Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Simple Things

Going through my day, I feel stress, a sense of urgency, and exhaustion.  Stress from trying so hard to get my business going. Urgency, because the clock is ticking. I have bills to pay and my husband needs to retire. Exhaustion.  I begin my morning in my sewing room and keep at it pretty much all day, going back down after supper until about 8:00.   

Climbing the stairs from my basement sewing studio for about the 20th time, the angel food cake pan I left soaking from yesterday greets me.  Rarely do I leave dishes for the next day - not because I'm such an amazing cleaner, but because I hate waking up to any kind of mess.  I'm not a morning person, and it doesn't take much to get me crabby in the morning - at least until I've had a few cups of coffee!

Looking at that pan, wishing it was already clean, I decided to use psychology on myself.  Speaking right out loud (don't worry, nobody was home but the dog) I said: "Julie, quit being such a whiner and be thankful you have a pan to wash, a stove to bake a cake in, and a comfortable home to live in".   

It seemed like it was working -  a little, so I kept talking  . . .

"Before I can wash dishes  I need to scrub out the dish pan".   Note:  My husband has a habit of throwing things in there to "soak" which means they are left there for me to clean, and the pan is always dirty.  :) Bless his heart.

I scrubbed out the sink and the pan. As I filled it with hot water and dish soap, the billowing bubbles exploded with a lovely, somewhat familiar smell.  I grabbed a clean washcloth, deciding on one I knitted while watching tv. Admiring the pretty shade of peach as I dipped it into the bubbles, I got to work washing the counters, the stove top, and the microwave.  

As I thought about how I am always rushing, worrying, and planning in my head, I realized I'm never really in the moment.  Instead of   "thinking"  about everything and anything,  I should just "be"   - be in the present, with my hands in the lovely bubbles, enjoying the warmth and smell.  As I washed each glass, plate, and coffee cup, I tried to feel gratitude for each item.  Then I broke my favorite coffee cup I've had for about 20 years.  "Rats.  Oh well.  It had some cracks in it anyhow, probably not safe." 

Being super sensitive to chemicals, I try to use homemade cleansers made from nontoxic  ingredients whenever possible. Last
 month I brought home what was left of the Dawn dish soap while cleaning out Mom's house and figured I'd try it.  "Guess I might as well use it - not be wasteful. " Yep, me talking to myself again. I must say it smelled really nice.

It was kind of an amazing moment, realizing how enjoyable washing dishes by hand was. Ok, not like going to a quilt shop, but still. It seems like the dishwasher never gets them clean anyhow.   Then I really got carried away washing every thing in the dishwasher - which was completely full.  I put on an I Love Lucy rerun and laughed at her antics. Imagining being back in the 50's, I wished I had put on an apron.

After Lucy was over I decided to turn off the tv and work in silence, trying to stay in the moment. From start to finish it ended up taking over an hour.  My feet, legs, and back hurt. I must be getting old because being on my feet for a while gets me tired. Still, I felt happy.  It was relaxing, and I think it brought me happy memories. It took me back to when I was raising kids and my role was clearly defined - being a stay-at-home mom, cleaning, cooking, taking care of the family. The realization hit me that not only do I need to do more of the simple things in life - I need to actually be present to enjoy them.  

As my sister and I chatted about my little epiphany she said she had just washed out some coffee cups at work using Palmolive and was taken back to childhood.  She wondered if Mom used that brand, and we assumed she did because the smell seemed so familiar.  We talked about the old Palmolive commercials and she reminded me of Madge, the "beautician" doing a manicure.  Do you remember "It's Palmolive - you're soaking in it"?  Funny.  I seem to remember Mom using Ivory, but I can't say for sure.  You can bet your life when I go to the store the next time I will buy a small bottle of each and an old fashioned dish drainer.
Now . . go put on a pretty apron and wash some dishes.  And as you work, please enjoy yourself!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Home Sweet Home

Here I sit with my cup of coffee. I am in my lovely sewing studio, in my wonderful house, as happy as can be.  Feeling safe and sound, I have no desire to leave. Why the sudden appreciation for home? Let me tell you. I wasn't feeling so happy a few weeks ago.  

My husband earned two free plane tickets and had to use one of them before February.   Knowing my absolute dread of flying and the fact that I get anxiety traveling, he decided not to tell me until the last minute.

He booked a flight to visit his sister in California.  If I wanted to go all I needed to do was say the word.  A free flight, our own little studio apartment - what more could anyone ask for?
A dream come true, right?  
So what's the problem?

I wavered back and forth between being excited and having near panic attacks.  I talked myself into it, then out of it, then into it. Once I committed to go I was literally sick for three days - feeling anxiety, dizziness, hot flashes, up at night,  just plain feeling awful.  A phrase I took from my daughter when she was little was "badness".  A pancake I made her wasn't completely cooked, and she told me there was "badness" in there.  I had badness in me. Lots of it.  

I really, really would love to go.  The last time I was in California I was 16, on a family trip to San Francisco.  I want to redo everything I did back then -  take a trolley to Chinatown, visit Fisherman's Wharf , and see the sights.   My son moved to California last year. I would love to visit him, as well as my West Coast relatives. Visions of the beautiful wineries in Napa Valley taunt me.

So just go, right?  I can hear you now.  I told myself I would go and I know I would enjoy it.  
But . . .the stress I was having and what I was putting myself through was just not worth it.  After several heart to heart talks with my sister and myself, I decided not to go. 

Why? My dream of going out to California was to drive. Crazy, yes.  But I want to plan my trip and try to see as many states as possible. I want to visit every quilt shop and antique store and see all the beauty our great country offers.  We'll stop at every Mom and Pop diner and small town bakery, sampling our way through the states.  I want to drive to the upper West Coast and work my way down.  I want a leisurely pace, not determined by flight deadlines. 

My dream is to get a vintage trailer and be like Lucy and Ricky in "The Long, Long Trailer" but my husband says it would be cheaper to get hotels. We'll see about that!
I  like being able to stop the car whenever and wherever I want.  Being on a plane, train, or bus makes me feel claustrophobic, like I am trapped.  Anyone that deals with anxiety issues will be able to relate to this. I haven't flown for over 10 years.

Because we were so close to the actual date, we would have had to pay an additional 600 dollars round trip, so this actually wasn't the opportunity of a lifetime I was making it out to be. 

I felt disappointed in myself for not embracing the adventure. What an idiot.  Who in their right mind would pass this up?  

This idiot, that's who.  Here's how I made peace with myself. 

This wasn't my dream trip. We can still drive to the West Coast someday, but we can't afford 600 dollars right now. This isn't a good time for me to try to squeeze in anything else because  I am smack dab in the middle of trying to get my business up and running.
I thought:  I hereby give myself permission to pass on this opportunity.  I am going to release the "badness" I feel about myself for not being able to do it. The stress I am putting myself through is not worth it.  And I'm not an idiot.

I felt such a sense of relief when I made that decision.          

Will I regret it?  Am I ashamed for not being able to face my fears?  I don't know.  What I do know is if my sister, daughter, or friend was trying to make this decision, I would tell them to not be so hard on themselves.  So I took my own advice . . . this time.

P.S.  I think I'll watch "The Long, Long Trailer" tonight.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Back to my life

I'm back!  I sure hope you all remember me. It's been a long, long time, and so much has happened.  I will try to catch you up, little bits at a time, instead of writing my usual novel!  As I write I'm watching the snow gently fall, enjoying the beauty of winter. Brrrr, it's freezing cold - but I still love it.  

Mom is in assisted living, since last summer.  I thought I would be back to my life immediately after that happened, but helping her make the transition still required plenty of time and energy on my part.  She wanted to go home, and I felt terrible guilt that I could no longer keep her there. We had no choice - it took more than one person to get her up now. For several months I spent the majority of my time either on the phone with her or at the assisted living. After she was settled in and I had most of my time to myself,  I had this strange feeling - like I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing.

I found myself starting this project, then starting that project, then feeling overwhelmed because I had so many things I wanted to do and didn't know where to begin.  I also kept having this nagging feeling that I was supposed to be somewhere and was forgetting.  I was so used to caring for Mom, pretty much 12 hours a day 7 days a week, that I almost didn't know how to live my life anymore.

My brother and I have finally finished cleaning out her home. That was a heart-wrenching experience, because so many things had sentimental value.  Memories, thought to be buried forever, came flooding back. A ceramic frog, sitting in a planter still blooming with some sort of green vines, reminded me of Mom taking ceramics classes. Maybe this frog didn't mean the world to her, but I couldn't donate this or throw it away.  Add it to my pile. Items that I have used or walked by a million times while caring for mom in her home suddenly meant more than a 5 carat diamond. In my pile they go. Pictures . . . oh the pictures, and the feelings that came up while going through them. Of course, in the pile they go.

I am a very sentimental person, and believe me when I say the tears flowed, the sadness overwhelmed at times, and the overall realization that life is fleeting really hit me. I need to live my life now.  I need to find out what makes Julie happy.  Perhaps find my purpose in life. How to make the world a better place.  I will evaluate my priorities, making sure that when I am nearing the end of my days I won't have regrets.  At least not any new ones. 

I am thankful. Thankful that Mom is in a wonderful place. Thankful that it wasn't the house I grew up in because it would have been so much harder. Thankful to finally get my life back.

Wouldn't you think my first project would be something amazing and fun and wonderful?  Nope - the first thing I did was spend a month cleaning, organizing, and tackling the basement. I'm so boring! 
Ironically, it is once again bursting at the seams - filled with things that I am either storing for my sister or one of my kids, or that I just couldn't give or throw away.  I am reminding myself to go through it all and downsize my stuff, because I don't want my kids to have a monumental task when I leave my home. 

I miss so many of you, and can't wait to try to catch up on all I've missed.  I hope you are all well and happy.