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Ronda Stevenson

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Filling the Vessel...Unexpected Changes

Two years ago I moved to Las Vegas. My transition has included surprising revelations and challenges for me.

A tidbit of history. I started working at age 17. I'm almost 64 years old now. I was gainfully employed most of those years. Pregnant at age 19. I raised four children, my fabulous children...Jeff, Destyn, Michael and Savannah...primarily as a single parent. I weathered destructive marriages and painful divorces, welcomed sweet grand children and my children's spouses into my heart and into my life. I have a strong work ethic, sometimes to the point of workaholic, and have devoted decades of myself to my kids, grand kids and foster children. It's been a life filled with taking care of the needs of others, work related and personal. It's the life I chose. It's the life I've loved.

After a heartbreaking job loss several years ago and the devastating financial and personal losses that resulted, I lost self confidence. This painful situation has continued to haunt me. Fortunately, I was hired as a full-time nanny, caring for a little boy from infancy until he turned five years of age and started attending school. What an amazing experience it was, to build a bond with this sweet, extraordinarily funny and smart little boy. I'm grateful that I occasionally get to spend time with him, travelling to his family's home to care for him while his mom and dad travel. He's a little guy who has brought incredible love, joy and humor into my life. I have been blessed. In spite of this, my self confidence from the previous job loss has never fully recovered. Doubts frequently bubble to the surface. Am I good enough? A feeling that has lurked in a dark corner for most of my life, I guess.

Now I live in Las Vegas, a location that I would previously have rated 27 on a list of 10 cities in which to relocate. Though born and raised in Southern California, I am not a fan of the hot, dry desert. I like green trees, lush grass, hills and mountains, cooler temperatures...that would be the landscape and climate of Seattle, Washington. That means months and months of drizzle, rain and clouds. Despite my aversion to dry weather, here I am in Vegas. Until a couple of years ago, I would have denied any possibility of living here. Now I'm appreciating the clear, beautiful weather and the comfortable temperatures (now that summer is over). Who knew?

These past two years, three of my four children have also lived here. Plus two sons-in-law. And a grand baby for the last one year. It's been a whirlwind of change (and not just the weather).  Location, employment, social life, energy...and dammit, my feet hurt!. It has meant a change in expectations. Mine.

My relationships with my children have turned and evolved around sometimes painful corners. Plus, I have discovered that it's difficult for me to be alone. It's also difficult for me to share my space. Confusing messages to self!

My children are independent people. Guess I encouraged that in them when they were growing up. Having more time on my hands since my move here, I became more needy for my children's company. But, crazy me, they were actually very busy with work, relationships, friends and travel.

It was the first time in my adult life that I didn't have to take care of someone else. Just me. It's the first time I'd lived alone. No spouse, no children, not even little mice living in the walls. I had nothing to do outside of my own needs. And guess what!!! I didn't know what I needed. Having never had time to consider 'my needs', it was absolutely foreign to me. Clueless. Then came my new grandson. Someone to care for. Yay! For a year I did. But, daughter, husband and grand baby just moved out of state.

Back to square one.

After almost two years, I still struggle to figure it out. When asked what I want to do or be when I grow up, the answer is, "I don't know." I have vague notions but have been unable to solidify or focus on anything to any real degree. What I do know is that I've allowed myself to become isolated, lonely and without direction.

Recently, my friends and former co-workers, Kirsi and Skott, traveled from Seattle to Las Vegas. Spending time with these vivacious, enthusiastic people was invigorating, liberating and life affirming. Kirsi and Skott pushed me to think and to imagine the possibilities of my life. A life, not without my children, but a life that could survive independently from them. Three days, many hours of laughing, crying, talking and eating and a door opened for me. Hope.

From a seemingly empty vessel to one overflowing with encouragement and positive affirmations, they shined a light and helped me to begin the search for myself and for my dreams. It may be a stony and confusing path, but I think I will eventually find my footing.

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