Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End? by Mary Oliver
is simply beautiful.
Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.
It’s frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.
But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?
Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.
When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking outward, to the mountains so solidly there in a white-capped ring, or was he looking to the center of everything:
the seed, the egg, the idea that was also there, beautiful as a thumb curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
little love-ring, as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?
Retired now? Life derailed due to coronavirus? Have a LOT of time on your hands?
Did you make a list of items you want to do as a way to ‘fill your time’ and accomplish some stuff you’ve been meaning to complete?
Tell me about your list. Is it one or two items or will it fill a book? In fact, there are books that have lists of bucket items. Hmm, probably not a good thing to fill someone else’s list though. That’s like living someone else’s life for them.
Here’s some of mine in case you need some push from behind …
Volunteer ___ (food bank, Rotary, library, Peace Corp, mentoring students)
Contact ______ (high school friends, childhood buddies, pen pals, congress representative)
Paint _________ (canvas, nails, doors, house, garage, your wagon)
Research ______(family lore, history of sugarbeets, finances, school board)
Organize __ (a book group, game nights, hiking events, trips abroad)
So, does this list kick something into gear for you? Got some things you need to write down then check off? What exactly is on your list, hmm? Have you already moved forward on some items. Feel better?
If you’re married then you have a partner to share some of your activities with, however that’s not always the case. Your list and your spouses could be vastly different or perhaps one of you might want to travel and the other might choose to never leave the garden.
The secret is to find some things that only you love to do and get moving on them. You might learn that golfing isn’t that high on your list after you take a few lessons. Or that you want to learn and teach yoga.
Climb into your sandbox and to explore and play. Find out what you like to do and move in that direction. Maybe you’ll never want to come out.
Or maybe you’ll decide you want to climb into the round sandbox filled with electronics, computers and technology and come out with the knowledge that you really want to create recipes and make new food items.
If you don’t have a partner to play with, that works fine too. In fact, you might have more freedom to try things out, change your mind and start all over again. You’ve got 30 years on your plate. The important thing to remember is there are so many others who want to meet you and do what you’re doing.
Be happy, have fun — And you will always have friends!
Back ‘Before Cornonavirus’ aka BC, I stood in rooms filled with people and listened to music. I sat in auditoriums and absorbed messages from authors. I sat elbow to elbow with friends, colleagues and strangers. I whooped and yelled at volleyball games. I danced and celebrated at weddings. I squished myself on airplanes and never thought twice about it. I wandered aimlessly at libraries. That was all so ‘yesterday.’
In my dream last night, I was in a room bursting with people and my neighbor (from 1973) walked across the room to greet me. His arms went up to hug me and I stopped him in shock, admonishing him about our social distance rules and regulations. I looked around the full room and realized it was too late now, the way everyone was all tight together like salmon wiggling and giggling upstream.
I took a step back from him and remembered I was dreaming and I could do anything I wanted. I rewound the dream and this time when I spotted him in the dream, I let him hug me and I held him and just breathed him in. And I hugged him back. This childhood friend of mine just gave me the first hug I’ve had in a very long time and I just breathed it all in.
I didn’t realize this post would be about loneliness but that’s what’s coming to the surface as I write. Even with all the gratitude I feel for my life, the enforced separation due to the coronavirus means there’s no hugs. No physical connection. No massages. No touch. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until he reached out from 1973 to me in 2020. It was like a scene from Quantum Leap.
I’m not complaining. I have a house, I have food, I have a yard, I have space. I know of so many others living on top of each other, with no outlet when tempers flare. I know the family courts are dealing with custody issues, restraints, domestic violence and I take a deep breath in and exhale gratitude.
I know how lucky I am and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but boy oh boy I sure miss those sweet things I took for granted, don’t you?
Now, all I ever want to do is to connect. I make calls. I send cards. I use the internet to Face Time, Zoom, Skye and FB video chat. And with all that connection, the physical touch is still so elusive…
How about you? Are you in contact with those long lost friends and relatives?
January 2020 was full of hope, dreams, and longing with a new year on the horizon. Plans to travel, connect, learn and re-energize made the top ten list. And then something else happened instead. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) entered our lives. It sort of creeped in really slowly. And although it existed, it was mostly ignored.
When I first heard about this virus in early January 2020, I thought ‘These viruses happen to other people who live far, far away in places like China.’ Ebola, HIV, Dengue, SARS, MERS, Swine flu, Zika and so many other deadly health threats were distant to me – or so my small mind thought at the time.
I realized that as the COVID-19 virus spreads, our lives become smaller. Travel is halted. The border between Canada and the US has closed. ‘Shelter-in- place‘ has been issued in San Francisco. Gathering with others has been discouraged and ‘social distancing’ has been encouraged in ways there were unimaginable at the start of March.
All sports events at all levels have been cancelled. Broadway plays, theaters, universities, schools, libraries, ski resorts, meetings, churches, fitness centers, bars, breweries, and casinos have been mandated to close. Colorado has pretty much shut down the state. Drug stores, grocery stores, liquor stores and department stores are still running and are looking to hire workers to help keep the shelves stocked.
Social Disruption initiated
Universities announced they will teach classes online so students are not allowed back on campus for the present time. Businesses want their workers to stay home and work remotely. People are home. They are not driving their cars, using gas, entertaining or socializing. They are hunkering down BECAUSE there is nothing to do.
And that is the goal. Nothing to do will keep people home. Nothing to do will help decrease the spread of the virus. Nothing to do forces us to stay inside and away from others. If there is no one around, there is no one who can give me the virus. And there is no one I can give it to if I have it.
Now we are told it is not about IF it happens but WHEN the virus will happen.
Everything I’ve just written is fact. And most everything has occurred in the past 2 weeks for US citizens.
So what now?
Stay healthy. Here’s my list of things I am planning to do.
Taking Control of My World
1st of all – I refuse to spend my day watching the news. The TV news will destroy my soul and take me down to a very sad place. I watch Norah O’Donnell on the CBS evening news then turn it off. I also go to youtube.com/news and choose something from that list if I want additional coverage.
2nd – I have a whole list of youtube.com music that I can click on and listen to uninterrupted for 3+ hours. That music helps ground me. Want to breathe in Mozart? How about relaxing Zen music? Good morning music?
3rd – I plan to make regular phone calls to my family and friends. This is the perfect time not only because they are home with more time on their hands as am I but also because if not now – when?
4th – Since all the fitness centers are closed, I’ll push myself out the door to walk. It’s good for my head, heart, soul and body. And I am practicing ‘social distancing’ in a healthy manner.
5th – I am downloading books from my library using Hoopla and Libby and Overdrive. Also, through my library, I can download videos and movies through Kanopy. I can read magazines using Flipster, learn a language using Odilo or visit a music library.
6th – And most important for my psyche is I plan to incorporate color into my life. Now is not the time for black or white. I am thinking all the colors of the rainbow! Color is such a great mental stimulation for me.
Next year at this time when I read this blog post, I want to close my eyes and remember how well we all got through it. How we pulled together as friends and created togetherness where before there were only strangers. How we reached out and offered help, comfort and compassion when others were struggling.
In the meantime, I will be writing it all down as a way to help me remember it, make sense of it and learn from it.
My friend Sara and I took a walk last week to get caught up in person. No texts, no phone calls just a walk and talk. Like we used to do. She is almost ready to retire. In fact, she can retire right now but she hesitates because if she does, she will be stuck at home with her husband.
The man she chose to marry is not very nice. When she does something forgetful, he pounces on that and just rants and raves about what a loser she is. During our walk, she told me that in the past month she mindlessly clicked something on her computer and it was compromised. She took it to a computer tech and had to get it wiped and cleaned. She felt so stupid. Her husband won’t let her forget that she screwed up again. He demeans her and takes away any confidence she has in herself.
Sara is one of the first friends I made when I moved to Colorado. She and I have been though births, deaths, divorces and remarriages. When she told me that Eddie proposed and she planned to marry him, I asked her why?
I realized during our walk that she didn’t intend to take any action, she just needed to talk through what was going on, to list offences, to explain retirement possibilities and to unload. Once I understood my role, I was able to shake my head when needed, offer condolences and some levity here and there.
I know of others like her who would retire tomorrow if they could change their home life. One amazing friend of mine worked to the age of 68 so that she could avoid being home with her unemployed husband. When she finally did retire, it was because she was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
Ok, this is the part where I let my naiveté show. Why not stand up and say no? No more abuse? No more put downs? No more hostility? These women and many others are actually the breadwinners and yet, they allow themselves to be pushed around at home – whereas in the workplace they are given the respect due the position.
Do I have to walk in Sara’s shoes and take the verbal abuse in order to speak honestly to her? And if I were in her shoes, would I have the strength, determination and financial means to walk away? And could I walk away … from yet another marriage?
My marriage had none of the negativity and toxic environment that she is exposed to on a daily basis. In the past, I would speak freely about what she could do, and suggest steps and actions she could to help her move away, or forward depending on what she needed. I send her links to podcasts, youtube video suggestions and books that would help with self esteem, financial information and know-how.
So, this time when she shared her world with me, I understood that she only needed to vent. She wasn’t ready to act and maybe she would never be ready. I decided to be a good listener and give her the safe place to speak freely.
Is that all she needs?
My heart is heavy because I am so happy in retirement. I am hiking, taking drives to see the beautiful autumn colors, taking daily walks, visiting libraries, reading, making friends, traveling and enjoying my space.
What are your thoughts about this? Know people like Sara? Any words of wisdom for her or me?
Happy anniversary to me! I’ve been blogging for 10 years!
Let’s put on the music and toast my accomplishment. Cheers!
Over the past 10 years, I’ve written then paused. Why? Maybe some tragedy, maybe some overarching excitement. Who knows? Then I restarted with gusto and vigor then paused. Who knows why? But, then I came back recharged and ready to bust a new one. I’ve created challenges and made friends then paused… again. I guess the PAUSING was a need to recharge and reframe me and what I wanted to share.
Consequences of pausing?
Each time I paused, I put my blogging friends and readers on hold and eventually they fell away.
Every time I returned to blogging it was with a clear reason. I was ready to write again. I was eager to share my world as a way to record my how I spend my time. I wanted a roadmap of how I spent my time over the years.
What Now Marge Katherine?
CURRENTLY, I am retired and I want to record how I spend my days. What is it I do — all week, all month and with the passing year? Hmm?
Some days I am really lonely and those are the days I search the internet for other people who are retired and have it figured out. OK, I haven’t found them yet but when I do, I will be sure to link to them.
Why Bother Marge Katherine?
In the meantime, by blogging I can record what’s going on – right here and now – for next year or a decade from now when I am yes… ten years older. Will there still be blogging in ten years? If not, what will replace it? Podcasts? Videos and youtube? I wonder…
Potty training. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…And in a blink of an eye, it’s was over and done and quickly forgotten.
It’s that time for my granddaughter. She’s 2 years old and is doing amazing. She’s ready and is just learning the steps. In the meantime, we keep her close to the toilet.
Which means for the next week, we stay close too. With rewards, accolades and appreciation. We celebrate every time the deed is done. As a mom, this was a pretty exhausting time for me. As a Nana, it’s about reminding the parents of her progress and rewarding her as she steps away from being a toddler.
Know this will be over in the blink of an eye. Done. It’s true. Ask any mother of a teenager.
It’s been over 40 years since my boys had to learn to leave the diaper behind and become ‘big boys.’ The thing is, I can’t remember that time in my life too clearly. I can remember a basket of ‘rewards’ on top of the refrigerator for each successful trip to the toilet. The treats were rubber balls, match box cars, balloons, suckers, stickers and other five and dime type gifts. They were individually gift wrapped and offered as if it were Christmas morning.
Give rewards for every successful potty in the potty chair.
If you watch to see how dogs are trained, you will notice that with every successful action, they are rewarded. If rewards are not a big thing in your child’s life – then they will work even better. Potty training is a big deal. Live it up and make it a party.
This is the hardest one of all – EMBRACE this stage.
Remember when you longed for the days when your newborn would let you sleep through the night? Well, now your newborn is potty training. You will get through this. Use all the positive words you can and then …
Poof! Over! Done! On to new tasks, lessons and challenges.
Potty training and life are a series of baby steps.
My world of being the mommy, making bread, canning tomatoes, freezing corn and stocking up on sweet pickles eventually came to an end. When I was in the mist of them, I never saw the big picture. The daily picture was about dozens of mundane things stung together that tied us together. Eventually, bedtime stories were replaced by soccer, school, Little League Baseball and their father became more prominent in their world as coach and sports companion. As they moved through grade school, I returned to college to earn my Bachelor degree. Baby steps helped us all move on from one stage to another. Going back to complete my university degree coincided with kindergarten and T-Ball.
See the BIG PICTURE and know this is a teeny dot on the lifeline.
Back then, my life was bursting at the seams with children, family, classes, work …and now I struggle to recall those days. Now my son is the one offering praise and clapping with pride every time there is potty in the potty chair. And I am the ultimate cheerleader to all three of them. I like being Nana.
Lyle, Rachel, Mike, Vicki and so many other wonderful people are moving to my area. They have either decided to move to a new neighborhood, city or state. Maybe they are recently retired and living their bucket dream list. Maybe some are newly single for one reason or another and making a fresh start. Some, are following the grandkids and are content to be in their shadow. Whatever their reasons, it takes guts to relocate. To put yourself out there and make new friends. It’s like dating again, except this time they are seeking friends and not romantic partners.
As a single woman, I don’t have the luxury of teaming up with a partner to go friend hunting so I’ve created my own strategy. I put myself out there at local concerts. I listen to speakers at the local library. I volunteer for events when I see Volunteers Needed signs. I ride my bike and go to local coffee shops (and drink tea.) I go to the movies alone and check out the other patrons. I keep doing the things that I enjoy doing but allow time for meeting new people and conversations.
And what do you know … it works. I’ve met people at local free concerts and made hiking plans. I’ve met people in the lounge area of the movie theater and discussed books. I’ve sat in on speakers and stayed longer to connect with those others who linger and chat it up.
On my street, I know neighbors on both sides of me. One side of me lives a young couple with elementary school age children and on the other side of my house is a retired couple in their 80’s who travel the world like crazy. We are friends as well as neighbors. They will put out my trash for me. I will mow their lawn or look after their kids for them. I want more of that!
As a way to connect with people in other neighborhoods, I am a member of NextDoor.com. This online network connects people across neighborhoods and helps them stay informed about upcoming events and issues. It addresses neighborhood, public and government concerns. It gives me a way to reach out to others who might have the same interests that I do.
Last year, I sent a message on NextDoor.com to see if anyone played Euchre because I wanted to join them. Instead, I had more than 16 people reach out with excitement and desire to get together. The funny thing was they were all couples and I was the odd one out. At least I was able to hook them all up!
Another time, I was collecting crutches for a Rotary Club project and I put the request online and was happy to say I had a bunch of people happy to take crutches, canes and wheelchairs out of their closets and garages and put them to good use.
Also, I needed to get my hands on a copy of EnCompass the AAA magazine after I had tossed mine out. When I inquired online if anyone had it, I found to my delight that 4 neighbors were willing to part with theirs for my cause. I’ve asked for recommendations for services (car, cable, garage help) and in turn, was able to help others with recommendations.
Perhaps this platform is the way to reach out and connect on a broader scope. The blog link below titled “Coping with social isolation, together” by Sarah Friar touches on reasons to reach out and connect.
In order to make NextDoor.com a ‘movement’, others need to know it exists. At the top of their page, I have the ability to ‘invite’ others to join. I can invite them via email or postcard. Once I click on the Invite Neighbors, up comes a map of everyone who is 1) already a member, 2) recently invited or 3) not yet members. I will go ahead and send out postcards and see if I can entice others to join. So, that is my new task, challenge and adventure. Maybe they will toss the card, maybe they will be interested, maybe they don’t want to bother. That’s ok.
Reaching out is the main thing. And connecting is the best end result of all!
One day the building, place, store, cubicle, office, etc. where I used to go daily, and felt connected to … is no longer. I broke ties. They said good-bye. That place is no longer in my world.
Instead, my world is under my command. Get up and exercise. Or not. If not, no one will know except me. Therefore, it’s important to keep up a routine.
At first, I kept to my work-waking hours as a way of penance. That changed slowly. Now, I get up to exercise. To hike. To read. To walk before the heat of the day kicks in.
At first, I stayed in touch with my comrades. Then, it felt like they had lots to talk about and I talked about my walks, hikes, volunteering, books. Mostly I let them talk. I didn’t want them to feel bad that I was having so much fun. I let them talk so I could remember what I didn’t miss. I let them talk because they needed to.
Then, the lunches we promised to make kept getting further away. Maybe they didn’t want to hear about my leisurely life. My travel plans. My cooking lessons.
Slowly I found others who spent long hours in the library. Who took classes, music lessons and shopped in the middle of the day. Regular exercise in the gym courtesy of Silver Sneakers is one of the best ways to connect with other retired adults. Silver Sneakers is often part of the insurance program which allows me to sign up with a fitness center, recreation center or gym and attend as if I were a paying member. There are over 9000 centers across the U.S. where I can use my card. Currently, I have gym memberships in six area facilities. When I travel, I look online to see if there is a location near where I am staying. It’s much cheaper to keep healthy than to pay for hospital care. Just saying.
Blogging, Podcasts, Videos:
After checking blog sites, youtube videos and podcasts across the universe and not finding one that spoke to me, I decided to speak to the world of retirees and see if they want to speak to me. I want to know how you organize your world. How you decide on your day. What does it look like?
Do you have a routine?
Are you part of a club? What kind? Cycling, reading, sewing, motorcycle, alumni, music, dance, exercise?
Have you given your time away to others? To ill parents, to grandchildren, to volunteering?
Do you have a ‘bucket’ list of things you plan to do? Are you actively doing them?
Are you willing to share any with me?
Breaking out of the Comfort Zone:
I have a super fun week coming up. It’s a brand new experience. It’s something I said “yes” to and now I am packed and ready to begin. If I have the energy, I will attempt to share it with you next week. It will certainly be worth the wait. You know how it is – scary, exciting, and compelling. Like jumping off a cliff into the beautiful blue water.
Last week my friend told me about her plans to volunteer abroad. She has made plans to travel with IVHQ read more below) and stay in Italy to care for cats. She is beside herself with giggles and is in the mental stage of the plot – renting out her house, giving notice at work (retirement is looming for her), storing her car, putting all her other obligations on hold. Her feet are barely touching the ground she is so excited.
Ever want to volunteer in a meaningful way abroad? If so, check out International Volunteer Head Quarters or IVHQ. This organization has over 100,000 young and old volunteers working across the globe. This volunteer abroad program might be just what you are looking for if you have the desire to expand your horizons, stretch your mind, break through your comfort zone and most important of all… leave the world a big better place.
IVHQ works with local communities with a bottom up approach. Local organizations know the people, speak the language, purchase items from local vendors and businesses and get buy-in from the population who benefits.
The desire to travel and volunteer abroad can be a great experience if the organization is willing to step in and guide the volunteer across the many steps involved. IVHQ has destinations across the globe where you can volunteer for an affordable fee. The transparency in the fees makes you want to dig deeper and learn more. The registration fees and the program fees are listed for each country with a list of what other expenses might arise.
With an organization like IVHQ, the time to step up and go where you feel most alive is right now. Right?!