Welcome to my life

Susan M - February 22, 2007

*WARNING: Massive navel gazing ahead.*

I’ve been having a bit of a mid-life crisis lately. I’m 36 and I feel like time is slipping by way too fast. My kids are almost grown (oldest is 17, youngest is 12), and there’s so much I wanted to do for and with them that I haven’t been able to. I decided after New Year’s that I wanted this year to be the best year ever, a year I could look back on and think, “2007, that was the year I…” Fill in the blank with some great (or even just good) thing. So far, I’ve started a music podcast (which only increases my dork factor), and I made an important decision about a long-term goal, but that’s about it.

I find myself looking back over my life a lot and mostly thinking, “Man, that really sucked.”

Honestly, it seems like most of my life is a blur. The other day I sat down to try to write up a simple timeline of major events in my life, just to help me sort things out a bit. Here’s what I came up with. (I tried to keep it short, believe it or not.)

June 4, 1970: I am born.
I had two older sisters and two older brothers when I was born. My oldest sister was 15 years old. My oldest brother, age 13, was about to be put into a foster home because he was what was referred to at the time as “incorrigible.”

June 24, 1974: My little brother is born.
My earliest memory is of my mom and my oldest sister being pregnant at the same time, when I was 3. My sister got married at the age of 17 to a man who was 31 (one year younger than our mom). He was also a heroin addict and an escaped convict. My little brother has a niece who is 4 months older than he is.

February 21, 1980: My grandfather dies.
I only remember meeting him once. I felt guilty for not feeling more sad when I heard he’d died—of lung cancer. He originally had cancer in his mouth from smoking and had part of his tongue and lip removed. He had to be fed through a tube up his nose. This is the main reason I’ve always avoided cigarettes.

Sometime around summer, 1980: My nephew dies.
He was about 2 or 3 years old. I wasn’t allowed to go to his funeral.

March 10, 1985: I meet my husband for the first time.
I met him on our way to a Cure concert. He was a friend of my older brother. I was 14, he was 15.

June 4, 1986: I meet U2 on my 16th birthday.
My parents let me fly on my own to San Francisco to stay with a penpal. She lived right downtown and knew where to go to meet all the rock stars. We saw them play the Conspiracy of Hope tour.

June 4, 1988: My husband and I go on our first date.
It was my 18th birthday. My family had cake and presents for me, I blew out the candles, and everyone split. I called Daniel to see if he wanted to go somewhere. He came to pick me up, saw the cake, and asked whose birthday it was. I felt stupid telling him it was mine. We went to Lincoln Park, on the Puget Sound, and I took pictures of him.

December 23, 1988: I am baptized.
My husband baptized me. I don’t remember much from the service, except that his family all participated. I know his brother gave a talk on the Holy Ghost. What I remember most vividly is what it felt like to go under the water, and what it felt like coming up out of it: like a burial and a ressurrection.

Winter 1988/1989: My grandmother dies.
I can’t remember exactly when she died. But it was cancer, and she died when it entered her brain. My mom was with her when she passed.

February 4, 1989: We get married.
I don’t remember much from our wedding. Daniel’s dad was the Bishop, and he married us. Daniel’s mom was the Bishop’s wife, and she basically planned the wedding. I didn’t care much about the details at the time, but later regretted having my wedding colors be pink and light blue.

February 6, 1989: We move to Hawaii.
Daniel had a job offer there from a former boss. He’d been there for a year to attend BYU before we dated. So we took off for Hawaii with about $2,000 and airline tickets that included 2 nights at a hotel. We were 19 and insane. The first two nights we stayed in the hotel. The third night we stayed in his old roommate’s car. The fourth night we found an apartment. I called a number we’d seen posted on a community bulletin board in Laie, and when the land lady asked, “Are you LDS?” I knew we’d be ok.

August 1989: I’m pregnant—We move back to Seattle.
Again: 19 and insane. We move into an apartment with some friends as roommates until the baby is born.

March 15, 1990: Our first son is born.
He is perfect in every way. We move into my parents’ house until we can get our own place.

~Summer/Fall 1990: We move to downtown Tacoma.
We wanted to rent a house, and we discovered if you’re willing to put up with gunfire on the streets, gang members stashing drugs in your garage, and men driving by asking for a “date” when you’re walking down the street, downtown Tacoma was very affordable.

~Fall 1990: My second oldest niece comes to live with us.
Her mom, my sister, was unable to take care of her, so we took her in. She was 15 years old. I didn’t really parent her, since she was only 5 years younger than me, but I did ask her to tell me if she needed birth control, since when she moved in with us her older sister and SIX of her teenage friends had all gotten pregnant. She said no, no, she’d never be that stupid.

I was the stupid one—I believed her.

December 1990: My brother dies.
He had cancer. It went into remission, and then a few weeks later it had spread all over. He died while under hospice care in my parents’ living room. It was a couple weeks after his 34th birthday.

June 7, 1991: We are sealed in the temple.
Nathaniel was a year old. I was 7 months pregnant. Daniel had a bad temple experience and went inactive.

July 8, 1991: My sister dies.
Seven months after my brother died. My dad called me at work to break the news. She was schizophrenic and living in a halfway house when it happened. They found her dead on the floor of her room in the morning. An autopsy was done to rule out suicide, because she’d attempted it more than once before, and they’d found pills in her pocket. It took awhile for the results to come back, but her death was ruled natural causes. She was 33 years old.

She died the day before my other sister’s birthday.

July 30, 1991: Our daughter is born.
She was like a ray of sunshine for everyone (and still is). We named her for my grandma: Catherine Elizabeth.

July 23, 1992: My niece’s son is born.
She moved to Hawaii with her boyfriend just after finding out she was pregnant, without telling anyone she was expecting. She was 16. She called me a month or two later to break the news, and I realized she’d run off to Hawaii because she’d been afraid to tell me she was pregnant. I told her to come home and we’d help her out. She moved back in with us and applied for government assistance. When her son was born, she moved into her own apartment. She was 17.

September 22, 1992: My grandfather dies on his 60th wedding anniversary.
That sounds horrible, but it actually was a good thing for my grandma. A big celebration had been planned for that day, so everyone who was going to be there was able to be there for her to help her deal with his death.

Sometime in 1993: I eat some candybars and realize I’m pregnant.
I’d had gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy, so I knew what diabetes was like. I ate some candybars, got thirsty and thought, “This is like when I was pregnant. Maybe I am?” I bought a pregnancy test without telling my husband and went to my niece’s house to take it. Positive! Our third child was a total surprise.

Sometime in 1993: I become diabetic.
The doctor said I was most likely diabetic before becoming pregnant but just didn’t realize it until the pregnancy hormones made it worse. I was 23.

May 26, 1994: Our second son is born on my dad’s birthday.
He brings many changes with him, not the least of which was that Daniel goes back to work fulltime, instead of being Mr. Mom while I worked, and I began staying home with the kids.

Summer or fall of 1994: I go into a diabetic coma.
It sucked.

Summer or fall of 1994: We move to a small town about 3 hours away from Seattle.
Daniel discovered his passion while we lived there: designing and building snowboards. I discovered my passion while we lived there: computers/internet and writing (mostly email).

Winter 1994: Daniel’s younger sister moves in with us.
She dropped out of BYU when she realized she wasn’t enjoying her major and came to stay with us so she could work and save up some money. She stayed with us for around a year, I think.

Sometime around 1997: My oldest niece moves in with us.
She had nowhere to go when her roommates kicked her out, and her sister (who’d stayed with us previously) suggested she call me. I drove two hours to pick her up. All she had was a large garbage bag full of clothes and a two year old son.

Sometime around 1997: My oldest niece marries a guy she’d known only a few weeks.
He was someone our neighbors knew through their church. Seemed like a nice Christian guy. A few years, a daughter, several break ups, jail time and a restraining order later, they’re separated.

Fall 1997: Daniel comes back to church.
After years of him being inactive, I prayed that he’d be able to baptize our oldest when he turned 8. Two weeks later, Daniel told me he wanted to start going to church.

March 1998: Daniel confirms our son.
Our son decided he wanted his uncle to do the dunking, so Daniel confirmed him.

Spring 1999: Daniel is laid off and we move back to Seattle.
He goes back to school for a mechanical engineering degree while I work fulltime as a web developer.

Fall of 2001, or so: I go into a diabetic coma.
It sucked.

Sometime in here: I help my parents pack my oldest niece’s things and move them into storage.
She and her kids moved in with her mom because her husband had beaten her up. I took my kids along to help pack her stuff up. I looked down at the dark stain on the carpet beneath my feet, and quickly stepped away when I realized it was a bloodstain. I’d been standing where she had been when her husband kicked her in the face.

Summer of 2003: Daniel graduates.
We move into a condo his parents own while he looks for a job in California.

Spring of 2004: I am laid off from my job, and Daniel gets a job and moves to California while I stay in Washington until the kids finish their school year.
And man, that was HARD.

July 4, 2004: The kids and I move to California.
Daniel had an apartment rented and I drove down (with my parents helping) in a moving truck. We brought 6 computers, 3 TVs, 4 beds, boxes of books, a stereo, cds, and some bookshelves, but not much else. IKEA, here we come.

February 25, 2005: I start blogging.
Woohoo.

Spring 2005: I go back to work fulltime.
I love my job, but hate being away from the kids. Especially since they’re going to be off to college in only a few years. We’re hoping my husband will soon get a big enough raise (or a different job) that will allow me to stay home.

Of course, there’s a lot of junk left off of that list, including other moves, other people staying with us, other people dying, hospital stays, major life decisions. But I think this is more than enough.

I remember in a high school psychology class having to make up a timeline of what I wanted my life to be like. I said I’d go to college, get married, have kids. Then later in life my husband would die, I’d get a motorcycle and join a punk rock band as a grandmother. Funny thing is, I can still see that happening. Except I’d rather not have my husband die. He actually sat next to me in that class.

(I considered removing the “meeting U2 on my 16th birthday” item, since it sort of sticks out like a sore thumb. But hey, this *is* me we’re talking about here. And except for the year my husband surprised me with a nice digital camera, that was the best birthday I’ve ever had!)

I guess I feel like I’m sort of at a crossroad. Looking back, trying to look forward. It’s good to reassess. I just wish I didn’t feel like time was running out. I miss my kids as toddlers. I miss them as young kids. I want that time back. My husband tells me in a few years we’ll have grandchildren to play with, but that’s not what I want to hear. I don’t want my kids to be grown up yet. But there’s no stopping it. Just gotta make the most out of what we always have—which is right now.

Post category: self-indulgent, blogging as therapy

17 Comments »

  1. Wow Susan! What can I say? That’s quite a life story. At the age of 53 I feel like I’ve perhaps had as much experience but not nearly as many challenges. Dave Letterman might say, “By the time I was your age I had learned to make a fist, that’s about all.” I sort of feel that way but I also know there are many challenges in all our lives that help us become ther person that we are. I’m grateful for the life I’ve been given – the good and the bad – although the bad is hard to experience at the time it happens.

    And can I just tell you that the grandchildren are really great. I too have some regrets about working too hard and not spending enough time with my four sons as they grew up. But I find that worrying about what might have been is a futile exercise – better to make the best of today and the future. This past weekend we visited two of our grandchildren (and their parents) – a new born baby girl and her older 2-year-old sister who now talks like a grown-up. It is wonderful to watch them grow and to see the successes your own children experience and believe that you might have had something to do with that. But let me also warn you that the years never stop seeming to fly by too quickly. Continue making the most of the time you have. It sounds like you’re doing a good job of that.

    Comment by lamonte — February 22, 2007 @ 10:23 am

  2. Fascinating. I swear, you are my internet twin, except that my kids are much younger and I’m not hip or cool. I also have a niece who is older than my youngest brother. (My mom got pregnant at the age of 47. !!)

    I’m having a mid-life crisis too. I’m freaking out that I’m already 35. It’s not the aging – I don’t have wrinkles or anything, it’s just – how did that happen? How? Really!!! I was 24, like, yesterday. It is really freaking me out that in another 35 years I’ll be 70. Considering how quickly the first 35 went by, I’ll be 70 any second now. I’m not ready to die. I wish I was kidding. I’m not. At all.

    It took us a long time to have kids, so mine are still little – people assume I’m a lot younger than I am and I can pretend to myself that I am as well. I never thought I’d be one of those women who was bothered by the number, but it’s just one less year left on the clock and that freaks me out. I love life.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to make it all about me, I just related to your mid-life crisis. Thanks for sharing that with us…

    Comment by Sue — February 22, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  3. You are so giving, by sharing your home with family members in need. That would be a real trial for me. I have trouble even having the nieces and nephews sleep over. It sounds selfish, but I like my house and my immediate family and adding someone else to the mix would be so daunting for me.

    My daughter’s best friend was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last fall. It’s been a hard adjustment, she’s only 8 years old.

    Comment by WendyP — February 22, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  4. Cool post Susan. I’m your same age and no kids. So if you’re feeling like you haven’t done much, don’t feel too bad.

    I don’t know much about diabetic comas, but I’ll take your word for it, that is, that they suck.

    Comment by danithew — February 22, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  5. Love the post Susan. Love it. There is something deeply beautiful about the real lives of real people.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 22, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  6. Thanks. There’s so much craziness that’s gone on in my extended family that whenever I start telling someone about it, they say “You should write a book!” But man, it’s just too depressing.

    You should drop me an email Sue: whenigodeaf at gmail dot com.

    Comment by Susan M — February 22, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  7. Susan, since you know so much about music, you probably already know this quote. Your post reminded me of it.

    “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

    John Lennon

    Comment by Mark IV — February 22, 2007 @ 6:34 pm

  8. “What I remember most vividly is what it felt like to go under the water, and what it felt like coming up out of it: like a burial and a resurrection.”

    Frankly, this was my favourite part.

    Comment by Kim Siever — February 22, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

  9. Mark IV, you stole my quote! Actually I posted this quote on fMh last week, and the silly thing wouldn’t go through, so I gave up. It’s my favorite lyric of all time. Just thinking about it makes me cry.

    I know what you mean, Susan, about this mid-life crisis. I’m older than you, but my kids are younger, and already, at ages 6 & 7 I’m aching for the days when they were still toddlers. I feel like I messed them up already! I should’ve been more, done more. I wish I could have another chance at this whole thing.

    This morning I woke up at 4:15 and laid there wide awake just thinking about my life, and what I should do, and what I wish I could do, etc. Total mid-life crisis, enhanced by what I’m thinking are hormones!

    BTW, Susan, I met U2 in San Francisco as well! My claim to fame, I suppose. We had breakfast at the Holiday Inn. It was their first stop on their first American tour. I’m guessing the year was something like 81 or 82. I’d love to swap stories with you! :-)

    Comment by meems — February 22, 2007 @ 7:49 pm

  10. I had my mid life crisis at 30. It was much easier that way. Now I have it out of the way and don’t have to worry.

    Comment by clark — February 22, 2007 @ 9:26 pm

  11. I like your attitude, Clark.

    I’ve always loved that JL quote. Sometimes I relate more to this Patty Griffin line though:

    In the battle of time, in the battle of will
    It’s only hope and your heart that gets killed

    Haha.

    meems drop me an email: whenigodeaf at gmail dot com.

    Comment by Susan M — February 23, 2007 @ 8:58 am

  12. This is a wonderful post. I’m about six months older than you, and the details of our lives couldn’t be more different. But the elements are the same: death, birth, risk, rituals, family and love.

    Sometimes I feel like I’ve been keeping a crisis just barely at bay for the last six years…although I’d call it a Late Youth crisis.

    Comment by Norbert — February 24, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  13. I should probably call it a late youth crisis, but to be honest, I’ll be surprised if I live even into my 70′s!

    Comment by Susan M — February 24, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  14. I can’t believe how many of us around here are about the same age.

    I’m 35 too, but my life has been so incredibly different from yours. It blows my mind someone about my age could have a 17-year-old son. If we ever manage to have kids, well…obviously it will be a long time before any of them are seventeen!

    I found your descriptions of your brother’s and sister’s deaths especially heartbreaking. I think I would find that almost unbearably painful. (My mom’s youngest sister just died very suddenly two days before Christmas. I can’t really imagine what that’s like for her.)

    Comment by Eve — February 24, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  15. Wow, I’m 47 and I thought I’d had a crazy life but mine’s been calm and ordinary, as I now see. =) Don’t worry about dying too soon, though. We’re all gonna live forever, and there’s lots more to do and experience. =)

    Comment by Tatiana — February 25, 2007 @ 9:12 am

  16. Susan, your crazy life and how you have come out of it so wonderful is part of what makes you so beautiful.

    Comment by tracy m — February 26, 2007 @ 12:56 am

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    Comment by jony — May 23, 2007 @ 4:20 am

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