Alyse In Words

DIYing the Next Part Of This Life


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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.


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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.