Now and then the hubby and I escape to Bemidji in order to visit family. But I am a little bereft when I have no place in which I can escape for solitude. So I sometimes search out an AirBnB so we can have a retreat. This time around, it’s a cute little two bedroom apartment. I really love the plaque over the headboard (which is crafted from a refurbished piano, very creative in itself)!
Since I love the message, I decided to post and take a holiday from writing my usual Sunday haiku.
Happy weekend, amigas/os! Enjoy your limited time on this earth. Treat it as the precious resource that it is.
Does anyone else have a little trouble resisting the ease and comfort of internet shopping? I can use my phone, browse my wishlist or do a quick search and place an order from the comfort of my bed. Bang, done!
You’ll see my shopping cart is currently empty. But it would only be a matter of a few clicks to get the latest book I heard about on a favorite podcast. Or to order the planner that someone recommended to me. Darn you, Amazon!
I say this all while being extremely grateful that online shopping exists, of course. I hate store shopping. I was really excited when I read Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography and realized she (like me) has no sense of fashion either. The act of shopping for clothes in particular sets me on edge. But shopping in stores generally is something I do not enjoy.
The fabulous array of things I can acquire simply at the click of a button is a smorgasbord of temptation. No trip to the store, no need to interact with anyone, no pushy salespeople to hover over me and try to tell me about their sales and specials.
The problem is that when it comes to something like books, I have very low resistance to clicking the order button. It is something I am working on. I tell myself I should go to the library and check out books instead. I love libraries. But it’s so much more WORK to have to go and search for the books I want!
They say time is money, but actually time is a lot more precious to me than money, because time is a finite resource. Money is something I can get if I work a little more, or save a little better. So when I calculate the cost of spending $10-15 at the click of a button and have Amazon deliver me in just a couple of days the book I want? Well, let’s just say my hourly rate for my day job means the low cost of online ordering is just too tempting sometimes.
This gets to something I will work on in the new year, with my husband because he has similar online shopping behavior. BUDGETING. Yes, it is an odious task, but we need to do it. Making a plan ahead of time, and then sticking to that plan is a much better way to live your life than looking back at the credit card statements and thinking: Hmm, so THAT’s where my money went last month.
The fact that we are double income no kids people and do not own a house means that we live a pretty carefree existence financially. Not that it was easy to get here, by any means. I’ve worked my tail off to pay off past debts, and get the kind of job where I am putting away a fairly large chunk into retirement each year.
I have bought and sold two homes, one which made quite a tidy sum and one which barely broke even right before the real estate bubble burst. Since 2007 I have been a renter, and I do not mind that. Hubby really wants a workshop though and a bigger garage than our 1-car “tuck under townhome” space (pictured here).
At some point, I would like a yard again. I do not particularly like living under a homeowner’s association regime about specific rules regarding paint colors and not leaving the Christmas lights up beyond January 5th. The neighborhood is lovely, but we will be ready for our own place in 1-2 years, perhaps.
Anyway, I have been thinking and reflecting upon the year (as one does this month) and anticipating what I may want to change in 2018. I have never been one to make resolutions for January 1st – the date seems too arbitrary to me. I typically like to start new things in the fall, because it is the start of a “school year” and I have always loved school.
This year though, I am getting my head around possibly leaving my job for a new one, and/or starting a side hustle and planning to buy a house again someday. It is different, now that I am married rather than just living with my honey. We had (and still have) our own bank accounts, along with a joint account.
We need to plan some goals together, and that involves being really honest about where we spend our money now, and being willing to figure out what kind of plan works for us. I will have to figure out how to quash the impulse to click the DAMN ORDER BUTTON when that impulse arises, rather than just nickle and diming myself with low-cost “book treats.”
We will need to work together as a team to figure these things out. Money has always been a difficult issue for me in past relationships. I am fiercely independent and have been the main breadwinner in my long-term relationships. I tend to be generous, and others have taken advantage of that before. But I want to be brave, and face up to my money issues, and have conversations about what we want for the future.
In general, I have a believe in abundance, and I value people over things. I believe I will always have enough. So it’s not about the things I have. Life is about the good people in my life, and living in a way that expresses my values.
In that spirit, and in understanding the way I spend my time and my money, I have a resolution for next year: to become more mindful of how I spend my money, and to work as a team with my husband to make more of those money decisions together.
If my wise readers have any advice for me on this topic, please share! In the meantime, I am going to try to meditate for at least 5 minutes before hitting the damn “order” or “buy” button and see how it goes.
Entering my second marriage is a good time to reflect on my life and the choices I have made thus far, and to appreciate the journey. Thankfully my husband shares my commitment to being child-free and we are aligned on this life orientation. I was not so aligned in my first marriage, but I was young, and he was idealistic. At age 22.5 I told him: “I do not want to have children. I have never wanted children, and I am fairly certain I will not change my mind.” His response: “oh, you will change your mind. Everyone does.” I disagreed, but I told him he could take the risk and he married me anyway.
At age 30 when we divorced, I realized I had been putting off finishing my master’s degree completion partly because school was how I justified putting off having children. If I finished the degree, I no longer had the excuse to shield myself from doing something I really did not want. Interesting that Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love came out in 2006, a couple years after my decision to leave my marriage. I did not discover the book until 2013, after I saw the movie version, which never does the book justice. When I re-discovered it and then listened to the audio version read by the author, I realized Gilbert expressed so many profound realizations I had also experienced in my own story.
When Meghan Daum released her book Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed I realized that there was important cultural conversation here, and that women like me need to come forward and tell their stories. I have not yet read the book but it is on my reading list. “Auntie” Liz Gilbert explores the issue further in her book, Committed: A Love Story. She speculates that “a certain degree of female childlessness is an evolutionary adaptation of the human race” and I am inclined to agree with that. She calls childless women the Auntie Brigade and explains their role in supporting and nurturing those who are not their biological responsibility, and that no other group does this to such a large degree. I have two aunts who are Catholic nuns in Mexico, and certainly one could not argue that their decision to forgo children was a selfish one.
I remember feeling relieved when I turned 40, because I figured people would stop asking me if I intended to have children someday. At some point, doesn’t that question seem pretty rude and intrusive to ask? I thought so.
I have enormous respect for parents and for the hard work that they do every day. I believe parenting is a serious responsibility and I appreciate those who give of themselves for this important work. I salute them (maybe you) and am grateful that, as I joke to my husband, there is no threat that the human species will become extinct if I do not procreate. But has never been an aspiration for me, and I do not apologize for that. In high school I remember writing an essay encouraging adoption rather than procreation, because so many children in the world need good parents. A teacher was quite upset with me over my point of view, saying “it is the smart kids like me who should be having kids” instead of the [presumably irresponsible] ones that end up having them. Then there was my Dad, who always told me to wait until I was 35 to get married and/or to have kids, because “once you do that your life belongs to your husband and children.” He wanted more for me, a life free to pursue my education and my career, unencumbered by the need to slow that down in pursuit of those other goals.
Granted, feminism has helped us come a long way in terms of women’s ability to make choices about their reproduction, a right we should never take for granted. We have also made great progress in terms of expectations for men in terms of family responsibilities. But we are far from achieving the kind of equality we need to create a thriving community that supports families adequately. In my own family, Mom stayed home with us until I was in high school, when she went back to substitute teach part-time. I am grateful for the sacrifices she made in order to be there for us, and she would say today that it was not a sacrifice, she wanted to raise us and be part of our lives in that way. So I wonder sometimes if my younger sister and I, with no children, just cannot imagine balancing children and work at the same time, which may have factored in our choices.
When I was in high school and college, I did a good amount of babysitting to earn money, and while I enjoyed playing with kids aged ~6 and older, infants and toddlers were never my favorite. Some women cannot wait to hold the baby when their coworker passes around a newborn. I feel more like the scene in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where she is holding the baby with a look of trepidation as though it might be a bomb about to go off in her hands.
I am grateful my parents never pushed me to have children, nor made me feel guilty for making the choices I have made. Many of my friends, including my husband, had to endure a lot of pressure from their families, and still some receive much questioning on their choices not to be parents. It is viewed as some type of character flaw rather than a personal choice and one that reflects a thoughtful decision-making process. My husband likes to joke that he’s “not into poverty or slavery” as the reasons he has never wanted children. While it is tongue-in-cheek, it also expresses a fundamental understanding that the decision to have a family is not a casual decision and it is one that requires a big commitment.
As I consider the work I do, and the role I play on my team, I remember that I was called “a mama bear” for my group. I was the person everyone sought out when there was an issue or a problem, or when they needed my help. When I took the Strength Finder assessment back in 2012 with my work team, and it came out with: Intellection, Input, Relator, Developer and Empathy, this made perfect sense to me. I get so much satisfaction out of helping to develop team members’ and colleagues’ careers. I had always attributed this to the fact that I come from a family of teachers, but maybe there is some deeper trait there. Perhaps I channel those “maternal” instincts in a different way from women who have children, and I still create value in the world in this way.
I am an introvert, and I enjoy a lot of quiet time and solitude as a way to keep myself balanced and centered. Children complicate that scenario. Perhaps my limited imagination, or way too much babysitting, did not allow me to envision a future where I could live my best life, contribute my gifts fully and be a parent. But in any case, I know at a deep, spiritual level, I have made decisions that keep me in my integrity while doing the best I can. Certainly I have made mistakes and there are things I could have done differently, but this decision I own deeply. I hope that others who make the same choice can embrace their decisions and feel worthy to live their lives as they see fit, rather than feeling shame or regret about not fulfilling others’ idea of how to life a good life.
The wedding is over and the shoes are off. A weekend of family introductions, gatherings, photos, flower staging, and precious time at the North Shore of Lake Superior is coming to a close. It has been a blast, and we will go home today to prepare for a few days in Mexico to celebrate our “making it official.”
I could not have asked for a better outcome. Our guests seemed to enjoy themselves and I was able to stay present and enjoy every moment. I got emotional during the speaking of the vows, and the ceremony felt light-hearted but serious at the same time. So very grateful and full of love right now. It will be a few days until I get back to this blog because I will be enjoying some together time with my husband. We have known each other for 7 years but a new phase of our relationship is just beginning. It feels so right, this union of our souls and families.
And there is really nothing more to say for now, just to enjoy the intense gratitude of this moment.
I am entering into a new phase of my life in only 9 days. I will get married to a wonderful man I have loved for ~7 years. We have lived together for the past 3 years, and this helped allay my fears of entering into marriage for the second time in my life, at age 43. He proposed to me in 2015, and it took me a little time to get comfortable with trying out marriage again. Back when I was divorced in 2005, I really did not think I cared for the institution, and doubted I would marry again.
I was fairly happy just living with my fiance, and I really was not in a hurry. It is something I repeat to myself now, when I start to feel rushed in my life: there is no hurry. So many of us want to rush from where we are to our “next big thing.” But I have realized that when we allow life to unfold more naturally and organically, there is nothing lost. On the contrary, being present where we are, in this moment, is the only way we gain our lives back. When we drop the comparisons, stop worrying about what we have not yet accomplished, or wish we had done, we truly live. We stop squandering time on things that do not matter, and we mindfully focus in on those things that are most meaningful to us.
I have been practicing meditation and mindfulness off and on over the years, but starting studying more seriously in January of 2016. According to my Insight Timer App, I have meditated on 301 days since May 2016 and 216 consecutive days since February 5, 2017. What I can tell you is this: it is making an enormous difference in my life. In observing my mind, and calmly, compassionately and curiously being mindful of my emotions and my body, I am learning so much more about myself than I thought possible.
There are cycles to life. They are daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, sometimes hourly. When one copes with some form of attention deficit, those cycles can be rapid, and changing, and frustrating. Thought loops can arise with an almost obsessive quality to them. But when we learn to observe with curiosity, and realize that WE are not our THOUGHTS and that they come and go, this allows tremendous freedom. These thoughts are not dragons, and we do not have to cling to them. They are like clouds in the sky, moving along past us, some slow and others fast, some fluffy and light, others dark and foreboding.
Brain science tells us that we have a bias toward negativity, due to our “reptilian” brain’s need to keep us safe, and to be on the alert for threats in the environment. I find that comforting, when I am tempted to criticize my negative thinking as I observe it. No, it’s okay, it is your brain’s way of keeping you safe and being sure you can prepare to outrun the predators, and outwit your enemies in time. But fortunately our frontal cortex, the part of the brain that tempers and moderates this negativity, is creative and imaginative. It allows us to see possibilities where we may have seen trouble. It gives us the freedom to interpret the facts of our environment in different ways, and the ability to select responses that may serve longer-term interests, not just avert short-term danger.
In my current cycle of life, I still have fears about what the future holds. Meditation has helped me feel less fear, or at least not to worry about the fear, but to accept it as part of being a creature of this earth. It has allowed me to surrender more to my current and real experience rather than trying to escape it or deny it. I have been exploring and studying the ways in which I used food or alcohol as a way to escape discomfort, perhaps as a way to numb feelings I did not want to acknowledge.
Once I stopped buffering with these substances (thanks to Brooke Castillo, who introduced me to this concept) I really began to deepen my meditation and yoga practices. Then I was able to detect feelings in my body, and really examine the thoughts that were leading to those feelings. It is an ongoing journey for me. But as I understand and see my own cycles, patterns, and rhythms, I feel so much less afraid, so much less hurried. I am on a path that works for me, and the reason I know is that I am living it. I do not need to worry. I do not need to get somewhere by a certain time. My life is best served by being right here where I am, aware of what is around me and within me. It is good to honor those rhythms and cycles.
We enter into fall, and the weather is cool here in Minnesota. I have always enjoyed this change of season, this cooling of the heat and humidity, the precursor to the beautiful colors we enjoy now. I love the renewal and change of the seasons, which help remind us that there are cycles and seasons to slough off the ‘dead matter’ and there are cycles and seasons to grow new leaves and branches. The past year has felt like a sloughing off of so many burdens, so many mind-traps that kept me prisoner to a busy pace of life without stopping to question my priorities.
I expect this coming year to be a time of growth in my relationship, as we enter into a new phase of our lives. I look forward to the new adventures and the birth of our new family life together. It feels like a new beginning, and is another reason why I felt called to start this blog. I want press the “pause” button on the cycle every now and then, but that is not really possible. The cycle always continues to flow, but preserving some of the resonance and beauty of this moment, and of this transition, feels worth of the attempt.