A Fork in the Road

 

If you’ve been following along this journey for the past couple of years, you know I’ve made some major life changes. Divorced, moved, lost a great deal of weight then faced health challenges, and finally, and quietly, welcomed an amazing man into my life, an event I neither anticipated nor actively pursued. But it happened. Now, sitting here on the first day of the year that will see me turn 50, I have once again felt a calming resolve that this year will be the year I take my journey in a new direction.

As I stood over the stove making breakfast, it was suggested I was going to too much trouble. How confusing…it is in my kitchen where I feel most relaxed. I love to cook and bake, creating a dish simply with flavor is one of my most treasured activities. Being in the kitchen, and in particular, this kitchen, brings back memories of my Grandmothers’ kitchens, so very different in design and function from each other, each teaching me unique culinary skills. On reflection, these hearts of the home were my first classrooms. I learned to read by searching the neatly labeled jars for the correct ingredient to bring to the prep space on the white Hoosier cabinet in my Dad’s mother’s kitchen. Estimation, weights, substitutions, and straight from the farmyard resourcefulness were practiced and perfected around a crackling woodstove and well-worn and oiled farmhouse table, lovingly built by my Mother’s father in his workshop. At times, I am convinced I was born in the wrong era; at heart, I am convinced I am a pioneer, plunked down by happenstance in the heart of my city.

The kitchen is also where I create my candles and other products. There is such satisfaction in turning out a new lip balm or solid lotion that soothes the skin naturally. The creative process pushes me to blend and calculate, inhale and sample each batch, exploring how to make each successive recipe closer to all natural and wholesome. It’s a learning curve. Recently I’ve dragged a small folding chair to the kitchen beside my great-grandmother’s prep table, allowing me a place to rest an aching back or simply pause and reflect with a cup of tea in hand or a pen and journal at the ready to capture thoughts and observations for my novel. It occurs to me as I flip bread in the pan that I seem to be taking on some of the traits and goals of my main character; perhaps I am just realizing that I’ve written her from my subconscious more than I had intended.

So while stirring the sun-dried tomatoes into the translucent onions that formed the base of this morning’s scrambled eggs, a vision of my ideal life began to form in my head, playing out around me like a hologram I am watching from the corner. So many details need to be put onto paper for a reality-check. I’m not prepared to share just yet…to cast these thoughts and dreams out now would be as awkward for me as it would be for me continually post selfies on social media. Fine for others, just not for me. Although it could reasonably be suggested that my writing is my version of a selfie…fair enough. Oh, in time, there will be a “reveal” when there is a stop along my journey I feel is ready to share as a lesson learned. But for this moment, my “share” is this: we are never too old to stand at the fork in the road and chose, by heart, by faith, or wonder, to step with excitement, resolve, and even a touch of fear onto a path that has faint tracks of those whom have traveled before.

Happy travels wherever the road may lead you in 2016!

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What Do I Want to Do When I Grow Up?

Such a great message at service this morning; a couple of themes or comments stood out that helped me pull together a few topics I’ve had drafted for a while, but just couldn’t get to gel. This first was helped along by the children’s service, and a question that was put to them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Please feel free to comment below! I’d love to hear about challenges you may have had with trying something new, or returning to something once loved yet discarded.

 

Ever have one of those moments, periods, where you just don’t have a clue what you’re thinking? Trying to get the words out is a struggle…you don’t feel as if there is any good reason to be “conflicted”, yet that’s exactly what you are. I’m reaching a stage in my career where I am no longer certain it is 100% satisfying. Don’t get me wrong; I love working with my students at this school in particular. I can’t see myself teaching anywhere else, and I absolutely love teaching the subjects I do: the combination of science, math, design…it suits me completely to encourage the students to take risks, make mistakes, and grow their understanding. But does it “complete me” the way I believed it once did? I don’t think it does. There seems to be this nagging impression that I need to create and share that need to create, especially with my students. Why now? Why am I only just starting to feel drawn toward the more creative side of myself: to encourage, explore, and grow my own artistic side?

I think about what makes me smile at the moment (apart from seeing “Bruce” at the end of a long day). Friends, family…they all put a smile on my face. Even more than that though is the satisfaction I get from creating something, whether it is a blog post, short story, new candle scent, or a great dish for dinner. I find myself more frequently running my hands over old pieces of furniture, neglected and battered, and imagining how they could come to life; I used to do this all the time, reviving and repurposing cast-off pieces. In the past, whenever I’ve become frustrated with where I am in life or the moment, I have taken a step back and closed myself in with my thoughts or my creations. Now though, I have a very special someone in my life who is interested in this side of me, who listens to my quirky ramblings that I’m certain make no sense at all at times, and who pushes me to explore these urges. Not to say that my ex was not supportive, but it was different; we were in a different place in our lives.

I think I look at these interests in a different light now; no longer do I think in terms of an amusing little hobby, but rather as veering off the original career path. It’s scary if I’m honest, but I can’t shake the feeling that I am meant to do this. How does one go about this though? Let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken; I have grown up expenses and responsibilities…or do I? My children are, for all intents and purposes, grown. I have no real debts beyond rent, utilities, and medical expenses (ah, the joys of aging). But my savings were depleted in the divorce, and my retirement fund took a hit. How much does it take to make me feel secure financially? What do I need in order to not just survive, but thrive? I think this is where I’m stuck, where fear takes over and prevents me from just diving in, taking the massive risk, throwing caution to the wind, and doing it. For the majority of my adult life, I chased dollars and status; I equated a fat bank account with security and happiness. It wasn’t until I lost essentially everything that I questioned that thinking. What does it take now to make me happy, to feel content, to experience the satisfaction of a job well done, to smile?

 

I don’t have all the answers; I don’t know how this will ultimately end. But I do know that if I limit myself to only thinking about how to do this, I will remain right where I am, wishing I could do something differently. I’ll check back in about this as I make decisions (or have them made for me), but I promise to share the steps along the way. I know I’m not the only person who struggles with these emotions, or wishes his or her life was going a different direction. I may not be completely confident in what will happen or how this will turn out, but I am confident enough in myself to share these insecurities and my attempts to start a new life. If reading these struggles gets someone else thinking about their life and level of satisfaction with it, then I will be satisfied that the struggle to talk about it, was worth it.

Part 1, Becoming Me: Hiding publicly

This post series may be a bit difficult for some of you to read…or stomach…or even believe. I’m even going to preface this series with a disclaimer: there is absolutely no disrespect, ill-will, or anything else intended to be deliberately disparaging in it towards my ex. He is happy now as am I, and I joyfully want that to continue. I will touch on some issues we had as a couple, and perhaps he (if he actually reads this), will accept this as an “exit interview” and take some of the observations in the spirit intended…as my own personal views and interpretations. No one else’s. Now on with the show…

 

Unless you’ve been under a virtual rock, or had a life, or are new to the blog, or [insert any one of a million valid reasons], then you’re aware that I am at a real crossroads in my life, and a very happy place that is to travel. When the ex and I officially separated in January 2014, it was a complete “non-event”: no wailing and howling or dish-throwing. True, tons of glares exchanged lines of sight, but that was about it. But I made a decision in an instant, that from that day forward I was going to be myself, own my feelings, be unapologetic for my beliefs, and do what made me happy. To some this may sound wholly selfish; for me, it was a matter of reclaiming myself.

 

One of the first things I started doing was writing again; it’s been one of the best decisions I could have made for me. I had an outlet for my creativity, in addition to the candle making, and it felt wonderful to put “fingers to keyboard” so to speak. This was more than a diary or a journal; this was a sharing of my soul at times…perhaps a bit exhibitionist one may believe, but let’s be honest, without that bit of narcissistic belief that someone other than ourselves is interested in what we have to say, there would be no books ever written. There is something that drives a writer to publicly commit their thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears to a public airing and open themselves to criticism. Perhaps we are gluttons for punishment and pain, as it is painful to hear/read that someone judges our heart’s blood to be…heaven forbid…drivel. After all, “it” meant enough to us to agonize over a single phrasing of a sentence for hours or days before releasing it for public consumption; how dare someone else proclaim it unworthy of a read much less a second thought? But, as surely as there is cream and sugar in my coffee, I will continue to write and put my thoughts out there for your review. No longer do I have a fear of rejection of this part of me, regardless of what views I express, when I sit down with the keyboard in my lap. The only agony connected to my writing now is in reigning myself in sufficiently to avoid using the real names of those characters who now write my life’s scripts. I love them all, and it is my choice to not bring their true identities into the telling of my tales.

 

Case in point. I’ve skirted around many of the details surrounding the relationship between “Bruce” and I, and will continue to do so; I may share some of our conversations, but more in the manner of sharing things we have learned or believe in the spirit of hoping that it may encourage someone else in their journey. For a bit, I was annoyed that “Bruce” didn’t want to make us “Facebook Official”, meaning, changing our respective statuses to read “In a relationship with…”. My old self-esteem immediately assumed he was hiding something, such as me or another girlfriend(s). I was ready to share my joy with anyone dumb enough to be in earshot or visual range as the case may be. But in his calm, unflappable manner, he took my face in both his hands for a sweet kiss, hugged me tight, then explained,

 

“I want this to be about us right now. No one else’s opinions or suggestions or comments. Just us. If something happens and we decide to back up the U-Haul*, people would feel the need to take sides, and I don’t think either of us want that.”

*backing up the U-Haul: our phrase for going our separate ways

 

We still comment and like each other’s posts on Facebook, but we don’t directly say we are dating each other. We have had a bit of fun with my status, changing it from “single” to “It’s complicated”, as in, he is a fan of American football, and me a fan of real football (a.k.a. soccer). Or complicated because he is “Bruce Wayne”…just plain silliness bourne out of my need to call him something. I’m sure we’ll make a quiet status change to real names before much longer, but for now, this has been a bit of fun.

 

I finally understood his need for privacy on social media was in a manner of speaking, a showing of respect and protection of “us”. We have since allowed a select group of friends in on our secret. They’ve been very respectful of our wishes. We’ve met each other’s family, visit with his folks regularly, hung out with our kids together, and even had our parents join us together for a relaxed dinner out while my dad was in town. I was very fortunate to have loved my ex’s parents while they were still alive, and I am equally fortunate to adore Bruce’s parents. Lovely, lovely people…as is apparently everyone related to Bruce. Amazing folks. But what I find so refreshing with Bruce is his attentiveness to me in the presence of our friends and family…yes, even in front of my lovingly intimidating and protective father! For me, this was missing from my marriage, and it’s partially my fault for not speaking up more clearly perhaps that I needed this: this public acknowledgement that yes, we are together, yes, there is a bond here, and yes, the man with me feels lovingly protective and proud of me enough to put his arm around me or give me a quick public kiss. Nothing mushy or sloppy or hugely demonstrative…just a quick “I love you and I’m glad to be with you.”

I had another “yes, this is going good places” moment this morning along those lines when we passed an elderly couple walking on the side of the road, holding hands. At the same moment, we both sighed and let out an “Awww”. I once told my ex upon seeing an exceptionally older couple, in their 80’s perhaps, out for a stroll holding hands, “That. That’s what I want.” He had no reply or comment at all at the time, but after our split, he brought up that moment, and said his heart dropped when I said that while watching the sweet pair walk along the water, hand in hand, heads bent together laughing over a shared memory perhaps. Might have been my hair standing on end though that amused them, who knows. He said almost sadly I think, that he just couldn’t do that. As I told Bruce this story, I confessed that the night of our first date, when I “accidentally” brushed his arm and he reached out to take my hand, that the accidental klutzy move was really a “test”. Had he pulled away, it would have been a deal breaker. Then and there. I will never spend my time investing in a relationship with someone who is afraid I might have cooties. I never expected him to actually reach out and take my hand and heart in his in that one split second, three hours into our first date, but he did.

 

He hasn’t let go yet, and it is the most amazing feeling.

 

Coming in Part 2, Becoming me: what is intimacy?

Rain and Rebirth: Originally drafted June 5, 2014 at 6:51am

Again, found another post I had not published.  This one also dates back to the first week of June, what was so obviously a turning point week in my life.  Strong and deep, without bashing you over the head with what’s on my mind.  If you know me, or have been following along to this point, draw your own conclusions.  Heck, interpret this how you will anyway!
June 5, 2014
Sometimes standing in the rain is required. Or at least, standing under shelter in the rain. Conducive to writing with a depth of emotion I haven’t felt in years. Enjoy ( or skip… Your call)Thunder is rolling in. Best sleeping weather in the world. Yet here I stand on the deck. Fresh smells, cool water in drips on your skin. Refreshing and cleansing for body and soul. Even the night-time creatures are quiet as if they sense a washing away and purging of the day’s heat.Pause again, face upturned, and just breathe. I am alone out here, but not lonely. I am blanketed by darkness, but not in the dark. I feel small, but not helpless. The rumbles grow louder and bright streaks flicker slowly at first, then more urgently, glimpsed through full shadows of leaves.
Normally the storms bring pain to my body. Tonight, I don’t feel it though I know it’s there. I pause. Rain begins to flow over my shoulders and down my back and chest in thin rivers, washing away the day’s troubles and doubts. I feel reborn with each chilling trickle.

I know for certain there is a Power greater than myself leading me if I am wise enough to follow. It is known by many names, but for me tonight, this Power has no name, only a sense of strength and comfort.

The thunder rolls in, more insistent that I listen, yet more gentle in its chiding. “Change is coming,” it whispers, then startling me, it booms an aftershock that startles me back from my mediation.
“This change will be a challenge! Are you afraid to face this? Can you stand there, as strong as you think you are, and take what comes next? Or will you retreat, cowering for someone to rescue you?” The thunder shouts at me to listen.

I draw a deep breath. Wait. Observe my heart pound. Exhale. Rain pours around and on me now. What is my answer?

My response comes slowly, with conviction:

If the rain continues to fall as if to drown me out, I am ready to fight it.

If the rain softens to a caress again, I will accept it with love.

I bid the night and its energy Namaste, then walk to the door, confident I am where I need to be, even if I am unsure where I am.