No Place I’d Rather Be

I don’t care much for winter, at all.  Yes, fresh fallen snow is beautiful for about an hour and I do love listening to The Nutcracker for all the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, but other than my great love of decorating for Christmas and enjoying the most splendid and cozy ambiance of my gas fireplace, there is very little that makes me feel really “happy it’s winter.”  I’m pretty sure I have never uttered such a sentence.  I don’t like to be cold & I prefer my windows to be open, so during these short biting months of the year I find myself mostly just wishing for the end of it.

A raw January morning 32 years ago, a perfectly round & pink & healthy baby girl was born, and that first winter of her life, oh good lord that was dreadful…a poorly insulated house on a cold empty island with nothing much to do, and my job being closed until April, and a bad husband and a bad marriage; it’s a wonder really we made it through to the spring, but we did, that perfect little baby and I, and we grew together from that winter on.  While it’s true that we ebbed and flowed in and out of the other’s schedule and life for a short while after she graduated from high school, we have otherwise been a fixture in each other’s world for all of the days of her life.  When my daughter texts me something like, “please come help me” be it because of a mouse (once), a mess (many), a bird in the house (twice), a spill, some blood, an injury, a husband, a child, a dog, or troubles or tears, I can be there, to help her, in about 117 steps.  I can also be there to celebrate any achievement or joy, or kitchen creation or copied from Pinterest perfection.  The point being, I am here, right here next door for her, no matter what.  We have been neighbors for more than eight years now, and while I don’t care much for winter, I do care, a lot, for my proximity to my daughter and her daughters.

When I built this house on this piece of land it was with the knowledge and intention of helping my daughter to raise her children and while her house was finished four months before mine, there was no question that we were doing this together.  Despite the cold and snow, the bitter blowing winds, and too early for my liking sunsets, and bleak gray days that fill the weeks of winter, there is always a bit of sunshine in my heart knowing they are so close to me.  I feel glad knowing I am there for any of them if they need me and I am content here at the back-end of our compound when they don’t.  Any woman who is a mother knows that the feeling of helplessness and agony one has, how positively heart-wrenching it is, when a child, be it a wee one or a grown one, is hurting and there is nothing to do to help…so while I don’t like upset or troubles, or messes or mice or blood and injuries, I do like, very much, that when I am needed I’m more often than not, able to respond immediately…no matter how old your baby grows, she is always your baby, and wanting to soothe and comfort your baby, however necessary, is part of the job of  ‘mother,’ and it never goes away.

There are mornings that I really don’t want to go to the bus stops at 7:02 and 8:02, but taking the children to their buses gives my daughter extra minutes for herself every work day, and it allows me to be the last kiss and kind words each little girl receives as she begins her school day.  My daughter’s job as a teacher gives her the summer off and paid holidays, but it does not afford her the flexibility with her time that my job does.  In fact, the few times I have been away, my daughter’s thanks and gratitude is overwhelming when she realizes how much I do that helps her.   Being available to help is part of my job right here right now, but I’m also well aware that it’s temporary…we all grow, and circumstances change, and soon none of those three will need me, and I will know that this phase of my life’s purpose, and my place on this earth is complete, and I will move onto my own next chapter.

EVERY time I have traveled south of south Jersey I think the same thing; why don’t I live here?  And while I love this house I’m almost certain that when I’m an old lady I don’t want to be near cold and snow, and bitter blowing winds, and too early for my liking sunsets, and bleak gray days…when I am an old woman I want to be where it’s hot, sunny, with palm trees and warm breezes and sunsets that don’t arrive until dinner time…but as long as this woman next door is raising her children and I am needed, no matter the weather, there’s no place I’d rather be…

Start where you are and do what you can

While it’s been miserably, bitterly, teeth-chatteringly cold these last two weeks, I feel a warmth in my heart and bones that is becoming, day after day it seems, my new normal…AND I love it.  For months I have been making changes to make my physical self better, ergo, making my whole being and whole life better, but change is slow, and I am terribly impatient, and have, since the new year, been beating myself up a bit when I stumble…which is often, and that doesn’t make anything better.

I woke up the other morning thinking about tomatoes; it takes six weeks, OR MORE just from the time you put a seed into a bit of dampened soil, for it to germinate and grow enough to be even planted outside, let alone thrive, and then it takes almost three months after the seedlings are in the earth, under the sun, with daily care and maintenance, to actually have a fully ripened, big fat glorious orb of reddish-orange goodness that is ready for you to eat!!! So why, I ask myself, am I so impatient for the changes that are taking place in me?  …certainly a more complex living thing than a tomato??!!

I’m pretty sure that you are not supposed to ‘Yadda Yadda Yadda’ yoga, and I won’t tire you with all of these feel-good hippie-dippie words that keep pulsing through my brain, but I will write that I have felt “better” since joining yoga classes than I have felt in a long while, and honestly, I feel pretty fabulous most of the time anyway!  In August when I started to eat cleaner and drink less alcohol I knew I was on the right path for me, I just felt like a better version of myself.   I have fallen off the wagon a number of times since, too many to count, but I’ve not fallen so far that I’ve not been able to climb back onto said wagon. My pretend husband and I had a wonderful vacation in November to celebrate my birthday, and palm trees and hot sun really are good medicine for just about anything as far as I’m concerned, so that trip to Mexico certainly got the ball rolling for all of this joy, these uplifting sensations, that seem to be part of my new normal, however, starting yoga seems to be the icing that my cake of life was lacking.  Icing and cake that I’m not supposed to eat, but icing on cake nevertheless!!!

In a number of classes the yoga instructor has asked, “you didn’t drive yourself home from the hospital the day you were born did you?” and goes on to discuss the ‘crawl-walk-run’ way of growing and learning and evolving, and it is a VERY good reminder, particularly for somebody like me, who used to be much more fit and much more bendy, and who is basically starting from the very beginning, where fitness or stamina is concerned, that I should not expect to do things right, or well, from the start.

Sometimes when I am supposed to be concentrating on my breathing and maintaining a high plank, or some other strange uncomfortable pose where my legs are bent in ways that seem like it can’t possibly be beneficial to the body, or conducive to positive thoughts, I find myself thinking about how I used to be…how athletic and strong, and fit and thin I used to be, and then I feel myself getting annoyed…but then this magical thing happens, my brain says, “PSST!!! hey, lady!! you are supposed to be thinking about breathing… in through your nose and out through your nose, four counts in, eight counts out,  and do you know what?  You are 50 years old, and a Nana, and some woman’s mother, and here you are doing push ups, and oh wait, look here, here you are bending your left knee over your right knee, and now you are lifting your legs up in the air and grabbing on to your own feet, and now you are pushing your legs up in the air and still holding onto your feet! and guess what?!!   it doesn’t matter what you used to do, how you used to be, how you used to look…all that matters is that you are doing  THIS right now!!!”

The yoga instructor says, “you can’t be 100% 100% of the time” and that really resonates with me.  I am the first to admit my greatest character flaw might be that I hate to be wrong, so the “fear” of doing something wrong, or not well, or not as well as the person standing next to me, is one of those issues I have to deal with…but half of my brain beats myself up every class, and the other half of my brain lifts me high in the air, on the shoulders of the universe and praises my every bend and every breath.  I feel on some days that I can do anything I set my mind to, and some other days I feel like I will never, ever, get to where I want to be.  In those moments I  think about this quote I once read;  Start where you are and do what you can.  In those few words I feel so free, so capable, so confident.  I never like to tell anybody what to do, but I feel pretty comfortable telling you this; if you feel stuck in any way…in any situation, just do this right now…Start where you are, and do what you can.