Time to Lose Some Weight

“I know why men in their forties buy motorcycles and impractical cars,” I mumbled to myself on the eve of my birthday, as I slogged through my first Midwestern winter in a decade and a half. Seasonal Affective Disorder? Clinical Depression? Midlife crisis?  This winter was dark. Cold. Sad. Disheartening. We all face such times regardless of geography. This was not the winter that I wanted.

Soon enough spring began to flirt with me, and I was re-enlivened; I needed to think of the upcoming year: would I buy the house I’m renting? Would I buy a different house? Would I live in a cardboard box? I did not know. I looked at houses with my realtor. The budget looked grim – unless I was to magically gain handyman skills and find the money tree, I was going to be chained to a hovel for the next thirty years at 4.2% interest.

I felt old. I looked forward and I felt older. I looked back and I regretted things that are not regrettable. I looked in the mirror and saw a sad woman.

I heard someone say recently that midlife is hard because it is too easy to look backwards in nostalgia rather than forward in planning. Truth. Children have grown and gone. Marriages have grown. Or gone. Or staled. Still, if I have 48 years more to live (thanks for good genetics, Grandpa Johnson and Grandma Rob!), then the hovel wasn’t looking too good.

We all reach impasses with ourselves, and we must reach inside and decide what we want to do with them. I was Eeyore – ask my sister. I was annoying – ask my friends. I ate and drank too much – ask HyVee. Perhaps the solution lay in buying that hovel and digging in my heels. Resignation was the featured dish this past winter, and I ate it lukewarm with a chipped spoon.

No, the solution was not to go backwards. What did I need with an old house, a yard, a leaky basement, and crippling mortgage? I needed a new condo with nice rooms, good paint, and space enough to live, sleep, and eat. And a budget to allow travel and well, a renaissance. Sounds better than midlife crisis, right? Renaissance.

Nineteen years ago I had a jolting rebirth. I left my then husband on the mission field and returned home with one suitcase and two small children. I had nothing. Thanks to the support of my family and my own strength of will, I reorganized and went forward. Since then, I have unwittingly embraced the idea that having the stuff of a household is security. And, although not a hoarder by any means, I have too much stuff. Too many belongings. This spring, it’s time to lose some weight.

I am losing the weight of old expectations to create intriguing adventures.  I am losing the weight of unneeded stuff via Craigslist; I’ve sold an item a day. (People will buy anything!) I am losing the weight of the expectations of others; I will do what I want to do.  It is time to challenge myself in new ways with interesting expeditions that I am creating.  I don’t want to sit in my hovel and say, “It sure would be cool to…” yet never do that ellipsis thing. I’m not content to be an old woman staring sadly in the mirror.

What are you wanting to do? Now is the time. Get the house. Buy a goldfish. Sell your furniture. Have a child. Whatever is your thing now – do it.  It may cliche to note that Thoreau wrote, ““The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”  Well, not me. I’m about to lose the weight of insecurity and the extra furniture that goes with it to pursue my renaissance.

Every day begins a new year.

Join me.

tribute

i am the woman upstairs when company
comes doors are closed and sometimes
locked and i may be on one side
or the other with the yellow wallpaper
and i may creep around to have
a look in the parlor or i may lay down
with the baby while it naps —
a calming guzzle to its sleep
breath but i may also crouch
behind the swinging kitchen door
to frighten cook when she brings the
tea tray or perhaps that’s me —
i am supposed to bring the sandwiches
and petit fours and berries but
i have forgotten because i am no angel
and the children whimper in the
nursery as the trees’ waves
entrance me through the windy rain and
laudanum – either too much or too little —
doesn’t level and the doctor’s hushed
syllables float past and out the window while
i sit in my own room with rocks in
the pockets of my sweater as they
all wonder and glance and employ
the carefully constructed
nonacknowledgment of the flowers
i had to buy myself when it was
so difficult; no one can be properly
organized to do anything so i find
sipping tea from a jar in the kitchen
much easier than standing an outing
anywhere and in the dark
up in the cupola i can see
the water and ships and the
lighthouse cuts the pitch and i know
i know because i am the woman
upstairs.

Easier Said Than Done

believe in something.not live it

Abstract ideas and beliefs are easy until you come face-to-face with demand for action.

    As I sit here, my thirteen year old is fast asleep. It is 10:22 am on a Sunday morning. Invoking the adage, “Let sleeping dogs lie,” I have resolved to let him sleep as long as he sleeps. I want to wake him, show him the list of chores, tell him to eat a yogurt and get to work. I will not do that.  I know that teenagers need as much or more sleep than infants. I know that in preparation for later teen years, his clock is turning…he will stay up later and sleep in more. I believe he will be happier and healthier and more cheerful to do his chores if I let him sleep.

Our continually stratified world beliefs – especially religious and political – are driving us away from negotiating tables and from our neighbors. The continual cacophony of extreme ideas deafens us and invites us to hide behind screens and usernames to watch the flying rhetoric. But, ultimately, real life is what is happening around us and within us.

I’ve been thinking about what I believe and why and where it all came from and if it needs to be re-evaluated. Some people embrace certain beliefs simply because it is the opposite of another person’s. (Need an example? Look at Congress vs. the President.) Other people hold on to beliefs they have been surrounded with, never taking a moment to consider the reasons for their own grip on such beliefs. (Example: anyone who says, “Thet’s whut ma’ daddy tole me” for reasoning.)

I created categories as I considered my own belief-action paradigm:

Apple Not Far From the Tree:

This is the category of beliefs that we grew up with and after coming of age and continue to embrace, hopefully after some reflection. The things where we think, “Yep, Dad was right about that.” Or, “Grandma sure knew what she was talking about.”

An example for me is: let people love who they want and marry whom they want and live how they want. What business of mine is it? I support everyone living and loving and being happy. I attribute this belief and attitude to my mother. I remember her standing in her bedroom doing something like putting away laundry and saying, “Really, I don’t care what others do in their bedrooms as long they don’t want to come into mine.” Simplistic? Perhaps. Truth? Yes.

Easy Bake:

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I didn’t consciously realize that people grew up in circumstances different than mine until I was a senior in high school. I never gave it any thought. Single parent families? Racial discrimination? Abuse? All theoretical. I knew these things existed, but not in any real way until I traveled overseas. Somehow 1985, the Soviet Union and going to college combined to wake me up to the obvious knowledge that people’s perspectives were shaped by their lives, and we all have different lives; therefore, we all have differing opinions.

Everyone is entitled to his opinions, and he has every right to express them. Preferably constructively, but express them even so. The internet has provided a bully pulpit, a soapbox, a meme for every view under the sun. Do I agree with them all? Nope. Do I think everyone has a right to an opinion or belief that I do not share? Of course.

We have held and acted on Easy Bake beliefs over the years and circumstances. We have refined and polished these; over time they have become inherent to who we are.

Boomerang:

“Everyone has his own path.” I would say this to distressed parents whose seniors wanted to take a year off, not going directly to college as our college-prep school expected. I would say this to students whose parents wanted them to study biology on the pre-med track to what seemed like a million more years of school to student when all he wanted to do was go to art school and be happy.

It is easy for me to say, “Not everyone needs to or should go to college.” It was not easy for me to act on this when my eldest son left college. I mean, maybe not everyone should go to college, but he sure as hell should. That was harder. I had to stop and think, “Do I really mean what I have been saying for the last ten years? Does everyone really have their own path?” When one’s beliefs show up late at night, one has to choose: welcome them or leave them out in the cold.

Shot to the Heart:

Related to Boomerangs, but even more intensely personal Shots to the Heart are the on-going conversations we have with ourselves.

I believe I can be completely happy living alone even when the thirteen year old goes on to college and his own life. (That is, if he ever wakes up.) Acting on this? Much, much harder. Living this out cheerfully? Don’t push it.

Beliefs define who we are.

Acting on them defines our world.

What are your beliefs?

Who Do You Think You Are