Shortly before school got out I took the boys to campus to meet a friend and have lunch. It turned out that everything was closed because the university just let out and it was raining. A total bust.
Not really knowing what to do, we headed over to The Hill and had lunch at a noodle place that was just opening for the day so it was deserted, they hadn’t even turned the radio on.
The light was gray and dreary, the kids were disappointed, the restaurant had a seedy and abandoned feel, and outside it poured. Emotionally I was transported back to the winter I moved to Boulder that I remember being largely overcast. I felt the pervasive loneliness of my youth, desperation for love and barring that, pretty much any kind of companionship.
It’s hard to believe that was once me.
Last night after a busy day of walking dogs and hang out with the kids – look at this cool mushroom Scratchy found …
… and talking on the phone, chatting with guests, making dinner for the family, everything finally quieted down.
Loony walked Scratchy to his Scouts meeting and I abandoned the kitchen. The dishwasher needed to be emptied and dinner needed to be cleaned up after and I just didn’t have the energy to do it, not just yet.
So I did something unusual and left the mess out and retreated to the sun room to listen to the hail and read my book.
I heard the door open. It was my neighbor looking for Loony. I did something else unusual, I didn’t respond.
My neighbors and friends know that they are welcome to let themselves in even if I’m not home so Eben walked into the kitchen called around a bit, and then left. I felt a pang of guilt for not coming out but at that moment I was so bone tired, so burnt out on talking, that I took a pass. Plus he wasn’t looking for me.
I felt a twang of self-consciousness because the state of my kitchen but let it go. And I didn’t want to disturb the mushroom Scratchy brought home who was busy having babies on the counter.
I reflected on how much things have changed since I was 19 and new to town. I would have delighted in someone stopping by (and don’t get me wrong, I still do) but I would never have imagined a time when I wanted to be by myself.
Solitude was my default setting back then and there was nothing that raised my spirits more than the light flashing on my answering machine.
I am grateful for that change in my life and I know that it didn’t just happen to me. I worked hard to create my community and having a welcoming house in the center of town doesn’t hurt either.
When people ask me what my little tattoos mean, it is to stand for this connection with others, for the intersection of lives that happens when you are open to it, when you create space for it to happen.
My spirit mother is now 87 and just moved into a retirement community. Her new home is perfect for her and her husband with all the resources they need to allow them to continue living independently.
Her daughter lovingly moved her into this house, under Marcia’s strict supervision, and decked it out with beautiful custom made calfskin Norwegian furniture in vibrant colors to cheer her, an $8K Tempurpedic adjustable bed with massage and vibrating settings, remodeling to give her husband a man cave, and special dog doors.
The home is decorated with her art and beloved objects while also being a monument to minimalism and serene order. There is nothing in her house that isn’t intentional. She also has a couple assistants to help her with her bills, filing, etc. Literally no expense has been spared in support of her comfort. It’s a golden age we should all be so lucky to have.
But when I talked to her on the phone, she said she is struggling with the “chaos” and the enormity of the work ahead of her. None of which she actually has to do.
I have been in her new home. It’s as a tidy, minimal, warm and lovely, and supportive environment as you could ever want. But she’s spent her life making lists and never being satisfied with the amount of order in her life, which has always been enviable.
She is programmed to identify flaws and fix them, it is what made her a brilliant physician and researcher. But now – adding in the natural cognitive decline of age – it has rendered her unable to enjoy what she has and to see the brilliance and perfection of the life she worked so hard to create. And there is nothing anyone can do or say to change her mind. It makes me really sad for her.
The moral of the story is that I should leave the dishes every now and then and not go into a tailspin if everything isn’t perfectly put away. Yes, having an orderly house is relaxing but I need to learn how to prioritize my own self-care ahead of lists, to-do’s, and perfect kitchens.
I’ll leave it with this sign which, ironically, is not for my guests, it’s for me. Less cleaning, more reading, more writing, more walking with my kids and finding mushrooms. More time for connection.