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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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 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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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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Let Freedom BOGO

2.3.17 – 34 days into this:  I woke up today and discovered that breakfast could be either ketchup or a can of black beans.  I have been trying to learn to grocery shop for one and it’s pretty much been a disaster.  I buy  too much.  I buy prepared stuff at the deli, put it in the fridge and then toss it out 10 days later when it has become a science experiment. And, worst of all, sometimes I go through a drive thru.  I had not been through a drive-up window in a decade and found myself talking to a speaker about fried fish.  No. Just no. So this was it.  The no-whining, I-will-figure-this-out excursion.  I showered, put on lipstick so that I might look good scraping the ice from my windshield, remembered to grab my shopping totes and was off.  At the grocery I  took deep breaths and asked who or whatever might be listening to help me figure this out.

Because I’m still firmly attached to my procrastination umbilical, I bought stuff for the wild birds and squirrels.  I bought dog food and deicer, paper products and soap.  Then I wandered the aisles and took in my surroundings.  I was amazed by how many people in my age range were there shopping.  There was the side-eye matron with single-serve ‘lite’ dinners who looked askance at me as I checked out the ice cream.  There were a half dozen old guys with half baskets looking about half confused.  The one I felt sorry for was listening to his wife pick over every little thing before she put an item in the cart.  I am pretty sure he was wearing a tee shirt that said ‘Kill Me Now.’ I had to stop myself from yelling, ‘Run, be free..RUN!’  And that’s when I realized the truth about shopping single: It’s awful if I say it’s awful, difficult if I embrace difficult and okay if I say it’s okay.  I bought some food.  I stared at some things long enough to realize that I want to learn how to cook small portions of risotto and Asian stir fry. I felt a little inspired.  At the checkout copies of TIME Magazine with pussy hats on the cover were stacked in the bottom corner of the display.  I swapped the front-and-center copies of Southern Living with TIME.  A young woman in the next aisle gave me a thumbs up. Outside, I silently rejoiced that Old Guy in SUV, honking his horn with the intent of making his wife a quick shopper, was not waiting for me. I came home, put stuff away and decided to read and nap for a while.  Two hours later I woke up feeling warm and lazy, the middle of a big dog sandwich.  Outside, the breeze was warm and the ice had finally begun to melt.  And the moment felt good, free, energized and just good.