52 Weeks: #2

This week's mission was deceptively simple: accept yourself just the way you are. But oh, the unexpected knee-jerk resistance!

When I was younger, this was fairly easy--my mom was an articulate, well-educated, liberal freak, and always, always made sure to support me, bolster my confidence, nurture my creativity, and tell me how awesome I was. Even though I didn't accept it 100% all of the time, at least I knew someone smart thought I was groovy.

Half-way through my 20's, I allowed myself to get entrenched in an unhealthy relationship in which my partner thought it was his duty to tear me down and dump on everything I held dear about myself. Now, this person is currently doing his best to make amends, and I wish him well, but in fact, he destroyed my self-confidence. It's been a long, long road to regain some of that, and I'm determined to get that back.

This mission is addressing that particular topic head on. There's no "getting it back," in fact, because it never left. I'm still the same person I was, with even more experience and creative accomplishments under my belt. Pace and Kyeli tell me I'm perfect just the way I am. The trick is to realio, trulio believe it in my heart.

I learned something this week about my heart, and believing in myself. Before the "Bad Ex," there was a "Good Ex." This person was (and is) a true soul mate. I made a mistake in shedding that relationship, which I don't dwell on, simply acknowledge. The Good Ex not only accepted me the way I was, he adored me. I got an email out of the blue just before the new year in which he expressed that he still thinks of me as an awesome person. I was so stunned I couldn't reply for a whole week. It's extremely rare that I'm rendered speechless, and this email was so full of lovely things that I'm still walking around in a daze.

Which brings me to how I plan to take this mission to heart: the key is REASSURANCE, at least for me. I live alone, and sometimes that's hard to come by, especially when one is a rabid individualist. We all need reassurance from time to time. I will practice finding ways to reassure myself, or learn how to ask a few trusted friends and relatives for reassurance when I find it hard to believe in myself. More proof this is good for me--I only just now read what P & K have to say about reassurance, and they say it's OK to express our need for reassurance--we're so smart! It was very reassuring!

This is especially important as the body ages and becomes less physically attractive (maybe I'll get over that one, too), and since I'm no longer defined by or associated with a "straight" job. It may take a while to really soak in--after all, we're only meat! (Which according to Pace and Kyeli means that our emotional, non-rational self is awesome, too--see their incredible, free e-book, The Usual Error.)

I've been mulling over the Tucson shooting, and among other thoughts, was very reassured by our President's words. So this reassurance thing has universal as well as personal implications.

Tomorrow is the big Sixty Five! Lunch at Mandelo's with family, maybe shop for some good walking shoes, maybe a night at the Alamo Drafthouse South, catch up on a first-run movie. I plan to celebrate all week, if not longer.


What I Did Today: the good, the could be better, and the lovely

We're looking for someone who can appraise Wedgewood. Know anyone?

Mom (or should it be mum?) picked up pieces on several trips to London in the '60's and '70's.

The good: feeling in my bones that de-cluttering does not have to mean the total annihilation of physical "things" that bring me joy and happiness. It simply means getting stuff organized so that I have the right tools for the right job in one place. Easier said than done, so enlisting the help of professional organizers means that two of my friends will be available to help haul.

The bad was not really "bad," and I'm going to not call it that again. It was the "what action can I improve?" part of the day's mission. Which was easy: take better care of my body--hit the glucosamine early in the morning, wear my ankle brace when it's really cold and wet--like now--in the 20's tonight, rained enough to get some mud. So I look forward to working on that tomorrow. Put some flax and sunflower seeds in my oatmeal in the morning.

The lovely: following daughter's suggestion to photograph those thingies I love and put them all in an album, along with a little story or poem about that item--where it came from, how old I was, ancestors. Ya know, typical Capricorn stuff.

These are a jumble, awaiting said friends to transform my house into a museum/music parlor/workshop/mini-garden.

 The bronze elephant was a white elephant gift. Go figure. I have much more cinnabar.

My grandmother's teapot. My first celadon love. She probably got it as a wedding present.

My grandfather made this clock. I have the pendulum and key. Should take it to a clock shop and get it working again. Would love to see it on the wall. He would wind it once a week, and it made a nice alto tick tock.


52 Weeks: #1

Creating a tasteful environment. Pretty tall order for someone who's still in boxes. One thing stood out--no lovely things to look at and be inspired by in my office/workshop.

Introducing Brenda Bromeliad. She is disguising the fact that my cheapo pressboard computer desk is sagging in the middle.

The welcome splash of color and life already makes me feel better and more comfortable about this new journey.

Pace and Kyeli are smart cookies--they understand that success is best achieved by mastering baby steps in an organic manner, rather than leaping off a tall building just to quit smoking. Muddled metaphor, but it works for me.

Ties in with decades of working cognitive behavior therapy, AlAnon programs, and any other process that systematically addresses positive change. And the missions (as opposed to assignments or exercises) in the 52 Weeks to Awesome program uses those techniques in technicolor. With no pressure, no "shoulds" or dogma attached.

As a mutual friend exclaimed, "you'll have such a lot of fun." And that's what retirement should be. The I Ching says it furthers one to find a great teacher and also the right helpers. Jackpot--looks like I found not one, but two--in the right place at the right time. We are encouraged to share our journey (respecting copyright, attribution where appropriate, of course). I feel my heart opening up, my shoulders relaxing, my brain bubbling with yeasty ideas, and laughter squirting out in unexpected places. It's also a new vein of content for FOP. Bright, shiny epiphanies whizzing by at an accelerated rate.

And it's only the beginning!


Retirement: Month Four

Last sunset of 2010, Texas Hill Country.

December--four months, one-third of a year into retirement and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. Beginning to wonder if I'll ever grow up.

Slow but steady progress towards making sense of things. And the Best. Christmas. Present. Ever. My daughter surprised me with a visit and the news that she will relocate in Austin within the next year.

That's huge. For the last fifteen years we have been separated by so many miles and so little money to visit I despaired we'd ever see each other again. To keep hope alive, I'd look forward to the next time we could be together. I've never insisted on adhering to traditional holidays, especially since she felt the need (and I concurred) that those special times were more important for her to be with her dad and his new family than with me. I can make a holiday out of any day of the year. Her presence is what makes it special for me.

To be sure, I have my own family to celebrate those occasions with, and that's been wonderful. It's just more wonderfuller now.

Reconnection: 2010 was full of surprise calls and e-mails from old friends who found me via Facebook, Twitter, the Showco listserv, and plain old Google. One friend UPS'ed me an antique Blue Willow mug that she had been carrying around for 35 years to return to me. Green (the band) reunions at James Neel House of Music were great fun, interesting to see where dynamics have changed, where they haven't.

Trying to reconnect with myself. Dealing with depression in a new way (shit happens--you won't be stuck forever) and peeling back resistance to commitment. Learning how to care for an aging body. Accepting good things as well as bad.

New Year's Investigations (as opposed to New Year's Resolutions): The word "resolutions" has several connotations. I associate NYRs with grim determination, mindless exercises in habituation, failure, and general dissatisfaction. For 2011 I am looking deeper. Redefining "resolution" to mean "problem solving," "arrival," "completion." Bringing curiosity into the mix. Jumping off cliffs. Cracking facades. Opening doors.

1. Music: spring concert season begins soon! AVAE is doing a piece (Poulenc Figure Humaine 1943) that I've wanted to perform for a very long time with a group that has the talent to execute. Thanks, Ryan!

Knocking the rust off the old flute chops. Wonder of wonders, one of the few things that was pre-organized before the move. All my flute music is safely stored in a clear bin, so was easily retrieved from the unlabelled boxes. There are a few items I keep close: my flute, passport, and a palm-sized turquoise bear fetish. Piano as well, all in a bin.

2. De-clutter: The unprepared move knocked me for a loop. I miss my old tree house, but my new place is definitely more conducive to fashioning a physical environment that is safe, healthy, and wildly creative. Several sub-categories: prioritizing what needs to go, what can stay; acquiring items that will enhance the above (computer chair, clothes dryer, slide/neg converter). Photographing items that I might sell on Ebay or Etsy. Accepting that I will probably NEVER mend clothing, replace buttons, etc. Aggressively dealing the unaccustomed onslaught of paper mail triggered by retirement (enough, already!)

3. 52 Weeks to Awesome: This is one of those serendipity things that showed up at the right place, time, and price. Already reaping the benefits from the bonus goodies alone--a lovely, hand-drawn watercolor Goddess calendar to brighten up the workshop wall as well as keeping me on track. Homies Pace and Kyeli from the Connection Revolution don't know me yet, but I'm looking to blow their collective minds and find myself in the process. Or vice versa. Scrumptious, either way. Evolution.

4. Rehab: Next purchase? A pair of supportive walking shoes. Austin has two awesome feet stores--Caravel and Run-Tex. I'll be searching for the ones that make walking more enjoyable. Especially now that it's as cold as it's going to get for the year--can't walk outside in hot weather, too many unhealthy heat/UV reactions. Psyche--look for ways to share PTSD recovery with those still inside the horror.

5. Simplify, simplify, simplify:
Simply, make room for wonderments, good deeds, insane creativity.

6. Milestone birthday: The ol' Six-Five. Or as I like to say, "eighteen with forty-seven years of experience." Because that's what it feels like. Really.