coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Friday, April 24, 2015

It's your thing, do what you wanna do

Third children are rare these days, but back when most families had a third child it was an interesting role to play. I rarely got to make decisions about what we watched on TV or what activities we did as a family. But that was OK. I was usually left to my own devices, and I was able to create a fairly wonderful play-world for my self.  There is a lot to be said for a childhood where you are not the focus of everyone's attention. I was able to be myself, whatever that was.  My younger brother did not come around until I was four, and I am sorry to say I really was not all that interested in him. For one thing he was a baby, and then he quickly turned into a boy.  

Back then I not only thought boys were boring, but I thought they were weird, too.  They played with cars and trucks, for crying out loud.  What the hell kind of fun are you going to have involving a truck?  At least that was my perspective.  I was not a "tomboy", nor do I wish I had been one.  Good for you if boy stuff is what floated your boat as a child, but it was absolutely not my cup of tea.  That is not a judgment on what is better or what is worse.  I am a third child and I do not feel strongly about having my way be the right way.  That is not the way the world works when you are a third child.  I am just stating for the record that I was a girly girl and I loved it.  If I could go back and change anything it would to wear more pink.  In fact, I may start wearing pink now!  What a great color.

I have a grandson and I play with him a lot.  I adore him. I would do anything for him. But when he starts in with the cars and trucks my eyes glaze over with supreme boredom.  I play with cars and trucks on autopilot, just going through the motions.  I am not having fun.  Eventually I re-emerge, energized and fully present for tag, hide-and-go seek, drawing, games, and acting like a monster.  I love playing with tinker toys and building blocks.  I love rolling all over the floor and chasing him in the pool.  I fully appreciate the energy that goes into play, and I no longer think boys have cooties. I can see that he is truly creative about car and truck play and it makes him happy.  Cars and trucks seems like good play things to me.  I simply do not "get" the attraction of things with wheels.  However, if that is what he likes, then I am all for it.  I love him.  That's what you do when you love someone, you accept them even when they are different than you are.

I am thankful for boys!  But you know what?  I am thankful for girls, too. I am tired of people putting down those sweet little girls who want to wear pink and be ballerinas when they grow up.  While we're at it, I like little boys who wear pink and want to be ballerinas, too.  And I am very thankful for little girls who like trucks or want to be superheros.  I am so happy that everyone is not like me.  Most of all, I am thankful for the innocence of children who play with what they like, or wear what they truly love, regardless of whether it is gender appropriate or not.  The world is so damn interesting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Flower Lust

Let me just say right up front, I am greedy for flowers and plants.  I must have them if I am to be happy.  I need the color, the shapes, the scents, and a variety of types to keep my interest.  I go outside every morning and make the rounds, looking at them, loving them, and sending them special "You Are Beautiful" vibes so they will grow lush and happy.

There are SO many trees, shrubs, and flowers I want as we begin landscaping our pathetic little piece of paradise in this Florida subdivision.  Up North I could buy and plant just about anything that I wanted.  We had a lot of land, and it was fairly private.  I sincerely loved that land, but the sheer expanse made it hard for us to rein ourselves in.  We had an obscene number of perennial beds and way too many different kinds of flowers. Need herbs?  We made an herb garden.  Like pastel colored flowers?  We had a bed with only pastel blooming flowers in it.  T and I fought over what to put in a perennial bed?  Easy solution - we would just build our own, separate beds. We had lots of wild land, too.  I gleefully developed a type of gardening I called "drop gardening" where I would just drop divided pieces of beebalm and foxglove, daylilies and purple cone flowers into the wild areas knowing they would root and naturalize.  The results of my drop gardening were spectacular.  Now I know it was also excessive. Of course, I would never have realized this great truth if I had not given up country living for the more constrained life of a subdivision retiree. Now I know. Or at least that is what I am telling myself. 

In our old place it took T and me years to fully landscape the property.  We initially had a 5 year plan.  We were in our early 40's when we bought that house.  We were still working 5 days a week and the gardening season is fairly short up north, so a five year plan did not seem unreasonable.  Those were our glory days and we figured we had more than half our lives left to get the work done and wait for the flowers and trees to mature, and we did.  No big deal.  No pressure.  Gardening was what we did on the weekends for the few months of the year when it was possible to venture outside and work the soil.  It filled our lives.  Now we do not have anything else to do except babysit for our grandkids, and we can work outside all year round.  But who knows how much time we have left?  People in our lives are dropping like flies.  I do not mean to sound morbid, but I feel a little pressure to get this landscaping thing done quickly so we have time to enjoy it.  We will absolutely not be planting any large shade trees that might take 20 years to mature.  We are only looking for short-term gratification now.  If I was younger I would definitely plant a Live Oak to grow massively majestic (and spooky) as it accumulated Spanish Moss and eventually shaded the driveway.  But since I am old, I will live with the blazing summer sun burning up my car instead.  Last summer the sun destroyed our GPS. We did not realize you couldn't leave it in the car down here in August. The Florida sun burned that sucker right up. It would still turn on, but it behaved like a GPS with mental problems.  Sometimes we would be half way to our destination before it would start talking to us and giving us directions.  Poor thing.  We had to get rid of it.

Why not put our cars in the 2 car garage?  Well, most people do not use their garage for cars down here for the simple reason these houses do not have basements. There is no worry about digging your car out of a huge snow pile if you leave it in the driveway.  Consequently, it is hard not to use the garage like a basement instead.   Unless you can afford to store all your useless crap in a storage unit month after month, year after year, world without end, amen... you fill up your garage with the overage.  I love it when I am driving past someone's house and they have their garage door open so I can gauge whether they horde more junk than I do.  Some of the storage packing techniques are quite impressive, too.  Our garage provides space for many boxes of treasures we do not need AND a small candle factory. And our washer and dryer. Oh, and our bikes, too.  Oh yeah, and that weight bench and reclining stationary bike we do not use.  Hmmm, I am not sure why we brought those all the way down here.

Getting back to gardening, a 5 year plan could mean the difference between one of us being able to lift a 40 pound bag of composted cow manure or not.  I think not.  I think maybe we are going to have to make do with a two year plan this time.  Right now we are working HARD on a couple of beds on either side of the screened birdcage-like pool area, and planting larger shrubs and small trees to hide the fence.  Yes, in Florida we keep our pools inside birdcages.  It keeps the bugs out.  It also defines the area surrounding the space you Damn Yankees might call a patio.  Houses down here sometimes have "Florida Rooms" which are rooms inside the house, usually towards the back, with lots of windows kind of like a sun room.  Outside the house, the birdcages are usually attached to an outdoor room called a lanai, which has a roof and screened in sides but is still open to the pool on the front.  The lanai is especially great because you can sit outside to eat your meals without burning up from the sun.  I might start keeping our new GPS out there.  It would get lost in the garage.  It is a whole new world.  We are just trying to figure it out.  

This past weekend we went to a fabulous garden sale.  We bought loads of greenery we can now check off our garden bucket list. I got a pink camellia tree!!!!  And a fire bush, butterfly bush, and shrimp plant.  And an air plant.  We are both thrilled.  The coming week is going to be so much fun digging and planting.  I just wish I did not always regret the placement choice after the plants have already gone in the ground. Why didn't I buy that beautiful gardenia at the plant sale? Where in the hell am I going to put a butteryfly bush?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

When You're a Stranger

It has been a year and a half since I retired and a full year since we sold our house and moved to Central Florida.  T and I gave up many things during this time period.  We gave up our jobs, our friends, our gardens, Wegmans (!) and more.

The people in my NYS life knew me and what I was capable of.  I was respected, appreciated, sometimes disliked, occasionally loved.  I was someone specific and unique. I was not a stranger.

In considering retirement it is important to know giving up your job means giving up your identity.  Be forewarned so you can be prepared.  For our entire adult lives we define ourselves by the titles we hold and the work we perform.  Like many retirees, not only did T and I retire but we moved to a strange, far away place where no one knew us, where there was no external memory of who we had once been.

It is true that we live close to family now. That was the purpose of the move and the biggest joy of my post-retirement life.  Living near family provides roles to perform rather than a personal identity.  Our daughter and her family have a vague idea of who we are and the work we once did, vague being the key word.  We are their parents, in-laws, grandparents.  I love having those roles.  They suit me well. 

We are also a husband and a wife.  So yes, we still have a variety of roles to fill, and they are satisfying and enjoyable roles.  However, I have yet to redefine myself for myself.  I once knew how to do that.  I am not quite sure how to do that in retirement, but I trust it will happen over time. The fun comes in wondering who I will end up being.

What I learned from experiencing change is this: if you keep going eventually life settles in and evens out. I trust in that notion because in spite of some initial discomfort, I have always acclimated to the cultural norms in each new situations.  In the course of those struggles I developed new ideas and learned to adapt and become flexible in my views of what normal might be. Those were valuable real-life lessons.  In spite of the underlying sadness and very real loss brought on by each change, I learned to trust my abilities to rise to the occasion. But in my work years, I did not have to be particularly pro-active.  Life came to ME.  You take a new job and stimulating challenges happen all around you.  The outer world takes charge of you.

The difference in retirement is that there are no ready made communities provided by the job you are taking on.  Sure, there are institutions I could join and places I could go to build a community, I just have not wanted to "go there" yet.  For now I savor the freedom of being an outsider, of being a stranger.  In theory, I guess it seems too much like work to join or belong to an institution. In practice, it would take some effort on my part.  For now, a day that I have something I must do still seems like a day that is lost to me. I guess the identity one cultivates in the post-retirement years is more personal and private.  As we age, it makes sense that we exert more energy exploring our inner life rather than our outer life?  There are fewer distractions.  That's a thought.