Retirement Anyone?

“Wholeness does not mean perfection … it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”
Parker J. Palmer
On the Brink of Everything

Our move last fall into a townhouse has changed my life in many ways … some good, some not so good.  But I prevail and am not allowing the chronic pain that began during that challenging time to take over my life. After working my way through two orthopedists and a neurologist who didn’t help much, I’m back to my usual “fringe medicine” ways of taking care of myself.

I’m working with a physical therapist, a chiropractor, and doing egoscue. Several months ago I joined our local YMCA and am working on getting there three times a week to use the recumbent bike and the indoor track. My workouts are short, but get a few minutes longer each time I go. I’m feeling much less pain now and plan on going back to my favorite yoga class in the next month. I also plan to in the future to try water aerobics and get back to pilates.

I’m not sure that the pain will ever completely go away. Some say that with time it will, but I’ll not count my chickens just yet. I’m in pain management mode and we’ll see what happens.

The other very helpful thing I’m doing is taking CBD oil twice a day. It not only helps to control the pain, it also helps to reduce my anxiety which has been a life long problem. It’s an oil made from cannabis flowers and is lacking the element that gives you a high and is not addictive.  It is legal here in Virginia and is getting great press all over the country for those with cancer and helps people who suffer from seizures. 

As a result I’m much more relaxed and find it easier to accept my health issues and aging dilemmas. That alone is a major change in the way I spend my days. All of the things I thought I’d get done in the last few months including getting back to writing are still on my to-do list and are slowly getting done, but now when I feel I need to take a nap I just do it without feeling guilty or anxious that I’m not completing the tasks on that list. 

This relaxed way of being is what I’ve been longing for all along.  Before our move I was on my way toward being more mindful, listening to my body, and taking care of it. But the move crushed the boundaries I’d built up to protect myself and once again I became a raging Type A, insane workaholic, bashing myself to death for not being able to do the amount of work I used to do.

My anxiety was off the charts. I was holding myself to very high standards and expecting the same from others.  Bill was exhausted from the move and couldn’t keep up with me and my perfectionist ways.  The boat was rocky for a while, but we’re happily enjoying life again and feel the move was necessary and well worth the struggles.

I recently proclaimed that I’m officially retiring. That means no more speeding through my days. I’m allowing myself plenty of time to swing in a hammock, read a book, write a story, make art, be grateful, and simply enjoy every single day for its gifts.

I may swing back and forth occasionally and become crazed with anger and impatient with the ways of this very frightening world.  It takes a lot of practice, but it’s a process well worth the effort and brings me peace and lots of hope.

The Laws Of My Nature

Hi Everyone.  Yes, I’ve been missing in action. I’m still in recovery from the whirlwind of moving and all of the stuff that life has thrown my way while I was busy with other things. It continues to be an up and down time as I learn to deal with uncertainty and the changes that aging brings, never mind what’s happening out in the world. I still have some chronic pain in my shoulders, but it slowly gets better when I allow myself to rest, instead of taking on the world.

With spring’s arrival I signed up for a wonderful on-line writing workshop taught by Martha Beck, an amazing life coach and writer in her own right.  Called Write Into Light, it was just what I’ve been  needing to get my writing going again. I’d been sitting and staring at my screen waiting for words to arrive in my noggin like they used to.  Even writing a blog post every week was something I couldn’t do, so I just let it go for a while. 

After my book was published I knew I wanted to start writing poetry again but I put that idea way up high on a shelf thinking I’d get to it once life was more certain and had the steadiness I was looking for. I know there’s no such thing, but I’m famous for fooling myself. So when I read the description for Martha’s workshop, I knew it was time to act.  

We’re just moving into the fourth week of this three month adventure and after messing around with the first assignment for several days, I found myself happily writing a poem about a recent experience I had had here in my new community, which I admit I’ve been having trouble adjusting to.  It is the first poem I have written in five years.

I’m an independent old crone who has always lived on my own land and done my own thing without breaking the law or getting into major trouble.  So when I started moving plants around and adding others to my tiny garden, I had a run in with the Home Owners Association. It wasn’t all that serious, but my feelings were hurt and my sense of freedom was shattered. 

As a result I came up with this poem.  The writing assignment was to write 500 or fewer words in any genre about “how I’m succeeding by failing.”  Here it is:

The Laws Of My Nature

I paint large bold  abstracts
Express my love of color
Vermillion for angst
Blues and yellows
For sadness and fear
On my pallet I mix joyful tears
Confusion with what’s left in my heart
Sometimes magenta
Raw sienna
Soft gentle violet

Time has worn away my caution
My willingness to be quiet
Live the way the rest do
Who keep their blinds closed all day
So that morning’s glory won’t fill their hearts
With sunshine   gentle showers
That wash away dark bitter grit
Filling our world with anger

When I moved lifeless
Nandina from the front of my wall
Replaced them with irises  peonies
And hellebores for winter color
I was scolded
You need permission they said
As if I left my seat to go to the lavatory
Before I had raised my hand
They prefer the grayness of concrete
Shrubs of little color mostly low growing
Distanced apart   occasional
Japanese maples give a sprinkle of dark red

When spring arrived I bought large pots
Blue green in color  planted begonias
Fuchsia   radiant geraniums
Added rosemary spearmint Basil
A touch of flavor
To an otherwise bland setting

I don’t color within the lines anymore
I’m no longer ten years old
Rather seventy-five  ready to let go
Of the tattered carousel we still ride on 

My spirit dances in the wind
With the purple ruffles of my taffeta skirt
Free as the bluebirds that feed outside my open window

JZR
5/6/18

I hope you’re all having a wonderful spring!

What’s Next?

The view from upstairs just a few weeks ago

Today is sunny and gorgeous.  Early this morning the grass was cut. But the weather people are calling for snow on Saturday.  Maybe not a lot, but snow none-the-less. On Monday there could be more white stuff.  This is Virginia for heaven’s sake.  What’s up?

Like the weather, the past year has been a muddle of activity focused on constant change. Time has rushed on, dissapearing into the fabric of life. But there are loose ends everywhere. As soon as I tuck one in, others pop up. I search for a place to anchor each one, but it’s not that simple. There are always loose ends. That is nothing new. There is no controlling where and when they will appear and at times the process of weaving them back in is daunting.  Like housekeeping it’s an endless task. We vacuum the floors, then someone comes in with grass clippings all over their shoes. 

I had thought by now I’d be completely settled into my new home.  In the past moving has always been easy, but this time around it’s been a long, slow process. I’d planned on having my studio up and running by now, but some kind of neurological disorder is causing severe pain in my shoulders especially in my dominant arm on the right.  Sometimes it’s fine, other times I have to stop what I’m doing, ice the pain away, and start again.  

Working on the computer is especially difficult at times and I’ve had to quit in the middle of writing, so my blog posts have been few and far between. The beading project I restarted a few weeks back hasn’t progressed. But this morning I’m feeling quite good. I’m doing what I can and hoping to get this post finished before whichever nerve is giving me problems starts screaming.

That same view today!

Like the weather, my moods have been high and low.  But as every cherry tree and magnolia sends forth new blooms, as they do at this time of year, I open up along with them.  I am visiting local nurseries and choosing pots to plant flowers in. I’ve had a tiny area out front cleared of shrubbery and once spring really arrives, will put in herbs … rosemary, sage, basil, lemon balm, and others.  I’ll load up one of my big, new pots with mint, as it runs wild in the garden and easily takes over.

And the birds … oh so, beautiful. Yesterday tree swallows arrived trying to take over several of the blue bird boxes that the blue birds have already started nesting in.  The gold finches are now brilliantly gold, having shed their dull winter colors.  Every day more arrive adding their voices to the morning song fest.

It’s a promising season.

I’ll not let a bit of snow or cold rain stop me
from continuing to move forward, loose ends and all.
After all, that is what life is.

It is not one big, continually blooming rose garden.
It’s an ever changing landscape filled with peaks and valleys.

Sun, snow, joy, pain, and sorrow are always on the horizon.
What we do with them makes all the difference
in how we live our lives.

The Terracotta Army

As I mentioned in my last post, I declare one day a week, MY DAY. A few of weeks ago I took myself on a date to see The Terracotta Army on exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in Richmond, about an hour away from my home. It’s a great museum and I’ve been fortunate to have seen several great exhibitions there, including Chihuly’s exquisite work in glass. Bill came along and after we roamed through the exhibition halls, we had lunch with a friend we haven’t seen in a while at the museum’s fantastic restaurant, Amuse. The food is always superb and most often reflects on the theme of the major exhibition going on. This time was no exception with a menu filled with delicious sounding Chinese dishes.

The exhibition itself is a small sampling of “terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Hung, the first Emporer of China.” Life size, the beautifully restored figures of warriors, horses and chariots, were buried in 209-210 BCE near the Emporer’s mausolium to protect him in the Afterlife. Discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well, were the figures of some 8,000 soldiers, 130 Chariots, and over 500 horses. Made by government workers and local craftsmen, the originals were put together from individual pieces built seperately. Then the torsos, heads, arms, and legs and were put together with more clay in a process called luting. The faces were made in molds and then more clay was added and sculpted to provide individual facial features.

It was a great experience to see theses phenominal sculptures and to imagine how they must have looked when discovered in the pits in which they were buried. I am fascinated by this army of clay figures, how they were made, and the ancient funerary practices of so many past civilizations as they prepared for death. I am left to wonder if we should be disturbing and taking the art from these sacred burial sights or should we leave them out of respect for those who created them.

I am also curious about what humans in the very distant future will discover about our current civilization when they dig deep into the earth looking for hints about who came before them. What will our landfills tell them when they uncover the remains of our Golden Arches or the bits and pieces of what might be considered primitive robotic intelligence. Or will all bits and pieces of us disspear into the dust of centuries?

What do you think?

Making The Best Of Difficult Times

I’ve been so taken up with our unsettled world and what is happening in our own country that I’ve gone over the edge once again … waking with the dreads, a general malaise, and a burning need to break away from all that unsettles me. It’s also been raining here … a lot. I’ve sometimes wondered if the sun is still up there. When I lived in Vermont I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder from November until April. The way I’m feeling right now is very similar, but I think it has more to do with what is happening around me than the light. As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I easily pick up on the vibes out in the world and need to take action to get myself out of the dumps. It’s exhausting to allow myself to get so involved in things I cannot control.

So what do I do about it?

I meditate. I let myself cry if I need to. I turn off the radio and the tv and turn on Pandora to listen to classical guitar while I do my Egoscue exercises, or jazz it up with Dave Brubeck, David Sanborn and others when I need to add some energy to my day. I’m also a fan of Yo-Yo Ma, Frank Sinatra, and the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. For me music is a cure-all and a necessary part of my days.

I’m watching for signs of spring.  Since I have the smallest garden I’ve ever had, I’m thinking small and am beginning to plan a container garden mostly for herbs. I do have space for the helebores, irises, and peonies I dug up from my last home before we moved. My friend and garden helper, Maria, has been overwintering them for me and she will be coming soon to get them in the ground. I can’t wait!

Keeping my creative energy flowing is also important so last week I pulled out a beading project I had started a couple of years ago and then forgot about. It’s been sitting in a plastic storage bin since then and I’ve been anxious to get back to it, especially since it will take a good while to finish it in time for the fall. It’s a styrofome pumpkin that I am covering with tiny seed beads using Peyote Stitch. I started a collection of fruit and vegetables using this technique a while back. I find it quite relaxing. And the shifting and mixing of slightly different colored beads makes for imaginitive brain work.

I’ve also started setting aside one day a week and labeling it “MY DAY,” on my calendar. I do not plan anything ahead of time. It’s simply a day when I can do whatever I want to do rather than what I have to do. When I began writing my memoir, I did the same thing, but at that time the chosen day was reserved for writing and activities geared toward getting it published. It quickly turned into several days a week and then a rigorous work/writing schedule. This time around I’m using it just to get my creative juices flowing and I’m looking at getting a canvas set up and slapping paint on it sometime soon.

So while I’m still paying some attention to what’s happening out in the world, I’m happier, more relaxed and feeling more positive than I was just a few weeks ago. And I continue to remind myself that in order for change to happen, sometimes things have to get very ugly and depressing before we notice the light at the end of the tunnel. It is happening whether we realize it or not. It’s what life and being human is all about and I’m trying to make the best of it.  While I’m still paying attention to what is happening out there in the world, I’m spending more time in the present and worry less about changing what I can’t.