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I love, I laugh; as a mother, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sibling, a friend. I change. I volunteer. I make a difference. I make things happen. I get lazy; then way to high strung. I stay up all night, and pay the next day. I piss people off. I make people love. I believe in fate. and karma. I laugh at myself. I've even been called an "angel"... more than once. I've been rocked to my core by angels among us. I am a journalist for our small town newspapers, including the Muskego Chronicle, the Hales Corners Citizen, and the Franklin Citizen; I love writing for our chicken-soup-for-the-small-town-soul publications! I am right where I want to be. I am 34, and proud of my age (every birthday is another gift); the greatest thing I have done is contribute the beauty that my clone-like daughter Sophia has to offer. She is my legacy. I am a total mama’s girl; always have been, always will be. I have a Black-Irish bond (unbreakable) with my siblings. I am comfortable in my own skin. I have never been insecure, not once. I love people; but prefer kids to adults. I am not the least bit judgmental; but can hold a grudge to my grave. I follow my heart more than my head. Intentionally.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Five Year Plan and the Fundamentals in a Swat

The significant concept of the “five-year-plan” throughout our life-timeline is a reoccurring monotony that tends to seem quite redundant. To me, the very thought of it seems like a clip from the film, Groundhog Day; but only in my repetitious version, something has gone awry. It’s like the theory of the New Year resolution; we make a solemn vow (usually fueled by liquor, festive atmosphere, a bad year, or all of the above) to do something “this time”, with good intentions, that will make our existence somehow a bit more tolerable. I watch after the calendar year leaps, and without fail, I am able to spot a promise broken before its time to call it a night. But not just any promise; a promise from one’s heart to one’s head. Who worse to break a promise to? If you can’t honor your own word, is your word really honorable at all? Enter simile; the five year plan. I cringe at the double jeopardy. Thankfully, it is only once every five-metaphorical-years-or-so. I realize that we are taught to shoot for the moon, so that we land amidst the stars; and that the dreamers are the doers; or that we should set our sights high, raising the bar with every monumental moment. But what about promising oneself a realistic five year outline, so disappointment in our own ability is not the end result? Shouldn’t a revised outline to reach our ultimate goal of happiness, begin with the back-to-basic fundamentals that so often seem to fall by the way side? After all, everything needs a good, solid foundation; a house, a relationship, and a plan. And a lifetime of letdown from those surrounding us is hard to swallow; but a lifetime of disappointment at the hands of the voice within, is devastatingly damaging. And how is it we try to find ourselves accountable for things that are out of our hands? For example; ‘I want to marry Mr. Right’, or ‘I want my wife to love me again’. It baffles me.

This got me thinking, do most people remember the crucial elements that are the fundamentals of their very foundation? Admittedly, I forget, I forgot, but I just remembered, and I recall. So I rehashed exactly what my personal five-year-plan-for-happiness consists of; which by the way, I was temporarily lacking a few variables of. And as I conclude my plan; and revisit my list, to be sure I covered all my simplest necessities; I am reminded of one last thing I absolutely need to incorporate.

It’s a hot summer day, and I feel a bit melancholy and certainly stressed, so I find solstice in visiting the second hand book store all alone. I get lost in the titles and the smells that remind me how small we really are; I remember that this means our distresses are small too; no matter how consuming they feel at the time. I feel better. I make my way to Kmart on the way home. I walk back to the car empty-handed and stumped that the nation wide chain, who has partnered with Sears, hasn’t carried CDs in two years (truly, a sign of the times). I get in my hot car and quickly open the sunroof and the windows. I wait as the driver of the Buick Rivera next to me, attempts to maneuver the car to escape the sardine-can of a parking lot. After three do-overs, I am irritated at the beads of sweat of my forehead. She finally escapes; but now I am blocked by an older couple walking in the middle of my route towards the store. My only option is to wait behind them. They walk slow, arms wrapped around one another. I can’t stop the grin that creeps across my face; I love to see retired-aged couples in love. I shun the thought that enters my cynical mind that wonders if their smitten demeanor is because they are both married to someone else, or perhaps newlyweds. I forcefully engage in the thought that they are quite enamored with each other after 50 years of marriage (an anniversary that was once part of my own plan, but becomes less and less possible with each passing year). And as my devil dances with life’s demons-I see it. They step up to the store entrance, looking at one another playfully. As I am about to pass, he removes his arm from her back and with a polished, mechanical movement he gently swats her derriere, and then swiftly returns to the entangled position. I can’t help but feel hopelessly optimistic and warm-and-fuzzy inside. Then I remember some profound wisdom I was privy to when I was 25.

I was at a livestock auction in Waverly, Iowa, and I made a habit of shadowing the elders of the industry, if you will. I had learned that they held ample amounts of wisdom; that I would soon learn is not limited to livestock. Over the course of several years I had developed a respectful, mentoring-ish relationship with a ninety-something Texan, Gary. One night, he arrives to the nightly post-auction social gathering; He is tidy as usual, with creases heavily starched into his Wrangler blue jeans. My immediate thought was that he did not iron them himself (rough-around-the-edge cowboys don’t strike me as the ironing type). Gary informs me that he is consumed with a guilty sadness because today is his 53rd wedding anniversary, and he is far from home. I give him an adoring look and ask, “The creases?” He sits up straight and is clearly proud of his wife’s handiwork. I was compelled to ask the wisdom of his secret to a long marriage, because it’s obvious he is as crazy in love with the woman he married, as the day they were married. He leans in to me and whispers out of the comer of his mouth, as if he wanted no one else to hear the top-secret revelation. He proceeds with a rapid southern dialect, “It’s real simple. I walk in the house e’vry day, smack ‘er on the rear, n’ tell ‘er I love ‘er; even if she’s a-madder-than-a-wet-hen.” (Which is outwardly enraged, for those not raised on the farm). Skeptical, but none-the-less in awe with my friend and his words of wisdom, I wondered if he’s on to something.

It seems, so often, we take for granted those that are near-and-dear. The Kmart couple reminded me that quite possibly a simple reminder of any sort is all the fuel any relationship needs to maintain momentum. People forget your loving conviction; and sometimes we forget ourselves. So atop my five year plan is to be the reminder (the swat) or the remindee (the swatter) throughout all my relationships (obviously the gesture is altered to suit the nature of the person you are engaged with). I will be a constant reminder, like a faded tattoo, to all those I love, that I wholeheartedly love them. I am beginning to believe it really may be that simple. At the very least, it will add to the happiness of our sometimes intolerable, sometimes beautiful, often uncertain existence, that we call life, or something like it. After all, anything leaning towards a happy ending is worth a shot because, beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts. And the only one that can be held accountable for the happiness in the middle is our self. Don’t sweat the five-year-plan; look at the big picture; Make yours count.

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