My second summer revelation came to me that I should model the behavior I wish others would demonstrate rather than bemoan, get angry, or start judging them because I feel they are judging me, my lifestyle or my “neighbors.”
Recently I was in a motel that was full of people who had come to fish in the the local world class rivers for fly fishing. Each morning I was listening in the breakfast room about how the hotel did not have all the premium channels they had a home, lack of cell phone coverage, that the only Starbucks in the county was a kiosk in the grocery and other perceived lack of amenities in their vacation destination. I listened as they describe the community of the folks who were their hosts while they were on vacation. I found myself thinking lots of unkind thoughts about them. It was then that I realized that I was just like all the people who were frustrating me. I was judging them.
We don’t have a million people yet in Montana, though we are getting close. When you don’t have critical mass most national companies require, they don’t give a rip about providing services to you. A business in in the business of making money. If you live an area that is so sparsely populated that you don’t get mail deliver it is, highly unlikely a cell company can justify the cost of a cell tower, or their will be national retailers available. There are many trade offs we make to live in a place like Montana. Some are obvious and others not so much. Most Montanans have been to your cities and some of us have even lived there for a period in our lives. We appreciated some of what you had to offer in arts, food, and other services. Some of what you live with as normal we can not imagine living with such as traffic, density, noise and other things. All of this just amounts a different point of view. We have prioritized things differently in our lives and are willing to make different sacrifices to have some of those top priorities. Neither is more right or more wrong than the other. No amount of put down or arguing is going to change either person’s point of view. Change never comes in the midst of confrontation.
When I feel folks are passing judgment, I want to remember to not pass judgment on others because I am not them. I do not know what road they have traveled in life to be at the spot they are currently stand at. The best way to do that behavior myself. Let them remember their encounter with me as some one who did not pass judgment and maybe, just maybe it will make a difference on their lives as well.
Note: This was a piece I wrote several weeks ago and had to let perk while and tweak it a lot to hopefully get right. I hope you found it insightful and gave you some food for thought.
This summer job has taught me lots of things about life and some about myself. I continue to learn things each week. I plan to share them under the title of Summer Reflection on Thursdays. I am hoping that what I am learning sometimes the hard way provides fodder for your personal reflections.
All time is not equal. Have three days non-stop is not the same as having a few hours each day. You really can’t make up on Saturday, what you woulda/shoulda done one Tuesday. The flowers are dead, no amount of watering them will bring them back.
My new job this summer has given me a new appreciation for the folks in the world who make the sacrifice of being away from home to support their family. I have traveled before for jobs I have held previously. In my most traveled position, I traveled only about 20% of the time. This job puts me away from home three nights a week. Being on the road this much has made me realize how much time so many people sacrifice to make it in life.
We have a friend who is a salesman for a company and covers everything west of the Mississippi. He has spent about 30+ weeks on the road for as long as I have know him (nearly 30 years now). He has two great adult children with families of their own. He and his wife have the kind of marriage we try to have as well, where each is there for the other and figure out ways to be there when it is critical. (There have been some pretty critical life moments for this family). I never before realized how amazing they were to make it all work with all his time away from home. When you think about all the divorce rates and kids who turn out in something less than their potential and then blame their family life. This family has weathered it all and not just survived, they have prospered. Their love, support and values have made the time that took the father/husband away so much a contributing factor to what they achieved, not a detriment or excuse for what they did not achieve.
My brother was in the Navy. He worked hard to be with his family as much as possible, but like the military people of past and present that isn’t always possible. There are big and small moments missed that can never be gotten back. I never thought about what it must be like to be a single parent for so long and then suddenly have someone show up and have the whole family dynamic change in a day. One day you get to make almost all decisions unilaterally and then the next there is someone there who wants to be a part of it all. One day the kids only deal with you and suddenly there is someone else who can say yes or no. It is a complete adjustment for the family, and rules are shifted in the space of a few hours. Yet the military people continue to make those sacrifices for their country and to support their family.
In both of these cases I have highlighted the person being away, but the trailing/at-home spouse and the kids make sacrifices as well. They quickly learn that this is their normal. That the parent is away because it is how must be for this family. There is nothing that can be accomplished by wanting a parental presence that can not be. They learn to appreciate the times they have and adjust with the changes that come with a moving set of how a family looks and functions. The “keep the home fires burning” parent often has a job as well. The only difference is that they get to sleep in their own bed at night. They often have to juggle their job, children and home with no one their to help. Kids may have to step up and grow up a little faster to help. It is a balancing act and a collaborative effort.
I had thought of this occasionally before. This job has given me a new appreciation for what one misses out on when you are gone, how they adjust when you blow in to town and that they will adjust again when you hit the road again. I know at the end of the summer my job will end, and I will be home every night again, but there are thousands of men and women that this is part of who they are and how they support their family. My hat is off to you because most of us can never imagine what that job costs you and your family. You are making under what can be very challenging conditions.
Last week it seemed was rainy everywhere, and Montana was no exception. I blogged earlier about the rain and my field work last week. As I was taking one last look over the photos I had taken before I packed up again to head out again this week. I noticed that there were two photos that reminded me of the dramatic difference that a day, an hour or a minute can make. Most of the week I was rained on in some form, from a light mist to pull off and stop because the rain is so hard you can’t see. There were a few photos taken when the rain stopped and most of them still had grey clouds and threatening skies. Yet I did have one photo where the sky was blue, the clouds were white, the grass was green and the road was calling for me. Life was pretty amazing.
The road is calling my name.
The other was a photo that grabbed me was the one I took sitting in the cab of my truck on my last day. I had been driving down this road that was getting progressively worse while the rain continued to fall. I stopped in the middle of the road and mentally regrouped. Though I could see for miles in all directions, I was alone, I had been praying to not meet anyone on this road because to get off the proven tracks was soft mud. I would drive down this road for another few miles with it getting progressively worse and began to look for a place to turn around. At eight miles from the paved road I would finally come to place to turn around without risking getting stuck and having to walk out. I wrote off the last gypsy moth trap as impossible to safely set. It was a low point to admit defeat, to be so close and not make it. Yet maybe it wasn’t. I did not get stuck. I did not have to walk out in the rain and I got all but one of my traps set. Maybe there are no high points or low points, just points of view.
It seems when people know you have a sewing machine they think that you want to do their mending, alterations and hemming. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked to repair or rework someone’s clothing. I almost always tell folks no I can’t do their little job.
I have been sewing in some form for as long as I can remember. I am not exactly sure when I started, but I know by the time I had my first home ec class in junior high school that the first project, an apron made out of a quarter-inch checked fabric, was too simple for my skill set. There were girls who must have tore their seams out ten times. The whole concept was new to them. I was done several classes before the other girls in my class. So I was expected to not only sew an apron but embellish it with embroidery. Over the years I have made clothing, quilts, curtains, slipcovers and about everything in between. I like to sew. I have always had a place to sew and a nice machine. That being said I hate rework…mending…alterations…hemming.
I have been short with a non-standard body all my life. When it comes to store-bought clothing nothing fits off the rack. When I worked a corporate job, all my clothing went directly from the department store to the lady who had a shop that did alterations. She hemmed the sleeves of my jackets, linings and all. She not only hemmed my pants and skirts, but reworked the waist band because my hour glass shape was not what standard clothing manufactures expected, my bottom was way too big for my waist. This woman was priceless to me and though I had a sewing machine, she did what I could not. My tailor’s skill was an art; she made my clothes fit properly and they did not look re-made. I valued her more than I did my hair stylist. There were many more stylist to pick from than tailors. I don’t have many tailor clothes any more, but when I put them on I do miss that perfect fit that she gave me.
Now I am getting ready for my new job that puts me out in the field. I will be wearing cotton jeans every day. I have been scouring thrift stores for new jeans (I don’t want low rise or big legs for work). I have already hemmed four pair and this morning I just cut off excess fabric on four more pair that I will hem today. I still don’t like hemming but I am managing to get through the process. I am not however adjusting my waist bands, I just plan to cinch that belt a little tighter.
It all has made me reflect a little about that tailor with her little shop back in Minnesota. I had not thought about her in a long time. She was part of a dieing occupation, like so many others like shoe repair, small engine repair and others. It makes me sad when I think about it. I bet there are lots of folks who wish they could make a living at those things, but in our changing society it just doesn’t seem possible any more.
Today is National Sibling Day, another made up holiday. The best thing about this is that it gave me pause to think about my siblings. I grew up in a blended family, though in though days we did not call it anything other than a family. We were all treated the same when you were in our household, same rules, same expectations, no one special. A kid was a kid.
Today I want to thank my siblings because you made me the best I could be. You all contributed to what I am today. I like who I have turned out to be and you, my siblings, were part of that.
Sometimes I was the oldest child and sometimes I wasn’t. Sometimes I only had brothers and other times not. It allowed me to take the best from multiple birth orders and incorporate it in to my being. You were there in the best of times and the worst of times. You taught me why it is important to be competitive, because if you aren’t you get what is leftover and no one wants only black jelly beans. I quickly learned life isn’t always fair, because I still think you were not above cheating to win, and you don’t always get what you want. You taught me empathy and compassion for others, when you shared your jelly beans when I lost for the umpteenth million time. You taught me how to be strong and the feelings of helplessness. You taught me to never ever give up and how to be a good leader and a graceful looser. You taught me that fair and just is not always the same as equal. You also taught me how to think and be creative because we were not all created equal. You taught me to use the skills I had because I would seldom be the tallest, fastest, have the experience or knowledge I thought I needed. Together you taught me the value of teamwork and the importance of working together. You taught me that we were never going to be the same, so respect differences. With you I learned how to make do with what life dealt me, because you were not always going to share or help.
Some of this might sound a little whiny, but it isn’t meant to be. I persevered not in spite of my siblings and because of them. Being their sister I ended up with a great set of life skills, a sense of reality and knowledge of my personal and civic responsibility that have served me well. I would not want anyone else for my siblings. Love you all. I am telling you this today because someone moron in Washington DC declared today your holiday when they should have been fixing the budget, preventing war or saving the world. Had that moron been in our family then adult or not I promise that one of the siblings would have called them and reminded them of what they had learned about life growing up and to get down to work and get things done.
Those of you who follow my blog, know I am at a crossroad, presently being unemployed. During this time I have been doing some contract work, and friends have called telling me about jobs out there they feel I would be a good fit for. I am so blessed for their support during this time. Yet I feel that this situation would be wasted if I did not take time to really reflect on what should be next, instead of immediately jumping back into what has been a sure thing and comfortable for the last 30 years. It may be that one moment in time to really start something new or explore things I have always wanted to try, but fear held me back. The fear of the unknown. The fear of failure. Fear of how I’d feel not making a regular financial contribution to the household.
RangerSir and I have had many discussions about the idea of a temporary job during this time. We have weighed the pros and cons. The pros won. Since that decision, I have spent time looking at the temporary and seasonal jobs out there. I have been researching the positions, companies and interviewing. The good news is I have secured a temporary seasonal job. It means that this job will have a beginning and an end. So there is no lock-in for this job if I hate it; I just have to last the season. If I like it I have just added something to my resume. It will use many of my skills I already have, but just as importantly it will require skills I don’t have. This will feed my need for life long learning. It is an entry-level, worker-bee job. It means I have a job to do, and I will be responsible for me and my performance, that is it. I can’t remember the last time this was true. It feels very good. It is a four-tens, so I will still have three days a week to enjoy summer. I will be on the road most of the time, again something I have not done for years, but exploring the back roads of Montana sounds fine for the summer. Finally it will supply me with a regular paycheck, that I discover I need.
I admit the whole prospect of this summer job is almost frightening because it is so far out of my comfort zone. It could be a colossal failure, in so many different ways. Yet I find I am really excited to do something different and not to just wonder but actually know what something completely different will feel like. It will provide me with the time and space to really think about what next, while making a financial contribution to household.
Not everyone gets this chance. Not everyone sees this chance when it happens to them. I was lucky in that I got the chance and recognized it it. Thanks to my friends, family and blog followers who have been there with words of encouragement during this time of great unrest. Now on to the next great adventure.