I did not have a television for over 20 years. I know that seems crazy, but it was an evolution born of necessity. In 2000, I broke up with a fiancee who was sharing living expenses with me. In order to afford my mortgage, I had to cut costs and cable was among the first things to go. I still watched DVDs on my television set, but I no longer watched anything else. As my finances got sorted out, I was able to afford cable, but I had broken the habit of watching television, and it just seemed like I’d have to MAKE myself watch it. I just didn’t see the point.
My friend Randy texted me one day during the lockdown and offered me his TV. He was getting a new one and knew I didn’t have one. Given that I can now hook up my computer to the television, I thought it would be a great idea. Besides I had lots of free time when I was out on furlough and truly nothing else to do. So I said thank you and signed up for Netflix.
I’m on the fence of whether I think this is a good thing or not. I quickly got back in the habit of watching TV when I really could be doing something more productive. But I have really enjoyed some of the shows that are available to watch and binge-watching has transformed the experience. I am stunned when I think that we all had three hours to kill four nights a week for mini-series back in the 70s. Life was very different, but we just had to wait for the next episode, the next season or the next re-run. It drove me crazy to flip through channels to find something to watch and watching drivel just because there was nothing on. That was definitely a waste of time.
During lockdown I started with Grace and Frankie and quickly moved to Schitt’s Creek. Both helped me shift my attention and provided laughter during a very dark time. I fell in love with Schitt’s Creek and began reading everything I could about the show. I’ve since watched the entire series twice and follow the entire cast on Twitter. In a world where love and laughter is in short supply, I found a source right at my fingertips and for only $12.99 a month. Want to laugh? Hit Play.
Once I was done with Schitt’s Creek I sort of lost my way. I watched a few old movies such as Tootsie and The American President and then I found a few new ones about drag queens and plant-based eating. Somehow I stumbled on to The West Wing. I’m not sure why I chose it the first time, but I found myself so enamored with a White House that was actually filled with love of country, intelligence and a way with words. It felt like a long, cool drink of water, and I kept pressing play. I am like the patient with a morphine pump looking to ease my pain. I am quite simply addicted and madly in love.
This is old time television with 22 episodes per seasons, and the shows are an hour long. When I tell you that August and September have literally been spent watching The West Wing I am not exaggerating. I watch in the morning when I drink coffee. I watch during lunch. By the time it’s 4 PM I am settled in for the evening for a literal marathon of episodes before bedtime. And, if it’s a season ender, you won’t find me in bed until long after the plot line has been resolved. I …. cannot… STOP.
I can’t decide which character I like best. I’d like to sleep with every one of the men on the show including Toby. I want to be C.J., and I would love to be best friends with Mandy. I am googling them all to see what they are doing now. I’m listening to The West Wing Weekly podcast which covers literally every episode one by glorious one. I’m listening to interviews and blow-by-blow accounts of the making of each show. I am fascinated by the writing process and how an episode comes together. I am obsessed, and there is just no other word for it. I’m learning so much about the way our government works, and I feel like my intellectual soul is in heaven. It is truly sapiosexual porn, and I’m all in.
I’m almost at the end of Season 7, the final season. John Spencer, who plays the wonderful, wise and warm Chief of Staff dies of a heart attack during the last season. I was devastated when I read it, and I dreaded getting to the part where he would no longer be in it. But I was not prepared for the emotional reaction I’d have. For one thing, his character, Leo, has a heart attack in Season 6, and it was so painful to watch knowing that he actually died like this in real life. They moved him into a role where he was less on his game, and I just imagined the whole time he was marching toward his death. I literally was an emotional wreck when I got to the episode where they had to write him out due to his real-life death. I feel like I’ve lost a best friend and mentor.
When I was in my thirties, I got hooked on Thirtysomething in the same way. Ironically, a couple of those actors were guests on The West Wing, and I felt so connected to them. The show reflected something about me back then that I needed to see.They were my friends at a time in my life when I needed friends and a role model for adulting. I was devastated when it ended. Lonesome Dove was the fantasy of my high school years, and I remember being completely addicted to Dallas during college. They all offered me something, and I literally fell in love with every single one.
I’m not sure when this West Wing obsession will end, but I joined a Facebook group obsessed with it, and I am making my way through that crazy podcast. And, actually, it’s not doing any harm right now, so who cares? I certainly don’t. But I probably need to go now as I haven’t had my fix for the day. I still have time for 3 episodes!!
And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.John Muir
Well it’s here. It’s September and only a few days from the bookend of the summer in Michigan, Labor Day. In all transparency, the fall is my favorite time of the year here. It only teases at getting really hot here throughout the summer, but I still love the free-fall into cooler temps and the pickup in autumn storms. A couple of times in the last week the traveling surfers parked downtown and hit the surf by the lighthouse. Surf’s up. September is here. I’m a happy camper.
Wind Surfers in St. Joe
It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since I left Whirlpool. I had a dream the other night that I ran out of money except for a few thousand dollars. I withdrew it in cash and then lost it. I woke up so relieved to know that it was all a dream and my checking account was still full. It’s sort of amazing how little money I need when I’m not working. My closet sits untouched as I mostly wear workout clothes. On a whim I bought some outfits in the spring, and most of them still have tags attached. I can literally count on my hands the number of times I’ve taken something off a hanger to wear. My comfortable clothes are actually wearing out first. There are no impromptu work lunches, long weekends in Chicago or flights to take. I wear makeup on the rarest of days. The world is small, and it is much less expensive.
Backpacking the Manistee River Trail
I took some time to be quiet and just enjoy the company of friends and the solitude of nature. Admittedly I’ve become hooked on The West Wing on Netflix. Otherwise I spend my long unscheduled days doing volunteer work for AARP, networking with past business associates and exercising. A few work opportunities have presented themselves, but nothing is solid yet. I figure I have until next spring before I get too anxious about what comes next. It feels luxurious to have so much time to explore. I feel a tad guilty especially when I chat with friends that are overwhelmed at work or who have lost their jobs unexpectedly. We are all in different scenarios than we imagined in January. It’s happened so fast, and many of us are navigating uncharted territory.
I miss going to the gym. My daily routine is shot. I actually miss having a strategy to drive and a team to manage. I miss restaurants, and I miss racing. It was so much more fun to run when I had something to motivate me. There are some virtual 5Ks, but it was the social part of racing that I liked. That’s all gone now. I have some bad days with loneliness. Without working, there are many days I don’t have contact with another human being. I really have to work at keeping a social schedule, and I try to increase interactions when I start to get too lonely. It feels weird that I ever felt too busy and often longed for down time.
Mostly Vegan July… and, yes, that’s Cashewmilk ice “cream”
The space that opened up has given me gifts as well. I’ve been working out virtually with Jessica in Tulsa since lockdown. I started eating plant-based in July. I’d been wanting to test out a theory that dairy was negatively impacting me, and I cut it out. I ate a vegan diet for a whole month. After just a few days my knees stopped popping, and all of my joint pain literally evaporated. I’m sold that I’m better off eating this way although I have added the occasional egg and fish entree back into the rotation. I’m sleeping through the night which was really rare before. If I’m tired, I take a nap. My anxiety has completely abated. People regularly tell me I look “so relaxed”. Well I guess I am.
Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway
I took a backpacking trip, two camping trips and met some friends in North Carolina for a few days. I hope to do more camping as it starts to get cooler. Northern Michigan is amazing, and I have lots of places I want to go before we descend into winter. I figure I’ll try to work some in the winter just because I’ll have more time on my hands, but I may even have the freedom to go somewhere to thaw out in the middle of winter this year. I can decide to leave tomorrow if I want and nobody will care. It’s incredibly freeing.
Meanwhile, I’m enjoying a daily coffee again as it doesn’t seem to bother me with the lack of stress and the lack of dairy. I’m exploring vegetarian recipes and riding my bike for long, social rides on weekends. Local produce is abundant now, and I’m eating peaches like they are going out of style. They will soon, too, so I’m going to continue my guilty pleasure as long as the juice drips down the side of my mouth. Apples and pears are on their way in, the leaves are hinting at turning, and the temps are dropping into the 70s for as far as I can see.
I’m okay for now. I hope you are, too. We are all just doing the best we can. I try to be understanding with grumpy servers and surly customer service people. While some things in life are a bit easier now there is still a lot of uncertainty. I was asked the other day if I think the worst is behind us or if I think it’s still ahead of us. I’m no expert, but I expect the worst is yet to come. I can’t imagine all of these businesses can hang on much longer in this climate, and the winter will bring less opportunity to socialize outside. I expect more economic pain, more sickness and more personal distress. It’s not a happy ending, but I’m just trying to stay in reality. I’m just trying to take this one day at a time.
Tent camping has one major drawback. When it rains, you are wrapped in a very thin sheet of technical fabric that may or may not keep you dry. The rest of the hassles I can tolerate with a minimum of whining and gnashing of teeth. This trip I cleaned out my entire car looking for my wallet. It turned out to be in a bag I packed for the beach the first day I was here. I missed a trip to the beach because I could not locate my swimsuit which, of course, I found when I found my wallet. I’ve also consistently had to deal with the fact that there is nowhere to leave my dog. Anything I do, she has to come along which is restrictive in the heat of the summer. But all of that is okay. I can deal.
Yesterday I took a drive up the coast and decided to check out a backcountry campground called White Pines in the National Lakeshore. Ashok and I hiked in about 1.2 miles and walked around this lovely little campground complete with pit toilet, bear box and fire rings. I chatted with a guy who was camped there with his dog to get the lay of the land. We said our good-byes, and almost as soon as I got back on the trail, I heard the crash of thunder.
I wasn’t too worried about getting wet. I was worried about being the tallest thing on the prairie segment of the trail and getting struck by lightning. It was really, really close and getting closer. Then, the rain began. This was a surefire southern-style thunderstorm in the middle of an otherwise nice, cloudy day. We hurried back along and were completely soaked by the time I got back to the car. I changed into some dry clothes and we headed back to Traverse City for some lunch.
Since it was overcast, Ashok could stay in the car while I grabbed some food from a nearby food truck. Before I got back, it started pouring again. And this time I was reminded of the pouring rain in Louisiana. It was coming down in sheets. I had on a rain jacket, but the bottoms of my sweat pants were completely soaked by the time I waded through the flash flooding in the streets.
I thought of my little tent in the campground. My tent has sat in the middle of a torrent of rain as water flooded through it rendering it unusable for the rest of the trip. I was imagining the worst and checking the time to see if I had time to drive home last night if there was a waterlogged tent at my campsite. I got back and tentatively zipped back the rainfly to find a completely dry tent and bedding inside. Whew! I’d just wait it out and find some way to kill the time until I could go to sleep. More rain and storms were expected through the night, but if it had survived the afternoon monsoon, it would survive those too.
I certainly didn’t want to sit in my tent for 5-6 hours, so I drove over to my friend Abby’s house. After having a major meltdown because of the stress of the afternoon, I had a good cry and settled in for a few hours. I threw my pants in the dryer and sat on the porch with Abby discussing the state of the world and our past histories. Her husband ordered Chinese food, and my waterlogged and emotionally drained self enjoyed a hot bowl of wonton soup which was just what the doctor ordered. It was soothing and comforting both to my chilled bones and my wounded psyche.
We went back to the tent. Almost as soon as we got settled in another storm came through. We were both so tired, we fell asleep pretty quickly, and I slept until 7 AM. The sun was out, my tent was still dry, and yesterday’s challenges seemed way in the distance. Today’s meanderings have been short and restful, and I’ll end my trip with a night around the campfire with Abby solving the problems of the world.
Part of the adventure of camping is overcoming challenges which are presented by the elements, things not working out as planned and lost or forgotten essentials. It helps keep me sane knowing that I can be that self-contained and survive at least for a short-term with very few luxuries. The rain, for some reason, is my achilles heel. The weather is definitely out of my control, and even as much as I plan, it can still cause lots of problems, some of them dangerous.
So, I’m enjoying today. I’ll be home tomorrow and can sleep in my own bed. But right now it’s 72 degrees, the breeze is cool, and the sun is shining. Life is good – at least for today.
Looks like it’s going to rain today. It’ll be nice. I’ve been using up sunscreen like it’s hand sanitizer. Plus, you know how I hate the heat. That is, if you can call 76 hot. And I can. Anything over 70 is too … much … hot. The first night here it was 58, and I was in heaven. It heats up during the day which and I commence with the whining. I need to just keep channeling memories of Louisiana in July. How quickly I forget!
I woke up yesterday in the Platte River Campground and spent some time walking down the banks. Tubers were putting in for a day of floating fun, and an outfitter was helping a group get into their kayaks. It was going to be a lovely day on the Platte. From the looks of it, I’m not sure there could ever be a bad day on that crystal clear waterway. I’m making a mental note to come back and float this river.
After my coffee and blogging yesterday, I met my friend Abby and her little one in Glen Arbor. I stopped in Glen Arbor last summer for a brief minute to pick up some M-22 souvenirs. What was meant to be a parking stop turned into a several hour shopping, eating and walking extravaganza. The lunch we ate was unexceptional, but I had to stop at the Cherry Republic for cherry pie and ice cream. This is the cherry capital of the world. And it is the very beginning of cherry season. Abby said it’s a bit late coming in this season, and, of course, the massive Cherry Festival in Traverse City was canceled due to Covid. That would have been last week. So I bought some pie to help out the local merchants. You know, it was a totally selfless move to help the economy. You know that, right? Best charity move I ever made.
We meandered our way around the area for a scenic drive so her baby could nap in the car. Then we headed out for a hike to Pyramid Point in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. If you’ve never been to the Great Lakes, you really may not have a perspective on the glory of these beautiful sand dunes. They are massive. In this area, there are so many ancient dunes inland that it feels like you are driving around the mountains. When the glaciers formed the Great Lakes, the glacial ice pushed the earth underneath into massive sand dunes on the shore. We get to hike those here for a real natural workout and be rewarding with astounding views reminiscent of my time in Seattle looking over Puget Sound.
We sweated and chatted our way up and over several dunes and stopped to smell the roses along the way. It was a beautiful afternoon, and just what I needed to shift into my new way of being. I’ve been looking forward to this trip to help me move beyond “not working” to “re-imagining life”. Thoughts are already percolating on things I’d like to do. Sitting on that glorious sand dune and looking over that vast emerald freshwater sea I imagined that the world was full of possibilities. The island is still a long way offshore but, man, what a beautiful view!
For the first time since winter, I went to Cally’s Curls and Company to get my hair cut. For some reason they had me booked for highlights, but I only wanted my gray touched up. Since I had the time, I spontaneously decided to have some purple highlights put in my hair. I have wanted to do it for a long time but just didn’t think it would fly at work. Guess what? I don’t have to worry about that anymore! Bye, bye Corporate America. Hello purple curls.
It was a beautiful day in Chicago. But I felt a little odd due to the fact that there were so many people. In the city, people were wearing masks even outside due to the crowds. I ate lunch outside with a friend, and it felt okay, but I’m just not sure I’m ready to be running around willy nilly without a care in the world. I spend all of this time watching my diet and exercising so I can be healthy into my senior years. It doesn’t make sense to take risks with something so serious as a disease that could cause permanent damage to my lungs. Everything I enjoy doing in life requires good lung capacity. It’s just not such a big deal to give up a little freedom to stay healthy. With all that has just happened in my life, my health is pretty much everything.
Saturday I went bike-riding with a former co-worker. He had a flat tire early in the ride, so we canned it and went for a walk on the beach. We had a lovely brunch at a New Buffalo hotel restaurant and then stopped for drinks at the Stray Dog. It felt really hot to me outside but I know in my heart it’s not really Louisiana hot. I am extremely grateful for that. At any rate, I came home and relaxed the rest of the day. I was beat.
My friend Michael and I have started baking together across the miles. A couple weeks ago we made focaccia. We each picked out a recipe and texted and video-chatted our way through the process. Sunday, he taught me to make his famous French Bread. I made the starter on Saturday and refrigerated it. Today we made the poolish and folded our way through several rises to bump up the flavor. It was a large recipe, and I didn’t really have all of the right equipment. I found some workarounds but dropped three of my five baguettes as I was putting them in the oven. I was heartbroken after all that work. I gave one of the successful baguettes to my neighbor, and I started buttering the last one to eat with some lentil soup designed to accompany my bread. I am overfull with delicious bread. And my house smells amazing.
Luna, my new kitten is obsessed with bread. I have to keep a hawk’s eye out, or he will start eating dough or snatch a bite of soft bread and run off to eat it. With that rather extensive baking project today, he was bound and determined to get that bread. I had to hide it in another room so I could focus on making my soup, and he literally stood at the door waiting to get in. I have never seen a cat so obsessed with bread.
I’m pretty tired. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ll be glad when things settle down in my mind, and I feel like the status quo is normal. I took some melatonin a little bit ago in the hopes it will help me sleep through the night tonight. If not, well I’ll just rest. I’m in a lot of gratitude right now for my situation. There are lots of scenarios that would be harder than the road I’m on right now. I just want to stay healthy so I can build my future. Right now I’m really enjoying the fact that I can walk my dog multiple times a day and bake bread with a friend across the country. The best things in life are truly very simple, and I am lucky enough to have a simple little life at the moment.
I hope you are sleeping well. Have a good week next week and take care of yourself.
If you had told me January 1 that in exactly 6 months, I would be sitting here with no job, no plans, no place to go and no path to get there, I would have thought you were insane. 2020 is definitely the year of the hard pivot. She has not been kind. This year is out of control, and she is not relenting. 2020 is making her mark, and she is the mother of all hard pivots. But, 2020, heads up. You aren’t the only fighter. There’s a bunch of us out here ready to rumble with you.
If you are facing a hard pivot right now, my heart goes out to you. Just because we are all facing big change does not mean we are all in the same boat. Some of you are in sinking boats. Some of your boats have already sunk, and you are trying to find a lifeboat. Others are putting on skis to enjoy the ride. And more than a few are heading out to sea in search of a new harbor. Honor the path you are about to take and know that everything is going to be okay. It won’t be easy. We are all going to grow in some fashion, and we will be stronger for it – as a community, as individuals and as a society. Just be sure to grab a life jacket and put on your sunscreen.
I’ve been divorced twice. These have been my hardest pivots. If you look at the facts, leaving was my choice both times. But just because I did the leaving, I did not choose either of them. Circumstances beyond our control always force the pivot. We control basically nothing, and if it was up to us we’d take the easy route. Sometimes the hard pivot is the end of a long journey to change and sometimes the hard pivot begins the road to change. The pivot at the end of my first divorce felt wildly different than the pivot at the end of my second. I wanted neither. I fought hard to keep both of them. But one felt like a final surrender to a long line of slow deaths and the other felt like the waking at the end of a horrible nightmare. In one pivot I was numb, and in the other I woke up screaming.
The pivot I’m in today came quick and without a lot of warning. I feel a bit in shock. For years in my past hard pivots I had dreamed about escape. I journaled about what to do “if”. I had ideas of where I’d head and what my life might look like “after”. Since this was so unexpected I haven’t put much thought into it. It feels a bit like a gift, somewhat like a death and a lot like an unexpected new journey.
I met my former boss yesterday for breakfast and she gave me cute little house decoration with the quote: Every time I get my ducks in a row somebody moves the lake. She nailed it. I set everything up and got everybody going in the same direction with a lot of quacking going on. We were headed there. My house is finally decorated the way I wanted it, and I am feeling happy and connected here. I had a daily routine that worked. I was going to ride this out another five years or so and then think about what to do “after”. And with one quick-start global pandemic, 2020 forced a hard pivot. My ducks scattered everywhere. And I’m not even sure if there is a lake anymore.
A group of fellow travelers and I walked out to the lighthouse pier last night. We watched as the sun set on the last day of our careers with Whirlpool. Sailboats skimmed silently across the orange horizon. Powerboats idled as they entered the river. We took pictures and laughed in our disbelief at our current predicament. I don’t know what will happen in the next year. I don’t even know what will happen today. But I know the path to navigate a hard pivot. It begins with me honoring the closed door behind me. I’ll spend some time reflecting on what I’ve learned, who I am at this moment and what has worked or not worked in the past. Right now is not the time for movement. It’s a time for stillness and reflection. The future will reveal itself.
Have you faced hard pivots in your life? Are you facing one now? How have you handled them in the past? How will you handle this one?