As a small girl, she was the apple of their eye. The two families made sure she was accelerated in everything, except sports. Back then, girls didn’t do that. She was moved up in music, in reading, in math. To many levels ahead of her grade level. She was tutored and tested at home. The families were filled with teachers. It worked. Until her Daddy left.
Have you ever found your life getting too messy? I don’t mean cluttered with stuff. I mean psychologically and emotionally messy. Cluttered with unwanted emotions inside your head caused by either events in your own life or events in the life of others close to you, perhaps friends, family members, even the world at large. When that happens to me, and it has a number of times in my life, I find I have to take inventory about what I need and don’t need in my life to make me happy.
When this happens to me, I don’t always recognize it initially. I have to find myself under so much stress that I can hardly cope. Once that happens, I make a priority list. The first item on my list is health. I have to eliminate the sources of stress in my life, at least to the extent that I can. I find that I, personally, can’t be subject to over-stimulation. I have to lead a fairly quiet life to be happy. I don’t have to be a hermit – far from it. But, I have to have the time and space to quiet my mind and emotions to keep my health on an even keel. Sometimes, I have to be pretty brutal and distance myself from situations that are causing stress in my life.
The second item on my priority list is the truth of reality. I have to live in the real world. My friends often tell me to be optimistic and that is a nice sentiment. I think I am usually optimistic, maybe too much so. I prefer to be realistic. You can have hopes and dreams and still be realistic. You can strive to make your hopes and dreams come true and I did that with regard to my own career. However, I knew it was not realistic to strive to be the Queen of England. That’s an extreme example. I’ve found if I keep it real, I’m far happier than if I put myself under stress trying to make the impossible happen or be someone I’m not.
The third priority on my list is love. Realize that you can’t make people love you. Let’s take families. Not every person in your family is going to love you. That’s realistic. Nothing you do or don’t do is going to make them love you. At some point, it’s time to quit trying. The same is true for relationships with a significant other or with friends. You can work hard at a relationship and sometimes it will turn out well and sometimes it won’t. You have to learn to compromise. But, you can’t make them love you. You have to know when to let them go.
The stress that permeated his family was unbearable. There were no jobs. No way to make a living. He was thinking of leaving the small town in the Appalachian Mountains to find work elsewhere. He would try to come home on the weekends. So many in generations before him had done the same. Others had moved their families to cities, to other towns, where they could find work. Their families weren’t usually happy. The people of Appalachia were clannish. They loved their mountain life existence, their extended families, their neighbors. They didn’t want to go to a strange place. He was thinking of going it alone, sending money home, coming home when he could.
He walked before dawn at the foot of the mountains. Thinking. Pondering. It was so beautiful here. The sun was about to rise and he stopped to watch. He had seen this sunrise many times and each time it was more beautiful as it rose over the mountains. No wonder the family didn’t want to leave. People from the outside didn’t understand. They thought them lazy. That they were people who wanted to be on the government dole. That wasn’t it at all. Their culture was different from that on the outside. They knew they wouldn’t fit in out there. Their families and their lifestyle was important to them.
The coal mining jobs had gone away due to the movement toward clean energy. Farming had gone away because tobacco was no longer a cash crop and the corn and other crops had been usurped by the big corporate farms. Because they were geographically isolated, industry did not want to locate there. What were they supposed to do? Abandon the life that they had known for generations?
He had been a specialized machinist in the mines. He could get a job on the outside and had even interviewed with other companies. As the sun rose over the mountains, he knew he had to leave to support his family. He had to send his children to college. There was no place for his wife to work and both their parents depended on him. As the sun rose higher in the sky, he made his decision and started walking home to tell his family. He would not lose them or his connection to this beautiful place. He would drive home on weekends. He would give them the gift of keeping their lives intact.