The End of An Era


My 18 year old passed away from cancer in April. It was the hardest experience of my life. Kitty and I have been together since he was 4 months old, and I was 19. He taught me how to be an adult. I grew up for him. I had to be sure I could provide food, shelter, and medical care. I’m sure that if it wasn’t for my furballs, I would have continued on the downward spiral I was on at that point in my life and continued to live on my car/in the streets, or worse.

Kitty, as you may know from this post was predeceased by Kip. Together, they constituted the dynamic duo. After Kip passed away, Kitty and I adopted Jude. While Kitty and Jude bonded extremely well, they did not have the depth of connection held by Kip and Kitty. With Kitty’s passing, it is truly the end of an era.

The past month or so has been extremely hard for me, I feel like I go through many of my days on autopilot. Some days, I am unable to determine if I am having trouble because I messed up on my post-stroke medication (I didn’t) or if I am having trouble simply because I am so upset (more probable). I feel dead inside. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who greeted you at the door every day, who slept with you every night, and was your constant companion for almost two decades.

The hardest part about the entire situation is that, let’s face it: Cancer sucks. This was not a clear cut illness as it was when Kip died of pancreatitis. Kitty turn a turn for the worse, and even with pain killers was still in pain. I could not let him continue like that. If I could have traded places with him and took the pain for him, I would have.

I’m sure I will have more clarity on the situation when I am able to fully function again. For now, our family of three is now a family of two. Jude and I have been trying to figure out what that means. In his own way, Jude is grieving too. It’s not just about me. The hardest part is that Kitty was the child I never had, my best friend, and my life partner. I am at a loss currently on how to move forward without him.

I am thankful that these past few years I have made a concerted effort to slow down my life so that I was able to spend as much time with Kitty as possible. While he has been a huge part of my life for 18 years, I was the only person in his. The steps I have taken the past few years in minimalism have helped me to focus on what is most important in life: the people and activities that bring me happiness and joy.

I have been quiet the past few months dealing with Kitty’s illness and my own. There are always challenges in life. How you respond to those challenges are a reflection of the type of person you are. Hopefully soon, I will be sharing some ways in which I am moving forward and some changes that are happening in my household.

For now, I am still hurting. That is okay. It’s healthiest to feel feeling and be able to work through them instead of shoving them aside. I am thankful that I have had a better support network in working through Kitty’s death than I had back when Kip died.

It is the end of an era in my life, and I am now facing uncertainty. One of my good friends told me recently that you don’t ever “get over” something like this; you have to “go through.” It’s hard to go through when you feel like you are stuck. If there is one thing I have learned running marathons, it is to keep moving. Walk, run, dragged, or crawl, you have to cross the finish line.

I’ll be sharing more in the future about the changes I am making as I make my way through this difficult time in life. For now, I am thankful that I have been rewinding my life real slow so I could focus on what is most important.

Another Ride Around The Sun

My 38th birthday is approaching this week. One of my favorite phrases is that “a birthday is the start of another 365 day journey around the sun. Enjoy the ride!” After everything that happened at age 37, I am very much looking forward to this birthday and getting another year.

I love birthdays more than any other holiday, because every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Life threw me some doozies this past year.

I am not normally one for resolutions, but I do usually have goals. My three goals for 2017 are:

To resume my normal running schedule (completely shot to hell by health problems)
To plank every day
To read the entire Bible (again) this year

So far, I am on track for 2 of the 3. I have planked every day since January 1, with the exception of 1 day. So, given that this is now March, the fact that I have missed only 1 day of the past 2-3 months is impressive to me. I had the goal of planking every day back in 2016. I wasn’t even close last year.

I have this reading schedule that is helping me break up the Bible into manageable portions. Have you ever read the Bible? I’ve actually read it many times, but not in the past decade or so. Getting through some of those Old Testament books like Numbers can be really hard. I found a great schedule that breaks it down into manageable daily chunks. It fits well into my morning routine and helps me to ease calmly into my day.

My running schedule is something else. I had medical clearance to run back in January and was successful for a few weeks. I have been sidelined by debilitating fatigue the past few weeks. The health concerns that have been dragging me down since the fall have been a huge curve ball in my life. I am hoping that with my birthday this week and (hopefully) warmer weather that I can put the priority back on my running schedule. I think part of the reason why I feel like I want to curl up and die sometimes is that my health problems have made it impossible for me to run for about 6 months now.

I have a half marathon on my calendar this September and am looking forward to spending the next 6 months preparing for my race. I have the motivation and the mindset; if only my body would cooperate.

Note to self: 38 is the year we need to get it together again.

Years ago, I had read a British study on happiness that said that the happiest age was typically age 33 and the most miserable age was typically 37. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I still say that age 33 was the best year of my life. This was closely followed by age 36 as being a great year. The two worst years of my life have been ages 34 and 37.

That’s a lot of up and down for one decade. Although my 30s have been way better than my 20s, I did not expect things to be so tumultuous. I’m not sure what the predictions are for your 40s, but at this point, I’m hoping that age 38 is just a nice, evenly keeled year that allows me to get back on track and meet all my goals.

I honestly can’t complain too much. I am getting this huge gift this week of being blessed with another year of life in which to ride around the sun. It truly is a wonderful life. I have friends and people who love me, the best job of my life, and my retirement is going great. All I need is my health to cooperate and get with the program. Once that is in place, I would have to say that life is pretty great.

After being in the hospital last fall, I feel that I am truly lucky to be alive and looking forward to another birthday.

So here’s to another ride around the sun. I’ve been able to survive another year of what life threw at me.

A Year Without Facebook

It’s been a year since I completely deleted my facebook account, and I have no regrets. None. Aside from my medical challenges, the past year without facebook has been one of the best years of my life since before facebook was invented. My stress levels are significantly reduced, and I am actually enjoying life again.

It’s a great feeling to be able to spend time with someone and not constantly be thinking about taking a photo of something or a witty quip to make as a post. When you are not constantly documenting your life for the facebook world, you get to actually participate in and enjoy each moment. When I was on facebook, I felt like an observer to my own life. “Oh, I have to post …” Like everyone needed to know what I was doing every moment of my life. They don’t.

I do training classes where I work, and we have a no cell phone policy. When I train people about the no cell phone policy, I tell them that I believe they can do it. In a world where cell phones are practically an appendage, you can survive for 90 minutes without your phone. The internet will go on, facebook will survive, and your friendships will not end. It will be okay. Constantly checking your cell phone is a compulsion for most people. Not only have I broken my facebook habit, but my cell phone habit also.

I still have a cell phone. However, without a facebook, I use the phone for its intended use – mostly texting and *gasp talking on the phone. Yes, there are still people in this world who pick up a phone and dial numbers to make it ring to physically talk to a person on the other end instead of typing a text message. Plus, the people with whom I talk know I have a job and a life, and may not instantly reply.

In a world of instant gratification, I’m doing it old school. Sometimes people don’t answer the phone because they actually have a life. I’m too busy living mine to have a facebook or to respond right away. I will respond, but if I’m enjoying someone’s company, I’m not going to ruin the moment by being a slave to a chirping, palm-sized piece of technology.

I do not feel as though I have missed out on anything in the past year without a facebook. The only news I get is from the radio, so I managed to miss a large portion of election coverage. Even the political news I hear on the radio has been getting too much for me. I’ve been listening to my CDs and vinyl records more so that I don’t have to hear newscasts. But I’m pretty sure that if I had not deleted my facebook account last year and was online for the duration of the election season, that I would have lost my sanity by now and be in an asylum.

Most people have gotten the clue that I am no longer online and make the effort to either see me in person, write a letter (that’s when you use a pen to write on paper and put this little square on it called a stamp), call me, or text. My time now with family and friends is that much richer and precious to me. I actually have time to spend quality time with people and give them my full attention without the “ping” of social media constantly distracting me from the people who are right in front of me.

I have used my time without facebook to focus on what’s important to me. Mainly, the people in my life and the relationships I neglected not only from being online but also all the years I spent as a professional college student who was working multiple jobs. I may be paycheck to paycheck, but my year without facebook has made me richer in so many ways.

Now, I have the time to pay attention to my body and my health as I still struggle to recover from being in the hospital last fall. The past year without facebook has shown me that I need to pay attention to what is truly important, and one of those items is my health. Deleting my facebook has helped me retain my sanity in a tumultuous election year, and is now affording me the time to focus on my physical health as well.

I’m looking forward to entering year two without a facebook account. I can only imagine that life will continue to move in a positive direction, as I am able to spend more time with people I love and focus on things like health. So here is to a year without facebook, and looking forward to many more.

Slow Down does not mean Stop

A few months ago, before the shit hit the fan both literally and figuratively, and my life turned into a Dickens tale, I remember sitting in church listening to that day’s sermon, and the phrase “slow down does not mean stop” stuck with me. I honestly don’t remember what the sermon was actually supposed to be about, but that one phrase stuck. I’m pretty sure it was sometime in mid-September that I heard it.

Since hearing that phrase in mid-September, I have successfully survived a bout of the flu that completely flattened me for a week, and took a total of almost three weeks to fully recover; I survived being rear-ended on my way to work by an impaired driver while I was sitting completely stopped at a red light; and I survived being in the hospital for a possible stroke, and all the cardiologist and other doctor visits that ensued trying to figure out why I was suddenly blacking out all the time. If bad luck comes in threes, then I have had my share for this year.

Slow down does not mean stop stuck with me because in addition to my recent challenges, I passed my one-year retirement anniversary. For the first time since I started kindergarten at age five, I have been out of school for an entire year from Nov 2015-Nov 2016. After spending twenty years of my life as a college student working multiple jobs, I have spent the past year working one job trying to slow down my life.

Slow down does not mean stop.

Whether a warning or a premonition, that phrase has come to apply to my life more than you can possibly imagine.

In some ways, my life has stopped.

No one talks to me now that I’m not in school. When I was in school, life was a flurry of activity, and with that came emails, text messages, and a slew of things on facebook. I deleted my facebook account almost nine months ago now, and I can still say it was the best thing I have ever done. I have no regrets on that one. What I would like to know is, where did all the people go now that I am not in school? I’m lucky if I get four text messages a month now.

I have no goals and no purpose. I have been mindlessly wafting. When I was in school, I was in constant action working toward a goal of finishing a degree and building a better life. I do not know what the definition of “a better life” is, but since I have been retired, I am simply working, reading, and hanging around home.

Probably the scariest, worst, and most significant way in which my life has stopped was that I stopped running. This is a problem on multiple levels.

Last spring, I was training for a full marathon and had to stop training when my work schedule became so overwhelming that I literally could only work and sleep. My work schedule was messing with my autoimmune disease, which means I was not sleeping, and was too tired to run. When I finally got my work schedule and sleep schedule around so I could run, I got the flu. Life has been a downward spiral. It quite literally took being in the hospital going through stroke protocol that gave me a very alarming wake up call.

I had a cardiologist years ago who had told me to try running to strengthen my heart and to overcome problems with a faulty valve I have. It worked. Fourteen marathon medals later, my echocardiogram is showing improvement in that compromised heart valve. However, the fact that I stopped running for five months, the longest amount of time in almost ten years that I have not ran, is a problem.

Stop running is what caused this “I almost had a stroke” mess.

Slowing down my life does not mean to stop doing what I love. Slowing down my life is supposed to give me more time to do more of what I love.

Instead, I have spent the past year in a dazed haze because I feel as though I no longer have an identity now that I am not in school.

Slow down does not mean stop. I learned that if I stop, it could kill me.

Since my hospital scare a few weeks ago, I have started walking every day (this came highly recommended by the cardiologist). I am working on getting myself back up to a point where I am running again on a regular basis. I do have a race picked out for September 2017, and plan on training for the 2017 season. These are all things that the cardiologist is excited about as well. Hopefully as I get to more running than walking, my “I’m going to pass out” symptoms will be gone.

I still don’t have a goal or a direction for my life. Honestly, I am very much lost now that I am no longer in school. What I do know is that while I want to slow down my life, I need to enjoy my life also. I haven’t been doing that. I just kind of slowed down and stopped.

Somehow I have to figure out how to keep myself going without school. That has been the hardest lesson to learn this past year. I am not doing very well with that.

We always say we want more time; we want more hours in a day. I believe that to be true. We will always want more time. It is easy for people who are on the outside looking in to say to someone “you need to slow down.” That may or may not be true. Only you know what’s best for you. Even if you do decide to slow down your life, be sure to remember: Slow down does not mean stop.

Revisiting The Rule of 3

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I have previously written about how I incorporated the rule of three  into my decluttering goals. At the time, my goal had been to ensure that surfaces contained no more than three items that I found to be either meaningful or useful. To go all KonMari  again, I do not see the point in wasting space to contain items that do not bring me joy. I also do not see the point in wasting precious time in cleaning, dusting, or organizing items that are not either meaningful or useful.

I am proud to declare that I have been quite successful in minimizing all surfaces so that they only contain three items.

Having surfaces that contain only three items simplified my life in such a way that I decided to take the rule of three and run with it. I also applied the rule of three to my walls. I went through each wall in my house, and there are now only three decorative items per wall. I cannot tell you how much easier it is to clean my house now that there are only three items per wall and three items per surface.

When I applied the rule of three to my walls, I noticed that many items that were on my walls did not bring me joy. I decided to replace those items with things that do bring me joy. For example, I had some of my photography printed and framed, and now my artwork is gracing my walls, were previously was some commercial print that I neither liked no held any personal meaning to me.

Some walls in my house have less than three items on them. Some have only two items, and I am looking at a wall now that only has one thing on it. It is very relaxing to sit in my living room either before or after a long day and be able to enjoy sitting there. I also now have less things to dust, windex, and clean.

The rule of three inadvertently spilled over into other aspects of the declutter process as well. I culled my wardrobe again. While I am one of these people who will probably never have only 33 or 37 or 42 items of clothes, I do want to be sure that I only have clothes that fit my body well, that I love to wear, and that fit into my dresser and closet without overflowing my available space.

My dresser contains four drawers, and I have decided that one drawer is for pajamas and nightwear, and everything must fit into the drawer. If the drawer starts to overflow, then I need to get rid of items so that everything fits comfortably. I applied the same concept to all underclothes, such as socks.

One drawer contains my jeans and other pants that do not need to be hung in the closet. My work pants are hung in the closet so that they are not wrinkled. As most Americans. I realized I had an obscene number of jeans. I culled my jeans so that I only have three pairs. That is way more than I wear in a typical week. I kept my three most favorite pairs. Applying the rule of three to my jeans has also allowed me to upgrade. I was able to replace one of the $10 pair of Walmart jeans with a $40 pair of Levi’s, which I’m sure will last me much longer, and I am way happier with the fit and feel of them.

In applying the rule of three to the closet, I have three sweaters for when it is cold in the winter, three summer dresses, three hoodie sweatshirts, and three suit jackets. I currently have five pairs of work dress pants, but that will soon be decreasing to four. I have a hard time finding dress pants that fit, so I like to keep more than three pairs of those.

So while I may not have an overall goal number concerning the amount of clothing I aim to own, I have been trying to apply the rule of three to individual categories of clothing. Of course, for shirts, I have way more than three. Shirts do not seem to be as sturdy as pants. For work, I have nine v-neck shirts in various colors (that I will need to gradually replace, as they are becoming worn). I am hoping to get that number down to seven.

I do have a drawer of shirts that I wear when not working that include running shirts, baseball, hockey, and football shirts. I honestly do not know the number, but they all fit quite comfortably into their assigned drawer, so I am not concerned about their actual number. What I have been trying to do is to be sure that I am wearing everything, and if anything is in any way uncomfortable or does not fit well, then it goes into the donate pile.

I only want to be surrounded by the things that I love.

Have you incorporated the rule of three into your life? Have you applied it to surfaces, walls, or drawers? I am finding that it allows me more time to be with the ones I love and do the things I love because I spend less time cleaning and having to weed through mounds of clothing.

Even if the rule of three seems daunting, start with one surface. Choose just one stand or shelf and apply the rule of three. See if it helps to simplify your life.

Adult Snow Days

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We have a snow day today. My work is closed. We got over a foot of snow overnight, and are currently experiencing inch an hour accumulation. It’s supposed to top out at 20 inches total today with 40 mph winds blowing all the fluff around. The Sheriff just closed all the roads were I live less than 10 minutes ago.

I have had snow days before. I spent eleven years teaching pre-school and have had snow days when the school district closed. Somehow, snow days as an adult have not been nearly as exciting as snow days as a child. That is, until today.

In my adult experience, snow days have primarily been announced at the last possible minute. There have been many times when I was on the road driving to the school, and then they finally announced the school closure on the radio so that I could turn around and go home. There were days when I hemmed and hawed over whether I thought it safe to try to get to the school when a snow day was not called, but the roads still treacherous, and I had to travel through two different counties to get to the school.

Today was the first time in my life that I experienced a snow day with the day delight as I did as a child. I had not even gotten up to look outside yet. In fact, my alarm had not even gone off yet. I was just kind of waking up and groggy when I received the alert announcing the snow day.

I don’t remember a snow day being called this early since I was a child. It was a wonderful experience to have the stress and pressure of trying to ascertain driving safety taken off my shoulders. My snow tires are not on my car yet (they were actually scheduled to be put on today), and after looking outside, I am not even going to be able to drive anyplace to have them put on. I have not been confident driving lately.

I was in the hospital last week. For the past two weeks or so, I have been having blackouts and these feelings of “I’m going to pass out.” The hospital put me through stroke protocol. When I first entered the hospital, they thought either I had a stroke or was about to have a stroke. I spent last week on a heart monitor. I honestly do not think that the cardiologist or any of the other physicians know what is happening. I also do not think that they care.

If I am in one place, I can deal with the passing out feeling. The worst that will happen is that I hit the floor. The problem is that I have been blacking out, and it happened once when I was driving. That is a concern.

Trying to drive the past week has been challenging. I either have to try to get a ride places or drive to the park and ride to get the bus to work. Even the bus cramps my style; the bus schedule does not accommodate my work hours.

Having a snow day today was a huge weight off my shoulders. In addition to trying to judge weather conditions, I have been trying to figure out on a day-to-day basis whether or not I am physically well enough to drive. It is very frustrating when the doctors have basically done nothing to help. The only thing I have been told is that blood is not reaching my brain, so I need to lay down with my legs in the air. That does very little to help me to function on a day-to-day basis.

For the first time since I was a child, I am purely delighted to have a snow day. Not only was it announced early, before I even looked outside and say all the snow, but also it allows me to stay home and focus on listening to my body and trying to figure out what is going on with me.

I know that this week of Thanksgiving I am not only thankful for snow days, but also for good friends, that I am physically safe despite all the challenges I am facing (in the face of incompetent medical care in addressing the issues), and that I have a job I love. I have so many things to be thankful for this week that a heart condition, or whatever is going on is not going to get my spirits down. I’m going to keep going until I pass out or get better. But for today, I am going to enjoy my adult snow day. Cheers to hot mugs of tea, good books, and naps.

Baby, it’s hockey season

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Hockey is hockey is hockey. Baseball is what happens when its not hockey season. I am a huge sports fan, and favor hockey, baseball, and football, in that order. For years I would go to the Thanksgiving Day hockey game. The arena personnel were like family. There are no more Thanksgiving Day hockey games, so last year I cooked Thanksgiving at home.

I have had the privilege of attending a NHL game and a MLB game for my favorite teams. My favorite national teams will not ever change no matter where I live. I consider the fact that I have been able to see my favorite national teams to be a great privilege, as it is not something that the everyday person has the opportunity to do. First, tickets are expensive, and second, geography and work schedules are not conducive to attending national games.

People typically root for the home team. Attending national games is for the people with means to do so. Many people will not have the opportunity to see their national teams live in person. Hometown teams are in our backyards. These are the regional teams, the college teams, the high schools teams, and sometimes simply the frozen corner lot with a bunch of kids from the block running around on ice in sneakers, hitting a puck with a broomstick.

This past weekend, I spent $4 to see the local college hockey team play on Saturday afternoon. There are 4 colleges and universities within a 30-mile radius around me. I knew about the university team (whose tickets cost as much as an AHL game). I did not even know that the local college had a hockey team. Apparently, it’s been there since the 2000-2001 season.

After being pampered by heated stadiums at AHL games, it was shockingly refreshing to watch a game in an unheated arena, wearing full winter outerwear trying to keep warm through three periods of play. Next time, I will bring a blanket. Of course, I am also the fool that sits in row three in an 18-degree ice rink.

While my home team lost, the play was great. The passes were crisp, the checks were hard, the skating graceful, and most of all, you could tell they played their hearts out and enjoyed every minute of the game. This is what hockey is all about.

Not only was the game well played, but it was the most relaxed I have ever been at a game. I was not worried about taking photos to post online, I had no need to constantly check my phone to text someone, I was not preoccupied with thoughts of homework or other things I had to do with my day once the game was done. I was able to sit and enjoy that hockey game more than I have typically enjoyed hockey games. There was no stress of going through security like the have at AHL and NHL games. I always travel light, and carry the smallest purse possible that is large enough to hold the epi pens, but just having the more relaxed atmosphere that did not include pat downs and metal detectors was refreshing. There were concessions that had coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and snacks. There was no pressure over beer or wine and no worrying about rowdy fans around me because they were continually fueled by booze.

This was the first hockey game I attended since I slowed down my life, and it was amazing. I am able to enjoy the things I love so much more now that life has slowed down. What’s more, it’s affordable. I can attend the entire season of college hockey games for what it would cost me to attend one AHL game. While I have seen my NHL team play on home ice once, to do so again would require almost a full month’s pay between the cost of the ticket and travel.

I think I enjoyed this hockey game more than I have enjoyed any other hockey game in recent memory.

To think that this team has been here for the past 15 years, and I had no idea what was in my own back yard. It is good, fun, affordable entertainment. What other activities are in my own back yard that I had no idea exists? Now that life has slowed down, I have the opportunity to open my eyes to what is around me. I no longer have tunnel vision focused on work and school, punctuated by brief periods of “relaxation” that involved some big, expensive trip just for the sake of “getting away.” I am very fortunate that there are so many sports teams around me to support and that ticket prices are reasonable.

What events are in your back yard? I have heard the concept of being a tourist in your own town before, but when I think tourist, I think of museums and plays. I did not initially think about attending college sports events.

So while it may be 27 degrees out this morning, I willingly spent a part of Saturday afternoon in an 18-degree hockey rink watching some college kids on skates hit a once-inch thick piece of rubber with a stick. Baby, it’s cold outside; baby, it’s also hockey season. It does not get much better than this.

Reality Check

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In 23 years of driving, I have never had a collision claim. This changed this past week when I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light on my way to work. This has been one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, and it’s not over yet. Not only was the driver who hit me impaired, but also had multiple other violations as well, and there was nothing from the other driver to the police officer to the other person’s insurance company that has been easy to deal with. The factors surrounding the driver were very sketchy.

Although this is a nasty situation, I have been blessed in my ability to handle it calmly. I am sure that if this had happened before I slowed down my life, that I would not be able to “go with the flow” on this as much as I am. In fact, I remember when I hit my first deer a few years ago, that I fell apart completely. It was just too much at the time for my already overflowing plate.

I now have the time to deal with this situation as unpleasant as it may be. Life isn’t fair, and I know that. The one thing that I am very fortunate is that I was not critically injured. In that moment that my car was being struck and I was being pushed into oncoming traffic, I was worried about who would take care of my cats if something serious happened to me. That was the biggest thing that came to mind.

I know that the stress of the situation got to me, as I have been having difficulty the past few days with my autoimmune disorder on top of everything else. Stress is a trigger for the autoimmune disorder. A big part of slowing down my life was to reduce my stress levels. So while this is a bad situation, it could be worse.

This accident is just another learning experience for me to think over when it comes to making positive changes in my life. Is there another way I can take to work? I was stopped at a red light, so it was not like I was even moving. There is nothing I can change about that.

If I did not love my job as much as I do, I would try to work in a different city. I loathe the city in which I work. Since that is not currently an option, I need to figure out other ways to be safe. But seriously, if we are not safe when sitting calmly at a red light, then where are we safe? Just more reasons why I wish I could move into the woods and off the grid.

The silver lining in all this is that it helps me to remember my priorities. I need to focus more on what’s important because life is so fleetingly short. There is nothing like the feeling of “omg, I’m going to die” as you are being pushed into traffic to give you a reality check.

It’s time to prioritize what’s important. That’s why we rewind real slow.

All That Jazz

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Last year, I had written about letting go of our fantasy selves. If you have table service for 12 with visions of hosting grand soirees, yet in reality value solitude, then letting go of the extra table service and allowing your self to live authentically is going to do more to bring happiness than constantly planning for a house party that probably will not happen.

In my quest to slow down my life and to pare down my belongings so that I am only surrounded by that which I love, letting go of my various fantasy selves has been quite helpful. This is not to say that we should abandon or tear down all of our hopes and dreams. To the contrary, I am actually living the dream now that I have given up the fantasies.

One of the dreams I have always had is one of leisurely weekend mornings spent with good music, good coffee, and quiet peacefulness with those I love. I’ve finally made it happen. This weekend, I had Frank, Duke, and all that jazz. I was at home with the ones I love, good coffee, and nothing pressing on my agenda.

My work schedule changed recently, and for the first time ever, I am working Monday through Friday with weekends off. While I have traditionally shied away from working on Sundays sue to my running schedule, I have worked Saturdays for quite probably, with no exaggeration, 20 years. Now that I have Saturdays off, my life is slowing becoming that of the setting on the washing machine – “normal.”

We have had frost at least 5 times now, with the first time being at the end of September right before I had caught the flu. With the weather driving me inside, I am focusing more on home and being sure that I am surrounded by only by those things that I love. I recently went through my CDs. While I have been adamant that my music collection is the only thing that I will allow to be wholly untamed and off-limits to my minimalist tendencies, I decided to see what life would be like if I stored about 150 items from my collection.

I have found that not only am I more likely to listen to my music collection again compared to the drone of the radio, but that I am enjoying listening to entire albums without skipping around. It’s very soothing to sit at night with vinyl on the record player and relax. It’s equally restorative to push play on the CD player in the morning and be able to melt into the music without automatically being all keyed up with the events of the day.

Being able to listen to jazz in the morning helps to set the tone for the day. It helps me to appreciate and be thankful for all of my blessings instead of going straight into the stress of news and politics that are happening in the world.

I had tried having a morning routine to deal with stress. My thought was that if I had a morning routine, it would help to center and prepare me to meet the demands of the day. Instead, my morning routine only served to stress me out more. If I did not have time to do it all, or if I did not feel like going through the entire process, then it made my morning routine more of a chore than a point of relaxation.

I have decided to do away with the morning routine, and instead listen to my body and do what is best for me for my mind, body, and soul for the moment. Lately, what is best for those three things have been jazz, coffee, and a good book.

Almost a year into retirement, I am still not sure what to do with myself. I feel like I’m still trying to find my footing and figure out how to navigate the world without the identity of “student.” Changing my mornings have helped to ground me in peace. I’m hoping that somehow out of that peace will come direction.

So this morning as Duke Ellington spun in the CD player, I did more than just listen. I felt the music with mind, body, and soul. I felt it in my bones. I may not know where I‘m going from here, but all that jazz is a pretty good place to rest.

 

 

Lost & Found

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I’ve thought about calling this year the Lost Year. In the now 10 months that I have been retired/out of school, I have felt completely lost. A huge chunk of my identity (student) is no longer there. I don’t know what to do with myself. On top of that, this is the first year that I am not running a major race or getting a medal. That has never happened before. I have run through pretty much everything. This year, I have been waylaid by my autoimmune disorder, my work schedule, and now the flu that has simply rendered the requisite 5-month training schedule an impossibility.

I’m seriously starting to wonder if NOT being a student is making me depressed. In what seems to be a bottomless pit of despair, there have been some pinpricks of hope this year. These are the three top aspects of “found.”

One of the major things on the list given to me by the doctors for how to manage my autoimmune disorder is to reduce my stress levels. It has now been over 6-months since I completely deleted my facebook account and canceled my home Internet service. Getting off of facebook is the #1 thing that I have done to decrease my stress levels. Words cannot express how much happier I am now that I am not online. To be honest, people talk to me a lot less, yet I do not feel lonely. When I was on facebook, a lot of people talked to me, but I always felt lonely. So now, I’m lucky if someone sends me a text message once a month, I am actually less lonely than I was before. Strange, but true.

Out of all the things I have done to decrease my stress levels, going offline has taken the most burden off my shoulders. I drink green tea and meditate, and I still want to slap someone. Going off facebook is better than yoga and jazz and all the new age relaxation techniques combined.

Second, when I had the flu last week, there was one day when I was trying to watch football, and just physically couldn’t. That’s when I said, you know what? I can’t do this, I don’t have to do this, and then I shut off the TV set and went to sleep. Having the flu last week was the first time in my life that I have been sick and was able to listen to my body 100%. If I had been in school, there was always something to read or something to write, and I would have fought through the flu because I had schoolwork to do. Last week, I did not have schoolwork, so I was able to say “no” to everything around me, and give my body what it needed to heal, which was pretty much sleep.

Third, I had less beach days in 2016 (in retirement) than I did in 2015 (in school). When I first realized this, I was dismayed. Why would I have less beach days when I have taken great pains to slow down my life and my schedule to have more time to do what I want? And that’s when I realized that life cannot be measured by beach days. When I was in school, I made a point of scheduling beach days so that I could relax. Scheduling a day to relax is about as much fun as making a schedule to have sex. It’s not. Fun. It’s more fun when it’s spontaneous. Looking back at summer 2016, I may have had less beach days, but here is what I had more of: baseball, live theatre, movies, time with family, time with friends, picnics, hiking, camping, sunsets, swimming, reading, and sleep. I did so many things this summer other than going to the beach.

Days before I was completely flattened by the flu, I had made plans to return to school. Yup. That’s right. I have talked about teaching, but I actually have that opportunity at work. I am enjoying the “teaching” I do at work so much, that I do not feel the need (at the moment) to teach in academia. I am truly blessed in that I have a job doing what I love.

But I’m a person who likes to finish what I start, and I was thinking I have some unfinished business. I would like a PhD, but my student loans are maxed. I know I cannot get financial aid, so the PhD is off the table. There is, however, the question of the physics degree I started and never finished. Three years into that, I switched to psychology, and stuck with that field. Plus, there is the fact that I actually looked through my high school yearbook this summer given that it was technically my 20-year class reunion. One of my future plans under the Senior Directory was to “get my PhD in Chemistry.” I’m thinking of going back and finishing a degree in either chemistry or physics. Of course, I would have to pay for classes out of pocket, but I could take one at a time.

I could, theoretically, complete my 5th degree by the time I turn 40.

That was the plan before the flu. Now post-flu, I am thinking “hell no.” Going back to school must have been part of my flu-induced delirium. There is no way I want to go back to school and be stuck in that schedule again. Especially now that my time is my own, I enjoy being homework free.

However, it is only October. The spring semester does not start until January. We will see what happens and what I think over the next three months. Apparently, I had a lot more wisdom at 17 than I do at 37. At 37, I feel like this past year has been lost and found. At 17, my quote in the yearbook came from Luke Skywalker: “I’m ready for anything.”

If I can hang onto that, maybe this year can turn around from lost to Found.