Alyse In Words

DIYing the Next Part Of This Life

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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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Shifting Gears

Day 45 – Today had something to do with resuming trust.  I am determined not to repeat processes even if I am faced with a repetitive circumstance.

A few years ago I bought a car from a local dealership with a pretty good reputation.  I mean, it’s owned by a retired football player.  What could go wrong?  Oil pan.  Oil pans can go wrong.  So can my patience with mechanics and car people who assume that if you have a vagina you can’t possibly know a gasket from a gear shift.  In this particular instance, the dealership mechanic explained that they had stripped the threads on the oil pan plug and that their mistake would cost me $800 to repair.  I fussed and fumed and did nothing to wear them down then went to Auto Zone, bought a $5 temp plug and replaced it every few thousand miles.  And to commemorate my anger, I kept the broken plug in the glove box.

Well, guess what happened?  The new-to-me Equinox has an oil leak and since it’s under a 60-day warranty I scampered off to the dealership prepared not to do battle.  The dealership guy was apologetic from the first minute and I faked being awake and pleasant at 6:45 AM. For the next 3 hours I listened to 90’s Muzak, drank tea, made a couple of phone calls, read my Kindle and played Alpha Bear on my phone.  Dealership Guy (henceforth to be known as Keith the Heroic) shared his findings with me:  Forty-five days later, the dealership had still not filed my 60-day warranty paperwork.  Translation: We can’t do any work on the car today.  We found an oil pan leak and several other leaks that need repairs. This should have been done before.  Translation: I argued with the sales people on your behalf.  He said he would call me when the paperwork was complete.  This is the part where my brain scuttles to worry and distrust–except I was determined to have some faith in the guy.  I took a breath, did not complain about the 3 hours, and thanked him.  He said he had looked up some items on my car that have a lifetime warranty and gave me a printout.  Heroic Keith did call back later in the day.  The warranty is in place.  Parts are ordered and I can have a free loaner car while mine is being fixed. He explained that I’m getting an additional non-warrantied repair for free by way of apology for my lost a day of work. I think I told him that he’s my new best friend. I was tempted to kiss him.

The whole demonstrate-some-trust, fail-to-assume-the-worst thing worked in a big way. You might think that I just lucked out but I prefer to think that I got a little revved up.

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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.


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The C Words

The 41st day of practicing contentment – There are a few other c words needed when talking about contentment.  One is courage–I find that I get overwhelmed when I think about charging head-on into tackling some of the chores around here.  I was determined to get up early, do a lot of sweeping and dusting, prep some food for next week and pirouette on toward Monday.  I swam in the shallow end of this goal pool today.  Kind of cleaned, sort of got things ready for next week.  And that’s because I chose a compromise.  There’s accomplishment in having a tidy house and being prepped for the week ahead, but I think it’s more important to be in the moment if you can.  I went with a friend to a local animal shelter and was able to watch her be more happy than I have seen her in ages.  Her dog used to go with her every day to the office, on errands, and home to offer canine opinions on what movie to watch that evening.  About a year ago her dog passed away and today she filled the dog-shaped hole in her heart.  I got to watch.  It looked a lot like that time lapse photography they use to show flowers blooming in the desert.  I wouldn’t trade that moment of dog-finds-woman/woman-finds-dog for all of the dust-free coffee tables I will ever own.  These are steps in the journey–finding the courage to create the continuity between compromise and…I’m searching for another great c word but it’s late and I am kind of tired.  Luckily, I have Winston Churchill to fall back on:  Success is not final. Failure is not final. It is the courage to continue that counts. 



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Conversing with the Full Moon

40 Days In – This was a day of slow-moving goodness.  I was awakened around 3 AM by brilliant, velvety light and got up, walked out on to my deck and saw that the whole world was alive with moonlight and clouds that looked like they had been painted into the sky. Stars and satellites and a couple of jets winked at me.  If it had been a little warmer and my bones a little younger I think I would have brought my pillow and comforter out there and waited for the dawn.  I spent about a half hour  telling the moon and night critters and who/whatever else might be listening ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m grateful that everything is this good’ and ‘I want to just keep going.’  Then I went back to bed and thawed my bare feet against a warm dog and hugely overslept.  Forty-five minutes later I took the wrong turn I always take on the way to this restaurant where I was meeting my friends for lunch.  I arrived 5 minutes late to find these amazing, intelligent, wonderful women making faces at me through the restaurant window.  We drank and ate and teased and reveled in friendship and womanhood.  I listened to each of them telling stories and was soaking up just what a gift it is to have good friends.  People who form your tribe, your village.  Part of what I have read about obtaining contentment is figuring out who your people are.  Who brings the sandpaper to smooth out your rough edges?  Who holds your hand?  Who is your chicken soup? Your wine?  Who loves you warts and all?  Who nudges you and reminds you to pull up your big girl nickers?  It is worth the work and effort and sorting out to find these people.  And then tell the moon or the night critters or, if you are brave enough, these people just how much they bring to you.

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A little less advice, a little more knowledge

Days 38 & 39 – It’s been a pretty magical couple of days.  Maybe a bit of epiphany.

One of my best friends has been dealing with a painful life moment (I’m not going to describe his stuff because his stuff belongs to him.  Let’s just say that it’s about as easy as death by a thousand paper cuts.)  All he has asked of me is to be someone to whom he can vent and, when asked to, provide some ideas/resources.  Half of this is easy for me–I can find resources and directions or sprout resolutions for just about anything.  It’s a thing I do.  What I also do is offer unsolicited advice when I promised to just listen.  To be forthright:  I suck at this.  If I am a 10 at finding resources, I am a 1.5 at not trying to fix things or relieve the pain of other people.

The book I ordered, Crones Don’t Whine by Jean Shinoda Bolen arrived along with the fancy shampoo and conditioner that I didn’t need but really wanted.  My hair looks pretty good and I started reading.  I’m all the way up to page 5 and I read this:  (The crone) can see flaws and imperfections in herself and others, but the light in which she sees is not harsh or judgmental. It got me ruminating about how and where to draw the lines in this and when it might be appropriate to jump the boundaries.  I think that what I need to be better at is that whole appropriate thing.

And the universe gave me a chance to test what I wanted to learn.

My son has stuff, too.  (See disclaimer above about not describing someone else’s stuff.) He contacted me yesterday to say he had punched a hole in the door to the laundry room because he was upset.  The next minute lasted about an hour.  Some of life flashed through my head just like a movie sans surround sound and popcorn–all of the times I have tried to advise/fix/tell/threaten/guilt/uplift/unsolicitedly help him.  I took a deep breath and realized that this was as good a starting place as any.  I replied to him with, “Okay.  I’m picking up dinner on the way home.  Do you want me to get something for you too?”  After a stunned silence he told me that would be great.  At home he flashed through the kitchen to grab his to-go container and hid out in his room.  I’m pretty sure he spent the night waiting for me to interrogate him and offer him advice.  I didn’t.  This morning we had a lengthy, awesome conversation about other things.  I listened as he talked about people trying to blame rather than own their choices.  I heard him talk about asking someone else how much time they were going to give to something that was bothering them.  Inside I smiled, listening to him repeat in his own terms concepts I parented into him.  As we were both getting ready to get on with our days I told him I had something to say.  I saw him pull up his interior walls and I said, “I am working on doing somethings better.  It would be helpful to me–and only if you want to–if you would let me know what would be welcome and unwelcome when you’re having a hard time.”  He looked a little gobsmacked and I felt a lot lighter.  Maybe today I moved from a 1.5 to a nervous 3.

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A or B

37 days into learning about and practicing contentment:  Today I had a brief chat with a friend about liminal beings–what it means when someone is liminal.  The easiest definition is that it’s someone or something able to exist in one or more spheres.  Herons are my favorite example–they are fully at home with one foot in the water and one on land or one foot on the land as they embrace the sky.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel as if I had one foot here and another foot on a completely different foundation.  Some of that comes from knowing that perfect days are a gift–and that every day is a gift if you will allow it to be.

Someone asked me shortly after the US election how I could possibly seek contentment when the world is so topsy turvy.  I have asked myself the same question and I come back to one answer:  I choose to be. It’s that much of a struggle and just that easy.  I have no control over the choices anyone else makes. I cannot force anyone to believe or behave in a way more aligned with my ideas. So, I choose to control me. No matter what is spinning out of control around me, in my space, in this moment, with the situation and people in front of me, I  choose peace and kindness.  I’m not amazing. I’m not Wonder Woman. I can’t fix or force anyone else.  I just have a choice.

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Checking the Mail

36 days – 2.6.17 – I figured out an two amazing benefits of failing to procrastinate:  1) Fear of doing things and putting them off tends to lead to Falling Piano Syndrome.  If you are unfamiliar with this condition, it’s when you walk around creating worry about something and you put off really dealing with it long enough to make the worry a reality.  And then you act very surprised when a piano falls from the sky squishing you like bug against the hot pavement.  So, I’ve officially stopped thinking that the only thing that comes in the mail is bad news and bills.  2)  If you open your mail in a timely manner, sometimes you find checks with your name on them and $175 you weren’t anticipating falls on your head instead of a piano.  Failing to procrastinate is good!

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Mixed Bag

2.5.17 – Day 35 – Today was a real mixed bag.  I was happy that my son stayed over. Grumpy because he left a mess in the kitchen and then cranky because I wouldn’t be cooking any Super Bowl munchies to share with friends or family while rooting for our team because my team wasn’t playing.  Pfft. It’s football.  I missed cooking party foods and having people shouting at the TV.  Instead I sorted through the pile of fix-’em-or-toss-’em clothes, salvaged two things that I really do want to wear and bagged the rest for the ARC store.

I haven’t written anything about this here but in the efforts to minimize and be happy, I saved $150 last month.  Go me.  Well, sort of.  Last night I was bored and was sucked into a reflex action–I shopped.  I told myself it was all good because I am a champion bargain shopper.  I bought a used copy of Crones Don’t Whine because I can’t think of anyone who needs it more than me.  I bought a decal for the car.  And then in the land of it feels good to buy duplicates, I bought shampoo and conditioner that are designed to make my grey-streaked hair dazzling.  I spent $35 and when I woke up this morning to notices that my packages had shipped, I honestly couldn’t remember all of the items.  It led to some introspection about what I do by rote and what I do because I love it, because it inspires me, because it’s creative.  Then, perhaps to get rid of evidence of duplicates and with some self-flagellation in mind, I shampooed the dogs.  I’m not sure if I’ve described them here but to make sure you can smell the wet dog scent fully, they are a very big golden retriever, a miniature wire-haired dachshund, and a boxer/pit bull mix who is more reluctant to bathe than any 11 year-old boy.

About the time I had finished the last 3 chapters of the novel I was reading, my son came home from work. While his dinner warmed I enlisted him in a 10-minute challenge.  I have about 50 handbags.  It’s ridiculous.  I had him pull them all out and hold them up.  I forced myself to make instant choices and it really wasn’t that difficult.  I haven’t counted but I think there are about 15-18 left. And this is the part where I get to really love the discards.  I’m putting a book, items from my trove of shampoos and hand lotions, and a few things I will purchase (without guilt) like EmergenC, aspirin, granola bars and such.  Each bag gets some and each bag will be left at a bus stop, or shelter or other place where I know a woman will find them.  It’s the kind of creative mischief, the kind of mixed bag, I like.