Sometimes thinking about the past is appropriate, especially when you get news about someone that meant something to you, even if you haven’t spent much time with them in recent years.
Families are such slippery things–they are fragile and sometimes easily shattered. They also are defined by many different things, not just by blood. And often the ones that aren’t put together by blood can mean more. We define them ourselves.
When the some things that created them, like a marriage, dissolve, then they seem to disappear too–at least in the physical sense. But we may realize, especially at critical moments, they still linger within deeper parts of us; that these people who were once family are still dear.
So when I heard my ex-father-in-law is now in hospice, I found myself extremely sad. He was someone who had been very good to me while I was married. It’s been easy to recall so many memories of the kind things about him: his easy acceptance of our decision to adopt a HIV positive child, and his special love for her. And his overly enthusiastic attitude (and long conversations and questions) about my career as an EMT/Paramedic, something I didn’t always feel at home from his son. He loved the stuff!
I picture him as the typical unassuming New England man, quiet but always willing to help; that crooked smile, bald head and slight limp. He was my go to guy, always aware of what was happening with the weather, and loving to talk about it.
Maybe he’s not officially ‘family’ anymore, but in my heart he will always hold a very special place as he made me feel welcome and a part. I felt like family because of him.
It was almost a year ago that I left this wonderful home…now I prepare for another big move tomorrow!! This move will be into a tiny 700 square foot condo. I’ve never lived in a condo situation before. Yet I’ve always longed to be part of a community, to belong to a tribe and a neighborhood. So far, with some lovely neighbors, this wish may come true.
There are many things to do within this community: swimming, work out, walking, trips, games and clubs. It’s just a matter of getting involved. Admittedly, for many years now, I’ve been a bit of a recluse. Hopefully I can get myself out of my shell and more sociable. Work doesn’t seem the place that this will happen, so maybe it’ll be this new homestead.
It was built in the ’70’s and appears to have kept the same sense of that era when folks cared more about those around them. The times when neighbors were really neighborly and knew who lived next door. They work hard to make this happen. It’s not quite a co-housing community (not that cool or expensive), but not unlike. Nor is it totally an intentional community, but with all the rules, one could say it’s trying to be.
I’m hoping my pets will make the transition safely and happily. My dog doesn’t know that he already has a new playmate waiting to meet him named Daphne. He will be thrilled since he lost his brother before we moved. My beagle was old and would never had made the trip or tolerated this weather. My pup has been sad without him.
I’m more worried about the cats, but tonight I will put out the little carriers for them to sniff. Maybe with a little added catnip. And at least they will only be traveling twenty minutes this time instead of across the country! They should like this new place, with carpets to vomit on and to sharpen their claws….
While I didn’t get the little place near ‘the lake’ and it’s certainly not my beautiful lake near my old home, I can still walk near the little body of water (I think) if I want. And, in the end, there are just so many good reasons to go through all this trouble to make another move in a year. Honestly, I never thought I would, but hey, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do!
A friend sent me this post card a week or so ago. She’s from where I moved a year ago, although that’s not where I met her.
I think it must remind her, as it certainly does me, of an amazing and beautiful mountain there. Supposedly the most climbed mountain in the world I heard. It was right near my home, and within sight of my walks.
There are no mountains where I live now, and while I used to complain bitterly as I ran or biked up any hill, now I honestly miss them.
The monotony of flat terrain may be something I never get used to I’m afraid. Mountains just inspire. They fill one’s heart with strength and power.
I climbed that mountain a few times, as well as smaller versions, many more. I helped to rescue injured hikers off and even jogged a few trails back in the day. And one time I even got so lost on one of the local mountains that they were ready to rescue me with dogs when I made my way off a road after running miles and hours off course!
Now I only fear getting stuck in traffic or hit by another car. Or struck by lightning in a crazy tropical storm. If I’m really unlucky, a hurricane may hit.
But nothing will be like me and the mountain… My wits against hers. That raw, majestic solitude–just beckoning me: come closer.
“Live free or die!”–this was the refrain I was used to hearing from where I just moved. A war cry I often made fun of when I was there, especially as a paramedic. We would change the saying to: Live free AND die when we’d arrive on scene of a motorcycle accident, no helmets, the person dead or dying. Ayup, no helmet laws…that’s right folks, do whatever you like for sure. It’s your life despite best practices and safety information! Go ahead: live free and die for sure…keeps me in business.
It was all a big joke, but many there took their freedom very seriously. And, I suppose, with good reason. In a world, where Big Brother seems to encroach upon us in so many aspects of our lives with all the rules and regulations, I kind of get it.
I, for one, have never been so good at following all of the rules. The ones that didn’t make much sense to me, or seemed unfair or unjust–well, yeah, I definitely went outside those boxes. In that way, I related completely to the above sentiment. It makes me nuts when someone tells me to do something that I deem as irrational or I simply know to be incorrect because I have proof. It gets all my hackles standing on end.
And I must admit, I’m not very good at being quiet about it. I’ve always had a rather big mouth–for as long as I remember. Pressing the boundaries and getting myself in trouble. Not exactly self-righteous, but willing to go against the establishment.
So here I am facing The Establishment like I never have before: buying a condo! It’s a whole new experience for me. I was always afraid I might not be able to do it and to ‘fit in’ and follow The Rules of folks telling me just what I could and couldn’t do with reference to how to live. But I had no idea to what extent it would happen until I went to my ‘orientation’ meeting today. There was reams of paperwork and boxes to check off. It was nuts.
Already a bit crabby missing work because they only have it during the week, something I felt rather archaic–maybe I was already a bit prejudiced I admit. Sure, it’s ‘an active adult community’ (this meaning 55 and over), but that means many of us work for goodness sake!! So why not run some of these after hours or on weekends?? I suppose because the office lady doesn’t want to come in then…but sheesh.
This meeting is mandatory, even though I had already met with someone from my particular building. One can’t close until you go and get some paper from them for the title company!! She didn’t want to overfill the class, meanwhile (if you include a couple) I was the 5th person. Really, 5 is too many? She’s afraid someone would ask too many questions. But instead, SHE talked in redundant circles, about nothing. Garbage, what colors to paint your house, where to park your cars… Are you joking? An hour and half later, I thought I might scream.
And even though she told us to hold all questions until later, she snipped at me with the one question I had, which was never answered. Ahhhh! It was crazy. And there were so many rules! I’m not sure I can go to the bathroom without checking with someone first. Or at least…the color of the toilet paper I buy…
No, but really, it all seemed rather silly, but I’m sure once you move in nobody even cares. And when she said there’s a woodworking club that the MEN are in (I asked if woman can join…yeah yeah, I was being smart)…I thought: maybe I’ll start my own club. Like the rebel club. Or the people who use weird toilet paper club. Or those who never listened during meetings in high school club. Or the live free or die club….
Or maybe I’ll just go into my cute little new condo, shut the door and mind my own business.
“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Groucho Marx
Everybody know this fellow, right?? I felt a bit like him today when I was ‘interviewed’ by the condo person (it was supposed to be people, but one didn’t show), for the place I’m buying. Before moving here, I had never heard of such a thing. Being interviewed before you move into a building?? Say what? You mean to tell me I can’t just buy an apartment and move in? This was definitely not like that state where I used to live–someone would probably pull out a gun before they would be interviewed for something like this…I mean you’ve got to be kidding. “Live Free Or Die” baby…don’t you know?!
But OK, I’ll play by the rules. What could they possibly ask me, right? Or could they?
When I showed up today at 3pm, I was early and waited outside…by the mailboxes. It’s not as cryptic as it sounds, because there is a little area to sit with a table. But one would think the president of the building complex (there are multiple complexes) would invite you in for a cup of tea in a more welcoming way. But no, when she came, it was pretty much all business. Take copies of my papers, take my check, ask a few round about nosy questions and that was that. And, in the end, she was the only one there.
I got the paper signed that I needed–I guess accepting me into ‘the club’. Or whatever. I’m not exactly sure what that signature represented. And I’m not sure if they can exactly turn someone down or what you’d have to do to make them say no. Maybe act like Groucho Marx? Maybe if I had walked up with a big hairy moustache smoking a cigar and darting eyes, they would have thought twice. Who knows? I didn’t push it…yet.
So I clutched all my official papers to my chest and scurried over to the condo office to get stamped with approval to be part of The Club. Oh wait, I have to first take an Orientation class so I know how to live there first!
What, wait? A class? Rules of how to live around other people? I know, I know…it has been a long time since I have and I may have forgotten. If I don’t refresh my memory, I might just do something stupid like get my mail naked or leave dog poop everywhere I go. Yeah, I guess I should go…
Or better still, I could do like Groucho, and could consider not being a member of any club that would have me as a member??
As many of you readers know, I’ve been on a mission of contentment in my life. Pretty much since I moved almost a year ago…and maybe even some years before that really. Coming to the south was part of that on a number of levels for obvious reasons. Gee, I figured living where it was warm all the time, well, I would just naturally just be happier.
Today I had an interesting realization related to that expectation. Usually this time of year, as midsummer rolled around in New England, I would almost get depressed. I love spring and summer. They were my favorite times of year! You can’t beat the beauty of those seasons in the North–let’s face it! The budding flowers, then in full bloom, the trees filling out with their greenery, the smells and birds. And of course, the lack of snow andcold!!! This was the best part.
Winters could seem endless there: the blizzards, downed power lines, leaking roofs, shoveling snow, winter jackets/boots/mittens/hats/scarves and frozen body parts, plus the driving. It was all just awful! When those days finally melted away into warmth, it was heaven on earth. Those who haven’t experienced it, well, they don’t know real beauty.
So when August would come, I would think: summer is half over and that means Fall and that means it will start getting cold soon. I know, silly of me, but I couldn’t help it! The summers seemed so darn short some years and the winters horrendously LONG. And time just moves faster now that I’m older. All the projects one planned for the summer, there was never enough time…
But I realized today: wait a minute….there IS no real winter here! No fall or snow coming in few months. In fact, it’s lovely weather (although I haven’t minded the hot weather either). It was crazy to think about! I’m tan, have no winter clothes to drag out, no boots to find, no moth eaten hats, no rusty shovels to find…nope, just my flip flops. Yesss!
True, the gardens aren’t as nice. I do miss that terribly. I’m not crazy about cactus or Palm trees, or lizards. But I have seen Cardinals and some other cool birds. Maybe the new place I’ll put up a feeder. And maybe I’ll try some more potted plants. And since it’ll be my own back yard (sort of), I’ll sit out more and enjoy.
Someone asked me recently if I was happy that I made the move here… It was a complicated question, well, maybe more a complicated answer.
In thinking about it, I realized that I’m in a transitional stage in my life. While I’m surrounded by so many more people living here than I was in my small New England town, I am now much more alone. And in my work place, it’s loud and the energy is intense–yet I feel in this odd impermeable bubble. Or want to be anyway.
Loving my weekends, by myself either at home or walking outside quietly (avoiding the busy dog parks), it made me realize that this is a hermit stage in my life. At first I thought I might be missing something not gathering lots of new friends around me, but then it suddenly came to me, that there’s something very right and comfortable during these passing moments of gathering solitude.
In my recent past, I’ve been a Mother and care-taker in my job. These both took lots of energy I didn’t mind giving. Now, just rebuilding my own resources and not helping anyone else is a welcome gift. The peace of silence is necessary and rejuvenating.
This realization came as a surprise, but as I settle within my lone hermit archetype, life feels less stressful and more content. Maybe the next stage will be about community, but for now, in answer to the question if I am happy that I moved here: I’m blessed to have this opportunity to have the time to experience this contemplative phase.
So this is the article I am submitting in response to my decision to being asked to reconsider my resignation at my job:
My April Fool’s Day
When I moved here in September, it was for a few reasons. The main reason was to be close to my Mother, but it was also to be away from the brutal New England weather and to retire from a stressful career where my co-workers often did not care about one another.
It’s been a blessing living near my Mom and the weather is sublime.
Applying for jobs was exhausting, and when Bethesda called I was very excited. I actually had applied for a different position than the one I am currently in, but with my experience, they felt I would be better suited for this one.
They were forthcoming about the stress of the job, which made me a bit nervous at the time because of my hopes for coming here mentioned above, but assured me about teamwork among colleagues.
It’s been three months, and yes indeed, it’s stress on steroids! I’ve seen how the stress reveals parts of people that probably, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t bubble to the surface. Some of these parts have directly affected me and, I won’t lie, this has been difficult.
For years I’ve been told ‘you are too sensitive’ or ‘have a thicker skin’ and often it made me feel there was something wrong with me. But as I grew older, I realized that I embrace this part of me and know that this is what makes me a kind, compassionate and loving person. I don’t want to keep people out with a thick skin and I prefer being sensitive to the world around me.
So I had to make a decision about the stress once again in my life and if I wanted to (not could) deal with it. And after much soul searching I decided to resign on Friday, April 1. Even though it killed me because there are so many wonderful people and I actually really like the job and am not ever a quitter. But I had also promised myself not to live a stressful life anymore.
Amazingly though, something happened. I was asked to reconsider. And many people, including some that had been stressed out directly at me, came to me and were very kind.
This made me think about some things.
We all have our troubles, so trying to be conscious that another person may be suffering personally may help us to be more patient
We all are tired and over worked, but acting as a team will help us all in the long run
A smile and a kind word goes a long way
Someone we think may not care, really might in the end but just may not know how to show it in the moment
Be the first one to extend a helping hand, or even consider being social with someone
Try to talk directly to the person first if you hear something you don’t like—remember: don’t assume
Let’s accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in regards to people, how we say things and our attitudes
I guess this all sounds hokey and maybe I’m being unrealistic. But my feeling is that if we reach high than maybe we may obtain at least just short of our goals. And this is better than not reaching at all.
The decision then about reconsidering? After so many great people asked me to, and because I am hopeful and positive person…
The answer was absolutely!
I’m not sure how my co-workers will take it. They are a mixed and motley bunch. Some may be sympathetic and find it inspiring and others may find the words insipid. None the less, I am choosing to put them forth, just like I put myself forth every day in my blog to my blogging community. Many here hail me, some have walked away. Hey, it’s a free country and freedom of speech is regarded highly and we must be brave when we put ourselves out there to a new audience.
So shall I do when this gets published in our Surgical Services Newsletter. And then let the commenting commence….
One of the first important decisions I ever made with regards to politics was affiliating with a party. This I did many years ago so I could vote in the primary. I knew that I would never vote Republican (well once I voted for a Republican for a particular position), but I am 99.9% of the time aligned with a more liberal point of view. Therefore I saw no point in remaining an Independent and missing out on the primary races.
Normally it’s a no brainer for me. I would march right in to a little voting area in my small town in New England and cast my vote. But today was the first time in years that I struggled with my decision.
And today was my first time voting since moving. I was nervous it would be complicated and the lines would be awful. Neither were the case.
Last night I went so far as to go online again and read up on the candidates. I even kept the radio on today hoping to hear some final words of wisdom. In fact, I even hoped those obnoxious people would be outside soliciting votes for their candidates like they always did back home. But that’s the ‘live free or die’ state. As you can see by the sign, people have the appearance of more manners around here, so no-one was in sight.
So instead, I discussed it with my Mom, some friends and slept on it last night.
And then I took my paper today and walked into a little booth. Actually I figured it would be more sophisticated here in the big city, but no, it was pretty easy. No wonder it got all screwed up before here in this state (maybe it’s too simple). At least my name was on their list and I went to the right place.
I looked at the two names for a few minutes, thought about everything I read, what I talked about with everyone and then thought about what I felt inside.
Walking I had yet another moment of realization today. It was after another confrontational day at work. I ponder these moments and really wonder about them. But then I thought back to my last job in New England and realized that there were co-workers there that were difficult too, and that’s when I realized the difference. And it’s not just a difference at work, but in the people in general.
Back home, as I still tend to call it (and feel it is I suppose), the folks are often what one think as the stereotypical New Englanders–keeping their emotions and their lives mostly to themselves. It takes them a long time to get to know someone and trust them (and some never do), but once they do, you’re golden.
They can be a pretty silent people, and you as an outsider, which I always considered myself (even though I lived for 20 years in one NE state and 30 in another)– I was really from NY. And they never forget that either!
You may live in a house for years, but they don’t consider it yours until you move, then they refer to it as the old so and so house. Many are the salt of the earth, but are reserved in offering. In some ways, you must earn your place in the community, it’s not automatic.
And when they do choose to speak, they usually have something to say–it may not be much, and they won’t care if you agree, but they’ll hold to their principles and beliefs come hell or high water. Pretty much nothing will change their minds, not even reason sometimes. They just stand firm! But real New Englanders will do it over a beer or two (maybe more), and are used to letting others do their own thing. They’ll just think they are wrong.
If they are angry, they will stew and not talk to someone. Or maybe have some beers and have a fight. Get it over with and be done.
Then I came here to the south…not the polite south either. Initially I was shocked by the rudeness of people! Gosh, you couldn’t sit at a light for one second without someone honking their horn!
And at work too, of course I’ve mentioned the craziness. I attributed it to being the surgery department, but today I realized that this may not totally be it! It may be just living in this area and the personalities of the folks down here and how they are used to acting.
They are much more brazen: if they are angry, they snap and say it! It can shock you because you might not even realize what you did to them. And they get angry at the smallest things too. People are loud and have big personalities. I notice this in grocery stores too. It’s quite amusing actually.
I’m guessing the difference is because of a few things: there are more people for one. So everyone is vying for space and air time. You have to be loud I suppose they must think–but please not at work!! The grocery stores have loud music too. And there are cultural differences too, where in NE, everything is very homogeneous.
It is probably just more stressful living here? Although NE is cold and dreary so much of the time–wouldn’t you think that is stressful? But maybe that toughens them and makes them quiet and inward. There’s a lot more money here too, so maybe folks are entitled in some ways. And they are from all parts of the country, trying to blend with each other. Does it work? Well, sometimes, when everyone is yelling, talking over each other, beeping their horns and misunderstanding one another…. um, no–not all the time.
All places have their advantages. But I as of yet have not found the place I resonate with sadly. I am a mix of both these places in a way. I am outgoing in some ways and like a mix of people, loving the cultural stew. Yet, my quiet NE home was so peaceful and beautiful too–and the people there, while challenging could be the most endearing friends.
So where will I find my next home? How to find a combination of both–how to get a sense of community without the harsh edge of, well, stressed-outness that I find here? That close-knit days of old where neighbors helped one another and cared with a beautiful backdrop?