Purging, Decluttering, Sorting Through History

I have been trying to work on de-cluttering, slowly. One trick that I have used on myself is to pick one small project at a time to work on, and consider the day a success if I attend to that one project.

Today’s project was to clean out one of my dresser drawers. (I did mention that I pick one small project, didn’t I?)

I began to sort through the items there. This was a drawer that I have not sorted through in quite some time. Some items in this drawer included some old costume jewelry, some lingerie items, this and that.

Lingerie items. Some gotten rid of, some kept, as I work though letting go of that part of myself from back then. The part of me that wore such things, that will no longer even consider wearing these particular items. Enough has changed on my body that they will not fit in the same way. Enough said about that one for this particular day. I am saddened by how I have not appreciated my body through the years, and now it is ever changing. I need to still keep working on appreciating what it is now, how it serves me now, how it gets me around on this earth each day. It is glorious in its imperfections and lumps and bumps earned along the way.

Jewelry items. Some are gifts from well meaning friends that do not exactly fit my style. Some items that were my mother’s, also not my style. Hanging onto them was somehow hanging onto her. But, she is inside my heart, not in a piece of jewelry. Perhaps someone else can enjoy these as I will never wear them.

I think about all the other things that I need to work on letting go of. Boxes of things stored in my garage whose contents I do not even remember. How important can they be if I don’t even remember what is is them?

When I look through all these things, these pieces of my past, I remember. I open up old boxes to find parts of my life past and I let go, much as I open up parts of my past inside me that I need to let go of and release as well. Let go of so that I can step more fully into the present, into now, into this moment.

Some things are parts of my parents’ history that I have tried to carry on for them. It’s time to release those, to release their traumas and history, claim my own and work on releasing that as well, and keep moving forward to live my own unique life.

I see now why I pick just one small project for each time. It is always more that what it seems to present on the surface. It presents memories, lessons, and opportunities to express gratitude and release and surrender. To surrender what is gone, with gratitude. And embrace what is here and now. And lighten the load of what I am carrying, as I keep walking on this path of aging. There will be a time to let go of everything. Maybe I can start now, so that the remaining trip is lighter and traveling is easier.

Tears for An Elephant/Tears for Myself

Lessons learned from an aging elephant

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

I have fallen in love with an elephant. Actually, several elephants. 

I am lucky enough to be able to volunteer at our local zoo. I observe the elephants, record their behaviors, interactions, movements, lives. We at the zoo do this so that we can keep learning about these wonderful animals, as well as keep learning how to provide the best life that we can for them.

Zoos are not perfect, by any means. And the best home for animals is in the wild, where they can be free and who they are. But, there are good things about some zoos. Our zoo does much work for conservation, education, and the work of rescuing animals that could no longer survive in the wild. Many of our elephants were rescued from various places. Rescued from cruelty that we humans, in our ignorance, can inflict on our fellow creatures. 

We currently have three elephants at the zoo. We used to have four when I first started volunteering there, but we lost one several years ago. The grief I felt at the loss of her was immeasurably deep. Grief the size of an elephant. You grieve as big as you love. 

And now we have three.

 I watch as our oldest elephant continues on her aging process. She has some conditions that come with aging. She has some pain that we treat as best as we can. She moves more slowly, but keeps moving and eating and living her life. We watch her. 

I have learned that part of what zoos frequently do is to monitor for the quality of life of its residents, not wanting to have suffering and pain. And so we observe. And we continue to love. I love.

Love comes with a cost. The cost is loss, grief, deep sadness and an ache that defies any comfort. 

I pre-grieve her already, trying to appreciate each moment of life that we still have with her, knowing that at some point these moments will be no more. I cannot imagine her not being there. 

I think about my own death, as I also continue on my own aging process. I also don’t move as quickly, also have things that come with aging. And I think about how I also need to give myself the best quality of life that I can. How I need to sit and be quiet and observe myself. Be with myself. Love myself. Until the moments are gone. Until it is over. Until I am no more. 

But, until then, I am still here. I am still alive. I still grieve, for what and who is lost, for what will yet be lost. I breathe, and feel each breath. I laugh, I cry, I work to be the best version of myself as I can be, given that this version changes throughout the years. I am slower, yet deeper. Wrinkled and more saggy, yet appreciating a beauty that transcends the physical appearance. Older and feeling closer to death. Yet more alive than ever before. 

And so I sit quietly with my elephant friend, appreciating and loving each moment together. Each precious beautiful, bittersweet moment. For this moment, we are here, together, alive. And I still get to love. 

Waking Up Sad

I woke up feeling so very sad this morning, I am not really sure of all the reasons why, but here it is. And so I ask my sadness to talk with me.

Sadness is part of life. And it, for me, is especially so as I continue part this aging process. Losses continue. Losses within my own self and all around me. Grieving is my companion. And will be, as far as I can tell, for the rest of my life. It’s ok. It’s part of the journey.

I have lost family, I have lost partners. I have lost dear friends.

I have lost all that comes with youth. The youthful body with skin that bounces back. The youthful energy and optimism. The looking forward to the future. The quick mind that now seems to take more time to work, that can now more easily forget things. The denial of age related declines that are indeed a reality and will continue to be so.

I have lost my sense of direction at times, my sense of purpose, my sense of self.

I have lost that feeling of being a part of a group when I retired.

And I have gained much (and not just the added pounds that are so challenging to lose!)

I have gained a deeper quietness about life and all that it holds.

Appreciation for the earth and its beauty, with all of its precious creatures.

The deepening of friendships that are now lifelines.

The deepening connection to that inner Self and Spirit that now, that I have more time to be still and quieter, I can invite to speak to me more. I can listen more deeply.

A more vivid awareness of the reality of mortality. The fear of it, the sadness at the thought of letting go of life. This brings so much more gratitude for each moment that I am graced enough to still have.

A deepening self knowledge and gratitude for those parts of me that were there all along but that I had to set aside while I was busy making a living.

Friends that have become my chosen family.

A sense of humor about it all and realizing how vital that is to keep on keeping on.

And yes, the sadness. Sadness that reminds me of my humanity. Sadness that helps me connect with others and understand their pain. Sadness that helps me appreciate the poignancy and bittersweet quality of life. Sadness that helps me appreciate the darkness as well as the light.

So today, on Father’s Day, I will go to the mausoleum and share a cup of coffee with family gone and all others who are there. And then, I will go take a slow walk outside and feel my feet still on the ground, feel the sun and wind on this body that is still alive. And make eye contact with strangers as we share this brief moment in time.

My sadness is a gift, albeit a more painful one. It reminds me to feel everything, see the gift in it all, and be grateful for this experience, this journey, this life.

A Letter To My Ex-Husband

Photo by Miikka Luotio on Unsplash

45 years ago today we walked down that aisle. “White lace and promises” as the song says. Dreams of tomorrow, of a life shared, of a future together. 

Thirty three years ago our divorce was final. A sad day. The end of those particular dreams. 

We lost touch over the years.

Several decades ago you reached out to make contact. You were married now, with two sons. And you had some things that you wanted to say. The one that I remember most is that you said that you realized that you didn’t work as hard on our marriage as I had. 

What a gift you gave me. I have my own regrets for things both done and not done during that time. I try to have self forgiveness and self compassion for who I was then and that I struggled and made some mistakes, but not out of maliciousness. Rather, those actions came out of not knowing how to reconnect, how to fix things, how to leave what felt like could not be fixed. 

We have contact now, mostly email, on birthdays, holidays, and on this day, what would have been our 45th wedding anniversary. You sent me a lovely message this morning. I sent you one back, trying to express all that in in my heart that is sometimes so difficult to put into words.

 I loved you then, and love you now, albeit in a different way. You and I came together and walked the path of life hand in hand for a while, until our steps became too much out of sync and we couldn’t find our way back to each other. 

Regrets? Yes. Would I do things differently today? Yes. But I am different now, have grown (hopefully) in self knowledge and some wisdom. 

And so, on this very special day, I wish you well. I wish you love. I send you gratitude for having been such an important part of my life, and for being in my life still. 

You will always be important and significant to me. You will always be a thread in my being. You will always have a place inside my heart and spirit. I wish you blessings’happiness, joy and peace. I wish you love. 

Happy Anniversary. 

You Are Reason Enough

Time with yourself is also a commitment

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash

I find it interesting that it is acceptable to decline a social invitation if we have other social commitments already scheduled. However, declining these invitations because we have scheduled time to ourselves can be seen as less of a justifiable reason.

Somehow, the norm is to be social and engaged. I do enjoy being social, in moderation, and do believe it is vitally important to keep a community and social network as we age. 

These days, I am more interested in keeping members of my tribe in my life. People with whom I resonate more, understand more quickly with sometimes fewer words, who feel cut of similar cloth and speak a similar language, even if a different dialect of it.  

I find it interesting to notice in myself a twinge of guilt and embarrassment if I choose to decline an invitation with no really “good excuse” as defined by those, perhaps, who may be more extroverted than I. And I am working on this. 

I am working on this because I want to live more and more authentically by what I believe and feel is true for me. 

What is true for me is that periods of time that I have scheduled as alone time (perhaps time to write or paint, but sometimes simply to be) are vital. Vital for my tranquility. Vital for my sanity. Vital for my soul. And I don’t want to have to make up what I think may be perceived as an acceptable reason to say no. Time that I have made a date with myself is reason enough. 

Have you heard the saying “No is a complete sentence.” I have tried playing with this, feeling the urge within me to justify why I may be saying no to something. I must admit that this does not come easily to me, and I continue to work on it. Of course I can let folks know more about what may be some of the reasons that I am saying no. But the truth is, I don’t have to. “No” can stand by itself. I am reason enough. No other excuses needed. 

I find relief in solitude. Although others may not understand this, it’s ok. I can let them know and answer more questions about this if they are interested in knowing more about me and. I try to also offer the same to others who may feel differently, who need to have the company of another or others more frequently for their own just as valid reasons. We can learn to try to hear one another and perhaps come together when we can in the space where we can both meet as ourselves. 

The bottom line, though, is that if I am saying no to you, it may be simply because I need to say yes to me right now. I have a date …with me. I have a prior commitment….to myself. So when I say yes, know that I will be able to be more truly with you, more present to who you are. Because I have taken care of me, I will have more open and welcome space for you. 

But, first, I have to be present for me. Because I am reason enough. 

In Defense of Vanilla

Strange title and topic, yes?

So sometimes I think deep thoughts and sometimes my mind goes to lighter fare. which eventually then turns into more than what it seems on the surface. Life lessons and messages often do come in the most interesting of places and ways.

Vanilla. I have had history with vanilla. I love really good vanilla. Really good vanilla ice cream is a sensual delight not to be missed.

Yet vanilla has been used in a derogatory manner, at least by some in my past. Statements like “That’s so vanilla.” or “Do you try different flavors or stay safe with the old familiar vanilla?”

I wonder, when did vanilla deserve these shaming labels? Why is it seen as better to dare to try something new and different and not see the value in something basic that brings pleasure and memories of comfort and smiles?

Don’t get me wrong. I actually love to try new things, even if I feel some anxiety about them. So it’s not about fear. I love adventures. I love pushing beyond my comfort zone, at least some of the time. I believe there is value and growth and depth to this. And I will continue to challenge myself and grow, as life and aging permit.

But I also do not want to abandon things that I know and love because I “should”.

I love really good vanilla ice cream. Vanilla where you can taste the vanilla bean coming through in all of its glory.

I love the feel of a solid book, feeling the pages in my hands as I turn them, feeling myself holding a story in the palm of my hands.

I love writing with a pen on paper sometimes, to feel the words flow from my hand to the pen as the ink then makes its way onto the page. And I love being able to quickly type on my laptop. Both nourish in such different ways.

I love the sound of old music that I grew up with that takes me back to an earlier time, to memories triggered by that song, to a different version of me that this current version does not want to forget. Memories of dances, kisses, laughter, and sadness that are all remembered with particular songs or pieces of music.

I love the look of old photos, even with the frozen smiles and awkwardness and imperfections. The memories there don’t need to be Photoshopped or enhanced to be any brighter. They are perfect as is. SImply perfect.

I love an old basic recipe that brings comfort in its aromas, tastes, and memories of times spent together simply breaking bread and enjoying each other’s company. And I love cooking these recipes in an older pot, that needs to be simmered and watched. And that allows such anticipation of delights to come.

I love going for a walk, without counting my steps or taking my heart rate. Walking simply to walk and look around and enjoy what I see.

I love sitting quietly holding hands. Just being in the moment together.

I love kissing. Now, I am not opposed to further expressions of physical attention, not at all. But there is such a sensual, good all-by-itself, pure delight in the act of kissing. Slowly, with no expectation of anything more, Rather to simply enjoy the feel of lips touching lips. It is an intimacy that deserves it own space, time, and recognition.

I love simply talking with a stranger for a bit, finding that they are no longer a stranger. That we are on this journey in this moment in time together and how precious that is, even if we never meet again.

I love savoring life moment by moment, as I believe that only the old can do (in the way that those who realize that time is limited can do, where each moment becomes more precious and its own gift. )

I love learning to appreciate my body, as it continues to age and change. It is new to learn to love these changes, accept them, and even try to see the beauty in them as expressions of a life lived and a life loved.

There is more to each moment than we realize. There is more to life than we are often aware of. There is more to vanilla than we ever thought.

I’ll have a double scoop, please.

Brought To My Knees

It’s been one hell of a time in our country. Mass shootings now seem to be happening more frequently. heartbreakingly. It’s hard to try and get back to whatever a “normal” life is. Normal has taken on such a different meaning anymore. Pandemic is now a constant part of our life, there are shootings, insane politics that can be crazy making, and the list goes on.

But on we go. We are still here on this earth and still alive. Still experiencing all that life can bring.

So my experience of today is that of being brought to my knees. Literally.

I have something called pseudogout. This is different from regular gout in that the crystals that get formed are calcium rather than uric acid. But, still it can be fairly painful. I have medication that I can take for it, which helps and for which I am grateful.

It’s yet another reminder of aging related changes, of how much I can take for granted on a daily basis. How I usually don’t have to think much about getting out of bed or walking around, which I feel blessed about still. But, when this condition announces its presence, I am humbled. I walk carefully, have to think about how to get my slacks on, take longer to do most anything, wonder how the toilet seat got so low, slowly go to the gym (again, glad to be able to go) to do a very modified workout, to say the least.

And I think to myself, is this a snapshot of what the future may hold for me? I live alone, so that can be frightening to think about needing help and what that might involve. I have no family, so that leaves more questions. Humbling indeed.

I don’t know what it is store. I don’t want to obsess about it, but I also realize that there may be things that I can try to “plan” for, or at least think about in terms of what would be needed. And I realize yet again how very much I have to be grateful for today. And how I want to be grateful for each day and the gifts that I have each day that I can sometimes take for granted.

Yes, I am brought to my knees. Literally brought to pay attention to my knees and their call for my attention. Brought to my knees in humility for the passage of time and the changes that it has and will continue to bring, changes that I cannot control, beyond doing what I can to keep whatever I do have still moving and functioning. Brought to my knees in gratitude for what I have every single day.

I am continuing to age. I cannot change that. I am still alive, still here. Sometimes on my knees. Sometimes dancing (though it be more slowly). It’s all part of the ride, the journey. Life. In all of its fierceness, reality, pain, sorrow, joy and glory. I hope to live it as fully as I can , to the very last drop. Even if it’s on my knees.

There Are No Words. And Yet I Try

The Horror of Violence Against Innocents

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

I have been, as I know the world has been, in a state of shock about yet another massacre. A senseless tragedy of such horrific magnitude. The murder of innocent children and their teachers. Babies. Dead before they had a chance to live. Pain that I cannot find a place inside me where I can hold it for more than a few moments. 

I think about how much this goes on in our world that we may not be so consciously aware of. Wars where babies, children, their parents are killed. Lives snuffed out due to the seeking of power over others. 

How can this happen? 

I have written before about embracing the darkness within us. 

Sometimes, though, it may be not so much about embracing that darkness as acknowledging it, so that we can then face it and deal with it. And maybe, just maybe, learn to deal with it before it turns into action that then leads to such pain and destruction. 

There can be darkness within this human condition. Wounds that are deep. Sadness and pain that feels inconsolable. If we see it, perhaps we can then take action to stop it before it becomes a tragedy. To see mental health issues. To name them early so we can begin to deal with them. 

 And perhaps we can also see that we can try and put more obstacles in the way of possible violence. To question what an 18 year old would need weapons of destruction for. To see what may be right before our eyes. 

I cannot imagine the pain of those families that have lost their innocent babies, or of those families who lost the dedicated teachers whose lives were dedicated to shaping and forming the future. It is too much to even fathom. 

I find that my writing about this is not smooth or flowing. There is no way to put this in any way that flows. It is a shock, a violent trauma, a massacre. It is pain with nowhere to go. It is beyond description with words and beyond categorization. It is hell beyond imagination. 

Can this perhaps bring us together rather than further separating us with politics and blame? Can we learn from this? Can we allow ourselves to truly feel the pain and allow it to deeply soak through us so that we can remember who we are as human beings together on this earth for a few fragile moments? 

God help us all. 

Jumping into the Deep End

Taking more risks in life (that you can’t take back!)

I have jumped into the deep end of the pool. And I cannot undo that. It’s time to sink or swim.

I retired two years ago this month, just about the time that the pandemic really hit. I have spent a lot of time home alone, which is not at all an unpleasant thing for me. I love solitude, and the pandemic, although I would not wish that on anyone, somehow gave me permission to simply be, and not have to do. Anything.

I have always loved to write and to paint, but really did not have the time or energy while working full time to really devote to either passion. Now I do. And I have taken the leap.

One small step and decision leads to another.

I joined an art association, which then led to by being part of their annual art show. And actually hanging some of my art work in public! That art association also led to my signing up accidentally (there are no accidents) with an online group through which you could submit your work for online exhibits and shows. For a more shy person (especially about my art and writing), this online experience was perfect for me. I could apply in what felt like a more anonymous way, making fear of rejection somehow a bit less personal. So apply I did. I have been lucky enough to have several of my paintings published in the magazine called Artistonish, as well as being accepted into a few other online exhibits!

I heard about blogs and how that would be a good thing to do if one wanted to write a book, get more of a platform. This is where I fully embraced the concept of “Fools rush in where angels dare to tread!” Not only did I have no real idea what or how to blog, but I somehow also managed to figure out how to start one and jumped in and began to blog. i still don’t know much about blogging, but I’m not letting that stop me!

I met other writers on this blog, lovely people. One of them (thank you, Marie!) mentioned the publication called Crow’s Feet (people aging and writing about their experience with this, mostly). So, not really knowing much about this, I jumped in and joined. And have had several pieces of my writing accepted and published by them! It’s so exciting, and makes me a bit anxious (but thankfully, again, not enough to stop me!)

I have lived much of my life being quietly in the background, doing what needed to be done, being as authentic as I could be, but not calling too much attention to myself. I learned this early on as a way to try and stay safer in the world.

I have learned and continue to learn that being safe is highly overrated. As I age, especially, I now see that being safe doesn’t serve me so well. Death becomes more of the reality that it is as we age, and I feel and see that intensely these days. If I don’t express who I am now, when will I?

I wonder how many unexpressed works of art lie buried in cemeteries? How many stories untold?

So, deep end of the pool, here I am.

And now a dear friend has referred me to our very local magazine as a person that they might be interested in for their feature story one month. What? Me? What possibly could I offer, I wondered?But, there is no jumping out of the deep end back onto the diving board, so here I am. I will answer their questions. I will submit my responses and photos. This is actually terrifying for me and against all the rules I made growing up about how to navigate this world.

Here I am in the deep end. Swimming. Swallowing some water, yes, but still swimming. Stroke by stroke. Sometimes resting and treading water is all that I can do, but that is good enough. I am still here. In the deep end. More fully engaged in my own life and who I am and have always been. Expressing myself. Being more fully alive.

Scary? You bet! But, the alternative is even scarier. So, the deep end it is. Here I am. Vibrating with the energy of life. Still here. And so very grateful for each shaky, scary, exciting, fully alive moment.

Care to jump in and join me? The water’s great!

We Regret to Inform You..

(Firing the jury within)

To all those who received a notice to become members of the jury within my head, those invitations were sent out in error. Some of them long ago. Some of them more recently. Please disregard those notices.

It has come to our attention that you do not quite understand the function of a proper jury. Clearly you were not provided clear and adequate instructions. The purpose of a jury is to come to just decisions, weighing all the evidence as best as possible. It is also not the purpose of the jury to hand out sentences and severe, lifelong judgments.

We have come to this decision to release you all after carefully weighing the evidence and history of your service.

You have been relentless in your judgments and sentences.

You have been severely critical from your first day of service, criticizing the way that I look, the way that I walk, talk, think, play, laugh, all the ways that I simply am myself in the world. I worked hard to try and please you. Unsuccessfully., thank God.

I am happy to report that I have not forgotten who I was before all of your judgments began.

You criticize my face, my body, my hair color, my eye color, my shape, my weight, my diet. You shame me into withdrawing from being seen and heard (even though that is what my soul craves), telling me that others will be even more harsh than you. And that their opinion matters more than whatever I may feel or think.

You have been a lifelong companion, criticizing and judging my school work (straight A’s were the only thing good enough), my college experience, my choice of careers and my performance in that career.

You shamed me about my relationships and choices that I made. Yes, I made some less than perfect choices. I am human. You even criticized me for that. You shame me for a failed marriage. We were both young and quite human and inexperienced in the art and skill of relationship. And we are still good and deep friends, having cast aside your terms for our own.

You berate me for being too quiet, yet jump in with negative comments when I do speak up.

You even shame me for my aging body and mind, as if living and learning this long has no merit.

You judge the way that I dress, yet quickly jump to attack anything new or different that I may try.

You relentlessly attack the kind of daughter that I was, never good enough in your eyes.

You even attack the kind of pet parent that I was, blaming me for not trying hard enough at the end with one of my 17 year old kitties, even though the vet repeatedly said that this kitty was so sick.

You judge the sadness that I often feel, telling me that I should be constantly cheerful and that to be sad is to not be grateful. Can you not see that I am grateful for the sadness as well, that it carves out that much more room in my heart and soul for deep joy?

You relentlessly fill my basket of regrets, lest I run out.

You are harsh even now, as I write this. You berate my writing and my painting, comparing me to others and telling me that I don’t have the right to do either.

You judge how I have avoided conflict, yet are ever constant in letting me know that whatever conflict I have engaged in, it was wrong somehow. Even laughable. Shameful.

You may have meant well, so I will take that into consideration. You were doing what you thought would protect me from the harshness of the world, bringing that harshness inside so that it would stop any more from coming in. I understand your intentions. However, your services are no longer needed.

And to those jurors who were immediately rejected because you might have been too positive in your opinion of me, I apologize. You may be getting new notices and invitations in the mail soon. Your input will now be valued and accepted. I thank you for your patience for the time it has taken to realize your value.

And so, jurors who were invited in error, it is time to leave the jury box.

I have had enough.

I have had enough.