She, of course, would be the woman I love. The woman I married a little over a year ago. This past week we loaded a truckload of her things and brought them up to Vermont from her apartment in Massachusetts to my house in beautiful downtown West Pawlet, Vermont. This morning she left early for her new job in Bennington.
For the last year, we have migrated between her home in Athol and my home in West Pawlet. It’s meant a lot of miles and a lot of constant re-arranging of our lives to do it. I’d drive down to her place and work in the middle of the week. She’d come up on weekends, sometimes for three day weekends. I shudder to think how much travel this has meant over the year.
But I love this woman. I wanted to be with her, and fortunately, she wanted to be with me. I wasn’t willing to wait for everything to fall into place to be with her. I don’t regret not waiting at all.
This morning as I did my devotions, meditation and Bible reading, I found myself reading this verse from Colossians 3:12: “You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
I have never thought of myself as a patient person. I often feel like I am chafing against a world around me that never goes at the pace I want to go at. I never feel like life is progressing as I want it too. I hate waiting in lines. Delays drive me crazy – a bad thing in Vermont which runs on its own time zone, Eastern Slow Time.
This morning, as I kissed my wife off to work, she told me, not for the first time, “You have the patience of a saint.” If true, the saints were pretty frustrated souls.
But this morning, as I spent some time thinking before I began writing. People are always telling me I am patient. And if I have learned anything in my life (the hard way of course, that’s the only way I seem to learn anything important.), it is that when all the people around you say something, you had best listen.
Here’s what I came to – I am patient if you measure my actions. I am not so patient if you measure what I am feeling.
One measure of patience has been how I have constantly re-arranged my work to match the situation I was in and the people I felt I needed to take care of.
When I was married to my ex-wife, and having kids. I felt a pressure to be “the provider.” I did work that I liked, but that required me to travel. Why? Because that is how I could make the most money. Two or three nights a week, I was on the road. First in sales and then as a manager and partner in a startup in DC. The other two or three days a week, I worked from home, reshuffling my work so I could get the kids off to school and then be available when they got home. I often ended up working late into the night after they all went to bed.
When my ex no longer wanted me, I threw myself into work even harder. I traveled more. It wasn’t about making more. It was about keeping myself sane when I was anything but. I worked a zillion hours, traveled constantly, just to dull the pain. But I was always available on weekends when I got the kids. I wanted to be fully available to them for the short time I was able to be with them.
Eventually, I moved to Vermont. A year or so later, my daughter chose to leave her mother and move up here to be with me. I was still traveling, and she traveled with me. Again, though, I re-arranged work to give me time with her. I’d get up earlier so I could finish by dinner time. We’d do movies or go out for dinner from my hotel room after she had finished her online school work. When we traveled back and forth from DC to Vermont, I’d arrange it so we could stop and visit historical homes and places. (a thing we both love.). If I had to work more on weekends to make it work for her and I, I did.
She did what kids do. She grew up and went to college. And then my son decided to do the same, leaving his mom in Virginia to come here.
He’s a different creature. Far more social and busy than his sister or I. It soon became evident that instead of online school, he would be better served being back in the public school system. That meant a complete rethinking of my work. What I had done for 30 years only happens in big cities, and traveling to those big cities wasn’t a good option.
The new work I took on had me at home working a lot more, but made a lot less money. A lot less. And it was new to me. Kinda scary. But as priorities change, so does what we do and the choices we make. Was it the happiest work I could have done? No. But it fit the bill to make the best choice and to be available for my son at this new turn in his life. I’d do it again.
And then, of course, I fell in love. (I still am in love). But she was in Massachusetts. And my priorities shifted once again. And along with it my work. I wanted to be able to take days off in the middle of the week, so I had to let some work go, figure out some other things to do. Build in a radical flexibility in hours. It meant a bit less money again, but I have whittled my life down to pretty simple, low-cost affair. That wasn’t a big deal.
And it got better when we married. I still had to re-arrange time to migrate between Athol and Westy Pawlet each week. But I had more of a schedule. So again I reshuffled work to fit the schedule I wanted.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I determined a decade ago that time with the people I love is more important than maximizing what I can make. I wish I had made that decision younger. But I don’t regret how I used to do. Like the past decade, I made the decision around what I thought (and was told) would best suit and take care of the people I love.
And now she is here. The woman I love. My kids are gone and grown up. And I am left with the question that I often ask my coaching and consulting clients: What do I want to do.
Me. Not for person X or person Y. Me.
It’s not a case of making enough money. I make enough. I would kinda like to make more, but mostly, I want to do good work. Work I enjoy and work that makes a difference. Work I can do for another decade or so. Work on my schedule. Not someone else’s. And I am not sure what that looks like right now.
I’ll do what I do, and do what I urge my clients to do. I’ll sit with it a while. I’ll think. I’ll let feelings churn a bit. I have a lot of options, including just doing what I am doing. Things are shifting in my own life right now and the right path will show itself.
I am blessed. The woman I love is crazy supportive. She wants me happy. She wants me to make decisions based on what I want out of the next decade or so. We will figure it out.
It is strange though, to be sixty-two and facing the same question my kids are facing: What do I want to do?
Whatever it is, I know I can. I’ve been able to change and re-arrange work for a decade to fit the needs and schedule of others. In fact, that is one of the lessons I have learned. We can pretty much do anything or become anything if we set our minds and attitudes towards it.
Assuming we know what “it” is.
In a lot of my photography and poetry, I use images of fog. I love the idea of fog, of things being just on the other side, barely seen. It’s an analogy that suits so much of life. Yours. Mine. All of ours.
And it fits me today. I feel like I am once again about to set sail, in the fog. It’s a journey I have made before. You never quite get used to it. But after a host of voyages, you also no longer fear it.
I guess I am more patient than I thought.
Be well. Travel wisely,