My last kid moved out of my place earlier this month. As she stuffed her last box into her car, we said our goodbyes, and I walked back into my house as she drove away. Alone in the house, I sat down on the sofa and my first thought was, “Now what do I do?”
What a steep learning curve it is…. Trying to answer that question after a lifetime of putting myself last, it’s difficult to know where to even start. Because it wasn’t just having two children all those years ago that solidly put my interests in the back seat. I grew up in a home where it was actually dangerous to entertain thoughts about your own desires and dreams. My father was the centre of our childhood universe, and he made sure it stayed that way. Once I was grown up and out of the house, it didn’t even occur to me that I now had a viewpoint that didn’t allow me to get the most out of life.
After university, work, career, marriage, and children, that viewpoint was still neatly entrenched in my mind, and pretty much governed all of my actions. Divorce might be the first time I knew I needed to do something for myself, and I knew it had to be for my children’s sake too. I didn’t want them to think that this is what marriage is. I hoped that somehow, they would know it’s supposed to be better than it was for me.
But see, there I go again… justifying a life-changing decision by saying that it was better for my kids this way. It isn’t okay to just think I did it for my own well being. Old habits die really, really hard.
So, here I am, living alone and not sure what to do with my sorry ass. A close friend told me recently that I need to think about what it is that I love. Gee, no one’s ever asked me that question before. And at the time I couldn’t think of anything.
I’m reading more, and painting more, and spending a lot of time alone. There’s this enormous cavern called me that is looking for filling up in a way that my head has never had to wrap itself around. So, I’m watching and listening and trying to stay more aware.
I came across a 21-day meditation experience, lead by Oprah and Deepak Chopra and on a whim signed up for it. Normally, all this would get from me is some serious eye rolling. I’m making an effort to stay open to new things. Anyway, I’m following along with this meditation program, and it’s all about cultivating gratitude. Not a bad thing to cultivate. And though I’m only on Day 6 it is already creating a shift that is more positive and hopeful. Gratitude does a lot to change perspective.
I’ve been asking myself this question, what do I love, a lot this month. The other day I sat down and just made a list of all the things I could think of that I love. Here’s what I have so far. These are all, truly, things that I love:
Painting – duh!
Writing – a new love
Girlfriends - the kind that are there no matter what, what would I do without you?
New Shoes - don’t knock it, a pair of stilettos can love you back!
Brown Men – because pasty white has never been my thing
The First Sip of Coffee in the Morning – it’s almost nirvana
Travelling – so many places to go still…
Sunny Days in Winter - because the sunshine helps me momentarily forget how cold it is outside
The Snow on the Mountains – see Sunny Days above, and Painting
Summer – sundresses and sandals, these are my faves
Going Barefoot – see Summer
Romcoms – because the sappy me refuses to die
Love Songs- see Romcoms
Romance- see Romcoms, Love Songs, and Brown Men
And just so no one gets the wrong idea, my kids are a given.
But these are all things I truly love. In the morning after I get up there is really nothing as enjoyable as that first sip of hot coffee. And however materialistic it may be, I love the thrill that comes along with a new pair of gorgeous shoes. Travelling, well there are still so many places I’d love to see, and hope to be able to go again soon. And maybe I can go to a few places that will include going barefoot. Love songs and romcoms, these are harder to admit to, but if I’m going to end up anywhere near a life that I love there’s no sense denying the sappy me. She is what she is. I love romance. At least now I know I want the kind of romance that lasts longer than 6 months and digs deeper when it needs to instead of heading for the hills.
Another thing I’ve started doing is going for regular walks around the city’s reservoir. I just got back from there in fact. Spring has arrived but the ice on the lake takes its time to thaw. Still, when I got out of the car the wind was warm and felt wonderful on my face. It hit me that where I was walking was the place the last man in my life ended our relationship. Ugh. Seriously? It’s been 5 years and yet it was right there! Thankfully the next thought came fairly quickly. Take back this place for yourself Sandy. Reclaim the beauty and let go of what was ugly and old.
So, I am embracing what I love. I no longer love things that don’t love me back. What a waste of energy that is… I don’t want to build my life around things and people I only feel mediocre about, or who only feel mediocre about me. This new phase is all about opening up to the wonder and beauty of it all. I want to be able to pinch myself because everything is so good I have to check to make sure it’s real.
I know it’s possible. We all do, I think. It’s just about letting go of fear and being willing to embrace a bit of the unknown. Which shouldn’t be that hard, if we let love lead the way.
(Banner Photo: The Rocky Mountains in the distance, from Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary)