Life Choices

Lately, I’ve been thinking back over my  life’s hits and misses. If you are anything like me, you loathe making mistakes with a passion. I find myself reliving past mistakes, as if in the reliving, I could change the outcome.  The thing is, after years of trying to fight my mistakes, I’ve come to believe that I am fighting a losing battle. Why? Because we are meant to make mistakes.  The important thing to consider regarding our mistakes, is not that we make them, because it is an inevitable certainty that we will make them and others.  No, as it is with most of life circumstances, the crucial factor is our reaction to the mistake. What do we take away from it? Hopefully, we learn enough through the making of the mistake, to avoid repeating it.

More importantly, we’ve heard countless times that life is not intended to be perfect, with perfect choices, answers and circumstances. It’s not like that precisely because the truth is that life is a risk. Of course, there is one sure fire way to avoid making another mistake – – inaction. Yet, what type of life would that bring? Every time that we choose, we take a risk that our choice my lead us down an unintended path. Sometimes that path can lead us astray and we realize that we’ve made the wrong decision. At other times, the path, while unintended, leads us down a road that opens us to new experiences and excitements– ones that had we chosen otherwise, we’d never encounter. The thing is not only that we live through our choices; we live because of our choices. By taking the risk, we say “yes” to life and “no” to inaction, the safe choice.

So given all the mistakes that I’ve made in my life, I cannot be accused of hewing to safe choices. No, all the cringe-worthy lapses in judgment, or some would argue, the total absence of judgment, are all mine- good and bad. When I am being rational and clear-headed, I view them as part of a life well-lived, instead of agonizing about the choices that I can’t change.

My Story, Part 2

Continuing my story forces me to discuss a topic that I have kept close to my heart, both out of fear of what others would think of me, as well as shame and regret. At the same time, I’ve always felt a calling to tell my story for others who find themselves in the same circumstance. Just a way to let them know that they are not alone and that the situation may not be as dire as it seems. 

The past  months have led me to reconsider and in some ways, let go of some of my old negative ways of thinking. It occurred to me that I’d long ago come to terms with the shame and regret, and for reasons that I will discuss later, they no longer exist.  Moreover, I’ve almost outgrown any fear of what others may think of me. The people who know and love me will be there as always and anyone who isn’t, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Anyway, it is time. Time to let go. With this letting go, it is my hope that someone, somewhere out there will read it and from it, understand that with hard work and determination, a seemingly dire event, can have positive results. No matter how huge the mistake may seem, we have control over the direction our lives take.

By the time that I graduated high school, I had three scholarships in hand; the most generous at a college in Lafayette. Great, I thought, here’s my ticket to freedom.  I’d been waiting to leave home since the day that I was born. I graduated high school and began what was supposed to be my final summer before college.  Instead, it turned out to  be the summer that I made a decision that changed the course of my entire life–I became pregnant at 17 1/2 years of age.  I was the oldest; the one to set an example for my younger brother and sisters. I was terrified and my Mom, not one to express her feelings, was undoubtedly devastated.

Did you know that “[t]he United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. The Center for Disease control says that one-third of girls get pregnant before the age of 20., a site managed by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, states that there are “750,000 teen pregnancies annually. Eight in ten of these pregnancies are unintended and 81 percent are to unmarried teens.”  I was one of those girls.
Thinking that I had no other choice, soon after, I was in an ill-advised, destined to fail, marriage. Since I was not even 18, my mother, who did not support the marriage, had to sign for the marriage license!  After decades of self-inquiry, I’ve come to realize that my actions were borne of fear of leaving home and fear of the unknown. I was torn in half; I desperately wanted to leave home and to “be free,” but I had not been prepared for the outside world and my fear overtook my reason.  As a result, I choose a different, and difficult road. The marriage did not bring me freedom; it merely introduced me to another form of dependency.  

I was a very young mother, with 3 children by the age of 21.  I always believed that some way and some how, I would graduate college.  I refused to be one of those teenaged mothers that others looked upon as having ruined her life by getting pergnant. I tried attending college but with children, a job and a lack of significant support at home, it was difficult. Since we had no car, I remember spending countless hours on the bus lugging my happy, but chubby young son, from our tiny, postage-stamped sized apartment, to his baby-sitter, then to school and work, only to reverse the route at the end of any already long, exhausting day.  I can remember one occasion where I had to take my son to class with me, where he was the center of attention. Finally, however, I could not  manage it all and I had to forego my education. Between 1976 and 1981, I made 3 failed attempts to pursue my college degree but the stresses of caring for a family, working and going to school were too great and I was forced to stop each time. 

Five years passed and by this time, I had wheedled my way into the oil and gas exploration business.  First, I worked for Shell Oil Company and then Tomlinson Offshore. Even though I had no college degree, I was a assistant geophysicist, and later an assistant geologist.  Unfortunately, the oil and gas bust came and hit New Orleans and I was laid off.  There were no similar jobs to be had throughout the city.  By this time, I’d grown up and my marriage was over.  I had children to care for and I made a decision that I thought that I would never make–I moved to Texas, a place that I  thought was, the land of cowboys and no trees.  I was heartbroken to leave my home, but a part of me was looking forward to the unknown. To be continued. . . 


BlessingsBlessings (Photo credit: earthquakefish (david))
When I started this blog, I intended to stay away from my health issues as much as possible–too boring, I thought, and certainly not pertinent to my journey.  Over the last months, I’ve come to realize the folly of that decision.  My health and fibromyalgia impacts everything that I do, including writing this blog.  I’ve tried to run away from it but it always asserts itself in one way or another. Acceptance seems the only answer. So, I am ready to stop fighting and to run with it. Blessings, Lydia
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My Story: The Early Years

Over the years, I’ve held many roles, namely, mother, wife, daughter, sister, g’mom, attorney, friend and countless others. In addition to the typical roles, I have chronic pain due to both fibromyalgia and migraines. Besides, there is no doubt that they, like every other challenge that I have met and conquered in life, have no small part in forming the woman that I am today. This is my story.

My given name is Lydia Marie Wright. I entered this world in New Orleans, Louisiana, 5 days before Xmas to C. and J. I was their first born of three girls. My mother is an amazing woman who single-handedly raised me and my 3 siblings, when my dad made the poor choice to leave our family–on my 5th birthday. Although I didn’t realize it for decades, this incident had a huge influence on my life and the person that I was to become. 

After my father left our family, we had to move in with my great-grandmother. My mother, a very beautiful woman, who married young and never had the opportunity to attend college, had few job prospects. She soon accepted a job as a cook for the New Orleans Catholic Archdiocese, where she remained for over 40 years. Although we were poor, my Mom always worked 2-3 jobs to make sure that we had food on the table and clean clothes.

Although she could have easily qualified, she steadfastly refused to apply for or receive any type of government aid (With the exception of the free lunch program that we had to apply for through the schools and were accepted automatically.). She is a proud woman and remains so to this day. She did the very best that she could with what she had, so she sewed most of our clothes. One perk of the job with the Catholic Archdiocese was a tuition discount at its many Catholic schools (Especially at that time, Catholic churches or schools were about as prevalent as 7-11’s came to be in other cities.). Wanting to ensure us the best education that she could manage, she did without to send us to the catholic schools where I spent twelve years.  

Nurturing creativity was not a priority in my family–getting by was. As a child, I liked to draw, so much so that I responded to a “TV Guide” advertisement for an art school. The ad required that you draw a picture of the photo provided in the ad. I was about 11 years old and I remember putting all that I had into that drawing. I waited and waited with knots in my stomach for a response. A letter arrived and while it told me that I had “some” talent, it went on to say that I was too young for the school, blah, blah, blah. . . . It was on this day that my dream of pursuing and nurturing the creative side of me died. I was also an avid reader of books. I think as an escape from a world that for me, was filled with abandonment, confusion, a lack of overt emotional affection and fear of my environment, I loved books. I could be anywhere and anyone that I wanted to be. (My love of books remains to this day.) 

In addition to reading booking, I also love to write. Although I dreamed of being a successful writer, the dream never went further than my writing my own “book.” As I sit here today, I can’t even remember what the story was about. All that I do recall is that I never intended to pursue it because I was not a “creative” person, Sadly, that is what I’d internalized from the response to my drawing, and I had no one to tell me otherwise. So, my career dreams turned to more practical careers such as a medical technologist, a nurse, or a child psychologist. I say dreams because to say “goal” would necessarily imply that I believed that my dreams were attainable, and I realize that I did not.  

My mother always choose education as our means to escape the poverty in which we lived. As the oldest of what later became 4 children; I was not deaf to her choice. She was a single woman in the late fifties-early sixties, singlehandedly raising three, later four, children, and a ‘college fund’ was definitely not an option. This was in the days before charter and magnet schools and even back then, the New Orleans public school system was not up to her standards or anyone else’s really. So that we might go to the “better” schools (i.e., Catholic schools), my mom took the job as the cook. Since there were two of us, me and my sister, Mom received a tuition discount as well. We were only one of 2 or 3 black families in the entire school. I am quite embarrassed to admit it, now, but back then, I was not as proud as I have become of my Mom and all that she went through to provide us with a Catholic school education. No, as a selfish young girl, all that I was concerned with is that my Mom worked at the cafeteria in the elementary school that I attended. Each and every day, I dreaded lunch time for two reasons: (1) the free lunch card that we qualified for because of our family income, and (2) my Mom would be in the the cafeteria serving food to me, my friends and everyone else and everyone knew it. I was embarrassed by my Mom’s job and I was filled with guilt for being such a terrible daughter.  

Anyway, I was a quiet kid and I mostly excelled in school. I was the model student in elementary school. The most memorable incident from that time was when my class took some sort of test and coincidentally, the boy sitting next to me and I got the same grade on the test. He was white and I black, so the teacher assumed that I’d cheated by copying his answers. I was forced to re-take the test by myself and to her chagrin, I scored higher on the test than the first time. This incident was another of those incidents that over the years has shaped me in ways that I never imagined. I went on to graduate from elementary school and gained acceptance into the same high school that my Mom attended; everything was going according to plan. I figured that she’d given up so much and worked so hard so that we could have an education, it was my duty to reward her efforts. To be continued…