I’ve been thinking a lot about writing — fiction writing — which, in an entirely justified and rather long hissy fit, I have stopped doing. There are a lot of frustrations — some with myself. I simply cannot proofread. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, how many times I go over a text, what tools I use, there are always tiny typos. It’s at the point where it feels like a failure of personality. I think of a certain boss I had at one point who really thought this was the result of arrogance and carelessness on my part. I’m neither arrogant nor careless, so that led to some pretty heated confrontations between us. I felt that she could use her abilities and I could use MY abilities and we could be a pretty good team as she had no vision, no imagination, and no sense of humor.
Now I get it. Typos really do matter a LOT at the “end of the day.”
My little book of (cynical) stories, Luv’, which has mostly been given away (one person bought it for Kindle) has myriad typos in spite of most of the stories having been read not just by me but by others. I happened to take it to the doctor with me Monday because it was handy when I was leaving. I was reading (and enjoying) a story and BAM! typo.
But in more significant thinking, today it hit me that allowing my personal failings and the failings of the world at large to keep me from doing something I love is really stupid. Pretty much everything we do is pointless, actually, even if it’s successful. Life is pointless. I mean here we are, we do our thing, we save the world or ruin it, one way or the other (we believe) and the whole thing fills in ultimately like water in a hollow. There is no point in our existence at all except procreation, so the next guys can go out in their search for meaning and the discovery that meaning is subjective. Really the best we can do is not make our lives or the lives of others worse. That’s it. It’s not nothing, by any means.
So as Baudelaire’s poem, Enivrez Vous went wafting through my mind this morning I got the message (again?). “The only way to bear the heavy burden of time that crushes you to the ground is to be intoxicated without stopping, but on what? On wine, on poetry, or virtue, whatever you prefer, but intoxicate yourself!”
Pour ne pas sentir l’horrible fardeau du Temps qui brise vos épaules et vous penche vers la terre, il faut vous enivrer sans trêve.
Mais de quoi? De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu, à votre guise. Mais enivrez-vous!
When I was younger, I never thought much about my appearance. I just figured I looked OK and got on with my life. I didn’t even wear lipstick until I was in my thirties, and I’ve never worn foundation. For a short time I flirted with powder, but it didn’t stick (ha ha). I liked eye shadow and mascara.
I knew I wasn’t tall, slender and statuesque but I didn’t really care, though sometimes people said to me, “You have such a pretty face!” followed by something along the lines of “It’s too bad about your figure” or “You could lose some weight.” From time to time I was a size four, a size six, a size eight, a size ten, a size twelve — partly depending on me, partly depending on the brand of clothing and the decade (sizes have changed; the current size 2 is the 1960s size 12).
I evaluated my beauty based on what I could do, mostly my ability to hike, climb hills and run on trails for long distances. When I saw photos of myself (much less common back in the day of camera and film) I was always fine with whatever it was. I could say, “That’s a bad haircut” or “Was I THAT heavy?” and really not care.
I cannot run trails. I don’t even hike well — I do OK for me, but… People think that because it’s difficult for me to hike that I don’t want to, but really standing around is more difficult on my arthritic knees than is walking. I don’t mind my awkwardness, but I’ve seen others feel compassion for me when they see me go sideways down the stairs (one leg is shorter than the other) or a steep hillside. I’ve gone from being the fastest one, the one in front, to the little lady lagging behind that everyone has to wait for.
My sense of my beauty has been radically upset. I’ve lately realized that there are things I don’t want to do because of my appearance. People compliment me on my white, white hair, but combining it with a lopsided, busty, chubby woman with a turkey wattle is — who IS that person? Added to that is the fact that I CARE and I’m ashamed of caring about something so superficial, so irrelevant, of being a person with abilities many people in this world wish they had and have never had. The knowledge of my vanity makes me feel ashamed.
I didn’t imagine that I — a person with little (I thought) personal vanity — would really, really hate going out in public in certain ways because of the way I look. I know it’s partly why I was relieved when I realized that my book signing at the bookstore in Denver was completely impractical financially. “Good,” I thought. “I don’t have to worry about what to wear because there is no way in hell I can look good.”
Looking good means looking like myself and I do not look like myself.
Recently a friend asked me, “How old are you? Seventy? Seventy two?”
“I used always to look younger than my age, but stuff started happening to me in 2005 that really aged me quickly. I’m 65.”
“Oh.” She was embarrassed, and I couldn’t say, “Don’t worry about it. It’s OK” because it isn’t OK at all. There is absolutely nothing OK about it.
It led me to think about our concept of beauty. I’m familiar with the whole women’s beauty magazine thuggery and all that. That isn’t what’s affecting me.
Yesterday I rode the Airdyne along the route of the Tour de France. It’s my favorite of the videos I got to ‘ride’ the ‘bike’ with. It’s beautiful and it’s mostly uphill. It is not an illusion of a bike ride; it’s a video, but it’s still a pleasant video and with music pouring into my head from my iPod it’s an activity that approaches fun, but it does not approach a sport. As I rode yesterday I thought about what it means — to me — to be beautiful. To me it means to look like someone who could hike/run 12 miles on a mountain trail on a beautiful day. It’s me + motion through nature, it’s the sense that always gave me of being part of that. Beauty is not completely superficial after all and it turns out I am not exempt from vanity. 😦
So, young’uns, whatever it is that makes you feel like you, that makes you feel beautiful, cherish it. It could happen that someday you — like me — will have to confront the loss or diminution of that part of your identity and you — like me — might be surprised how much it matters to you. And even I, right now, writing all this, know that — in my case — it could get, will get, worse and it’s my job to carpe the diem that is in front of me right now. ❤
Those of you starting out in life or making your way over the GREAT BRIDGE of life’s productivity, saving the world (I, for one, am grateful) well, maybe this post is not for you, but I think it is. I retired three years ago and moved back to the Rocky Mountains which I had missed more than I can ever describe for the 30 years I lived in someone else’s paradise. Don’t get me wrong. I was very happy in Southern California and found a Coloradoesque life for myself in the wonderful mountains that rim San Diego. I learned to see and love the coastal sage and chaparral, my great teacher in so many ways, but I always, always, always missed the mountains.
Once I retired and came back, I launched myself right into what I thought I’d want to do as retired person. I have arthritis in my knees, so I figured I needed surgery and/or I was a cripple. I never had enough time to paint, so I figured I was an artist. I had an unfinished novel, so I figured I was a writer.
Over the course of this three years, my understanding of myself has changed, shifted. Images of myself that I held up there peeled away. You might think it’s all about self-discovery when you’re young, but I’d say for me there’s been more of that in the last three years than any other time since, well, ever. I don’t have that stuff in front of me, all that “Que sera, sera,” stuff. A lot of my stories have ended and I know how they turned out. For example I know I’m not going to be anyone’s mom and I’m not going to make a million bucks or save all the people in an impoverished country. No one expects anything of me any more, except to creep inexorably downhill physically, to be more out of touch with technology than I am or ever will be, to be not all that bright. It’s funny, but after you do a pretty good job through your working years, there will be people (usually younger) that don’t realize that you once were where they are and YOU MADE IT THROUGH.
There was a point in life in which dreams turned into imperatives such as “Holy shit, do I earn enough to make my house payment?” I remember, sometime in my 40s, telling my brother that all I did in my life was “patch things up and hold them together.” He, for his part, was impressed that I could do that! 🙂
So now…the other day, riding the stationary bike and watching a movie, The Last of the Ski Bums, I realized that I was happier skiing than doing any other thing in my life, ever. And I wasn’t very good at it. That’s important. Skiing, in and of itself, was just great, sublime, exciting, beautiful. Snow, high mountains, speed. Wow. I decided then and there that in my next life no one’s going to hijack my aimless existence with their idea of purpose. No sirree.
Then… Well, I work out a lot. Simply being able to walk requires that the muscles of my legs are strong so my knees work like knees should. I don’t know what I was doing, but I found myself in a skiing maneuver. And I thought, “Damn. I can do this. Godnose that next life idea is unpredictable. I might come back wombat or armadillo or something. Or a child in the tropics where there is no snow and no hope of any. I can’t hang my ski bum dreams on some next life. I missed out this time, but putting my money on my next life is really too big a gamble.”
So I did research. Lots of people ski with arthritis. Since I was never any good, I can probably have a pretty good time on the baby slopes, maybe even blue circles! There are braces people wear on their knees. Then I remembered reading something on the website of the local ski area, just 50 miles away and no mountain pass involved, Wolf Creek, (which, BTW, usually gets the most snow of any ski area in Colorado). Their ski school has classes for “Baby Boomers.” A lift ticket for “seniors” is $25. I might not be the only one living out their Late-life Ski Bum Dreams
I wonder if everyone who retires from a consuming and intense career that they love needs a lot of time, not just to deal with the big change retirement involves, but to fully understand what they did for however long they did it.
I taught words, writing, ultimately, mostly freshman composition, but that isn’t all I taught. My career — once I left grad school — was first as a teacher of English as a second language.
Most teachers who taught ESL back in the beginnings of the profession (where I joined it in the early 1980s) were linguistics majors, very different from what I was, a literature major. My perspective on language was different. Linguists study the language per se, and I had studied how people used the language to express meaning to others.
I still think that’s what language is for.
I did this for almost 15 years, and I taught every language skill — reading, listening, writing, grammar, conversation — to international students from all over the world, but I did not fit in with my colleagues and, ultimately, as the field grew into a “field” and there were advance degrees offered in Teaching English as a Second Language, I was pushed out.
That was fine with me. I was ready to move on, and I did; I made a transition to teaching native speakers. It was a fun transition because, for a while, I had a foot in two worlds. I taught after-work classes in San Ysidro, a town on the border of Mexico, to adults, Mexicans, and I loved it. In the early mornings, I taught freshman comp. During the day I continued to labor at my day job at the international school until I had enough hours at local community colleges to fill the mosaic of financial necessity.
Last night, as I watched the ending of the 2000 film, Longitude, I realized what I did for 35 years.
I taught ONE thing.
I taught Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Often I taught it directly — and other times I taught it indirectly. It was the reason I was in front of the classroom. Last night, watching Longitude, listening to the character of John Harrison make, as an old man, his very impassioned plea to a panel of academics who had no idea what a “simple” mechanic was doing or what it meant, I heard myself. I heard words I never said to the people I worked for. In case you don’t know the story, John Harrison was an 18th century carpenter and clock maker who developed — and built — a clock that would work at sea and establish accurate lontitude.
The question in life that is most important — to me — is “What’s real, anyway?” This is not a literary question. In a sense, it is a science question. It was the question perplexing pre-longitude mariners, phrased as, “Where ARE we REALLY?” John Harrison was involved in a competition with astronomers. His continual fight was between his very practical and universal chronometer that could answer that question vs. what the astronomers BELIEVED to be real (but wasn’t).
That is the question of The Allegory of the Cave. It can take a lifetime even to get a glimmering of reality which is objective, does not depend on personal preference or opinion, but is the truth. I love that question.
I believed that a good teacher was a teacher who loved teaching. I did. I believed (still believe) in the power of inspiration — my inspiration and the power to inspire my students. As a teacher, I questioned the value of discipline when there was no inspiration, no reason behind the practice. (For me, beauty was reason enough, but it is not for everyone.) I believed that in my classroom, my students should be encouraged to seek their own reasons for learning. I believed that anything else is the donkey chasing the carrot.
Last night, watching this film, I thought of all the times I argued with students who worked only for a grade. I thought of the times I drew the donkey on the board and said, “Is this you? If is is, is it all right with you?”
And heard, “You ought to be an artist, professor!”
I thought I was.
I thought of the times I was really teaching The Allegory of the Cave and saw my students become excited by ideas that are thousands of years old. I thought of the kid who carried me out of the classroom while we were dramatizing the dialogue, he was that involved. We were at the part where Socrates said, “They must be carried or dragged out of the cave against their will.” I was playing the part of a prisoner, fastened to a wall, unable to turn my head.
I thought of how the light DOES hurt. I saw the struggles I had with students over the years who were uncomfortable because of where they were going, what they were asking and how it shook their perspective of the world. This happened more and more toward the end of my career when their pre-college/pre-university schooling had not prepared my students to yearn for a challenge. “I don’t know why I should work this hard. I don’t want to risk the carrot. I don’t want to hurt like this. I am afraid.”
(I also thought about how hurt and frightened I was when I thought I might be finished teaching, I thought of how reluctantly I had reached that understanding and how it was not until I had no choice that I saw how great it was to be finished. With or without a broken heart. It was time. )
I thought of the many students who loved The Allegory of the Cave. I recited their names to myself last night and tried to remember their faces. I thought about experiences we had shared, and I felt wonderful.
Then I wondered why I had cared so much about the question. It wasn’t really the easy way to go as a teacher, and I was constantly the rope in a tug-o-war between bosses who thought I was god’s gift to teaching and bosses who thought I was insane. I realized it’s because of what I was teaching and who I am. I was a writer teaching writing, not an academic teaching formulas, systems and rhetoric of how to write.
It’s not the same. I saw that for me writing could never be just just a matter of a five paragraph essay and perfect grammar. It’s sitting down in with one’s own ideas and learning if they are shadows or light. It was — is — running into the cave to get the people out.
Yesterday I had a phone conversation with a guy from National Public Radio. It was in response to a long phone message I had left at their request — on Facebook they’d posted a bulletin saying they wanted to hear from people in rural areas to find out what we need. I called.
He had to look me up in order to contact me, and he found my email. He emailed to see if the email reached the woman in Monte Vista who had left the message and asked for my phone number. I sent it, then tried to reconstruct what I’d said in a rather impassioned phone message. I wrote down all I remembered (I don’t have strong aural learning skills even with my own words) and then found the sources that had informed my understanding of the problems in the San Luis Valley. I was ready.
I was surprised when he called and wanted to know how and why someone would move to the Back of Beyond from a place like San Diego.
It’s true that San Diego is high on the list of “most desirable cities.” When I lived in San Diego, it was NOT in the “most desirable” part. It was a barrio known to have the highest crime rate in the city. It was San Diego’s version of East LA, in fact, it was East San Diego. After 17 (happy) years there, I moved to a mountain community 35 miles east, 45 miles from the airport. I had a great house and I lived in the mountains. If I’d had the money to stay there after retirement I probably would have. It was a life that worked. I’d been in Southern California for thirty years and it was, kind of, home. But it was expensive to live there. The cost of living had shot up during the recession and just heating my house for one winter cost nearly $2000. I couldn’t stay.
Meanwhile, I had been out here. I had given a couple papers at conferences in Colorado Springs, reconnected with old friends and made new ones. I had not wanted to leave Colorado in the first place. That happened because of marriage… The moment I knew what I had to do, I was in Colorado Springs. I filed my papers and knew that I would make big changes soon and it would be terra incognita.
So I explained to the man that my choice of Monte Vista was actually random. I knew how much money I had to live on and there was a house here that I wanted to live in. I told him I’d never been here before, but when I came through the San Luis Valley on my way to see my house I knew I wanted to live in this beautiful place ringed by mountains. Monte Vista — as I saw on that first journey — seemed to be a livable small town not too far from hospitals and stuff like that.
I knew back then that I had to go somewhere. This place was beautiful. I’d meet people in the course of time, meanwhile I’d write, walk my dogs, shake off 35 years in the classroom and find my feet. I had friends 3 hours away. It was up to me if the thing turned out good or bad.
“How did you pick Colorado?”
“I was born here.”
“In that area?”
“No, no, I’m from Denver.”
“Did you find it hard to make friends?”
“No, not at all. Here I have a social life. Back in California that was difficult because I worked so much. People here are friendly and we need each other.”
“Have you and your neighbors helped each other out?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s how things work.”
I wasn’t very lucid on the phone because I was so stunned and I don’t do phone if I can avoid it, anyway. I don’t think of my decision as extraordinary at all and was a little taken back that he did, that he thought there was a story in my story. I found it very difficult to describe the beauty and wonder of this place, not just (just?) the landscape but the human scenes I witness — and am part of — often. The tiny congregation of the Episcopal church, faithful and lovely, my friend playing the organ in the golden morning light streaming through the stained glass window — a church built by English pioneers so their children could go to a “proper English village church.” My friend’s husband putting the blade on his AWD and pushing the snow out of the alley so I can get out of my driveway after a big snow. Getting a ride to the Ford garage 20 miles away in my neighbor’s 1955 T-bird that he’s had for fifty years!!! Three older ladies (my friends and I) standing in the cold, clear water of Medano Creek beside the sand dunes, laughing like children at how funny our feet look in the water, the cowboys on horseback in the distance with their dog who — I think — should’ve been named Shorty. Sunsets that defy both photography and description. 20,000 sandhill cranes hanging out against a backdrop of snowy peaks. Bald eagles flying over me, their shadows grazing my shoulder beside the Rio Grande where I walk my dogs almost every day. The guy at the post office who hands me a package and says, “What is it?” and I tell him it’s a cable to hook my computer to my TV and he answers, “Que suave!” The small herd of bison out by the hospital, munching grass at the end of a summer rain storm. Horses in a pasture, kicking up their heels in the snow. Snow.
I go with friends to a restaurant. There’s live music. The retarded guy who lives nearby is at the restaurant. He goes up to the singer and makes a request. The singer smiles. The retarded guy takes a seat on a stool beside the singer who strikes a chord on his guitar. It’s a song I thought was corny and stupid back in the day. I learn it’s been made the Colorado state song. The retarded guy sings with all his heart, smiling a broad smile. The friends beside me sing, too. As I watch that duet, aware of the gentleness and familiarity behind it, I can’t believe my good luck at landing here.
I retired. I moved into a small town where I didn’t know anyone. There was — and still is — so much I didn’t/don’t know. For example, I bought a small economy car that gets good gas mileage, but I hardly ever drive. I was still living in the life of 100+ miles per week and $4/gallon. I could have bought a truck, but I didn’t know… The house I really wanted? I could have offered half what they were asking and gotten it. I didn’t know. I was used to the extremely competitive seller’s market I’d moved away from. I didn’t know that within two years I’d be walking two miles and more at a good clip or that the stairs in the house I really wanted wouldn’t be such a big deal. I didn’t know that I would frequently have company and need the numerous bedrooms and two baths in the house I really wanted that this house doesn’t have.
I also thought I knew myself, but I didn’t. I’ve made a lot of discoveries since I started this life of retirement and solitude. I thought I knew where I was, I mean geographically, on the map, but I didn’t. I didn’t realize until recently that I moved to the part of the map where I had, long ago, dreamed of living. My whole focus when I found my town was north, east and west. I hadn’t thought “south.” But I am very close to the border of New Mexico, very close to Taos and Santa Fe and the high road that connects them. I live here, at the north end of the land of the Conquistadores, New Spain.
Sometimes I can’t believe my internal compass brought me here.
Again, I thought I knew those places — irrespective of the changes that are inevitably wrought by time, but I didn’t know those places, not really. I still don’t. Among the discoveries has been the Rio Grande Gorge, a little Grand Canyon, a place I had heard of from one of the men I have been in love with during my life as a great place to raft.
Now I’ve seen it and it’s one more amazing thing in this strange new life. I’d say that pretty much every single day I discover something new about where I live and I’ve come to understand that this transitional moment (which has been longer than I expected it would be) is more about learning who I am and where I am than anything else. I thought of how long it took me to actually LIVE in San Diego. It was a five year process, bridging the distance of self and place. I think this discovery process will take at least that long.
P.S. I didn’t take the photos… I wish I had. They had to have been taken from a helicopter. 🙂
I’ll admit. Since retiring and moving and going through some huge changes, I have not known a lot of things that we all take for granted. Like who am I, what I stand for, what I am doing — that stuff.
I expected that. I don’t think you can leave a career of 35 years without losing some sense of your identity. One thing about being a teacher is that one is needed INTENSELY. Part of my sense of self has always been “People need me.” I grew up in a household with a sick dad and a little brother — “We need you, Martha Ann.” Being needed = being loved. Perfect training for a teacher. But who was I without that?
My first year after retiring was a year of experimentation — and growth that I wasn’t even aware of. The self was still amorphous, cloudy, lacking direction and presence.
Not long ago — really just in this past month — I had a sudden strong, visceral reaction against some things and some people with whom I’ve been involved almost since I moved back to Colorado. It was bewildering and demanded some consideration. Then I realized that at 65 the question is the same as it is at 15 but the context is different; there is some urgency. The cloud was dissipating.
I saw that the kind of compromise I was happy to make at 40 something is absurd now. For one thing, THIS is how the story turns out for me. I’m not building a life any more. I’m living a life. If I were to die in 10 years it would already be old age. Regardless of how long I live, I do not have a long stretch of physically fit years in front of me; I have some and I need to make the most of them. I asked myself, “Who do I want to be during these 10 years? How do I want to live my life? Who is the person I want to be when I step out into the world every day?” And it was all suddenly very clear that all I need to do is be certain that every day I am the person I want to be; I do the things that rightfully pertain to me; I do not surrender to habits of being that no longer fit.
I think about all the times in my life I’ve thought I knew what I was doing only to look back and see that I had no clue. This is another one. I was a little less occluded than in times past when I retired but occluded nonetheless.
I’ve been learning all these months. Like a lot of newly retired people I have a work habit meaning I’m used to a certain level of work all the time every day. In my case it was pretty intense. When I quit the co-op I plead something like “PTSD” from teaching. I don’t think I was understood. I don’t think anyone here really gets what it is like to be a “freeway flyer” in California and teach at more than one “institute of higher learning” and patch together an income, often with little or no job security.
One of my new friends here — a wonderful woman that I really like — made a point about that. “College teachers don’t know what it means. I taught all day every day.” She was a public school art teacher. I listened politely and got the “hidden” message which was “How can you as a college teacher begin to know what REAL teaching is like?” I’m not sure but I think her model is the normal college teacher with tenure who teaches 3 or 4 classes/semester and doesn’t some committee work and gets a sabbatical every seven years or so.
That was never me. I taught 7 classes most semesters, 2 classes most summers, and all were writing classes which is an immense grading load. I usually taught six days a week and often drove 40+ miles to teach ONE class. I was also expected to maintain my professionality at a higher level than my tenured colleagues. To remain competitive I had to be ahead of the curve learning the necessary educational software and I had to be able to adapt very quickly to any changes in administrative policy anywhere I taught. I was obliged to publish and to attend conferences, but on my own dime. It was hard work. And, as time went by and it became clear I would never have tenure and that the people I taught were turning into unrecognizable creatures thanks to No Child Left Behind, it became absolutely painful to walk into a classroom. I lived for moments of light and fresh air, an intelligent engaged student, a student who would accept a challenge to learn, someone who was simply nice. I had learned the difference between sucking up and genuine interest, and the sucking up made me angrier than being told to “Fuck off” did. I’d long loved teaching, but at the end, I thought it was a complete waste of my time. I wasn’t, personally, going anywhere with it. It had become a dead end.
Relentlessly. I had no status anywhere I taught and yet as obliged to get along with everyone, never rock a boat, make all my students happy etc. etc. When I wasn’t teaching I was prepping or grading or learning how to use new software or examining texts. I was ALWAYS teaching.
For the most part, I’ve come to a peaceful place with teaching since I retired. I had things I wanted to say, and I’ve said them on a different blogging site (Medium) and, I think, reached a few people with some points that might be useful. And I was done…
But “PTSD”? Sure. Besides having dealt with physical threats and attacks of other natures — complaints from students to, no less, the President of the university once, verbal attacks, the frustration of students unhappy with their grades, the criticism of bosses who knew nothing about what I taught and couldn’t possibly have done it (didn’t do it, when it came to it), I have endured thousands of chaotic meetings. There are few things I hate more than being trapped in a small space around a table with a bunch of people who are pushing their own agendas.
I taught business communication which included how to have a good meeting. First rule, consider the comfort of the people there, ie. don’t meet at dinner time without eating. Second rule, limit the amount of time people can speak, including discussion. All of this enveloped in that most important thing; respect each other.
So now it seems once again Goethe’s words are my best friends…
“Hold your powers together for something good and let everything go that is for you without result and is not suited to you.” Conversations with Eckermann
I wrote “today’s” post last year and at the time I was at a conference and I was looking at homes in Colorado springs. I found one I liked and would have bought if I’d been able to. It was very well priced and in my first-choice town. I loved it. I would have enjoyed living in the house. However, I couldn’t really make an offer with no money down and a house not yet on the market. It was a dismaying moment because I knew prices in Colorado Springs were going to rise when summer came (they did) and that this house would sell. It did.
All part of the process that resulted in my moving to Heaven, the San Luis Valley and into the little house at the top of this post.
I love it here, but I have friends in Colorado Springs. Moving here I had to start completely from scratch. If you have never done that it’s similar to and different from starting a new school in the middle of 9th grade. It took me months to get ready to go out and meet people. That was a long period of self-discovery. Now, I have accomplished that and have met people I like very much — and I know it’s mutual. It’s very sweet but, at the same time, it’s still stressful. I’m shy and in the midst of so much change, a person is challenged with rediscovering and even redefining one’s identity, like in the witness protection program?
Anyway, as is the case with wishes, some come true exactly as they’re wished. Some com true in ways we could never have imagined. Some don’t come true at all.
Here’s last years post:
Daily Prompt: Three Coins in the Fountain, by Krista on March 21, 2014. Have you ever tossed a coin or two into a fountain and made a wish? Did it come true?
That really is it. I stopped doing this when I was a kid. “If wishes were horses, everyone would ride.” Wishes and nickles and close your eyes tight and make a wish and blow out the candles and what did you wish for? Don’t tell or it won’t come true. The best use of a wish is the clarification of desire and direction.
Yesterday I looked at houses. My retirement income is going to be small so I’m looking at houses only slightly above the bottom of the barrel. That’s OK. I’ve never (since home ownership began) lived in a “nice” house. They’ve both been odd houses other people wouldn’t want that needed some work.
Yesterday I “made a wish.” Anyway, it felt like it. I filed for retirement. For real. I almost felt like I had closed my eyes and was blowing out the candles on a birthday cake as I filled in the little blanks on the two forms. Perhaps I held my breath. But the “haggis is in the fire” the “Rubicon is crossed” there’s “no turning back” and a million other appropriate clichés.
So…my wishes are mixed. I wish I hadn’t been pushed to this decision. I wish I had a slightly larger income (but I can find a job teaching part time here, maybe). I wish I hadn’t had to make this decision alone — but we really make all decisions alone except maybe pregnancy, and I have good friends and allies and was lucky to meet a realtor yesterday who’s motivated to help me find a home and I have choices. And there is this. We all have knowledge inside about our biological selves and I’m 62. This decision, this moment, is more the result of that than anything else. I made it because I COULD. It’s an option I didn’t have last year or the year before. There’s a twilight zone in which a person is too old to find new work and too young to retire. All a person can do is put the bit between their teeth and GO as long as he has to, steering the way between obstacles, loading up the cart if he has to (I had to) to keep a life together. It takes courage when the options change to stop and look around when everything has depended on hard running. “What if I COULD change my life? What if I COULD have more time for things and people I love?”
A little voice whispers, “You can.” Terrifying, disorienting savior of a little voice.
Yesterday I looked at a little house. It is in the part of town where Italian immigrants lived back in the day. Against the porch leaned an old concrete statue of St. Frankie. I straightened him. I’m not Catholic but I like St. Frankie and all the other statues who are there to remind us to have some faith, hope and compassion. I don’t think there can be too many of these. The house was very pretty inside. I could imagine a Calabrian couple, happy to have their own home, maintaining it with the particular fastidious of which I’m familiar and fond. The house had been cared for all it’s 100+ years. I wish, hope that maybe I’ll be able to live there.
Daily Prompt A Dog Named Bob You have 20 minutes to write a post that includes the words mailbox, bluejay, plate, syrup, and ink. And one more detail… the story must include a dog named Bob
After a long career in public service all over the world, it was time for Linda to retire. Things at the government agency where she’d begun working as a young-middle-aged idealist had changed and there was no longer room for idealism. Or maybe she’d become jaded. Or maybe she was tired, she didn’t know, really, only that she wanted to go home, if she could find it.
She did her retirement paper work and sold her house making enough to pay cash for a house in a less expensive somewhere. She got out the map and picked a place in the state from which she’d come. “I always thought Raptorville was a beautiful little town. It’s close enough to my sisters, but not on their laps. It’s near many things I remember having loved in another life. I guess that’s a good place from which to start my new one.”
The movers came and packed her things. She, herself, packed the plates she’d inherited from her grandmother, the collection of beautiful tea-cups. She bought a new car — nothing fancy, a Ford Focus — and she headed west, all the way west, all the way across America.
Her younger sister put her up while she looked for a house. There wasn’t much selection in Raptorville, so she looked in other even smaller towns. One afternoon, her realtor took her to a house in the little town of Bluff Chute. The house was in the early 60s style — open ceilings, split level, nothing inspiring. The realtor saw on Linda’s face that she wasn’t impressed. “Well, anyway, you have to see this.” She slid open the door from the dining room onto the deck.
The backyard was virtually a park, with towering redwood trees, a network of lovely paths, secluded nooks for reading, and in the very back, a sunny spot for a vegetable garden. Bluejays — well, scrub jays — swooped between the trees.
“I’ll take it,” said Linda, surprising herself.
The closing was quick. Her possessions were unloaded and placed in the house. They fit. She put her name on the mailbox.
Then she went to the shelter and got a dog. Just a dog, an ordinary dog, white with patches the color of maple syrup on pancakes, short hair, 30 pounds. “What are you going to call him,” her sister asked.
“I don’t know,” said Linda. “It’ll come to me.”
Soon she met her neighbors. There were only two other houses on the cul-de-sac that backed up to the mountain. In each of the houses was a couple about Linda’s age. The wives were both named Linda — the result of the same generational fashion that later led to innumerable Brittanys, Tammys, and Heathers. Both husbands were named Bob.