Alyse In Words

DIYing the Next Part Of This Life


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Bittersweet

Days 80,81,82: Well, it was a weekend of more doing that writing.  More reading than writing.  More community than writing.  The whole weekend had crisp air with hints and smatterings of rain.  The past and present spent a lot of time kissing one another.

Truman went for his doggie spa day.  When I went to retrieve my golden retriever, they had trimmed him into a puppy cut.  In his eyes I could see the light and love of the fuzzy yellow puppy that he was 9 years ago.  He put his head on my shoulder in the car and I thought of the long days he spent at my side when I was recovering from cancer.  I thought of how little he expects of me and how much he gives. And I noticed the white mask forming on his face and the white patches on his haunches. The dogs are 9,10, and 11 years old.  Looking at the wagging trio,  I decided not do the dishes. I didn’t do much other stuff for the rest of the day.  I threw the ball, tugged the toy, scratched ears and bellies, massaged some aging joints and we all fell asleep while I was reading.

A couple of years ago, I gave away a huge portion of my collection of cookbooks.  I had an obscene amount of cookbooks.  I collected most of them as a young mom and some of my best memories with my own mother involve hot cups of coffee and buttered toast shared while leafing through recipes –improving, mocking, marking to make, and wondering who could afford the ingredients for some of them.  I kept collecting them after she died and looking for her handwritten notes among the old ones.  My daughter and I carried on the tradition but it never felt like it ‘clicked.’ I was reminded more than once this weekend that she learns by doing.  She grew up with me having Saturday or Sunday community dinners.  Usually fresh bread and soup or chili and lots of philosophical conversation, some music and musings.  And anyone could come.  As I sorted through more of the cookbooks (and decided to give away 3 boxes), I thought about how much I miss those meals and what it would take to revive that in some way.  Later that night, my daughter called to share her pasta sauce happiness.  She started serving community dinners a few months ago for protesters on their way to the DAPL stand-off.  It has since evolved into community dinners of her own.  Fifteen hundred miles was unable to contain the savory and sweet of that conversation–how much I miss my mother and my daughter and yet how close to me they both are.

Tonight as I finished boxing and sorting, I thought about my morning and early afternoon spent with an excellent friend cooking up ideas for the fairy house we are making from a tree stump in my front yard and plotting what to cook for an event we are both attending next weekend.  I thought how good it is to have a co conspirator.  I also stumbled on a copy of The Subject Tonight is Love a translation of Hafiz’s poetry by Daniel Ladinsky.  It was a gift to a paramour from whom I separated several years ago.  Until tonight, it was pristine and unread. The heartfelt note tucked inside it reads, These words are for you and say to you from across time and truths that you are beloved in the heart of the Mystery and in the heart of the one who asks you to stretch yourself and crack open the dusty doors. Read them and speak to me about what you know, what you are learning and what you hope for.  We never had that conversation; but, after tonight, the book will no longer be unread.


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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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I Didn’t Do It

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?


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Promise-Scented Winds

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.


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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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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!

 


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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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Breathing

48 Days – I spent part of the day thinking about the balancing act of creating new habits while shedding old ones.  Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure on myself and before I am even done typing this sentence I think the first part of it is just procrastination and pure BS.  The part I didn’t anticipate in all this would be stirring up memories that I now need to filter through new knowledge.  Not as bad as a root canal but less fun than the nausea after riding a Tilt-a-Whirl.

The only solution I have right now is to just breathe.

It’s been about 20 years that I’ve been practicing conscious breathing.  Connecting your thoughts to your breath is a simple practice and it’s one I was fortunate enough to practice with one of the Dalai Lama’s right hand monks.  You’d be surprised what $45 and an afternoon at the Free University can get you sometimes.  Breathing in with a thought and exhaling with another thought can be pretty powerful stuff.  I breathe in procrastination; I exhale timely actions.  I breathe in my angst and breathe out peaceful life.  After a few minutes it feels like your entire body is taking it all in–that thing that is fearful or difficult or so hard to release.  And you are present with it, face to face.  Then the air whooshes out and the seed-sized essence of what you want to grow is exhaled and covers you like a satin sheet.

Breathing. That’s the progress of the day.