Present Tense

Heeeeeeeyyyy, man……….

I wanna be a hippie.  Plain and simple.

Okay, maybe not a true hippie, but what I call a neo-hippie; I think I’m probably a little too old and comfortable to live in a VW bus and follow a band around, but I think my yearning comes from a desire to simplify and downsize my lifestyle.

I was joking with some friends about it; how I’ve started baking bread and am planning to grow some vegetables in my plot in the community garden this summer.   How I’d like to trim some of our ‘stuff’ that fills our house.   Then, I realized that over a decade ago, my husband and I brewed our own beer, we had a big garden and I canned vegetables and he kept bees.  That’s right, I am married to a former (and I hope, future) bee keeper.  We already had hippie training.

I’ve already lived what I am yearning for and yet, at that time, I was ready for a change, so we moved to Colorado.  I wrote in my last post about losing and trying to regain my fearlessness.  I wrote of some of my fears:  dying, losing loved ones, losing everything I’ve worked for and this is what I’ve decided:  I have too much.

My husband and I are at odds as to what to do with what I see as the excess ‘stuff’ we’ve accumulated over the years.   We’re not hoarders, but over 21 years of marriage, we’ve collected a fair amount of possessions.  Books, CDs, clothing, furniture, paperwork, tools, shoes, bedding, housewares, bikes, golf clubs, ski gear, cars blah, blah, blah.  We’ve had small houses, medium houses, a condo and currently, a house that is bigger than what we need.  I have a burning desire to clear it all out, right down to the bare minimum essentials.

I told my husband that our possessions feel like a burden; like a weight.  Regrets for the money I spent on too much stuff, regrets that I’ve been wasteful, a sense that we are old, fat, happy and ‘settled’ in our too-big house, with our too many possessions.  It feels suffocating.

He, on the other hand, looks at our “stuff” as a life well-lived; as proof of success.  He fears that anything we get rid of, we’ll need and in some cases, he’s probably right.  I’m not that good at moderation; my instinct is to just expunge and start over.  Intellectually, I know that’s silly; that I should be methodical and practical. The restlessness and at the same time, stagnation that I’m feeling right now, is about more than possessions.

Part of it is the realization that I may not have that much time left and how do I want to spend that time?  I’m not big on regrets; we are given choices, we choose and there is nothing to do but live with it.  However, I recently heard a quote that says it all: ” No matter how far I travel on the wrong path, I can always turn around”.

Anyone want to buy some of my ‘stuff’??

April 16, 2011 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The best tree-climber in the neighborhood……

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning via Facebook.  Seriously.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of what led to this moment of clarity.  I have a “Question a Day Five Year Journal” that I write a couple of sentences in everyday and yesterday’s question was “where do you feel most at home”?  Like most of the daily queries, you can take them at face value or dig a little deeper for an answer.  Since you only get a tiny space to enter your thoughts, I rarely write or ponder much more than a cursory answer and so I wrote, “Outside”.  Simple, but unsatisfying.

So, I signed onto my Facebook account and saw that one of my favorite friends had posted a status update that simply said, “want to go home”.  I wrote a quick comment about my journal entry and said that I wasn’t sure where “home” is.  I got up this morning to see this comment from a childhood friend:  “Jane, when we where kids, you were home.  You were the best tree-climber in the neighborhood”.  BAM!

That’s it.  He’s right.  I WAS the best tree-climber in the neighborhood.  We had a tree next to my house that was the centerpiece of our condensed world.  We nailed steps on it, chipped out footholds, hung around underneath it during hot summer days, ate sandwiches perched on the branches.  So, being the best tree-climber was quite an accomplishment, particularly in a neighborhood of mostly boys.  I was the best because I was fearless.

I watched all of my fellow tree-climbers fall, quit, give up and I kept right on climbing.  The epiphany hit when I realized that what’s been bugging me for a couple of years now, has finally been identified: I’m no longer fearless.  In fact, I’d say that I’ve allowed my fears to overtake the real me.  The “real” Jane climbed to the very top of that tree on a windy day, wrapped herself around the trunk and joyfully and fearlessly gave in to the wind.

I often think back to my childhood, trying to get a feel for what I was before life got ahold of me.  What was the essence of me, when I was able to just “be”.  What moved me, excited me, soothed me, motivated me.  What moves me today, as a 51 year-old woman?  The tree-climber in me has been M.I.A; I’ve lost my fearlessness.

I don’t fear day to day dangers, like crime, pain, mistakes, accidents.  I fear the big stuff:  death, poverty, losing all I’ve worked for, dying alone.  What happened to the tree climber?

Here’s the bottom line about being fearful; it makes you powerless.  When you allow fear to take over, you cede your power; to politicians, to a job you hate, to family members, to children, to boredom, to repetition and authority.  It’s easier to hunker down and not feel or face your fear.  Chalk it up to being a grown-up in this big, bad world.

So, what to do?  That, my friends is an excellent question that I can’t answer.  So, step number 1:  I’m heading out to find a tree and wait for the wind.

April 10, 2011 Posted by | Musings | , , , , | 11 Comments

You are creative….period.

Are you creative?  I used to be. In fact, I spent a lot of my life fancying myself as a “creative type”.  I gravitated toward the humanities and possessed little interest or aptitude in math and science.  I’m sure somewhere along the way, a teacher told my parents that I was creative or something and it kind of stuck.

In my teens and 20s, as I was trying to figure out who I was, I deduced that since I liked to sing, write and drink  I was “creative”!  I now know after researching  my genealogy, that I’m not really creative; I’m Welsh.  I would describe myself as quirky, curious and irreverent, rather than “creative” in the artsy, traditional sense.

The upside of convincing other people that you’re “creative”, “artistic” or a “free spirit” is that there’s a distinct possibility  that you’ll be forgiven a multitude of sins.    Lazy, broke, late, unfocused, messy, blunt, unreliable, drunk; all are forgiven for those who convince others that they are so full of fabulous, lofty ideas that they can barely dress themselves.

Here’s my point.  Everyone is creative because we’re humans.  We adapt, we innovate, we re-think, we re-do, we are never satisfied and thus, we create.  Culturally, we seem to only prize and foster creativity in the arts, which is short-sighted.  The arts are great; they fill our soul, they inspire, soothe and uplift, but what about the creativity of that has made it possible for me to write and post this on the World Wide Web?

What about the doctors who saved Congressman Gabrielle Giffords’ life, after a bullet crashed through her head?  It was creativity that launched the space program.  The idea of the “mad scientist” is actually a nod to creativity.  We don’t look at Einstein as merely a physicist, we admire his ability to think outside of the boundaries of known science and I have no idea whether he could sing or paint or dance.

I read a post on Facebook from an old high school friend, who works with troubled kids and he wrote about finding ways to connect with them that might be different from “the manual”.  He’s faced with that challenge everyday and he and his staff shift on the fly to find out what sings to each kid.  Creativity.

I watched Rick, the stone mason we hired, begin with a pickax, shovel and wheelbarrow and within days, build and create a beautiful flagstone walkway that transformed the once ugly entrance to our house.  He dealt with the drainage, the materials, the design, the problems and my husband’s constant  ‘supervision’.  Creativity.

We admire, celebrate and almost worship, those in the arts for their contributions and it sends the wrong message to kids.  Think about the stuff in your life that REALLY enhances your existence on earth; maybe you do live for art, but for most of us, Henry Ford’s contributions, outweigh Picasso’s.  I’m not belittling the arts, but few of us will ever really swim in that ocean.  But, we can creatively parent, cook, troubleshoot, manage, think, contribute, invent, love and grow.

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Musings | , , , , | 9 Comments


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