It’s a New Day (Sadly)

As I sit here on a quiet Easter morning mulling over frenetic egg hunts of the past, I find myself struggling to overcome inertia, to seize this day, to make it something new. I really liked the old. It was full of love and belonging. The new is a wide open expanse of cold disconnection, and I don’t like it.

I have somehow failed myself. I have tried to live my life in a way that prioritized the people in it, and yet I now find myself mostly on my own. How did this happen? Was it always only me? Were the participants in the mad parade being pulled along by my fervor, all the while planning their escape?

The thoughts of getting up early to make Easter treats eventually evaporate like the Oregon fog, and I sigh as I realize that Easter dinner plans for two just don’t seem worth the effort. It’s a new day, for sure.

How I long for the old.

 

 

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Carve Out a Little Time

Photo via Foter.com

 

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”    ~Dolly Parton

I love my job. While I may not get excited to get up and leave before 7:30 in the morning, I enjoy the time I’m there and the people I’m with. I make a difference in the world, and that’s a good thing. That being said, I’m always happy to be home, to see my family, to feather my nest, create good things to eat, and share smiles and stories with the people I love.

So I don’t really understand this whole workaholic thing.

I don’t understand how making money beats making memories, or how giving your all to outsiders for 10… 12… 14 hours leaves you nothing to share with the people who love you. I understand the need to feel important and needed, just not how that need can be better filled by people who are benefiting financially from your attentions.

Living with someone who prioritizes work over family relationships takes a toll.

If you’re wondering if this is you, you can take this survey developed by Norwegian researchers called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale. Give yourself a score to each question with 1 being never and 5 being always. If you rank high, do your loved ones a favor and get some help.

  • You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  • You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  • You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.
  • You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  • You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  • You deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities and exercise because of your work.
  • You work so much that it has influenced your health negatively.

And If you ever come back from a trip and go straight to work without unpacking your bags, it’s pretty likely you’re a workaholic.


In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: carve

New Year, New Hope

I vow now that the end of 2018 will not see me sitting on my couch watching a movie, just waiting for the sands on the year clock to run out. May 2018 be a year of renewal. May it bring with it a dedication to truth and authenticity, honest, heartfelt conversations, and clarity of thinking in the path forward. May the ghosts of all the years past not throw chains around this new year, and may patience turn to decisiveness.

To 2018!

Photo credit: maxxtraffic on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

The Extravagance of Being

This is the season of giving, of depleting the savings accounts and trying to balance the scale between giving and receiving, of cordoning off time for family in the midst of a giant collective shove to propel the economy into the black for another year. It’s a season of rising joy, a half bell curve, where the post-holiday reality check smacks you like a fall to the pavement. Gifts received graciously, excitedly, are quickly used, worn, and eaten. Time passes, and those non-consumables are ultimately relegated to the back of the closet or the top shelf to gather dust before being hauled to the local donation center, making space for the cycle to begin again.

But what of the intangible.

My niece received the ultimate Christmas gift, or maybe she gave it, depending on your perspective. Her holiday plans were interrupted by a trip to the hospital to deliver her first child. It’s a gift we’ve all experienced on the receiving end. It’s a gift that holds such promise and expectation of growth and renewal, of successes, of love and bonding. It’s a gift often taken for granted until it’s gone.

And gone it will be all too soon. This Christmas season also saw the loss of a dear sister-in-law to cancer, the end of a life well lived.

Life and death.

Our existence on this ball of rock suspended in space is a tremendous gift. The place we occupy in space and time is unique to us, and to us alone. We may collect friends and family to walk the path with us, but their vista is different, and they may tread easily where we have cause to stumble. We grow up seeing thing with fresh eyes that cloud over with time. We begin with the excitement of the new, learning instructions for how the world works, until for many it becomes mundane, old, used, and we merely exist until we don’t any more.

But if we look closely, there is extravagance all around us. The heady scent of flowers in the spring that bring the buzzing, industrious bees in their quest for nectar. The small molecules of water that are so constructed as to hold onto each other as they ride the wave of gravity toward the ocean, bringing us fresh mountain streams and scenic waterfalls. Basalt, sandstone, and granite tower over us, ever so slowly shifting and moving, only to then crumble and fall, reminding us of our impermanence in this ancient place. The transfer of gasses within our lungs, the beating of our hearts, the plasticity of our brains, all miraculous gifts that we take for granted until they are gone. The capacity for love and forgiveness that strengthens ties and creates a web of safety and security, tendrils of which creep outward in random acts of kindness toward strangers. Extravagance. Just look to the closest planet and compare – then immerse yourself in it.

2017 – The Year of Not Caring

I’ve always been a pretty optimistic person, someone who believes in love and family and that those two things will see you through any bad time that comes your way. My friends and family have seen me through a couple of harrowing years, one of a scary cancer diagnosis and another seeing me through the job from hell. I don’t know how I would have made it through either of those without the love and support of family and friends. But we all go through phases and stages, and this past year everyone’s phases coalesced into the perfect storm of children pulling away and adults revisiting their purpose in this world, all under the helpless feeling that comes with a tumultuous election of a divisive president. It was a one step in front of the other kind of year, a year of going through the motions, of waking up with a dedication to getting through the day.

And it’s taught me to care less.

Though I’m not a Buddhist, I can finally see how letting go gives peace. I have held tightly to my ties, even while the hands on the other end were slackening their grip. I have sat in the middle of a pile of photo albums that only I look at and cried over times past. I have served dinner in front of a wall of photo collages of happy times and tried to make conversation with people who were intent on showing that they were just not that into me. I have tried to communicate my needs and my desires only to be met with blank stares as I pounded my head against that brick wall. And so I let go.

It’s a lonely feeling to let go.

I have spent a lot of time this year wandering by myself, walking through nature, feeling the salt air on my face, staring at the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and marveling at the giant moon as it rose over the land. I slept in the back of my car to get my camping experience and cried as I listened to the families around me talk and laugh around their own campfires. I have wandered and traveled, all the time taking photos that don’t include the people I love. I have dammed up the feeder stream to friendships that were sustained on my little trickle alone. I have searched inward for solace.

There were islands of joy in my barren year, trips to see Smartypants in Virginia and Sunshine in Colorado, trips that filled my soul and reminded me of what I love most about life. We explored and ate and talked and laughed, and I went home revived, with a full tank to carry me through months of what has become a dry, prickly, arid existence. There was a springtime trip with Mr. A to the national parks, getting away from the roles and responsibilities that have made up our last 23 years in this same spot. But returning to knee-high grass and weeds and those same roles and responsibilities brought reality home like a blast from the furnace, and as Mr. A dove back into work, I was on my own once again.

And so I wandered.

And I stopped caring.

As I said, there’s a freedom that comes from not caring, a vagabond mentality that is always seeking out options. It’s a freedom from fear. It’s a knowledge that anything  stable could be upended without a moment’s notice, and an appreciation for what is going well in the moment. It comes with a humility that I cannot influence what I thought I could, and that being myself might not be enough to work magic in other people’s lives. It’s come with the feeling of teetering on the brink between falling back into a life I’ve always treasured and being pushed into a new existence, a chance to re-imagine myself, that square peg that will never fit into the round hole no matter how much pressure is applied.

And so I’ve wandered through the darkness of 2017 and come to the end intact, though the lessons may have been hard. In the autumn of my life, I watch my expectations change and fall like leaves, clustering at my feet, in sight, but out of reach, before blowing away on each stiff breeze.

I am learning to let go.


 “All that history, the love & laughter, is designed for youth. It is what keeps the story of who we are alive from one generation to the next. It ensures our indelible mark in the souls of generations we will never have the pleasure of holding in a warm embrace. Life is short people. Before you know it, another decade will pass, people you love will be lost to this world, and all that will be left of them is what we carry in our hearts.”
― E.B. Loan

 

Ferrari or jalopy?

Love.

It’s something you never think about when the gears are in motion and the machinery is chugging along. You take for granted the easy ride, but the machinery of love requires upkeep, regular tuneups in the form of outings, dates, memory-making experiences. It benefits from regular polishing with the wax of affection, carefully and deliberately applied. Smoothing oil of conversation and companionship keep the motor purring.

Neglect any one of these things and this machinery starts to break down. Gears start sticking, squeaking and squawking. The motor gets tarnished and full of gunk. Forget about the tuneups and soon you find yourself stuck by the side of the road, trying desperately to flag down help.

 

 

Battling the Loneliness Monster

The monster sleeps fitfully in its lair. A vicious opportunist with an insatiable appetite, it dreams of stragglers, outliers, awkward members of the group who veer to the dangerous periphery.

The smell of solitude awakens it from its slumber. A single soul wanders into view. Fully awake now, the monster sizes up its victim. Definitely alone. The monster gets up, hungry with anticipation. It pads on stealthy paws, silently creeping up from behind. Without a sound, it pounces, grasping the prey’s neck with sharp claws and rendering it immobile. The prey, feeling the tightening grip, feeling the danger, valiantly struggles to break free as the monster’s grip intensifies. With a desperate, pleading glance, she cranes her neck to look it in the eye, but dark emptiness stares back at her.

The monster pushes her down to the ground and puts the whole force of its weight into its goal of submission.  Tenaciously it clings on, waiting for the moment of despair, salivating at the chance for a long-awaited meal.

The prey fights back. She weakly calls for reinforcements, but they are far from the periphery, where she now lies immobile. They can hardly make out her cries for help. From their vantage points they can’t see the monster. They tell her to get up, to come back to the group, and then go back to their business.

On her own, she knows she must struggle or perish. Her hands flail wildly to the sides for something within reach, something, anything with which to attack the monster. She grabs a paintbrush and beats the monster, hitting its sides, its head, prying at the claws around her neck. She feels its weight shift, its grip relax slightly, feels its energy subside, but its weight is still on top of her and sharp claws, though looser, still encircle her throat. She grabs garden clippers and stabs at it, slowly, deliberately, purposefully. It releases one strong paw in defense and swings its head around. While it’s distracted, she drops the clippers, grabs a guitar, and bashes it over the head. With a yowl, it finally releases its grip and flees back to its cave.

There it lies in fitful slumber, temporarily subdued, awaiting a chance to strike again.