Moving On

On Saturday, September 7, 2013, I loaded everything I owned into my Honda Accord, and over the next 13 hours drove 800 miles to begin a new life. I had spent several months going through everything I owned, and gave away, donated or sold anything I didn’t believe had a place in my future. I was moving to Florida, so I didn’t need heavy winter clothes. Living alone I only needed basic cooking and eating supplies. I finally realized that it would be cheaper to sell my furniture and buy what I actually needed once I got there, so that went as well. I was ready for a clean start.

The move was 4 ½ years in the making. I had finally admitted that I did not like being cold, that winter did nothing for me other than make me depressed; I needed to be outside more and I needed to be near the ocean. I wanted the freedom to work for myself, to be in charge of my schedule. I made the choice to quit my job and leave behind good friends to make it happen.

My birthday is a time of reflection, of looking back on where I’ve been and where I want to be. It isn’t so much about setting goals and resolutions, but about what I want to focus on, to bring into my life over the next 12 months. So, it is no surprise that my move was a few weeks before my birthday.

And this year, around my birthday, I am reflecting back on that move, on how much my life has changed since then, about how I now live the life I had dreamed of for several years. And I wonder about others who, in times past, made a similar change. Who packed up all they owned, traveled many miles, and began a new life away from friends and family. Who, like me, did it by choice.

Specifically,19th-century settlers who kept moving west across the United States. Maybe it is from watching Westerns with my boyfriend, or maybe it is because that is when my ancestors moved from the Carolinas and Alabama to Arkansas where they stayed. Whatever the reason, I am curious about the people that loaded up wagons and set off into the unknown.

My move took one day, and I was immediately able to get in touch with friends and family during the drive and upon arrival. What was it like to leave behind loved ones and know you would never see them again? Did they pack all they owned, or did they, like me, leave things behind? How did they know what to take, or did they guess and take the wrong things? And my big question, why? What were they looking for, hoping to find? Did they find it? Did they see themselves as brave? Foolish? Determined because they had a feeling they just had to go? How did their families feel, both the ones that went with them and the ones left behind? What about my ancestors? Why did they make the move? Was it by choice? Did they find what they were looking for?

You may see where this is going. I have a lot of questions and I love to research, so I’m taking this on as a project. Right now I’m calling it “Moving On”. I’m not sure what will come out of it. Maybe some articles, maybe a book. I am curious to learn more and see where this takes me. I’ll post updates on the blog; you can find them under the category Moving On.

Join me on this journey!

You can listen to an audio recording of this story here.

#Eclipse2017

I first heard about this year’s total eclipse from on a TV commercial. “I’ll have to watch that,” I thought. Later, I began to hear where the band of totality was going to be. We weren’t in it, but would be close enough to witness changes. As the day neared, excitement was growing, both in the media coverage and in me. I thought about getting eclipse glasses, but by now supplies were running out. Even with them I still wasn’t sure I’d take a look. After having cataract and LASIK surgery on both eyes last year, I did not want to do anything that might damage my eyes. Maybe I would do what I’d done in grade school during a partial eclipse – put a hole in a piece of paper and let the light shine through that onto the ground.

But I am trying to be more mindful, to live in the present moment, to really take notice of all that happens around me. I decided that instead of looking UP like everyone else, I’d look AROUND and notice how the earth was changing. How different would my yard look? Would the temperature cool noticeably? Would animals behave differently?

View as the elcipse began

As the eclipse began, I went outside and took pictures. I wanted to create a picture story of what I experienced. Coverage on the TV was showing what people in the path of totality were experiencing, and while I knew we would not get that, I was excited and curious to see what we would get. Every 10 minutes or so, I’d go back out to see what was happening. About 90 minutes after the start, we reached the greatest coverage.

 

I was disappointed.

 

There were noticeable changes but they were subtle. There was still plenty of sunlight casting overhead shadows on all objects. The light was different, but my phone’s camera couldn’t capture it. I wanted to describe it as if a cloud was blocking some of the light, but that wasn’t right either. It might have been compared to dusk, when you can

View at greatest coverage. Hard to notice any changes.

still see easily, yet it was coming from overhead and casting very short shadows. Not like the long shadows of evening at all. The temperature only dropped about 3 degrees F. A cooling breeze was noticeable, and this wasn’t the typical sea breeze we get in the afternoon. The birds were no where to be seen, and the lizards that normally run around our garden and patio were still there.

I consciously chose to do things different from most people. I wasn’t traveling to be in totality; I wasn’t going to use eclipse glasses. I was instead going to focus on what went on around me, and record my observations. A different way to experience the eclipse. And it was boring.

I didn’t have this great experience of observing nature. I didn’t have a great story to share. Changes were subtle and I couldn’t find the words to describe it. The photos weren’t showing what I was experiencing. I second-guessed my decision not to get eclipse glasses so I could have at least watched the moon pass across the sun. If I had seen the partial eclipse, I could have at least experienced – and talked about – that.

As I tried to stay present, I suddenly realized something. Although it was mid-afternoon, I didn’t need my sunglasses to walk around outside. I wasn’t squinting at all. Even on cloudy days, I often need them because of the glare. While that may not mean much to many people, to me it was extraordinary.

The minutes passed and more of the sun was exposed again. Light began returning to what it had been pre-eclipse. I had heard that we were to get 80% coverage, but I questioned if it was less. Back inside, I looked it up: nearly 90%. Just over 10% of the sun’s light, was shining down. This surprised me. Even from such a small part of the sun’s energy, the light and the heat were only slightly changed. A surprising reminder of the power of nature.

I wanted to have some great story to tell, a unique perspective that shed a different light (sorry about that pun) on the eclipse experience. And I had it; it wasn’t dramatic and exciting; it was a harder story to tell.

And maybe that is the point. By choosing to be present and look at the world around me, I noticed change that was small and subtle. I am left awed by the true power of the sun; even if nearly 90% of it is blocked, there is still light and heat reaching 93 million miles away.

Everyone has a story to tell. They aren’t always big and grand, and I don’t think they should be. It is in the small things, the often overlooked things, that life happens. It is also those things that can connect us and help us relate to one another. We can all share our #eclipse2017 stories, to see how our experiences were the same and how they were different. We can relate and we can learn. Perhaps that is the story that needs to be told.

What was the eclipse like for you? What did you notice? Please share your story in the comment!

Shedding

There are days I wish I could shed just like the cicada that left behind this skin. Well, perhaps not actually step out of my skin, but rather shed things which hold me back: my own limiting thoughts on who I am (or “should” be), how I am “supposed to” be successful at life, how “stupid” I was when I made a “bad” decision (even when “bad” led me somewhere wonderful), and whether I will ever be good enough. Thoughts that make me feel “less than” everyone else: less intelligent, less attractive, less desirable, less able.

I just want to step out of them and walk forward, leaving them behind. I cannot change the past, so I want to shed it. Move beyond them once and for all, and stop getting drawn back into old thought patterns that do me no good.

But life isn’t like that. I think the trick is to keep looking forward, to keep aiming in that direction, even when the voices in our heads are a constant babble of all the reasons why we shouldn’t. I am discovering that when I question those voices, it helps to quiet them a bit. The more often I do it, the quicker I am at catching them when they start again, and asking myself “is that really true?”

While we may not be able to shed our skin, we can do some things to symbolically shed some of our past. I encourage you to take a moment and focus on an event from your past that keeps coming up in your mind, or a message you keep telling yourself even when you know it isn’t true. Write it down or speak it out loud. If you write it, then draw a big X through it and write over it ‘NOT ANY MORE!!!!’ (or whatever symbols and words feel right). Then tear up the paper and throw it away, or burn it (in a safe manner.) If you speak it out loud, state it and then loudly add “NOT ANY MORE!!!” You can do this by yourself or in front of someone you trust. Pick what feels right for you and (to borrow a phrase from Nike) JUST DO IT!

Be warned: one time will probably not totally remove the thoughts or memory, but you will have planted some new seeds in your mind. Seeds that will sprout and grow into new thoughts. Thoughts that reflect who you are now. It is all part of the journey of life that we may need to return to the same, or similar, themes again and again. It is all just a part of shedding.

Fun and Random Facts About Me

I am always looking at a personal website for information about the person: who they are and how they got to that point. So here’s some random facts from my life that help tell my story.

– I was born and raised in a small town in south Arkansas.

– I am shy, introverted, and a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). That means I am often quiet, and need more time alone that others. I am not, nor ever will be, the life of the party, but I am the one who will listen to you when you need to talk.

– Until I left home to go to college, I had never moved other than into my own bedroom at age 8. As an adult, I’ve moved 16 times. Sometimes it was to a different place in the same town; other times to a new town/state. I also spent a year abroad. (see further down)

– I have a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (1985) and a Master’s Degree in Art History from Southern Methodist University (1995).

– In my mid-20s, I lived in England for a year, which allowed me to research my MA Thesis, and to know what it feels like to be a foreigner.

– I have one child, who is transgendered.

– I re-designed clothes and jewelry and sold them on Etsy. Very much a part-time hobby, and I didn’t sell enough to take it further.

– I helped with costuming for a local theater in Memphis and on an independent film.

– I started my own business in 2009 providing virtual assistance to small business owners. I still have a couple of clients I work with.

– I dug myself out of $13,000 of credit card debt. It took just over 5 years. Some days I thought it would never end, but it did.

– I am a PADI Open Water certified SCUBA diver.

– For my 50th birthday, I moved to Florida in my Honda Accord. That was possible because I gave away anything that I didn’t think I would need and that didn’t fit in my car.

– A few months later, I bought a sailboat and lived aboard for 6 months. Then I met my boyfriend (he was a boat detailer in my marina) and soon after, became a dirt dweller again.

– I have developed a love of gardening, both flowers and things I can eat. Both of my grandmother’s loved growing things, and I seem to have finally found this out about myself later in life. Weeding and puttering around in the garden and yard are a great way for me to stop thinking so much and just let ideas flow.

– After being nearsighted my entire life, I had cataract surgery in 2016. For my replacement lenses, I chose to correct for distance, so now I am farsighted. Still trying to get used to it!

Bicycle Rides

Bicycle at the gate
Ready for a morning bicycle ride!

I bought a bicycle a couple of years ago, but after a handful of rides on the beach, it was put away. Last fall, desperate to lose weight and get off my blood pressure medicine, I began cycling through the neighborhood once or twice each week.

Over time I worked out a route going up and back down the generally flat streets, weaving a pattern through the neighborhood that kept me off the busy roads and gave me a good 30 minute ride.

I also discovered that if I rode on Monday mornings, I would have a chance to check out potential treasures left on the curb. Monday is one of our trash pick-up days, and after having a weekend to clean, declutter, and repair things, many people had things out. So with a rack and milk crate added to the back of my bicycle, I was on the hunt for things we could use or resell.

You learn some interesting things checking out the trash. And I’m not even talking about opening the bins to see what is inside; these are things sticking out or just set on the ground. One Monday I saw 4 old toilets out on the curb. They were all on different streets, but it seemed several people found they needed to replace their toilet that weekend.

I can also tell who had a party over the weekend by the beer cans/wine/liquor bottles in the recycling. I can tell who has moved out – or who is about to.

And the amount of furniture put out is amazing. You could easily furninsh a house in a couple of months as long as you didn’t mind beat up, damaged pieces, or had the time and talent to revitalize them. Much of it is made of particle board and through use, abuse and sitting outside it is unusable.

I read a statement in a book recently that is making me take a different look at my morning rides. The idea is that people have the ability to become invisible because most people don’t see what is right around them because they don’t really look. They don’t try to notice what is nearby. Although the book is fiction, I think there is a lot of truth in the statement.

So how much do I notice on my rides? Aside from what trash is being put out, here’s been some observations:

  • A couple of houses that have window air conditioners running. Based on the sputtering, clanking sounds that I heard, I’m not sure how much longer either is going to be functioning.
  • Cats. There are cats in yards, cats crossing the street, cats laying on sidewalks and even in the street. Most hardly notice me. Generally the dogs I see are being walked on a leash, but this week I saw one sitting on the front porch. Well, I noticed it when it barked at me, but it didn’t even stand up. When I rode back down the other side of the street, it didn’t even bark.
  • And then there was the morning a couple of weeks ago when I rounded the corner to see one cat in the street, hunched down and staring at another cat. As I approached, the 2nd cat turned to move under a car parked at the curb, and I realized it wasn’t a cat at all. It was a possum. He sat still under the car as I rode by, which distracted the other cat and sent it back to the other side of the street.

Mostly my attention has been on two things: the cars moving through the streets, especially those backing out of driveways, and trying to eyeball interesting things in the trash. The first is for my safety; the second to provide some additional income.

But I want to become more aware of what is actually around me. Are there people sitting on porches watching me? Is there a different car in front of a house? Why do some streets seem to always have a lot of trash worth looking through while others never do? All questions to be considered on future rides.