Well…

…55, eh? Okay, let’s do that, then. Hardly avoidable without drastic, unpleasant measures, easier – far easier – to go with it.  🙂

My plans today are fairly loose, and more “about me” than not. Some self-indulgence, some chill time, some phone calls, a walk in the woods, lunch out, some pampering, all suffused with the additional luxury of this being a “work day” in the middle of the week, which I’ve taken off for no purpose but to enjoy this moment celebrating my survival.

Birthday Flowers

I’ve made it to Level 55, y’all!!! OMG!

I made an unfortunately shitty cup of coffee after my shower this morning. I’m drinking it anyway. The mug is warm in my hands, and I’m frankly grateful for the luxuries of potable water, an electric kettle, and very fresh, carefully roasted, whole bean coffee. I mean, seriously, bitching about a less-than-ideally-well-made cup of coffee would amount to nothing more than inconsiderate rudeness to the woman (me) who took the time (mine) and made the effort (also mine) to make it in the first place. lol I suppose I could have dumped it out and started over. It just wasn’t that big a deal this morning… and I think maybe I get extra experience points to also enjoy this moment, present and aware – even aware of the less than excellent cup of coffee. 😀

This is a day on which I’ll spend considerable time reflecting on the “XP” accumulated along life’s journey. I’ll contemplate Level 54, and wonder if I missed really cool “side missions” that could have benefited my personal growth later on. Did I overlook any fun Easter eggs? Have I failed to appreciate the profundity of one circumstance or another? I’ll look ahead in the game play, as much as I am able, and try to sort out Level 55 before I get going in earnest… What does the map look like? Where are the obvious hazards? Which “short cuts” waste time and resources, and are best avoided? Are there known strategies that work better than others? What are my resources, my limitations, my skills – what is my plan? In every life-level, there is some moment, or event, or “bad guy” to conquer (there’s a reason games are a great metaphor for living)… what form will it take? What will the important lessons turn out to be?

In the game of life, we don’t really get to repeat a level…but… it’s possible to half-ass a level so thoroughly that very little is gained (or even to “fail” it at great cost to ourselves), or find we’ve wasted our time such that we don’t really have any XP to show for it at all, and just sort of ooze over the finish line into the next level without much in the way of progress. We can’t really level up prematurely, either, but we can gain so much XP in a single level that the level becomes peculiarly, radically transformative. Sometimes we expect levels to have that kind of importance… 18… 21… 30… 40… and sometimes they don’t, in spite of our expectations (lookin’ your way, 40). 55? This isn’t a level people spend much time talking about… I wonder what surprises await me?

…55 doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy, aside from simply being here; as a much younger woman, I did not anticipate getting this far in the game. 55, from the perspective of 20, seemed “old” (in spite of being only 35 levels ahead of me)… now it just seems… well, not old, that’s for sure. I wonder where the day – and this level – will take me? So far, at approximately 2 hours of game play on this level (already)… it’s a level full of questions, and speculation, and it’s not very difficult (yet). LOL

There is this lovely day ahead of me, a blue sky overhead, birdsong, sunshine, and plans for lunch. It’s a good start. I guess I’m ready to press “Start” and begin again…

I love the metaphor that ages are levels, as with a video game. Tomorrow, I “level up” – just one last day of being 54, then… 55.

Age really is, in a very practical sense, quite arbitrary. There’s nothing much separating Monday from Tuesday except, I hope, a decent night’s sleep… still, I view Tuesday as special, because it is the anniversary of my birth, and Monday? Well, Monday is just the last day I’ll spend in my 54th year. lol Hell, 55 isn’t even a particularly meaningful or significant milestone year as far as I know, although it seems somehow significant to me, personally, without any obvious reason for it.

I am taking the day off. Having a mid-week birthday, and living so far from my Traveling Partner, and a great many of my friends, it’s not ideal for parties or fancy events. I expect to spend it quietly. Lunch out. Perhaps some sort of luxury personal care service (nails? hair? whatever, it’s fine. lol)… It’s not a birthday with any clear expectations or urgency. Mostly I want to spend it on self-reflection – 55 seems a good one for that.

Today I feel pre-occupied, at least a bit, with winding down this last bit of 54 before I level up. That self-reflection thing, again. The weekend was good for it, too. There’s a lot to consider. I feel merry. Wiser than 50. Nowhere near as wise as I may be by the time I’m 60, based on the amused “inside joke” looks and remarks I occasionally get from my over-60 friends. lol Today will likely be a fairly ordinary Monday. Maybe a package or two reaches me by Tuesday. I delightedly expect a little something or other from my Traveling Partner (because he made a point of saying it may not reach me by Tuesday, so of course now I’m waiting for it eagerly lol).

Today, though? Just a day. The last day of being 54. It’s only as significant as I make it. I make most days at least a little significant; I’m alive. That’s worth celebrating. 🙂 Today, I’ll finish off this project that has been being and becoming 54. Tomorrow? I’ll begin again. 🙂

 

I often think of life as a metaphorical garden. (Isn’t it?)

I sometimes stray down the path without tending the garden.

The healthy tilth is a good starting point; planting seeds in crags and rocks may not yield a generous crop of fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Understanding what is fertile ground, and how to prepare ground for planting has value.

Composting scraps and garden waste skillfully results in more fertile soil… but which scraps are suitable, and which will ruin the compost? Not all that is waste or scrap is worth keeping.

Lush and beautiful, chosen with care. We reap what we sow, and how we tend our garden matters.

Choosing seeds and plants with care, understanding the climate, and the seasons, locally, in my own garden, really matters; however fertile the soil, planting something that can’t thrive in my climate puts my garden at a disadvantage.

A weed in one context may be a crop in another.

Taking care, every day, to nurture my garden, to fertilize when needed, to water, to cut back spent blooms, to weed out noxious or invasive intruders that consume resources, but yield nothing, matters greatly over time. If I am not present, some plants may thrive, willy-nilly, coincidental to the luck of the rainfall and the weather, but the outcome is left to chance – other plants will wither and die. My harvest may not be plentiful. My blooming season limited.

My roses suffer my lack of attention; this is true of most things that require attention.

Self-care works very much in this same way. I don’t suppose I need to spell it all out more factually – if you already keep a garden, you already get it. 🙂

My results vary, as does the weather.

I haven’t been home much, lately. Most weekends I am away. I travel to see my Traveling Partner, catching up with him wherever he is. I travel to see friends. I travel for this or that event or festival. I travel on a whim. I catch myself yearning to be at home, in my own garden…

…Yes, it’s a metaphor. 🙂

This weekend I am at home. I am in my own garden, tending it with care, making up for lost time, present, and appreciating this moment, right here. It’s enough to be here, now, and there is no need or time for self-criticism, or what-ifs, or if-onlys. This is now, and now is enough, and I am here, enjoying it with the woman in the mirror – who has been missing this quiet place, and time.

Be present. See wonders. Experience the moment, fully.

The morning started slowly, and auspiciously enough; I slept in. I woke gently in the twilight of a new day, the room turning light in spite of the curtains, as day broke. I got up. Showered. Found my feet carrying me toward the car as soon as I was dressed. Coffee-to-Go and a breakfast sandwich on a hilltop looking out across the countryside, with a view of Mt Hood beyond. Bare feet. Damp grass. Contentment. No firm plan, and coffee finished, I found my way to the farmer’s market, then heading home with fresh local strawberries, fully ripe – the sort one never finds in a grocery store. The scent fills the car.

I arrive home, smiling so hard my face hurt, in spite of the peculiarly moody dark sky, threatening imminent rain (that has only now started to fall, some hours later). I make a Turkish coffee, melt some chocolate, and feast on strawberries dipped in warm chocolate, sipping coffee, in my garden. I raise my cup cheerily at a robin who joins me, watching me from the deck rail. There is work to do in my garden, metaphorical or otherwise, and I have been away far too much for my own good. I finish my coffee, then finish the spring planting, finish the weeding, finish the watering, just in time to head indoors before the rain comes. I leave a strawberry, fat, juicy, and fully ripe, on the deck rail… in case of visitors. 🙂

Rain is definitely coming.

Inside, my metaphorical life-garden greets me, and here too there is work to be done. Untidiness has crept in, a corner here, a stack of paperwork over there, a piece of gear that was not put away, a book askew from all the rest, a stray sock left where it fell, unnoticed, and so much laundry that very much wants to be put away… I’m still smiling. It’s a good day to begin again. 🙂

Tuesday it was Kate Spade. This morning, I read that Anthony Bourdain has also taken his own life. I pause for a moment to consider the engaging chef whose books and television shows entertained and educated me. I enjoyed his wit. The headline “Anthony Bourdain Has Died” didn’t prepare me for the further information regarding his suicide. There’s a certain different ache in my soul when I read of suicide…

…I know what despair feels like.

Well, shit. It’s a scary, seriously frightening and frustrating world these days. I get feeling overwhelmed by despair. Some days it is hard not to. We will see, for days to come, articles about suicide help lines, and some analyses of what drives people to take their own lives. There will be salacious gossip about the lives of the fallen. Someone will share a recent article about the high rate of senior or veteran suicides. Most of the people who read those will shake their heads, and turn away, unaware someone dear to them is on the brink of making that major “life” decision.

Connect with your loved ones, your friends, associates, and coworkers. Be sure to mention that they matter to you in an authentic way, and be real about it. It’s not about hyperbole and fake compliments, and it isn’t necessary to use superlatives. Easier to straight up give voice to that thing they do that you enjoy, or count on, or appreciate, or wish you did as well – or, fucking hell, just have lunch, or coffee – make time. Be present. Don’t rush those connected social moments; they are what matter most in our days. There’s no knowing when someone may choose to check out, and while you may not be able to change their mind about it, you can, at least, enjoy who they are while they are here.

On the other side of the equation, please consider sticking around awhile? If you’re considering a firm end to the chaos, and stress, and trauma, and struggle, and despair… please, just for a moment, consider that there may be other things you have yet to try. There may be practices that improve your experience, even if they don’t change the entire world, itself. Incremental change takes time – please give yourself some. Someone, I promise you, will miss you if you go.

I stayed. There are a lot of verbs involved, but it has been, very much, worth it to have stayed. I’ll go on with that, with staying around I mean, because things got better. Things continue to get better. I can’t promise that for you, but I can assure you that choosing change results in changes, so long as you do the verbs. 🙂 Your results may (will) vary, and the changes you choose in life may be somewhat askew from the changes you subsequently find unfolding around you, but change is. Despair isn’t particularly sustainable, it’s just annoyingly difficult to see through when we’re feeling it.

There’s one irksome thing about suicide that never fails to leave me feeling bereft and discontent; I don’t know why. No, I mean… I don’t know why. That’s what leaves me feeling so bereft and discontent. I’m not sure there’s any solid “why” to suicide. Surely, people have their reasons. Many leave a note behind, but often those are not public, and even when they are public, they leave so much left unexplained – as if I think there is, or should be, a reasonable explanation when despair overtakes someone. Despair is shitty enough to be its own reason.

One more time, I let the “why?” go, and pause for a moment to say good-bye to a fallen soul. I pause for regret. I pause to appreciate, to mourn, to find personal solace after a time. I pause to be aware I am, myself, okay right now… as though it could creep up on me, and take me by surprise, myself…

…Then I begin again.