Days 72,73,74 – My apologies to those who are reading along with this adventure. In the spirit of contentment to just be present with what’s going on and not whining about it. I’ve been ill for the last three days and haven’t gotten much done. Here’s hoping tomorrow is healthier.
Days 70 & 71: I continue to revel in what’s not. I smudged the house and let the wind sweep though the rooms. Things here feel lighter and changed. The house is not suddenly, magically organized and simplified. However, it looks as if I have managed to set up a Spring clean-up for my neighborhood of about 400 homes. Not my kitchen cupboards. Not the office/craft space closet. No. None of that. But I spent hours making it possible for our non-HOA’d, unincorporated village to have Spring clean-up. Someone print me a sign that says, ‘Really? What were you thinking?’
I have not heard about my car’s transmission issues and I am just not worrying about it. I do have a sign that says ‘Worry is a misuse of imagination.’ It reminds me that worrying about the future is about as useful as trying to change the past. It doesn’t get you a step further. As a former champion worrier, I assure you this is true. I enjoy visualizations and this is something that works for me. Did you ever get a song stuck in your head and nothing turns it off. Close your eyes. Visualize the person/band performing the song on a stage. Imagine yourself turning off the spotlight, pulling the plug. Then say ‘The show’s over’ and visualize the dejected performer(s) exiting stage right. It works for me. And I am working on one that has to do with worries that crop up or old memories that don’t do any good. I bid them farewell and tell them to have a nice trip. Then I see them stacked onto the deck of a boat (or walking on board with a suitcase). The boat moves away from the dock and I watch as it sails off into the sunset. Gone. It requires a little faith in yourself and practice but it can work. If not, there’s always sangria and chocolate chip cookies. Exhale.
Day 69: There were a number of things that I didn’t do today that were rather fabulous as far as I’m concerned. I got up at what would have been 4 AM last week and didn’t whine or give in to a big urge to consume coffee. Caffeine is not my friend. I chose plain tea and some Michael Franti on Spotify to jolt me awake.
I did not spend time telling myself how bored I am at work. I thought about how much energy I would have this evening (and I did!) to begin work on my office/craft space.
I did not flip out and begin imagining the horrors to come when I determined that the new(ish) car needed to make a trip back to the warranty garage and Magical Keith because now the transmission is having petit mal seizures. There was a calm, rational conversation and I am driving another loaner car. Inhale: The car is going to be fine. Exhale: I am so grateful for warranties.
Sometimes it’s what we don’t do that’s the real accomplishment. Who knew?
Day 68: It was warm and windy outside and I invited some of that breeze into the house. I had a lazy day on the exterior. I didn’t cook. I didn’t eat much. I did take some time to visualize and breathe. I’ve heard it said that we are inhaling and exhaling the same air breathed by Buddha and Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Bette Midler. I have been thinking about relationships and personal growth and I think it’s similar. We have remarkable friendships and loves and those relationships move forward in time. Some stay, some meander off, others we cling to for too long and still others we halt. Then winds of life blow through and stir up feelings or memories and we reexamine them.
Today I thought about some of my relationships and change. My dad was a violent alcoholic. I remember coming home from some fete at school. It was my 18th birthday and my parents had forgotten it. They were arguing, it escalated and I had my dad arrested. That’s some ugly stuff. As an adult, I poked around at family stories and learned about what happened to turn a creative, thoughtful boy into a bitter, brutal man. I learned to put distance between kid-me and Dad so that as adult-me I could see Ted the person. I found compassion for kid-him and damaged adult-him. I don’t sit around massaging old wounds and trying to remember the pain. I’ve let it go.
I don’t understand why we cling to stuff and try to convince ourselves that we can change the past. It’s like going to the cemetery and arguing with bones in the ground. Bones don’t answer and you look foolish. I think a lot of being content is choosing to let go. I mean, have you ever seen anyone skipping down the street saying, “Wow! This resentment I’ve been clinging to for 10 years makes every day pure sunshine and the future a promise of goodness!”
About a year ago, an old acquaintance from high school started chatting with me on Facebook. Someone else contacted me and said, ‘She treated you like crap in high school. What’s with being all buddy-buddy?’ I remember laughing a little and feeling sad for the other person. It was simple math–45 years of time and space and life changes makes one difference. If you choose to let go. I choose to. I don’t pine for the good ole days. I want to be able to look forward to the remarkable new days that belong to adult me. Silver-haired me. Those days were blowin’ in the wind and I’m glad they are blown away. These days are swept with winds of change. These winds are scented with sage and citrus and promise. Lots of promise.
Days 65-67: My house has hardwood floors and a little tile flooring sprinkled in here and there. I really love the soft look of the wood, sliding across in warm socks and even the click of dog toenails as the pack follows me around the house. Brooming the floors is a simple task but it always reminds me of life lived here. In the crevasses of the boards there is the sand and soil of Colorado land, dog fur, crumbs and the occasional wink of glitter. The wind blows in, the dogs shed off, people laugh while eating cake or muffins and sometimes there is a reason to open the box marked “Celebrate Everything” that is filled with confetti, glitter, beads and sequins. Yes, we have tossed it in the house. Yes, it’s impossible to sweep it all up. No, I don’t mind. As I was sweeping today, I was reminded that my pretty floors arrived via a tough time. We had flooding in the basement 5-6 years ago and I was able to squeeze the insurance dollars into basement repairs and flooring for the rest of the house. It was an unexpected mess that became a real gift. I’ve been complaining about the properties of aging but lost sight of the home repair grant that I got only because I’m older.
I have been looking at relationships through a different lens, too. I want the solitude and I want people around me. I like being alone and it gets lonely. Talk about fickle. But it’s where I am right now. In the past few weeks several people I know have died. They were old and long-lived and young and brought to closure far too quickly. It reminded me that I’m here and breathing and whether I am accomplishing things speedily or slowly at least I have the chance. I can focus on the flour dusting the floor or focus on the honeyed flavor of the perfect loaf of challah my son baked for us. I can think about having a rough week or focus on the kind of support and friendship I had during the week. I’ve had texts and a couple of phone calls. Even an IM with a link to an article telling me that one’s blog writing can be improved with orgasms. Two people reached out and told me that things written here mattered. Another person said they want to get to know me better. When I was a kid growing up in chaos, in a house in the alley, I would have more easily believed in finding buried treasure than possessing such a strong circle of friends.
Tomorrow I move forward and start again. I’m planning to smudge the house tomorrow. I will use cedar and sage and a few other herbs and maybe a pinch of glitter from the “Celebrate Everything” box to remind myself that change is in the air and that, in itself, is reason enough to be happily content.
Day 64: Today there were a few more bumps in the road and a wrench I had to yank from the machinery in my effort to get things back on track. I spent some time reading Crones Don’t Whine and chewed on a passage for a while: A crone is herself. She accepts change, appreciates the good in her life, grieves for what dies or loses vitality and goes on. What she does and who she shares her life with are expressions of who she is–not her identity. When it’s time to let go of a phase of life, she can. But the truth is, she does not reinvent herself intentionally; rather by improvising and adapting to change.
If I am reading that all correctly, what Jean Shinoda Bolen is saying is that wise women live in the present and deal with what’s in the now. Smart wise women don’t make too many plans and essentially fly by the seat of their Spanx. Okay. I can see why my expectation that making changes for myself on my nifty time line is a set up for failure. No–it’s all a set up for learning. If nothing ever breaks, how do you learn to deal with broken things or broken dreams? How else would you learn how to make repairs or seek out a different route to your destination? By no means am I saying that learning something requires hard times. I’m a speak-it-into-reality person and I try to choose words carefully. A while back I started saying things like ‘I want my life lessons to come from positive experiences,’ and ‘I want to learn and grow without experiencing disasters.’ Life eased up. It all seems to go a lot better when I pay less attention to the billboards and more attention to the highway markers of life, you know?
So, I’m here. I’m letting go of the idea that it’s disruptive to have my son revolving through the house as needed. He’s working on his life. I’m working on my life and my life is good–even if I am not working on it at warp speed right now. The only one setting arbitrary deadlines is me and I am in charge of my life. I say I can change that. Letting go feels a whole lot better than the hand-wringing and griping I did last week. I have been doing fly by your personal ethics living most of my life. I got through fly by the seat of your blue jeans with no child support single parenting. Both son and daughter are figuring out their flight plans; nobody is crashing and burning. I don’t know why I expected crone transitioning to be something I could neatly map out. It IS yet another chance to improvise and adapt and generally fly by the seat of my Spanx.
Days 57-63. Yikes–a 7-day writing gap. Not good. But the past 7 days have not been particularly good either. Here’s a truth about why I haven’t written: When things are hard I just get really quiet. I work things out with words and there haven’t been any words of resolution here so I didn’t write.
The whole idea is to practice contentment with life as a woman on my own, new to empty-nesting, and finding out what makes me whole and happy in this new phase of life. And I want to do it with positive forward motion and without whining. The past 7 days have not been a sparkling success.
I spent the weekend like a shadow in my own house–sleeping far too much, feeling the silence wall me in rather than relaxing in the quiet and doing things around the house, running errands and working on something creative. I had one moment of connection to the things I love to feel–on the way to get tags for the car, a bushy red fox crossed the road in front of me, running to the right. Moments later, a coyote crossed going in the opposite direction (insert personal superstitions here: I could have gone happily without seeing the coyote). Then I pulled off and spent some time with a herd of about 80 elk. Maybe it sounds foolish to say that elk calm me but they do. I have a repetitive dream that visits me sometimes. I am standing in a flat, low-flowing creek bed brushing/grooming an elk and as I do, the dust from his coat becomes tiny butterflies that fly off. I’ve got no idea what it means but it feels calming.
When I started to work on some things here, I didn’t get much done because I decided to be cranky and whiny. It came down to two things–1) I am not happy with the details of aging, 2) the impact of my son spending more time here is not what I hoped it might be.
I am pleased to say that I’m not afraid of death. My family tends to be long-lived and I’ve been to death–that is been present when both of my parents died and once bled nearly to death myself. This is not the issue. Being very alive and wanting the energy to accomplish much without assistance is the issue. I used to be able to lift up the end of a sofa, balance it on my hip and vacuum under it. I packed 90% of our belongings into a moving van on my own when we moved to Colorado. I survived ovarian cancer. I used to leap tall buildings…well, maybe not that but I was energized. Now I work 10 hours in an office, come home and feel lucky if I do a load of laundry. I want to forget all of the knowledge I have about making choices, creating my own destiny, and envisioning my own success and instead scuff my shoe in the dirt and whine about life not being fair. Thoughts that come to mind are: Wine not whine. Do what you can do every day and suck it up. Figure out how to do things differently. Figure.It.Out.
Then there’s the whole thing with my son. He has been around more and kind of moved back in. I love his company, the life questions he trusts me to answer, and the laughter he brings along. But in these months on my own, I have enjoyed the sink empty of dishes, shopping for one, and the journey of clearing out things. And just as I feel as if I’m getting into the groove of all this, it’s all rewinding. It sounds selfish and bad parent-like to say that I’m not happy about it. The truth is I’ve come to like elements of just being responsible for only myself. Thoughts that come to mind are: Wine-ing or whining is not an answer. Do what you can do for yourself every day and create some boundaries. Figure out how to do this differently. Suck it up when things don’t go as planned. Figure.It.Out.