Loving the Limits

I subscribe to an inspirational blog that delivers a daily post into my email, first thing every morning. Every morning I read the title, perhaps the first paragraph or two, sometimes the entire post. After a year of following the blog, I know what to expect. It will want me to stretch. I’ll be encouraged to look ahead, to reach a little further, to push myself a little harder, to step out of my comfort zone.

I did that a lot last year, stepped out of my comfort zone. At times with resounding success, but often with spasms of discomfort followed by time wasted and self-recrimination. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last year of my life, trust your gut. What is my gut saying? Learn to love your limits.

Immediately that annoyingly energetic and mercilessly optimistic part of my brain weighs in with, What a load of shit! Don’t listen to her, she’d  be happy if we stayed home every night, reading and writing and crap like that. That’s no kind of life! Tell me you aren’t taking this seriously!

That last bit echoes through me, and I smile. My gut tells me I’m on the right track.

In our world of constant connection, social media, picture feeds and instant messaging, it isn’t enough just to live. You must prove you live, and that you do so with the best of them. Instantly. Constantly. Exhaustively.

My gut knows, that isn’t me. I’m finally listening. Understanding my limits allows me more freedom to explore my curiosities. Nurturing my limits means less time spent chasing experiences that leave me unsatisfied and filled with that vague uneasiness that I am not enough. Loving my limits gives me the opportunity to lift my head at that whisper of movement that sends a frisson of excitement down my spine.person-851456_1920

Listening to my gut means coming to terms with a few things. It means recognizing myself and allowing the grief and relief that come with the realization that I am not all things to everyone. Shedding the machined parts of myself that make me clumsy and heavy. Admitting I’m better one on one than in a group, not taking offense when people step away for need of connection, allowing myself to be happy with what I am and not wasting time wishing to be what I cannot.

When I let go of all that and look up, I realize it’s not a freak flag I’m flying, it’s just my flag, my banner, my colors. They’re beautiful, warm and earthy with just enough vibrancy to attract the like-minded. I imagine the moment a step pauses just outside my wall. I’d look up from my book as they take in my ensign. Feeling relaxed and safe inside my limits, I’m able to meet their gaze.

Does that little quirk at the corner of your mouth feel familiar?

Closing my book, I smile as the secret door opens.

 

 

 

A Jewel

Growing up in the backwoods of Idaho, I came in contact with many colorful characters. Most of them related in on way or another to one or both of my parents, who were second cousins themselves. (Oh yeah, that’s a whole other blog post)

Earlier this week, late in the evening I received a text message from my youngest sister who had included a link to the obituary for one of my aunts. She died on January 1st, after, what I call, a long illness. It wasn’t terribly shocking, though she was still in her sixties and rather young to die. As I read the simple paragraphs, I was struck first by the realization that we shared a birthday month and at 64, she was not even twenty years older than me. The rest of the column read like any other small town tribute. It praised her work in the local church, meticulously listed her surviving family members, carefully counted her grandchildren, pointing out she attended more of her kids and grand kids sports activities “…than any other parent or grandparent.”

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Ditch Jewel-beauty found in the ugliest of places

 

Since my own mother’s death two years ago, I often find myself wondering what any given person would think if they could read what their family wrote about them after they died. It strikes me oddly that the things most spoken are the lives left behind, the good works, the suffering done in silence. Are the things the living remember truly what the deceased were most proud of?

I only ask because I know some of the inside story of her family life. I know she was my favorite aunt, growing up. In the boisterous house that was my grandma’s, filled to the brim with loud laughing men, busy women shooing away herds of wild running children, she was soft and quiet. Never demanding hugs or kisses, just a soft touch on your shoulder or gently leaning against you to whisper it was good to see you. She smelled like flowers and seemed oddly out-of-place next to her braying, obnoxious husband. She always brought delicious food and I never heard her complain about living in a town with a population barely reaching into the triple digits. She always mentioned how pretty I was, how the color I wore made my eyes sparkle. She was jealous of my hair, told me so time and again. As the years went on I saw her less and less, she didn’t change a bit. There were many problems with her children, with her husband, with her health. I never heard about any of them from her. She was an accomplished masseuse and always offered me her services. She would say, “You should come out and let me give you a massage, I bet it would help and I’d love to do it.” I would smile and thank her, give her a big hug, but I would never drive the thirty-five miles out to the old homestead. For most, maybe all of her married life, she lived in my grandma’s old house. The house, on a dairy farm, was where my mother’s siblings were all raised. Grandma got to move to a new house but she got the old house because her husband wanted the farm.

I’m sitting here tonight, wondering again, about a woman I should have known so well, yet hardly knew at all. I’m bothered that she died and I never took the time to ask her what made her happy, what she dreamed about, where she got her phenomenal stamina. I’m sad that she spent her entire life in such a depressing little town with such spiteful people. I remember my mom telling me that my aunt wanted a divorce, mom was scandalized. Knowing whom she married and where she lived, I asked, “Only just now?” Mom laughed, but she could, she’d escaped.

I’ve come to know other of my aunts better in the intervening years, indeed, have a very close relationship with one who is my rock and another who keeps tabs on me, not letting me forget she loves me. I want to do better with these I have left, I want to know them better than just an aunt. When they die,  my desire is to have no need of reading their obituary because I asked them while they were alive, because I knew them well enough that I don’t need to read a list of their descendants, or of their service. I’ll already know what their hopes were, what dreams were fulfilled and that they’re leaving this world more suffused with light and love than when they arrived.3-3k_syej1s-julia-caesar

 

Undoubtedly my Aunt Jewel is going to a better place, a place of less pain both physical and emotional. I wish her a blissful journey and the joy I think she deserved but got so little of here.

 

2016 is Done

Put a fork in it, it’s finally over.

2016 reminded me of that time I hiked in the Arizona back country for five days in the same clothes then splurged on TWO rolls of quarters for one amazing hot shower. It’s the kind of stink you don’t realize you have until about a mile below the South Rim when you get a whiff of that first, freshly scrubbed day hiker, then see them give you a wider berth than the passing mule trains.

You’re welcome 2017.

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My New Year celebration is a general thankfulness that I’ve survived another year and that I can’t remember most of it. It’s true. I’m not one to journal and I have kids, so I’m left with the very high highs, the lowest of the lows and that vague uneasiness that signals I’m forgetting something I’ll wish I hadn’t in the days to come.

I’m celebrating this year, well, like I always do. Sitting up with the girls as they try to stay awake till midnight. Every year, one of them burns out between 1130-1200. Last year the middle child played on pots and pans at midnight, much to the enjoyment of the crotchety old people who lived below us but should have decamped decades ago to one of those Arizona enclaves that don’t allow anyone younger than 55 inside the gates after dark. I’m thankful she hasn’t brought up the possibility of using her snare drum to celebrate tonight.

My final thoughts on 2016, I’m glad to see the hind end of you. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. No, don’t even think of texting me.

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As for 2017, be warned, I’m not taking any more years like your younger brother there. I suggest you learn from this and know if you’re planning on staying in this house there will be no more shenanigans. You thought it was bad watching me taking a stand with 2016? It’s only going to get worse. You’re damn right, I don’t care how special you are! The second I realize that you are taking me for granted I’ll kick your ass so far, 2025 will be bringing it to me as her New Year Baby.

You’ve been warned.

Now, go out and have a good time, my best friend and I have plans that can only take place under cover of darkness, surrounded by fluff and cloaked in silence…

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Me, hanging out with my best friend