As much as I’d like to deny it, I harbor a deep fear of being forgotten.
My dad was a pastor, and the ministry always came first. Every Sunday he shined brightly in the pulpit, while mom always played the supporting role. As a child watching the two of them, I preferred Dad’s spotlight to Mom’s backstage work.
Mom had a near-fatal heart attack at 56 (I just turned 57). Over the next 17 years I watched her health decline and her circle of friends grow farther away. She died largely isolated from everyone except her immediate family.
I was determined not to let that happen to me.
Like my mom I married in my early 20s, had kids and chose to stay home and raise them. That was a rarity in my generation, but David and I decided this was the best thing for our family.
When the kids were small, I kept up with writing and photography work on the side. In 1989 I shot the cover photo for the December issue of Alaska Magazine. That led to an offer of a full-time job. I would finally be putting my journalism degree to work. Maybe there would be a byline; I would not be forgotten.
But with a toddler and a baby at home, I ultimately turned the job down to stay home with them.
Do I regret that? No, but I did spend years scrambling to stay entertained, motivated, creative and remembered. A life like June Cleaver on the Leave It To Beaver TV show terrified me. I wanted to be remembered for something!
There are a whole lot of stories crammed between that decision not to work for Alaska Magazine and having grown kids. But the important thing you need to know is that my longing to be remembered, to be needed, drove a lot of my decisions, sometimes to the point of pain.
As my kids turned into adults, they didn’t seem to need me anymore. In fact, all three went through phases where they had little to do with me. It hurt. And out of that pain I poured my creative energies into a tourist destination called Paint A Scarf.
Through trial and error, my husband and I created a fun, entertaining and unique art form that anyone could do. Guests came from around the world and they loved it. They loved me. I was remembered.
Paint a Scarf also made me very, very busy. I now understand why most successful entrepreneurs launch in their 20s – building a business takes an enormous amount of time and energy.
As our family grew and healed and matured, suddenly our children wanted to have us as part of their lives again, and Paint a Scarf stood in the way. Then my dad developed Alzheimer’s and dementia, and he needed care, so he came to live with us. You can read more about that here.
I’ve spent the last seven years creating a very glamorous public persona. My friends look at me with awe as a successful business woman, making the decisions, calling the shots, having my face on the training video. I’ve made lots of friends and they remember me.
But the attention came at a price.
My daughter and daughter-in-law are both expecting, and by this time next year I’ll have six grandkids. They both want me to be there to help. My 9-year-old grandson hugged me tight when I came home for Christmas, but he was crestfallen when he learned it was only for two weeks. My dad is entering hospice, and that’s a whole other level of need for my attention.
I went to the doctor yesterday and learned my stress hormones are off the chart. I’m showing serious signs of pre-heart attack. Just like my mom did.
So I need to make changes – in a hurry. Why is it so tricky to jump off this spinning carousel of busy-ness?
I’m realizing it wasn’t fame and notoriety that I craved over the years, it was having influence. And as I age, I’m realizing influence comes in many forms.
I’m still afraid of being forgotten. But I’m going to begin cutting back on work in small steps. We’re shutting down the national expansion of Paint a Scarf, but we’ll continue to operate in Alaska. By May 2019 you’ll find me once again painting by the creek; feel free to join me.
In the meantime, I’m valuing the influence I have in a smaller circle. I’ll spend more time with family and friends, write more, paint more, create more, encourage more. Most importantly, I’ll be available to love those I love.