An Experiment

As an experiment, I can remember that everything has a purpose, a possibility or offers something to study, then I can keep it or discard it.  This includes people, interactions, experiences, and emotions.

I have stepped into an extraordinary experimental journey.  Some of this journey is too familiar, some of it is all new.  This is not the first time I have ventured out on my own. It is the first time doing it in my 60’s with my kids who are 2,000+miles away.  It is not the first time I have felt uncomfortable with my unfamiliar surroundings; it is the first time I am seeing it as part of a bigger picture, part of a journey of stepping more into myself, accepting more of who I am and what I need to just be me, what I need to feed my spiritual questing.

My journey to Evanston has been much longer than the 5 night car trip via I-40 with Mr. H.  It has been everything leading up to this: all the thinking about doing what was right, the packing of my whole house, now rented long-term, selling, throwing out, and giving away much of what I have owned, saying see you later, to friends and family and life as I have known itbecause goodbye just sounds like more than the truth.

As I packed up I found myself wondering where I would be when the boxes were opened again, feeling a bit scared and excited.  Mostly excited but sometimes it can be hard to feel excited about something in the future I know little about.

I know that I really don’t know anything. I work hard to fill in what I don’t know with judgments, either positive or negative and though the positive feels better, I still don’t know what it is I am doing. I know I am here in Evanston, I know my room is a room, my dog is happy to be with me, and I know that I am slowly trying on this move. I know I am back here in the land of my first 30 years of life to retrieve something or glean something.

I am trying to just let this journey learn me and work me. I am trying to just sit with and turn towards what is uncomfortable, what makes me squirm or makes me judge myself.

I am thinking about the phrase, “What if it Was Sacred”.  What about allowing the things that make me uncomfortable to deepen and change me. and so become sacred.  I want to be present, and be a warrior to old ideas and limiting beliefs and allow myself to be open and listen to new possibilities and ideas. I want to feel the influence of the new, and what directions it can take me.

 

Letting Go and Letting Go

4/2/17 Thoughts on weeding out, de-cluttering and letting go.

I have nothing new to say here, I just have my thoughts, my pain, and ultimately my freedom.  I want to make the letting go significant.  I want to know that what I let go of, makes someone happy or is useful to someone.

I held on to things and let go of many. I still have 40+ boxes of stuff stored in my garage!  It all needs another good combing, but not this time around. I held onto a bathroom rug that was my mother’s.  It seems silly, a bathroom rug, really? Not just because it was my mother’s but because it is good quality and big and I think of my parent’s house in La Jolla that offered such comfort to all of us, my kids, their dad and I. When I see that rug, I think of feeling well taken care of, having plenty…plenty of love, connection, and things, lots and lots of beautiful things..

I held onto the New Yorker cartoon of a zen monk meditating with all of his crap behind a beautiful screen, a cartoon my mother framed and had hung in the bathroom which is a tradition I have kept. It has been in a bathroom ever since she gave it to me. It will go in another bathroom one day again.  That is, if I can find it in all the well-marked boxes. Well, my intention was to “well mark” them.  I just won’t know how well marked until it is time to find something, like the framed cartoon for the next bathroom.

That cartoon represents a tradition in my family of emitting peace and holding the crap behind the screen. This is the tradition I keep trying to change with every move I make.  With each move I make a little headway and always wonder what I will do with all this stuff when I am a Buddhist nun somewhere in my future dreams. I am tired of the energy it takes to keep turning away from what is behind the screen.  And yet, the struggles of letting go are deep and ancestral.  I have gone through nearly every item I own in detail, making decision after decision, keep, don’t keep, keep, don’t. I am doing it, sometimes down to a spotted paperclip or gold pen, or the metal yardstick my mother felted the back of so she could use for sewing. 

Some of these decisions were choices my mother didn’t want to make. Or was it her way of leaving something of herself behind? I know I am holding on to things to leave something of me and my history behind. As I am packing I wonder if my kids will be the ones to go through these boxes and what will they think about or what unanswered questions will stir in their minds.

Many people have quoted the feng shui book to me, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. They tell me all I have to do is hold the object in my hand and ask if it makes me happy or do I love it.  But the questions are more simple and more complex than that. There are objects that hold memories, memories I want my children to learn about, memories my mother wanted me to learn about, memories that keep the lineage, and the familial connection to what is good, true and beautiful. And the memories have energy.  It is that energy I am trying to untie from and still hold onto the memories. And the whole time, the chatter in my head is saying you are letting go of the wrong things, the valuable things, or you are holding onto the wrong things, the things that don’t really matter.  The truth is, I am holding onto what I am not ready to let go of yet.

I let go of 8 car loads to the Good Will, 4 trips to the consignment store, I sold a few beds and furniture on OfferUp and Nextdoor. and took two trips to Clars Auction Gallery .  I brought Clars a coral necklace still with the Marshall Field’s box. It was my great aunt’s and then her daughter’s and then my mother’s and now mine. It now seemed easier to let go of.  For god’s sake,  no one has worn it for over 40 years or possibly longer. It sat in the box making me nervous that I would somehow lose it or it would get stolen. I knew it was time and it would have been so much easier to let go if nice the lady at Clar’s hadn’t explained to me how it was made and the details of each bead, the gold, the cameo.  But I stuck to my guns and it is up for auction in April. I may regret it, but I may feel a bit more free. I won’t know till I am somewhere in my future life, nun or no nun.

 

 

 

 

 

GPS on “Walk”…Wait, What?!

4/6/17

Last night in Tulsa OK, Mr. H and I took a long, leisurely, kinda’ southern stroll, through the historic Swan Lake neighborhood of Tulsa. With the GPS set to Walk, I found the restaurant Roka and got an amazing dinner to go. Just easier to get food to go while traveling with my buddy.  As we waited for the food, H and I chatted up the incredibly kind waitress at the restaurant and met some folks that fell head over heals for the buddy.  We also met a fellow Airbnb host, originally from India, who invited us to stay on our next Tulsa visit.  Hmm, as beautiful and friendly as this area was, I am not sure when a next visit would be.

 

This morning I loaded the car with my belongings along with my very reluctant dog, put my phone in its holster, and set it for the next stop The Magnolia Hotel in St Louis.  I looked at the google map enough to see a 5 and read it as 5 hrs.  I was so happy it was not the expected 6.  After grabbing a wonderful latte at Shades of Brown Cafe, I was puzzled that the GPS was taking me on lots of side streets and roads that went right next to the highway and wondering why it wasn’t putting me on the highway. I was enjoying the greens and browns of land, the old broken down houses which were once someone’s dream, the gentle hills so much, that it didn’t occur to me that the GPS was telling me the walking route to St Louis and that it would be 5+ days to get there!  Not 5+ hours.

I did get to see lots of Tulsa and things like the self-proclaimed,  “Most Inspirational Rest Stop”.  It was an absolutely huge cross that made me think about who built it and how it would be to have that smack in the middle of a lawn.  It sure is a way to remember that you’re supposed to remember god, or faith or whatnot. Not my cup of tea, in fact, it was really off-putting for me but I imagine it is something someone is very proud of.  Now the windmills, that’s something that inspires me and even makes me proud, like I own energy saving ways.

This whole walking route also made me think about Forest Gump and wonder if I would want to walk my way across the US sometime.  Still thinking about it.

The GPS and I reconciled our differences, her British accent helped a lot with that. We got on track with Drive not Walk and continued on the road.

After several Rest Stops, tumbles and rolls in the grass, we made it to St Louis about 3pm, walked around the amazing Arch, saw some really disturbing history about slavery and got to see what an amazing city St Louis is.

Henry rolling around the grounds whenever possible.

 

Long Stretches, Henry, and Strangers

4/4/17

“We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.” From Brain Candy facebook page-

It is April and it is Winter here between Gallup and Amarillo.  This day started with ice on my car windows, followed by alternating sleet, snow, hail, rain, gusty winds, 32-46 F, and upon arriving in Amarillo it has been just plain blustery, rainy and cold here.  Long, very beautiful, straight stretches have been the visuals for my drive.  The radio, when I can get some good music or news and my book on tape, rescue me from the weight of being the sole driver.  Sometimes a conversation with myself works as well and sometimes it is interesting. I tried to teach Henry how to drive and how to have a conversation, but he was just not interested.  Rest stops have been a welcome change for both of us each day.

There is grass here in Amarillo, unlike Gallup where it was mostly “decorative” rocks. When fortunate, there were real, beautiful, ancient rocks at the rest stops.  And when we arrived in Amarillo at our hotel this afternoon, Henry was thrilled to just roll and stretch in the grass, kicking his legs out behind him, rolling on his back, laying his belly on the cold turf.

Our room overlooks the highway and a Longhorn Steakhouse sign. Within a block of each other, there are two more steakhouses. I am certain they are there just in case there isn’t enough steak at the Longhorn.

Steakhouses, Roadhouses, Indian trading posts, souped up trucks that audibly make their presence known within 10 miles, truckers, cowboy hats and boots, line dancing, quaffed hairdos, bolo ties are very real and very personal to people here.  They are part of a culture and identity just as gourmet restaurants, cafes, boutique stores, media and the arts culture are part of mine. What people identify with here in the southwest, can make me curious, it can also make me want to turn away, it can offend me and hurt my eyes and it can stir all my fears and stereotypes.

And then this happened.

While waiting at the bar for my dinner to go, at one of the steakhouses tonight, I met a man who wore a cap with an orange bill and the rest was camouflage like his jacket.  His first comment in a deep Texas accent was about Henry and how he had had a yellow labrador and what great dogs they are.  He talked about moving around with his dad in the service, his ex-wife who didn’t like hunting, his son who had committed suicide in his early 20s, over which he got ever so slightly choked up, and how that was the end of his marriage. With a large smile on his face, he talked about being happy to have a great girlfriend now who liked to travel, camp, fish, and hunt.  I can hear about the ex, the son’s suicide, his moving around, the girlfriend. But I really did not want to hear about the hunting…really! Or even the fishing. I am such a hypocrite because I eat meat and fish, I just don’t kill it. Maybe that’s worse.  He was a nice guy and he might not have chatted me up if Mr. H was not there.  We shared a lot about travel and the adventure of entering a different culture.  He was a really nice guy who shook my hand when I left and genuinely wished me safe travels.  It was so good to connect with another human and not keep a distance just because of some stereotype that I can project onto another.

Henry opens doors, opens hearts, brings out a smile, and kindness in most everyone.  With all that he brings out in people feeds my belief, that underneath, we all have similar needs. We all want connection and a reason to connect, we want to be accepted for who we are, and we want to be free from fear, we want safety, food, and shelter. We want to care.

Right now, the weather is just weather.  The drive is just the drive.  And, everyone is just doing what they do and being who they are.  Henry will always be Henry, no drivers license and not a conversationalist, but indeed a true love and companion.

 

Today The Mojave

4/3/17

“The transition from the hot Sonoran Desert to the cooler and higher Great Basin is called the Mojave Desert. This arid region of southeastern California and portions of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, occupies more than 25,000 square miles.”

Wikipedia: The Mojave Desert (pronunciation: /mˈhɑːvi/[5][6] mo-hah-vee) is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America.

Henry and I left Needles, CA this am, drove through the deeply beautiful lands of a rain-shadow desert, The Mojave, on I40 and arrived in Gallup, NM this afternoon.

At some point on the 5+ hour drive, I became overwhelmed with the amazing and varied landscapes of our country.  I was awed by the multiple layers of rust, golds, pine greens, and sky blues as they textured over and around the Mojave, its mountains, and rocks. As the tumbleweed blew erratically across the highway it seemed to have avoided the paint brush and just remain a dry beige. (Note I said highway, not freeway and that’s how you know I’m not in CA anymore.) The rocks that look carefully painted, are between 1.7 and 2.5 billion years old, and I am a small speck that has a large impact on something so ancient, so grand, so beautiful and so precious.

Between awesome, stunning views and thoughts of responsibility for taking care of what was all around, I was overcome with apprehension over what we have done to our planet? What are we doing?  We have plants and animals in the mountains, deserts, streams, waterfalls, lakes and oceans depending on us. Depending on us like a baby depends on its mother’s milk. Again, what are we doing? Who do we think we are?  Most importantly, the question is, what am I doing, and what is right for me to do?

I believe we are stewards for the plants, animals, and humans of these lands. Dictionary.com . Steward, [stoo-erd-ship, styoo-] the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving:  New regulatory changes will result in better stewardship of lands that are crucial for open space and wildlife habitat.

Sometimes t can feel like the earth is bleeding. As I drove along, it seemed as if I could feel its yearning, its desperation for us to recognize its power, and know how dependent we are on it and how absolutely necessary its thriving existence is for us to just breath and live.

I know I have done some good things for this earth and I know I haven’t. I know my mother was right about using natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, wool, and cashmere, not just because they felt good, but because they were natural to human living. I know my mother was right about minimally using man-made medicine so there is less to contaminate our bodies and less to throw out and contaminate the waters and all who drink it. I know my mother was right and I know there was a value that says we need to take care of ourselves, we need to take care of the land, and we need to take care of everyone around us. I know she was right.

What would it be like if I could allow these lands to be something sacred; something that I let in enough to change me, rather than always being about me changing it, expecting it to accommodate me, make me happy.

Thank You Mr. Rogers

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”  ― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers

As I have been packing up my house for this experiment/journey, I found my copy of The Atlantic with Mr. Rogers on the front of it.  I also found books by Mr. Rogers that clinical psych students have given me over the years because they knew how I admired Mr. Rogers like my hero. To top it off, in my sorting and  packing I found a toy that when you press different buttons you hear Mr. Rogers’ voice saying, “I like you just the way you are.”  Or, “You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you.” And, of course, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  It was a perfect thing to find.  It made me think about how I am going about this journey as an experiment and how that gives me room to just accept everything as it is, including myself.

What if every piece of this journey was sacred, and each step or action or thought was done with such attentiveness and acceptance that the meaning of each step was a whole journey by itself ?