As Time Goes By


When I was a young wise cracker — as opposed to an almost old one — I used to answer friends’ announcements that they were off on some adventure, be it a trip or a new boyfriend, in order to “find myself” with “Have you looked behind the sofa cushions?  When I’m missing myself that’s usually where I am.”

I still don’t believe you need to do stupid things in order to find yourself.  Sure, there is some point at which your inner self says “this far and no further.”  BUT the thing here is, how long would it take you to bump against all those points?  And what if you drove past some that are, in fact, in our society unacceptable or at least undesirable, like, you find a true vocation for petty theft, or rape, or murder? Or what if you never stop trying to find things to define yourself against?

I’m not a child of the sixties, to the extent that I was born in the sixties, and that when 1970 came around I was 8.  But by dint of having an older sibling and quasi sibling, I knew and heard of people who went to find themselves, and never came back.  I.e. the voyage turned into a meander of “just one more thing” that amounts to wasting one’s life in myriad pursuits that lead nowhere.

Sure, I’m a libertarian.  You’re allowed to waste your life in any way you choose, and go to hell on an express train if that’s your chosen destination, so long as you don’t default to public support when the voyage fails.  (In fact, years ago, while listening to the “homeless” in the park I used to cross to go have lunch with the kids on school days, I realized most of them were there because their voyages of self-discovery had never ended. They’d left mom and dad’s home, because rules; they’d walked away from jobs and families because “they were tying me down” and they had drifted into shapeless, formless, totally unproductive lives, made possible by charity public and private.  That I object to, because the government and so called charities are enabling the destruction of people and lives that might otherwise be productive.)  Thing is, I have never met one of those people who was happy.  The happiest outcome of such things is sort of an apathy and just going along because it’s easy, often coupled with inner resentment and seething at people who have more, have done better, or simply have a direction in life.

Mind you, there is a form of finding yourself — i.e. going into a place where you can have quiet and time for reflection, so you realize when coming back to your life, what is needed and what is extraneous — which is not wholly self-indulgent.  To an extent this is what our writing weekends away are.  We clear away everything but the two of us, books and writing, and make time to reconnect and find what is valuable and what is dross, then come back and act accordingly.  My stress and sickness grows in proportion to how these weekends away diminish, which is why I’ve set a goal of going away once per novel completed.  Now to complete novels.  If my body stopped playing up tricks, it would be good about now.

But the other?  The meander to life bumping against limits?  Unproductive at best, destructive at worst.

I think it’s not a coincidence that those endless voyages into the sunset of ego became more normal as parents and society started imposing fewer rules.

Humans don’t do well with no limits and nothing to strive against, and in a society where abundance does not supply the sharp sting of lack or the fear of death, we need to have other things to test ourselves against.

To an extent I was fortunate, and I was happy both my sons also had vocations that will test them, many times in life.  I suspect if my degree had been recognized (as it is now) and i’d been allowed to teach French or German in public school, my life would have been both less fraught but more devoid of purpose.  I doubt without the need to do SOMETHING with my mind, and, often, to provide the needed little extra to get shoes for the kids or trips to the zoo or whatever, I would have stuck to writing as I did, particularly since most of my career has resembled nothing so much as a series of kicks to the teeth.  But I needed to do something, writing was the thing I could do, and so I persisted.

This necessity — if self imposed — to pursue a difficult course gave me the measure of who I was, sometimes in unlovely panoramas of resentment and fear, and sometimes in amazing colors of persistence and hard work.  “Oh, wow, look, I really can write that” is a good way to find limits.

So, what is this all about?

Well, it is quite possibly in a year, give or take a few months, both sons will be out of our purview.  Oh, it’s possible basement son will still be basement son (we don’t know and will leave it to them to figure out) but it also looks likely he’ll be married, which means they can use the independent entrance, and cook their own meals, and we’ll keep our noses out of their affairs financial and domestic.  (To be fair, they wish to find another place, but we would like them to have the advantage of living rent free, at least till he’s earning regular money.)  And remote-location son will probably be graduated and hopefully (looks at sky) please Lord working and minding his own business, as well.  Given that his interest is in aerospace, chances are he won’t be living anywhere near us.

Look, it’s not a sudden change.  We’ve seen this coming for some years.  And the last few years, even when one of them has an emergency that takes all my mind away from writing and other work, and to them, they’ve taken less and less of my time.  We’ve not only come a long way from when they were infants or toddlers into whose faces I had to spoon food, they have come a long way from being early teens and my being the arbiter of their wishes and interests.  “No, you cannot attempt to create life with highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide in the bathroom.”  “Yes, sure, we’ll buy you the remote Greek Language course.”  “No, you cannot have that either.  I know it’s explosive.  What are you trying to do?”

Over the last five to seven years, they’ve become young men in the fullest sense of the word, i.e. adults who mind their own things, unless they come up across something they don’t know how to handle, which is why we have parents.

But they’ve still been on the paycheck and they’ve been dependent on us to an extent. We can’t make plans to decamp for a month, say, because you know something will come up and one of them will need us.  We need to husband our finances extra carefully because tuition and transportation and medical insurance take up most of our free money.  Or to put it another way: I’m making more money than ever, and we’re more tight than ever.

Also meals include basement son, because otherwise he devolves to a diet of hotdogs and swears to us that mustard is a vegetable.  So they must happen with some regularity, and going out can’t be (even if it sometimes is) a whim.

Over the last few years, too, holidays and annual feasts have been changing.  They might not come to us for their birthdays; Christmas and Easter are still ours, but might not be next year, as one of them at least will have other obligations, and honestly we lost younger son from New Years four years ago, and this year we’re losing older son.

This leaves us, not bereft but back to the situation we were in prior to kids.  I’m looking forward to a time when it’s just us, and we don’t need to mind anyone else for meals, or worry whether someone has clean clothes for work, or money for rent.

The world is contracting to couple-sized.

This is not bad, of course, except that humans thrive on traditions and routines.  So I’m trying this time, not like when we had the kid like a chaos bomb implode our routines, to make rational choices for “this is how things will be now” based on who we are now.  (Which needless to say is not who we were at 28.)

Find myself?  Nah.  I know what I want my epitaph to say. Beyond that (I hope) beloved wife mother and grandmother.  I want it say I wrote hundreds of books in sf/f and mystery, and that they’re still popular and selling.  Which means I have a ton of work to do.  Which means I know where I’m aiming.

It’s more finding the pace and the routine at which I can work.  Finding little comforting things to do along the way.  Finding what I need, right now, at this place in my life.

At my age — and frankly experience — I’m not going to experiment with hallucinogenics or outre sex.  But otherwise I’m finding things to bump against, and establishing rules ahead of bumping into some.

Part of it is trying to convince myself not to treat myself like a rented mule.  As Jeff Greason has told me, “it’s important to care for the host” particularly as it’s not as forgiving as it once was. “Husbanding strength to create longer term productivity” is difficult, as I tend to go all or nothing.

But it’s important.  Yes, I’ve looked behind the sofa cushions.  I wasn’t there.  So now I need to deal with myself as I am now, distinctly not 28 anymore, and learn to do what I can to keep my body as well as my mind happy.

For the mind, I think I’m going to brush up on my Latin and Greek.  Set up a regular schedule of lessons, to keep the brain nimble.  For the body…. Exercise is on the menu, and perhaps not eating random things through the day, but actually minding what goes in.

For the heart… For the heart I’ve always known what I wanted to do and what makes the heart sing.  So there must be stories, and a lot more than in the last few years.  Which means working on the other stuff.

Since modern life is so long and has so many stages, there is a good possibility two or more of you are frantically looking behind the sofa cushions to find out the self you lost somewhere along life’s by ways.

Instead of bumping aimlessly against limits, I suggest — note suggest, I’m not the boss of you — you find out what you want to do more than anything and aim for that, then create the rules and routines that allow you to get there.

Bon voyage.



175 thoughts on “As Time Goes By

  1. I still don’t believe you need to do stupid things in order to find yourself.

    Most people who do stupid things to find themselves are really running away from themselves.

    1. They would be wiser to regard this world as a vale of soul making. Because what they are making their selves is a very sad thing.

      1. Yes, very sad.

        They will find that wherever they go there they will be, still stuck with themselves and miserable.

        1. The old man sitting on the fence looked up as a wagon filled with a family and its household goods paused on the road.
          The driver shouted a question at him: “What’s that town like up the road?”
          The old man queried back, “What was the one like that you’re leaving?”
          “It was full of the most stuck-up, greedy, no-account shysters on this earth. We couldn’t wait to get out of there.”
          The old man said, “Reckon you’ll find the people up ahead are pretty much the same.”
          The driver scowled and started his team moving, “Guess we’ll go on by, then.”
          Sometime later, another fully-laden wagon paused near the old man.
          “Excuse me,” said the driver, “we’re looking for a place to settle. Can you tell me what that town’s like up the road?”
          The old man queried back, “What was the one like that you’re leaving?”
          The driver smiled, “Why, it was full of the most considerate, generous, blessed people we’ve ever known. We hated to leave.”
          The old man said, “Reckon you’ll find the people up ahead are pretty much the same.”

  2. Of course, going off to “find yourself” can be “abandoning responsibilities”.

    A fictional example was in “Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman” where Doctor Quinn found herself the care-taker of a bunch of kids whose father had abandoned them to “find himself”. (Don’t remember if their mother had died before or after he went to find himself.) 😦

    1. I know o of someone who left the area as a form of divorce. Some said he went in search of himself, but it was really to get out of rifle range of of his potential widow, who did later have him declared dead.

      1. Chuckle Chuckle

        Of course, I doubt “finding yourself” would have been an acceptable reason to abandon your children in the “Doctor Quinn” time frame and I suspect that no Judge of that time would have allowed him to “reclaim” his children after abandoning them (an episode of Doctor Quinn had him coming back).

  3. Good luck. I’ve got no insights to offer, being that I’m still in the “drop food into her mouth like she’s a baby bird” stage of family, and I haven’t gotten particularly good at that. I’m also searching behind the couch cushions to try to find myself (along with that blue plastic block that seems to have disappeared into the ether).

    In general, though, I agree with the sentiment that going off to “find yourself” by throwing off all your responsibilities is not only incredibly selfish, but it’s rarely effective. I’ve sometimes tried to sort my life out by taking a weekend or so with the idea I’ll think about what I’m going to do next. However, usually the way it works out is that I video game or read or just do anything to avoid thinking about my problems. I’ve had much better luck “finding myself” with my “2018 is the year I become a writer” program. Having concrete goals and forcing myself to chase after them at least gives me a sense of if I really want these things or not.

    1. There is a strong argument to be made that you are the sum of the responsibilities you assume, and that if you refuse responsibility you’re nothing.

      1. I’ll note Heinlein’s advice; responsibilities should be those that you assume, not those wished upon you by others. I had two occasions in the past 15 years when I ignored that, to my detriment. I eventually learned to distinguish between doing my share and letting myself get exploited.

        I left one local church when the pileup of duties was impacting my health, and politely (really!) told them I wouldn’t be back. We were called a few months later by a member of the congregation. “You two need to come back. Nothing’s getting done.” We declined the invitation.

    2. This is one reason why so many high fantasy heroes are late teens. Old enough to leave their homes, but young enough that it’s possibly they will neither be irresponsibly shedding responsibilities, nor have irresponsibly not acquired any by that age.

      These issues can be finessed — some of the ways of doing it are cliche — but they do have to be finessed.

    3. Check under/behind the car seat for the block (and possibly yourself) . I’ve got three of four out of the house and my daughter the shieldmaiden getting ready to turn 18 soon. I’ve been getting a good idea of what my parents went through now when I was at that stage of life and trying to follow their examples of being supportive all the time and helpful when needed.

  4. Mind you, there is a form of finding yourself — i.e. going into a place where you can have quiet and time for reflection, so you realize when coming back to your life, what is needed and what is extraneous — which is not wholly self-indulgent. 

    The frivolous distractions of life are one thing, but the things-that-need-attention can be distractions as well.  There are times when it is good to go someplace where no household chores or yard-work can make immediate demands upon you.

  5. Good grief, why on Earth would I want to find myself? All evidence to date indicates I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I found me.

    I am much more interested in losing myself, particularly in a good book.

    1. I’ve seen some evidence I’m a jerk. Since I don’t usually go out of my way to interact with jerks I figure one more missing isn’t all that big of a deal.

      Plus, being a jerk, I’d drink all the tequila and eat all the good salsa. And heaven forbid, what if I find myself and it turns out that I don’t like salsa or tequila?!

    2. I sometimes astonish my patients by telling them that it is far more important that they should be able to lose themselves than that they should be able to find themselves. For it is only in losing oneself that one does find oneself.

      ― Theodore Dalrymple

      1. I like that one!

        I lose myself in activities all the time. In a book or game with a great story, in writing code, or trying to track down a network problem. When I get done with whatever I’m still ‘here’.

        In all seriousness I can appreciate the need to find ones ‘self’. I also think there are better ways to go about doing it than ditching all responsibility and becoming a vagabond.

        1. It is a tenet of Christian faith that to find oneself one must first lose oneself in G-d.

  6. I’ve never felt the urge to find myself; my sense of personal identity was always stronger than that. I am something of a fanatic about personal freedom, but on the other hand, on our 31st anniversary of moving in together, C and I got married, and happily making it legal doesn’t seem to have spoiled it. (We used a cut down version of the early Book of Common Prayer, because the language was so much better than modern vows, and because it emphasized that this was a serious legal commitment and not just an exchange of sentiments.)

    As for limits, I think Robert Frost had it right when he compared writing free verse to playing tennis without the net. Having to work within a set of limits is a great stimulus to invention.

    1. Congrats, however belated they may be…
      It is good to have words matching the commitment that is already there. (Used to be that the words turned into the reality; not so much these days, apparently.)

      1. And you really ought to share:

        Because Bogie said it best:
        “You played it for her, you can play it for me!”

        1. Great movie. And Ford Prefect would agree.

          Insty had a link up about it the other day, and someone in the comments wouldn’t shut up about how horrible the movie was because the people who made it were apparently communists.


          1. If that’s one’s criteria for avoiding movies, almost everything out of Hollywood for the last 60 years or so needs to go away.

          2. That person’s point wasn’t that it was *made* by a communist, but that it was made by a communist as pro-left propaganda.

            1. And therefore that it was horrible.

              And yet, it’s widely recognized by people of a wide array of views, political and otherwise, to be a great, classic film.

              1. Well, it is rather second-rate now.

                … That is what happens when you single-handedly invent a ton of tropes and set the standards for a generation or two; later groups do a better job of what you did first, so it seems second rate.

                I can’t remember all the stuff it invented, but it was like every ten minutes our film teacher was stopping the movie and pointing “Hey, see that thing where they did a lame version of ____? Yeah, that was the first example of that at all. Is it still lame?”

                1. I have ambitions.
                  I want to be a writer that makes a reasonable living from my work.
                  I want to be a writer that readers say to not-yet-readers “Oh, yeah, him. Good stuff. Worth the money.”
                  I want to be a writer that is never, ever “taught” in a classroom setting. Just about a kiss of death. (If I had not been a reader already of RAH – I probably would have not picked up on him after the one and only “science fiction as literature” class I foolishly took.)

                2. Not always. All fantasy might be written in the shadow of that Ring, but The Lord of the Rings stands the test.

                  But, yeah, often.

                  1. I’m not sure that Lord of the Rings was trying to do something new– I know Tolkien said he was trying to make an English Beowulf, so it might be said to be new, or it might be something very old and he is notably awesome because he did it very well.

                    English is hard to falsify. 😀 Even before you go into a matter of taste. At least movies are relatively short and simple. (not to be confused with absolutely short and simple)

                    1. IIRC Tolkien said that he was attempting a new English Myth and I think he did a good job of it.

                      And yes, IMO he “took” from older myths and stories to create something new.

                3. I’d like to know which movies took a Casablanca trope and did it better in your opinion. Because Casablanca did them pretty darn well, so anything that did one of those tropes better is probably worth checking out. (Also, I believe your tastes tend to match mine, so anything you recommend, I’ll probably like; I believe it was from you that I first learned about Embers, for example).

                  1. Oh, gosh, it went all the way down to stuff like how Rick stood at some points– it’s been decades, and I’m not much into movies. 😀

                    I’m pretty sure the classic shadows-half-across-the-face as he looked thoughtfully out was one of them….the shot that is so cliche it’s almost come back around again.


                    1. A great deal of the technique in Casablanca has been imitated, often with superior technology, but that does not make it cliched. As with the cattle stampede in Red River, it wasn’t a cliche before that movie depicted it, it only became a cliche after many others imitated/referenced it. To quote Groucho, the true philosophical Marx, “Gee, I wish I’d said that. Everybody’s repeating it.”

                      As for Lord of the Rings, the technology of writing has not greatly changed, so it serves no purpose to remake the book in color, with sound, and CGIFX.

                    2. No, i mean it was a convention of film noir, a lot of Casablanca was stylistically copied from noir films.

                    3. I concede it has been a long forty years since I did a deep dive into film genres, but it has been my impression that Film Noir was essentially a post-war phenomenon, which would make it difficult for a film made during the war to ape the genre’s motifs.

                      Now, if you want to argue Casablanca stylistically copied the precursors of the genre, that’s a different debate and one I do not care to indulge in this venue, especially as we’re already up against the wall.

                4. My issue with Casablanca is… I don’t know what. I’ve read the (trans)script and I can see from that it must be a great film. But somehow I just can’t stand to watch the thing. Once, I even tried to watch it when alone to see if it was my reaction to the film, or to its fans. I made it to about 5 seconds beyond intro narration. It might still be a thing of having heard about it ad nauseum that poisoned it for me, who knows. Yet the other classic (old) movie Citizen Kane? No problem(s).

                  I have not attempted to endure Gone with the Wind, fwiw.

                  1. The last time I saw Gone With The Wind a young friend who I had taught film as part of her home education took me to a showing at a theater.  

                    After the film my friend observed that there were not very many real grown-ups represented in the population.  Rhett.  Mammy.  Melanie. Belle.  She was right. 

                    I found that I had been paying attention to the incredible detail displayed in the costumes, like the hand stitching on the inside of Scarlet’s collar in hospital scene. I am not sure that is a good sign.   

                    GWTW is well-crafted and visually stunning. Aside from the little girl playing Bonnie Blue Butler, the performances are all excellent. The sets and costumes are beautiful.  It is an important film in the history of Hollywood — but that does not make it a must see. 

                5. The Wright brother’s first flight at Kitty Hawk on 17 Dec. 1903 wasn’t one of impressive speed, altitude, length, or even very good landing. But it was something new – a flight good enough they could use the (heavier than) air-craft a second time.

  7. > yourself

    That is, “the set of boundaries that make you not-someone-else.”

    If you choose not to constrain your behavior, you’re operating at the child’s “do what I want!” level. You’re not anyone in particular, just whatever circumstances favor.

    JVH chose to send down ten (or by some accounts, fifteen) Commandments. Not being a diety, I have only four that I chose to live by:

    I don’t take any shit.
    I don’t give any shit.
    I don’t lie.
    I don’t steal.

    “Dodson, Matthew, sir. One bean.”
    – RAH

    1. Mom’s list is about the same:
      If it’s not yours, leave it alone.
      If you mess it up, you clean it up.
      Keep your hands to yourself.

  8. I have lost myself. I didn’t need to go off on a journey to find where I had left me though. I just had to go back along the trail until I found where I was me. It’s hard losing ones self, especially when it’s in the dark places. Good work, good friends, and loving companionship are all that one needs to truly find ones self.

    1. I am sure that if I thought The Spouse would buy it I would insist that I must have left myself somewhere above 3,000 ft elevation in the Southern Appalachians and that we needed to plan to make several excursions in the near future in order to go find me.

      I would probably get no farther than if I argued

      and when it is bleak and chilly 
      and life is flat
      I think of that Haitian dilly
      and think I’d better go get my hat

  9. You bring ip an interesting point;

    (Young man or woman), “I’m going to go FIND myself!”

    (Older person), “Well, look in the homeless shelters, because that’s where you’ll end up.”

    1. Been there, done that. I don’t recommend it, but in my case, I worked the program that was offered and got the help I didn’t know I needed. It’s not necessarily the end of the world.

  10. swears to us that mustard is a vegetable

    This is true only in quantities that few hot dogs can withstand. Pickles (slices or relish), onions, hot peppers and slaw are vegetables and the reason you should only eat hot dogs Chicago style.

    Or Carolina style, with chili and slaw.

      1. Sport peppers are small, spicy, green peppers served as part of some recipes, such as Chicago-style dogs or some varieties of Italian beef, or served as a separate table condiment/topping. From the same source as the photo in RES’ comment: “Vienna® Sport peppers are medium-hot, naturally bite-sized, and packed in a seasoned brine to ensure the right amount of spicy crunch.”

        1. I see from your link that they are about 9 times hotter than jalapenos. That could explain why some of the Italian beef sandwiches I’ve eaten have seemed so hot. Personally, if I’m making Italian beef I go for some spicy relish and a somewhat cooler pepper, like a medium or hot pepperoncini.

    1. “swears to us that mustard is a vegetable”
      Well, ketchup *definitely* is. The gov’t said so!

      1. I always thought that was a realistic assessment of how school kids use ketchup. In the quantities they pour it on fries, it should be counted as a serving of vegetables…and considering the amount of sugar, also as a dessert.

      2. I recall the big brouhaha about that claim during the Reagan administration, even though it was fallout from the Carter years. Gee, it’s like fake news has been fake for a long time. Hrmmm.

      3. The Supreme Court made that determination in the 1800’s (Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893), ) so neither Carter or Regan get the blame. In fact we can’t even blame Obama for it.

        1. we can’t even blame Obama for it.

          The hell we can’t. It would be unfair, it would be unjust, it would be SJW, but we can do it.

          1. True, and we would be applying his standards to him which he would have to appreciate.

    2. Replace hotdog with a grilled bratwurst.
      Replace all those fixin’s with a heaping portion of sauerkraut.
      Poppy seed bun works for me; but any good multi-grain or whole grain bun works too.

      1. Real sauerkraut – the fermented stuff.
        Though I still use mustard and ketchup – it helps to hold the kraut in place. (Always put your condiments on before the sausage; you can fit more in. 😉 )

    3. I like to top the Chicken Caesar Salad at Costco with a sliced polish sausage, deli mustard, onions and relish. Sauerkraut optional.

      I ate my first CCS in months on Friday, a couple hours before the CDC said to stop eating any romaine lettuce. Costco insists that their romaine came from Salinas (the e Coli outbreak is from Yuma). So far so good.

  11. Sort of the opposite of “finding myself.”

    At 24 I moved halfway across the country and re-invented myself. But then I didn’t have any responsibilities that didn’t come with me, and I had a job waiting for me.

    And I did force myself to be social and talk to people–which is much easier around strangers who don’t _know_ that you are a silent little mouse.

    1. I’m about to be in a similar boat so, thank you for the reassurance that it can, in fact, be done.

      1. Outside expectations can hinder growth and change. And sometimes you have to leave those behind and work at starting new expectations with new people.

        Good luck, and remember that you only have to force yourself to be different for a few weeks. Then everyone expects and reinforces the new behavior.

      2. It can be done! It can even be fun! In fact, across the country makes it a lot easier; it’s harder to try out new habits, new facets of yourself you want to grow, when you’re in the same town with the same friends set in the same habits.

        Says the gal who moved to Chicago at 17, Fairbanks, AK at 20, San Francisco at 21, Anchorage at 22, and then took up with a South African and moved to Louisiana at 30… and here I write you from Texas, several states later.

        If you approach it with a spirit of opportunity and adventure, and some time set aside for introverted recovery, and sincere thoughts about what you want to change, what you don’t, and how that’s working out for you… and remember that you’ll become more like the company you keep, so choose your friends wisely… Then it can be truly wonderful!

        You’ll do fine 🙂

        1. I was 54 when I moved across the Mason-Dixon line, to get a job. I was married, with all my children adults.
          I had to:
          – find a place to live
          – set up housekeeping
          – manage on very little money
          – navigate without a GPS
          – make some friends
          – do a good job
          All of which I was able to do, and in addition – bought a house, hired contractors to upgrade it, managed to acquire a mortgage and 2nd mortgage for the upgrades. Eventually, my husband joined me. And, we moved to another location, together.
          It was a wonderful experience, after many years of marriage and dependency on him for household repairs, cooking, etc. It gave me confidence in my ability to handle things on my own.

          1. Late ’02, so I was 44, hubby got transferred. The company figured out I wasn’t working so they figured they could get away with it; note this was after they cut paying for forced transfers; not that it mattered, but still … Kid had just started HS & no way were we willing to move (well I would have, but hubby was “no way”). Plus hubby was transferred to the middle of nowhere where housing was limited, & was either crappy or expensive, & for me to work at an office would have meant at minimum a 3 or 4 hour commute. So “two” households (where one of them ended up being our then 27′ travel trailer). We talked every night. Hubby helped the kid do his homework. Plus hubby was able to come home every weekend.

            Biggest challenge of the 18 months was hubby’s perception he wasn’t needed!!!! Not the point. When he lived at home I didn’t talk every detail over with him. I just did it. Suddenly when he wasn’t home every night, it was necessary!!! Yet if I called with a true emergency it was “what can I do from 500 miles away?” Rolls eyes. Plus we knew a couple where his job required him to be gone every winter, she called on every little item, & we knew that, my hubby had commented more than once about how “needy” she was. I swear I couldn’t win. Finally sat him down & reminded him we were a partnership, we were both capable of doing everything on our own, but that wasn’t our choice!!!! It was a long, 18 months.

            Yes, military families go through longer & worse situations (which I repeatably reminded myself), but any spouse should be aware of that going into the marriage/relationship (separation time for us was a surprise), no matter what their actual reality is.

      3. When I went away to college it was shocking to find out that people thought I was smart. In my high school (small… everyone knew you since kindergarten) I was a ditz because I’d zone out to get through the day.

  12. > Mind you, there is a form of finding yourself — i.e. going into a place
    > where you can have quiet and time for reflection, so you realize
    > when coming back to your life, what is needed and what is extraneous

    You don’t “find” yourself by looking inside. It’s way too easy to deceive yourself and start to believe your own press.

    You don’t *find* yourself as much as you figure out who you *can* be, and then work to be that.

    Finding yourself is like an alchemist looking for the philosopher stone to turn base metals into metals of value. Shortcuts.

  13. I’m hoping that Little Britches, now 7 years old, will live at home while taking advantage of the tuition reduction benefit through my work. If she does, we could probably pay for her schooling out of pocket. If she doesn’t, well she may end up with several years worth of student loans to repay. I don’t mind the idea of a ‘gap year’ so much, but it better be over and with her having figured out what she wants to do to survive after that year.

    1. So you’re not only planning on being in the same city 11 years from now, but working for the same company?


      1. That’s the plan. But I’ve been made redundant before, so it could happen again, especially with budget cuts in the future again. If it happens, hopefully I can stay in the same retirement system, again. Otherwise, retirement might get a little dicey.

        1. My retirement plan is to move to New Orleans and live under an overpass while drinking myself to death.

    2. It depends on what a kid does with the ‘gap year.’  A number of kids spend that ‘gap year’ working at the kind of entry level jobs which a high school diploma can get you.  That experience can convince a person to be less wasteful of his freshman year than those who go straight from high school to college. 

      1. When my brother went to grad school, he had a couple of years of engineering work under his belt (and his employer paying for his degree.) He said the professors loved that, as he instantly keyed into what was important, while the ones who had gone straight from undergrad to grad were a bit lost. (This is the brother who is now a rocket scientist.)

        1. I recollect that at one time, the Cal Tech graduate engineering school required two years of work experience before they would accept a graduate student.

      2. High school is really, really poor prep for college. It’s a thing where you go with the flow, do the minimum of assigned work, drop classes with no financial consequences, get coddled and sheltered and assigned and just basically do what you’re told.
        Then there’s college, where your choices will have direct financial repercussions (even if you don’t see it right away). Drop/skip/flunk a class, and you still have to pay for it. Pick the wrong major, and you still have to pay for it- even if you had a severe rectal-cranial inversion and were foolish enough to think a major in Post-Modern Feminist Mime was a good idea.

    3. I’ve one cousin who is a big proponent of two year and community colleges and paying it off as you go.
      He is also my richest and highest paid cousin.
      example: when he stopped being an interim CEO he took a quarter million dollar pay cut.
      And laughed about it.

  14. As for me personally, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. After dropping out of college I worked at a convenience store for several years and wrote crappy poems and short stories. Then I took a job as a police dispatcher to pay off the last of the debts I had. And well, 20 years later I’m still doing it wondering what’s the job I actually want. Of course along the way I got married, bought a house and had a kid, so this might be it until retirement.

  15. For the mind, I think I’m going to brush up on my Latin and Greek.

    If you want something more useful than dead languages you should brush up your Shakespeare …

    … (or, at any rate, your show tunes.)

  16. Anyone who says that they need recreational pharmaceuticals to find themselves, is really lost, and probably is not going to become unlost any time soon, at least in my limited experience.

    I’ve never really wanted to find myself, but then my grasp on the current reality seems a bit loose at times anyway, so why bother? I’ve got a vocation, duties to others, and enough variety in life to keep things from becoming boring.

    Now, I could stand to lose a little of my physical self, say ten pounds or so, probably a little more off the empenage and undercarriage, but alas, “wishing won’t make it go.” [earworm intended]

  17. I know what I want my epitaph to say. Beyond that (I hope) beloved wife mother and grandmother. I want it say I wrote hundreds of books in sf/f and mystery, and that they’re still popular and selling.

    *has a mental image of a gravestone with BUY MY BOOKS AT http://WWW.AUTHORNAME.COM” and gets the giggles*

        1. Hopefully with the comment, “Help pay for Sarah’s great-grandkids’ college education. Buy her books at …..” 🙂


      I think I’ll just have to file away this idea and pull it out in forty-fifty years. Brilliant!

        1. But, think about it: three hundred years from now, a historian is trawling through the cemetery making scans of old headstones on which the writing has mostly worn away. He comes across the Hoyts’ corner of the place and finds… WEBSITES? Talk about brain-breaking, especially we can turn it into a family tradition.

      1. Well, if y’all just learn LaTeX that wouldn’t be so much a problem, now would it?

    2. I’ve seen the gravestone that has a special recipe on it. “You’ll get the recipe over my dead body” was apparently literal.

    3. Larry Correia is going to be so incredibly jealous that you thought of it first.

  18. It has been my experience that those who go off to have an adventure to “find themselves” are really just running way. Which is considerably different than those who go off to have an adventure to help people, or to gain experience. If you really want to find yourself, that requires total self honesty, and a considerable amount of dedicated time and hard work. Programs like Covey’s 7 Habits of Successful People course, Landmark Forum, and probably the Carnegie courses all have at least a day dedicated to self-evaluation exercises. You have to know where you are, and who you are, before you can decide what your goals are and how you’re going to get there. In a bottle, a drug induced stupor, or taking a year to ride a motorcycle on a trip through South America don’t work very well at finding yourself.

    1. I knew of a guy who was engaging in autodidaction at sixty miles an hour when the police pulled him over …

  19. Oddly enough, I was just thinking about Cromwell and predestination. (I’m not Calvinist.)

    And what if you drove past some that are, in fact, in our society unacceptable or at least undesirable, like, you find a true vocation for petty theft, or rape, or murder?

    My interpretation of ‘unto Caesar’ may well be heretical.

    Free will, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah kinda suggest there are situations where God’s desired outcome might be changed between mass murder and no mass murder by human choice.

    Does God ever create someone with a vocation for mass murder where that mass murder is not absolutely certain to be His plan?

    1. That reminds me of the time traveler’s response to, “why don’t you kill Hitler?”

      “We tried. Hitler was the best we could do.”

  20. My husband has sometimes said that he wishes there were dragons so that your commute to work was more interesting. 😉 Of course, if there really were some awful thing, dragons that would eat you, or war with aliens trying to take over the world, or the constant threat of starvation, it wouldn’t be fun at all, even if you weren’t *bored*.

    I get the “mid life crisis” thing where it seems like we lose ourselves and then panic. Though I think that far too many people blame the wrong thing (usually their spouse, sometimes their children) for them losing themselves. Kids require more than anyone has, so that “draining” is unavoidable for some years. And the spouse is probably in the same place you are, so it makes no sense to blame them. Just remember that it’s a season not eternity and power on.

    I’m in about the same life place as Sarah. Our children are all legal adults. Even the ones at home don’t actually require anything much of us (and are starting to be useful and responsible) and are working at their lives. Maybe in a more relaxed way than we did 30 years ago when we could not wait to leave and be “on our own”, but I don’t fear that they won’t fly eventually.

    When they do, I’m not worried about an “empty nest” feeling which is probably also a version of “I lost myself” – the kids leave and suddenly you realize you do everything in reaction to them and now you don’t have them to manage your day any more, or to give you purpose in life.

    But I have realized that I stopped thinking about what I wanted to the tune of forgetting to have other interests, dropping hobbies and avoiding the burden of maintaining friendships. I don’t have to go away to find those things back again.

    1. My husband has sometimes said that he wishes there were dragons so that your commute to work was more interesting. 😉 Of course, if there really were some awful thing, dragons that would eat you, or war with aliens trying to take over the world, or the constant threat of starvation, it wouldn’t be fun at all, even if you weren’t *bored*.

      Housemate decided to liven up his parents’ planned little roadtrip to somewhere by introducing them to the Youtube channel Dashcam Australia. I wouldn’t be surprised now if they’ll be looking out for spectacular crashes.

      I’ll probably be at the same stage of life in only a few years; well, at least seeing the eldest kids off. Right now, I’m enjoying that they can talk back. The eldest son was remarking recently (in a discussion about his haircut) that it’s like having a tribble growing on his head. (He wanted a shorter haircut, I want him to keep some hair) I was rather happy that I’ve raised enough of a little geek that that’s the description he went for.

    2. My husband has sometimes said that he wishes there were dragons so that your commute to work was more interesting.

      Commutes are always more interesting with no cars. (What, you think you can have car factories with dragons plaguing the land?)

  21. they’d walked away from jobs and families because “they were tying me down” and they had drifted into shapeless, formless, totally unproductive lives
    Like this?

    (Yes, I’ve always found this song to be annoying, once I actually listened to the lyrics.)

    1. Otis Redding: Yet another example of how aircraft and musicians are a bad mix. Along with the Big Bobber, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Patsy Kline, Jim Croce. Other forms of transportation are usually safer, but not always. Probably best to just avoid entering any type of vehicle with a musician inside. Or a Kennedy inside. Never enter a vehicle with a Kennedy inside.

      1. Never enter a vehicle with a Kennedy inside.

        Now this right here is advice well worth giving. Though I’d revise to “Never, ever, enter a vehicle with a Kennedy inside.” just to start towards the right amount of emphasis.

        1. Not always. It is said that Michael Medved got into a vehicle with Ted Kennedy, who he had been assigned to drive around for the day, and as a result of the experience left said vehicle as a conservative.

          1. I still have a hard time seeing him as anything but one of those sort of mild-mannered, genially conservative sorts— he’s just TOO NICE.

          2. I couldn’t find a cite for that particular story, but here is a good interview with Medved on his “conversion” and ideology; it took place shortly after Bush 43 was elected the second time (Jan 1, 2005), but some of the remarks could be transplanted to the current day.
            When he went to Yale, he thought Hillary was the nice one. So sad to see what she became.
            This is a long excerpt, but it covers some of the topics that surface frequently here.
            * * *
            TAE: Your political conversion took longer than your religious conversion. You write that “I refused to give up on thinking of myself as a liberal because I didn’t want to stop seeing myself as a good person.” How have liberals done such a good job of associating themselves with virtue?
            MEDVED: By emphasizing good intentions while ignoring bad results. …
            Simple reality also kept me from straying too far. “Liberal” became a dirty word in America not because of Republican ad campaigns, but because anybody with eyes could eventually see that liberalism just doesn’t work.

            TAE: You have a chapter in your book titled “For the Most Part, Conservatives Are Both Nicer and Happier Than Liberals.” Why do liberal ideas often connect to unhappiness?
            MEDVED: Contemporary liberalism is based on the idea that the world is coming to an end. You can’t embrace liberalism if you’re optimistic about the world in which you live, or grateful, or cheerful. Liberalism today is based on gloom. This is not a gloomy or failing country.
            Yet the Left believes we need to radically remake everything from our family structure to our economic system, because we’re in the midst of a national epidemic of greed, and evil, and all-around badness. This whining has never been less appropriate for any people in the history
            of the planet than it is for Americans of the twentieth century.

            The real energy among Bush haters has to do with the idea that Bush is some kind of “religious fanatic.” The hatred for religion is quite visible in the Jewish community. There are a lot of Jewish people who just hate the Orthodox. I think part of it comes from a deep-seated fear that the religious folks might be right. For me, having staked my life on religious faith, if I’m wrong and it turns out I’m just a bunch of decomposing chemicals, big deal, I haven’t lost anything. I still had a good life, probably a much better one because of my faith. But if someone on the secular left is wrong, then that’s a very big problem.

            TAE: Is the Left’s anger today any different from the attitude of the McGovern supporters, with whom you were familiar, after his loss?
            MEDVED: It is and I’ll tell you why. Nixon was re-elected in a particularly crushing way, but Democrats maintained control of both Houses of Congress. There was a sense that the Supreme Court was liberal. There was a sense, certainly in the Senate, that the anti-war movement with Senators McGovern and Hatfield was gaining influence. I think what has produced a lot of today’s hysteria is the idea of Republicans everywhere: the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court.
            Also, Kerry wasn’t really the choice of the Left. The Left is now saying, “We made a devil’s bargain to support this guy rather than our favorite, Howard Dean, and we still lost.” That’s also part of why people are freaking out and saying they are going to move to Canada.

            TAE: What are the chances that the Democratic Party will reach out sincerely to the values voters and cultural and religious conservatives that they have turned off?
            MEDVED: The chances are nil. The race for the next Democratic nomination for President is going to be between Senator Clinton and either Howard Dean or Al Gore to her left. If through some manipulation, or splitting of the left wing of the party, a true moderate slipped in as the Democratic nominee, the Michael Moore wing of the party would break off.

            In this last election (2004), the Democrats sent out John Cameron Mitchell to campaign door-to-door in Ohio. Mitchell, who is known only to film buffs, did a movie a couple of years ago called Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a musical about a transsexual who has had an incomplete sex-change surgery. Honestly, the movie’s about as disgusting as any you could ever see.
            And the great American political party of Andrew Jackson relied on this cross-dresser to go door-to-door because he’s a “celebrity.” …
            Democrats keep placating their wild, wild Left, and that will continue to cause them problems.

            1. See, I think Hedwig is funny in a sad kind of way… its an entire musical (stage musical later made into a film) based off a bad one-liner.

          1. I have to admit that I am pulling for a Kennedy in the Senate again.

            Mike Kennedy, in Utah – forced carpetbagger Romney into an actual primary election, rather than allowing him to be anointed by the caucus.

            1. Don’t forget Louisiana’s junior senator, John Neely Kennedy, with his “A” rating from the NRA.

          2. The Mother-In-Law insisted that, because of the politicians she would never move to New York or Massachusetts, even though she had loving children living in each.

            1. Old school buddy told his kids if they never want to see him again, to move to New Jersey. As a truck driver he hates the place with a purple passion

        2. Never, ever enter a vehicle with a Kennedy inside. I knew a Kennedy (no relation to the Mass. crime family) who climbed into an F-18 with a student. They managed to get into out-of-control flight, pulled -11G, and damned near broke the airplane (I think they wrote it off and used it for a maintenance trainer). Software.

          Kennedys and motor vehicles get along like me and computers.

          1. Ummm, if they pulled negative 11 Gs in an F-18, they most certainly DID break the plane. You don’t EVER fly those again.

  22. This leaves us, not bereft but back to the situation we were in prior to kids.
    One big warning: TAXES.
    Plan for them changing NOW. Though the latest tax legislation might help that by shuffling around standard deductions and such, if they’re not already completely off your form as dependents, that change will bump up against you hard.

    I’ve found myself behind the sofa cushions a few times. Most of the time I was alone, so I at least avoided those awkward moments of “GWB, what are you doing back there?!?” I’ve also found myself bumping up against some changes in my life that required some redirection. (Six months out of work is very, very sucky.)

    Praying for a sign is not always comforting. He tends to drop them right into the middle of the road, rather than politely off to the side.

    But, you keep a good perspective, Sarah. That should serve you well.

        1. Sounds like you planned ahead. We managed not to realize it was coming at all and got hit this year with a 4K payment. It’s on a payment plan for 18 months, but dear gawd.

    1. Both of us had decent 401ks/IRAs when we retired early. When we started to be able to tap these, I built a spreadsheet to figure the yearly payout from the IRAs (we converted some time after retirement; both of our previous employers were, er, unstable).

      This gives us a slightly rising income from investments, and we avoid the trap that hits around 70 years old. ‘Sides, interest rates stink, we’re not going to play Wall Street Roulette, and we occasionally want to do big projects. Haven’t had any debt since we bailed out of California.

  23. Find myself? Gap year? (insert highly derisive snort here) I graduated from high school a week after my 17th birthday, was working a full-time job as a co-op student a week after that. Life is hard. If you want to succeed, you have to be harder still. Willing to study. Willing to work. Willing to take on the hard tasks NOW, so they will be done later. Willing to keep your word when it’s not convenient to do so.

    Because our culture tells teenagers a terrible, destructive lie. “These are the best years of your life.” NO! Those years, from about 13 to 23, are vitally important…but not fun. Screw them up, and you’ll be paying for it the rest of your life. On the other hand, keep your nose clean and to the grindstone, and that 25th birthday will dawn bright and clear, with the world your oyster.

    That’s the painful truth…the kids need to hear it.

    1. Those teenage years should be akin to a young hawk learning how to fly and hunt independently, yet still needs the parents to help out because it sucks at flying and hunting.

    2. “Anyone who tells you these are the best years of your life is either lying or amnesiac.”

      Words of wisdom I am MORE than happy to pass along to any teenager. The looks of relief on their faces when I tell them that (and that life in general gets a lot less stressful once the hormones normalize) is telling.

      1. Yup. As a teenager, you get to be dirt poor, whipsawed by hormones, and alternately an adult or child at the convenience of others (meaning never when it benefits YOU). And you get locked into a high school with the social dynamics of a minimum-security prison.

        And they tell you this is “the best years of your life”.

        Yup. Tell the kids the truth. Teenage life sucks, but it gets better if you don’t throw it all away. Work long and hard, get a lucky break or two, and you, too can do Great Things.

    1. I’ve heard that grandchildren are “the revenge of parents on their adult children”. 😈

      1. In which case, when we moved in with six kids as my dad’s memory departed, that curse rebounded.

        I’m not sure my folks would argue that, either. It’s one thing to overstimulate and sugar the grandkids and return them, another thing entirely to have to continue to endure the consequences. Funny how fast the grandparenting style changed when Mom could no longer give them back!

        1. Heh, we had the opposite happen– my mom’s style is great when she can go hide somewhere else, but she is horribly easy for them to manipulate when she has no retreat!

          My dad…
          Two pairs of blue eyes, one that’s my mom’s greenish-blue turned up to 11.
          And they think he walks on water.
          Insert laughter here at the idea he’s going to lay down any law that isn’t life and limb. (He’s very good at that with the Baron, though–better than I am.)

  24. One of my coworkers used to have a sign I loved: “I have gone out to find myself. If I should return before I get back, please hold me until I get here.”

  25. I largely gave up drinking because I drank enough to find myself but not enough to forget what I found.

  26. Madame please continue to write. Here’s hoping you beat Dr. Asimov’s (prodigious) output.

    As for your younger son he is right about mustard (from a certain point of view). Its mostly ground mustard seed (plant product) and vegetable oil (note first word, also plant product). His dietary (and other) choices sound eerily like my younger daughter a soon to be mechanical engineer with an aerospace minor. When she was young a pediatrician asked her what parts of a salad she enjoyed to try to elicit her vegetable likings. Her response? Croutons.

      1. Thank you for clarifying which son was which. It was seeming a little odd that there were two people of such similar tastes interests and ages :-).

  27. Sarah,

    You don’t know me from Adam because I pretty much just lurk here (i might have commented once). But, I might have a prospect for your younger son in Louisville, CO, so he wouldn’t be as far away as you thought. Contact me directly if he’s interested.


      1. You have access to the email address I entered to post the comment? The website at that domain will verify I am legit.

  28. I don’t need to go anywhere to find myself. More, if I sit still too long without any distractions, myself comes up to greet me inside my head, and we have long talks about where we’ve been, who we’ve been, where we’re going, and what we want to do on the way.

    Sometimes the black dog of depression comes out to play. I used to hate him, but then I figured out that knowing my own brain and biochemical feedback loops are irrational, and lying traitors, and that I shouldn’t trust my immediate emotional reactions… that was an important part of growing up. Now, when the black dog comes to play, I engage with it in a roughhousing wrestling match, then give it a good scritch and send it on its way.

    I’m not perfect, I’m not unscarred, I’m not that great a Christian, but I’m pretty happy with who I am, and who I’m turning myself into.

  29. To find yourself, look in a mirror.

    If you do not like what you see there, you will likely think even less of the you that you find elsewhere.

    Fix the you in the mirror.

  30. Sarah, I found “chair yoga” about 7 years ago. 3x a week of stretches and strengthening. Modest weights (optional) used for arms. We sit in a chair or stand up for all the movements. (Too many of the gang can’t get down & up from the floor due to knee replacements!.) The county provides the class in 10 week segments, per class @$2.25 ea.

    Our oldest participant is 96 and she wired radar onto new B-19s during WWII at Ohio’s Patterson Base. Best thing I’ve done for myself, evah.. After 60 minutes, I can count on endorphins popping. I can garden like I did 30 years ago, bending, pushing, etc.

  31. A semi-forced move to California at 23 led to meeting a great many of people who were trying to find themselves.

    My standard response was, “Oh, I don’t need to; I know where I am. I’m right here… In California… Unfortunately.”

  32. So regarding needing to find oneself, I feel the need to quote a rock musician, physicist, race car driver, and neurosurgeon, Doctor Buckaroo Banzai.

    “Wherever you go, there you are.”

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