Making Way For Change

Lilli is famous for going out and then coming right back in.

It’s been said that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I’ll not deal with the death and taxes part here, though there are many CPAs out there trying to figure out the new tax laws. Taxes may not go away, but they do change!

Change is always happening and I’m especially feeling it as I continue on my path to where ever I’m going. I can’t say where that is but for the first time ever and without regret, I’m just letting it happen.

I’ve done enough worrying, whining, and it adds to that pile of anxiety that seems to follow me around.

If I just go with the flow sometimes astonishing things happen that take me in new directions that fill me with happiness.  I’ve alway been good at ”what might happen?” and have spent too much time stressed and working out plans, B, C, and D, while the world keeps spinning and I miss out on exciting opportunities.  So when I begin imaging the worst possible scenarios I tell myself to just focus on now, and deal with what’s on my plate right this minute. If it’s a piece of dark chocolate, I simply hold it on my tongue and let it melt slowly, enjoying the rush of sweet and bitter flavor that most often tells me to have another piece. If it’s a bowl of something I’m not fond of, like lima beans, I simply chew, have a sip of water to help wash them down and think about the vitamins they are providing for me.

We just discovered that Bill’s diagnosed bursitis is not bursitis at all. His “good” knee started bothering him a week or so before Christmas and when he woke up one morning and discovered he couldn’t put any weight on it, we went to the ER, where the knee was xrayed. After reading the image the ER doctor came back in and said,  “it’s good news. It’s only bursitis and nothing to worry about once you rest it for a while.”

But once home, it continued to be painful and got worse. Last week he saw an orthopedist who xrayed it again, taking pictures from several different angles. What he found was arthritis and though it is not as bad as it was in his other knee that resulted in a knee replacement several years ago, it could get worse over time. For now, Bill had a cortisone shot, will be getting a knee brace ordered especially for him, and will start doing some physical therapy next week.

Yesterday I went to the same orthopedist about my very painful shoulders and a wrist problem that is also making me extremely uncomfortable. I’ve alway had shoulder problems but usually a visit to the chiropractor or a good massage helped it go away.  But now those things don’t help any more. It turns out I have bursitis and tendonitis in both shoulders and carpal tunnel and tendonitis in my wrist.  Whoa!  Is this what is called aging?

Hellebores, a sure sign that spring is on its way.

We don’t know what will happen in the days to come. Will Bill need another knee replacement which can make for a long recovery or will he be fine? Will he be able to travel during this new year without pain?

Will my problems go away after going to physical therapy twice a week for eight weeks?  Will I be able to continue to make art and write?

We’ve decided not to worry about it. We plan on relishing the good days, the return of the light, and the approaching spring. And we are gratefull for our new cozy home with its sturdy roof over our heads, good books to read, and nourishing food to fill our bellies. I hear about those folks in Southern California now experiencing mud slides after those terrible fires………………………………..

And I think it could always be much worse!

The Next Great Adventure

For Bill and I, big changes often come out of the blue. We’ve been perfectly content and happy where we are. But less than a month ago we were in conversation with a friend who is about our age. We were talking about aging, aching bodies, brain farts, and a host of other things that inflict those of us who are moving on in years. She told us about a couple she knows who have sold their lovely dream home and moved into a new one-story home in a small, nearby development. They are loving their new place, meeting new neighbors, and the convenience of having the outside mainenance of their home taken care of for them. No more seasonal gutter cleaning, leaf raking, snow removal, lawn mowing, etc. Healthy and happy, they now have more time to travel and take advantage of leisure time they’d not experienced in the past.

As we were listening to our friend, both Bill and I realized we’d been thinking about a similar kind of move. Though we’d talked about it now and then, it was something that was way in the future. But with birthdays coming up in November and being in our mid-seventies, we have been aware of the struggles of other friends who have waited too long to accept the changes that aging brings. Some have gotten very ill, passed on, or are now moving into senior living facilities. Wanting to make the most of the years we have left, we want to live with dignity and grace while we can. And there has been the haunting question of what would life be like without the other? Would the one left behind be comfortable living where we are now … a big house that is also aging and needs continuing maintenance? Though the garden is small and exquisitely beautiful, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with it as my body refuses to do what it used to do. And though I do loads of self-care including Egoscue, Pilates and Yoga, it still won’t go back to the way it was when I was twenty-five or even forty.

So we decided to go take a look at a small, new development not far from where we live now. And though we said we’d never live in a townhouse, we walked into the model that was open that afternoon and fell in love. During the next few days we toured other places, but at the end of the day we always went back to that first place in a quiet location with lovely gardens and walking trails in the woods next door. We put a hold deposit down on one of the last available lots that will be a finished home next June. We figured we’d need at least a year to clean this place out and prepare ourselves for the next chapter.

But God, the Universe, or whatever you may want to call that thing that helps us and directs us through life, had other things in mind. When we told our good friend and realestate broker, Bob, what we were doing, he found a finished resale available in the same development. It is an end unit with glass on three sides rather than on just two. We went to look at it, made an offer and it was immediately accepted. The unit is only a year old, and the seller lived there for only seven months. It is a four story home, but get this … it has an elevator for when our legs, knees, and other bodyparts start failing us. It is half the size of the home we’re in now but I’ll still have a fairly large studio on the top floor with a walkout veranda.

So here we go, ready to set out on our next adventure. This house will go on the market shortly and with lots of available help we look to move into our Out of Bounds townhome sometime in November. We will miss this gorgeous home and our wonderful neighbors here. But it’s time for us to simplify and to move on.  Life moves on and we need move with it. I’ll post pics as soon as I can get some.

I’ll keep you apprised as the adventure continues. In the meantime I hope you are all having a wonderful summer.

Are you setting out on any new adventures?

Outsmarting My Smart Phone, Part I

My first cell phone was too big to put in a pocket or a purse. It was larger than a Princess desk phone, and all the rage before wireless made its debut. We bought it because everyone had one. It seemed like the cool thing to do. It sat between the front seats in the car that Bill drove. We only made calls with it when we were going to be late for an appointment or in the event of an emergency … both of which rarely ever happened. It was more a pain in the butt than anything else. It was a while before I got a flip phone that I could hide away in my purse.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my cell phone. Firstly, I don’t enjoy talking on the phone that much anymore. I rarely give out my phone number and I often don’t carry it with me. I simply don’t like being interrupted when I’m shopping, eating a meal, reading a book, taking a walk, or anything else for that matter. When I’m out of town I do take it with me, just so I can be reached if there is a problem at home or with my kids. I think the use of cell phones in public is way overboard. I worry about the all the little ones who know how to use these gadgets as they are learning to walk. Then there are the teens and tweens like my grandkids who spend way too much texting, playing games, and not watching where they are going. It’s quite frequent around here to watch UVA students crossing the street without looking either way to see if cars are coming, because they are checking their email. And there are lots of adults whose cell phone manners are particularly atrocious. Have you ever had dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and he or she pulls out a cell phone to check emails, even before she reads the menu, or asks you how you are?

Over the last few years and the last one especially I’ve gotten more hooked on this canned entertainment than I’ve ever wanted to be. I believed those who told me that I had to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter to sell my book, and connect with my readers. If I didn’t have friends on the internet what did I have? Nothing, I was told. So I opened accounts on both of of those time wasters and took up checking my emails way too often, as if checking it eleven times an hour would guarantee that I’d just won a prize for my fantastic writing.

Then the last election happened and because I was so caught up in the anxiety and fear that many of us experienced, I was constantly on Facebook checking out the latest Breaking News that brought me into a dark period of depression. Being a news junkie, the cell phone did not ease my growing addiction to having to know everything that was going on all around me. I no longer needed a television set to tune into. I started carrying the phone with me everywhere, as if knowing what the president-elect was doing right this very moment would cause a major world war, or stop the world from spinning without my knowing it. I even checked it while I was eating breakfast and lunch. Something I said I’d never, ever do. If I had an appointment, the first thing I did was pull out my cell phone as I walked out the door.

There were the hate posts from both sides chewing out those who were upset about the election and how to get over it. Even those I agreed with most of time got nasty to those whom they said weren’t doing enough to resist. Making phone calls, writing postcards, marching, and signing petitions was all the rage. If you didn’t do enough of any one of those things you were bashed by those who spent all of their available time doing them. I absolutely believe in resisting, but when those on my side start picking on those who can’t do it all, I really begin to question exactly what is going on here. Fortunately most of that activity is over at least for the time being.

Then one morning I woke up, feeling especially down. I realized how much complaining I was doing because I never had time to finish anything I started. As the weather warmed, I wanted to spend more time outside pruning last summer’s garden left-overs and listening to the birds chatter around me. But I didn’t have time. I wanted more time to read, write in my journal, and prepare delicious food. I spent a lot of time over a lot of days, trying to figure out how to change my lack of time. What I discovered that nothing was really holding me back from doing what I wanted to do. I was simply addicted to the cell phone, the internet and all that it represents.

I’ve started making choices about how to spend my time, rather than being run by robots and having my brain get hooked on something out in the atmosphere that I can’t even see. When ever I get the urge to check my email or see what’s happening on Facebook, I ask myself why I need to do that now. Sometimes I still go down the rabbit hole but other times I hold off and enjoy the sunshine and the newly blooming flowers that are growing around me.

I’ll be writing more about this over the next few weeks. I’ll share ways to have more time for yourself and be more mindful. In the meantime, have a glorious week. And before you check your cell phone, ask yourself why you need to do that right this minute!

What? Me Worry?


If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway.
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I’ve always been a worrier. I’ve worried about almost everything including what other people thought of me, what would happen if I didn’t do what I was told to do, and how much snow would fall overnight rendering the following day a disaster because I couldn’t get to my doctor’s appointment or my yoga class. I seemed to think that worrying would make the bad things I was expecting to happen disappear, never to be seen again. Fortunately, worry is no longer my constant companion.

It seems to me that worrying has a lot to do with control issues and fear. As a child I felt there was nothing in my life that I could control. I never knew when my parents were going to be mean to me or when they would give me a hug and tell me I was a good kid. From the beginning I had the imagination of a creative and could come up with the most amazing, wonderful stories in my head or the most terrifying. The scary tales were often encouraged by my grandparents who told me that if I didn’t eat everything on my plate, the wolf that lived in the pump house across the street would come and take me away. For a long time I believed them and ate all of the disgusting spinach that was piled on my plate and the extremely overripe banana that made me want to puke. I watched as my grandfather cracked raw eggs into his coffee and then drink it. I worried that he’d make me do the same thing as soon as I was old enough to drink coffee. Thankfully I was never forced to follow his lead.

I slowly discovered that worry was caused by anticipating what was ahead, fearing that I would fail and/or get into deep trouble. When I made the earth shattering discovery that I have little or no control over anything I figured out it was a waste of time. I would never be able to stop my father from being in a rotten mood, or keep lightening from striking my house. The world was way too huge and chaotic to fret about. Why waste my time feeling anxious and watching my back, which always ruined gorgeous, sunny days?

Being mindful is my goal these days. Sure I still worry about things when they feel wobbly, but once I realize what is happening it is fairly easy to let go, labeling my thoughts as fear or expectation. Surely there is no problem hoping for the best outcome of any situation, but letting it direct every moment of our lives is being wasteful of the gift we have been given. And fearing the worst is even more destructive.

Sam, my fourteen year old dog is getting very old, is deaf, and having difficulty with his rear legs. But he is happy and I can’t worry about how much longer he will be with us. I can only enjoy having him with me right now and the moments when he is feeling exceptionally chipper and can run up the driveway, chasing Lilli, his cat. I’m having too much fun right now getting up each day and smelling whatever flower is opening up for me. If the end of the world comes along while I’m at it I’ll deal with it when it happens. Why waste even a minute of this wonderful life?

Change

The Capitol. taken from our countries botanical garden.

The Capitol, taken from the United States Botanical Garden.

I haven’t done any writing except for making lists for the last week. Even my journal has been untouched. No, I don’t have writer’s block. There have been many times over the past seven days that I have wanted to write, but then something would change. Between hours of feeling little to no anxiety, waves of grief, fear, and depression came crashing through. I could be smiling and happy one minute. Then boom! One of those waves would hit. Words that had been gathering in my head would disappear in a sea of despair. I know I wasn’t alone.

I’ve needed time to wrap my head around what I believed would happen when I went to bed at 11 PM, last Tuesday night … that Hillary would lose. I had gone to the polls on Tuesday morning like most everyone else, and imagined the celebrations that would be happening that evening. When the first rays of light came through my window on Wednesday morning, my stomach started churning like a cement mixer. I didn’t want to hear the news. I wanted to close my eyes and fall into a peaceful slumber that would last forever. But being one who faces what’s ahead, regardless of what it is, I got up and listened and watched. It hurt. On my way up the street as I walked my dogs, a neighbor in tears, asked, “What happened? It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.” We hugged, feeling each other’s pain, then moved on into the day.

I’ve been watching what’s been happening on the news. As in the rest of the country, there have been incidences of hate in this city. And sometimes it’s felt like the end of the world has come. And in a way it has. At least the world as I knew it.

But it’s not the end. It’s about change and the beginning of something new. It happens every moment of every day, as time slips through our fingers and a new moment opens up. If it’s good change, we celebrate. If it’s bad change, we piss and moan, and stubbornly march ahead insisting that life will remain as it was or … what? Half of our population is grieving and are in deep pain. The others are happy and celebrating. Some of us ask what can be done to make it like it was before November 8th.

Change. We can’t stop it from happening. But even when it’s bad, I believe something good always happens as a result. Pain will still be evident and bad things will still happen. But change is what all of us had on our minds as we went to the polls on Tuesday. Whether it was equal pay for women, gun control, or simply wanting recognition that we exist. We all wanted change of some sort. And now we have it. Whether we like it or not.

I believe that the good part of this change is that we are being forced to wake up. There has been a smugness and entitlement afoot here in America especially among those of us who have enough to live comfortably. What doesn’t affect us is somebody else’s problem.  It has kept us from really dealing with issues that have needed to be addressed … education, equal opportunities in all phases of life, and a way to come together to work on how to bring our country and world to a better place and serve all of its people.

It’s easier said than done, and I admit I’ve been just as blind as everyone else. But this is an opportunity to really change things up. We can become aware of the people who stand next to us at the cash register or on line as we all wait to cast our votes. It’s time to share our thoughts without fear of being judged. It’s time to be kind to those who disagree with us and/or scare us. It’s time for us to listen.

It’s also time to allow ourselves to adapt to the changes ahead without being told we’re not moving fast enough or are pushing ahead too fast. We each have our own needs and ways of addressing what is ahead. I need to have time to contemplate what to do and how to approach what could be a more than a difficult time, without being told how to go about it.

I believe that what’s ahead is about being mindful of my own feelings and what I believe in. It’s about learning to be a good listener and being aware of what others need. It’s about staying awake and not making assumptions. It’s about reaching out to those who are suffering and needing help.

There are lots of things we can do. We can run for office, donate to a cause, sign petitions, join a group with similar issues, march in protests, or wear a safety pin. A friend of mine collects gently used used hats, scarves, gloves, and socks to hand out to the homeless in our town at this time of year.

But what we really must do is to stay awake, pay attention, make noise when it’s called for, and be kind. The rest is up to what each one of us is most comfortable doing.

I have seen two films this week that should not be missed and have helped me sort through my feelings and these dreadful times. The first is Moonlight. The other one is Arrival. I came home feeling as though both movies were made just for us, right now, at this time. Don’t miss them. I don’t want to tell you anything about them but they both lifted my spirits and gave me an idea of where I stand in the dilemma we all face.

Things will continue to change as they always do. None of us knows what will happen next. For me it’s about being as positive as I can and taking in the light shining through the cracks.