Cleaning Out And Downsizing

Hellebores beginning to bloom in my garden.

In 2009 my husband and I decided we needed to move to a smaller home and get rid of the stuff we’d been carrying around with us for years. We put our house on the market, found a lovely home half the size of the one we were in, and began a giant purge. We moved to our new home in June of 2010 and are so grateful that we had decided to go ahead with what at the time was a very daunting process.

Yes, we simplified our lives, but stuff has a way of building up when you’re not looking. And to be perfectly honest there are boxes we still have not yet unpacked from that last move. Not wanting to get caught up in the same mess we were in before we came here, it’s time to clean things out again. The big question is, why do I need the things in those boxes that I haven’t missed in the past seven years? In the next few months I plan on opening up those boxes to see what they hold. I will also clean out the large file cabinet I stuffed old papers in at our last house. When we moved here I removed the important files, placed them in a smaller file-cabinet and promised to weed through the rest when I had time. Guess what? It never happened.

Now I’m yearning to unpack the mystery boxes, and get rid of all those useless files I haven’t gone through in years. I will give away or trash what is no longer useful or necessary. I sometimes wonder what we will do when we can no longer take care of this wonderful space we live in. But it simply isn’t yet time to worry about that. And when the time does come to move on, I don’t want to have to go through a major purge again. So here I am in clean-out mode. Just thinking about shredding old documents and giving away things I no longer want or need always lifts weight from my shoulders and frees my soul.

And it’s not just material goods I’m looking to get rid of.  In the past several months since my book was published I’ve taken time to get out, see more people, and have some fun. I want more time for that. Though I will never stop writing and will continue to blog here, I’ve decided to let my newsletter, published on the first of every month, go by the wayside. I’ve had trouble keeping both writing venues interesting to read. And having too many deadlines just doesn’t make me happy. I’d like time to perhaps write essays for other venues, read more, and continue the more relaxed and simpler life I’m enjoying. Some of you are following me both my blog and newsletter. I will be publishing a newsletter tomorrow to inform those who are only following my newsletter about my decision and to encourage them to follow me here.

As for this blog I intend to keep publishing it weekly on Tuesdays, but from time to time may publish it on another day of the week instead. It all depends on what life throws my way. And if I plan to be away from my desk for a while I’ll let you know. I will give more space here to write about the books I’ve been reading, as well as keeping you updated on all the challenges and changes I’m working on.

For those of you who missed my announcement on Facebook last week, I did a radio interview with James Miller on Lifeology, about breaking generational behavior patterns. You can listen to it here.

Are you in the mood to clean out all the old stuff that is keeping you from moving on?

Marching, Listening, With Love

Due to a severe crowd phobia and legs that are unable to support me for hours on end, I did not march in Washington or Charlottesville last Saturday. I did however march through my neighborhood to honor all of my friends and relatives who went to towns and cities around the world to let their voices be heard. My spirit walked beside those who marched for unity, love, equality, truth, freedom, and non-duality. My spirit walked beside those suffering from war, poverty, hatred, hunger, disrespect, and for those who can not see. I walked and prayed to end the idea of the the good versus the bad, Republicans versus Democrats, men versus women, and those who hate because not everyone is on their side.

I am disturbed by the idea of the “Other.” Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, white, brown, black, yellow, straight, gay, trans, rich, poor, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, male, female. We really are all one. I’ve watched polarity and negativity growing on Facebook, Twitter, and on the streets, among those who had at one time seemed to be united in their cause. For months fear and hysteria have gripped our nation. I was there along with everyone else.

Now that the deed has been done, and Donald Trump is the new president, we’re still breathing, we’re still alive, and we still live in the best country on earth, on the bluest, most sparkly planet in the Universe. That, however, does not mean that all will be well. Climate change will still happen, some people will still hate one another, many will continue to worship money, and few of us will agree with everyone else all of the time.

There is a huge amount of work to be done. Being kind, taking care of ourselves as well as those who stand next to us, speaking out, making phone calls, signing petitions, and writing letters are some of the things we can do.

Since seeing the turnout on Saturday, I feel better about the future of our country. I will work to respect everyone’s individuality and belief systems. I will work to look beyond my own prejudices and look at what is best for all of us. I will work at being loving and kind even when I don’t see eye-to-eye with those around me.


The Work Of Living

Scattering My Mother's Ashes, October 2012. oakdale, New York

Scattering My Mother’s Ashes, October 2012. Oakdale, New York

Every so often I’m called to get back to work on myself. Old issues, that I thought I was done with, come popping back up. I find myself feeling lost, or that a piece of me is missing. Over the last couple of months that’s how I’ve been feeling. My book, Scattering Ashes, A Memoir of Letting Go, was finished and published in September. The writing and publishing had taken three years. But in reality I had been working on it, since 2001, when my mother came to live with my husband and me. It was a fifteen year odyssey of learning about myself, life lessons, and finding a way to continue moving forward.

Holding the finished book in my hands, doing a reading and book-signing here in Charlottesville, on September 20th, was the joyous finale of those long years of contemplating a particularly difficult time in my life, writing, rewriting, sharing it with others, and rewriting it all over again.

The morning after the reading, I drove to a local radio station at 7:45 AM, where I did a live interview about the book. I went home and crashed. I was exhausted and was ready for some time off. I didn’t want to think or talk about the book or my mother. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was no longer myself. I had become the book that I had spent all those years getting out into the world.

I spent hours examining that idea as if it were a a Zen Koan. “Does the dog wag the tail, or does the tail wag the dog?” It lasted a week or so until I got myself back. I wasn’t the book and I could now go on with the rest of my life. I began looking for a new pathway.

The election happened and then the holidays came along. I was distraught over the results of the election and then Christmas arrived. Not my favorite time of year. Although I was with people and busy day and night, I was depressed and lonely. I snapped at Bill when he said something that I deemed silly, and discovered I was back in an old pattern of not thinking much of myself. While other sister-authors I knew were moving ahead with marketing and promoting of their just published books, I was lagging behind, and feeling ashamed of myself for not having the energy or the desire to move in that direction.

I took time off from writing and started taking care of myself. The book would have to move along on it’s own. I read. I cooked. I slept. I took walks. I cried. I realized that Bill and I were entering what very well could be the last chapter of our lives. My aches and pains were multiplying and watching my sweet husband struggle with healing from two surgeries in one year made me sad.

Deciding to take advantage of whatever time I had left ahead of me, I came to the conclusion that it was time to celebrate us … Two old farts still full of piss and vinegar, who don’t want to waste time on unimportant things. I still have my brain. Although I can’t run a marathon or plan on skiing down an expert mountain slope, there are still things I can do to make my final years fun, important, and interesting while accepting that we will be slowing down and eventually moving on. Finding a way out of the muck of the last few months and making peace with myself seems like a good start.

Last Saturday, I went to an Insight Dialogue Meditation retreat taught by one of my favorite teachers and began finding my way back to myself. For those who don’t know about Insight Dialogue, it is learning to be aware of our own feelings, both physical and emotional, while speaking and listening to another person. One of the first things we learn is to pause, take our time when we speak, and become a better listener while being aware of our own feelings. The theme of the day was Living Peace, and as the outside world spun around me, I found Peace, at least for the moment. In early April I hope to attend a 5 day Insight Dialogue retreat, “Working with Difficult Emotions.”

Hopefully Bill and will also begin making some future travel plans and find ways to make life with our aging bodies more easeful.

Do you find yourself moving backwards at times? What do you do to begin moving yourself forward again?

I’m The Proud Parent Of A Lesbian

June 20, 2014. My daughter Lisa and her Partner, Deena, were legally married in Washinton, DC.

June 20, 2014. My daughter Lisa and her Partner, Deena, were legally married in Washinton, DC.

Years ago when my new gas range wasn’t working properly, I called a repairman to come fix it. He arrived at lunchtime while I was eating a beautiful salad I had just prepared for myself. I stayed put, thinking he’d get the repair done quickly and be out of my way. He seemed very nice at first, but it was an election year. He began ranting about people on the left and about certain deranged people who think they should have special rights to marry other people of the same sex.

My stomach went sour. Steam started coming out from my ears. Trying to be halfway decent, I told him that I didn’t discuss politics while I was eating and to please stop the discussion. He continued his tirade. I stood up and told him that my daughter was a lesbian and that his comments were not appreciated or appropriate in my home. I said, “Please stop talking and do your work, or leave.” He got quiet, mumbling to himself as he finished up the repair. When he was done, he snapped, “Well I guess I won’t be asked to come and fix your stove again!” My reply was,“You Betcha! Now tell me how much I owe you for the repair and get out of my house.”

To say that I was angry would be an understatement. I was crimson with rage. Hot tears streamed down my face, and I began my own rant to my husband, Bill, a member of the same choirI belong to, who was agreeing with me all the way.

Friday’s Supreme Court decision to give marriage rights to all gays and lesbians no matter what state they live in was a landmark decision that will join the ranks of others: Giving women the right to vote, giving African Americans the right to vote, Roe vs. Wade, and so many others.

I’m proud to say that my daughter is a lesbian, a member of a community filled with love, and has been sticking it out to fight for her rights. I’m even more proud that our country is standing up for and offering support to her and her brothers and sisters.

In the wake of all landmark decisions there are always disagreements and nay sayers who can make the climate uncomfortable and even dangerous. Those who don’t agree with big changes do have a right to disagree and protest, just as the gay and lesbian community had the same rights to protest their treatment.

However, it does not give anyone the right to be hateful. I allow myself to listen and discuss just about anything, but only if hatred is left at the door and tolerance fills the room where we talk.

Have you seen those bumper stickers on the back bumpers of cars saying: “I’m A Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student at Such and Such High School?”

Well, I have a new one I’d like to get printed out and put on my back bumper:

“I’m The Proud Parent Of A Lesbian.”

Graduation And Remembering A Life

The Daily Progress, May 18, 2015

The Daily Progress, May 18, 2015

This past weekend the University of Virginia held its 186th commencement. There were 18,000 folding chairs set up outside on the lawn for well over 6,000 graduates and their loved ones. The university expected some 35,000 people to be on grounds for this festive event. The rain respectfully held off until late afternoon.

Graduation weekend here in ole C’ville is always a big deal. When first year students come to UVA, their parents often make hotel reservations for their kid’s graduation, four years away. They may also make reservations for their celebration meal at one of the areas outstanding restaurants, making it impossible for those who live here to go out to dinner, never mind finding a parking place anywhere in town.

On Sunday, I observed a parade of cars towing U-Haul trailers leave town, and was forced to remember my own graduation from college many years ago and what commencement out into the world meant to me.

Most dictionaries define graduation as a time when you have completed your education and receive a degree. I’ll add that it’s supposed to prove you have done your work, and are ready to take on the world. It also means letting go of a whole lot of things. You’re suddenly a grown up and it’s time to leave behind your teddy bear, blanky, and all of your other childhood pacifiers. What you hopefully get is a job and the ability to live your own life away from the rules and regulations of family and University.

I’ve been through two graduation ceremonies. The first was in 1960, when I graduated from Northport High School, on Long Island, and then again in 1965, when I graduated from Castleton State College, in Vermont. Yes, it took me five years to finish up because I took a year off and went back to New York to work and figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.

During this memory-fest, I thought about how we will all one day graduate from The School of Life. Along the way there are no paper degrees that we can hang on the wall when we commence from one step to the next.

My mind traveled to other events in my life that marked times of letting go and moving to the next step. I took two steps at a time when I got married one week after graduating from college. In 1967 I gave birth to my first child, and commenced from being childless to being a mother. Gone were the days of sleeping in, having privacy in the bathroom, and being able to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. Instead there were sweet hugs and kisses, and the thrill of watching my own children learn and grow.

When my kids had their own graduation ceremonies and moved out into the world, I was left with an emptiness I found hard to get over. I missed their mischief, their quiet presence when everyone was at home, safe and sound, and even the doors slamming when I said something they thought inappropriate. I took on worry, wondering where they were and what they were doing, until I slowly and gloriously realized that I was my own person and able to move about as I pleased.

When Lisa gave birth to Zoe, the word “grandmother” slipped into my vocabulary. Though I loved little Zoe to bits, I complained that I was too young for that. I didn’t want anyone calling me grandma, granny, grammy, nana, or ma-maw. A grandchild meant I was getting old. But I was in complete denial about aging. I finally caved when Zoe began calling me “Batty,” of her own accord. I took solace in the idea that this adorable little girl “got me.” We must have been together in a former lifetime.

Now Zoe is a teen. She’ll be fifteen and a sophomore in high school this coming fall, and already thinks she knows where she wants to go to college. She’s learning how to drive and will get her learners permit sometime in the near future.

So guess what that means? I AM old. My days are numbered and as Lisa used to say whenever I told her what to do during her terrible twos, “No, I don wanna.”

I’m seventy-two. I will have been married to the love of my life for fifty years on June 19th, and will have graduated from college fifty years ago, on June 12th.

Where has the time gone and where was I during all those happenings? I honestly have to say, I don’t know. It just all slipped by when I wasn’t looking.

I suppose my next and final graduation could happen any day now. But so far I’m feeling pretty good and trying not to complain too much about having difficulty getting up off the floor after a yoga session, or falling asleep before it’s bedtime. For now I’m going to pretend I’m fifty again. That’s when I really started figuring things out and began wanting to live life to the fullest.

I watch as new wrinkles take over my face and watch others my age retire to rocking chairs. I want to keep on going, full steam ahead. I figure that if I allow myself to accept those changes and find newness in my oldness, I’ll do fine.

How do you see it? What does graduation mean to you? What about aging?