Doing What We Do:Women’s March

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Photo from USA Today

Yesterday I had previous plans that were important to me, and I missed the women’s march in Chicago. Let me say right off I REGRET IT!!!! Dammit! I had the once in a lifetime chance to march in what turned out to be one of the greatest showings of solidarity and support among women around the world, and I missed it. I will never get that opportunity back.

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For most people I know, Friday was a gloomy day. “I can’t bear to even look at the news,” said one of my friends. Another said she tried to read the speech but just got so irritated she had to shut it down. I felt nauseated most of the day and grappled with my fear and acceptance of this person who violates most of my personal values leading this country. But, for all, we are swallowing our feelings and moving on, trying to make a difference in our own ways. As for my women friends, we are the peacemakers, the lovers and the fighters.

But yesterday was a day of hope. As I watched post after post of my beautiful friends who attended marches and rallies post of the positivity and loving energy produced yesterday, I felt more hope. I spent the afternoon with a woman who is a recent single Mom of three talking about the struggles and triumphs of being a divorced single homeowner and making it on our own. The thing is …. we SUPPORT each other. We CHEER each other’s successes. Women, while we have our weaknesses, are rock-solid when we bond together.

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Photo from New York Magazine

One-third of women in this country live in poverty or are right on the line. 80% of single-parent households are run by women who make 70 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Many find that their men are their adversaries not their helpmates. We are talked over in meetings, interrupted as we speak, have our ideas stolen and are criticized on personal attributes more than our performance – and that’s just my personal experience. But we have each other. We complain to each other, cry over the unfairness of it all, wipe each other’s tears and  urge each other to get back in the game. Men have told me that they wish they had the support that women had for each other. The irony is that all you have to do is give it to get it. It’s not a gender issue. It’s a character trait.

So, this Women’s March – and there were many men in attendance as well – of yesterday is not surprising to me. It’s what we do. There are naysayers, and I don’t imagine Mr. “I’m giving America back to the people” will even consider us the people. It truly doesn’t matter. We know how to get through tough times without the support of the establishment. We have always been the underdog. There was a time not too long ago that we didn’t even have the opportunity to vote. Our strength does not emanate from what we are given,  it is built from exercising the muscle that we have.

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People Tell You Who They Are

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Yesterday on a social media site a young woman posted a question to her “followers”. She had gotten back together with a boyfriend after she had lost some weight. She wasn’t at her ultimate goal, but she was on her way. She was enjoying being back in his arms, but he got honest with her about the reason he broke up with her in the first place. He told her he couldn’t deal with her weight problem. She wanted to know if she should overlook this since she was losing weight AND she really thought they got along together on so many other fronts.

One of the things that has most surprised me about dating is that people really do tell you who they are. They will especially tell you who they are when you are first getting to know them. I’ve had guys tell me they were “pricks”, emotionally unavailable and workaholics as if this was some moniker that would cause a woman to be drawn to them. Or maybe with the problems they have, they were trying to push me away. It’s hard to know what’s in someone’s head, but I know that they very clearly tell you who they are.

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After I divorced and was in counseling, I decided to go back and read my journals. In my mind, we’d had a good stretch and then it gradually turned really bad. I found a different story entirely from the strokes of my own hand. The picture I painted of the man that I eventually married was the exact image of the man I came to know. But a different woman excused every message that was inherent in that image. I was stunned to see how I took ownership for his sarcastic insults. “Maybe I need to be more forgiving and less sensitive,” I’d write. I laughed when my words excused his inability to be concerned about my needs and feelings because he’d had a rough past. And I felt really sad when I penned comments about how I needed to eat my feelings in order to make this relationship work. He not only told me who he was, he showed me in spades. Love is most certainly blind.

These days I listen to what people say about themselves. We have this tendency to “correct” people’s stated assumptions because it makes us feel like they are being hard on themselves. “I don’t take care of myself” is met with “YES! You do!” followed by a litany of things that we see them doing for self-care. It would be better to listen to them and realize that in some area of their lives they may not take care of themselves. I like to ask for more information. They may be itching to talk about it. I don’t want to shut them down.

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The inauguration speech yesterday told us what our new President thinks of America. I laughed when I read it. It’s not the America I see at all, and his speech says more about him than it does the actual state of the country. Just read one fact-checking article to discover the truth. I know that he’s telling us who he is. And he’s been telling us all along. I’ve been listening, and I’ll continue to listen. But I’m also listening to the America I know and love. She is speaking loud and clear that we may be flawed, but we are a great country that has all along been making great strides in making it a great country for all citizens. I can’t go back to the woman who ignores the very real message when a person tells me who they are. And I pray that this country can’t go back to where we came either.

A counselor once told me that I have a responsibility to tell people who I am. They shouldn’t have to guess. I had never thought of it that way. I wanted them to look for it. I wanted them to see through my silence and my hurt feelings to understand how I felt. I wanted them to make room for me instead of realizing that I had to make room for myself. I was a stewing angry victim. This was a thought pattern that kept me stuck in every relationship and interaction that had any meaning in my life. I did not develop the courage to stand up and say who I was. Hell, at some point, I don’t think I even knew who I was. How could I say it? Telling people who I am is a great gift for me and for my relationships. It saves us all time and energy. And it helps me own my power.

“Thank him for telling you who he is and move on,” I responded to the social media post. It is a gift to know now rather than live with it later.

Peeling the Onion

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Image from the tinybuddha.com

I didn’t make any New Years Resolutions, but I pretty quickly decided I was sick of eating junk, feeling bad and having difficulty waking up in the morning. I’ve been in a Virtual Boot Camp run by my favorite fitness expert, Jessica, since before Thanksgiving, so my exercise has been on track, but my eating and sugar and caffeine consumption was up. I’m so sensitive to the effects of those stimulants that a steady dose can really start to ramp up my anxiety and cause insomnia. I hate the roller-coaster but I love the drugs.

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My sister has been having amazing success with Weight Watchers (WW) for many, many months. I joined when I first got up here to get back on track during my relocation, and it really helped. Susan is so enthusiastic about exercise now that I tease her about being abducted. For so many years, I was the one who worked out all the time, and she would tell me “no way”. In the last few years, she lost a couple of friends to weight-related illnesses, and she has become convinced that exercise – and eating well – are the tickets to a quality long life. I concur. It’s what has kept me moving back on track for my entire life. I love how I feel when I’m taking care of myself.

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Me and Susan last spring in Natchez

WW has an internal social media site where members can share their successes and challenges. It is the most encouraging and positive social media group I’ve ever experienced. I routinely tear up at posts about how people have changed their lives while learning to take care of their bodies. The dirty little secret is when you start getting disciplined about self-care your confidence grows, you feel better, and it can be a catalyst for change in all areas of your life. Susan remarked one time that she was amazed at how many people lost weight and after a few years, they start dealing with other addictions like alcohol or drugs. We are like onions. When you peel one layer back, yet another lies beneath.

While I had been in a great routine in Louisiana of cooking most of meals and eating right, I have gradually gotten off kilter here. I like trying out the new restaurants, and I’ve struggled with the lack of fresh, local produce this winter. I really miss the bountiful farmer’s market in Baton Rouge in January bursting with citrus and fresh vegetables. The availability of that kind of yummy harvest kept me motivated to eat right.

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I hear they already have strawberries in Louisiana!

After a week of our long days in our new organization, I decided I needed to focus on the basics or I was going to gain some weight and get off track with my exercise. So, I committed to joining WW again and focusing on cooking, eating healthy, walking my dog and exercising. I started practicing yoga in the mornings with Adriene for her 31-day Revolution challenge (It’s free!). I committed to squeezing in my 30-minute boot camp circuits no matter what, and to get more creative with my recipes and dishes on the Smartpoints plan to keep me satisfied.

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Because my time is so limited now because of work, I don’t have time for much else. I’m not socializing during the week, my house is a complete disaster, and I’m having to be very deliberate with my personal schedule. But, last night as I stood in the kitchen cooking my oatmeal for this morning and planning my lunch for today, I realized how good I felt about myself and my life right now. My head is clear at work. I’m starting to laugh regularly in the office and feel energized about my new role. I’m not having to sleep as much to feel rested, so I’m gaining a little time back. My achy knee and tight shoulder are only bothering me sporadically as the yoga lubricates and heals my joints. I feel much more emotionally-balanced and grounded – except for earlier in the week when I drank two cups of coffee and spiraled into an emotional mess. Taking care of myself just feels good.

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I’ve actually lost 5 pounds in the two weeks I’ve been doing this, but weight loss was not my goal. I’m doing the maintenance plan. Because I feel good, and my diet and exercise are more controlled, I can tell when I’m feeling off-kilter, and I have the data to understand why. I fell off the wagon with coffee for my birthday weekend, and I went to work Monday morning and guzzled two cups of amazing Sumatra coffee. When I crashed, I burned. I realized the cause immediately. The depression was not real. My life was not in a death spiral. I was just having my usual reaction to too much coffee.

 

Our bodies are so complex. They are truly miracles, but we are own worst enemies. Sure it’s harder to plan meals and make time for exercise. But, honestly, the time and energy I get back from feeling good and sleeping well gives me that time back in spades. I don’t watch TV, and if I stay off social media, I have plenty of time to take care of myself. I learned a long time ago if I don’t make the time to take care of myself, why should anybody else?

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I think the key for me is to be inspired and motivated by others to stay on track. I’m always going to have times when I’m not very focused on self-care, but I always come to a point where I know I have to get focused again. As I get older, those times are becoming more and more frequent. My body doesn’t tolerate as much abuse. It wants health, or it bites back. I try to listen. My Virtual Boot Camp group is fun and inspiring, and they keep me motivated to check off the daily workout. It ends in two weeks. I’m already trying to think ahead about what to do next. WW gives me some rails on food, provides a social media-style outlet for inspiration, and their fitness points reward me for moving. And my sister is inspiring me at a time when I’m struggling to get the energy to do it all!

For the time being, I’ll continue to peel the onion….. keep inspiring me!

 

 

 

 

Things I Learned in My 55th Year

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Today I am 56 years old. WTF? Dolly Parton’s birthday is also this week, and she’ll be 71. I’m only 15 years from 71. Holy cow… WTH???

Daddy called this morning and wished me a happy birthday. He went on and on about being old enough to have a daughter that is 55. I said, “Daddy, I’m 56.” “That’s even worse!” he said. I laughed but it wasn’t funny. Why does this clock keep moving? Can’t I just take out the batteries and let it rest awhile?

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I know in my heart that there is full life on the other side, but I have a long list of trails to hike and adventures to take here on earth. If I was independently wealthy I might have time to get them all in, but I have to work until I can retire … and if the Republicans have their way, I probably won’t even be able to do that. So, I’m pretty much relegated to fitting it in between holidays and vacation weeks which means I have to prioritize. 15 years? 20 years? How much time is there left anyway? Who says the biological clock ticks in your 30s? Mine is ticking now.

56…. I can remember when I thought that was old. And I feel as good now as I did in my 30s. Well, regardless, there’s not anything I can do about it but make the best of each day. So, I’d like to reflect a minute on some of the things I learned in my 55th year (the blogs are linked for your enjoyment):

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I am a badass in my soul. I learned how to backpack in my 54th year and took the new hobby on my own in my 55th year. I learned to scale down my pack to the essentials and that didn’t include makeup or hair product. I also learned that I can be a badass if I want to be, and I enjoy doing it. In a few words, I learned that I don’t need much baggage to be happy and content. I just need to be challenged.

Kefir is a miracle anti-depressant. I haven’t talked about this much since I’ve started making kefir and drinking it everyday, but I’m here to tell you that this stuff is a game-changer when it comes to anxiety and depression. Since July I’ve been consuming a glass every morning, and I usually end the day with a glass. It helps with my blood sugar after I consume sugar, and it keeps my anxiety at bay. They say that gut health is critical for anxiety issues, and I’m a believer now. Even Ashok is less anxious because she gets a couple tablespoons when I do. Kefir rocks… and it’s so easy to make at home!

God is not too busy to take care of me. I won’t go into a ton of detail about it here, but the way this job and move came about was absolutely divinely inspired. I should not be here, but I am, and I got an amazingly low interest rate on a 15-year mortgage on a great house. If I ever doubt that God has my back, please slap me silly. He even made sure I would stop complaining about the heat. He covered all the bases…. period.

Change your energy … change your life. I had another session with Lexlee a couple of weeks ago. I was starting to feel a bit down after the holidays, and I needed a lift. I’ve had the same experience this time as I had last year – although not as dramatic because I’m in a better place to start. When I shift my energy, and I start focusing on keeping it that way – doing yoga, eating right and managing my emotional state by feeling my feelings – life starts moving in an improved direction.

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I don’t know what I’ll learn in my 56th year. I hope I learn that having sex is like riding a bicycle. Or maybe I’ll learn that being wealthy doesn’t solve all your problems, but it does allow me to buy a yacht. I know that I will learn something. I’m learning much more rapidly as I get older. I know I pay attention more, and I also focus on living my life with intention. Every moment seems so important now. When I do cross over to the other side – this week or 40 years from now – I want to remember every second. I want to know that I spent my time here enjoying all of the beauty and love and laughter that was put in front of me. And maybe I’ll even inspire a few others along the way.

Grappling with my Shortcomings

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I am grappling with my propensity for judgment. I’d like to say that I’m open-minded – and I am. But I also have a tendency to judge that is causing me to reflect painfully on my shortcomings. Thankfully, I’m in good company. You judge people, too.

Making judgments hurts. It hurts the person being judged. It hurts me. It hurts the whole human race because we are all connected. What I find most sad about this year’s election is it brought to the surface many of the judgments we make about each other. I guess the perk is we get to see all of our glorious ugliness now. The Emperor is wearing no clothes. This is us. What was hidden at family dinner tables and behind HR policies at work is now written on billboards. We don’t really like each other, and I think you are stupid. You think I’m a libtard (Yes, I’ve read your Facebook posts). We are all assholes, and it’s painfully evident right now. And, quite honestly, we are a nation in pain because of our judgments. And I, for one, need to look at my part.

I went to a meditation this week, and in the middle of moving all of the other garbage out of the way in my brain, it came through loud and clear that I’m a jerk. Yes, I’m sweet and intuitive and care about human rights, but I have a propensity – when given the opportunity – to be a jerk. I have hurt people. I am probably hurting someone right now. If you hurt me in any way, I have this knee-jerk reaction to make you pay. It’s childish, and it hurts both of us, but that’s my dirty little secret. And don’t start judging me because if you are honest with yourself, you do it, too.

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You spot it. You’ve got it. These are some painful words that have an unbelievable amount of truth to them. I know, I know. You are not a sheep, and you don’t believe everything you read on the internet. But, if you have judged people for that, there is some truth that it pisses you off because at your very core you are gullible and – get this – you are a sheep that doesn’t know everything either. You have felt at the mercy of a system and a world that doesn’t give you straight facts, and you are afraid you could be wrong. Hurts, doesn’t it? “NO WAY!”  you scream to no one in particular. And maybe you do take great pains to not have a wool coat and to check your facts. But you know deep inside you have the propensity to be what you despise. And THAT’s what ticks you off. It’s not me. It’s what inside you that disgusts you. But it’s so much easier to hate me, isn’t it? Even if it hurts both of us.

I have wounds from past relationships. I’ve been emotionally and verbally abused. Those gaping raw spots in my psyche cause me to build walls when I feel that energy around me. I can’t tolerate Facebook, and I have difficulty even talking to some people. I don’t want to go there again. I don’t want to be a victim and feel that pain. But I know that I had a part in those relationships. I didn’t know how to deal effectively with that situation, and I participated in it. Now I have tools to deal with those kinds of people but I’m not real sure of myself. There is a part of me inside that is still terrified if I let you near me, you will rip my heart out again. So, what do I do? I cut you out first. I build my wall. And nobody pays more for it than me.

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I feel like I’m protecting myself, but I’m not. I’m just hurting myself in a different way. The wall gets thicker, and I get less connected. And if I really think about the “you spot it you got it” rationale, the reason it ticks me off so much that you talk to me that way is that you built a wall, too. Your wall is a wall of words that makes me less human so that my very being doesn’t call into question who you are. If you are railing at me, you can’t look at yourself. So, you build your wall, and I build mine. We judge and we seeth and we bleed from the inside. We both lose, and neither of us learns anything. Everybody pays.

I wish I could end this blog saying I’ve resolved this, but I haven’t. I’m grappling with my judgment. I’m bleeding from your judgment of me. I’m afraid of a world that is building walls faster than we are mending hearts. The word that keeps coming up for me is compassion. So I am grappling with how to be compassionate when I am scared of getting hurt. I sort of feel safe behind my wall. I’m struggling with how to be compassionate with myself for my own shortcomings. I want to be compassionate with you because I want you to be compassionate with me. I know that neither of us is anywhere near perfect.

It is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human.

~~ Nayyirah Waheed, Poet

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Night Check-In: Chillin’

It was a long week last week. Everyday started at 6:30 AM ended around 7:30 PM with a meeting. Luckily, there were slow times in between where I could run home and walk my dog, but I had some very long days even for somebody who usually gets up early. I’m waking up now at 4:15 AM in order to squeeze some yoga in, cook breakfast, take care of the animals and get out the door on time. I appreciated being able to sleep in this weekend even though “sleeping in” is about 6 for me.

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I started a 31 day yoga practice with a YouTube yoga teacher named Adriene. The practices are about 25-35 minutes, and she varies them from day to day. Her practices are moderate in pace, and she has a great knowledge of meditation and pranayama, too. So, when I saw she started a “Revolution 31-Day Practice” January 1 I decided to give it a try. I’m a little late starting but it doesn’t matter. The sessions are recorded. But I think they will be a better wake-up call for me than hitting a cup of coffee or tea first thing. I did Day 1 today, and I felt so much better after doing it.

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I’m also in a Virtual Boot Camp. It’s led by my friend and coach Jessica, and it’s a sane but effective strength-training and cardio series. We do three “circuit” trainings per  week which last 30 minutes each. I usually have no issues squeezing them in, but last week’s time suck really knocked me off the program. I only got one circuit done. I’m committing to doing tomorrow’s circuit no matter what, so I just cooked up a bunch of veggies and fruit for tomorrow’s dinner. I can just saute’ a fish filet, and I’ll be eating.

 

Yesterday I met up with another Michigan blogger here in St. Joe. Stacy has been following my blog since I moved up here, and we’ve been chatting off and on about meeting each other. We finally did it yesterday, and it was really fun to talk with another blogger and writer. During our conversation, I found out her boss was one of my best friends! She told me about ice fishing which is a big hobby of hers, and she shared many stories about snowmobiling in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Apparently, the groomed trails up there are very popular, and she said people snowmobile at about 80-100 mph. I’d love to go up there and experience that. But she prefers the slower pace of ice fishing. She explained to me that the huts that I see on the lake are more for parties. Most people just go out on the ice, cut a hole and fish. She brings a Coleman lantern to warm up her fingers when they get cold, and she gave me a tip to wear a mitten over my gloves to keep my hands warm.

I also met up with my friend Karen yesterday and then went ice skating at the local rink. I’m getting better. I’m able to glide a little, but I did fall twice in rapid succession last night. I lived to tell about it, and when I left the rink at the end of the evening, this woman stopped to tell me how good I was. I laughed because I thought she was being sarcastic, but she said she was serious. I don’t know that I’m good, but I am not as scared as I once was, and I am feeling like I’m actually skating now. My friends John and Marge run the concession stand, so I get to visit with them while I’m there. It’s great fun and exercise for only $5 a pop.

I had great intentions to go to the gym this morning, but my garage door opener didn’t work. My car was stuck inside the garage, and I don’t have a door on it. I had to call my neighbor, and her boyfriend came over and helped me. We finally managed to pull the cord to release the door without breaking a window, but it was very cold standing out there trying to do that. It’s an old garage door opener, so I don’t think I can program a new remote for it. I think I’m going to have to get a new one or just do without.

The rest of the day I just cleaned the house, deep-conditioned my hair and got food ready for the week ahead. I took Ashok for a walk at about 5, and it was so beautiful out. The sun was shining, and Lake Michigan was frozen over almost to the end of the pier. Silver Beach was deserted except for a few people taking photographs. I wish that a photograph could show you what it looks like, but there’s just no way to capture the icy magnificence unless you are immersed in it.

Ashok is getting used to her new booties!

I’m seriously considering getting in shape to run again. I don’t know that I want to do long-distance running anymore, but I’d like to be able to run a few miles to get my heart rate up a little higher than when I’m walking. I have something going on with my piriformis right now, so I’m really on the fence of whether I should try to run or not. But it’s just hard to get motivated to go to the gym, and I feel like I need something that’s also good for my soul. Running really fits the bill, and it can be done in 30 minutes. We’ll see where I land on that.

I hope you are noodling some healthy behaviors right now. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but I am a big fan of fresh starts. I’ve learned over the years that exercise of any kind gets boring to me after awhile, and I’m always having to change it up. It’s so important for my well-being.

Have a great week, y’all. Get out and move. Your body will thank you.

 

“Welcome Aboard,” The Conductor Said

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Some of my friends do not understand why I would ever come live in a place with a northern winter. I get a lot of flack from them when I post pics of this beautiful Michigan season on Facebook. I’m sitting here looking out my window at the snowy scene at the first glimpse of daylight. Frost etchings in the corners of my windows make the most delicate frame for the winter scene.

Why am I here … at this time … and in this place … AGAIN?? I’ve asked myself the question numerous times – each time for different reasons. Sometimes it’s in angst from the effort of moving. Other times the pain of loneliness begs to know why as I struggle to get connected. And just as often, it’s asked in a sense of anticipation and wonder. Why am I here? 

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I moved when I was younger out of a sense of adventure laced with some sort of searching urgency. I was looking for something. I’ve described midlife as a time of waking up for me, and, in this time, this relocation business has reframed to something else entirely. I’ve learned over the years – and the lessons – that everything happens for a reason. The urgency for answers has gone, and I find myself relaxing into the questions.

When I was first contacted about this job, I pulled the Eagle card. It is the first card in my Medicine Card deck, and it represents a strong connection to the Great Spirit. Eagle medicine urges me to look at things from the eagle’s perspective, a perspective much broader than a human perspective. My friend Ann reminds me of this when things get tough. Sometimes I’m happy to be reminded. Other times I ask, “But why, dear God, am I here?”

Loneliness is my greatest teacher. Being an extrovert, I have a high sensitivity to loneliness, but I also have this really strong need for solitude. Achieving a balance is critical for my well-being. I’ve gotten so much better at understanding my needs, but when events like a relocation happen in my life, the challenge increases.

This bench was at the top of a dune at Grand Mere State Park, and this was the view!

I had some energy work done with my friend Lexlee the other night because I was feeling lonely and low after the holidays. During my session, she said the Eagle came to her. It was a reminder of my purpose here, and she reiterated the assurance that ‘Every step has a reason.’ I pulled a card the next morning to see how I could “step into” Eagle energy because right now it seems a bit unreachable. Wolf appeared to me and reminded me that I am a teacher. And right in the middle of the reading for the card, wolf medicine urges me to “seek out lonely places that will allow you to see your teacher within. In the aloneness of a power place, devoid of other humans, you may find the true you.”

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I still don’t know the answer to “Why Am I Here?” I may never know the answer. But I do know that there is a reason I am here. I have learned that God does not send me anywhere for a job. He sends me to places because I need to be in a specific place with a certain group of people at a certain time. I imagine myself boarding this Southwest Michigan passenger train at this moment in time,  and none of us really knows where we are going or why we are aboard. We could be riding together for a long time or a short distance, but when I think of how this all came about there is no doubt that I landed here on the wings of eagles. So, I’m just trying to step into my own best self and contribute what I think is mine to give.

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Last week I hiked in Grand Mere State Park. Like Warren Dunes, it is a beautiful place with woods and enormous sand dunes overlooking that jewel Lake Michigan. I stood on the top of a dune and looked around. “Why am I here?” I said aloud. Without even knowing that I would later that evening brush wings with eagle, I felt her presence. The view was incredible, and I was literally on top of my world. The sting of loneliness ebbed beneath the surface of my heart, but the magic of this transition held me captive emotionally. “You know why you are here,” eagle answered back as she descended upon me playfully. My soul resonated with the knowing that this is a spiritual journey that led me to the top of a dune in a very cold place alive with a warm and inviting spirit.

“Welcome Aboard,” the conductor said. “Enjoy your ride.”

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Winter Moments

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It’s cold everywhere today. My Memphis friends are checking in with snow photos from a long snowy day at home. A friend from Baton Rouge called me to laughingly inform me it was 38 degrees, and Louisiana was officially shutting down. My old boss texted me a photo of an icy drive home in North Louisiana. All evidence says that winter is settling in even in the deep south.

As for me, I shoveled snow twice today although my snow removal person told me we didn’t have enough snow for him to worry about. I informed him that I was Southern and wouldn’t know how much snow was enough to shovel. He told me that this snow was powdery and nice, but if it’s a wet snow, I’d need to have it shoveled. “It all depends on the type of snow,” he said. I reminded him again that I was Southern, and I wouldn’t know the difference in types of snow. He left with an assurance that I would figure it out, and that he would help me when it gets too bad to get out of my driveway. And he wouldn’t even let me pay him.

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This morning I had to be at work for 6:30, so I drove to work in complete darkness. But it was so beautiful out. The roads were completely covered in snow as the plows had not gotten cranked up yet. The bridge over the St. Joseph River was icy and snowy, and it all looked like a perfect winter wonderland. Christmas lights still burn up here because … well… it still looks like Christmas. As I left the edge of town and hit the country road leading to Whirlpool’s campus, it got darker. The snow was blowing sideways in the wind, and I felt myself start to smile this really big grin.

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I slowed down for the Whirlpool parking lot which was almost completely empty except for a car that had been left overnight and one or two others from my team. The parking lot was not cleared, so my tires squeaked on the freshly fallen layer of snow. I parked under the lights and jumped out of the car. With the delight of a child at 6:20 in the morning, I took some pictures of my workplace lit up in the snow. I looked around and realized that no picture could capture the moment in this snowstorm. The scene was only mine to see.

I’ve felt it many times since I’ve been here. Standing on top of the dunes at Grand Mere or Warren Dunes State Park, driving through corn fields in late summer, freezing at the end of the pier by the St. Joe lighthouse in a vicious wind…. the raw beauty of it all ignites something inside of me that makes me feel quite young again. Even while I’m out shoveling snow in the darkness with my dog running around rolling in the snow I feel this sense of adventure… a knowing that this life is short, and this moment – all moments – are fleeting.

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Tonight I bundled up – 13 degrees and dropping – and took Ashok for a walk. I finally found some little booties that work, and she looked so cute plodding around in them. I was wrapped up in my down parka, $75 technical gloves that still don’t keep my fingers warm and my snow boots. We trudged across snowbanks and shoveled walks. The snow was coming down hard and fast, and the Christmas lights twinkled an assortment of colors.

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I let Ashok loose in a field of snow, and she raced in circles, rolling in the snow every few seconds. She ran back toward me and gazed at me in a downward-facing dog position. She was completely covered in snow. Her black fur made a shadowy outline around her eyes. For a moment, I really regretted that I didn’t bring a camera. I giggled because she looked so funny. And, just like this morning, I realized that some moments are not meant to be captured. They are only meant to be lived.

Enjoy winter, my friends – whether you have it for a day or for a season, it’s meant for inward reflection and downtime. Fix a hot chocolate and cuddle up with a loved one. Tomorrow, this moment will be history.

It Ended As It Began – 2016

 

 

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Happy New Years Eve! 2016 has been an up and down year for me for sure. I’m eager to see it end, and excited to see what 2017 might bring. All week, I’ve been seeing memories from Facebook of last year’s holiday hike on the Wild Azalea Trail. It was my first long backpacking trip with three ladies and one girl dog. It’s made me reflect on that hike and remember what it meant to me to be so adventurous and learn all of those new survival skills. It truly was a life-changing experience.

Last year’s hike on the Wild Azalea Trail….

As I was watching those pics pop up, it made me a little sad that I didn’t have hiking buddies this year. I’m ready to get out hiking, but I just don’t have those folks on speed dial that would say Hell, yeah! if I called and asked if they wanted to go on a hike. By some stroke of sheer luck, my friend Karen posted on Facebook that she was in Southwest Michigan this week. Karen is one of the lucky travelers who travels around the country in her RV working at National Parks and other odd jobs. In her spare time she hikes. I went out to dinner with her last night, and at the last moment, I asked her if she wanted to hike this morning. “Hell, yeah!” she said. (Well, maybe that’s not what she said, but that’s what I heard.)

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We met at 9 AM at Warren Dunes State Park. It is about a 25-minute drive from my house. I had driven over there once before but wasn’t interested in just climbing those steep dunes all day. I had done some research and found out that not all of the trails were over the dunes. Some were in the woods, so I was eager to get my feet on the trial to see if I liked it.

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We hiked through the woods with our dogs – females Ashok and Tippy – on another all-girl adventure. A slight dusting of snow was evident at the start, but gradually the snow disappeared. The leisurely trail through the wooded park sat just on the edge of the sand dunes. We finally reached a juncture where we had to choose if we wanted to get physical and climb some dunes or stay with a more easy pace. We both decided to go for it, and up we went into some of the largest freshwater sand dunes in the world on a beautiful 40-degree day.

The dunes, of course, led us to that gorgeous gem, Lake Michigan. There was no ice today. We walked the beach next to crystal green water boiling with waves just like the ocean. We found a little “tumbleweed” that was formed from the dune grasses that line the shore. The dunes had eroded a great deal, and a massive “wall” of sand marked the edge of the beach. The sand was stacked in layers that looked like some kind of massive sandstone rock formation.

The tumbleweed and sand wall….

We climbed Mount Randal which is a 260-foot dune and the namesake of the trail. Feeling like we were lost in the desert, we kept climbing and walking on the top of the dunes trying to find the trail. It disappeared into the blowing sand, and there was little evidence of a walkway. To our left was a sharp drop-off that went almost straight down to the woods, and on our right was a less steep but still unnavigable drop into the heart of the dunes. Eventually, we saw this really long, steep “trail” that looked like it led back to the wooded area. We decided to slide down as far as we needed and then lope the rest of the way down the dunes. It was like a long sand slide, and I had a ball trying to get down.

We found a lovely little creek at the bottom and followed it and the trail back to the car. It was such a beautiful day, and the dogs had a great time playing with each other and hiking. It was a perfect way to spend the last day of 2016. I’d spent the first day of 2016 on a trail in North Louisiana alongside a beautiful creek. I never would have dreamed that I’d be climbing a massive sand dune in Michigan by the end of the year.

On the way back, Karen and I talked about the Great Lakes and the massive sand dunes. On that trail, we had two very distinct eco-systems. The dunes very quickly fade into a super-dark soil that could support trees and ferns. The Great Lakes were formed when very heavy glaciers pressed down upon the earth and dug out (or pressed down) the soil. So, these dunes and soil rose up in the process. When the glaciers melted, the depressions filled with water, and we now have some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. I find the history so fascinating.

I hope that you have a Happy New Years’ Eve tonight, and I wish you the very best year for 2017. I hope that you discover and seek out experiences that fill your heart with joy and make your soul’s desires your most important priority. Life is too short to miss the beauty and love all around us. And it won’t come to you. You have to go seek it out. Happy New Year!

See this drone footage I found on YouTube of the park we hiked today….

 

 

You Do You, Boo

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My friend Betsy replied to my post last night about my underlying sadness. I was struggling to put words to my feelings, but she sort of hit it dead on.

“I think the underlying sadness is this feeling that we expected something different at this point in our lives. Almost like it’s not supposed to be this hard or this lonely. That we fight so hard to get to the good moments that once they come we cling to them as they are so fragile and as they slip away that undercurrent is waiting to drag us down. But we fight to stay above it…. fight to find our way back to those fleeting moments of pure happiness and contentment. When I have them, I stop, stand completely still, and just take a deep breath. Breathing in the relief that comes with it. Breathing it up to bottle for later when the sadness threatens again. ”

~~ Betsy

This is the dilemma of midlife, right? It is one of the most amazing times I’ve ever experienced with its knowing and non-stop questions and insights. Sometimes I think when I hit 45, I slammed into a wall and woke up.

I really have worked hard to stay awake. I did my therapy and recovery work to take care of my addictions and compulsions that drove me like a driverless bus throughout my early life. I learned what works for me spiritually, and I’ve made big efforts to set boundaries around evil in my life so that I can focus on what is light and good. I’ve simplified, and I try to spend my time enjoying myself and the world around me. And I’ve made major strides in developing connecting and loving relationships with lots of safe people. And, I have to say that my life is good. I’m more content than I’ve ever been. I know how to “do me”.

When I was moving up here, I called my sister, and I was discussing my fears about moving and my angst about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I feel so out of step with most of the world because I’ve lived my life differently. I have no husband, no children, and I focus on a different agenda than our mainstream culture. And here I was – at 55 – moving again for a new job in a frozen tundra. I was worried I was too different and what if I look back at some future date and realize that I’ve done this whole thing wrong. “But that’s not you, Sharon,” she said, stopping my anxious rant in its tracks. “You have to do you, Boo,” she added.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized two things. The world as we know it is one big dysfunctional game. And I don’t want to play it anymore. This one spin around the world is way too important to me to play meaningless games. I don’t want to play political games at work. I don’t want to play passive-aggressive games in relationships. I don’t even much like to play board games although I’m starting to realize it’s a great way to connect with people. I’m working really hard to get out of the game-playing, manipulative culture. But it’s not easy. The world is fast asleep on its own driverless bus, and it’s not my job to wake it up.

It can be disorienting at times to feel like I’m peering through the looking glass. Thankfully, I have lots of awake friends who listen and help keep me on track. Like my sister, they are aware of their internal compass. They are aware that living life mindfully is a choice that is not easy to navigate. They understand that loss is a natural thing, and we have tools that help move us through it rather than denying its existence. And like my friend Betsy, they treasure the fleeting moments of contentment and serenity.

I only know my experience of midlife, and I think this time is truly magical. I love having more comfort with who I am. I treasure the awareness that I can choose when to engage and when to step away. Making a choice is empowering. It’s cool to have all of these life experiences that I can use to understand who I am and what makes me tick. My history is a treasure chest of trinkets – some broken or corroded and some completely intact – for reflection and study. My emotions no longer ebb and flow on a hormonal cycle, and I can more easily see how they relate to my experience. The urgency of youth has been replaced with a more grounded urgency to live my life authentically. This time in life is so rich.

I did expect something different at this time in my life. But I think if I had created what I expected, I might still be comfortable sleeping. I can never know for sure, but I think that somehow, unwittingly and against all odds, I became who I was born to be. It’s not anywhere near perfect, but I think it’s perfect for me.