Memory Superbloom

Last week, I talked about the beauty of the spring superbloom in Southern California this year.  During my recent trip back to visit my old homeland, I realized that I forgot how uniquely beautiful the desert can be when the wildflowers carpet the terrain.  It was heart-stoppingly gorgeous.  However, I also realized it was heart-stoppingly dangerous, as the flowers will soon fade and die and become fuel for the wildfires we so dread in Southern California. 

The flowers were not the only thing that bloomed on my trip.  Nor were they the only things that can be dangerous.  As I prepared for the trip, I subconsciously steeled myself for the impact of a superbloom of memories.  The southwest is where I grew up.  It is where I lived most of my life.  It is where most of my conscious memories were born.  My family lived together in New York until I was almost six, but I was so young that most of those memories are lost.  The only home where my immediate family formed memories together was California.  My schooling was there.  My career was there. The crucible of maturity that was my marriage and divorce was there.  I raised my fur child there.  I met Max there and we built a together life there. 

Most of these memories are happy ones.  Still, I have learned, over several trips back to California after moving to Florida, that exposure to the site of my memory banks is not necessarily a completely pleasant sensation.  I’ve found that sticking my toe in the California memory banks can be a complicated, confusing experience.  I’ve enjoyed my time visiting California in the past.  It has been wonderful to spend time with my friends and do activities that were part of my entertainment life when I lived there.  Still, there has always been this sort of nagging gray haze hanging over me when I was there.  I put it down to the idea that everything is so familiar to me that it doesn’t really feel like an adventure or an exotic vacation, but nothing is still familiar enough to me to make it feel like home.  It is very disorienting.  I don’t let it impede my enjoyment of the trip.  I just kind of go with it, but it is a weird feeling.

I was more hesitant about this trip than about other ones, oddly enough.  It was not that I didn’t want to go, but I did feel a certain apprehension.  This time would be my first trip back after my mother passed away, except for last January when I went back to scatter her ashes.  That trip was kind of all about her, even though she wasn’t with us in this life any more.  This time, the trip was about Max and me.  In my anticipation, though, I was more afraid of the memories than I have ever been. 

It might have been because we were going to Laughlin during this trip.  Although Max and I used to go to Laughlin now and then when we lived in California, it was more a place that was part of my history with my mother.  We made several girls’ trips there.  We would pack up the car, head east, and spend a few days just hanging out.  We would eat, sit by the pool, go to an occasional show, shop, ride the water taxi on the river, and just bask in some “us” time.  My mother enjoyed Laughlin and she enjoyed being with me.  I think a lot of the reason she enjoyed our trips to Laughlin so much, though, was a real “mom” reason.

You see, my mom always thought I worked too hard, became too tightly wound, and lived at a pace that was much too rapid.  She was probably right, but I’m not sure there was any alternative to any of that while I was still employed.  She was wise enough to know that nothing she could say was going to change any of it.  She had a sneaky little plan to lure me away from that fast-paced world once a year or so.  She would simply suggest a trip to Laughlin. She knew I would agree to take her because I loved her and wanted to make her happy.  In her mind, if I took her to Laughlin, I’d be forced to slow down and ease up.  Manipulating me into spending two or three days with her by the river, living at the much slower pace required by her age and infirmities, was her strategy for nurturing me.  Truth?  It worked. 

Laughlin reminds me how much I was loved. I was afraid that going back to Laughlin would remind me that the love is gone. 

The trip turned out to be great.  For the first time, I did not get that sense of disorientation that I’ve had every other time.  The gray haze was gone.  Nothing felt sinister or wounded.  I remembered the happy times with real pleasure.  For the first time, I felt like I could be part of the California world and the Florida world without experiencing a psychotic break.  Max had a lot to do with that.  He is always good to me, but he seemed to be making it his particular mission to take care of me during this trip… to find ways of delighting me and making the time special. 

And Laughlin was wonderful.  I thought often of my mother. I re-experienced the warmth and joy of our memories together at the river.  As I looked out of our hotel window at the river, I could feel her smiling at me.  I cried once or twice, but I was so happy.  I felt such overwhelming gratitude to have had those times with my mother and to be able to relive them in my mind and heart.  I learned there is nothing to fear from my memories of being loved so much.  That love is not gone, after all.

Is there a particular place that spurs memories for you of a deceased loved one? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a memorable day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

An Overabundance Of Love

I used to think there was no such thing as too much love.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Maybe what the world needs now is love, sweet love, but I think it can do without any more lovebugs.

Before we moved to Florida, many people questioned me about whether or not it would be inordinately buggy in my new home.   I believe we were all thinking about mosquitoes.  I know I always did picture Florida as having more than its share of mosquitoes.  In truth, I haven’t really noticed much of a mosquito problem.  Yes, I have had a few encounters over the past four years that have left me itchy and swollen and pretty grouchy.  In general, though, mosquitoes have not been an issue.  Maybe it is because I am rarely out after dark, but I have no major mosquito complaints. Truth be told, my issues with mosquitoes are not peculiar to Florida.  I’ve come away on the losing side of mosquito interactions in California, as well.  What can I say?  To mosquitoes, I am delectable…coast to coast!

I have to learn to think bigger when someone mentions “bugs.”  Clearly, mosquitoes are not the only insects that populate Florida.  It is lovebug season and I am a lovebug natural disaster. My car is speckled with dead lovebug guts. I could feel bad about all the lovebug tragedy I leave in my wake, but I really don’t.  I just think the world has more than enough lovebugs and we don’t need any more. 

I don’t think the lovebugs got that particular memo, though.  In fact, lovebugs seem to have only two purposes in life- to mate and to crash into cars… often simultaneously.  For a few weeks each year, the lovebugs swarm all over like locusts in the Bible.  They spin through the air in a frenzy of copulation.   The sky is gray with them.  They fly, two by two, in passionate embraces, towards their doom.  That doom is usually the windshield or grillwork of an oncoming car.  You can see them mating through your windshield and they are obviously pretty into each other because they are completely oblivious to the fact that their love is going to be very short-lived. 

Lovebugs don’t bite or sting or hurt people in any way.  I’m not afraid of them.  They just make me feel icky.  They are so prevalent in the air around me, I am constantly fighting off the disturbing conviction that I may have just swallowed one (or more than one because they are not exactly loners).  Also, their guts contain some horrible chemical compound that eats into paint, chrome, and even windshield glass.  You are supposed to get your car washed immediately when you see the acid rain that runs through the lovebugs’ veins splattered on your vehicle.  I’m sure the carwash places thrive more than the actual lovebugs during lovebug season.  Unfortunately, unless you stop driving completely for two weeks and leave your car in a hermetically sealed garage, you might as well never leave the carwash during the height of the bugginess.

You do hear a lot of complaining about the lovebugs.  They are inconvenient and a bit aggravating.  But isn’t that true of everything, even love itself, sometimes?

Kidding and minor annoyance aside, the lovebugs are not a big deal.  First of all, they are a self-limiting problem.  In a couple of weeks, they will be gone.  If I swallow them, well, I guess a little extra protein isn’t a huge problem.  If their self-destructive behavior in the midst of coitus causes your children to ask awkward questions, I guess it can be a teaching moment. 

Yes, even if the lovebug goo causes some problems with my car’s paint, I guess I can live with that.  What I can’t live with is a world without love.  Maybe having lovebugs take over the planet for a couple of weeks each year is worth it if it reminds us that love is all around us!

What is your experience of lovebugs?  Do you think they serve some metaphorical purpose or are they just plain annoying?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com 

Have a loving day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Hug A Mom Today

I saw a Facebook post the other day that said, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.”  So true.

My mother died almost two years ago.  She wasn’t able to physically hug long before that. I can still feel her hugging me.  There is no other feeling like it.  It might be the most powerful energy force in this world.  I think, when God wanted to give us a little taste of how it feels to be loved by Him, he invented the mother’s hug. 

I realized something about physical interaction between a mother and child when my mom was in the various care facilities. Because of her frailty and cumbersome mobility assistance devices, it had been many years since I could easily hug or kiss her.  I was always afraid that I’d fall into her if I leaned over and around enough to get to her.  We talked about loving each other and demonstrated it, certainly.  Still, physical affection, like many other aspects of her physical life, deteriorated more and more as she became more and more infirm.

When she was in the care facilities, it was much easier for me to reach out to hug her and kiss her and hold her. The barriers that helped her balance and move were not necessary anymore because she wasn’t balancing or moving.  There was no need for me to lean awkwardly or worry about falling.   That ability to connect physically was very nice for me and I think it was for her, too.  Being able to reclaim physical affection was a gift we received during her final months. 

I don’t think either of us realized how much we had been missing touch.  One time, I was sitting by her bed, holding her hand, when I decided to leave because her roommate had a whole army of people visiting.  I had difficulty loosening my hand from hers. Although she could no longer express herself well enough verbally to let me know how much she was loving my touch, she was communicating that message by clutching my hand.  Now, I wish I had stayed right there holding her hand; army of visitors be damned. 

You see, a daughter’s hug lasts long after she lets go, too.  I hope my mom can still feel me hugging her now, even in Heaven.

Happy Mother’s Day!  How are you celebrating?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Stage Fright

I recently performed in a play at church about women in the New Testament.   I played The Woman Caught In Adultery.  There were no auditions or anything like that.  Basically, the very talented lady who authored the play just asked for volunteers.  Many of the volunteers said they would be happy to play any part… except The Woman Caught In Adultery.  People even cheerfully volunteered to play Mary Magdalene…just not The Woman Caught In Adultery.  Maybe they had a certain amount of respect for someone who, at least, demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in a time when there weren’t a lot of career options for women.  The Woman Caught In Adultery seems to have abandoned her moral principles simply for the sake of giving the milk away for free. 

Anyway, I was cast as The Woman Caught In Adultery not based on talent but on my general guppiness. I’m pretty much willing to do whatever anyone asks me to do to help (well, maybe not actually commit adultery), with or without the scarlet letter. In this case, there was no scarlet letter… just a vibrant banana-yellow head scarf.  It is safe to assume that the respectable women in the community would be able to see me coming. 

It was kind of fun preparing for the play.  We rehearsed each Thursday night for about a month.  I enjoyed working with the other women.  I juggled inflection and volume with my lines, trying to ascertain what combination of emoting produced the most effective result. I liked experimenting with makeup. We thought it likely that women in Biblical times would be too busy to just sit around and talk.  The director asked us to each find some sort of hand work we could do while we reminisced about our experiences with Jesus. I taught myself to knit using a YouTube tutorial.  Mind you, I didn’t learn how to FINISH knitting, but I did manage a rather mangled stretch of congealed blue yarn.  I felt quite accomplished.

I wasn’t even particularly nervous about the play.  At least, I wasn’t even particularly nervous about the play until the day before the performance.  Then, the goblins in my gut started dancing around with torches.  My insides felt skittish.  I had a couple of dizzy spells the night before and the day of the play.  None of this is surprising.  What is surprising is that it took so long for the stage fright to set in.  I tend to experience a pretty high level of anxiety just living normal life.  The other surprise is that the show went on and everything went well.  Nobody died.  There was no blood on the floor.  Contrary to all the good wishes I received, I did not break any actual body parts.  I’m not joking.  Between my long robe, ascending a couple of steps, and doffing my glasses (apparently, no one wore glasses in Biblical times…. although, it seems they did wear a rather alarming amount of makeup), I was kind of a danger to myself and others. 

This experience led to me to think about the concept of stage fright.  Can you still have stage fright, even when there is no stage?  I wonder how often in my life I have resisted doing something because of anxiety or fear of failure.  As I mentioned, I live right on the edge of manageable anxiety most of the time.   I can remember times, especially as a younger woman, where I talked myself out of activities and experiences because of that anxiety.  The anxiety meter slipped over the line into the red and I shut down.  I missed out on meeting new people because I was always sure that I was a waste of their time.   There were times I drove to events and then could not go inside.  There were times when going to school on a given day was impossible for me.  I missed a free trip to Ireland because I couldn’t get past the idea of traveling with people I didn’t know very well.  I am sure my career progression was slower and more painful than it would have been if I had been able to check my anxiety at the door.

I’m not sure what has changed over the past few years.  Maybe it is retirement.  Maybe it is maturity.  Maybe it is figuring out that EVERYONE (even me) has a right to pursue happiness.  Maybe it is my ever-increasing awareness that the clock is ticking and I want to make the most of all the time I have left.  Maybe it is the Holy Spirit.  Maybe it is a combination of all those things.   I still wrestle with the anxiety and insecurity, but it is no longer the battle royale that it used to be. Most of the time, I win the battle.  My “play” is going pretty well, despite the stage fright. 

I am learning that, despite the jitters, everything will probably be fine if I step out of the shadows.  Everything might even be BETTER than fine.  In general, nobody cares what I look like or how badly I perform when I try something new.  I’ll either get better or I won’t.  I’ll either enjoy something or I won’t.  I’ll either be a blessing for someone or I won’t.  God will still keep the earth turning on its axis. 

Maybe Shakespeare was right and all the world’s a stage.  If so, that might explain my anxiety. Stage fright is normal, but it doesn’t have to cripple me. 

Have you missed out on things because of “stage fright?” How do you manage anxiety?  Do you find it gets easier or harder to overcome as you get older?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a brave day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Oh, Phlooey!

The other day, I attended a Good Friday service at church and washed the tile floors in my house.  All in the same day.  Without a nap.  This may not seem like a huge achievement.  However, it had been a week since I had been able to manage more than one or two tasks a day, including taking a shower, without spending an hour or two in bed afterwards. 

You see, I flew home from California the preceding Friday.  I also flu home from California the preceding Friday.  After a delightful trip (more about the trip itself in the coming weeks), I came home with the flu. 

In retrospect, maybe I was coming down with it even sooner.  Around Wednesday afternoon during our trip, I lost my appetite.  Losing my appetite is not something that happens to me very often, unfortunately.  I didn’t stop eating or feel nauseous exactly.  I just didn’t feel hungry and nothing sounded appealing.  I put it down to the fact that I had been eating everything in sight since we got to California on Saturday.  I’d eaten more red meat in the first five days we were there, thanks to the accessibility of In and Out Burger, than I typically eat in five months put together.  I figured my body was just politely advising me that it was satisfied, thank you very much.  On the way home on the plane, I felt bone-weary.  I don’t think I read much or did anything to stave off boredom on either of the two legs of the trip.  I kind of just stared into space mindlessly, too exhausted to form an idea.  Oh, I did form the idea that I hated the fact that I had to drive home from the airport through the dark and rain when we finally landed in Orlando.  Again, it didn’t occur to me that I was sick. I figured it was just the travel and not sleeping well on vacation that was creating my lethargy.  When we finally reached Orlando and got the car out of valet hock, I sucked it up and got us home safely. 

I fell into bed and slept for about twelve straight hours.  The next day, I felt okay but still tired and without an appetite.  Saturday night, I didn’t sleep.  At first, I thought it was because I slept so much the night before, but I realized aches in my body were keeping me awake.  I went to the Palm Sunday service that morning, but I was definitely off.  The weather inside my body seemed very unstable and bore no resemblance to the temperature experienced by the rest of the world. I felt exceptionally confused.  I am not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I can usually find my way to church and recognize people I know.  Not so much on Palm Sunday.  I felt like I had somehow entered a novel or movie in mid-chapter. Nothing looked or felt familiar.  Yes, I did recognize people at church I know well, but there were people I see all the time that just baffled me. 

That afternoon, the chills and aches started the battle cries.  I faced the fact.  I was sick. 

After sleeping the sleep of the dead again on Sunday night, I dragged myself out of bed long enough to call the doctor on Monday morning.  Max drove me to the doctor’s office since it finally sunk in that I probably should not be driving. I was too sick to even get giddy over the fact I had lost five pounds since before I left on vacation (loss of appetite has some benefits!).  The doctor took one look at me and asked, “didn’t you get a flu shot?” When I responded that I had not, she conducted a brief examination.  I left with a diagnosis- the flu, a prescription for Tamiflu, a warning that I was probably too far along in to the flu infection for the drug to do much good, orders to rest, and advice to eat whatever I wanted.  Never, ever in my life has anyone advised me to eat anything I wanted.  It would happen at a time when I didn’t want to eat anything. 

I spent the next several days in a fevered haze of sleep, trashy tv, and not much else that I recall.  I remember telling my brother I had the flu and he mocked me for not getting a flu shot, at my advanced age. 

I’ve never had a flu shot in my life. I have not had the flu since I was 14 years old.  It isn’t that I have any philosophical objections to vaccines or anything.  I just have a philosophical objection to needles.  As a diabetic, I punch holes in myself several times a day to test my blood sugar.  I think I do my duty in the needle department.  I did flirt with the idea of getting a flu shot when my mom was in the skilled living facility because I didn’t want to infect the residents and staff if I got the flu.  I looked at my past history and decided, if it isn’t broken…. Don’t break it. 

Thursday, I got a little cocky.  I did my food delivery route, went to the grocery store, cleaned the kitchen, and went to the Maundy Thursday evening church service.  I did not take my requisite nap between activities. I ended up having to leave the church in the middle of the service, convinced that I would not make it home in one piece if I did not act quickly to get to a bed.  I did make it to the bed and once more set a new personal best for sleeping. 

I’m better now.  I am starting to feel hungry again.  I am still sleeping rather a lot, but I am making it out of bed before the clock strikes “pm.”  I think I may live.

Getting sick on vacation is no fun and is major inconvenient.  It does happen, however.  So far, I’ve been pretty lucky and have managed to get through most of my travels unscathed.  Unfortunately, not this time. Oh, phlooey!   

Do you get a flu shot?  How long has it been since you got the flu?  Do you think vacation has a way of opening you up to sickness?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a healthy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

PS Now that I have returned to the land of the living, I have a lot to share about my trip.  I will be blogging more about it over the next couple of weeks. 

Facing My Fears

I don’t like to brag, but sometimes you just have to stop and celebrate successes. I’ve conquered my fear of tablecloth origami.

That’s right.  We’ve concluded the Alpha program at our church and I’ve managed to fold and hang the ten tablecloths we’ve been using for our weekly dinners since January.  You may remember that I’ve been taking them home to launder each week, but I’ve steered well clear of attempting the intricate process by which the tablecloths are supposed to be folded and hung in the linen cabinet because I was paralyzed by fear. The other day, I took a deep breathe and faced my fear.  Now, seven round and three rectangular tablecloths are hanging, relatively neatly, in the parish center linen closet.  I may not have done the task perfectly, but the end product is a reasonable facsimile of what it is supposed to be.  I call that a victory.  I’ve vanquished my tablecloth demons!

I do think it is important to not let our fears cripple us.  On the other hand, nobody has to run around doing everything just to prove a point.  

I’ve never been what you would call a thrillseeker.  I’m not going to lie.  I am afraid of stuff.  I have avoided doing some things because I was afraid.  I believe most of my fears are rational.  I admit that some are not.  The thing is- I really don’t have that much FOMO.  I’ve never felt the need to do things like skydive or wrestle crocodiles or stick my hand in a badger’s den just for the sake of it.  I understand that some people like the adrenaline rush they get from doing such things, but I just never saw the point.  I think my body makes quite enough adrenaline on its own without me priming the pump. 

I don’t really think there is any need to do stuff just to do it.  I never got that whole concept of “climbing the mountain because it is there.”  I think opting out of doing something is a perfectly reasonable decision. I remember a conversation I had once with my mother about six months after my father died.  She called me and, in a strained and sob-sodden voice, told me that she was going to a play with a friend of hers.  I knew immediately from her voice that the play was Guys and Dolls. My parents attended a performance of this musical on their first date.  When I asked her about it, she confirmed my suspicion and started crying in earnest.  I asked, since it was obviously upsetting her so much, why she was going.  She haltingly said, “I have to go sometime.”  I pointed out that, in fact, she did not have to go.  It was my humble opinion that she could easily go the rest of her life without ever seeing Guys and Dolls again. 

During our conversation, my mother started to realize that she actually wanted to go see the play.  She wanted to have a fun night out with her friend and she wanted to feel normal.  On some level, she believed that she was missing out on a certain joy in her life because she was afraid to do something that might increase her grief.  For her, I don’t think it was so much the play itself that she was afraid of missing.  She was afraid that her life would be consumed by grief if she allowed herself to hide from doing normal things that she would have done without hesitation if my father was still alive.  Her FOMO over what she might miss in her life because she was afraid of her grief was much bigger and scarier than her fear of facing her grief.  She saw value in facing a risk. Unlike the hand-in-a-badger-den thing, she saw a chance of reward.

So, I guess facing fears is a good thing.  I’m not sure my life is any better because I have slayed the tablecloth dragons.  I’m not sure I’ll ever decide to fold tablecloths again.  I may opt out of tablecloth folding.  But I’ll decide not to do it on my own terms.  I’ll decide not to do it based on my own desire and inclination, not based on fear. 

P.S. After my foray into the world of tablecloth origami, another lady suggested in the nicest possible way that I was doing it all wrong and taught me another way to fold the tablecloths. It seems I was correct in thinking my natural talents do not lie in this direction. Still, I did my best and did not allow my fear to prevent me from trying something new. That’s what is important, right? Anybody? Help me out here!

What fears have you faced and what was the benefit? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a fear-free day!

Losing Myself

You know how people always talk about “finding themselves?” This week, I am off doing exactly the opposite. I am on a quest to lose myself. That’s right. For a few days, I am hoping to lose myself in different surroundings, different activities, and different dining experiences (I’m talking about YOU, In-And-Out Burger!) I am also hoping that, in the process of losing myself, I will find a decent pizza.

At any rate, I’ll be back next week with new content. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. Better yet… if you are pining for me, consider toddling on over to your favorite online bookseller and ordering a copy of my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement.

Have a purposeful day! It is always good to have a goal, even if that goal is losing yourself.

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Blooming

Max and I went to the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot the other day.  I love Epcot and I particularly love this event. There are huge topiaries of Disney characters.  There are spectacular floral designs carpeting the grounds.  There are creative and unusual playground gardens where children burn energy.  There is a butterfly garden, filled with light, lazy aerial ballerinas dancing nonstop through the air.  There are different sights and smells all over the park to entrance the senses.  It is no coincidence that we think of Paradise as the Garden of Eden and Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival definitely evokes paradise. 

Now that spring is here, the Flower and Garden Festival got me thinking about blooming.  There was a lot of blooming going on in Epcot.  I’m thinking of another kind of blooming, though.

I think we all go through spurts of spontaneous creative energy periodically in our lives.  We all experience times when the momentum of our lives become sweet and fertile.  We seem to experience one amazing epiphany after another, each feeding on the one before it.  The pieces are clicking together almost automatically.  It seems as though our lives are enrichening moment by moment.  We may or may not experience success in all our endeavors and I don’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t take hard work to make something wonderful out of all this impetus.  However, even in our failures during these times, we are usually happy and satisfied and confident.  There is an excitement and lushness about living that is completely independent of traditional success.  We are luxuriating in the moment, thankful for all the unique miracles in our lives. 

What spurs these periods of renaissance in our lives?  I’ve seen it happen when people fall into a healthy love relationship.  It can also happen when people become parents.  Sometimes it happens when people have careers that reflect their intellectual passions and work with colleagues who are likeminded.  Maybe it boils down to love.  When love is in the mix, whether it be love for a significant other or love for a child or love for an idea, people may feel safer pushing their boundaries and believing the dreams they normally wouldn’t even dare to dream.

However, it seems that loss can also be a catalyst for these periods of exploration and awakening. Since my mother’s death, I have been experiencing my own personal renaissance.  I’ve changed so much.  I am so much more engaged with people and with the world.  I am much more confident and secure than I’ve been in my life. My spiritual life is more exquisite. I feel physically healthier than I can ever remember being.  I feel like that health shines from the inside out and makes me a more attractive person.  I’m still not traditionally pretty, but I just don’t care anymore.  I no longer worry about being attractive enough or good enough or anything enough to be “worth” other people’s attention and approval.  I am just me and I trust that is enough to attract the right people in my life.  There is a sort of centeredness and peace in my spirit.  I try things that I never would have in the past- publishing the book, singing in the choir, acting in a play, reigning as Alpha Hospitality Princess, creating art, and many other activities.  I am blooming.

If I am honest, I think I have to say that some of this blossoming is the result of the crushingly sad journey I took with my mother during her illness and death.  During that time, I found out that I am much more complex and multi-faceted than the “me” I always thought I knew.  I also had to learn, through the grieving process, how to let go of parts of my life that were no longer blooming.     

Now, you all know how much I loved my mother.  I still miss her sharply and deeply every single day.  I would give up every blossom I have gathered in the past year and a half if it could bring her back- healthy, happy, and living life with me.  Since I can’t bring her back, I know she is happy that I am using the life and love she gave me to create something wonderful in my spirit. 

As painful as it is, maybe sometimes you have to prune to bloom.  Especially if the pruning is accompanied by love.

Have you experienced a period of personal renaissance? Tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a blooming day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Root IS The Problem

Last week, I whined about all the difficulties roots have been causing in my life lately.  Removing them seems to have been the solution to all kinds of problems.  My experiences led me to opine that perhaps roots are the problem.

My mother died about eighteen months ago.  She was my rock and my root in this life.  She grounded me and helped me grow.  Since she died, I have definitely felt a certain rootlessness.  Somehow, I have not been sure how to be me now that she is no longer around.  I have been processing my emotions fairly efficiently, but this is one feeling I have been avoiding.

In essence, I have been avoiding my own roots.  It has been too painful to go down that particular hole.  When I do certain activities, I desperately distract myself from thinking of my mother.  I don’t often reminisce much about our lives together when she was well.  There are some items of hers that she had with her at the skilled nursing facility which I hid away in a box.  I could not bear the thought of looking at them.  It is a strange sensation to avoid any aspect of my mother because I was so rooted to her.  I would think that it would always be better to remember than not, even when the memories fill me with an adrift sort of sadness and purposelessness.  Still, there are certain experiences that I avoid because they remind me that I don’t know how to grow without my roots.  And my roots fill me with pain when I dig too deeply into them. 

Despite how “well” I have been mourning my mother, there is one part of me that just seems stuck in mid-air by grief.  I think it has to do with permanence.  If I can avoid thinking about this last vestige… this last root… of sorrow, it feels like my mother could still come back to me.  Of course I know she will not, but part of me unconsciously pretends she is just on a trip or something and will return to the relationship we had before her stroke.

The other night, I had a dream.  I was in the middle of a large room, filled with many people.  I think it was some sort of celebration.  I seemed to be in the thick of whatever was going on in the room.  I was cooking and answering questions for people who needed help.  Everyone seemed to be coming to me for direction.  I kept asking people, “is my mother here yet?”  They always replied she was not there and I kept going with my tasks.  I felt like I was in a whirlwind of mental and physical activity, but I still seemed to slow down periodically to ask, “is my mother here yet?”  Finally, I stopped what I was doing.  The whole room seemed to get quiet and everyone turned to me.  I stared straight ahead, at no one and everyone, and said, “She’s never going to be here again, is she?”  That is the last thing I remember about the dream, except that I woke up crying deeply and viscerally.  I’ve been exhausted ever since. 

The next day, I opened the box of items I brought home from the skilled nursing facility.  I had forgotten what was in there.  Mostly, they were photos that were on the wall by her bed.  It was a weird sensation to look at them and remember our roots.  I remembered the very different people we were when those pictures were taken, both before and after my mom got sick.  I felt cracked… but not catastrophic.  Even thinking about it now, I feel my gut sinking and my spirit sliding through a dark, heavy place.  Still, I do have a spirit and it is moving.

One of the pictures I found was particularly poignant.  It was a wonderful photo of me, my mother, and Tinker Bell at the Magic Kingdom soon after we moved to Florida.  Looking at that photo, I remembered the day.  I remembered the fun we had.  I remembered laughing and loving.  I remembered that I was my mother’s Tinker Bell always.  I remembered the roots.  Right after she died, I could not look at that picture.  Today, I bought a frame and hung it on the wall. 

This episode caused me to reflect on the rootlessness I have been feeling.  In some ways, I think not knowing how to grow into me without my mother here is all in my mind.  If I am honest, even though exploring the roots has been painful, I have been growing.  My life is bigger than it used to be.  My life is richer than ever and my heart is expanding all the time.  There are lots of reasons for that.  One of those reasons is that helping me grow joyously is my mother’s legacy to me.  I may have been avoiding thinking of those roots, but they have always been there.

I started out this post with the premise that the roots are the problem.  I don’t think that is right, after all.  Roots may be messy and may need management, but they are miraculous as long as they keep growing. 

What part have your “roots” played in your life?  Are you a stronger person because your roots are strong or are you a stronger person because you had to overcome your roots?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a growing day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

My beautiful mother, me, and Tinker Bell at the Magic Kingdom in happier times. I was always her Tinker Bell and she was always my “second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”

Getting To The Root Of The Problem

Lately, I’ve been rootless.  At least, it feels that way.  One would think, at almost 60 years old, my roots would be getting deeper. On the contrary, I seem to be losing roots right and left recently.

It all started in January when I went for my dental cleaning.  A few days before my scheduled appointment, I developed a slight toothache in one of my upper molars.  It wasn’t a big deal, really.  I kept brushing and flossing, thinking I might have a bit of something caught between my teeth or sticking into my gum.  I took some ibuprofen, but it wasn’t too bad. When we first moved to Florida, I had a pain in the same area but it went away after the dentist prescribed a course of antibiotics. 

When I went for my January cleaning, I mentioned my pesky tooth. The dentist concluded that I had another infection in the same area. He was pretty convinced that the time had come for the endodontist to go spelunking down the roots of that particular tooth.  I reluctantly made an appointment with the endodontist. 

The endodontist took one look at the x-ray and immediately saw that I had a root canal on the same tooth in the past.  I had all but forgotten about it, but I remembered the experience when he asked me about prior work on the tooth.  It was 35 years ago, so I don’t think anyone can fault me for not remembering the details.  At first, the endodontist thought the tooth must have a crack in the root.  That would mean a root canal would not work.  I would need an extraction and related tooth replacement work.  If there was any news less happy than the fact that I needed a root canal, it would probably be I didn’t need a root canal in these circumstances.

To confirm his analysis, he sent me for a cat-scan of my face.  It turned out that I had badly infected, drowning sinuses.  Oh… and my constantly freakish anatomy had been playing tricks on me for 35 years. It seems I had a sneaky mutant extra root which managed to escape notice when the original dentist roto-rootered the infected tooth.  That rogue root had been playing hide and seek all this time.  In short, my tooth had been abscessed for 35 years. It just flared up from time to time.  Wow.  Great news.  I could have a root canal after all. 

After the root canal, I felt fine. For about 30 hours, there was no tenderness or pain or really any discomfort at all.  After the 30-hour mark, however, a small war broke out in my mouth.  For about five days, I was miserable.  My sinuses drained constantly.  My gum throbbed.  I had numbness and extreme swelling on the right side of my mouth and face.  I couldn’t eat anything solid.  There were times I looked like a stroke victim.  I took the antibiotics and iced my face compulsively.  I counted the hours until I could take more ibuprofen. It baffled me because I have had a couple root canals before and I didn’t remember them hurting like this.

Finally, after four or five days, I began to get better.  I still wasn’t good, but I was a lot better.  By the time I saw the endodontist for the completion of Root Canal 2.0, the tooth was back to normal.  Normal as in the way it had been for 35 years…. sketchy and skittish, but not causing me any consistent problems.  A few weeks of misery and a couple of thousand dollars later and my tooth felt the same as it had before the root canal. 

The endodontist, to his credit, did not declare victory.  He saw that the gum was still slightly swollen.  He took another x-ray and saw that a pocket of infection still existed.  He ended up doing a small surgical procedure to open up my gum and remove part of the root, along with the rest of the infection.

That sounds horrible, but it was actually much better than the first visit.  After the root-ectomy or whatever you call it, I had no pain at all.  I waited through the first 30 hours in dread, remembering the previous experience when I was all hoity-toity over breezing my way through the root canal.  Then it happened…. Nothing.  Picture me… rootless and loving it!

It isn’t just my dental roots that have been acting out.  An oak tree in my front yard was attacking my house. The first day we moved into the house, we took a break from unpacking to go to the local home repair store for something.  When we returned, we saw a garbage truck in front of our house, along with a huge pile of amputated tree limbs.  A neighbor explained.  While we were gone, the garbage truck got a little too close to our yard and accidentally sheared off a large portion of the tree. I should have known then that the tree was not to be trusted. 

For the entire time we have lived in Florida, that tree continued to be a malcontent.  Everybody else has clean driveways.  Not us. Less than an hour after sweeping the driveway, we’d find it covered in leaves. Northerners may talk about the leaves falling in the autumn.  In Florida, there is no such thing as weather and Mother Nature can’t seem to keep her seasons straight. The leaves fall ALL FREAKIN’ YEAR. 

After the hurricane, we surveyed our front yard with dismay.  Yes, everyone on our street had some mess to clean up. We had our own private natural disaster area on the front lawn.  The tree was still standing, but everything that used to be on the tree seemed to be covering the yard.  I’m not sure we ever really recovered.  The fallen leaves and branches seemed to expand geometrically over time.  We’d work on the mess for a couple of hours and then take a break.  Improbably, there seemed to be even more dead tree vomit to clean up when we started up again.  It defies all laws of nature the way that dead tree matter multiplied. 

There was a bigger problem, too.  Little by little, the roots from that tree have been expanding and pushing up through the ground…. And the driveway.  We were the only ones on our block with a split-level driveway.  If the tree had its way, that split-level was going to turn into a two-story model very soon. This all begged the question… if the tree roots were forcing our driveway ever higher into the stratosphere, what were they doing to the foundation of the house?  It truly was time to take steps. 

We hired our lawn guy to remove the Tree That Took Over The World.  He cut it down and we learned that there is sometimes sun in our front yard.  Apparently, our tree was causing a total eclipse.  He recommended a guy to grind down the stump to further thwart the root force.  The stump guy ground the stump down to a pile of sawdust.  He told us ahead of time that we would have to get rid of the sawdust ourselves.  He estimated we would have to shovel two to three large garbage bags of sawdust.  Fifteen bags of sawdust and many sore muscles later, we placed the last of our tree on the curb for the recycle people.  It still seems odd to look out the window and not see the tree, but I am hoping our efforts will result in our house remaining affixed to the ground. 

I think when people say they are trying to get to the root of a problem, they are barking up the wrong tree. The root IS the problem!

But more on that subject next week….

Am I the only one who is fighting with her roots?  What are your experiences?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a deeply happy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊