To know what life is worth…

To know what life is worth you have to risk it once in a while. ~ Jean-Paul Baptiste

Wow, what an intense two weeks it’s been. I left my home, family, and friends on February 10, and headed West. Three and a half days of driving later, I arrived at my new home. I lived in the country before, but this makes where I used to live look like the suburbs.

I am OUT THERE. And I am alone. Except for my adorable puppy, but she doesn’t really talk back all that much. I was so lucky that my best friend was able to take off work to make the drive with me, and stay a few more days to help me start unpacking and get used to my new surroundings.

The day I took her to the airport and hugged her goodbye was one of the hardest in my memory. The only memories that exceed it are the moments when I hugged my college children for the last time before I left. That just about wrecked me.

After dropping off my friend, I ran some errands and picked up groceries for me and pup. Realizing that there was no one waiting for me, wondering where I was, why I was taking so long, was strange and sad. It definitely didn’t feel liberating. I arrived back from the airport after dropping my friend off to a silent , empty house. Alone. Gut wrenching. Truly.

I sat here wondering WTF HAVE I DONE?! Holy shit, I’ve made a collossal mistake and now I’m stuck here all alone. I had a good cry. I turned on Grace and Frankie to watch again, because the silence was just about killing me and I needed some noise, and something funny to get my mind off this terrible plight I’d put myself in. And then I got a text from my friend, and another from another friend. And then yet another friend facetimed me. I texted both my kids, and talked to my parents. Thank goodness for technology.

That first night was hard. I was scared. Every noise alarmed me. Luckily my room has a deadbolt, so I could lock myself in. Which didn’t help when pup had to get up in the middle of the night to pee, of course.

The next morning, things didn’t feel so bad. I miss my kids like crazy, but the truth is, they’re gone already. They’re off to college, on to their own lives. Of course, I used to be a drive away from both of them, and now I’m not. Knowing that is hard, and it sucks. But I guess we’ll manage.

I will have been on my own for one week tomorrow. It’s been a week spent unpacking, organizing, getting settled. Wearing myself out each day so I’ll sleep well each night, and not lie in bed fretting that I’ve made a mistake.

Things are looking up. I’m proud of myself – I did the scary thing I’ve never done before. I took – am taking – a huge risk. I would say my life up until now has been Risk Averse to the Max. I realized, Sunday evening, that I don’t think I’ve ever actually been completely alone anywhere, ever. I even went off to college with my best friend (who made the drive out here with me). I’ve never been further away from my parents and family than a relatively quick car ride.

Now that I’m in my mid-50’s I guess it’s about time I grow up and learn to depend on myself, by myself. Time to take the risk, dammit. The bottom line for me was that I knew I would regret not giving this move a try, and I knew I would always wonder “what if I had?” The answers to both of those questions are what drove me to step way, way out of my comfort zone. Time will tell how it works out, but at least I won’t regret not trying, and for once, not taking the risk.

So far, this week, I’ve learned how to work a pellet stove (yeah, I feel like a total city-chick). I’ve taken myself to the dump, the local coffee / breakfast place (but didn’t have the courage to actually stay and eat by myself … baby steps), made the trip into town for supplies, and hunkered down for snow that didn’t end up coming (I’m okay with that, this time). I’ve moved all my stuff here, ferrying it up the driveway when the moving truck couldn’t make it up the steep incline. And learned, when the local guys who were helping me unload didn’t run for the hills and instead stayed and dragged all my shit up in two pick up trucks, that there are truly kind and lovely people here in this remote neck of the woods.

I think I’ll be okay. But I need to get a shotgun. There are also mountain lions out there.

 

Unexpected Emotional Cesspool

Wow, it’s been quite an unanticipated emotional roller coaster since I moved out of my house on January 6. I’ve been sharing bits of my journey on my social media platforms, and my most recent post talked about this and my upcoming cross-country move  a little bit (basically as a reason for why my accounts have gone silent). I said something along the lines of calling this time I’m in my emotional cesspool because it’s been a quagmire of excitement and anxiety, exhilaration and fear, and unexpected mourning and grief.

I realized I have to embrace and really feel all of these emotions, no matter how uncomfortable or exhausting, in order to fully move forward. It’s not fun, but it is necessary. And I also realized that the definition of cesspool – an underground reservoir for liquid waste (such as household sewage) – really fits. I know I’m not alone in this, as one of my SM followers posted a comment that resonated with me on several levels. It was:

“You’ll never know how many women who read your posts are in painful , scary, confusing, and even dangerous situations. None of us has known how we would EVER get through it. But, we do, scars, lessons, strengthening and all. We need each other in those times to see glimpses of another’s courage, hopefulness, and success. So thank you on behalf of all of us who are on our own journeys, for your generosity and courage in sharing yours.”

Wow. It brought tears to my eyes to read this, and reading it again now, I’m tearing up yet again. (This is likely due in part to the fact that being in the place where I am, it doesn’t take much to make me cry. My emotions are like raw, exposed nerves and it doesn’t take much to set them off. But, to be honest, I’m a sensitive and emotional person in general. I cry at sappy movies. Heck, I cry at stupid TV commercials. It gives my kids no end of entertainment to look over at me to see if I’ve teared up over something.)

I started this blog as a way to work through my own sh*t, and for whatever reason it felt more “real” to be writing it in a public space. I’m writing it anonymously because I wanted the opportunity to be completely honest about my life and changes, but I don’t want anything I’ve written to hurt people, even my ex.

But, her comment is the other main reason I started this blog – to perhaps show others that we are never alone, or even all that unique, in what life throws at us. That it IS possible to make changes, no matter how scary change may be. For so many years I felt afraid and just stuck, and I felt all alone in this. I only talked to a few close friends about the details of my marriage. I felt like I was stuck. Rationally I *knew* I wasn’t the only one in an unhappy marriage, but I felt very alone.

I was afraid to be on my own, supporting myself, after so many years of not being the primary breadwinner. I was afraid of damaging my kids by splitting up their home. I was afraid my ex would make my life hell – he said he would many years ago, in a fit of anger, when I said I wasn’t happy and didn’t want to be married to him anymore. At that time, it scared the hell out of me because my kids were very little and I could not imagine putting them in such a situation, or splitting custody and not being there. So I backed down and soldiered on.

This time around, my kids are grown and off to college. I finally realized I had two choices – to stay where I was, content sometimes, miserable other times, probably more financially secure because we had two incomes. I could see my life stretch out before me – kids gone (because, of course, that’s what we do as parents, prepare our kids to leave us), just the two of us at home, the inevitable arguments, and the constant undercurrent of anxiety about when the next blow up would be. I could no longer do it, and the alternative of being on my own, wholly supporting myself (I’m a self-employed artist), splitting up our home, was terrifying, but I knew it was the direction I had to take.

Change is f*cking scary. But what lies on the other side of the fear of change and the unknown? We’ll never know until we confront it the fear, and walk through it.

I’m doing it. Some days kicking and screaming, others weeping and afraid, still others completely bogged down in grief. But yes, some days are with excitement and anticipation. Time will tell what’s on the other side for me, and for any of us finding that where we are doesn’t work, and has to change.

I Was Happy Enough …

There’s this line in one of the early episodes of Grace & Frankie, where Robert (Martin Sheen) says to Grace (Jane Fonda), as he’s telling her that he’s leaving her for his partner, Sol (Sam Waterston), “Admit it, you weren’t happy.” And Grace says, “I was happy enough.”

Is “happy enough” good enough? For some people it probably is. For others, it’s just not. Is it selfish to say, “No, happy enough is not enough” ? That’s the question of the hour for me.

Some days I was happy enough in my relationship with my soon-to-be ex-husband. Many days I was entirely too far from happy enough. I was upset, sad, miserable, angry, deflated, exhausted, disgusted. Not happy – not anywhere close to it.

I realized a while back that I just couldn’t live the rest of my life “happy enough.” I couldn’t live knowing there would be another heated disagreement, more accusations and criticisms. That’s how my relationship worked – some days were just fine. And it could be like that for days, or weeks, or months – everything pretty peaceful and fine. And then, all of a sudden, my husband would come home and everything sucked for him. He’d pick fights, either with me or one of the kids. He’d criticize, and berate, and accuse, and need to have these long, drawn-out discussions for hours about everything that was wrong, all the issues I had (they were always my issues), all the ways I wasn’t proving that I loved him enough. Discussions that always left me exhausted and in tears. Until, all of a sudden, instead of being in tears, I was enraged.

I think that was the end for me. I’d reached the tipping point, and all that was left was admitting it wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t ready to do that for a long time.

Two years ago, I realized my kids were leaving. Both would be heading off to college and we’d be empty nesters. And while many couples look forward to getting to this point in life, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to be home without my kids. It was then that I really knew “happy enough” would never be good enough for me, and I’d have to be the one to pull the plug and call it The End. And I did that earlier this year.

I’m the selfish one. I’m the one who only cares about myself. I’m the quitter.

These are the words my husband uses to taunt me. I don’t think he realizes that I just don’t care; that I’ll own all of those without issue or guilt.

Because there’s a time when being selfish, caring about yourself, and quitting are the things you just have to do. When you realize happy enough isn’t good enough, and there’s no other choice to make but the one for yourself. The one for more. The one that takes you away from happy enough, and gives you the chance for completely, unequivocally, unapologetically happy.

Yes, I choose me.

Tell me, what it is you plan to do …

Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

I’ve been in a holding pattern for the last two weeks, since I found out I needed a biopsy to rule out breast cancer. All future plans were quite suddenly circling the drain, waiting for word on whether I’d be moving forward as I thought I would be, or taking a completely unexpected path down the road of literally fighting for my life.

Thankfully, I got the results back Monday afternoon, and all is well. No cancer; not even a sign of any pre-cancer potential. I didn’t realize how much I’d been holding my breath until I heard those words from my doctor. What a relief.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? This line from Mary Oliver’s poem struck me the first time I read it, and has stuck with me for years. WHAT. IS. IT. YOU PLAN TO DO WITH YOUR ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE?

Geez. It’s a simple question, but for me it comes with all sorts of pressure attached to it. Probably because I’ve felt like I was wasting my one wild and precious life. Not living it to the fullest. Not taking risks. Staying in a relationship that wasn’t healthy, wasn’t what I wanted or needed, and had no way of being what I wanted or needed. And then, two weeks ago, a significant smack upside the head.

DO SOMETHING with this wild and precious life, because who knows how long it will last.

My radiologist’s office made a mistake on my biopsy results, and included results for another patient in my report. Luckily I didn’t clue into it, but man was my doctor angry (that’s putting it mildly). There was one paragraph in my report stating that carcinoma was found, and surgery was recommended. I thought it was a reference to what *could* happen, and the reason for the biopsy. But, no. It was another woman’s results. Another woman who got the bad news I did not. Another woman who is now headed down that unexpected path of fighting to take her life back from cancer.

Last night, I got together with three very dear friends. One of them has a niece, B, who is 34 years old, and in the final stages of advanced lymphoma. None of the chemotherapy treatments have worked, so at this point they are just trying to make B as comfortable as possible, and hopefully strong enough that she can go home for a while. There is no hope for her; the cancer will take her. I’m so sad for her and her family; she is so young and it’s just not fair.

Thinking of both the woman whose results made it into my biopsy results in error, and B, makes me feel I must absolutely live my precious life as fully as I can. I need to care for this physical body of mine; keep it strong and healthy. I need to care for my spirit as well; I need to love myself. And I need to take responsibility for my life. No more coasting, no more excuses, no more rationalizing, no more wasting precious time.

I’m still not sure of what I’m doing. I have doubts, and questions, and reservations. I’m not clear about how I’ll support myself. I’m not sure where I’ll be living. I’m afraid of the unknown; afraid of making a mistake; afraid things will be worse than they are right now.

But I’m moving forward anyway. Because I really do want to make something of this wild and precious life that is mine. I am moving forward with clear biopsy results. already I’ve lived more life than my friend’s niece B ever will and have yet more time.

Every day is a gift. I have a responsibility not to squander it. Too many people don’t get tomorrow.