My Life is in Transition

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My new dehydrator.

Over the last few years I have felt myself inching towards retirement. Last month, I set a retirement date of May 31, 2017 but the size of my psychotherapy practice has reduced so much lately that sometimes I feel as if I am already retired. I know that could change, but I don’t know if it will.

This transition time has been very interesting. When my ex-husband had a massive heart attack in 2001, we began to reconnect. Now we are regularly doing things together, such as watching Seahawks games and Dancing with the Stars, and occasionally going together to movies or other events. We have talked about contacting two or three of our friends from our pre-marriage days.

I also have reconnected with Kathie, who was a close friend in the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. I helped her start a blog last year, ChosenPerspectives, so we have that in common in addition to our past history.

I’ve noticed other things that could be related to this transition. Since 2005 or so, I have felt a drive to reduce the number of my belongings. While I have never been much interested in material possessions, I began to give away anything I hadn’t used in the last three years, unless there was some major reason to keep it. Last year, I changed that number to objects that I hadn’t used in the last two years. I also have had an ongoing desire to organize and clean out cupboards, shelves and drawers.

I have had a renewed interest in numerous activities that I enjoyed doing in the past, such as gardening and canning. For about a year, I felt pulled to buy a microscope, an item I loved during my childhood. When I realized that I could add microscopic photos to the nature photography I put on my blog, I bought a microscope and started using it immediately.

I’ve also developed new passions during the last few years. The most important is blogging, which has become a major part of my day-to-day life. As a result of our mutual blogging interest, I have much more contact with my son, who is the person responsible for me starting my blog. (His blog is The Seeker’s Dungeon.) As the result of blogging, I have also developed a passion for photography.

For several years, I have considered learning how to dehydrate vegetables and fruits. Last month, I purchased a dehydrator and started dehydrating bananas, mangoes, plums, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, cucumbers (probably won’t do that again), and as of yesterday, watermelon. I’ve also felt the urge to start knitting, crocheting, sewing, and possibly folk dancing and going to Dances of Universal Peace, all activities I enjoyed decades ago. These could all be retirement activities.

When I am with Amma, the frequency of the synchronistic events that happen in my life increase dramatically. This summer was no different in that regard. A clear theme emerged in the course of those synchronicities.

The week before Amma arrived in Seattle, I was at my Network Chiropractor’s office when a woman walked out of the treatment room. She looked familiar. I did a quick 20 year age-progression in my mind and then asked if she was the person I thought she was. I was correct. The next week, the same thing happened, in the same place but with a different person. Again, the woman was someone I hadn’t seen since the mid-90’s.

When Amma came to Seattle, I spent the first morning she was here helping a staff member find and go to a dentist. I didn’t walk into the program hall until 1 p.m. As I was walking in, a woman was walking out. She called me by name. When I looked at her, I recognized that she was also someone who had been in my life in the early to mid-90’s. I hadn’t seen her since then and she told me she hadn’t attended one of Amma’s programs during the intervening years. I was amazed by the commonalities between all of these synchronistic experiences.

The most amazing reconnecting events happened just before and during Amma’s Toronto programs. On Father’s Day, I received an email from my brother saying that his son had written a Father’s Day post about our father, i.e. my nephew’s grandfather. Before I tell that story, and the events that followed, let me say that I left home to go to college when I was 17; my brothers were 12 and 14 at that time. I saw them very few times after that. My youngest brother died in 1992. (My children and I did visit him several times between the time he was diagnosed with cancer and the time he died.) I have seen my other brother only three times since 1992, and those visits were brief. We do email each other every now and then.

So back to the story at hand. It was fascinating to read my nephew’s post and to learn about my father from his perspective. Even more fascinating was that I discovered that my nephew and his wife are professional photographers and that my father had also had an interest in photography. My nephew posted some of my father’s photos in his Father’s Day tribute. I knew my father had taken some family pictures but this part of his life was completely unknown to me. It was particularly interesting to me because of my current interest in photography. I was discovering there are things I have in common with my family that I didn’t know anything about.

In his post, my nephew had referred to my father’s military life. Some of what he said was different than my memories. When I checked those things out with my brother, he put together a time line of my father’s career. There was information in it that I didn’t know, and I knew some things that he wasn’t aware of. We wrote back and forth over the next few days. At one point, he added his two sons to the email exchange, so I added my son and daughter. All of us made a comment or two on the joint exchange and then the four cousins wrote each other separately. This was the first conversations they had ever had with each other. I marveled at the miracle that was unfolding.

Over the next week or so, my brother and I continued emailing each other about our childhood memories. He mentioned that he thought our father had gifted us with a love of music, books, education, hard work and the desire to do things right. I believe we also learned the value of hard work and education from our mother and even more important, the value of being in service to others.

I still don’t know my surviving brother well but over the years I have learned that we share some of the same political beliefs. Recently, I learned that we are both introverts and have similar thoughts about some religious issues. Since he is a landscape architect I assume we share a love of nature.

While I was pondering all of these commonalities, I realized that my current passion about nature is something I have in common with my youngest brother, even though we didn’t have that focus at the same time.  His room, both as a teenager and a young adult, was always filled with injured birds and other animals he had rescued and was nursing back to health. I remember visiting him before he married. At that time, he was raising snakes in his room. I will never forget this piece he wrote just prior to his death at age 39:

I am very sad that people seem to see so little of the world around them. I can’t walk outside without seeing the beauty of our created world, from the rainbow in a line of earthworm slime, to another visible ring on Jupiter. We have been given this magnificent world to study and enjoy in limitless detail at any level, microscopic to cosmic. Even though I have enough things to interest me another 10 lifetimes, I must take solace in knowing that, at least compared to others, I’ve had much more than my share even in half a life time..

As I approach retirement, I am grateful that a natural transition seems to be occurring. I am reconnecting with my past in many different ways. I have no doubt that I will have enough activities that I am passionate about to keep me occupied for years to come. The unanswered question that is most up for me now concerns where I will ultimately live: “Will I move to India?” “Will I live in one of Amma’s U.S. Centers?” ” Will I continue to live in my own house in Seattle?” Those answers, and the answers to many other questions, are yet to be revealed. At this moment, there is no need for me to know the future. I know I will know what I need to know when the time is right!

 

cropped-senior-salon  Senior Salon

The Spark Reignites

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I have very few memories of my childhood, most of which was spent as an “army brat” moving from place to place. As I have been thinking about those years lately, I realize that there is a theme in some of my happier days.

While I don’t know for sure, it seems like most of those pleasant memories may have occurred during the four years I lived in Germany. We were transferred to Pirmasens, Germany when I was in third grade and we moved back to the U.S. after I graduated from sixth grade.

Some of my childhood memories:

• Making forts. When I was really young my brothers and I made forts inside our house, often under tables. Later we made forts in the woods near the apartment building where we lived.

• Playing outside. There were times when I would leave the house in the morning and only come home for meals and at bedtime. I would play with my friends in their houses and outdoors. In those days, children were given a level of freedom that would be unheard of in today’s world.

• During fourth grade, I remember making a large system of small trenches in the school playground. I then filled the beginning trench with water and watched as the water flowed throughout the network.

• I loved butterflies.

• In fourth grade, I also remember crawling under the schoolyard fence and going into the woods to collect snails. When I crawled back under the fence, to return to the schoolyard, I saw my teacher, Mrs. Pollen, and my mother, who also taught at the school, watching me.  Uh, oh.

• My grandfather was a dock master. When we visited my grandparents during my younger years, I would catch fish using a drop line off of the side of the dock.

• I remember hunting for crawfish. That could have been in North Carolina before we moved to Germany or it could have been in Georgia, the place we were stationed after Germany.

As I think of these events, I realize how important outdoor activities and nature were to me when I was young. While it did not continue to be a life theme, there were exceptions.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I had loved my experiences of camping with the Girl Scouts and when I traveled across the country with my church youth group in 1965. After Al and I married in 1971 we took trips to Mt. Baker and to National Parks such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, the Redwoods and the Grand Tetons. At least one of those trips we took after Sreejit was born.  In some places we camped, in others we stayed in cabins.

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When Al and I bought our house in 1973, I loved gardening and canning.

In the 80’s I took my children and one of their friends to places like Zion National Park.

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In the early 90’s, I had a strong desire to have a tree house in the magnolia tree in my back yard. I had planned to have a simple structure built, but the carpenter I hired couldn’t do simple. He constructed a beautiful seven by seven foot structure that even had a skylight!

Tree house

I slept in the tree house from April to October for five years. That era ended the night two large raccoons blocked my path to the tree house. It wasn’t the first time, but it was one time too many. I started sleeping  in the house again. At first the cells of my body screamed with grief. Being contained within the walls felt like moving from freedom to prison.

In the 90’s there was a period of three or four years in row where I explored Bryce Canyon on my own.

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For the most part though, my outdoor activities had petered out over the years. I was too busy with work, raising children, and life in general. As I reflect on how I am living now, I can see that the spark has reignited. Gardening is again a priority for me. I have become fascinated by nature, whether it be flowers or creatures such as ants and slugs. A considerable amount of my time is spent in writing and editing the PNW GreenFriends newsletter. A part of me that has been long dormant is waking up.

I grieve that children nowadays don’t have the freedom that my generation had as children. Children are not allowed to roam freely for most of the day. Because of all the violence that surrounds us, parents naturally feel a need to keep their children close and well supervised.

But that is not the only difference. Today, children, teens and even adults are so focused on technology that there may be no time or interest in immersing themselves in outdoor play and nature. Texting, videogames and social media all too often fill their days.

Several years ago, I was at a church when the pastor gave a sermon to the young children. He talked about how in the “old days” children spent their days playing outside on this green stuff. He continued talking about grass as if it was something the children had never seen. He then encouraged them to go outside every day and do activities on that green stuff, activities that would cause them to sweat, something else he thought they were unfamiliar with. While it was a funny sermon, it seemed like an important one to me, then and now. If, as a culture, we keep going the direction we are going, where will we end up?

It is my hope and prayer that all of us will either reconnect with, or experience for the first time, the joy that comes when we immerse ourselves in the natural world, and by doing so may we discover that all beings on this earth are interconnected and can learn to live in harmony with one another.

Written for DungeonPrompts: What did you forget?