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Posts Tagged ‘starting over’

It is three a.m., which seems to have become my Covid norm time for waking up. Eyes wide open, I’m ready to commence with my day (which doesn’t officially start for three hours). The saddest part of this story, I finished my second cup of coffee before I sat down to begin this writing.

There has been a new male presence in my world over the last year or so. I’m having difficulty defining this relationship. What do you call a partner when you’re getting a bit gray about the temples? Boyfriend, sounds ridiculous at this age. We are not going steady, the prom is not in our future, and the likelihood of me wrapping dental floss around his class ring to make it slide on my finger is slim to none. To be honest, I don’t know what is in our future. We are exploring the possibilities, concentrating mainly on what is happening today.

Intrinsically, I am a nester. Having someone to “do” for is somewhat of a happy place for me. Cooking is an activity I greatly enjoy, and though I do cook nice meals when here by myself, it is not the same as having someone seated across from me at the table to appreciate them with me. In this pandemic enforced solitary confinement, I believe my landscape would have looked far more bleak without his silly sense of humor to cut through the fog on the darker days, and his companionship to help ease the encroaching loneliness forced isolation can breed.

Different questions have to be answered when you’re entering a relationship as an older adult then when you are a kid. Actually, I prefer “older person”. It’s a split hair, but one I enjoy splitting. Not sure I’m ready to be graduated to full adulthood yet. My inner child is currently a work in progress. In my minds eye, she is a young girl with an easy smile who loves to walk barefoot in the sand and sing along to her favorite song using a spatula for a mike. I think I’m keeping her around for a while. There’s plenty of time later to be grown up.

Obviously, as an older couple you don’t discuss if you want children in your future. That ship has sailed, docked, and been hauled off to the mothball fleet. At this time in your life, you either have children or you do not. If the answer is the affirmative, then that is another brick in the wall (to quote a little Pink Floyd). I’ve experienced a variety of scenarios when it comes to bringing children into a new relationship. Young children on my side, young children on my side and his side, adult children on my side and adult children on both sides. All of the above, tend to add a little zest to the stew. Now, I cannot speak to everyone’s experience, only mine. Some couples may have been able to combine their “tribes” with ease, traversing this minefield seamlessly. God bless them. I use the word tribes, because warriors in full battle dress carrying spears is an image created in my mind while discussing this particular subject. For me, it was no walk in the park. Perhaps the ones who made it work without issue should have published a manual for the rest of us idiots stumbling along in the dark to follow? There are pratfalls in all of the scenarios. Young, young children are perhaps more open to accepting a new person being introduced in their lives. This, of course, is if the new person is loving and generous of spirit. But, even if they are up there at the benevolent heights attained by Mother Teresa, they cannot, nor will they ever be able to be, the child’s birth parent. This, creates a natural fault line that can and probably will widen and diminish as situations come up. Older children, are more likely to step back and scrutinize the newcomer. Their keen searching eyes looking for financial stability, any obvious major health problems, and how the interloper treats their mother or father. In some cases they will embrace them, in others tolerate them, and in still others voice their displeasure with the new addition and banish them forever from the kingdom. In most cases, adult children want their parents to be happy. Another motivation to welcoming an aging parents new love interests into the fold, is not having to see their parent’s clothes hanging in their spare room closet or to have them taking up extended space in their mother-in-law quarters.

What a person is looking for in a companion as they age often changes considerably from when they first arrived on the dating scene. In my case, I have pretty much established through trial and error what I want and what I don’t want in a partner. My relationships looked much like my mothers and grandmothers when I was younger. Like the women before me, I cooked, cleaned, managed the laundry and bit off a healthy portion of tending to the kids needs, and as in my mother’s case, I also worked outside of the home.

These days work is something I do to make extra money as opposed to something I deal with on a daily basis. This does not mean I am financially free as a bird. I pinch a penny, and then squeeze the copper out of it. Since, according to my doctor, I’ve inherited my mom’s excellent genes, should I be lucky enough to live to be her ripe old age, I’d better have a tin cup and a cardboard sign at the ready to meet the occasion. That being said, anyone I take up with will have to be able to be able to stay afloat themselves when it comes to money matters, because my financial lifeboat is only equipped with seating for one. I’m an avid sharer, but can’t take on additional monetary responsibilities. As I start writing all this stuff down, I might in the end just consider getting another cat. Just kidding. She never appreciates anything I put in front of her.

Another thought is how I like to keep my house. By this, I mean I like it tidy. Some people simply don’t care if you can write your thesis in the dust on the coffee table. Let me say this, I am not one of them. Whatever anyone wants to do in their own space is first, last, and always up to them. Well, unless it’s a health issue or a danger to others. Let me rephrase, I accept everyone’s right to live as they please in their own surroundings. If a person wishes to eat fried chicken and throw the bones in a pile in the middle of the living room floor for the dog to yak up, I’m all about their right to do so. If eating soup out of the bathroom trash can when there are no clean dishes available suits your mood, I’m on board. I may not choose to do that, but accept fully it might be something that works for you and certainly your right to live and thrive in any way you want. There, that sounds more like me.

For years I have picked up, swept up, worked around, and generally managed other people’s clutter. Note here, I do not want to do this anymore. I am my children’s mother. That is all I signed up for. Anyone else is on their own if mothering is what they are in the market for. If I drop my clothes on the floor, they remain there until I pick them up. No one, at least in my experience, has ever gone by my clothes and on seeing them there either; a) hung them up neatly in my closet, or b) thrown them in the laundry and washed, dried, and pressed them for me. This, is because they are my clothes. However, during my marriages somewhere the lines got blurred where all the clothes in the house seemed to end up with my name on them. The dishes also, though I only ate off the ones placed at my seat, seemed all to be mine when it came time to load the dishes in the dishwasher. One of my husbands did the dishes during the week, while I took over on the weekends. This could have proved a great system, except he only did what I would call the “easy to clean” dishes (one swipe with a sponge, rinse, voila). That left me the following morning with a sink full of the stuck on pots and pans or heavy cleaning items like casserole dishes or deep fryers. These, apparently, were my pots. To give my husbands credit where it is due, for the most part, each of them took out the trash, mowed the lawn, and did whatever quick and simple repair jobs were deemed necessary around the house. Rick, bless him, always believed that having repairmen on the premises was doing a service for the community. Raised in an upper middle class neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt his family had servants. He told me as a teen he would take his clothes off before taking a shower and leave them where they fell. His wet towel joined the pile when he was done showering and when he went into his bedroom his clothes were laid out on his bed for him. I told him my union rep said I needed double time plus bonus pay for extras such as these and that, as they say, was that.

Another important piece of the puzzle for me would be how a potential love interest felt about animals. Boo, the queen of cats, is an intrinsic part of the fabric of my life. This silly old cat is a part of the family. Also, I have an innate distrust of humans who don’t bond with animals. You may be a cat person, or you may be a dog person, but if animals in general make your skin crawl, you will never be found in the cards for me. How people react to our furry friends, I believe, is indicative of how they will treat the people in their lives. Most likely I will always share space with an animal so that box needs to be checked for me before moving forward.

Before I move on, I have to put in a brief paragraph about the exes. Exes can be really touchy territory. Many couples I know, include their ex spouses at holidays and on special occasions. This is as it should be with children involved. I have sat at many wedding tables next to ex-wives. As long as too much champagne isn’t consumed loosening lips and allowing the horror stories of their relationships with your current squeeze don’t start, life can remain copasetic. I suggest an escape plan for such events be in place, in case you find yourself trapped in a corner and their lips begin moving. It can get ugly.

Love is a welcome gift at any age. I will not overthink the prospect for now, but rather allow things to open and unfold as they will and see what lovely surprises are to be discovered inside. Have a great day. Fill your cup with love, because you cannot have too much of it in reserve for times like now when it sometimes feels like a dangerous and cynical world. Stay safe.

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Last night was one of those stress filled nights where I found myself doing yoga at 2 a.m. in an effort to calm my chattering brain. Lately I invest a lot of energy trying to live in the moment I am currently inhabiting. In spite of my finest efforts, now and again my mind goes rogue bombarding me with what if’s and unsettling scenarios for the future. During these episodes like Michelangelo on steroids, my psyche begins frantically painting scenes of Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I sitting on the street corner with a sign reading “Need Help” or me ending up in some sort of group establishment known for its abysmal food cohabited by people wiling away their hours plucking imaginary berries out of the air.  None of this is based on any fact, mind you, but in the wee hours when darkness is upon me my thoughts can play tricks on my intellectual properties allowing doubt and misinformation to cloud all rational thinking processes.

Fear truly can rule you if you allow it run unchecked. Reality is sufficiently frightening without giving fear free rein to step up and fabricate things for you to worry about. Feelings and thoughts are just that, feelings and thoughts. They are not tangible entities but rather fluid malleable parts of us we can bring to the forefront or make disappear at whim. You are at the controls, sort of like when parents tell their offspring, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out”.

Fear is not new to me. Truth is I’ve done a lot of things in my life that have terrified me. Sometimes you have to stare down your fears and kick them to the curb. At one point I actually suffered from anxiety attacks while married to my ex-husband, David. Now to be clear, I am not for a minute suggesting my ex caused these attacks to occur (I’m also not suggesting he didn’t), simply stating they manifested themselves when I was married to the man. They began at the onset of our ten years together. Much of our time was spent traveling across the U.S. working for a large, very well recognized, construction company. Like hermit crabs we transported our home with us setting up camp in each new location as one job closed and a new opportunity presented itself. The first move, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, was to Washington state. More specifically, Longview, Washington. We worked and lived there for eleven months before packing up after accepting the next job offer which was to be in Ashdown, Arkansas. Our household goods at the time were stored in the Bay Area. Not contemplating returning for some time we decided to drive to the San Jose area, spend a week with my family there, load up his truck and my car with the contents of our storage unit and make a beeline for Arkansas. Along for the ride were my Shih Tzu, Sushi and Kitty, my twelve year old gray tabby. At the end of our journey together these two animals had logged enough miles to be honorary long-haul drivers.

We set out on that trip each in our respective vehicles. These were what I call the “lean years” for us. His beater Ford truck was nearly as old as I was and my car at the time was a K car purchased at auction. A comfortable car for driving, the outside no longer matched the well preserved interior as a result of an unfortunate rear ender I’d been involved with prior to leaving for Washington. In an effort to keep the repair costs down, as it wasn’t a new vehicle either by any means, the body shop had actually riveted the hood back together leaving it sporting a somewhat Frankensteinish appearance. I know.  Between the rivets on my hood and my husbands severely overtaxed truck bed the characters in Grapes of Wrath had nothing on us. Both animals rode with me. Sushi generally occupied the shotgun seat with Kitty preferring to ride in the area below the window above the rear seat where she could catch some sun. Cats, unlike their canine counterparts, do not signal when they need to relieve themselves, so it was necessary to have the litter box on board on the floor in the back seat. This, as you might imagine, was not always a delightful addition to my trip.

There were so many scary parts to that trip I hardly know where to begin. At the time I was madly in love and off on a new adventure. “Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead” sort of thing. My car had been having brake problems, something we had decided to address on our arrival in Arkansas. If you are scratching your head at this statement, may I join you? Why on earth we would take a chance on traversing high mountain roads with an old truck loaded to the max with hhg’s and an old car with poor brakes escapes me, but what can I say? Nothing, exactly. Sometimes shaking your head is all you can do.

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We reached the top of the Continental Divide as the sun was getting ready to go down. It was summer, but the temperature was cold enough at that altitude to elicit a shiver when I stepped out of the car.  I had pulled to the side of the road in response to David’s signal he was doing so. After stepping around the side of the truck I realized why. Our second flat tire on the truck was apparent on the right front.  The first one was while going across the Great Salt Flats of Utah, which I will discuss as I continue my journey in upcoming blogs. Perhaps brakes and tires might have been two checks we needed to make on our “Preparing for Trip List” prior to hitting the road. I hear you. I don’t believe it helped that the poor old truck was toting a load on it’s back nearly as tall as it was long, but the why’s of the situation really are a moot point at this writing. Choice A, with no Choice B on the horizon was to change the tire in the darkness with the help of a flashlight which was our only available source of illumination. There were no cell phones back then so if you got in a situation like that in a remote place you either took care of it yourself or stayed until hopefully help showed up. David, always helpful, suggested that aside from holding the flashlight it might be advantageous to keep an eye out for bears or mountain lions. “Really”? Luckily knees knocking together is not a known lure for wild beasts so we got the tire changed before being eaten which was definitely a bonus to my way of thinking.

Once the new tire was in place David lit a cigarette while we discussed going down the other side of the mountain. Since my brakes were not performing at optimum capacity the steep grades could present a bit of a problem should I need to say, stop, at some juncture. Being consumed by a bear was starting to look pretty good to me. The plan, hold your hats here, was that David would go first in the heavy truck. As we wound around the mountain careening through the darkness should my brakes go out I was to ride up onto his bumper and he would bring me to a stop. Valium please.  Make it two. As we crested the mountain in tandem I said a silent prayer we would get to the bottom via the road and slowly stepped on the accelerator.  Several times when we hit substantial grades I was only able to maintain a narrow margin behind the truck’s bumper. Even the dog was sweating. Finally, angels on my shoulder, we miraculously hit level ground with all body parts attached. Life, was they say, is good.

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There was an eclipse that night. We secured a room at a local motel. Interesting place. The owner had taken over an abandoned storage facility and converted it into motel rooms. Probably a great plan in conception but perhaps not so great in execution. The ceilings, for example, were really low. Had David been a couple of inches taller then his six feet he might have had to bend slightly to go from room to room. Also, even without the eclipse the fact there were no windows in our unit made it really dark when we switched off the light. Lying there without the tiniest benefit of illumination in the room I can remember breathing into my diaphragm three or four times in an effort to slow down my still hammering heart before drifting off to sleep. Looking back I have to say, even though my life was chaotic in the best of times it certainly was never boring. I guess that’s a good thing in hindsight.

Somehow I made it through those years. Being afraid and pushing through it probably gave me an edge when dealing with the loss of Rick a year and a half ago and all that has come after it.

Have a great and adventurous weekend!!

 

 

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I attend a weekly therapy session. People often hesitate to admit they have pursued this avenue of treatment. To my mind, never be afraid to say you need help in whatever form. If you have a virus you make a doctor’s appointment. No different. When your mind needs guidance to sort through whatever it is you are experiencing seeking professional assistance seems the logical step to take.

After two years of office visits my therapist and I have shared a lot of information with one another. A certain bond forms with a person you give large chunks of your life over to and such is the case here. Laura is a woman slightly younger than myself, single like me, an only child having lost her brother, caring for an aging mother. There you go. My sister from another mister.

Most therapists have therapists. I’ve often felt if you go into this particular field of practice perhaps you may have creases you need to iron out yourself. Many times I’ve thought of hanging out my shingle when I have been thrust into the position of doling out solicited advice to friends and family.

During yesterday’s session I was discussing how many things have broken down over the past month, including me. Since October made itself known one thing after the other has fallen apart. She shared with me many of her patients have been complaining of the same occurrences, one person even relating a theory there is some sort of global karmic event in progress. Really? Oh-oh. Karma is not my strong suit.

Since the first of the month my TV has gone out, I had four days without electricity, my phone mysteriously lost voicemail due to an unexplained national outage, my doorbell stopped ringing, my alarm battery supposed to last five years died as did the replacement battery sent, and last night in the middle of cooking dinner the bulbs in my overhead kitchen light flickered then died concurrently. Really? This seems like a small inconvenience, but mine is a small kitchen, one butt really. It has one light source and without it you can’t see much. I keep two bulbs in it to provide a nice warm atmosphere while I’m doing my cooking. I turned on the light in the laundry room to see what I was doing. Getting out my trusty step stool, exactly as I’ve been instructed not to do by my children, I perched precariously on the top step trying to loosen the nut holding the globe in place. Reaching up I could barely reach the nut to turn it. Once the nut was off the globe should have easily been removed. Not this month. I gently turned and maneuvered it over and over never achieving the desired result. Peering through my blinds I could see my landlord’s truck in his driveway. Hating to admit defeat, I texted a quick note explaining I was too stupid too replace a light bulb, please send help. Sounded like the old pollock joke. Sorry, hope I didn’t offend anybody of Polish ancestry. Shortly there was a knock at the door. There had to be a knock, why? Yes, that’s right because the doorbell doesn’t work.

It turned out there was a twist (no pun intended) to the light situation. An extra nut had been screwed on for some unknown reason and was holding the globe in place. Thank God I wasn’t as stupid as I looked. Whew. Dodged that bullet. After replacing the two bulbs he let me know he’d be over this morning to take a look at the electrical outlet in the living room that had also gone south. Suddenly I had a mental picture of appliances and devices rising up against their human tormentors. Out of control IPhones with cracked faces and old discarded Kindles chasing down unsuspecting townspeople. Sort of an all out electronic revolution on steroids.

Watching the news while having my coffee they announced another high wind event was going to take place which meant more PG&E enforced shutdowns. Thankfully I haven’t gotten an alert yet. Yesterday when they said there was a possibly I decided I wasn’t going to caught with my pants down like last time. First I filled my car, then stopped at the store on the way home to grab two bags of ice and some battery operated candles. I have three such candles already and two lanterns but just they don’t provide enough light once dark descends upon us. Many of my friends have purchased generators. Being here alone the idea of operating such a device when I apparently can’t even change a light bulb is a bit daunting. It’s not just plugging them in and voila. Unless you have the $9,000-$15,000 to invest in one that is automatic and will supply the entire house, the manual types involve yanking a starter such as a lawn mower might have, extension cords and frequent oil changes. Most of my friends have husbands around to help them operate these. Not that I can’t figure it out I’m sure I can, but do I want to? The answer here would be not really. One of my friends had a neighbor lose her house and everything in it to a fire caused by misusing a generator. If anyone could make that happen, it would be me. Trust me, my strengths do not lie in the workings of machines. Machines actually cover their heads when I walk by hoping to go unnoticed.

I remember when my first husband insisted on teaching me how to change a tire. The one and only time I used the information was on the way home from work on a day several months after my tire changing instruction course. Back then women wore pantyhose and heels to work. For those of you not old enough to remember pantyhose they are miserably restrictive nylon leg coverings fitting like sausage casings that you wear under your dresses. Sadly they were an improvement on the girdles and garter belts that preceded them. All of them, in my estimation, articles of torture. When the tire blew I limped the car to the side of the road. After standing there looking pitiful for ten or fifteen minutes with no prince on a valiant steed showing up, I decided to retrieve the jack out of the trunk and take care of this problem by myself. Not having perhaps given my full attention to the instructions when they were being given, I did manage to remember how to get the jack on and get the lug nuts off, the latter which I deposited in the hubcap as instructed. Steps 1 and 2. On a roll. Next, I muscled the brand spanking new tire out of the truck securing it in the spot where the old tire had been resting. Step 3. Check, check, and check. I am woman hear me roar. I could have consumed a raw rib eye at that moment. That is right up until the jack, apparently not properly secured, decided to relieve itself of it’s burden and dropped the car on one side like a wounded antelope. The impact caused the wheel to bend under the car where a part of the sharp metal around the wheel well impaled it. Hmmmm. The perfect kill. I don’t remember step 4 sounding like that. This was not going well. At that point I guess I looked sufficiently pitiful that a driver pulled over to help. Standing next to the car scratching his head he finally said, “how did you do that”? There really wasn’t a good answer. I don’t explain these things, I just do them. A tow truck was called as was my husband who oddly had exactly the same reaction as my rescuer plus several additional comments about the new tire being ruined which aren’t suitable for sharing. Bonus here. I never have been called upon since to change a tire on a car. I have been sure to relate this story at the beginning of all my relationships ensuring this remains status quo.

There are often gifts hidden in the dark corners of our lives. This year has been a learning experience for me in so many ways. Even when stumbling and falling I have managed to pick myself up and keep on going. It has been an opportunity to discover where my strengths lie and work on my weaknesses. I have found I can live alone and life continues to move forward. Does that mean I like it? No, I miss Rick every single day and our life together but there are certain unexpected freedoms afforded people who have no one to account to except themselves.

I find through the loss I have acquired a great deal of gratitude for my blessings. This lovely little house, Miss Boo the Queen of Cats, my family and friends, food in my cupboard, my health and for the most part my sanity.

What is it they say, people always worrying about what they don’t have will never be happy. Rather we should be thankful for what we do have. There is always someone out there who would view your life with outright envy. If you never have enough to make you happy, how can you ever actually find fulfillment? These are questions I ask myself when I am feeling down. Don’t always have answers but at least I’m asking the questions.

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At last writing I was getting ready for a garage sale. I can’t tell you how many of these I’ve orchestrated over the years. Neighborhood sales are the perfect way to get rid of all that stuff you haven’t laid eyes on since Reagan was president and a nice way to get to know your neighbors and make new acquaintances.

My daughter and I woke up at 4 a.m. Saturday to get things set up. Thankfully they had electricity over the week, where I did not due to the PG&E outage, so she was already ahead of the game. Traffic around her area was totally impacted on my way to her house the previous night. I believe the mass of vehicles was because they live in Roseville, a northern California city about twenty minutes north of Sacramento, which is a major shopping hub for the Sierra Nevada foothills residents. Many people living in the mountains and lower foothill communities were without power for multiple days. Though living in the tall trees is a lovely place to be, if you’re looking for malls and the larger chain stores you will not find them up there. Presumably the endless lines leading into the big box stores as I made my way down one of the main drags was a direct result of people needing to replace spoiled food lost during the outage. I know in my refrigerator unless you can come up with a recipe using catsup and ice, you need to look elsewhere for your dinner plans.

Garage sales to me are reminiscent of the outdoor markets popular in medieval times where people congregated to buy, sell, or trade their items. Not to say I have first hand knowledge of such places. I am getting a bit long in the tooth but not quite that long. However, from what I’ve read about feudal communities back then, these markets were a place for people to gather and exchange goods and services, pass on news from one village to the next, and sell their produce or livestock or perhaps barter in exchange for something they themselves needed.

At most garage sales you price items low but a little above what you would secretly hope to get for them. People like to dicker. Makes them feel, or it does me, like I’ve gotten a bargain. However, I have to say I never cease to be amazed at the need for some people to haggle on an item originally purchased for $90 now on sale for $3 still unwrapped and in the box. Do we really have to have an offer and counter offer on such an item? One lady wanted to buy a brand new blender marked at five dollars for $1.50. It works perfectly and I offered to plug it in and pulverize an apple if it would ease her mind as to the condition of the appliance. Now bear in mind she drove up in a very expensive Mercedes sporting Ferragamo sunglasses and carrying a Michael Kors handbag. Somehow I didn’t get the impression she was sweating where her next meal was coming from. She went on to explain she only had $2.00 and wanted another item marked $3.00 for $.50 to complete her purchase. Wow spending the whole wad at my sale. Really? I was terribly tempted to give her a brochure from the local food bank I volunteer for in case she could avail herself of their services, but held my tongue and watched as she packed my blender in her trunk along with what appeared to be dozens of other purchases. Uh-huh. Truth is it’s not that I’m an easy mark, but I went there to come home lighter and with that intention in mind I accepted her generous offer with a smile and tucked the $2.00 in the till. Later I found the rubber o-ring for blender on the floor behind the display. Karma, as they say, is a well, you know. I would have happily forwarded the part to her if I knew which street corner she was carrying her sign on.

Between the three of us in the garage we all did our share to unload the bounty. My daughter was born to work with people. She has a warm and welcoming personality and would take off her shoes and give them to you if she felt you didn’t have any to wear. The expression “she never met a stranger” definitely applies to my oldest child. A cancer by birth, she throws herself into her interactions with fellow humans with passion and verve and has an innate sense about people paired with keen intuition. I, on the other hand, am a scorpio. Though hardly a shrinking violet, I am a little more cautious when meeting people, being more likely to size them up first before approaching. Once comfortable though I am very good at working a crowd. My son-in-law for his part just wanted to reclaim the half of his garage that has been storing all my excess household goods as well as my mother’s and their own so would happily have packed up the whole kit and kaboodle in the back of any taker willing to drive off with them. Between the three of us we managed to talk to lots of interesting people while unloading about 3/4 of the items by the end of the day. Yay.

I am glad the garage sale is behind me. The past two weeks have been an exhausting blur of activity and I am pleased to see another to-do item completed. Slowly the left side of my list with numerous items to be accomplished by the close of the year is whittling down to a more manageable size. Perhaps there will be a day coming up where I can put my feet up, pour a cup of pumpkin spice tea, and catch up on my book marked at the same page since my mother broke her hip.

Sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. I’m grateful for every day I have with my mother. She has been there for me and I will always be there for her. Someone told me the other day I had good manners. Automatically I attributed that to being brought up in a household where manners were considered an integral part of everyday life. Thank you Mama. Thank you for so many things you have taught me over the years. Certainly to be strong is at the top of the list. The women who shaped my life were all strong in their own way. My two lovely aunts, my grandmothers, and my mother each brought different things to the table for me to draw from.

The bit of self indulgent whining is only tired feet and a tired mind. Taking care of yourself is a big enough job in this unsettled and complicated world but adding another person to the mix makes the job two fold. Sometimes even when performing a service with love, you need to give yourself a pass if you occasionally get cranky or wish you could just crawl in the closet with a bag of Double Stuf Oreos and close the door. Nobody can be everything to everybody every day. Can’t be done. All you can do is show up and do the best you can, remembering to throw in a little self love here and there for good measure. Take a breath, pick up that book, and if even if just for a moment draw in some deep cleansing breaths. The glorious thing about life is that whatever you are going through right now will not always be the template for the way your life looks. This, like so many situations, is only a temporary state of being.

I have learned so many things about myself over the past year since Rick passed away. I can stand alone, perhaps sometimes on wobbly legs, but I am standing. I wake up every day and do my best to make it count even if it’s only in small measures like cleaning my house or pruning my flowers. As the months pass I have recovered my joy again and a renewed interest in living a full and fulfilling life while I am here.

So here’s to clearing out the clutter both figuratively and literally. To starting fresh and traveling lighter.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.”
………Dr. Seuss

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When someone you love passes away the fragility of life gets pushed to the forefront. Suddenly you become more aware of how quickly time passes and how fleeting your most precious moments. When Rick, my significant other of twenty years, died of cancer last year this was true for me. When diagnosed, his prognosis was six weeks. Forty-two days, forty-two days for him to get a lifetime in order, say his goodbyes, memorize the rich colors of blue decorating the sky, see the stars come out at night and watch the sun rise in the morning. Chemotherapy and radiation allowed us an extra three months, a gift I will always treasure. There are never enough hours to spare, but each extra day gave us another chance to wipe the slate clean before he left on his journey.

Rick’s passing has heightened my awareness, if you will. Before I may have taken life a little for granted as many of us do. One day folds into the next, we plug in our coffee maker, put on our makeup and muscle through our existence. Often our lives are incredibly busy. With each hour fully accounted for, there is little time left over to pause and admire the new rose blooming on the bush by the front door or to catch the hint of sadness in your teenager’s eyes. Even stopping to breathe deeply and be present in the moment can seem an impossible task while a pile of laundry beckons or a client waits to close an important deal. Yet in the end whether the socks get sorted or the product gets shipped is rendered unimportant when you are faced with writing the final chapter of your book.

Immediately following the death of a family member along with dealing with the overwhelming grief, end of life arrangements, and friends and family coming and going, survivors are expected to take care of all the details involved in day to day living. All this is complicated by coping with what is termed “grief brain” making concentration difficult to achieve and scattered behavior more common than not. I actually came out of the store after doing some grocery shopping and after storing my bags in the trunk I seated myself in the back seat of the car. As I was there alone, this probably would appear odd behavior to the casual observer. Not wanting to confirm myself a complete idiot I looked around as if waiting for someone and waited for the area to clear before hopping into the driver’s seat.

To help me cope with everything swirling around me, I began compiling to-do lists. Some lists were compiled by priority of things that had to be done, while others held ideas for things I hoped to do in the future. Many items on my “have to be done” list I have already accomplished. With Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, at my side I have sold my house and moved to a new rental home. Check. Slowly, I have established new routines revolving around living alone rather than sharing space with someone. Check. This week I joined a gym, something not on my list of favorites but a healthy decision, and begin water aerobics tomorrow. Check, check and check. With each step I have moved a little further away from the life I knew and grown closer to the new life I am creating for myself. I have to say it is game changing.

As this year has unfolded I have found myself searching for the path I want to follow. Standing at a crossroads in my life with so many options possible which way do I go? Certainly I must go forward, but do I veer to the right or to the left?

This period of new growth and exploration I refer to as the “unfolding”. For the person going through it may feel as if they have shed their skin leaving their nerves exposed and raw. Life, as it once was completely changes the moment a loved one ceases to be in it. To expound here, the person passing away ceases to be in it in a physical sense. In my case, I feel Rick will be walking along next to me in spirit always.

For a while, and each person experiences this time frame individually, it seems as though there would never be a day when you will feel “normal” again. As time passes, like all wounds, the rough edges begin to smooth and the sun once again will begin to feel warm and welcoming on your face. Hope returns for a future on some level and unless deeply depressed you begin to explore this new life you are left with.

During this period I began to think about my own life. Though I am definitely looking at the downhill slope there are still, God willing and I don’t get run over by the garbage truck, many years to fill. The choice here would be to sit and feel sorry for myself or find a way to live the most rewarding and happy life I can. I chose the latter. I began to think about what I would like to do with myself. If I have been the one to remain behind it stands to reason this in a way is a gift and I did not want to consider it frivolously.

Again I went to my lists. On my list of exciting adventures I hope yet to do visiting the Grand Canyon, for example, is right up there towards the top. Always I have wanted to see this natural wonder. In spite of numerous trips by car across the U.S. the chance to do so has continued to escape me. Definitely I want to try zip lining, and after a recent trip to Lake Tahoe I have added river rafting down the Truckee River as a must do when next summer rolls around. My son recently went parachuting while on vacation in Santa Cruz. Although this sounds intriguing to me on the surface, I have a feeling if faced with an open door and 15,000 feet of open air space below me I might rethink my enthusiasm, most likely shortly after I wet my pants. We shall see. Though included, jumping out of a plane is definitely hovering (if you will) towards the bottom of the line.

Finding myself heading into my golden years with less gold on hand than loose change, traveling extensively is not in the stars for the moment. If my bank account was representative of my desire to see the world I would be floating lazily across the Mediterranean in a private yacht or dining on trays of succulent meats and cheeses at the Rodostamo Hotel in glorious Corfu. Unfortunately, my budget leans more towards a Motel 6 in Barstow and Taco Bell, but one never knows what the next bend in the road will uncover. Perhaps that pesky winning lottery ticket I never purchase will miraculously come floating through the window? One thing I have learned about my years spent on this earth, is you can never discount anything because life, as most of us are aware, is a capricious host serving up surprises with each passing day.

From each experience good or bad we take with us lessons. It is our choice whether or not to draw from these lessons. No matter what the experience there is something slightly life altering we add to our bag after having lived through both the difficult and the soul elevating times. From this experience I have learned to value today for that is what we have. I have learned to remember to say “I love you” every time I leave someone I care about, to make that phone call to a friend even if you’re busy, and to give when and where you can without hesitation. Make it a great and meaningful day.

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Sitting here I find it hard to believe nearly a year has passed since Rick passed away. Time seems to be whizzing by my face like a moving sidewalk cranked up to mega warp speed. Over the past months I have sold my house, packed up my household goods, found a new place to live in a new area, and moved. Whew. This on top of grieving the loss of my spouse of twenty years and trying to figure out who this strange new person is facing me in the mirror each morning. Sometimes it feels as though my feet are made of cement and can’t or won’t move forward. Miraculously, each day they do somehow pick themselves up propelling me further down this unexplored path.

I stopped writing in my blog when this saga began, or when it ended, depending on your point of view. Writing about grief then following up with a recipe for tangy barbecued ribs seemed to me a poor pairing at best. To be honest writing, though probably therapeutic, seemed a daunting task when dealing with so many other more pressing issues.

So, here I am not whole, but rather slowly piecing myself back together, inviting you to come in once again and get reacquainted.

As usual even in the middle of chaos the universe has introduced a little extra spice to the pot to make my days interesting. Often I wonder if I have a guardian angel blessed with a rather twisted sense of humor who, though eventually cleaning up the messes she creates, enjoys watching as I fall into one catastrophe after another somehow climbing back up out of the fray.

Let’s catch up. As I said I sold my house in the tall trees. This was done quickly for a myriad of reasons. the first and foremost financial. Money concerns were closely followed by the ever present fire danger, too much square footage for one small woman and a fat cat, and a pinch of needing to make a new start in a place without a memory floating by in every dust mote. Moving is not suggested in the first year following such a loss as moving as well as losing a love one both rank a 10 on the stress level scale. However sometimes, such as in my case, life doesn’t offer you a Plan B.

Everyone approaches grieving the loss of a loved one in their own individual way.  A doer by nature, I allowed the sadness to have its way with me until I got up one day and found I needed to get out and feel the sun on my face. Tentatively I have reentered the world around me. In the beginning, I found a grief group that fit me to a tee. Not just a place with sad gut wrenching stories, though there were those to be told, but more a safe haven offering unconditional support with some smiles and laughter thrown in to balance the scales.  Being in a room with other people on a similar journey somehow allowed me to feel less alone. Certainly those dealing with such a loss themselves made me feel more understood, and less like I was floating along in the rapids out of control and floundering. Therapy was another tool I used to buoy myself.  For those of you going through this, having gone through it, or find yourself going through it in the future these groups and a good therapist are so beneficial in helping you find your way through the pain associated with having your life rearranged in such an upending and unrelenting fashion.

So many things I’ve learned as one month faded into the next. You have to face the hurt and sadness full on and move through it. Avoiding it will only allow it to show up perhaps more intensely later on along the way. Friends and family are essential, or were for me. If you don’t have any, find a group and make some. Reaching out when the fear, anger and sadness showed up saved me on days when I felt as though I couldn’t take it anymore.

Eating and hydrating even when the thought of doing either makes you want to hang your head over the toilet is another essential piece of the puzzle. If, like in my case, you were a caregiver the same body which gave you license to push it far beyond normal parameters to take care of someone very ill, will now call in the loan if you don’t return the favor for yourself.

I share this post because someone at one point made the comment “every marriage ends one of two ways, death or divorce”. This means many of us who have chosen to take a chance on love will deal with loss. Many times I have questioned whether it is worse to go first or be the one left behind.

Grief comes in many forms and can manifest itself in many ways beyond human loss. Loss of a job, a beloved home, or loss of financial security, for example, all create a recipe for experiencing the symptoms of grief. As my counselor will say, “grief carves you out” leaving room for you to fill the hole remaining with new experiences. Sometimes I actually feel as if I have shed my skin becoming an entirely different being since that day last September. Who this being is is still blurry in my minds eye but every day I do the work to help her show up and make herself known.

So I begin to find myself again among the ashes of my previous life. A blank book on which chapters are to be written and pages filled with new words and images. At first there won’t be recipes because I’m not cooking a lot but I’m sure the stove will beckon me one of these days soon when my footing feels a little stronger.

 

 

 

 

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