Moving Out of Comfort Zones

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For nine years I have been living outside my comfort zone. Previously, I had a steady vision as to how my life would proceed. But now I realize I was wearing rose-colored glasses most of the time! In August of 2007, my life’s plan was wildly disrupted and I was thrown into the turbulence of divorce. It was as if the earth had opened up and I was being swallowed whole into circumstances that were beyond my control. I spent the next five years in various states of unease and hardship as I navigated my way into an independent life. Along the way, however, I enjoyed moments of great peace, joy, grace, and a growing sense of inner strength that surprised me time and again.

As much as the independent life I had created brought contentment, it was unsustainable. In fact, it was becoming uncomfortable as the responsibilities of single home-ownership were beginning to become more taxing and overwhelming. Additionally, my boys needed to move forward into their own lives. The adventure was finished. I had done my job.

I am now literally in a whole new zone. I’ve said it before, I know! The climate makes me sweat profusely, and at times I think there are way too many sunny days. There’s a whole lot more traffic and this place seems so BIG to me.

Yet within this seemingly vast concrete jungle, there are delicious bits of paradise. (The paradise that brought people down here in the first place, the paradise that is at risk of getting lost for so many reasons). I have the comfort and contentment and continuity of a healthy partnership. A partnership that doesn’t pass judgement and is consistently patient and supportive, undemanding and full of humor! And, for the past year, I have spent many of my days way outside my educational comfort zone- teaching in positions that grew my brain cells and tested my creativity as an educator. It has been exhausting and exhilarating! But most of all, it’s been a gift. I found my community once again. A place which accepts and embraces me in all the ways I hoped.

In the nine years that my life turned in an unexpected and vastly different direction, I have learned a lot about myself and about who I really am. I have met and continue to meet some truly outstanding and amazing people. People whom I never would have crossed paths with if not for that dastardly day in August all those years ago.

Moving forward is a path that is rarely straight. But if you’re willing to allow the way to unfold before you, the detours may bring you unforeseen adventures!
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Speedwork Under a Full Moon

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Rising in the early morning dark has its benefits. When I set out in the humid air this morning, I was blessed to see the full Sturgeon moon. Since moving here, I don’t think I have really see one in all its glory until today.  I was lucky enough to have a regular monthly siting when I lived up North. Less artificial light and a more rural setting really spoiled me in that regard. The whole house would light up and I often would go outside for a little while just to look. In fact, the boys and I even went “owling” in the deep woods on a frigid and snow-filled January night. We had no need for flashlights to guide us. Incredible memory!

Forgive me, I digress…. Recently, I have felt much like the sturgeon itself, at least when it comes to running. I feel ancient, that’s for sure, but certainly not threatened or endangered as these unique fish once were. Still, I was in need of a comeback, much like them. I needed to take action. Yet, somehow I lacked the motivation to do it all by myself. So, imagine my delight when just 3 weeks ago, I came upon a group of people doing speedwork just one mile from my house! I was even more excited when they invited me to join them the following week. It turns out that the guy who coaches the group lives in the apartment complex next to my house and works at the running store where I buy my shoes! I have 2 weeks under my belt, and while getting up @ 4:30 to be ready for a 5:30 run is not everyone’s idea of fun, I really look forward to it. Today I was asked if I have a next race. I don’t. My goal is to get out of my running rut and feel better about myself and my body. If the work reveals a race to me, I’ll go with it. Right now, I’m just happy to be in the peace of the morning with just the moon as my guide.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving from I to We

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Love, having no geography, knows no boundaries, weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise to find the surface. ~Truman Capote

Dear Readers: Please read this post I wrote four years ago before reading my latest essay.

Moving from “WE” to “I” 

I am a big fan of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert.The first book of hers I read was the best-selling, Eat, Pray, Love, even though I had heard of her work through other essays and in previous books, particularly The Last American Man. I will confess I have read the former a total of three times -once a year from 2008-2011!  The book came along at just the right time in my life and, although our journey’s were not exactly the same, I could identify with many aspects of the pain and eventual healing Ms. Gilbert had experienced. However, when her next book, Committed came out, I avoided it like the plague! I did not want to think about even entertaining the idea of getting married and I was convinced that if I read it, I would somehow quickly jump back in the game. To affirm this notion, I would routinely drive by a friend’s house (a common route into town) and see her latest man’s truck parked in her driveway. I would physically react each time, unable to fathom even the thought of someone else regularly taking up space on my property or in my bed. I loved my independence; I loved the idea of not having someone to come home to every single day. And even though the boys were settled with me, it never was the same scenario as having a partner in my home.

I watched as other women and men I knew go through separations and divorces. Some became unmoored in their new status. Getting through the day -or dare I say- the year, was just about all they could handle. Others seemed to relish in being single and were perpetually dating, often finding themselves in troubled or serial relationships.(All this in a small town-very surreal.) I was grateful to be both independent and in a relationship that provided me with the safe distance we both needed.

Life continued. I faced the good, the bad and the ugly and grew to cherish the life I was making. The love I had for my now- husband grew stronger despite the distance and we made the most of our reunions together. Always on the same page when it came to our future, neither one of us felt compelled to marry just yet. But our commitment remained steadfast.

An old friend TB once said “Relationships are like sharks, they must keep moving forward or die.” Living separately at a long distance is unsustainable (never mind expensive) if you want to build a life together. For me, that is what marriage means. Yes, it is a legal contract bound by particular laws. There are benefits to a legal union, like being next of kin in health care decisions for your spouse, for example. However, those laws mostly come into play when the marriage is coming undone. For some, it is a religious contract. Depending on how you view faith, those laws can either serve to fully express your union as equals or repress and oppress at least one of you.

I am at a point in my life where I have let go of the false beliefs of needing a “soul-mate” or in thinking that I need a man to “complete” me. The former is a specious sentiment espoused by popular culture. It leads people into thinking that there is only one person in one lifetime that connects with your true self. We need to release that idea. Instead, how about intimacy? And I am not talking about only sex here. I mean the kind where being naked with someone is more metaphorical. It is that place where only you and he (or he and he or she and she) live and talk and breathe. It is a place where it’s nobody’s business but yours. And frankly, my husband and I do not need to complete one another. Yes, we have a life together, but we also have our own selves and our own inner life. If  you know that and respect that about one another, I believe it can be a healthy, supportive and loving relationship. No need to lose the I and replace it with We; it’s possible to have both.

I have Elizabeth Gilbert to thank for this post. Yes, I finally read Committed, but only in the last week! I felt I only could write this after I read her perspective on marriage the second time around. Again, while our journey’s were not the same, I could identify with the struggle in moving toward it once again. Ironically, I was more ready to read it after I got married! I also recommend The Signature of All Things and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  If you want a compelling saga with a strong female lead character (and then some), read the former. For understanding and embracing your creative self, read the latter.  ‘Magic’ was a Christmas gift from Jenn  (and recommended by Emily) who both serve as loving reminders that my writing is worth doing and pursuing.

 

 

 

Fairies, Genuises and Other Magic

 

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On Friday afternoon, while writing my latest post, I received a Happy Anniversary notification from WordPress. I had forgotten that I began this blog four years ago with the intent to find a forum that would tap into my love for words and the wish to empower and inspire not only myself, but others.

The last four years have been a journey of self-discovery and self-recovery. Writing has helped me to process the emotional trauma and abuse that I lived with not only in my first marriage, but in its aftermath. I could never have fully and truthfully written about those dark times until they were safely in the past. Most importantly, I discovered that I can write across all genres and subjects, with poetry being one of my favorite ways to express myself.

Interestingly enough, I found the space and time for writing when I had more responsibilities than I do now. I was always juggling bills, home ownership issues, full-time work and being the rock for my sons as they left adolescence and moved forward to young adulthood. At the same time, the pull to create was strong-perhaps stronger than it has been in this past year since I moved away-both literally and figuratively- from my “old life” into this new one. But as think about it, I might not have had an “old life”. Maybe that was my first marriage. Maybe what I call the “old life” was something else. Not a transition to my current life-that would diminish the eight years I spent between marriages. As I probe a bit deeper, I realize the life I was living was one of hope and courage and great emotional challenge. I had to prove to myself that I could live independently, fully, creatively and most of all, joyfully. It was essential for my sons to see this as well-especially that last bit. My former husband wanted nothing but for me- as he said- “to scratch, crawl and suffer”. I didn’t want to prove him wrong; I wanted to take that provocation, that rock in the road, and move it.

I suppose I could have spent the last year writing daily observations of my latest incarnation. But I think that would have gotten in the way of the creative process and transformation that was-and still is-occurring. I needed to be in it just as I needed to be in the dismantling all those years ago.The words needed a sabbatical as I settled into being here. Most importantly, I needed to learn to let go of my boys and trust they would be fine without my daily presence. It has been hard, but we’ve done it.

In a week, I begin to get busy once again. Work and other commitments will pull at my energy. At the same time, I know I have released more of the grief that I was sitting with for the past year. It was a necessary and healthy process. I hear the Writing Fairy knocking on my door once again and I am ready to let her in.

 

 

Discernment in the Din

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The Secret of Change Is to Focus All of Your Energy, Not on Fighting the Old, But on Building the New~ Socrates

When I lived up North I never took the landscape for granted. In times of trouble, the view from my kitchen window or my upstairs bedroom created a soothing escape. Long expanses of green,wide open white, bold colors, or the gong of spring peepers-it didn’t really matter- each season offered a sight for my sore eyes, music for my ears, fresh air for my lungs and a slower beating for my heart. Now I have to work harder to find a quiet spot in the most densely populated area in the state.

I will admit that adjusting to my new physical surroundings has been one of the biggest challenges to living here. Strip mall landscapes replace the trees and swamps -ugly monstrosities offering plenty of nothing. Car dealerships, fast food joints, car washes, big box drug stores, coffee shops and fast food joints all competing with one another for your attention and hard-earned cash. And the signs! Oh the signs! I’ve told my husband that this area must be the only place where both strip clubs and churches use the same flashing neon advertisements. They’re completing distracting, flashy, and in no way enticing in their invitations to “Join us”.

I am unused to this cluttered busyness and heavy traffic stopping and starting along six lane boulevards. Of course, I would be giving a false impression in stating that the New England area lacks crowded highways and clogged main streets during peak travel times. But given where I worked and lived, those areas could easily be avoided and shortcuts were always available. Moreover, a trip to a more urban area or strip mall sprawl was an occasional occurrence.

I fear I will never adjust to the noise and traffic density beyond the walls of my house and its verdant park view. At times, I identify with the Grinch in the scene where he’s holding his ears as he thinks about the “Noise! Noise! Noise! from Whoville on Christmas Day. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsMlsDgMXJM)

Changing my mindset is the key to changing my attitude. Some of what I am currently experiencing is part of a universal adjustment to a very major life change. For now, I cannot change where I live. So I’ve tweaked my routine. I bookend my daily commute with quality music delivered by a hip local radio station.  My current occupation is located on a bucolic campus where the only sounds I hear are birds and the youthful loquaciousness of students. I get outside whenever possible. I have set goals to explore the local quiet spots and venture beyond my own environs to seek them out.  My husband and recently kayaked through some lush mangroves which offered comforting green tunnels,tranquil waters and a kind of hush that I haven’t experience since I moved here. Simply lovely!

Building a new life takes time. I will continue to miss key parts of living up North-my boys and closest friends, my faith community and the mountains. And when the need has arisen, I make a plan and get on a plane. I’m learning to trust the process and allow my new life to unfold and reveal itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Meantime….

Do you ever notice your shadow when you’re outside on a sunny day? I’ve never paid much attention to it; perhaps because cloudless days are fewer in New England or perhaps because I no longer have that childish wonder at the sight of it. On a run last week, I noticed the full and extra long length of mine and it got me thinking about my current life’s path.

I still remain surprised that I live in a place of palm trees and low lying land. I drive to work as the sun makes it debut (it rises just a bit later on this side of the Gulf) and wonder, “How did I get here?” (A line from the Talking Heads “Once in  a Lifetime” comes to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98AJUj-qxHI.)

Then I start to think about the  2016 Lenten theme of my faith community up North. “Walk with Me” is the one for this season. Admittedly, I missed the deadline for getting it published in the booklet so I decided this post would be an alternative means to share some thoughts.

I am old enough to know and accept and embrace that life’s path is never straight.  Even if you operate under the illusion of the straight and narrow, sooner or later you wake up to the fact that you actually may be going nowhere. (Again, cue another Talking Heads classic “Road to Nowhere”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWtCittJyr0.)

It occurs to me that the precursors to the seismic changes in my life came about on walks with friends or other loved ones. I distinctly recall a question posed by a friend back in 2005: “Are you spiritually hungry?” Realizing that I was in fact in great need of fulfillment, I entered a community that opened my heart, mind and spirit and, in turn, helped my sons gain some safe ground in a time of severe turbulence.

Then I think of the long walks I took with my husband before we were even dating. First, a morning  hike in the woods and later, a longer walk on the beach (the very same one we were to be married on years later!). Intense, open and honest conversations took place that day in late 2008. Our lives were never the same after that time together; we began a journey that overcame distance and trying times in our independent lives.

A steadfast and true walking companion will always be Emily. My heart warms at the memories of Sunday afternoon ambles in the bird sanctuary with her dog Blaze. These trips were never wholly planned; usually a text or call to drop whatever and go. Things were shifting both in small and large ways during those times. Mother Nature allowed for openings in the clouded spaces of our thoughts and worries.

Surely, I would be remiss if I did not speak of those wondrous mountain hikes with my youngest son (joined on occasion by Emily and older brother). I have written about all of them in previous posts but in looking back, I believe they were symbolic of a relationship that had come full circle. The rough patches were behind us; we could manage the toughest and steepest paths knowing the reward was waiting for us at the summit.

Still, there was something larger at play, I think. A force or spirit or a higher power that reminded us to stay present because it was present. The moments became richer and sweeter as a result.

So here in this new place and space, I bring my full self. Each day is different; I feel as if I am in a tremendous labyrinth with many paths I can follow. So I do. I remain open to new possibilities along the way, knowing my journey and my destination are one and the same.

Gatherings, Gratitude, Guidance and Gumption

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Photo courtesy of D. Jacavanco (jacavancostudios.com/blog)

I’m writing this piece looking out at my new back forty; a verdant park is now my backyard instead of the long expanse of grass and thick woodlands. The journey to my new life is at once complete and just beginning. We were married in late June on the beach with the roar of the Atlantic and soft tunes of a love song in a circle of friends and family.

 The day was picture perfect-the bluest of skies, the warmest of suns and greenest of grasses. The party was held outside in the backyard, a culminating celebration and the best way to say goodbye to my house and land that survived loss and was revived by love.

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The boys had moved to a beautiful apartment on the other side of town earlier that month. We had time to adjust to being apart before my own big move a thousand miles away. Although I had been in the house alone before, it was never so empty. I had trouble sleeping, not out of fear but in the sense of knowing it was permanent. It was difficult to work with all the emotional upheaval that comes with making five life changes at once. I was saying good-bye to everything.

I went for one last big hike in the mountains with my youngest during that time- a necessary reprieve from the planning of the wedding and packing whatever I needed to bring.

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I said good-bye to my therapist- a woman who provided me with strength and courage  for a decade and helped me get back myself.

So, two days after the wedding, we hit the road with everything I had- and all that I needed- packed in the car. Books, clothes, photos, paintings and two cases of wine arrived safely  three and a half days later.

And, two weeks after the wedding, my house was sold. My husband and I are  at last making our own home together. At times, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. The climate is different-and I am not just talking about the humidity! I will leave the details of my observations for future posts; they are stories unto themselves.

Until then, stay tuned!

Bittersweet Good-byes

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Credit: www.youtube.com

 

Some good-byes are unexpected

Seeming to come out of thin air

A sudden, tragic death with no chance for a proper farewell

 

Still others we wait for in agony and tortuous anticipation

A diagnosis with a termination date

Time to prepare, yes

But is there really enough time?

Each minute is precious

Each day a gift

Time for truths to be told

At last- the final moment- permission to leave and be released from pain

 

And there’s the relationship existing long past its expiration date

You take a step towards tossing it out

But the grip of fear holds you back

Starting over, being alone are the vises that lock you in

Then the hammer comes down and you are at once relieved and reveling

A warped dance of grieving a false love

and the  idealized version created for appearances

Mourning the idea and plowing the depths of sadness

Tending to it and then letting it go

 

Then they are the Someday good-byes

Ones you know will happen in life’s ebbs and flows

Children leaving the nest

Ready to tend their own gardens

You’ve given them the seeds and the soil and the rakes and the hoes

Their minds and hearts will continue to be sown

They are seedlings with strong roots

 

Each farewell challenging on its own

Each wrought with the messiness of change

Each allowing for transformation

And the the beginnings of a new day

 

Day 26. Can you sense a theme this week?  Preparing to leave this place is an exercise in quiet intensity and healthy sentimentality. The corners of the house have been poked and prodded. Old items-keepsakes from way back-have been rediscovered. The attic-though sparse- had its own treasure trove. The kitchen table has old photos scattered about. They haven’t moved for days. I’ll revisit them before I reorganize them and put them away.  Others are well-packed in albums and stored in a bin. Thanks for staying tuned in!

Recollections and Reflections

Credit: imgkid.com

We’re taking a journey to the past

Deliberately digging

Rediscovering ourselves

Who we were back then

The cache of moments revealing treasures hidden away

Tiny Instances and minor flashpoints of lives in one place 

School times

Christmas times

Easter tides

Carnival rides

and Halloween’s candy treats

Snow days bundled up- oh  those rosy cheeks! 

Summer days, freedom days, no shirts and bare running feet

The world looked greener then, full of promise

The present is a place of demarcation

The time when the bond of bygone times bears fruit for the future

We stand together at the precipice, hearts pulsing

All systems go for the epic Act III

 

Day 24.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so conscious of time as I have this week. Shortly, this house will be a part of our past. The boys will go together to their own place and I with my beloved. Honestly, it is very exciting, despite the work of packing up and getting rid of things. 

Hometown Blues

Credit: patrickeades.com

Where once was my children’s childhood 

Interlopers arrived, knocking down forests

Cutting up well-worn dirt paths

  and paper roads

Replacing them with asphalt for new houses

Knocking down solid dwellings

Constructing cookie cutter outsized McMansions

that clog up the curve in the narrow road

Their children have no yards

Only swamps and useless driveways

 for their many cars and perfect perennial plantings 

This old house sticks out

An eyesore to others, maybe

A tired elder who shakes her head at the soaring towers the new neighbors call “home”

She will miss her inhabitants

The rowdy boys sledding down her hill in the big winters when they were little

Those 2 man baseball games in her drive

where second base was the bed of flowers by the bulk head

There’s still a worn patch of green that was the pitcher’s mound

One man catch and the throws that missed the net breaking windows in the garage

Shattered glass happily dancing to pieces on the ground

The swing set and fort

A place to hide

Games of “lion and zebra”

zooming and zigzagging on endless grass

The homemade sand pit on the side of the garage

Tonka trucks and shovels and pails

 A little boy’s excavation site that never did grow grass

The back forty a favorite spot for the first garden

and those pesky woodchucks!

Summers spent swimming in the kiddie pools

After you were too big, you made the  bonfire pit

A grown boy’s excavation dug with man-sized metal shovels and lots of muscle

Cold nights keeping warm by its roaring heat

Old enough now for hops and barley and other spirits that moved you

Summer nights of fireflies’ halos and cricket sounds and skunk smells

 and deer at dusk and coyote howls

They will visit you in your dreams

 

Day 23.  Happy memories amidst the changes all around us.