Sweet Reunion

I let out a small shriek when someone grabs me from behind at the Las Vegas baggage claim. Imagine my delight at seeing my sweetie after a whole month. He goes the extra mile for me by coming in to see me when it would have been so much easier for him to wait in his car at the curb. We hug, it’s hot, but bearable. I’m really happy to see him. We see a rainbow from the Santa Fe Station hotel window. A sign of good times ahead. I feel joy, genuine joy. I’m glad. I missed him more than I knew. Being back in PIttsburgh with my family, especially my kids and grandkids was better than I expected. I feel blessed. I already miss Pittsburgh and it’s green lush beauty, and parks, and eateries. But I especially miss my family. I am glad I got to spend good quality time with all of them and to have them all together in Pittsburgh was such a joy. I have polar opposite home sites, that have both grabbed my heart. The land, the people, the beauty! So yes, there will be turmoil as I leave one to join the other. I fall in love with both places even more as I see it through the eyes of others….Darwin through the townspeople that have made it home, and this last visit to Pittsburgh even more so as I viewed it through the newcomers, my daughter and her husband.

Now I’m back in Darwin, the place that is the ‘Back of Beyond’. Flew from Pittsburgh on Wed via SW, with a brief layover in Chicago. We are greeted by burro’s as we arrive in Darwin and make our way to Patti and Michael’s to let them know we are home. They invite us in for a glass of wine or 2, and even offer us dinner, which we accept. We’re tired after a long drive through the sweltering heat of Death Valley. It’s cooler here in Darwin, and Chris says it’s cooler than it had been. Chris has done some work and cleaned the place. The windowsills are stained. The washer is hooked up. The petunias are still alive. The windows and floors have been washed….better than I ever did. I am happy to be home. We wake early this morning, I reorganize a few cupboards to make room for our groceries. We enjoy our coffee in the cool shade outside in front of the house. We watch the jackrabbits. We talk. We sit in quiet comfort. We take a hike out to meditation hill and the burro’s watch us carefully, pawing at the earth, and braying on occasion. They quiet and stand like sentry watching us as we do our mindful moving meditations.

I face them as I stand in mountain pose and allow myself to take them in and all that surrounds me. I notice the dry air as it fills my nostrils and sinks into my lungs. We are happy and content. We’ve already easily fallen back into our routine.

What About Our Stuff

Chris and I give ourselves two weeks to get our house organized and prepared to be vacated for about 4 months prior to our tenants moving in. What were we thinking! As previously mentioned in  Quittin’ Day  I allowed my job to leave me little time for anything else in my life, and what little time is left is devoted to my ailing mother and my precious grandsons. Chris gets some meager leftovers. Not a great way to start a marriage. My mother’s story will be featured in another post, but let me tell you, it’s what lifetime movies are made of. I’m convinced that the stress of my mother’s situation further escalates my keen awareness of the need for better work/life balance and I feel a sense of shame for not managing this better.

But I digress. Chris and I have several discussions about what to do with our house as we travel and finally land on renting it out as a furnished house. As luck would have it, we find the perfect tenants, my daughter and her husband. They make the decision to relocate to Pittsburgh. Their only condition is that they want us to clear out our stuff. Yikes!

We have 2 weeks from  Quittin’ Day to when we hit the road for our first leg of the journey. We booked a place in Massanutten resort near  Shenandoah National Park. We figure we’d need some cushy relaxation after our whirlwind of getting the hell out of dodge. So, what do we do with all of our stuff that’s packed into our 1200 sq foot house. I’ve already learned that it’s much easier accumulating stuff, than getting rid of it. After my divorce several years ago I had to sell my house and downsize. I had garage sales, I donated stuff, and still I had too much stuff. Getting rid of the ‘poisons’ in my house was the most difficult. You know, things like bug sprays, and weed killers, and paint. TVs were a big nuisance too, as well as old computers and printers. I’ve since changed my buying practices and no longer buy harmful and difficult to dispose of products in large quantities, buying only what I need for the project at hand. So, prior to me moving into Chris’s house I had significantly rid myself of stuff, but Chris had not. He’s been in this house for a quarter of a century, and has lots of stuff, and is rather attached to it. And it’s not all his. Some belongs to his daughter, and some to his ex-wife. Oh my. Our wonderful old Pittsburgh house has few closets that are small, made for back in the day when folks did not have so much stuff. What will we do with the stuff packed in our closets and cupboards? We have 2 weeks! Nothing like a deadline to get movin’ and we do.

We designate certain areas of the house to store stuff we want to keep: A small bedroom, a large cabinet in the dining room and most of the basement, and our single car garage. We manage to completely empty out all of our closets, cabinets, dressers, and cupboards. Our tenants will now be able to enjoy our furnished house and all of its amenities, including the infamous Pittsburgh toilet in the basement with built in privacy because it’s surrounded with stuff.

The rest of our stuff gets sorted into things we’re taking with us, things we sell on Craig’s list, recyclables, donations, and garbage. Chris really gets into it. We’re amazed at how much stuff we’re able to get rid of. It’s freeing to let go. Sometimes detaching from stuff is hard, but we learn later the grief of losing stuff is nothing compared to the joy of the freedom it brings. Probably the hardest thing is the concern of throwing away things of value. But we quickly realize that a thing has no monetary value unless someone wants to buy it, otherwise, it’s just taking up valuable space. This purging of our stuff feels magnificent and is highly recommended.

Just a few more things we feel we have to do before we hit the road. We partially prep our cars for long term storage. We top off our tank and insert stabilizer. We place my 2004 Subaru Outback into the single detached garage, and pack in the canoe and kayaks (not going on the trip with us). We purchase a cover for Chris’s 2004 Toyota Matrix, a standard shift, and park it in front of garage. We clean the yard. I realize I’ll miss the bloom of the daffodils that I planted in the fall. We don’t get any kind of lawn service…thank goodness for good neighbors. We forward our mail to our PO Box in California, where we have a tiny house in a tiny town out in the middle of nowhere, that we affectionately call the ‘Back of Beyond’.  Since I no longer have employer sponsored health insurance, I purchase obama care insurance. We give our neighbor and kids a key to our house, along with our contact information. We clean, clean, and clean again. The house never looked so good. Very little time for repairs, but most of the clutter is gone, and the house is as ready as it can get for our tenants to move in July. But the biggest take away for me is the excitement I feel at learning to live more simply and with more moment to moment awareness. It reminds me of the quote by Mahatma Ghandi to “live simply so others may simply live”.

We are so excited to finally feel ready to hit the road. ‘Til next time – Diane

Quittin’ Day

Today is quittin’ day, 2nd month of this leap year. My last day of work. On my drive home I notice a sort of release in my entire being, a letting go.No real thoughts attached, just a sense of relief. Chains being broken. Energy being restored. By the time I get home, I feel elated, excited, expansive, energized. It’s contagious, and Chris begins to catch what I have. We find ourselves giggling, talking fast, creative juices flowing, ideas pouring out of what things we want to do and learn. Wow! It’s not that I didn’t love my job, it’s that my job left no room in my being for anything else. My job clearly bound me, and I struggled every day with how to let it go. Let it go! Simple but not easy.

There’s much written about work/life balance. But work is life, a big part of life, and life is full of work, whether paid or unpaid. Work is not the enemy, but sometimes a job can be. Sometimes, a job can be so demanding, it interferes with our other important work such as the work of caring for our children, the work of tending to our families, the work of nurturing our friendships, the work of nourishing our souls. It’s all work. Work is a beautiful thing. So I think when we talk about work/life balance, what we’re really saying is job/life balance. A 40 hour per week job is about a quarter of our life, but depending on the job, it may be much, much more. For some, this is okay. Their job is their life and their sole focus. For many others, they have other important work to tend to. How much time do we spend beyond the 40 hours we get paid for: ruminating about “job related” stuff, reading emails, travel time to and from the job, and the list goes on and on. As I’ve been practicing being mindful of my thoughts, I have noticed they are almost totally consumed with job related things from the first thing in the morning until I go to bed at night. See here for article about thoughts  by Wes Nisker that I read while doing my MBSR course. My colleagues frequently talked about waking up at the 3 A.M. bewitching hour, obsessed with worry thoughts about their job. Sometimes a job can consume us so much, we have nothing left for our other important work.

So, it seems that part of this job/life balance is practicing mindfulness and being aware of each precious moment, and stop wasting so many precious moments lost in thought or conversation beyond the 40 hours we are paid for, and instead use those moments to be fully engaged in our other imporant work. Again, sounds so simple, but not easy. Sometimes a job, even one that we love and gives us meaningful work, may run so much interference with the rest of our life’s work, that the only way we can really let go, is by simply leaving, by actually giving ourselves the physical space we need to reduce the chatter and run away thought train. This is the choice I’ve made, but I’ve been fortunate enough to minimize my financial risk by saving and planning for this next chapter in my life, I just may have departed sooner than previously planned. My letting go actually involved ending my job. I believe we are created to work. It brings us much fulfillment and meaning in our lives. Me writing this blog is work (though unpaid) and I love doing it. As I write this, Chris is doing research on purchasing a Come-A-Long to help his building project. He is “working”. As Chris and I start this next leg of our journey, I will be curious to see how our work evolves now that I am not confined to a job…but then, there’s always the issue of money.

Until next time ~ Diane