Show Me The Way To Go Home

I recently returned from a trip back “home” to California. When I was leaving Florida, I felt a little trepidation because, on my last trip to California, I experienced a rather strange sensation of disorientation (http://www.terrilabonte.com/2017/08/a-weird-and-strange-sentimental-journey/). I wondered if my equilibrium would be similarly out of whack on this trip.

Because the main driver for this trip was to scatter my mother’s ashes at one of her favorite places, I guess I felt I was a little vulnerable to emotional earthquakes from the get-go. Scattering my mom’s ashes in my backyard in Florida was a pretty gutting experience for me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to scattering ashes while simultaneously feeling like I somehow fell down a rabbit hole into a home that used to be mine but no longer seemed familiar.

I need not have worried. The trip was good. I felt like the time I spent with my brother was valuable to both of us. Scattering my mother’s ashes did not result in a meltdown for either of us. I think we both took comfort from being together with our memories of our mother- memories that only the two of us could share in the same way. I think we both felt better afterwards. My brother texted me that he felt like she was home now. I delighted in the time I spent with my friends. I felt like I was actively participating in life and relationships, rather than just sitting still and letting things happen around me. I enjoyed the sensation. As I drove around Southern California, the territory felt familiar again. I did not sense the weird and strange, as I did a few months ago.

I wondered what was different. I am sure that my mother’s death and my adaptation to a different life without her had something to do with it. Still, I think the biggest difference is how I see my home in Florida now. It took me a long time to really kick into gear and feel truly connected to my new life in Florida. It was a process. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it or that I was unhappy. It was just that shifting gears is very difficult for me. I have an extremely slow emotional transmission.

The last time I was in California, I don’t think I was quite comfortable in the idea that Florida was my home. I didn’t yet feel settled and secure in the life I’ve built here. My life in Florida was starting to gel and become my new comfort zone, but things were still a bit wobbly. I think I could not feel truly confident that my new “home” life in Florida would still feel stable and sound when I returned if I allowed my heart to experience some of my old “home” life in California. I could only allow myself to experience the distorted shadow of what used to be so familiar. I was kind of like a polar bear trying to make her way across shaky ice. Instead of gracefully and confidently jumping from one ice float to another, I was trying to balance each of my four paws on different ice floats at the same time. It wasn’t working and I felt myself being pulled in numerous different, uncomfortable directions as the various ice floats diverged.

This time, I think I’d become more secure and embedded in the fabric of my “home” life in Florida. Because I have created a richer, more connected life for myself in Florida- a life that is growing and becoming more deeply rooted- I feel more comfortable enjoying and appreciating the “home” I left behind. Feeling more stable on my current block of ice, this polar bear is now more confident leaping her way to familiar and unfamiliar ice floats as she travels wherever life leads her.

Do you think it is easier to appreciate the past more when you are contented with your present life or when you hit a rough patch in the present?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Enjoy today, both at home and away!!!

Terri 🙂

Springing Forward

The hospice nurse says my mother no longer experiences time in the same way most people do.  Do you think it might be contagious? 

Never before in my life have I messed anything up because of the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.  Last Sunday, I was getting ready to go to church.  I happened to look down at my phone and noticed it said the time was an hour later than I thought it was.  I wondered what was wrong with my phone.  As it turns out, nothing. 

I went to church, still operating firmly in Eastern Standard Time despite all iPhone indications to the contrary.  I thought I was arriving early for Sunday School and was surprised at how full the parking lot already was.  I noticed some folks going into the church and wondered at that.  By Terri Time, it was just about an hour before the service was to start and people usually don’t arrive that early.  Finally, out of nowhere (or, maybe, out of the numerous hints that my brain was consuming but apparently not digesting very quickly), I realized that Daylight Savings Time might just have started at 2:00 o’clock that morning.   

So, I did not have a spring forward this year.  It was more like a stumble forward.  Maybe I was actually pushed directly into the path of an oncoming time change.  I think there might be a message for me in this. 

I think I may have become a little stuck in flux during this past season.  Is that an oxymoron?  Can one be “stuck” if one is in a state of “flux?”  All I know is that I think my brain has been wallowing in some sort of disagreeable sludge ever since my mom had her stroke.  I have become used to living in a nearly constant mood of sadness, anxiety, fear, and inadequacy. It has become a comfortable ooze, if not a pleasant one.  I tend to sink deeper into it rather than exerting the effort to lumber out of it.  Yes, this whole journey started back in the last Daylight Savings Time.  Theoretically, I’ve had a couple of time changes to adapt to my new circumstances. I’m not sure my transmission is that good, though.  It tends to slip.  Given my sinister slide into the emotional muck, I’d say I had no trouble at all “falling back.” 

Now that spring is here (whether I sprung with it or not), it might be a good time to recognize and acknowledge new birth.  There has been a lot of growing inside me recently.  I’ve graduated from my perception that retirement is simply well-earned rest.  I’m now seeing how retirement can and should be enriching, as well as restful.    More than two years after my move, I have started thinking of Florida as “home.”  It no longer feels disloyal to prefer my life in Florida to what I was experiencing back in California.  I believe I have learned more about myself in the past two years than in the prior 30 plus “career” years put together.  The best news about that self-education is that I am figuring out how to appreciate myself.  I’m not saying that I am all that and a bag of chips, but I think I can now safely say that I am at least the bag of chips.  

In addition to recognizing and acknowledging the new beginnings I’ve birthed since my retirement, spring seems a good time to nurture the seedlings that are beginning to sprout for other changes.  I know I’ll never be okay with my mother’s condition, but I do sometimes feel the stirrings of acceptance and reconciliation.  This spring, I want to be a gardener.  I want to tend to my mother’s heart- to fill it with beautiful flowers and plants and lovely scents to remind her how much she is loved.  I also want to tend my own heart- to heal it and love it and remind it of how much I love. 

Is spring growing season for you?  Any particular “gardening” you are planning for this year?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Happy almost spring!

Terri 🙂

I’ve Got That Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

Easter reminds me that my race is not yet run.

 When I started working, I did not select my career with my Christianity in mind. To be honest, I’m not sure I selected it at all. I had just finished college with a fresh out of the oven degree in English. I was working at my minimum wage college job. I had a brand new husband, who was a full time graduate student.  He needed brand new food every brand new day. When the chance for federal employment was offered, I took the job for purely temporal reasons.

That doesn’t mean that, for the 33 plus years I worked, I left my faith at the door. While my job description wasn’t particularly missionary, I believed that God expected me to live a mission. I spent my career purposely, consciously, and genuinely trying to make each decision from a place of goodness and to be a light in the world to the people I encountered. The fuel for that light was Jesus. I often fell short. I was not always a good example or a beacon of Christ’s light. I simply trusted that, when I did succeed in my mission through the wisdom and grace God granted me, the Lord would use that work to let others see Him and His love.

 When I retired, I was tired and worn down in my very soul. I looked forward to my retirement as a period of rest and relaxation, my years of work being done. I did rest and it has taken a very long time for my spirit to relax. Now, I realize my work is not done. My workplace is different and the conditions are unfamiliar, but I am sure God still has a mission for me.

 I believe I am called, like St. Therese of Lisieux, to live an ordinary life with extraordinary love. There is still some life left for me to fill, using God’s grace, with extraordinary love.

 I am writing about reinventing myself in retirement. This Easter season, I have been journeying towards a spiritual reinvention, or, at least, a spiritual reinvigoration. I’ve been participating in a Best Lent Ever program.  It is a series of daily email video reflections. It is offered through www.dynamiccatholic.com.  You might want to check it out. Even non Catholics might be interested.  Really, anyone with a spiritual orientation that includes Jesus, even tangentially, might find it useful.

 In working on my spiritual reinvention this Lent, www.dynamiccatholic has helped me remember some valuable lessons.

 When I give in to shyness and avoid people, I put my Jesus light under a bushel and miss potential opportunities to provide comfort and extraordinary love.

When I get impatient and rushed, I miss the opportunity to be absolutely present in the moment, to cherish the joy that God gives that moment.

When my heart flashes with irritation and anger, I miss the opportunity to gain understanding and closeness. 

 Moving forward, I know that I will forget these lessons and will fall short. I also know that God has more lessons for me.  I will try to keep an open heart and be available to His teaching, as I strive to be a carrier of extraordinary love.

The real lesson of Easter, though, is that, no matter how many times I fail, I am forgiven. Jesus saw to that.

Happy Resurrection!  I know that not everyone believes as I do, but Easter seems like a great time to remind ourselves that reinvention can be sacred as well as secular.

What do you think?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a happy and blessed Easter!

Terri 🙂