Sunday, August 6, 2017

WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP BUSY?

I'm on a mission.  I feel I need to figure out once and for all what the hell I do with my time...my life.

Hub and I had dinner the other night with folks we don't see too often, so of course I was asked, "What have you been up to?  What do you do to keep busy?"  This woman is recently retired and working to find a new rhythm and purpose to her life, so naturally she is wondering what people do with their days when they are not in the paid workforce.  For some reason I never wondered that.  I always felt like I had about ten times as much "to do" than there were hours in the day when I was working for money, so when I retired I felt liberated, not lost.  But it's a valid question nonetheless.  What do I do?

Actually, when she asked me this, my mind went almost blank. What DO I do?  I stammered out that I go to Yoga two-three times a week.  I write my two blogs.  I watch our little granddaughter two days a week.  That's all I came up with.  Weird.  Because every day whizzes by and I guess I don't have much to show for it.  Not much "accomplished".  No one thing that summarizes my everyday life.

I love my time with friends -- lunches, breakfasts, coffee dates, art museums, craft fairs, movies, and marches.

I love scrolling through Facebook -- the introvert's favorite social connection to those near and far.

I read online articles and commentaries and blogs in a variety of publications.  I have new glasses now so I can go back to reading actual books and magazines.

I watch TV with Hub at night.  A lot.  Done apologizing for this.  Love it.

I take a shower now and then.

I clean my own house, although I'm about to ditch that because it's tedious and one of my friends has a great housecleaner I plan to contact.

I host our family for dinner once/week, but Hub does the cooking, so not sure that counts.

I do laundry, but how hard is that?  It's not like I'm beating my jeans against a rock.

Hub does the grocery shopping, but I do all the gift shopping when gifts are needed, which isn't that often, but still.  

I go to occasional classes and workshops.

My doctor tells me I have to do more aerobic exercise, so that's popping up to the top of the list, along with the regular yoga I mentioned.

I balance our accounts, pay all our bills, and keep a spreadsheet of our expenses.  That takes a few hours twice a month; could be less if I didn't have a math disability and number dyslexia.

I volunteer for a few hours at my old job monthly and in my granddaughter's classroom weekly.  And of course there is my two days/week of Granny Nannying chasing a two-year-old.

I plant stuff in the garden and stand and watch for it to either die or grow.  I mostly insist it all thrive on benign neglect.

Sometimes I wander around the house visiting all my years-long-in-residence house plants, as if they are old friends, and being amazed at how healthy and happy they are; this now seems like a weird thing to do and to admit.

I am also currently trying to save the Republic from ruin, so all those phone calls and letters and rumination (mostly rumination) take time.

I don't know what the hell I do.  Certainly not anything that can be summarized in a simple declarative sentence.

And maybe that's the beauty of retirement that she will discover.  You don't have to "do" anything!  You just have to "be" in the world  -- alive, curious, open.  You can say "yes" or you can say "no".  Your life becomes one you can control and create, if you have the health and means to be the master of  your own fate in whatever way that manifests.   She will find there is plenty to "do" and even better, hopefully, will learn the art of how to "be".

What do I do to keep busy?  I stay alive.  I live.  I just am.  It all unfolds and I watch with wonder at how my life and choices shift with the changing tides of need and opportunity.  And I realize how content I can be with long days of doing absolutely nothing of consequence.

At least, that's the view from here....©

Saturday, July 22, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK -- PART 3 -- FAMILY & FRIENDS

It hardly seems fair to "blame" family and friends for my dearth of writing time and energy lately.  They certainly aren't making unrealistic demands on my time.  In fact, far from it.  I'm happy to spend time with the people I love!  And I do.

We do Granny Nanny (and Papa) Care for our two-year-old granddaughter 2 days a week.  Throughout the school year I volunteered a morning a week in our seven-year-old granddaughter's classroom.  About once a week or so we host a family dinner at our house for our sons and their partners and the Grands.  Last month we all went on a Family Vacation together for 3 days at the beach.  We just completed a 3 night/4 day "sleepover" event with the Grands while their mommy and daddy had some away time together without kids.  We'll do it again in September, a week after also providing before and after sport camp care (and chauffeuring) for our seven-year-old granddaughter's first soccer/baseball/football experience.  We celebrate birthdays and holidays together.  We absolutely love that our family lives nears us and are so grateful that they want to be part of our lives and invite us to be part of theirs.

I feel equally blessed by my friendships.  I have spontaneous coffee dates aplenty; a standing breakfast with one friend weekly and with another a regular lunch date.  I travel with friends, celebrate birthdays, holidays, and retirements.  I sometimes host a "Girls Movie Night" at my house and recently a "Garden Yarning" event for knitting and crocheting blankets for refugee centers.  Hub and I stay in touch with old friends who've moved a bit further north with an every other month Happy Hour date and see other friends as well when the occasion arises.  Monthly, for the past 18 months, a group of twelve close friends gathers for a meal and a sharing circle in each other's homes.  Hub and I facilitate the discussion.  We are planning our next group weekend retreat in the fall.  We are so happy and blessed to have this abundance of fabulous people in our lives!

I try to keep space on my calendar for "open time" too.  I used to schedule every day, almost every minute.  I don't do that anymore.  I've learned to say "no" even to things that sound like fun, because I need my quiet, recharging time.

I have always marveled at the likes of J.K. Rowling and others who say they wrote "in their spare time":  after the kids were in bed, sitting in their cars, waiting at the doctor's office.  I just have never been able to really write on demand.  I'm practicing a bit now, though, with the yoga blog.  Since I do get paid for that I sometimes "make" myself come up with a topic and a blog post and it usually works out fine.

Perhaps a bit more discipline for this blog is called for.  I'm using the excuse that time, energy, and attention span due to a busy life are the culprits.  It could be my tendency to procrastinate and wait for vast expanses of time to access the muse and get an idea down in print.

Just writing these three posts about why I don't write has been instructive for me.  I see where my time and energy go and it's not always to a good place. (Hello, wallowing in political despair!)  July is nearly over and August soon upon us.  Maybe I'll make an August Resolution to embrace the Nike tag line:  JUST DO IT!

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo Credit:  pixabay.com


Saturday, July 15, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK - PART 2 - BODY & SOUL

Hub is a saint.  I'm sure there are times he wants to throttle me.  I am just the type of patient he didn't want to see in his exam room.  Lots of vague complaints, skeptical of medical-pharmaceutical complex, non-compliant about taking medications, a little lazy about sweets consumption and aerobic exercise, but totally reliant upon, and demanding of, the health care system to keep me healthy and vitally alive until 2057.  (I have decided to live to 106 with fully functioning mind and body until some night that year when I fall asleep and forget to wake up.  This will not happen during Seahawks season.)

I have not been writing so frequently lately and we've already covered my preoccupation with politics as one distraction.  Let's move on to hypochondria.  NO!  I am NOT a hypochondriac!  Every moment of ache and pain, queasy, "weird" sensation, headache, muscle ache, joint ache, heart palpitation, ear ringing, itchy patch, and blurred vision is REAL and is likely a precursor to something truly awful, and which will cause me tremendous suffering until that blessed moment of release into the endless purgatory of trying to pass a math test to get into Heaven.  (I know there must be a test.  I hope its spelling; pretty good at spelling.  But probably it's math.)

The thing is, there is nothing much wrong with me.  Physically I'm in good shape.  No chronic anythings.  Slightly elevated blood pressure; slightly high cholesterol.  I take low doses of drugs for those.  That's it.  But my overactive imagination that conjures up a litany of "what ifs" has been diagnosed and is pretty chronic -- "generalized anxiety disorder"with the subset "health anxiety" being the most predominant since some unexplained fainting episodes a few years ago, the memories of which still haunt me.

So, I do spend a lot of time fussing about this or that "symptom" and imagining the worst and bugging Hub to explain what it could be and what I should do. He used to take all this rather seriously and would conscienciously try to help.  Now he tells me to call my primary care provider.  He does triage me though, so my poor doc isn't inundated with Nervous-Nelly calls.  Hub listens to me while he's reading the paper and I'm sure he's concerned enough to rule out everything but those symptoms which might be truly alarming, but he also knows that most of what I complain about is normal body stuff that everyone has, they just don't carry on about it.  In fact I know people with real, potentially life-threatening conditions who seem to go about their lives with nary a care for the Grim Reaper.  I am amazed.  My anxiety keeps me stuck on the sofa, scrolling through Mayo Clinic and WebMD sites when I'm at my most distraught.  I am definitely NOT booking a flight to Madrid.  Lately I've been focusing on some out-of-the-blue joint and muscle pain and morning headaches.  Also memory loss.  Is constantly forgetting names (or getting them mixed up) normal?  How about sort of forgetting where I'm headed when I get to the bottom of the hill on my street and take the automatic right when I should have turned left?

And... what happens when we die anyway?  I have a vague notion of my spirit returning to the Source, or whatever, and I know a couple of people who are Mediums who report that they have contact with those who have taken a step into the Parallel Universe on 'the other side'.  (I should ask for the answers to the math test.)  I dunno.  But what I do know is that in spite of all my neuroses, I love my life.  I DO NOT WANT TO DIE!  I have written about dealing with depression and yes, I've had moments of Demon Depression trying to talk me into ending myself, but I always win that argument because I've learned that Demon is a big fat liar and I'm also so curious about the future.  I want to see what happens next, even when I'm at my very emotionally distraught worst.  What new tech innovations will there be?  Will there be Game of Thrones spin-offs?  Super Bowl repeats?  Impeachments?!?  I want to see my sons as old men, my grandchildren grow up and have children.  I want to get another cat someday and outlive it.  (I recently read an article by a woman who measures her life in terms of how many dogs she will be able to have before she dies.  She now figures her age at "half a dog"; that her dog's lifespan is likely double hers.  Now that's putting a point on it, huh?)

At my age, in spite of our absolute vow that it not be so when we were all younger, many conversations with friends revolve around physical ailments, terrible diagnoses, and fears of mental and physical decline.  It's impossible to deny, avoid, and put off.  These things are real and for my age cohort are often the answer to "what's new?" because dealing with all of it can be all-consuming. It seems everyone has had a joint replacement, a case of shingles, or an errant organ.  Everyone's waiting for test results.  A friend and I went visiting the other day to the homes of two other friends who we don't see frequently.  They are lovely, smart, funny, creative women.  We had a blast catching up.  Yet, in the course of that day they both independently brought up the idea of suicide as a totally valid and hoped for response to dementia or debilitating illness.  This is what we talk about over coffee and cake these days.  It's not depressing really, just weird to find myself at this stage where these conversations are not ironic, but deadly serious.

So, I think about my eventual decline and demise too.   I think about it too much.  I get nervous, frightened, terrified.  I spend a lot of time trying to stay strong, balanced, and flexible with yoga classes, strength training, treadmill walking.  I try to challenge my brain to grow new neurons by reading and doing "brain games".   I have enormous gratitude for the fact that  (I'm knocking on every piece of wood I can find right now) I'm, so far, healthy and able.  My anxieties are controlled by yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices (also time-consuming), and by shifting my thinking from negative to positive, when I remember to do it.  So, instead of assuming the worst, I'm working on assuming the best.  I will live with fully functioning faculties to the age of 106, then perhaps die the night after Hub and I cheer on the Seahawks as they bring home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XCI.  Boom!

At least, that's the view from here...©

PHOTO CREDIT:  Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_aihumnoi'>aihumnoi / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


Thursday, July 13, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK -- PART 1 -- POLITICS

I'm trying to figure out why I am avoiding writing.  Every once in a while I'll get an idea, then it flits away in a fit of procrastination.  I turn on the TV instead.  Or pick up my crochet project.  Or scroll through Facebook for the tenth time as I watch my newsfeed replenish itself.  Or flip my Kindle open.

I think the thing is, I might be just a tad bit overwhelmed and don't know where to start.  There are three major issues in my life that take up most of my brain, body, and heart energy these days.  None are tidily summed up in a pithy blog post, which makes me feel like a crappy writer because daily I read the essays of others who can so articulately and entertainingly state the rambling half-formed thoughts in my own head.

So, here goes.   Maybe just starting will loosen the writing logjam.

Let's start with politics:  I've avoided writing about the clusterf*%k (See?  You can't tell what I really said in my mind, can you?) that is the American political system and our disabled government these days.  It is impossible to recount the horrors, because they have all run together.  Most of us don't even remember the daily outrages.  When I hear about something that happened last winter, last month, or even last week, I go, "Oh yeah...I forgot about that one!"   Or it seems so naive to believe that was anything to huff about given what has happened since.

We have a shit show of a president. (I'm actually enjoying reclaiming my swearing habit from my youth, but I only use it to expound on politics because it just seems so descriptive and cathartic and appropriate to having absolutely no respect for them, as they have demonstrated they have none for us -- the American public.)   He has appointed an unqualified, self-serving Cabinet of Wall Streeters and religious conservatives, and "alt-right" racists to dismantle the institutions of government.  He attacks our free media daily, calling their reporting "fake news" and characterizes our free press as the "enemy of the people".  He attends meetings with historical allies and disses them.  He withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accords.  He cuddles up to authoritarian leaders as kindred spirits.  He's a compulsive liar and an unrepentant sexist.   Then there's the whole Russia connection and his collusion with them to influence the 2016 election -- now outed by his own eldest son who admitted meeting with a Russian attorney who offered to provide dirt on Hillary last June.  They are trying to squirm out of it, but there are (ironically!) emails that confirm the whole thing.

And still the Republicans are circling the partisan wagons and showing no inclination to admit their president has obstructed justice, colluded with an enemy in a cyber attack on our government and political system, daily violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution and is in general just a creep.  (Today he's in France, where he met the First Lady of France with the comment, "You're in great physical shape!  Beautiful!")  The R's are too busy ramming through a repeal and replace health care bill (drafted in secret) that will decimate Medicaid, throw 22 million people off health insurance, severely weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions and which lines the pockets of the most wealthy in the US with tax cuts.  Business as usual; treason ignored.

This craziness all started last summer around convention time, then got horrifyingly real on November 8th, then has just gone batshit crazy since January 20th.  It feels like a lifetime of awful.  This, for me,  has never been just about a difference of political party or policy.  It's about the character of the man, of those who voted for him, and of what this country has become in the wake of an unprecedented, unmitigated political disaster.  I don't recognize my country anymore, and it scares me.

On the upside -- part of the populace at least has "woke", to use the term of the day.  (Being "woke" means that one sees with complete awareness that the status quo must be overhauled, and is part of a cultural push to challenge norms and systemic injustices).   This awareness has ushered in an activism the likes of which has not been seen in decades.  New thought leaders are rising up, people are filling Congressional offices and Town Halls, voices are being heard.  It still feels anemic to me at times, but we in the "resistance" are assured that our voices are making a difference.  God, I hope so.

I've got my representatives on speed dial and am incredibly grateful to live in the "blue bubble" of a Democratic stronghold with Senators and Congresspeople who actually represent my values and views.  I have reached out to Republicans who have shown even modest moves in the right direction, encouraging them.  I call, send emails, write letters to the editor.  I post on Facebook to the dismay of some and the appreciation of others.  (Whenever I say I'll step back, I'm encouraged by many to keep on.  I'm happy to provide that voice, encouragement, and information to those who want it.  To those who don't, scroll on by.)  I go to meetings, rallies, marches, and local candidates forums.  I post yard signs.  I wear message T-shirts.  I contribute a bunch of money.  I watch probably way too much daily political commentary on TV.  I also read opinions and editorials in newspapers on social media, and in blogs.  I watch hearings and Congressional committee meetings on CSPAN.

I envy those who can turn it all off.  I really do.  But I am absolutely convinced that an informed electorate is even more necessary to save our Republic now than in recent memory.  The changes happening to us are startling, the normalization of that which is NOT NORMAL is stunning.  I hope all the various investigations lead to justice.  (House and Senate Investigations, Special Prosecutor Independent Investigation, Lawsuit in Federal Courts).  My greatest fear is that they'll get away with it -- the destruction of all that is good and right.

I've always been patriotic, but even more so now.  It's time for Liberals to reclaim the flag; to stop being called weak because we are compassionate; to stop apologizing for being rational and intelligent.  I am reading a book about Washington's Farewell Letter.  His warnings to future generations about threats to the infant Republic in his time is exactly what is happening now.  Some say it is overstating and dramatizing the situation to say our Republic is at risk.  If it was just an aberrant president, I might agree....but it's the Republicans who are defending and embracing him and it's the citizens who voted for him, and who continue to cheer him on or who sit passively by ignoring all the noise and believing the lie that outstanding investigative reporting is "fake news", that make the threat all too real.

This is already a long post and I've only scratched the surface of what is happening and my feelings about it.  See?  Overwhelm.  Bottom Line:  RESIST!

At least, that's the view from here...©