Particles of Wisdom

IMG_0004I don’t know if it’s something to do with getting older or maybe it’s just that time of year, but I find myself searching for something.  I don’t know what that “something” is yet.  So I’m doing my best to be in a mindful state as much as possible, waiting for the universe to reveal particles of wisdom.  I hope I’ll recognize them when they appear.

Writing has always been a passion of mine.  I used to write a blog every Sunday morning back when MySpace was the cool place to be.  I’d write about anything and everything on my mind, including some of the guys I was dating after my divorce.  A few of the guys I wrote of were flattered; others not so much.

Years later I find I don’t know what to write about.  I took an online blogging course to help me find direction and gather tools for posting blogs.  People (like Seth Godin) come along with some very insightful blogs which prompt deep thought.  I find myself wondering what it really is I’m trying to do.  What is my purpose in blogging?  What wisdom am I trying to impart?  And I’m lost – I don’t really know.

I feel like the universe is nudging me along.  Since last summer I have reacquainted myself with things I used to love when I was much younger.  Metaphysical things.  Reading about different religions.  Reminding myself how much I love music and writing.

So maybe my purpose is to write about my journey?  I’m not sure yet.  I’m hoping the universe, and time, will tell.

Until then, I’ll sip my morning coffee on Sundays and work on redeveloping the weekly blog posts.  See you next week?

The Stories Manifesto

It hit me today while I was washing my hair that I am missing out on a tremendous volume of stories. When I called my mom yesterday, a Sunday afternoon routine to stay in touch, I could hear conversation and laughter in the background. Turns out that my sister, my brother-in-law, and my nephew and his girlfriend were spending time with my parents the Sunday after my dad’s birthday. While I felt a touch of sadness while I was on the phone that I wasn’t there to spend that time with them, it really didn’t bother me until today. Distance can be a real drag.

I realized quite some time ago that there would be many things that I would miss by moving almost 800 miles away from my family. I think it’s a factor of getting older that you want to squeeze as much as you can into what you perceive as the time that you have left. The weekly telephone touch-base with my mom and my sister are not doing it for me the way it used to. I’ve relied on Facebook to keep in touch with my nephews so that I can feel a connection, although distant, to what’s going on in their lives. But there is something major lacking. “Liking” a post is in no way as gratifying as a heartfelt hug and speaking words instead of typing them onto a screen. And when your sister and parents aren’t Facebook “friends” it feels like the connection distance is magnified.

It’s evident to me that I am missing way too many stories. I’m missing the stories of what my nephews are doing with their lives because Facebook can only convey so much. I’m missing hearing the old stories of my dad when he was growing up and the wild things he and his buddies used to do. I’m missing the stories of my mom’s childhood and the wonderful and odd things she and her sisters used to do when they were young. Sure, I’ve heard many of those stories in the past, but I think perspective changes as you get older. There might be a little things in the stories, little nuances, that are important – things I may have missed the first time I heard them.

I’m not there for other family events, so it’s rare that I get to see uncles, aunts cousins, etc. thank goodness I saw many of them in June for my mom’s birthday party. Prior to that it had been years. Again, I miss hearing the stories of what’s going on in their lives. Tidbits on Facebook are good, but the reality is that I’ve lost touch with what makes everyone tick.

Maybe it’s just that I miss being surrounded by family sometimes.

Facebook is great. The telephone is wonderful. But nothing can take the place of being there in person to look into the eyes of the people you love and admire.

This is the beginning of my manifesto on Stories.

Full Moon

I walk from the office upstairs down to check on Buddy (my dog).  The deck door is open to let the cool night air in.  As I cross from the hallway to the family room, I do a double take – the full moon is suspended high above the deck, a glowing ecru orb in the sky.  I stop, take a deep breath, and smile.  I love looking at the full moon!

Every night lately when the sky is clear, I find myself seeking out the moon to check what phase it’s in and how bright it is.  I mean, I’ve always looked out to see if the moonlight is shimmering on the little creek of water in my backyard or if the fireflies are competing with the flickering as the leaves on the trees dance in the moonlight.  Recently though, I feel compelled to check the sky before I slip under the covers for the night.  I’m finding some type of comfort in knowing that nature is so beautiful and that it’s right here, all around me.

And to make this post even a little more odd, a couple of weeks ago I went hiking in the Catoctins.  Remember treepocolypse earlier this year when the ice storm took down a lot of trees?  Well, the Catoctins were not spared.  I barely recognized the Hog Rock trail for all the trees toppled over and sawed to make a clear passage.  I actually felt sad as I looked around.  So much devastation!

Is it a “mom” thing that I feel this way – or it is an “age” thing?  Not sure, but either way, I love this connected feeling I’m having lately.

A Blog for Conflicted Women

I feel like something is missing, and I can’t put my finger on it. Do you ever feel that way? So I’m considering starting a new blog targeted towards women in their 40’s, 50’s, and beyond – a blog that simply discusses the challenges, thoughts, desires – whatever- that some (if not most) of us experience as we age.

As for me, I feel like there’s a hole I need to plug. I’m looking into meditation, yoga, music, writing – various things to ease that feeling. They go in waves, these odd feelings. Some days they’re wispy, some days they’re an anvil.

Scotch, cigars, pipes, rediscovering Sherlock Holmes, listening to Mozart and Bach … ethereal things I’m enjoying on this journey.

Come join me.

Mission

I want 2013 to be the year I figure out what my mission in life is. I’m just like the vast majority of people who have a plan for their lives but encounter various forms of setbacks time after time. I want to pull my feet out of the quicksand called status quo and blaze a more creative path for myself.

Suggestions are always welcome!

20130102-210942.jpg

Summers of Long Ago

Growing up in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago in the 1960’s was something special.  We played Cowboys and Indians, Army, Statues, or other games in the streets without any worries (well, the kids didn’t worry; can’t speak for the parents).  We ran up and down the creaky wooden stairways and halls of the corner apartment buildings (usually without the apartment residents yelling at us).  We strolled the side streets and hung out in the playgrounds until dusk, oblivious to any concerns of drive-by shootings, child abductions, or pedophilia.  In our realm, our reality, the world was pretty much safe, secure, and (for the most part) revolved around us.

The excitement of summer usually involved running after fire trucks to see what was burning (this time) and watch in awe as the firemen raced to extinguish the flames.  I remember once one of the junkyards (what is today’s politically correct term for them?)not too far from us had a fire, I think it was a mound of tires that time, and you could see the smoke from miles away.  And smell it too.  There were apartment buildings that burned sometimes, and the occasional warehouse fire too.  If we were walking around the neighborhoods and happened to see smoke off in the distance, we took off in that direction and didn’t stop until we got to the scene.

I mean, what else was there to do that was exciting and adventurous for kids during the summer?

We were city kids.  We didn’t know about summer camps or summer enrichment programs.  Most of our moms were stay-at-home moms.  We didn’t need babysitters or daycare – we had each other.  Cousins and neighbors and a few school friends.

There were failed attempts to learn to how swim at Holstein Park.  There was a summer dance that the park’s rec facility one summer Saturday (all I remember is “The Age of Aquarius” playing, the black light posters hanging on the walls, bell bottoms, and a lack of kids in attendance).

There were bike rides to Logan Square and very long walks to Downtown Chicago where we’d sometimes ride the subway and el back home.

There were hours spent sitting at the Clybourn station doing nothing but talking with my girlfriends and watching train after train come in and go (okay, I admit that we’d sometimes put those purple and white quartz rocks on the rails to watch them get obliterated when the train’s wheel attacked it).

Shopping for the latest Ray Bradbury (I will miss you) paperback at the downtown bookstore (wasn’t it Cokesbury?).  Buying candy and bottles of Pepsi® at Clem’s, the corner candy store.  Walking across Damen Avenue to the library to pick up something I hadn’t already read.  Falling in love with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and the voices and souls of Elton John; Gordon Lightfoot; Judy Collins; and Peter, Paul & Mary and wishing and wishing for something special to happen if only just one time in my life.

I won’t lie and say I don’t miss those days.  Not the running after fire trucks part, but having someone to hang out with day after day.  Even when we were simply sitting on the concrete stairs that led from our front yard to the sidewalk, frying ants with magnifying glasses, listening to the FM transistor radio, playing with our Barbie® dolls, or creating masterpieces with our colored pencils and crayons – all of those things meant we were spending time with people who mattered.  People, kids actually, who cared about each other and didn’t even realize it.  It was a given.  These were people we wanted – we chose – to spend time with.

Why does growing up and getting older have to mean that the closeness we had with our childhood friends has to evaporate?  Why do relationships and careers steer us so far away from the happiness we knew as kids?  I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but I’d bet it is for many, many of us.  Do we ever look back and wonder what we lost along the way?  And is there a way to recapture what we’ve left behind?

What Happened?

What the heck happened? Just the other day I merged onto US Route 4 after leaving Josh on the campus of Castleton State College to start his first semester at the college, teary eyed and dealing with many different emotions as I drove home. Today it’s almost two years later and I feel like I’ve fallen through a time warp. What happened to the last two years?

Many hours spent studying for certification exams, dealing with a host of issues around the house, lost inside vacillating between wanting this and wanting that (relative to many, many things) – yes, many time warps of many degrees. Or is it that age is playing a part in this?

I was driving home from work this evening and all of this hit me upside the head. It’s July 18 – a good part of the summer is already gone and yet I feel like I’ve just stepped into the heat. Maybe it’s the incredibly hot weather; maybe it’s lack of proper sleep (been tossing and turning a lot lately); or perhaps it’s just a midlife crisis (how long do those last anyway?).

Time is driving me crazy. I pump a lot into my days – I get to work before 7:30 am, I rarely take a lunch break, and I’m usually out of the office around 5 or 5:20. I cram a lot into those hours to take advantage of time as much as I can. But then after I get home I usually crash in front of the TV or find myself playing Forty Thieves solitaire or Angry Birds or Gardens of Time when I need to keep the mind exercised. Bit sometimes I get mentally exhausted trying to decide what to do next. I don’t always want to shut down because I like to keep engaged.

Problem is, a lot of the time I’m trying to determine what I really want out of life. I haven’t totally figured that out yet. And it seems like I’m running out of time. After all, I am 55. When does it become too late? Does it ever become too late?

Legacy?

In 1971, at the end of the 8th grade school year, my home room teacher, Sister Mary Barbara, asked me a profound question that haunts me to this day.

She was a tall woman who looked like she bench pressed 100 lbs. every day.  Not masculine, but strapping.  A force to reckon with.  Sister Barbara and I had been discussing my future and what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I told her I was considering becoming a nun.  After all, I had been around nuns for the past eight years, even working in the convent cleaning floors and helping with other chores.

She smiled slightly and said, “Really?  I don’t see that in you.  I figured you say something like, scientist or journalist.  Not a nun.”  She shook her head.

And after a pause, she said, “What will your legacy be?”

To this day, forty years later, I am still trying to figure that out.

What Ever Happened to Relationship Bliss?

I’m in one of those funky moods today.  I’m going to blame some of it on “Glee” and the episode that aired last night.  A rerun, the episode is the one where Kurt’s dad and Finn’s mom get married.  I’m good until the actual wedding takes place and the cast belts out the song, “Marry You” and then “Just the Way You Are” during the reception – both songs by Bruno Mars.

Why the funk?  Because I want to feel the kinds of feelings that those songs evoke.

Let’s talk about being fifty-four years old.  Do something dumb like decide to get married on a whim?  No way.  I’ve lived long enough to know that there are consequences and major changes that occur when you get married or remarried.  If you’ve got a dependent, you can lose your Head of Household tax filing status.  If you’ve got credit card debt and you die, your spouse may become responsible for the debt depending on what state you live in and other circumstances that will determine if the spouse or the credit card company loses in the end.  Health insurance, dental insurance, 401Ks, life insurance, mortgages, loans, etc. – everything becomes fuzzy and involved.  I suppose if you’re widowed it’s one thing – but coming from the divorced side of things you tend to hesitate about doing it all over again.

But all of the above doesn’t stop the feeling of wanting to find that person that makes you feel like none of that will matter – all you want is that person in your life who makes you feel spontaneous and good and loved.

And then there’s “Just the Way You Are” and the yearning to have someone tell you all those things (even if you don’t really believe them).

“You’re amazing.”

“I’d never ask you to change.”

“She’s so beautiful and I tell her every day.”

As you age, honesty truly does becomes the best policy.  Little white lies don’t cut it anymore – no matter how “little” or “white” the lie, it’s still a lie.  Trust is a huge component of a relationship, and if it becomes broken, it’s hard to repair.  So if your significant other suddenly starts saying things like Bruno Mars writes, you’re going to wonder what the heck is going on?  Is he/she feeling guilty about something?  Is he/she cheating on you?  Is he/she starting to go crazy???  After all, you can’t be in a relationship where you bicker all the time or don’t really communicate and then all of a sudden there’s lovey-dovey stuff being said.  It’s suspicious.

So wouldn’t it be great if a relationship not only started out with both people being thoughtful and complimentary, but if there was a continuing stream of being consciously thoughtful and endearing to each other?

Perhaps a divorce and an annulment have tainted my view of relationships.  I admit to having trust issues after getting burned multiple times in just about every relationship I’ve ever been in.  I admit that I am not having trouble with saying “I love you” but I do have an issue with saying “I’m in love with you.”  After three years into a relationship, shouldn’t I have already gotten over things and moved on?  Why is it so hard to do that?

I know I’m probably too old for this, but I would really like to feel that giddy sort of love that makes you tingle every time you see the person you love – the kind of love where you can’t wait to see him at the end of the day and fall into his arms and just be held, feeling the warmth of his body against yours and knowing that you’ll never need anyone else in your life.

I throw all of this out in cyberspace and don’t expect a response.  Sometimes it helps to just put a voice to the thoughts.

Adventures at the Gym

Summer is a wonderful season, don’t you think?  I mean there are vacations and beaches and weekend get-aways and tans and painted toenails and sun-bleached hair … and that swimsuit … that wicked swimsuit that you just know won’t fit this year.

So off to the gym with hopes of trimming and slimming so that clothes fit better and self-esteem is boosted.

Right?

Ah, well …

Let me tell you about my trip to Gold’s Gym on Memorial Day …

I was sort of looking forward to meeting the personal trainer I’m supposed to meet on a monthly basis.  I figure I need the nudging of someone who knows the best/right way to loose weight and fat.  I psyched myself out in the morning, taking my time getting ready and making sure I had everything I needed to make this workout exceptional.

The first problem was that I wrote down the appointment time of 10:30.  Wrong.  According to my trainer, my appointment started at 10:00.  Luckily I arrived at the gym early, so I only lost 15 minutes of prime workout time.

Let me say that my trainer seems to be a nice guy.  Knowledgeable.  Patient.  Understanding.  All the qualities I need in a trainer.  I nodded and smiled and asked questions as he laid out the way things would work – I got it, and the usual thoughts of “what kind of hell is he going to put me through” never entered my mind.

The workout started out okay.  He showed me some of the weights and machines, ran me through the workout’s repetitions and how to do it properly.  I was in the swing of things.

Then we got to the big ball.  You know, the huge rubber workout ball.  Well, there was no way I felt comfortable on the things.  First, I’m thinking, “what if the ball bursts when I sit on it?”  Then, when I’m supposed to be positioned on it to do crunches, I felt like I was slipping off.  Enough.  I told him I couldn’t get past that “slipping” feeling – and he said it was okay.  I felt bad.  We moved on to the next exercise.

Step-ups.  One foot planted firmly on a platform, step up and lift your knee up waist high.  Easy, right?  Except if you’ve got a weak ankle and are unsteady as tree branch in the wind.  So I did a few reps but couldn’t finish that either.  A trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods to get an ankle brace should fix that problem (I know they’ll have exactly what I need).

So maybe not the stellar workout that I planned, but it was close enough that my body knew I worked out later that day and on Tuesday.  Thank God for Motrin!

Now being the people watcher that I am, I couldn’t help noticing how un-busy the gym was.  The people that were there were mostly older, mostly guys, and then people like me who were walking around with their trainers.  I only signed up for the once per month sessions, but of course the gym offers a variety of programs tailored to people’s needs and budgets.  Here’s the thing – being at the gym makes me feel good.  I see others there who are pumped and lean and sexy as anything.  And then there are almost as many people there who are just like me – there because we’re not all of the aforementioned things.

My trainer is a cool guy and I think I’m going to like working out with him.  Of course, as he starts pushing me to do more and more, I might change my mind.