinking into my bed, being swallowed by it. It’s not unpleasant.

Eventually, when all of the fantasies of slumber have been dislodged by the slanting soft light of morning, I get up. I RSVP for tonight to my sheets, my pillow, my comforter, my dreams.

Secondo v. Food

One of my earliest memories of Secondo is her smashed up newborn face pressed into my breast, glug, glug, glugging away on milk. She was immediately a good eater, and a little bit of a food oddball.

If only Secondo was so eager to eat...

When she got a little bit bigger, her nursing efficiency excelled. She wouldn’t even stop to cough. I still can’t figure out how she did it, but the child could cough while still latched on, spraying milk all over me, and her, and not miss the next glug.

Her second year brought an addiction to black beans, avocado and cherry tomatoes, halved. She only drank cow’s milk – preferably warmed in the microwave for 1 minute, even in the dead of summer. Altogether those foods were at least 50% of her daily diet.

Besides her Mr. Bailey and I, Prima, and our dog, Chance, milk has probably been the most consistently reassuring aspect of her young life.

Despite her food promiscuity in her second year, Secondo has regrettably become picky. She tends toward vegetarianism (fine by us), and relies upon the presentation of wheat- and dairy-based foods for needed sustenance.

Secondo’s food groups include: Annie’s Organic Mac & Cheese, cheese sticks, apples and peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat (crusts removed, please), plain pasta, cherry tomatoes, halved; mandarin and Clementine oranges and Pirate Booty.

Also, she chews her food longer than any other human being I’ve ever witnessed, particularly when she doesn’t particularly want to ingest it.

One night recently, I wanted to provide our youngest with some protein so I cut our freshly prepared teriyaki chicken into delicious bite-sized pieces and strongly encouraged her to, “Try some!” Smile, smile, smile, nod encouragingly.

After some cajoling, she dove into it. I grinned, smugly, and we began talking about the high points and low points of our day. A full 20 minutes later, Secondo began asking if she could be excused. As she asked, I spotted a flash of fleshy white tucked into the cheek of her mouth.

“Is that your chicken?!” I asked.

She dropped her chin and looked up at me through the top of her blue-green-gray eyes, nodding slightly.

“Chew and swallow, child! Chew and swallow!” I admonished, as Mr. Bailey and I shook our heads.

Several days later, Secondo got the chance to go out to lunch with my Dad.

At dinner later that evening, I asked her where they had gone.

“Papa took me to McDonald’s,” she whined, not being a big fan of the golden arches. “I had milk.”

“That’s all you had?” I asked, incredulous. She nodded solemnly.

“What did Papa have?”

“A fish sandwich.”

“Secondo, why didn’t you get something else to eat?” I inquired, as she sat not eating her dinner. “A hamburger or oranges or something?”

She shook her 4-year-old head of golden curls and placed both pudgy hands on the table, clearly exasperated by all my questioning.

“BEE-cause you don’t want me to eat things that aren’t FRESHhhhh!”

Sigh.

One day, we might unlock the key to Secondo’s curious appetite. Until then, we’ll just keep repeating, “Chew and swallow, Sisi, chew and swallow.”

 

The strange, beautiful world of Secondo

Each child comes equipped with their own attributes. Sometimes it is more appropriate to label these fine characteristics as peculiarities. I mean that in the best way possible.

As you are already aware, Prima’s got her penchant for destruction and re-creation, which is balanced by her rip-roarin’ imagination, her observational skills and her determination.

Secondo, meantime, is developing a keen sense of (ahem), theater, which when coupled with her blond ringlets, grey-green-blue eyes, pouty lips and blush colored cheeks can only spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Case in point: Mr. Bailey and I were recently doing the Modern George & Mary shuffle: a trip to Target for paper products, underwear and a gift for a birthday party, then a bounce over to another discount retailer to hunt down a pair of summer chic wedges. Secondo was un-enthralled with all of it. Typically a ride-along good sport, about halfway through the sojourn, she grew irritated. (Full disclosure: her tipping point was that nothing in our red plastic basket was for her.)

As we approached the Target check-out, Secondo’s occasional whimpering turned into a louder, mournful, and surprisingly conversational tone. Wondering if she had found another toddler in the same sandals and began a dialogue about her woe, I turned to locate the place of her pouting.

I found her, forehead flush against the filthy Target check-out mirror, (used to allow Target cashiers to spot any missing or hidden item on the bottoms of carts), chatting and sniffling away her woes. To herself.

Secondo's conversation with, who else? Herself.

Brow furrowed, she was con-versing – albeit to her mirror reflection, spilling out the fornlorn injustices of the day.

Truthfully, Mr. Bailey and I were entertained. She was cute, and funny. We giggled with each other, then cajoled and encouraged her to step away.

“Come on Secondo, let’s get moving,” we supplied. Nothing.

“Secondo, we’re all done here.” Mr. Bailey said a bit firmer.

Nada.

Not to be denied nor disturbed, she flat out ignored us for several minutes, diligently keeping up her —er— end of the discussion. We practically had to pry her away from the mirror, red-cheeked.

The catharsis continued in the shoe section of the next store, and was facilitated by a cleverly placed stool, allowing her to cup her sweet little face on her pudgy hands to discuss the intricacies of her grief with – herself. For a long time.

Finding no wedges chic enough, we tried the same routine to extricate Secondo from that mirror as well.

A rapt listener. And speaker.

Secondo, with her heels dug in against a wrong done to her, does not bend in quite the same way Prima will. Instead, her anger becomes a beautiful brood, like the darkest edges of cumulus storm clouds, stories high. The blooming brood is as quiet as those clouds, and just as dangerous, replete with her cherub countenance and blond ringlets.

It’s a perfect storm, I realized as Mr. Bailey playfully threw Secondo over his shoulder next to the athletic shoes. She’s enchanting – mad or happy, frustrated and alone or gleeful in mirrored glory.

As her mother, this particular peculiarity has me delighted – and very, very worried.