Rants and Silver Linings

TILTed Shadow Life


I don’t ever post when I am emotionally knocked down low. I wait until I have regained some sort of equilibrium, then I sort through my thoughts and feelings, put them in order, and then write them down and share them here. But I thought I might try something outside my comfort zone, and share a rant with you, untempered by my usual compulsive, silver lining afterthought. A few weeks ago, I had one of those “bad things happen in threes” phenomenon. They weren’t really bad, they were just all focused on my weak spot. First, I got a letter from social security, detailing how very little money I have made in my lifetime. I have been TILTed and unable to work for about 20 years so it’s not surprising that I haven’t made much money for my retirement but it was still alarming to see it on paper. Then I got an email with information about what would have been the perfect job for healthy me at this age, which is completely impossible for actual me at any future age. Ouch. I’m going to skip the details of the third strike but it continued with the lack of financial independence theme. A few days of depression mixed with panic followed and I wrote the following journal entry in the midst of that frustration.

I had a plan when I was 24 before I got sick. I thought everyone did. In retrospect, I think most people have a loose, short term, kind of plan so that at age 24 it goes something like first career or grad school, travel, marriage, kids, possible second career, and retire. Mine was much more specific. I had a 2 yr, 5 yr, 10 yr, 20 yr and 30 yr plan. They were completely practical plans. I know, I know. God laughing and all that, but it’s not like my plan was to win the Nobel Prize or write The Great American Novel. Here, in all it’s naive hubris was the plan…
2 yr-Finish PhD in microelectronics and dance again at the Kennedy Center (things were going well before I got sick)
5 yr-Work at industry job (semiconductors), paying back my school debt and traveling extensively.
10 yr-Marriage and children, stay at home with kids for about 10 years, get my teaching certificate towards the end of that home time.
20 yr- Go back to work teaching high school physics when kids are in middle school.
30 yr-After 10-15 years teaching, write a groundbreaking high school physics text book.

That plan, which still feels so real and so close, is on the other side of a massive wall and I have spent the last 20 years slamming my head and body against that #*@ wall. It has not moved or busted or even cracked. This is not a pity party; my life has continued along a path parallel to the wall and my planned life on the other side. Along this real path I have still been a mom (to two extraordinary individuals), travelled (in a camper), taught (tutored), written (the blog and with HEAL), and danced (in class once a week). However, other than the mom gig, which has surpassed all my expectations, the rest of it too often feels like a shadow of the real thing on the other side of the wall. It feels like a weak and watered down version of my plan, my life. Again -I know that it is not. My life is actually a peaceful, happy little thing. I can truly appreciate it for that. But somehow I cannot appreciate me. Too often, I still feel like a shadow version of something I envisioned so vividly 20 years ago.

Well, that was a bit grim. Don’t worry, I don’t feel that way today. But one of my fellow TILTed readers might and now she knows she is not alone. Argh – I tried to skip the silver lining but it snuck in any ways!

7 thoughts on “TILTed Shadow Life

  1. ((( Hugs ❤ )))

    We are forced into finding a radically different way of "judging" ourselves and "reality", and often, it becomes a far saner way, when we stop clinging to those expectations that people are sold on.

    You have gifts and wisdom to share, these are needed… They may not be financially lucrative, but their (and your) value is far greater than mere money could ever be.

  2. Thank you. You share what so many of us feel. Some of our goals have become impossible because of our limitations. When I start feeling that I am a failure feeling (and the usually comes because of financial limitations and societal expectations), I remember that I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and wonderful people around me. A paycheck would be nice but real satisfaction comes when I know that my words or deeds have helped someone else.

    • It’s so true that the “failure feeling” comes from outside expectations. The important people in my life never make me feel that way. We’ll focus on their voices instead!

  3. I love the way you described it: slamming yourself against the wall. That’s really now it feels. I don’t think any of us planned for it to be this way. I’m supposed to be a missionary in Ecuador. I’m supposed to be a world traveler. I’m supposed to be the strong friend who can always help out. I’m supposed to be the great homeschooling mom who takes her kids on awesome field trips every week. I suppose those goals aren’t all compatible with each other, but they’ve all been what I wanted at different times in my life. No matter how long this illness lasts (it’s been 15 years), I still slam myself against the wall thinking that if I just slam hard enough I’ll bust it. I only hurt myself. But I’ve learned also to try to be content with my small, sedate life. It makes you notice the little things. It teaches you the value of family and friends. It’s made me a nicer person.

    • The “supposed to”s are the hardest, aren’t they? Thank you for understanding and sharing. I think today I will walk away from the wall and the computer and go enjoy my small sedate life with greater focus!

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