Alyse In Words

DIYing the Next Part Of This Life


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Growling Hope

Days 78 & 79: It’s raining big, splattering drops here and I am mulling things over.  I am nearly 80 days in and I’m not sure if knowledge and progress are weighing evenly with failures and unbridled whimpering.  At this point, here’s what I think:

Compassion and anger are able to be partners–even if they make me uncomfortable.  In Chapter 6 of Crones Don’t Whine, the author talks about how even the meekest among us finds and voices her outrage more easily as an older woman. She adds that the choice to go down one path ultimately means we have chosen not to take a different route.  (I am not sure I wholly agree with her about this.)   I have notes that say compassionate anger, well-intended outrage, growling hope and radical empathy–can you make your self-interest the center of this decision-making or will this always work by putting others first and self last?  This becomes a pretty important point as I go forward because I have apparently been living some of it backwards. So much of what I have read about contentment and fulfillment in this part of life is about becoming an activist, a volunteer, a voice for those who cannot always speak for themselves.  And evidently in our 60’s is when all of this is supposed to flourish.  For me, my first interaction with rescue dogs was feeding strays as a pre-schooler. I was 12 when I hid a neighbor boy in our basement because his father was intent on killing him. For years I spent every waking moment of every day being an advocate for my son, abused children, families with mental health crises, as well as women battling social and educational illiteracy.  I am finding no guidelines to say what a person who has done this from youth to 60 does from 60 on.  I don’t think there will ever be a time when I am not somehow involved. But there has to be balance. And there has to be something to do when I do choose self.

I must get some sleep.  I have to be up early to take my golden retriever for his Spring spa day at the groomers where he will be bathed, clipped, and have a chance to romp and play with his friends. Maybe I need to take a cue from my dog.

 


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Semi-colon

Day 77:  There is such power in words.  A practiced speech may sound important but simply be well-rehearsed.  Those words that are spoken in staccato rhythms that sound like hail on a tin roof and pile up on the ground, causing you to look for ways to step around and over them.  Those words have unrestrained power.

I heard so many of them today.

I’m tired of dealing with this. I’m tired of dealing with the complaints and all of it. How about you take it over completely?  All of my practice saying yes to things I want and no to things I don’t want to do stuck in my throat.  This is a friend with his head in his hands.  I replied with something that got him smiling and nearly tap danced my way out of the conversation.  He was able to clearly express his needs and desires and I managed a flimsy maybe.

My son told me he was going to go live with his step-dad and get rich selling drugs with him. I told him he’d just end up in jail.  And I told this person they won–my employed son who pays his bills and goes to counselling and is struggling toward a life is a prize by comparison.  When I asked them if they believed parenting ever eases up when you have a struggling young adult, they looked me straight in the eye and said No. I don’t think it does. But we’re built to endure more, too.  I told them that sometimes I wish truth could always be served with a side of wine and chocolate.  They nodded and we hugged one another for a while. I mentioned a couple of resources she might use and we both went back to work.

Why do we feel like we need to pull people back from the edge when they say they want to commit suicide?  This world is nothing but a pile of shit. What are we pulling them back to?  The shit?  Or just so we have company in the shit?  I felt like he sideswiped me.  It was the first time all day I remembered to really breathe.  It’s nearly noon and I’m in a meeting room with these words clanging in the air.  I told him this: Not all of the world is shit.  The world that I work to create for myself every day is not shit.  It’s a good place.  And if I pull someone back, it’s to that good place–even if only for a while and I remind them of something I learned long ago–good things grow with only a little nurturing and the layer of shit is just fertilizer.  I am unapologetic about this. Anyone is worth the effort and ultimately everyone sooner or later makes their own choice.

It was exhausting.  At the end of the day I came home and showered off the grit but saved what I believe may be the beginning of a map.

 


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Day 76

Day 76: I have been looking at the computer for about an hour trying to figure out how not to write this.  I could not come up with a viable excuse and I want to honestly journal this journey.

The question becomes do I convince myself that I am content with something, do I visualize what content in a situation would mean for me and then work at shaping that into a reality, or do I just fold?  And into this mixture of questions I must add the additional ingredients of my own belief system:  everything is a choice (I don’t get to blame/credit someone else) and the idea that somewhere, somehow I chose to live this particular life.

Yesterday I chose to address some feelings I had about things going on with my son.  He reminds me of the pines and cedars that grow in Colorado on the face of granite slopes.  No protection from wind and weather, not a water source in sight–growing out of stone in its own fashion.  I have chosen to be his safe place–the person to whom he can express his issues without rejection.  Have you ever seen that old footage of a nuclear explosion at a distance and then the people, homes and lives are leveled by the invisible shock wave that follows?  It’s like that.  I’d like to say that I can just deal with it some aging incarnation of Wonder Woman.  And I do when it’s grenade-sized.  But other times I am reminded that I have PTSD. (Did I mention that?  Yep, I do.)  And when the shock waves hit my surface of contentment and hard-won layers of peace and inner quiet, it feels like they melting and I am left with a puddle of self to rebuild.

And that brings me to the end of this day that I spent wrapped in mental band aids having cheese corn for both lunch and dinner.  I visualized this phase of life and of parenting much differently.  Does the perfect parent make sure they are there indefinitely?  Does it make me the worst parent ever and most selfish person to want to choose my own health and calm and structure ahead of another’s?  I don’t know.


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Fly By The Seat of Your Spanx

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.


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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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Balance and Serendipity

Day 56 – I really like paying my bills.  No. Really.  I don’t make a ton of money.  I haven’t had a raise in pay in 4-5 years and the cost of living in Colorado has gone up about 14%. I probably have a reason to whine and complain but the fact is, every month I am able to pay the bills. I have more than enough left to make my life.  I had the extra expense of a garage door repair and still managed to save around $100.  I am not a financial genius by any means but I do trust in checks and balances–actually serendipity and balance to be specific.

I think that if I act responsibly then the Universe or the Great Whatsis takes note and when I need a hand I get one.  I pay my bills early.  I buy food for the birds and critters in the trees around my house. I pay for boxes of Girl Scout cookies and tell the kids to give them away to seniors and people in uniforms. It’s not rocket science. It’s what I can do. In return when my computer monitor blows out (like it did on Sunday), a friend hands me the monitor she’s been hauling around in the trunk of her car for a year and Monday night I have a whiz bang new monitor.  You may think it’s dumb luck.  Philosophical folks would say that we speak our realities into existence and that what we say happens is what happens. I must admit that I have been on the ‘thoughts become things/words create our realities’ train for a long while now.  I believe in serendipitous events,too.  And I believe in balance.  There is only one part that puzzles me.  It goes like this:  If I try to sell my stuff, nobody buys it. I can help other people sell their stuff and what I tell them to do works–people buy their stuff.  If I spend money, I usually get great bargains. It’s how I’m built–someone out there got long thin legs and I got short legs but great bargaining ability. There’s some balance there.  I think. There is an asterisk:  *If I sell my stuff to use the money for a cause, it all turns out well very quickly.  For example, I bought a set of amazing handmade, artist signed vintage Native American jewelry from a wealthy person for $5.00.  Two weeks later I needed money to take donated books and clothing to the Pine Ridge Reservation.  I sold the jewelry to a collector for enough money to finance the 1000 miles of driving, truck rental and expenses. As I clear my clutter, friends keep advising me to sell the stuff.  They look at me with puzzled faces when I say I can only give it away.  I could sit here and write 50 stories about giving away something and how much joy and serendipity it has brought to my life.  I don’t know how it works.  I just know that it does work. Playing tag with the Mystery.  I like this game.


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What a Present

Days 51-54:  If I were more of a professional at writing this I would write a dandy excuse and then break this out into several posts.  I am trying to keep the days together, so here it is–some fun and crazy stuff, some introspection and learning that happened in the days preceding, including, and after my 63rd birthday.

On day 51, I went to work with a singular goal in mind–get through the day and look forward to the weekend.  I did the thing I do nearly every year for my birthday–I bought pizza for my co-workers. It’s not a big expense but it makes me so happy to see people  who don’t expect good surprises in that place to have one once in a while. Someone remarked about my generosity and I told them it was a completely selfish action–I enjoyed myself immensely.  Surprise pizza is never a bad idea.

I woke up on day 52 to a world coated in ice.  After days of spring-like weather, it got cold and brittle.  So, I made hot tea, snugged in with my comforter, and began underling things and writing in the margins of my copy of Crones Don’t Whine. Just the phrase appeals to me because I can’t become one of those women who has nothing more in her life than soap operas and swapping stories about fair/good/poor bowel movements.  If you’re still here, you’re not here just to poop and talk about it.  Jean Shinoda Bowen writes:  Moving on becomes an option or a necessity, predictable and unpredictable events happen.  It’s not only that outer circumstances change; your thoughts, feelings, and dreams may also shift and change. Many women now feel a pull toward solitude for reflection, self-expression, inner development or just plain time off from others. Inner time is needed for this new season of your life.  I turned these words over and over in my head and looked at the challenge that is the most cluttered room in my house–the room with my computer, sewing and art supplies. The words self-expression and inner development challenge me.  Part of practicing contentment is feeding the passions in your life. Mine are shifting.  But shifting to where?

On day 53 I turned 63.  If my mom were still around, she would probably be 72 by now.  Her credo was, If you don’t have enough sense to lie about your age, it’s not my fault.  I don’t lie about it.  I stopped dying away the grey about 3 years ago. I have saggy parts and body fat. I cover those things in bright, comfortable clothes.  Deal with it.

At a pre-birthday dinner with some of my best friends, we ate amazing Lebanese food and solved the problems of the world.  I listened to them disagreeing with one another and thought about how lucky I am to have them in my life. Friendships are an amazing gift. My friend who recently adopted a dog at my urging gave me a birthday card with a note from her new pup included. He thanked me for saving his life. That was an awesome gift, too.

My birthday went like this: Drop off my leak-infested new car at the dealership for a week of rehab and leave being forced to drive a 2017 Malibu with 37 miles on it. Sigh. Gasp. Poor me!  A dear friend and I went off for mani-pedis that took up most of the afternoon. It was soothing and I struggled to remember when I had last done this. Self-care, therapeutic touch–these are important when you are on your own.  I must do this more often. Back at home, my son had made chicken soup from scratch–more soothing than birthday cake. We sat telling stories and ideas while I imbibed in too many margaritas. Mark that down in the older but not wiser in all things column.

Today, day 54, I had a hangover and nobody to blame but me. I put my grey-streaked hair in braids, added some BB foundation and went grocery shopping.  I bought some groceries for my son. It’s not my job and I kind of regret it. Sigh.  I napped and avoided any progress on the house but I did put a name to what’s stopping me in that room.  And I am actually going to write about that here tomorrow.  The best part was writing thank you 63 times to friends and family who had wished me a happy birthday. What a gift. What a future? What a Present!