Alyse In Words

DIYing the Next Part Of This Life


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Celebrate Everything

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.

 

 


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Figure.It.Out.

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.

 


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Day 55

Day 55 – Keeping with that whole past/present/future thing from yesterday, my day had a dose of each.  It’s amazing how the older stuff makes my shoulder blades stiffen and my mind scrunch up.  When I think of the unknowns of the future, for some reason, it’s much more easy.

In the present, work was work and I got a call from the car dealership. Heroic Keith called to ask if I was planning to drop my car off.  I explained that I had done that on Saturday and am driving their shiny silver loaner car.  Keith said he would have to find my car.  I asked him if I got to keep this one if it turns out they lost mine. He said he’d get back to me on that.  At home I was able to rejoice over junk mail and credit card offers but not one invitation to get myself set up for cremation.  (Last year’s birthday brought an onslaught of offers for retirement homes and crematoriums.  Eww.)

Onward into the past.  If I am to sort out my computer and craft space, I must own up to the pull of my soul to create some art.  I can tell you that it was late in my junior year of high school when I stopped drawing and painting.  Life was not much fun then and there were few successes, but art was always safe.  One day we were working on water colors and mine was not transparent but my instructor took time to really look at the work and tell me to forget about the rest to just–go for it.  It was the first time anyone afforded me that. About 10 minutes later his student teacher rounded the room, came upon my work and said–No! It’s supposed to be transparent!  Then he proceeded to splash water all over my work and muss a brush through it.  I picked up my things and left the class.  I never went back and I never painted again. Wowser, I showed him. I’m sure it didn’t ruin the life of the student teacher who most likely didn’t know my name to start with and certainly forgot it later that afternoon.  Yes, to show him what-for.  I deprived myself for all these years to nobody’s loss but my own.  I have no idea how well or poorly I am going to do when I pick up a brush again.  I just know how incredibly foolish I feel for taking away from myself something I loved.  The doofus student teacher was just learning his job. I stopped my own enjoyment, my own opportunity.  And I may discover that I am truly awful at this but I am ready to cross the bridge from past to future and find out.

Ah, the joy of discovering that the obstacle in my path is me.


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Bird Food for Thought

Days 49 & 50:  Little opportunities have been coming like small waves–the kind that thrum against the shoreline of a lake when something has stirred the waters.  Opportunities for happiness or kindness or to behave differently than I might have before keep gently rolling forward and nudging at my feet.  I don’t know if it’s a product of aging or learning, but the heights that seemed important to scale, the unidentified thing or pleasure of great magnitude, even the grand gesture of gratitude do not seem so important to me.  There are so many views from a rise in the road or a foothill climbed with a friend that is just as satisfying as an Everest.  So many chances to embrace handfuls of pleasure and give away nuggets of gratitude.  I know what I prefer, even if once more it is not the norm.

I spoke with Heroic Keith (of car repair fame) and told him how much his efforts on my behalf meant to me.  He stammered a little and I reinforced just how much his kindness coupled with being good at his job really meant. I could feel him smiling through the phone and I was glad that I didn’t let the moment slide by.  I had two sticky conversations with people whose circus and monkeys had shown up.  I listened and had empathy and didn’t offer to fix anything for them.  I was glad I was able to let the moments slide by.  When I finally arrived home to wagging dogs, I had my moment of gratitude for the day.  I filled the bird feeder and the suet cages and scattered some peanuts for good measure.  And I said thank you, thank you, thank you to what or whomever was listening.  Some cultures say that birds carry our messages to the Universe.  If that’s true, then perhaps a woodpecker or chickadee with a full belly carried off my message into the night.  It may not be a grand gesture but it feels just grand to me.


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Dust Bunnies, Coyotes, & Repairmen

Days 46 & 47 – Let’s just say the past couple of days have been about a little more and less talk and definitely more action.

I am finding some of the planning parts of this exercise in practicing contentment frustrating.  I made a great list.  And what I can tell you is that in the unseasonable warmth I got a lot done–just not items on the list.  Some of them are half done and a few of them I have already reviewed this morning and wagged a mental finger at myself about.  Here’s what I’ve learned over the past couple of days:

  • Dust bunnies beneath furniture, like the bunnies wintering in my shrubs, procreate.
  • I sometimes need to remember to stop:  In order to keep my son on my insurance, papers needed to be run around to offices so that representatives from KP could write out information already in KP’s computers to confirm to other members at KP that conditions still exist. I tried to fix this.  Every door slammed shut as they reminded me that he’s an adult.  I nervously handed the paperwork over to my son and he got to spend about 2.5 hours of his day off driving from office to office until someone relieved him of the paperwork.  It’s not my job anymore.
  • It drains every bit of my energy to deal with money-snatchers.  I spent about an hour with a garage door repairman in this conversation:
    • You quoted me $219.00 on the phone.
    • Well, this will cost about $675.00
    • You quoted me $219.00 when we discussed this by phone.
    • Well, I could do it for $459.00
    • I don’t want to waste your time. I thought this would be $219.00.
    • Well, I could do this for $250.00.
    • Does that include taxes and the trip fee?
    • (Eye roll) Yeah, okay.
  • Pushing past my comfort zone is not as uncomfortable as it might appear once I start seeing some results.
  • We all move at different speeds; even slow motion is forward motion.  I have a neighbor whose husband died nearly 3 years ago. She has been surly and rude. She has kept her dead spouse’s truck like a shrine in front of her home. On Friday I dared to speak to her because, to my surprise, she has adopted a dog–a blind dog.  We talked for a minute or two and she actually said something resembling a lighthearted remark. A part of me danced on her behalf.
  • As soon as I sort of figured out how to shop for one, my son started spending more time here.  My groceries have vanished.
  • It is both good to have a tribe and okay to allow yourself to lean on them once in a while.  Around 4 AM I woke up to whimpering and howling.  It took a few seconds to realize it was a pack of coyotes somewhere on the mesa talking to the moon.  I looked at my dogs.  They were alert with faces pointed toward the window and in a single motion simultaneously swung around, ran from the room, and quieted the neighborhood.  They returned as a pack and surrounded me once more. I thought about how easily the world would turn if we as people could come together like a retriever, a boxer/pit and a miniature dachshund, recognizing that we are all part of a tribe no matter our differences.


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A 9.2%-er

44 Days In – According to The Statistical Brain Research Institute (these guys sound reliable, right), each year about 5% of all of us set out to learn something new as the new year begins.  Only 9.2% out of all the people who set a goal actually achieve it and it’s the really strong ones who make it about 44% of the way to goal.  Well, these guys may be reliable but they’re pretty depressing.  I couldn’t find anything about how many people get antsy and want to get things happening while skipping some steps to get there.  I am not ashamed to admit that there have been instances in which I turned to the final chapter of the book in order to reassure myself that I have outwitted the author by page 82.  Of course that moment of triumph lasts just about a minute and the joy of reading the rest of the book is tarnished.  Forty-four days into this I have hit the place where I am frustrated with my turtle-like progress and I want my house, brain and life de-cluttered  as of yesterday. I did some reading about de-cluttering in a 30-day challenge.  The theory is that if you rid yourself of one item on day one, two items on day two, and so on, by the time you reach day 30–and toss out 30 things that day–you will have rid yourself of 500 items.  I have spent the last few days trying to gear myself up for this plan, thinking that it will speed things along.  I am pretty sure that me trying relieve myself of extraneous possessions using this methodology would be more terrifying than binge-watching all of the Halloween movies.  I would be great on days 1-10 and then get side-tracked, procrastinate and tell myself on day 21 that I’ll just catch up by tossing out 102 items in one day.  Enter the Scream Queen.

No. Just no.

This is what I know so far:  If I want to be a 9.2%-er then I can’t skip steps.  I can’t slack off and not take steps either.  And for bonus points, I won’t whine about it but will find the fun in it.  This may not be a very flashy philosophy but it will get me there.

 


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The Anatomy of Autonomy

Days 42 & 43 – I wrote nothing last night because I stared at the blank page for 15 minutes and gave up.  No words came.  Not much sleep came.  It was a strange night.

Today was all about cupid, over-priced roses and a huge opportunity to be discontent.  We put expectations about our own worth in the hands of other people and measure the words and actions of people in our lives based on our own interior yardsticks.  Frankly, it’s a mess.  It’s a mess in which I have participated.  I have had dating and romance, marriage and divorce, sex and sexlessness, and a secret affair.  Through it all only one relationship has been continuous–the relationship with the woman in my mirror.  I have seen the woman who tried to fit into a mold created by someone else.  I have seen someone who was chaste and reckless. Today I see the woman there who is autonomous–not alone or lonely–someone consciously choosing to acknowledge her foibles and her strengths.  I am not good in a relationship with boundaries and definitions written in stone.  Lindsey Buckingham wrote, If I could, maybe I’d give you my world.  How can I, when you won’t take it from me?  You can go your own way. Call it another lonely day.  I am not the woman Lindsey wanted.  I don’t want someone to hand me their world.  I want to make my own way, live my own adventure, own my failures and victories.  When I remove the discontent that someone else’s standards create, it’s not a lonely day.  I choose my life and how I live it every day. And there is love there.  Dog love. Friend love. Old lover reminiscence love. Smile from a stranger on the street love. The axiom says you must learn to love yourself before someone else can love you.  Is that the goal?  Learning to accept your own body, soul, warts, and wonders all for the sake of pairing up?  I accept myself.  Not every day is a self-love fest but there is peace and grace, laughter, music and kindness.  There is dancing in the kitchen. There is bold grey in my hair. And I am content with this.  It’s true that I didn’t receive a dozen roses today.  But I have grown a sturdy cactus that continues to bloom–prickly and remarkable all at once.