Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

Travel Light, Travel Far

I’ve finished my first adulthood, and I’m ready for the second. You see, I think the years from our mid-twenties to our mid-fifties are just a practice round, where we learn the game, become familiar with the equipment and master the rules. After that we’re ready to play like pros, now that we have the maturity and experience necessary to really smack the ball.

Why, then, does society act as if later life are the years of decline rather than ascendancy? Why are we encouraged to become cautious RIGHT when we should be fearless? I really like what Anne Morrow Lindbergh has to say about mid-life. In her book, Gift from the Sea, she says,

“The signs that presage <second adulthood> are so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing. But now these are interpreted falsely as signs of decay.”

In other words, the exact same symptoms that we understand as signals of growth the first time around, we misinterpret as decline and impending death the next. Instead of looking forward to our second awakening, we run from it, choosing to become static displays rather than seeing how far we can fly.

My motto for this second era is: travel light, travel far. It’s the time to declutter, to empty my home (and my mind) of that which is useless or merely ornamental.  I don’t need possessions or arcane knowledge to prove my worth. Besides, at best they are the measure of a past self, not the person in the present mirror.

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The Injustice of it All

I’ve been a wandering fool this year. Up to the Portland area. Two moves of my studio within P-town. Lots of exploring and trying on parts of the city for size. And through it all, the growing realization that there’s no place like home…

…and that as much as I LOVE PORTLAND, that’s not the loam where my roots twist and burrow.

salemSo last week, we moved back to the Cherry City. Well, outside it, actually, on a farm near Monmouth – a little college town that these days bears a strong resemblance to the Gilmore Girls’ Star’s Hollow.

I’m pissed. I am pissed as hell that Salem, stodgy old Salem is, for better or worse, home. I’ve been angry about it in the past. I’m beyond angry about it now that I’ve tried to return to the city of my childhood.

I’m mad at my late husband, who grew up in Salem and wanted to raise his kids in *his* hometown. Who after fifteen years decided he couldn’t take it anymore, killed himself, and left me stuck here, because my kids were firmly entrenched and I didn’t want to traumatize them any further by moving.

Where are those children today? They’re not here, of course. Salem isn’t their home, not anymore. They went away to college and developed new communities. They’ve tried to return…and left again. Most recently, Nick & Hanna returned with the intention of staying. They lasted three months before leaving because…well, it just isn’t home anymore. Their connections are elsewhere.

I’m pissed, pissed I tell you. I’m mad at the world, incensed with my fate…

and really, really happy to be back amongst those who know us, who love us, who are already filling our social calendar with happy reunions.

Needless to say, the only open thoroughfare in my psyche right now is Rollercoaster Road.

The injustice of it all! And the joy…

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Dream Curling

Some people have a dream that consumes them, one that brings life-long contentment upon its fulfillment. Me, I’m a serial dreamer. As soon as one is achieved, a new one takes its place. I’ve never had the satisfaction of *arriving* – for me, it’s always about the journey and the joys (and frustrations) therein.

A year ago, we moved to Portland. Correction: we moved to Milwaukie. Which is NOT Portland. (How can a city that abuts Portland manage to be so conservative and hicksville? To the fourteen people in town who have a liberal leaning – I’m not talking about you. I love you.)

tali 16wk

Taliesin this morning
sixteen weeks

But we lived close enough to Stumptown to enjoy its vibrance and weirdness. Close enough for it to whisper in our sleep at night…”you need a dog…” (Portland is dog-town USA, if you didn’t know. And not everyone there feeds their dog a vegan diet.)

Portland is not one big gritty lump of city – it’s a amalgamation of neighborhoods, each with its own wine bar, pubs, dress boutique, and chachki shops. A place where everybody knows your name.

Except that, even after a year, no one knew mine. I never found my stomping grounds. Never developed a ‘Norm!’ relationship with a pub – though I tried, I really did. The only place where we were greeted with neighborly warmth was St. John’s, located at the OTHER end of Portland, too far to travel for a nightly brewski and shout-out.

We explored the area around my studio – both locations: first the inner SE Buckman neighborhood, and then the west side in John’s Landing. We talked about moving to one of those locations. Maybe there we would find our peeps?

But my dreams carve their own paths, and they rarely coincide with my imaginings. It’s like curling. Some of us are throwers and some are sweepers. Throwers heave their dreams like stones onto the ice and run along behind to see where they come to rest. Sweepers run in front, carefully grooming the path to help the stone land right where they intend.

Truth is, we need to do a bit of both. If we don’t throw, but merely sweep, the dream is as immobile as a rock. But if we throw without brooming, our dreams can veer wildly off-course, crashing and tumbling, coming to an abrupt halt far short of any goal. Me, I like to toss as hard as I can, and do just a bit of sweeping.

It means I need to maintain a fluidity of heart, mind and soul as the dreams slide and move in ways I don’t anticipate. I prefer it that way. I’m the girl who never peeks in advance at her Christmas presents, because I like the surprise.

So, this week, we moved. Not to a Portland neighborhood – in fact, we moved over an hour in the opposite direction. We’re living on an 8-acre farm outside of Salem. WHAT????!!!! you may think. Yeah, me too. How did I wind up here?

Well, the little town nearby, Monmouth, is a college town, and its developed a really groovy little downtown. A wine bar. Pubs. Coffee shops. Dress shops.

And I walked into the BiMart, which I haven’t visited for at least five years, and the checker said, “You’ve changed your hair since I last saw you.”

Norm!

I guess I’m home. For now.

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Turmeric, Gardens, and not being a Know-It-All

turmericDo you shake turmeric atop your food? If not, you should. I’ve added it to my meals for years, because it helps our bodies fight infections and cancer. It’s great for the gut. It helps prevent heart disease and soothes arthritis. (See University of Maryland Medical Center) It performs these miracles because it contains curcumin, a health-enhancing superstar.

There’s more. For those of us who want to stay sharp in our later years, it’s especially important, because using turmeric is an easy and effective way to ensure optimal cognitive function (i.e, it helps your brain be fresh and perky.) It keeps a particular ‘bad protein’ at bay (Apo E4, if you want to look it up) and it enhances memory (by increasing the levels of BDNF – for more info , here’s an easy-to-read book by Dr. Oz: You: Staying Young)

A friend discovered its health benefits just a couple of weeks ago, and excitedly shared. I felt guilty. She could have been reaping the benefits as long as I have, if I’d just talked to her. I had a similar experience a couple of months ago, when another friend called me, excited about organic gardening. “I bought this book, and it tells how to do it!” he said.

In 1977, I first tilled, sowed and harvested my own garden. I was an organic gardener before it was a ‘thing‘, because it would never have occurred to me to put chemicals on plants I was going to eat. Instead, I paid attention to companion gardening, to soil composition, to the nutrient needs of each type of vegetable, and they thrived. Always have. (I still have a 1983 Mother Earth News special publication about gardening, and I refer to its section on soil preparation with every new garden I create.)

Again, I felt guilty. I would have been happy to share the how-to’s, if I’d known he didn’t know.

After fifty-five years of living as a curious, passionate and experience-oriented person, I’ve amassed a pretty good repertoire of skills. I’ve raised goats, heated with wood, hung clothes (including TWO sets of cloth diapers – at the same time) both summer and winter (didn’t have an electric dryer for the first 10 years of adulthood), built garages and bedrooms, remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. I can sew and quilt. Can and dry food. I’m a good cook whose off-the-top-of-the-head recipes include protein-balanced vegan fare and delicious meals to accommodate any food allergies. I can cure the worst diaper rash using all-natural remedies, and put the most colicky baby to sleep.

I like to camp and bike and hike. I’m interested in astro-physics and M-theory. Literature. Art. Music. Baseball. I’ve visited holy Iona Island, read the works of the mystics, and consider myself a serious spiritual seeker. And we haven’t even begun to talk about professions…

How am I supposed to share all of that? The last thing I want to do is be one of those alarming know-it-alls who broad-spread unwanted information and advice. On the other hand, I want to be available as a resource to my friends.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog. To share. To grow and to learn. To connect.

So. Turmeric. Get it. Use it. And next time, I’ll talk about other nutritional superstars. Which you can read or not read. But at least, I’ll have shared!

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