Walking the Invisible Bridge of Transition

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As I’m processing the information I learned yesterday in The Time Between Dreams: How to Navigate Uncertainty in Life and Work, I have started to think about the different transitions I’ve made in life. Sometimes it feels like my 20s and 30s are a dream where I was sleepwalking through life. Career, work and complicated marriages were my focus. I had no time for reflection and, in reality, didn’t see much value in it. Over the years I’d learned that nobody cares how you feel … they just care what you do. So, I fixed myself on the things I was supposed to accomplish and be instead of setting my sights on discovering who I was and what I might want. After all, who cares what you want? It’s selfish to think of yourself … isn’t it?

It was not until I made a major transition at 40 that I became painfully aware that I was a shell of a human being. I had reached a dead end at my career. Sure, I could have moved up the corporate ladder in spite of my high heels and probably would have, but I had no energy for it. I couldn’t make myself get excited about anything that had to do with my work. I dragged myself out of bed everyday and often considered ‘checking out.’ Yes, that’s exactly what I wished would happen. Who wanted to live like that? I obviously never did it, but it was an option that seemed so much easier than being alone and dragging my ass to a job I didn’t care about day after day. And let’s not even get started about how I felt about relationships.

At my Tough Mudder a few years back, Jascia and Amy slogged through the mud together. It made it fun.

At my Tough Mudder a few years back, Jascia and Amy and I slogged through the mud together. It made it fun.

It took some major interventions and soul searching to get through that time. I had some acquaintances who were also in transitions of some type, and I emailed them and asked them if we could support each other. We spent hours upon hours together, talking, crying and sharing our innermost selves. One day we had brunch at my house, and we ended up having dinner before the party broke up at around 7 PM. We were hungry for whatever magic it was mingled in our midst. We all launched to different places. I got married. One moved to Florida. Another got married and moved. One got divorced. I know I think very fondly of that group of women. We had our differences, but we were there for each other in a pivotal time in our lives. It was a bridge for me. It was the first real connection I’d felt with people of like minds. We called ourselves The Girls Club.

At one point, we looked like we were dancing in the mud. Neither one of us remembers this.

At one point, we looked like we were dancing in the mud. Neither one of us remembers this.

The book yesterday mentioned how the path does not appear before us ahead of time. We have to take a leap of faith. She mentions the journey of Indiana Jones and his leap of faith across a chasm to get the holy grail. He had to take the leap, and, as he did, the bridge appeared. That is the way my journey has been with transitions. God doesn’t really help my anxiety out by providing a place to live or an income or a source of money for an emergency ahead of time. I always receive it right on time. He’s never late …. but, dammit, He’s never early either.

 

 

The Leap of Faith

I grew up in a world where marriages lasted forever and people stayed in one job for the bulk of their lives. My world hasn’t turned out that way. In my field of training and development, I train managers how hire and interview potential employees. For people of my generation, it is difficult for them to understand a person with numerous moves and jobs on their resume. But, you can’t expect people to stay in one place anymore. Life is much more complicated. People get laid off all the time. I know people who have been laid off multiple times in their lives through no fault of their own. For some careers – like mine – to move up or learn new skills, you have to change companies. Kids move, and families move to be near them. Statistics show that in today’s business climate, we will have at least 12 jobs in our lives. We have choices today, and we take them. I happen to think we’re the better for it. But, we can’t assume that the next move will always be as obvious or as simple as it was in times past.

We helped each other jump over impossible, moving walls.

We helped each other jump over impossible, moving walls.

Even though I have taken a number of leaps of faith in the last 13 years or so, it’s still hard for me to do. I want the bridge over the chasm of uncertainty to appear before I have to step. I want to know in my gut it’s the right thing. In the scene with Indiana Jones, I wished that it would appear when he raised his foot. He was going, wasn’t he? Could he get a sense that the bridge was there before he hurled his body forward? No. Because then it wouldn’t be a leap of faith. And, guess what, it wouldn’t have been as exciting, either. Who wants to watch an adventure movie where the path is clear, and you can predict what’s going to happen? I, personally, may want to know in advance, but I have a lot more fun when I take that risk and learn something new. I’ve often wondered why we aren’t aware of the risks inherent in doing nothing. At least if I’m moving forward, I have the option of a new experience. I’ll bump my head a few times and get scraped up and bruised, but at least I’m not so bored that I question the value of my existence.

And we looked pretty darn good doing it, too!

And we looked pretty darn good doing it, too!

By the way…. I’m thinking of creating another Girls Club. I know there’s a bunch of women in transition from relationships, work and geographical moves in my circle. Anybody up for a virtual book study and workshop on the activities in this book? I do stuff like this for a living. Surely, we could have fun with it? Let me know if you’re seriously interested.

Amazingly, I’m Approaching Winter Again

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When I went on vacation by myself, I had a lot of time to reflect on the past year. I’ve been busy. I sold a house, left a city that I had come to love, changed jobs and started a new life here. Lots of things haven’t turned out like I’d hoped, and, before I left, I felt really aggravated about that. I felt let down, betrayed, tricked and demoralized. In a nutshell, I felt really, really afraid. And, when I feel fear, I prefer to let myself be angry because it feels less vulnerable. At least if I’m angry I’m doing something. At least if I’m angry, I feel like I have some power to squash something or make a change. But, what I’m really doing is covering up my fear. I was telling my brother about my fear when I finally let myself sink into it, and he brought out one of my favorite books Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I laughed. “I know … I know, ” I told him. But, I don’t even know what ‘it’ is anyway.

So, when I went on vacation, I thought a lot about the prior year … and the year before that. I had come to a point in Memphis where I was ready for something new. So, when this job and the opportunity to relocate came along, I jumped at it. I didn’t really take a lot of time to look at it, I just thought this was the something ‘new’ presenting itself. Perhaps it was just a distraction. I’ve begun to think that I’m in a transition phase in my life … one much bigger than a new job. Funny how jobs and careers can distract us from what is really going on, isn’t it? I settled down a lot after I realized what was really going on. Although a transition is a big thing, it’s nothing to panic over. A) It’s going to take awhile, and I don’t have the energy for a long-term panic and B) reflection and quiet are what I need now.

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I picked up some books at the library yesterday. One was mildly helpful. But, I found one called The Time Between Dreams that I have been devouring all afternoon. I’m almost done with it, and I didn’t start it until noon. I can’t put it down. But my head is so full of insights, I need to stop to process some of it. The author Carol Vecchio writes about transitions in life in the context of the seasons. She also gives a lot of background information to back up transitions as a cycle rather than a linear path. Our culture is one of the only ones that sees growth as a ladder … you keep moving up … and up  …. and up until you reach the goal. If you get sidetracked or have to back track, there’s a problem. But other cultures see all transitions as circles or cycles. You’ll have to read the book to understand more because she says it a lot better than I can. Her descriptions of the seasons describe exactly what I’ve experienced when I’ve gone through transitions – personal, spiritual or career-related.

Basically, she says the building phase and the high-energy phase of starting something new is the summer. When that situation no longer fits – maybe we’ve outgrown it or completed it – we fight the change, and the season of fighting or denial is fall. When we finally accept that we need to change or somebody decides for us, that in-between stage is called winter. It is during winter when the old is no more, and the new is still unknown. Spring is that time when new ideas start to percolate, and we start germinating our next growth cycle. This makes so much sense to me. I think I was in the fall stage when I decided to leave Memphis but took what she calls a Quick Fix and tried to jump from fall into a new summer. It just doesn’t work. What I skipped was that whole scary period where I have to process the grief of losing what I had and the empty nothingness of not knowing what is next. I hate that part.

I’ve been here before. It was this very space … this in-between space – that I avoided like the plague after my second marriage. I stayed in fall fighting to keep what I had even though I really didn’t want it anymore. The relationship was dead and was quite literally abusive. I just did not want to go into that in-between place. I didn’t know how to do single. I didn’t want to know how to do single. So, I hung on until I had absolutely no other choice. And, fortunately when I set the boundary, he split and freed up my future. I was forced to face it.

So, here I am again. And, I’m not sure if it’s career-related, place-related,  personal or some combination. I believe that everything is always internal, though. Any desire for external change is a result of an internal shift. Something in me has shifted enough that even the change of last year is not enough. I know that my writing has shifted me a great deal. I’ve put closure on so many things during the past two years. It’s like the writing hit the accelerator pedal on my path of getting through this fall period. I still fought it, but I haven’t fought it nearly as long as I have in the past. And, I haven’t been nearly as afraid. I’ve done this before.

I realized that this was a transition period when I started to isolate right before my vacation. I no longer had the energy to be social or desire to write. I wanted to be quiet. I actually wanted to grieve. I found myself crying a lot. Now, that I’ve read this book, I can also say that the depression I felt over the holidays and the irritability of the last few months is entirely related to this transition. She offers some great ways to get through the ‘seasons’ and to get through them without throwing your whole life in turmoil. I’m going to pay attention. If there’s one thing I learned in my last major transition, it’s that there is plenty of help out there. I just have to avail myself to it. Interestingly enough, she says we go through a major shift every 5-7 years. It’s amazing that we don’t get better at it if we do it that often. I know that I’ve often denied anything was happening inside me and pushed myself to continue on the same trajectory. Eventually something broke, and I had to shift anyway, but I would have gotten more out of the experience had I paid attention and done the work consciously.

I love metaphor, and the author Danaan Perry wrote a parable called The Parable of the Trapeze: Turning the Fear of Transformation into the Tranformation of Fear. I’ll share it with you below.

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As it relates to ‘fall':

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.

I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.

But every once in a while as I’m merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.

And then comes ‘winter':

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Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”

It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a noplace between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?

NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

 

 

 

 

I figured it out: WE LIVE IN A SWAMP!!!!

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I have finally realized the problem here with the heat. We live in a SWAMP, people. It finally dawned on me this morning as I was trying to run a 5-miler at 6:30 AM, and I could ….. not ….uh…. get … any …. ugh …. freaking …. air into my lungs!! There may be houses and roads here, but this is a swamp! Poor Ashok can’t even get cool in the water anymore because the water is so hot. She doesn’t even bother to shake when she gets out. I don’t imagine she thinks she’s even wetter than normal since there is so much water in the air. I even started thinking about how I could build a dehumidifier mask for running. I could make a fortune down here!

There’s a lot of talk about mosquito abatement right now. I’ve never even heard of moquito abatement services until I moved here last year. They don’t do this crap in other places. I was out walking my dog last summer,  and this pickup truck comes driving down the lane puking up a spray of some sort. What the hell is that?, I wondered. I probably realized it had something to do with bugs, but it was really struck me as odd. Then this year I read that a neighboring parish is running out of money for mosquito abatement services, and now someone has contracted West Nile virus in their own yard. On my walk one morning this week, I happened to see this sign in one of my neighbor’s yards.

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Let me assure you, there is nothing powerful enough to eradicate the mosquitoes around here. Again …. WE LIVE IN A SWAMP!! Am I the only one that has realized this??? I find myself trying to pour out any standing water because people talk about how that will help minimize the mosquitoes in my yard. What they fail to realize is there is standing water in the air. I’ll never be able to fix that. Oh yeah, and how am I going to clean up the standing water in my yard from the daily monsoons. I’ve never seen so much water in my life. And, I don’t want to complain about it because, at least if it’s raining, it’s not 500 degrees.

I was telling Momma about how hot it was when I chatted with her this morning. The only thing worse than the heat is how freaking cold people keep their AC. I guess it’s a knee-jerk reaction, but I literally freeze to death inside and then start sweating as soon as I open the door. My body is so confused that I had to start getting acupuncture again just to keep my internal thermostat from blowing up. I walk out the door every morning with my heavy sweater in tow and start sweating before I even get in the car. What is wrong with this picture? Anyway, Momma said it’s really been hot there, too… in the mountains of New Mexico. Really, Momma? What did it do? Did it hit 75 yesterday around 2 PM before the evening cool-down started happening at 3? It must be brutal for you guys. The air is so dry out west that it causes my hair to go straight. Here I’m drowning in a mass of frizzy, kinky hair that I cannot tame no matter what I do to it. It’s no wonder everybody is grumpy, and the crime is so bad here. I’m so irritable that I can’t stand myself, and I’m seriously thinking about stealing my neighbor’s internet. I’m quite sure that will be a gateway crime to murder if I stay this damn miserable.

The postage-stamp size drain that is supposed to keep water out of my yard. Are you people in denial???

The postage-stamp size drain that is supposed to keep water out of my yard. Are you people in denial???

At this moment, some type of bug is circling my head. I have to put apple cider vinegar on the counter to kill fruit flies. Even though I need to leave summer fruit out to ripen, I can’t stand doing it because of the bugs it attracts. If I step out on my porch, I have to spray myself with insect repellant or I get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Even Ashok won’t sit out there with me anymore. One day before I got wise, I sat outside and blogged. I knew I had a couple of bites because I was slapping bugs, but the next day I was absolutely covered in red insect bites. You’d have thought I camped the entire weekend out in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin. You know why? Because this city is THE SWAMP!!! Nobody seems to know it, but I have figured it out. I’m surprised that I don’t have an alligator living under my house who comes out and swims in the lake that forms in front yard when it rains. I know one morning I’m going to walk outside to find him sunning on my porch. I’ll post some pics.

Even the trees droop in this heat…..

The other night I went met a friend at a local coffeehouse. It was too cold to sit inside, so we sat outside. It was nice when we started. It almost seems like there are ‘clouds’ of heat and humidity that settle in and move around. It was nice out for an hour or so. I would expect that it would continue to get cooler since it was in the evening, but it started to get really hot. I could see the sweat beading up on her brow, and I was sweating profusely. I lifted up my long skirt to try to get some air on my legs, but my hair continued dripping with sweat. The weird thing is that neither one of us ever recommended we go inside. We just sat outside and sweated like a couple of alligators. Do alligators sweat? I sweat about 20 times a day. It gets a little cooler, then it gets hot. And, it’s not really ‘sun’ hot. It’s ‘air’ hot. It sneaks up on you whether you are in the shade or not. It feels like somebody throws a heavy wet blanket over you and begins to smother you without you even knowing it. And I know they are laughing. I can hear them. Finally, I become cognizant of it, and I start gasping for air. Hopefully I don’t suck in any bugs to go along with the minimal amount of oxygen that accompanies the water.

Dreaming of Cooler Days

I’m counting the days. A friend of mine said it will be cooler in September. I don’t remember that being the case, but just for sanity’s sake, I’m going to believe him. Momma said a cool front is coming through next week. I got out my parka this morning to prepare. I hope it dips down to at least as cold as it is in my office every day. I can’t believe we fuss so much over every penny we spend at the state office, but we run the AC at 25 degrees all day long. It’s cold enough inside that it feels good outside for about 2 minutes before I start sweating again. How many weeks are in August? I sure hope it’s a shorter month this year. Meanwhile, I’ll continue looking at my vacation pics, turn up my fans and AC and start working on that dehumidifier mask. Maybe I’ll get rich enough to move this city out of the swamp.

 

The Routines in My Animal House

 

Queen Bella on her throne.

Queen Bella on her throne.

I’ve discovered that my dog Ashok is sleeping in my guest room bed. The other day I wondered why the covers were messed up so badly. I know the cats sleep on that bed because there’s enough cat hair on the pillows to build another cat, but they can jump higher than my 45 pound dog. I have no clue how she gets up on that bed. Anybody that has stayed at my house knows that it’s the tallest mattress on the planet. When it was my bed, I could barely crawl up in there on my own. Actually, I don’t want to know how she gets up there. I’d like it to remain a secret as I’m sure I will not be happy with her process. She doesn’t get to sleep in  my bed because that’s reserved for the cats. I made a deal early on that she could accompany me on my adventures if the cats got to sleep with me. We all seem pretty happy with that deal. But, I guess the guest bed is up for grabs.

Ashok’s Latest Adventure – Biloxi

On top of that, yesterday I realized that my cat Buster was not feeling well. Every morning he wakes me up with incessant crying. I know this to mean that he wants his ‘milk’. I pour him a small amount of milk in a cup every morning. He eagerly drinks it except on those mornings when he finds something wrong with it. He sniffs and looks at it. Then he tips his paw into it. For some reason, on some days, it is not to his liking. He sits beside it and cries. I sniff it, and I can’t find anything different about it from the day before when he lapped it up. I noticed that he was not doing that yesterday. In fact, he didn’t even come to bed last night when I tucked myself in. Buster cannot wait until I lay down so he can fling his body over my upper abdomen. He’s reminds me of one of those ragdoll cats. He’s cuddly and has the softest fur I’ve ever felt. But, he loves to fling himself over me as if I’m some kind of lounging sofa. He didn’t even come when I called last night. So, I got up and found him sleeping on the blanket I use for a pillow after my yoga practice.

Attacking the pink teddy.

Attacking the pink teddy.

I walked over and petted him. He didn’t feel hot or thin, but he wasn’t purring either. I gingerly picked him up and held him close to me. He moved and I lost my hold on him. He lurched, and I lost control of where he was going. He crashed into the TV, knocking it over and all of the candles and crap I have staged beside it. So much for pampering my poor sick baby. It scared him to death. I found him and put him in the bed with me. After he flung himself over me, Bella came over wanting to get under the covers. She was only 4 weeks old when I got her and not weaned. So, she likes to get under the covers and ‘knead’ on my nightgown all night long. Eventually she falls asleep with her paws and her face on my stomach. Sometimes I wake up and my gown is totally soaked with her saliva. It never fails that she wants to slide under the covers right under where Buster is laying. There is a huge bed with plenty of space, but they want to be in the same space on top of me. Bella paws furiously at the blanket as if it’s going to move on its own from the ferocity of her pawing. I lift it up as much as I can without dislodging Buster. She looks under, confused. “Hmmmm … maybe I don’t want to go under there,” she seems to say. “Let me think about it.” She passes … for now. She will wake me up at midnight with her pawing again as she considers where she wants to be.

She also likes to sit on the top of my armoire. I have a pink teddy bear that sits patiently waiting until I feel lonely. When she climbs up there on top of the world, she pushes the teddy bear down onto the floor… looking at it as it falls. When it crashes lifeless onto the rug, Ashok grabs it and shakes it in his mouth. Bella stares. I wonder how much of this goes on while I’m gone. I know that Ashok has torn up things that I know were on the table when I left the house. I can imagine Bella deciding that she’s going to get Ashok in trouble by giving her something off the table. Ashok naively takes the bait. Buster looks on at the ensuing scene, crying. Cats are so much more cunning than dogs.

Daily Rituals

 

I dreamed last night that I was pregnant. It was a nightmare. I remember in the dream being horrified at what was about to happen. First of all, I have no idea how I would have gotten pregnant, but the whole idea that I was now going to give birth was throwing me into a numbed stupor. The guy who was trying to set up my diaper service was in the room. While I was wondering why he was doing this NOW – before I was even showing – I was awakened by a hacking sound. Bella was coughing up a hairball in my bed. “Oh, yuk,” I thought as I rolled over in the bed. “I can’t deal with this now.” After she hacked up her hairball on my quilt, she came over and started ferociously pawing to get under the blanket. This time she stayed. I slept through the night. When I stirred at 5:30 AM as usual, Ashok bounced over to get her pat on the head. The daily routine started over again. She followed me around with a grin to the bathroom and while I put on my walking clothes. “Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked. She leaped into the air, and I had to settle her down to secure her leash.

The animal routine starts all over again with a walk … a roll in the St. Augustine grass … some ‘milk’ for Buster … while Bella sits on her throne while I shower. Every day.. it makes me smile … and no one sees but me.

 

What We Hate Colors What We Love

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Yesterday morning, I was out walking my dog, and a neighbor happened to be outside with a squeagy getting the dew off his car. I have never seen that before, but down here condensation is enough to drive anybody crazy. I said hi and noticed that his license tag said Delaware.

“You from Delaware?”

“Yes.”

“How long have you been down here?”

“Since December.”

“Well, what do you think?” I grinned.

“I love the climate! After I left Delaware, they got 65 inches of snow last winter!”

I giggled to myself because (a) he hasn’t been through August yet and (b) I get it. We always seem to love what we hated in the last place. I talked to a new fellow last night on the phone that I’m just getting to know.

“Are you from here?”

“I’m originally from Oregon but moved here when I was young. I moved away for college but I’m in the petroleum business, so I either have to be here or Houston.”

“Do you like it here?”

“I like everything but the climate.”

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That crazy climate. One person’s vacation-like dream is another person’s hell. I spent my entire life trying to get away from heat after growing up down here. I momentarily lost my senses and forgot about it when I accepted this job. It was an adjustment for me to move from the Michigan-Indiana area to Memphis just a few short years ago. I can remember telling the sun to ‘please just give it a rest’ when it was beating down on me in July that first year. My ex had some kind of issue with turning on the air conditioning, and we fought like cats and dogs over it. I have to admit I didn’t love the northern winters, but I don’t love the southern summers either. I think the middle of the country is an ideal place to be if you can’t afford or tolerate the western coast. Seattle was freaking awesome. You hear about the rain, but honestly, Chicago and Seattle have just about the same number of cloudy days each year. It’s just that Seattle settles into the 40s in the winter, and Chicago settles into … well … bitter cold. And, Seattle keeps it a big secret, but it’s sunny from July to November. I didn’t even have an air conditioner, either. I didn’t need it.

It’s amazing how one experience colors another. The older I get, the more I learn about what’s intolerable for me. As a twenty-something, I was so naive about places to live, getting married and working. I thought any choice would do. Just pick one! If you are in midlife and married to the same person you married in your twenties, I hope you realize how lucky you are. With as little research as we put into high school and college dating, we have absolutely no idea what … or whom … we’re marrying. And, as we get older, we change so much that it is amazing that anybody makes it work long-term.

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My first husband worked and traveled all the time. So, when I dated again, I wanted somebody that would be available to be a companion. I really wanted somebody that I could play with. I got that. My second husband and I went on all kinds of adventures. When things were good, they were very, very good. What I didn’t realize is that people could be crazy. I had no idea how hard marriage to a crazy person would be or I would have screened for it. I would have put more effort into finding somebody that had several good, stable relationships. Now, I’m totally focused on that. Whatever I had before certainly colors what I DON’T want in the future. In fact, I was talking with a woman this morning who is married to a crazy person. Listening to her talk about the chaos and drama at her house and helping her to process her fear and pain made me realize why I’m still single after 8 years. I’m just so scared of what that other foot looks like. The best foot is always forward during the marketing period. When that other foot comes out, it can be really UGLY!!

Ashok stood by her home state of Mississippi. The dog reads! :)

I have to say that I’m typing this while I sit on my front porch, and it is really nice outside today. It’s July 22 – my first husband’s birthday – and it should be scorching. I am getting chewed on by a few mosquitoes which is a bit uncomfortable. Maybe my next move will be to a cooler climate with no bugs. I’d also like an office where I can get all the money I need to implement projects and where people work together to solve problems. I’d like to be a stone’s throw from the mountains and in a city where I can go running on paved scenic trails that allow pets. Oh yeah, and I’d love to be in a place where being single is a great thing, and there is plenty to do whether you have a partner or not. While I’m at it, can I have a great salary that allows me to take some more Women’s Quests and have at least 3 weeks of vacation time to start? Wonder if I could even write for a living? Wouldn’t that be sweet? I feel another adventure percolating…

Just Do It ‘Like a Girl’ … Please Get Out of My Way

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My friend Jessica … just ‘like a girl’

 

My friend and personal trainer Jessica posted a blog this week with a link to this video that Always (a feminine product manufacturer) made about perceptions of what it’s like to run, hit, move …. like a girl.

I went to a Body Pump class Thursday. It’s the first time I’ve been in a workout class in awhile. I generally do my workouts on my own, and if I do something in a group, it’s a group run. Body Pump is a strength-training class that seems to appeal to both males and females as the class was pretty well mixed. At the beginning of the class, the instructor asked if there were any “first-timers” in the class. There was me and a group of three twenty-something males who were right in front of me. I was also  the oldest person in the class. As the workout progressed, I realized that I was also one of the strongest people in the class. I was surprised. I was especially surprised when I could handle more weight and more reps than those twenty-somethings in front of me. And, when it came to pushups – an exercise that Jessica drills me on quite frequently – I had no problem. From the very beginning, Jessica had me do full push-ups. I have never done the modified version with my knees on the floor…. ever. At one point in the class the instructor joked that he was going to make the girls do the pushups without being on their knees. Groans and laughter and shouts of “no way” filled the mirrored gym classroom. I texted Jessica when I got back and told her that I was the only woman who did pushups without modification. What she doesn’t know is I first typed that I didn’t do them ‘like a girl.’ Seeing her video earlier that day made me very aware that what I was about to say was not what I really wanted to say.

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Jessica ‘the girl’

I heard plenty growing up about not throwing ‘like a girl’, crying ‘like a girl’ or running ‘like a girl’. It’s a very ingrained way of thinking that sends a double message. On the one hand if it’s meant to encourage someone to try harder or with more aggression, it can accurately portray that action. We all know what that means. A ‘girl’ would do it sissified with little confidence, holding back out of fear of getting hurt. On the other hand, it’s a veiled insult that says that’s the way girls do things. To do it with gusto, would be to do it ‘like a boy.’ I often felt that when I acted like an athlete, I was somehow doing something that was against my natural inclinations as a female. I felt different. I felt like it might be unattractive. I felt like I was somehow trying to be something I wasn’t. On the other hand, because I did it, the doing taught me that I could do whatever I wanted to despite being a girl. I didn’t have to be pigeon-holed into some way of being just because I was female. If I could be an athlete and a girl, maybe I could be a corporate manager AND a girl or even an independent person AND a girl.

I learned to surf at 51 in Costa Rica. I won't be winning any awards, but look at all of these girls!

I learned to surf at 51 in Costa Rica. I won’t be winning any awards, but look at all of these girls!

The better description would be to encourage girls to run ‘like you mean it’, hit ‘like you want to knock it out of the park’, or put your weight into it. Those pushups are modified pushups that are suited to girls IF they are not strong enough to do them or for boys who are not strong enough for the regular pushups. It’s not a gender thing, and it cuts both ways to insinuate that a girl – or a boy – is acting ‘like a girl’ because they have to do some strength-training in order to get in shape for the next level. How may boys have been called wusses or girls or other derogatory names because they haven’t been working out, or they are not athletes? Becoming an athlete is a progression of building strength and stamina. It is also requires a building of fundamental skills which start out very difficult and shaky for any new athlete – not just girls. Everyone should have the chance to be a beginner and build the confidence that comes out of improving in any sport. I wonder how many girls or boys have never approached athletics because they knew that they would look ‘like a girl’ when they started. And, if you never begin, you never become an athlete…. period.

My friend Jascia said in this adventure race, the girls had to carry one tire and the guys two... so she grabbed two... just 'like a girl'

My friend Jascia said in this adventure race, the girls had to carry one tire and the guys two… so she grabbed two… just ‘like a girl’

I have friends who tell me that they wish they were athletes. As we get older, our bodies need to have that physical challenge to keep us in shape and stay healthy. I know lots of friends who have become athletes late in life. Most of the women I know can’t admit they’ve become an athlete because they don’t think they are good enough to really be called an athlete. I think maybe some dismiss it because it’s not considered feminine … or ‘like a girl’ … to be athletic. This problem affects women for their entire lives because athletics teaches so much. It has taught me how to be a beginner and try new things. It’s taught me that learning is a process. It’s taught me that my body doesn’t have to perform ‘like a girl’ just because I’m 53 and a woman. When I ran my first marathon at 48, I was astounded that my body adapted to the year and a half training regimen leading up to the event. The more I pushed my body – with wisdom and restraint – the more I saw how adaptable my body was. It responded. That’s what athletics brings to me. It helps me understand that although there are some limits on what I can do, I am only limited by my choices. If I choose to run a marathon at 48, I can do it. If I choose to learn to surf at 51, I can do it. I may do it like a beginner, but I’m really happy to say that I do it …. period. And, I’m a girl… so I guess I’m doing it ‘like a girl’. Please get out of the way.

The Slaves' Stairwell

The Slaves’ Stairwell: A Visit to Rosedown

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My sister and I went to Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana yesterday. Louisiana is famous for it’s plantations. The Mississippi River was a major commerce highway, and our plantations line the roads along that muddy river that winds through our state. I’ve seen three since I’ve been home. Last year, I went to the Myrtles ( a haunted plantation) and to Laura which is one of the more recent tourist destinations. They have all been beautiful in their own right. Rosedown’s claim to fame is that it is mostly intact from it’s glory days. The State Park Ranger who conducted our tour yesterday said Rosedown still has 90% of its original furnishings – furnishings purchased mostly in the 1830’s. It was lovely.

The Garden (Click on the pics for captions.)

We arrived just after the 11 AM tour started, so we needed to wait an hour for the noon tour. We walked through the extensive gardens and sweated for the next hour. We sat for a spell in the rocking chairs on the front porch, wiping sweat from our brows and remarking at the huge “stick bug” that was on the rail. We wondered what the girls talked about sitting on this front porch. There were four girls in the Turnbull family. I imagine they talk about what girls always talk about … other girls and boys. I don’t imagine some things change very much. I said I wondered if one of them ever thought they’d be able to cool the air. I’m sure that would have been considered quite impossible in a time when 400 pound ice blocks had to be shipped from New Orleans once a month to cool milk and cheese. I wonder if any of them ever snuck into the ice house on a hot July day like we wanted to yesterday to feel the artificially cooled air on our dripping skin. We finally got into the house with its blessed air conditioning right at noon.

Sittin’ for a Spell

I have conflicting feelings about these plantations. They were successful because they had an enslaved workforce. Once slavery was made illegal, most of these plantations failed or became much less profitable. I talked to my sister about it this morning, and she said that they romanticize the way of life on these plantation tours, but the reality is that for most of the people on the plantation, life was pretty horrible. The Turnbull family had about 8-10 family members at any one time living an opulent, pampered lifestyle. Their home featured a built-in shower, 7 sets of China and furnishings imported from all over the world. They even had a Martha Washington tapestry hanging in the ladies’ sitting room. Their were about 450 slaves at the peak of the plantation’s success. For them, life was not glamorous at all. So, for the majority – a large majority – plantation life sucked. But that story is usually only hinted at in a plantation tour.

The Doctor’s Cottage

In the dining room, our guide told us that supper was served from about 2-3 PM because it was too hot to be outside. The Turnbull family  would have a 4-7 course meal with each course being served on different china. The table yesterday was set for the dessert course. There was a shoo-fly that hung above the table that kept the bugs off the food. With the heat in Louisiana, all of the doors and windows had to be open to catch the breeze, and, of course, everything else came in, too. As I thought of all of those dishes in the heat of the day, I thought of the slaves that had to cook in that hot little kitchen outside with an open fire. They didn’t get to rest in the heat of the day. And they had to cook with fire. As much as I hate to wash dishes, all I could think about was who had to wash all of those damn dishes?? It broke my heart to think of it.

The Foyer and the Sitting Areas

Until I asked my sister about it this morning, I’ve never really talked about my feelings about slavery. Of course, I feel repulsed by the fact that it ever happened. That’s easy. What’s not so easy is the guilt I feel about it. I realize that I didn’t participate in it, nor did I make any decisions about it, but I believe that guilt is passed on through the generations for horrific acts. When the Bible mentions the ‘sins of the father’ being passed down, I believe it means the karmic debt that is passed through the generations. Even though a visit to a plantation brings up that karmic guilt that I feel as a southerner, I love to experience a piece of our history which can be all at once glamorous and romantic and painful and shameful. I hope that our plantations remain so that visitors – southern and otherwise – can see and experience a time in history when we were at our best and our worst in so many different respects. I have to wonder if there were people that lived in those homes and who owned slaves that were conflicted about what they were doing. I’m sure there were a few. I’d like to think there were many. But, who knows?

The Dining Room and Butler’s Pantry

I’ve noticed since I’ve been here in Louisiana that employees are treated differently than in other places I’ve lived. One friend of mine told me his employer never offered vacation time as a benefit until he got into management. For 20 something years, he could not take a paid vacation. I was horrified. He didn’t know there was anything odd about it. I know that for many, many years my sister got one week of vacation. I couldn’t believe that she never got an increase in leave time no matter how long she worked for that company. In my current role, I know that I feel terrible about how we compensate our teachers for the valuable work they do. And that’s a trickle down effect of the amount of money that the state deems necessary and acceptable for those that teach our youth and prepare them for jobs. My sister has said that she could double her salary as a teacher just by moving to Texas. I wonder if the value that is put on work and employees does not somehow stem from the attitudes that our forefathers had about slavery. Progress has been made, of course. But, if the bar was so low at one point that our southern society held slaves, why would it be surprising that progress in compensating and respecting employees is much slower than in parts of the country where that attitude never existed?

The Bedrooms

My sister takes her English classes on a Civil Rights tour of the South every year since she’s been teaching. She passes through Memphis after going to Selma and before she heads to Little Rock. She said she does it because she wants this generation of kids to talk to people who were there during the Civil Rights’ struggle. Her class also reads 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup’s slave narrative. His enslavement occurred in the area where her school is located. It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s another thing to see it and experience it. Lots and lots and lots of people died and lived awful lives during the times of slavery and in its aftermath. It is our legacy as white folk in the South – like it or not. I went to the Orpheum Theatre with my friend Jan in Memphis one evening. Jan is an African-American. Forgetting that life was different for her than me growing up in the south, I naively asked if she’d ever been to movies when the Orpheum was in its heyday. “Oh, yes,” she said. “But we had to sit in the balcony. We had to enter through a door in the back. I had to quit going when my Dad said he would no longer let us be treated like that.” I had forgotten… or maybe even more precisely, I never knew. While I could have had front row tickets, she did not have that right … that privilege. The karmic guilt spilled into my gut.

The Slaves' Stairwell

The Slaves’ Stairwell

After we left the dining room yesterday, we walked in to the butler’s pantry. It was where the slaves staged the food after bringing it from the outdoor kitchen. In that pantry is the slaves’ stairwell. A narrow staircase winds up through the middle of the house. Our guide told us that they were not allowed to make noise as they climbed the stairs carrying buckets of water and whatever household supplies were needed upstairs. The steps were higher than your average stair. The wooden steps were worn in the center leaving a visible reminder of the hidden, painful efforts of the many who served a few. Karmic guilt washed over me as I took a picture while the ghosts of slaves stepped through my heart. The slaves were more integral to the success of that plantation and the way that family lived than anything else in the world. Without them, there would be no wealth … no decadent food … no built-in modern shower. The stairs in the house were built so well that almost 200 years later they don’t creak at all under the weight of a band of tourists. And they were totally uncompensated for their work. What does this white girl know of a slave’s life? Very few slave narratives exist. We read the history of the landowners and the privileged who lived lives of opulence and grandeur on the backs of those hiding in the stairwells trying not to make a sound. I heard them yesterday.

 

 

 

The Power of Priorities

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I’ve been thinking about priorities a lot lately. When things are going along smoothly, and life is good, priorities don’t take center stage. Everything just seems to fall into place in a normal way. But when things get tight …. or tense … or otherwise uncomfortable, priorities seem to hit me in the face. What are mine? What are my priorities, really?

It’s easy for me to say that working out is a priority for me when I have enough money for a personal trainer and a yoga studio. It’s easy to do, and I really enjoy it. But, when money got tight and I had to make some decisions to budget more closely for the next 6 months, things like facials, yoga and personal trainers got cut. Even internet service got cut. So, all of a sudden I’m left on my own. Is working out really a priority? If it is, then it won’t matter if it’s not as convenient or fun to do. If it is, it won’t matter if there’s no one else there egging me on, encouraging me to get out and “get it” even when I don’t want to.

This morning I read a reading in Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates’ book on yoga. He is in recovery from substance abuse, too, and he wrote about a conversation he had when he was about two years sober. A friend asked him what he wanted his life to look like in 25 years. He replied that he’d want to be 27 years sober. She assured him that if staying sober remained a priority for him, he probably would be. He went on to say that he remembered being astounded at the stories of homeless drunks who drank all day, every day before they got sober. Where did they get the money to buy alcohol? That is why addicts can get substances, ruin their lives and relationships and maybe even eventually die with no desire to get sober. Their SUBSTANCE is their priority. Getting high is the priority. Feeling good is the priority. Priorities are very powerful driving forces in our lives.

Each of us has our own priorities, and mine are no better or worse than yours. Where we set our priorities ultimately defines who we are and who we are to become. I always said that working out was a priority for me, but I would have periods of time where I didn’t do it. I had LONG periods of time where I did not eat right. I’d abuse my body with food. All the while, I’d be saying eating healthfully was a priority for me but I just couldn’t keep on the straight and narrow. I was jolted into awareness one day when I read a passage in one of the many hundreds of books I’ve read on taking care of my life. It said that if something is a priority, I will do it. If I say eating healthfully is a priority, but I rarely do it, then it’s really not a priority. I may WANT it to be a priority, but it’s not. What I realized is that feeling good was my priority. So, when I ate sugar because I didn’t want to feel sad or lonely or bored or stressed, I was going for the feeling good thing. It took a long time for me to realize that to really feel good, I needed to eat better. I needed to quit drinking. I needed to go to bed and get enough sleep. I needed to cut out caffeine. The short-term fixes did nothing for my long-term well-being.

My contract with Jessica (my personal trainer) ended about the time I went out of town. I’ve remained active, but it’s been hiking and kayaking and walking my dog. I’m now back to the grind which tends to take up a lot of time. This is where knowing my priorities becomes important. Is it really a priority for me to work out with weights and run? If it is, I need to find a solution. If it’s not, then time will tell. Ultimately, it is my action that determines my priority. So, this morning I got out my women’s strength-training book and my Jeff Galloway books on training for running, and I planned my workouts for the next two weeks. The fact that I took almost 45 minutes of my time this morning doing that is a step in making my fitness a priority. The next step will be doing it day in and day out.

Last night I went to the gym for a class. I met Coach Murphy, a local football coach turned personal trainer who is 76 years old. I was immediately drawn to his enthusiasm and high energy as he taught our class of 16 wannabe athletes. I really wanted to make a connection with him, so I asked him if he knew my Dad after class since they were both in the sports industry in Baton Rouge at the same time. Of course, he did, and we started talking about writing. He got interested in the 6-man football team history in this area and was so interested in it, he just self-published a book about its heyday. He went around the state interviewing, videotaping and making notes on former cheerleaders, players and fans. He shared some tips on writing and how he got started. I left my workout feeling really good … not because of the workout so much but because I met somebody that was a great role model on how I could feel at 76 if I made myself a priority. The light in his eyes is something I want 25 years from now. I suppose if I keep making that a priority, I will have it when I get there.

I AM BURNING UP!!!!

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The snowball stand at Acadian and Perkins in Baton Rouge was a happening place.

I dreaded it driving back Saturday from the mountains. It was warm there but the nights were cool, and it was very comfortable for the most part. I would get hot during the middle of the day if I was out hiking up on a ridge where there was no water nearby. Otherwise, the mountain streams and the canopy kept the air cool and moist. I felt nothing as far as temperature was concerned. It was perfect. I don’t like to feel hot … or cold. Either end of the spectrum is uncomfortable for me.

One of my husbands – can’t remember which – used to kid me because my tolerance range for temperature was very narrow. And, if I was too hot … or too cold … I would get so frustrated and proclaim I AM FREEZING TO DEATH!!! or on the other end of the spectrum I AM BURNING UP!! The bad thing is I’m outdoors a lot. So, I have this constant focus on what to wear.

Running up Nawth!!

Me running up Nawth!!

I have a formula I use to dress for running in the winter. If it’s 40 or above, I wear one long-sleeved layer and capris. If it’s 30 or above, I wear two layers above my waist and one full-length layer on my legs. With each 8-10 degree drop, I add an additional layer on top and one on the bottom. It’s a great formula. I know exactly when to start wearing a hat and gloves. The summer is a different story. I know it’s going to be hot, but I can’t take off layers. I know there are races where they do it, but I just think it would be really painful and embarrassing to run nekkid. And, honestly … after you are nekkid, where do you go from there? If I had my druthers, I’d rather be cold than hot. I can do something to warm up.

I watched the temperature gauge all the way back down from Georgia. It didn’t climb much. For some odd reason, cooler weather struck the south on 4th of July weekend. I actually remember last 4th of July being rather pleasant, so I found myself dreaming that maybe it doesn’t get as hot down here as I would think. The delusion made me feel better.

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It was much cooler in the mountains!

 

On my list of take-home souvenir lessons from my vacation, I said I was going to try to stay cool this summer. I realize that I am “fire” due to my Pitta constitution, so I’m going to try to ward off the outside heat however I can. It’s hard for me because I don’t like ice. I always order water without ice in restaurants. I don’t like that really cold feeling in my mouth. I don’t like swimming either. So, the things that keep people cool don’t appeal to me, but I said I’d do something different this year. I came home this afternoon and was ready to take a nap. Due to my newly launched budget cuts, I have turned the thermostat about 5 degrees warmer than normal. I laid down with my cats and after a few minutes, I jumped up, frustrated. “I AM BURNING UP!!!” I screamed to no one. I went down the rabbit hole about how this summer was going to be horrible…. how was I going to handle this … I hate this place ... and I turned the temperature back down. I suddenly remembered that peppermint essential oil is cooling for hot flashes. Maybe it would help with plain old heat? I applied a drop to the back of my neck and to my inner elbows. In a couple of minutes, I could feel the icy coolness in those areas, and I drifted off to sleep. I woke up ….. believe it or not…. COLD!!! Aha!! I can use peppermint oil to combat heat.

Love that cool, cool water in that stream!

Love that cool, cool water in that stream!

When I feel too hot, I feel suffocated. I don’t know if everybody feels this way, but I feel like I’m trapped in a very small space and can’t move or breath. It’s sort of like being claustrophobic for me, and when I get claustrophobic, I panic. I think I’m going to die. I’ve learned to talk myself through it, but being hot is not fun for me. I don’t even like to go to outside parties anymore in the summer unless there’s a pool or somewhere to escape. The heat is the main reason I never wanted to come back to these hellish summers although I think Memphis was pretty bad, too. I can usually get through June because it’s fairly moderate except for a day here and there, but once July comes prancing in, I start doing the math. I’m already doing it here. Okay… it’s July 4th. There’s 4 weeks in July and 5 in August and probably another 4 in September. At least in Memphis, it would level off a bit after August. Yesterday, I got to hyperventilating as I was doing the math. OMG!!! I can’t make it that long!! How am I going to endure this??? I have to stop doing the math. I have to find another solution, or I will go crazy.

My friend JoAnn told me I needed to start drinking ice in my water in the summer. I resist it, but today I drank a glass of ice water. It actually did help cool me down. Then, I decided to take advantage of these snowball stands around here. I haven’t had a snowball in over 30 years. I don’t like ice!! Why would I get ice with sugar syrup poured over it? But, JoAnn gave me a recommendation of a good one here in Baton Rouge, and I went over to give it a try. There were 100 flavors on the board. I started hyperventilating on the hot concrete about what flavor to try … King Cake … Blueberry Cheesecake … watermelon … root beer  … or peach. I settled on watermelon until I spotted another childhood favorite icy treat – dreamsicle. I can remember the ice cream truck rolling down Hunstock Road and running in to get some quarters from Momma for ice cream. I loved dreamsicles. So, that’s what I got.

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I’m now home sitting on my front porch, and it’s downright comfortable. I know it’s hot, but I think the snowball is cooling me down a little as a counterbalance. Maybe there’s something to this. So, today I’ve found a couple of things I can do to stop that suffocating panic when the heat rolls in and sweat starts pouring down my forehead. I also remembered I can take an ice pack and put it on the back of my neck. At races, they hand out cold towels for the same reason, and it really does help. I still can’t wait until October when I don’t have to worry about this for another 9 months. I pray that my A/C keeps working well, the supply of peppermint oil is stable and the rain keeps falling to keep the temperatures down. Please … please …. please … don’t get too hot, Louisiana.

Taking Vacation Home as a Souvenir

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When I lived in Knoxville, we would head up to the Smoky Mountains for hiking. We did it all the time. It was such a gift to live that close to one of the most beautiful spots in the country. We avoided the summer months because of the traffic and congestion although, in a pinch, we could go to the Townsend side of the Smokies that was lesser known. On one weekend we drove through one of the campgrounds to meet a friend in the summer on a Sunday morning. I remember the RVs packed up and headed out. I mostly remember the faces of the inhabitants. I would have thought they would be relaxed, smiling and rejuvenated … and maybe they were. But their faces were scowling. After a couple passed by, I remarked,”Here we go… back to our miserable lives … leaving all of this fun and beauty behind.” We all laughed. We lived there. We didn’t have to leave it behind. We could go there any weekend.

 

Today, I remember those faces. I have one. I’ve decided to cut my time in the mountains short due to crowds arriving for 4th of July and the fact that I’m physically tired. It’d be nice to lay around the campground for a day, but I have to go to work on Monday which means I have stuff to do. My car is filthy from living in it for a week. My dog is exhausted. My budget is spent. My house is a mess, and I need to get groceries. I want to have a day to do it all and a day to relax. I am, quite frankly, sad. But, to delay the homecoming doesn’t change it. I still have to do it.

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I spent 5 days in the Mountain Wilderness doing the things I love to do with my dog. I’m sure I’ll write more about what I did, but since I’m dreading arriving in Baton Rouge and getting back to the grind, I thought I’d reflect on what things I can take back with me that I learned on the trip.

I learned that I LOVE kayaking rivers. I knew that, I guess, but it was definitely what I loved the most. I kayaked the West Fork of the Chatooga River, and I loved every minute. I even loved it when I capsized my boat and had to chase it down the river. Ashok wasn’t so happy about that part, but I felt like a freaking rock star that I was in good enough shape to run through rocks and a stream to catch my kayak. I also learned from that event that putting my car keys in my swimsuit bottoms was a great idea. They would have been lost otherwise. I need them on my body … period. I love the journey of floating a river. In a sense, it’s a meditation that focues me on the moment and what needs to be dealt with right now. At times it was challenging, but it was almost always easier and more fun than I anticipated it would be. And … the true gift … I could walk my boat through when I thought it was too treacherous. I didn’t need to prove anything to anybody. I took care of myself. I learned a lot from that trip… lessons I’ll take home with me.

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I actually don’t have to eat that much. Most days I ate some combination of almond butter and plum jelly sandwiches, greek yogurt, fresh fruit and trail mix and cereal and milk. I did just fine. In fact, when I was having fun, food became an inconvenience. A Georgia peach milkshake hit the spot when my sweet tooth called which wasn’t very often. Food, it seems, when used for fuel is pretty efficient. And, I found out that for 53, I am a freaking animal. I am in shape. I pulled a kayak over a log from waist deep water, loaded it onto my car over my head several times and I played hard 12 hours a day for several days in a row. Other than an ankle that’s twinging a little, I feel pretty darn good. The workout stays.

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I learned that loneliness is a feeling that ebbs and flows – whether I’m home or not … whether I’m surrounded by people or not. One night in my tent under a beautiful starry night with the sound of a roaring stream nearby, loneliness crept in and tried to strangle me. I let myself cry, and I let myself feel it. No matter how beautiful it was outside … how much I wanted to be there … how much I loved it … I was lonely to my bones. I prayed to God to help me stand it and realize that loneliness is a feeling that is staggering but it is not reality. I am not alone. He is always with me. I have friends that are there for me. I have a program that provides a safe haven with no price of admission. I have no idea what my path will be, but for right now, I am okay. Last night, I enjoyed the stars, the stream, the deep bellow of a bear in the distance and my choice to take this trip alone. The loneliness had dissipated, and I could feel how lucky and supported I am. It always passes.

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I have an amazing dog. One day I joked with a friend that I was like Ashok’s Higher Power. She depends on me to take care of her and make plans for her. She has her own free will, but I know that she trusts me and knows that I am the source of her life as she knows it. It probably helps that I am also the source of her food. She did everything with me. She kayaked for 4 hours, got turned over in a boat, and got pinned against a tree that laid across the river while I pulled the boat over it in waist deep water. I am so glad that I have a life jacket for her. She was scared, but she never once went under the water, and I just picked her up and put her back in the boat. And, she got right back in. I have a lot to learn from that dog. I have no qualms that I will ever find another dog like her. She is a gift crafted just for me.

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When people I know really enjoy something, and they lament that they can’t do it all the time, I always ask them what piece of it they could bring into their daily lives. Given what I’ve learned, I’m going to:

  1. Go kayaking down rivers more frequently …. not lakes … rivers. It does IT for me.
  2. Float through loneliness like the river knowing that there will be times that will be tough, but there will be times when I pass through with ease and joy.
  3. Keep my “life jackets” in place. I know what they are. I know who they are. Use them and don’t leave home without them.
  4. Focus on the moment. I used to do this meditation where I canoed down a peaceful river in my mind. It had the same effect as canoeing on my soul. I’m going to do that more.
  5. Oh, yeah.. keep my keys on my body … not in a purse … ON my body. My friends know my keys are a big struggle for me. Not sure what that means, but I need to keep them near. I even brought both sets of keys with me on this trip knowing how elusive they are for me. On more than one occasion, it saved me.
  6. Stay cool. I felt much better being cool. It’ll be difficult in Southern Louisiana, but I’m going to give it a try.
  7. Eat only enough to feel satisfied and then throw the rest away. Eat lots of fresh fruit, especially seasonal and high protein dairy and nuts, and I should be fine.

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I feel better already. I’m stopped at a Starbucks having a Chai Latte – no coffee – and I decided to take time to write. I was feeling down about going home. I didn’t miss writing on the trip. I was able to enjoy myself without the narrator cataloging content for writing. But, I knew I was ready to write last night when I was gazing at the stars from the window of my tent. There’s a whole world out there that never lays eyes on a starry night that bold and beautiful. I myself had never heard a bear bellow in the middle of the night from a nearby mountainside. I think you all should have the opportunity to be lulled to sleep in the mountain air with a roaring stream gurgling nearby and your dog nestled next to your head. But, if you don’t have the opportunity, you can read about it. I’m happy to provide the material. It makes me feel less alone.