Ch..ch…Change…

Most of us are especially as we get older, resistant to change as we tend to get set into what is comfortable.  We have worked all these years to reach this certain point, what is the point of shaking things up?  Well, I found out though it is really hard when you are set in you ways, dug deep into the trench of “how it is going to be”, that maybe the light of day no longer reaches you or makes you happy.

As mentioned in previous posts my husband basically had to drag me kicking and screaming out to look at new homes.  He was intuitive enough to know that fifteen years of memories including a really bad marriage before him was haunting me and my daughters as well.  After losing my mom the year before, everywhere I looked was reminder of my mom, my ex husband, my lost step kids.  I couldn’t even garden without ending up in tears over some memory of my mom.  Or coming across something the kids gave me.

My first holiday, Thanksgiving, in our new house has come and gone.  We celebrated early inviting our “parents” to join us for a small dinner.  My husband’s parents and my aunt and uncle who never had kids and have somewhat adopted me at least in spirit.  Even though we ate on the table my grandfather made for my mom, used her china and serving dishes from both my mother and my grandmother, now all deceased, I didn’t feel hollow and empty but happy.  I was able to embrace their memories like a warm, soft blanket of love that was wrapped around me and feel their spirits among us.  My aunt and uncle were telling stories of my mom and my grandparents making it feel as they were still alive there with us.

Without the old memories haunting me, I was able to enjoy my first holiday in years.  I would not have been able to do that in my old house.  Creating new fresh memories, without the stain of old hurts and events swirling around bringing me down.  Granted there will be bad times upcoming in my life because it is inevitable and I can’t move every time there is one but sometimes there comes a point that everything stops working and you are miserable.  You can’t even force it anymore or fake it.  It’s time for a change.  In my case, it was purging my life of truckloads of possessions I didn’t realize I was hoarding and moving into a home in the country with more room and no neighbors looking in my windows.

There is a moment when you have to unearth yourself from your deep furrow of your life’s routines and come back out to look around, see what else life has to offer.  I am so much happier living outside the city limits in a home that fits our needs better.  I could have gotten stuck on the financial benefits of staying where we were but eventually I had to face the truth, I wasn’t happy in my home anymore.  It wasn’t working, we needed more room, we were all miserable in it’s cramped spaces.  Giving away truckloads of material possession I had no possible use for was therapeutic and not living in clutter is freeing.

Now I am looking forward to Christmas, I am actually contemplating going and picking out a live tree today rather than waiting for them to go on clearance the day before Christmas Eve.  Even my husband was looking at me like I have grown a second head because he isn’t used to me being in the mood for the holidays.  Except this year I have decided I am going to celebrate my holidays exactly the way I want them, I am done with feeling obligated because it always just makes me miserable.  Cooking and cleaning for people who don’t appreciate it, help clean up or offer to take the burden next year.  Great, thanks for coming over, eating, packing up half the left overs, and now please go sit on the couch while I carry your dishes  to the dishwasher.  I got it, don’t you worry. I’ve only been cooking and cleaning for days.  No I am done with those days.  I am making a change, I am doing what makes me happy and not apologizing for it.

Now I’m going to see what else I can shake up in my life, maybe nothing as major as a move but it never hurts to come back into the light and open your eyes to the possibilities and the writing on the wall.

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Chasing Ghosts…

I hate moving.  I really, really hate moving and in fact I haven’t moved for fifteen years.  As a kid, my parents moved us every few years, my father in chase of the next big thing certain that life would be better here or there.  However, moving did not prove to be the magic bullet to overcome my father’s demons and alcoholism.  Then I married and my first husband was much like my father leading us to move nine times in seven years.  When I finally bought my current house in 2000, I was done with moving.  So done in fact that when my current husband brought up moving out of town, I was adamantly against it.  I had moved enough.

Moving would cost us so much more money, a bigger house payment, we would have to sell our current home that still needed some work to make it more marketable.  Plus there are all these years of accumulating things.  My attic, basement and house are stuffed full of just general buying shit, inheriting more shit and just plain hoarding things I think I may use one day.  As soon as we started looking at homes, we started the process of cleaning out the house.  We are now on a first name basis with the volunteers at the mercy mission and they are always grateful for everything we give which makes me feel good.

The other morning, I was up early as my husband goes to work at 0530 on his day shifts and I could not go back to sleep.  I got something in my head where I needed a tape measure except they were all in the garage which is at the end of our lot and not attached to the house.  So I slipped on some flip flops and slipped out into the dark cool morning to retrieve the tool.  There was a quarter of a moon in the west sky and the faint light of the courthouse clock below the moon.  I stood there for a moment and was overtaken by memories of my life as it has passed since I moved into this house.

I married, divorced and remarried while living under its roof.  For eight years I raised my two step-children full-time.  My girls finished growing up here.  Three high school graduations, one college graduation, numerous proms and homecomings.  A swingset that evolved into a firepit area.  Trees that have matured where there had been few when I moved in.  Egg hunts, barbeques, decorating for Christmas, all the plants I bought with my mom or she bought for me as well as hundreds of hours and dollars spent in my gardens.  A messy divorce, a home break in and many years of a bad marriage that finally ended in 2008.  I stood there next to the lamppost with the autumn clematis from my mom’s yard snaking up the black metal pole nearly ready to bloom its white star flowers and felt the ghosts of my former life dancing around me.

Chilled, I forced myself out of paralysis and into the garage, snatched the tape measure and all but ran back into the house, turning on the alarm behind me as if it was a protection against the past.  My life has changed drastically in fifteen years and stayed much the same as well.  I am on the cusp of a new chapter of my life, the one they call the empty nest (though I hate that term).  My second act which is how I prefer to see middle-age.  Everything is changing and as I snuggled back under my blankets for a moment before the alarm would remind me I ned to get ready for work, I was grateful that my husband pushed to move.

One of his main points for wanting to move was there were too many memories in our house, most were good but for me, since he had only lived there seven of the fifteen years, he knew I had a bad marriage and that still hung over the house.  After losing my mom, I was holding onto everything familiar and safe so he had his work cut out for him.  But he was right, we need a new, fresh start.  A place where this next chapter of our life can unfold.  Our closest neighbors are 0.20 miles (I know because I measured it with my truck odometer) to either side with no one behind or across from us.  At least for now.  The sky is open and we can watch the sunrises and sunsets from our back yard.  No more peering between houses or building to watch the sun go down.  It is quiet and peaceful.  Healing I think.

I have no idea what the next chapter of my life will bring.  I plan on when things settle down to start writing more seriously, exploring entrepreneur ideas for side businesses as I always loved working for myself.  Find more ways to show love.  Or just read a book curled up in my recliner while overlooking the quiet fields.  We can start new family traditions, have more space, the kids have room to entertain their friends or boyfriends without all of us having to be on top of each other.  Maybe I will find a quiet nook to write.

Sometimes we have a tendency to burrow into what is comfortable because leaving is too much work.  It’s easier to stay put, stay where we are.  But I am glad my husband pulled me, albeit kicking and screaming, out of my quiet safe burrow.  I needed to be out in the light again, pursue a dream that I had many years ago of owning a colonial home out in the country.  Reminded me that we can own nice things, not that my current house isn’t nice but we really needed more space for years.  I was too afraid of going into to debt to take the risk of owning my “dream” home.  But then I also remembered thinking when my mom was dying, why didn’t she spend some of this money she had saved and saved?  You definitely can’t take it with you.  

So I took the leap of faith that my financial world won’t come crumbling down around me with a bigger house payment and signed the papers for a new house.  I think sometimes we reach points in our life where we need a big change to shake things up, to get us cleaning out the clutter and in a way banishing the old ghosts of our former life.  Ghosts that chase you down the sidewalk early in the morning in the moonlight, the ones you push back into your subconscious as you try and forget.   Or you can be bold and take a new step, start a new chapter, move into a new house, start a new career, whatever it is that speaks to you personally.  

Change isn’t always bad.  Sometimes it’s just, well, necessary.  You come to a fork in the river and you pick a new direction. Here’s to moving… God help me, I own a lot of shit!  

No Longer Running….

For years when my girls were in school, every spring break, we would spend a week usually around Easter in a cabin in Tennessee with my mom.  When I was a kid, we lived in Knoxville for a while so many times this felt like a homecoming.  I love the mountains and desperately wanted to move back.  LIfe would be so much better there than in Ohio.  This held true for other areas I would vacation to that caught my fancy.  Oh how much better life would be if I could just live in a place like this, start over and start fresh.

Then last May we took the girls for their respective college and high school graduations for a week in a big cabin outside of Cosby, Tennessee.  It was a place I would have sat on the porch and dreamed about owning such a place like this especially since this cabin was out of the tourist trap areas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  But I realized my connection to such a place had faded.  While I could do yoga on the porch overlooking the smoky foothills, it no longer moved me to feel as if this was where I belonged.  I was strangely blasé about the scenery.  Unattached.

This has happened at several places this past year that we spent a long weekend in, I no longer felt compelled to look at job ads nor did I pick up the free real estate publications that are everywhere trying to entice people to buy.  I simply enjoyed our time there and looked forward to going home.  This last time was Lexington, Kentucky, which is where we got married.  This is one of my favorite cities and area.  Gentle rolling hills, beautiful farms, friendly people and just enough of a touch of the South to make me feel at home as my accent from childhood slowly starts to creep back into my voice.  I could be happy in Lexington for certain.  But after two weekends away from home, I found myself restless to go back to Ohio, to my home, to my life.  Rather than running from it.

Pondering this thought on the drive back from Lexington, I realized my life had changed right where I have been for the last seventeen years.  Other than moving from one house to another, I have been at the same job, the same house (15 years), the same town, the same state and so on for all these years.  Many of those earlier years had been miserable and were at the height of the times where I wanted to escape, move to Tennessee or where ever peaked my interest at the time.  Escape.  Running away.  That is what I was trying to do.  Rather than finding happiness within myself and creating it in my life, I thought the solution was to go somewhere, anywhere.  However, now that I look back, if I had moved in my mid-30’s, the same husband and the same personal issues would have followed me.  I would have been just as miserable there, the only difference is I would have been admiring mountains rather than softly rolling landscape just south of me in Ohio.

Once I created a life for myself right where I was planted for the last 17 years, then my need to run and escape disappeared.  My desire to move has vanished as if part of a magic act.  The secret wasn’t starting over somewhere else but creating the life I wanted right where I stood.  It’s a bit like believing if you lose all that weight, that your life will be completely different and happy only to find out that it’s pretty much the same except you are just smaller.  Not to say that maybe your dream job isn’t somewhere else and you would have to move for it to make yourself happy, there is that scenario.

I think the peace of the mountains and these other beautiful areas called to me because my life back then was in such dissarray.  That was the calling, the pull.  And of course when you go on vacation somewhere, you start thinking that oh, life could be really good here.  Except that you will still have to work, still be married to the same person, still be struggling with the same personal demons that you always did.  Until you work on those issues, it won’t matter if you live in paradise.  The beauty of this means, you don’t have to uproot your entire world to be happy, you have to focus on fixing yourself, your issues, make changes right where you stand to have a happier life.

As I thought this entire concept through, I realized it also comes down to choices we make.  Granted, life is going to throw some shit at you. There will be obstacles, challenges, tragedy, heart break as well as moments of beauty, laughter and joy.  That’s just the recipe of life.  But it is truly what you do with it that makes the difference.  You can let yourself be defeated by hard times or you can keep moving ahead, moving toward your ideal life.  There are so many things that ten years ago I thought would never happen for me, never be my life that are exactly that way today.

What I had to do was make some serious changes in my life which were very difficult as well as keep working on myself.  It’s easy to blame everything and everyone else, but truth is, I was always in charge of my own happiness.  I just had to grow a pair and do the hard work to get there.  But of course, you have to continue working at this, it is definitely a journey and not a destination.   And your choices in life really, truly affect you for years to come.  But the great thing is, you can take the next fork in the road and redirect your life.

I no longer want to run away from my life.  I am surprisingly content and happy in basically the same place I’ve always been.  I work at the same job, I live in the same house, I do many of the same things.  However, what I did do was divorce a toxic, abusive spouse, got more counseling, married a wonderful man, paid off most of my debt (this was a major key to happiness for me) and changed my outlook, my attitude and stopped being a big old victim.  I’m still working on myself.  Still striving for what I want in life but I am in a lot better place than I was 7 years ago today.  That life seems like a bad dream.

Like the saying goes.  Bloom where you are planted.