Moving: Settling into a New Home, New Life, New Way of Thinking

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my new writing space: my backyard

Awhile back, I wrote a poem where a willow tree played a prominent visual role. I don’t know why or where it came from. It just…appeared. Followed by the words. As I write – as often happens – ideas, images and lines come to me. Creative gifts.

I’ve learned not to question.

Shortly after I wrote that poem, I decided it was time to move. On a Thursday night, I reached out to Rich, a real estate agent/friend who has helped me buy two marital homes and rent my post-divorce home. (Yep, I rent. At this stage of my life, I travel light.) I’d been looking for the past two years on and off, but nothing felt right. Not the house, not the location, not the time, not anything. By Friday morning, he had a listing – very rare, met all my criteria: closer to school; extra bedroom for my office; and two bathrooms – a must after three years with three people/one bathroom, all in a town where rental house inventory is scarce. I toured the house on Friday afternoon. Took the kids on Saturday afternoon. By Monday morning, I was negotiating. By Tuesday, it was mine. Two weeks later, my kids and I moved out and in. (Special shout out to my sister for helping!) Four days later, I packed up and flew to California for work. Flew back.

And finally, my first Saturday evening free in my new home, I sat writing in my new backyard. And I saw it.

A willow tree.

I used to believe in so many things.
I love my magical beliefs. 🙂 Everything will turn out alright in the end! You will get through “fill in the blank!” The universe or God or someone is looking out for you and protecting you! Everything happens for a reason!  Your soul mate is out there! Everyone means well, you just have to lower your expectations! No, lower! Okay, wait, lower. No – lower.

All of it. I was all in. It’s embarrassing to admit now, but – you know what? Fuck it. That stuff helped me survive. I’m still here and those “silly” beliefs carried me through some of my darkest, loneliest hours. The truth is, I still believe in that stuff…with caveats. Because I’m older and I’ve seen shit not work out. I’ve seen bad things happen to good people. I’ve seen bad people get away with bad shit. I’ve done shit. Shit’s been done to me. Soul mates in the age of swipe left. And then…

This willow tree.
My magical, starry-eyed wonder at the universe rushes right back in like it never left. I didn’t notice it on the first walk through. I didn’t notice on the second. It was only when I finally had a chance to breathe. Write. Look around.

Settle in.

To this house. This life. Three years ago, I had no idea where things would end up. Where we, the three musketeers, would be. It often felt like I was trying to turn the Titanic around. And now this.

Space

Light

Rightness

So this is

Who and where 

I’m meant to be

In this moment

So this is what peace feels like

And now…
Two teens driving. Busy. Independent. Scarce. Me and the dogs looking at each other. I find myself feeling keenly what one of my new favorite authors, Laura McKowen, captures so eloquently:

It started this morning when I dropped my girl off for camp and kissed her goodbye. She’ll be with her dad for the next few days. That little, nagging ache of longing. I went through my day, took a long run, did some work, and it kept creeping in.

Took a nap, because I can, and when I woke I realized: it’s a long holiday weekend and I miss having my little family. I miss having that part be known, to settle into it without a plan, because you are the plan. Home is each other.

Oh. That plan. That home.

That ache.

But this is now. 
My days of buying sand toys in plastic netting, scheduling events around naps and planning big holiday parties are far behind me. Yet close enough to make me choke up in the middle of Ikea when I tell my kids to think about their new furniture as stuff they can take with them in their new lives when they move in just a few years.

😳

My 15-year-old daughter says she is SO out of here, heading to California or as far away as she can get!! YAY!! Adventure, possibility, opportunity!! Of course!!! (Right? lol) My 17-year-old son sees the pained look on my face, hugs me – right in the middle of the store – and says, “I’ll stay at home with you as long as you want, Mom.” I hug him back. Fiercely. We both know he needs to stay longer.

I write extra long in front of my willow tree that night.

The thing is, I don’t have a plan. 
Which is weird. Up until a few years ago, I survived with a loosely, illogically, spontaneously constructed yet rigid set of rules, plans, backup plans, contingency backup plans, lists, constructs, magical beliefs, lines…shit, lines were drawn everywhere. It was at once brilliant and messy and frightening. But it WORKED.

Until it didn’t.

For so long, I thought if I just did all the right things, followed all the rules, did as I was told, kept giving and giving and giving, then good things would happen. Then everything would work out. Then “they” would see the light. Then all the wrongs would surely be made right. Then I would be loved. Okay sure, I might have to pay my penance: walking the beach with wind-swept hair [cue soul-searching music] while I stare pensively out at the ocean, kicking a seashell or two with my cute bedazzled sandal along the way. But surely it would all come together in the end! Everything would be fine! My prince would come get me! We would find a way! Live happily ever after! No one would ever get sick or die! Ever! Happy ever after! The end!

[Protagonists stare lovingly into each other’s eyes. Exit stage left.]

[Upbeat music up and out. Roll credits.]

And now. 
I sit in this new yard in this new house that is mine but not mine with no fucking plan other than to be me and do this day. And I’m only sorta kinda freaking out a little. Full disclosure, I still don’t sleep well. I don’t think I’ll ever learn how to do that. I’m anxious as hell in any given moment and I’ve stopped trying to control the nine hamster wheels in my head that keep me up at night but GOD they make me feel alive and want to write and write and write and see willow trees where there are none until…

suddenly

one day

there is one

Freedom
Still getting used to the texture, feel and fit. Growing pains. Never going back. And neither should  you.

In this moment

I wish you

a willow

a light

a sign

that everything will be okay

whatever that means for you

xoxo

 

Tonight’s musical inspiration. Yeah, I know, it’s July. But it feels like September.

 

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Why I Quit Online Dating: One Year Later…Lessons Learned

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Orlando. There are alligators in there. But the water is moving in the right direction.

I wrote about quitting online dating one year ago this month. Seems like a lifetime ago. Enough time and distance to write a follow-up with perspective possibly worth sharing. As Anais Nin said more eloquently than I ever could, “The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” Whether you’re just venturing back into dating after a breakup, considering or in the throes of online dating, recently divorced, or just curious about what it’s like to date again later in life, here’s my story. For what it’s worth. I hope you find what you are looking for.

First: My online dating “stats”
I’m 48. Married 19 years, together 22. Divorced for three. Two teens who live with me full time. I did Match.com (tolerable) on and off for about a year. Dabbled in eHarmony (hated it – too regimented and reminded me of Catholic school).

Why I signed up for online dating
I waited a year after my divorce. I remember telling myself: Continue reading “Why I Quit Online Dating: One Year Later…Lessons Learned”

Cavalier about Croutons: A Reflection on Cooking, Food and Family

FullSizeRender I just finished my first Blue Apron meal – have you ever tried it? This is the Spiced-Rub Roast Beef with collard greens and potato salad. This is not a review of Blue Apron or cooking – as anyone who follows me knows, I don’t review recipes or food. 🙂 But the experience of trying this service got me thinking about food, cooking and relationships. The writer in me can’t help but think about the life parallels and metaphors.

My relationship to food is – like for a lot of people – complicated. To say I was a picky eater as a kid is an understatement. Nothing could touch on the plate. I had to eat one thing at a time before I could eat something else. I had many rules and rituals. I loved sugar. I snuck white bread with a huge layer of sugar whenever no one was looking. I loved to eat Cool Whip straight out of the tub (and put it back – yuck!!). Sugar is my cocaine. (Which is why I cut out desserts and sugar-laden foods six years ago.) There are many things I haven’t tried – burritos, collard greens until today. The list is long and ridiculous.

I am trying to change that and be more adventurous now. Never too late, right??

Meet my grandma: The woman who taught me the meaning behind the food. Continue reading “Cavalier about Croutons: A Reflection on Cooking, Food and Family”

The Vision: A Little Yellow Kitchen, Candles, Music, Laughter

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home. i’m almost out of k-cups and I really need to throw out those bananas lol, we always forget to eat them.

Four years ago, I had a vision. It was, as my visions tend to be, simple: a tiny yellow painted kitchen with a window over the sink. Candles. Music. Laughter. At the time, I was going through a divorce and there was very little to laugh about. I had no idea where we were going, let alone where we were going to live. And then this yellow kitchen scene appeared in my mind’s eye. I didn’t know what it meant or where it was. I don’t even like yellow very much. But after years of visioning scenes, characters and stories as a writer, I knew enough to tuck it away, trusting that the vision would become clear when the time was right.

Continue reading “The Vision: A Little Yellow Kitchen, Candles, Music, Laughter”

Enter “Happiness” into Google Maps: Where Will You End Up?

Sunset landscape

 

There is something about
Watching an orange sherbet sunset
framed by weeping willows
Sink quietly into darkness
that soothes the soul
(despite the weeping)

There is something about
Walking on eggshells
that changes you
Cheats you
Damages you
Shames you
Silences you
(did you know you could live your whole life like that?)

Being told
Don’t tell
Don’t cry
Don’t question
Don’t feel
Don’t be you
(how long exactly does it take for a heart to die?) Continue reading “Enter “Happiness” into Google Maps: Where Will You End Up?”

Why I Quit Online Dating

Hearts On Mobile Phone Shows Love And Online Dating

No, it is not because my knight in shining armor came galloping in, stage left, on his white horse, sweeping me off my feet and up onto the back of the horse with one chiseled, romance-novel strong arm, and then off we rode on a sandy beach as the sun set to live happily ever after.

No. This is not that.

Let’s start at the beginning of my entry into the world of online dating. It started with a phone call from my father in November 2014. It was one year post-divorce for me and almost two years since his second wife passed away. It went like this:

“Hey kid! How’s your love life?” Dad says, unusually chipper.

“My what?? Ha ha, oh, yeah, that. It’s dead,” I say, deadpanning as I always do with him. Not expecting much, I say, “Why, how’s yours, Dad?”

“It’s GREAT!” he says with more enthusiasm than I’ve heard in his voice in months. “I have a date this weekend, another next weekend – and we’re going out on Christmas Eve AND New Year’s Eve!” he says, beaming. (I can hear someone beaming over the phone, can’t you?)

“Wow! Dad, good for you!” I meant it. Seriously. I did.

Continue reading “Why I Quit Online Dating”

Keep Dancing: Bouncing Back from Life’s Curveballs

danceAs kids, we think about becoming something. A fireman. An artist. A parent. A better version of our parents. Lots of things. But life throws us curve balls and where we actually end up tends to deviate from what we once imagined. What is that phrase – life is what happens while we are busy making other plans?

In the last three years, I’ve experienced tremendous change. Divorce. A special needs child finally properly diagnosed after 15 years of struggle. I lost my home. Money. A few friends. My job. At one point, I felt like I lost me. Other times, I lost hope that things could ever be right again. I made mistakes. I tried to make amends. There are still days where I feel like Charlie Brown when the football gets taken away at the last minute and I fall flat on my face.

Some days I still think the universe is punking me. 🙂

But amidst the change and loss, I found so much more. Continue reading “Keep Dancing: Bouncing Back from Life’s Curveballs”