Saying yes to life
I quit my job in Malaysia. Walked away from the steady salary of a paycheck, sweltering hot sunny days, travel, and wonder to return to New England.
The October air cries with humidity. This morning I sat on the porch to meditate. Rain started to spatter on the tin roof. I meditated and considered saying yes to life — to all that is here in front of me, right now — today. If I say yes to life, I can stop swimming upstream and float with the current until I reach a harbor by the sea, where the wind and the winter will kick up and toss me about.
In creeps doubt.
I am 59 years old. I am living with a friend of my mother’s who gracefully welcomed me into her home until I sort things out. Meanwhile, she readjusts to life without her husband. I have a boyfriend who wants me around three days a week because he wants to focus on pottery and tennis, while I pull myself together. Yesterday, I read all of the material I had written for a book I want to write. It’s not abysmal, but it’s not that good.
Written in Say Yes language.
I am 58 years old. I am healthy. I am fortunate to have a place to live until I sort things out. I am not ready to spread my roots because I don’t know where or who I want to be. As a woman provides me with a place to stay, I support her. I can give and receive. I have a boyfriend who loves me, and I can embrace the three days of the week that I can love him back, while I figure out if that is the way I want things to be. I have the freedom to find out who I am.
Three years ago, when I moved to Mexico, I tossed conventionality out of the window and started this walkabout. I ran to far off lands, adventure, new people a new life and ended up in Malaysia. So why do am I drawn to the safety of nine to five, a paycheck, health insurance, a house, a steady relationship? All of the things that I left behind. My children, my friends, and New England. Those three things are essential to me.
Then conventionality kicks in. I should have a job. I need to make money. I won’t be able to afford to live comfortably when I am too old to do anything else. I see people around me with their comfortable paid-off houses, their 9-5 jobs, their children, their families, their outer security. But what is going on inside of all that? When I dig, do I see marriages that have less clarity than I have in my three-day a week relationship?Marriages that have love seated in history, houses, and making ends meet, and maybe that’s enough. Perhaps that and a full-time job is enough to carry us all along. But that is not the option I chose. I gave it up, left it behind, and then came back to the same place without the conventions that should match a 59-year-old’s life.
I want to write, to reconnect with my children and my friends, and find my confidence that has taken a walkabout of its own. Where did it go? When did I lose my capacity to make decisions, to know I was taking the right next step?When I came back to the West, I had planned to go to Mexico to write and continue to dream. Then I decided to stay in New England. My son and a friend have needed me in ways that I had to be here. It was the right choice to return.
When Summer Turns to Fall
A few days ago, I walked into my best friend’s house to pick her up for a hike and a swim. I found her in a daze. “Lisa, I am so glad you are here right now. I can’t remember anything. I need you to tell me about my life. What am I doing here? What did I do today, yesterday, the day before?” She had lost her short-term memory. I sat down next to her thinking we can fix this. I reviewed her day. I asked her questions. Slowly, she turned into a broken record. Once I answered one question, she would ask me the same question again, and again.
Three days later she is home recovering from Transient Global Amnesia, something that visits women my age who are under stress or undergoing significant life changes. It can also be brought on by swimming in cold water, which is something that my friend and I have been doing a lot of these days as summer turns to fall.
Exhaling after a long inhale
Yesterday, I spent the day with her as her memories took more solid shape in her brain. One of the strongest people I know wasn’t the strongest person in the world anymore. Something had crept inside of her and said stop. It was time to stop for her, for me, and for those of us who were with her. We held our breath that day and stopped with her. We didn’t talk about what was next because we couldn’t fathom that her amnesia and broken-record-thoughts that day could be permanent. When she came back to us hour by hour, day by day, we let out our breath. We are still letting it out and only now starting to inhale and exhale in a steady rhythm.
Conventionality can wait
How do we say yes to life when we don’t know what is around the corner? Perhaps that is the rhetorical question. You say yes to life because you don’t know what is next. You find out what is essential and you say yes to that. You find your confidence curled up in a small ball under your bed, or in the bottom of your suitcase and swallow it again. Conventionality can wait.
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