Detour to self care

Surprise!  I took a detour on the way home! It’s about time!  At the ripe of age of 60, I am finally learning how to take care of myself.

When I left work on Monday night, I knew it was high time for a little self-care.  I was stressed, rattled and burned out.  It was the beginning of my weekend.  What could I do to restore my spirit? Piano practice, walk meditation and even a bit of sleep were preempted in a bid to pack, load and get on the road early Tuesday morning.  Severe weather warnings forecast snow above 10,000 feet and portions of I-70 I would be traveling. The scenery through Glenwood Canyon was gorgeous. Snow was falling to the west and the east of Vail. Georgetown Visitor Center was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I lingered there in Georgetown, to fortify my body and emotions for the climb through Bergen Park, Evergreen and finally to the cabin I called home for seven years. I collected my daughter Andrea and her belongings at high noon as previously agreed. 12 o’clock straight up turned out to be lunchtime, so we joined her dad for a quick sit-down meal at Qdoba and then moved forward.  At teatime, we dropped in on an old college roommate in Gunnison. We arrived at AEI basecamp at 6:00 p.m. after a few miles of power driving in the mud and were hospitably welcomed by the staff. A quick unload and a nice evening walk through the woods ended up in the chapel with a piano.  A walk. A piano. I slept well. Another mountain hike next morning continued the work of beauty and restoration on my spirits so I was not in bad shape at all as I made the descent from Black Canyon to Montrose.

And then, it happened. Spontaneously I made the best decision of the day, I turned left toward Ouray.  I checked myself in to the Wiesbaden hot springs and was the only individual in the pool and the vapor cave for nearly an hour.  The first dip had my heart and voice crying thanksgiving. Wow.

Proper self-care requires thought and work.   Good, intentional choices.

Sometimes, self-care costs a little extra in terms of logic – self-talk to keep yourself from feeling guilty. I was raised not to play until my work was done.  Not to take care of myself until I finished taking care of others. I learned early on; my work was never done.  Over the years, I discovered the needs of some others were like a black hole – the more care you lavish, the more they need. While self-sacrifice is an essential component of love, self-sacrifice as a goal in itself is not worthy.

When I am not quite at peace for known or unknown reasons, a combination of good choices seems to put me back on the right track.  Putting yourself on the right track is the only way to stay fit to care for others or work efficiently.

Good choices in self-care may entail leisure, a vacation, a favorite activity.  Many of those activities cost money.  So I work, and I work hard, to be able to afford to take care of myself.

This time my little detour cost me about $50. I had to get through the guilt of spending $50 on myself with nothing tangible to show for it.

It would not have been possible to take care of myself in this way – or even support my daughter with transportation – but for my full time job and a difficult choice I made last August.  I moved in with roommates.

It was a hard choice, because the solitude of living alone is also a way I care for myself. On the other hand, shared expenses leave more wiggle room for travel and spontaneous detours. What do you need to take care of yourself?

Music? A good book? A hike?  Travel? Sleep?  A 60-mile detour and dinner out?

Get on with it ! May you be energized by a new perspective!

Ebony and Ivory -Confiding in the keys

I got a bit historical at the piano the other night.  My roommate, who was baking muffins in the open kitchen just above me, got a glimpse into my very heart, soul and spiritual journey in that moment – ‘tho she may not know it.

Rather than rehearsing through my usual repertoire of folk and pop, performed predominately at nursing homes, I let memory and experiment have free expression.  Using all 88 keys and liberal glissandos, I took my childhood musical memories on a tour into adulthood. I dredged up Sunday school songs, folk songs and a smattering of top 40 – mostly things I had never tried to improvise before.  What came out?

Dormant feelings. Repressed pain and joy. Snippets and pieces, long forgotten and now ruminated on.  Thankfully, my roommate loves piano and overlooks the imperfections – especially when we are both doing common ordinary utilitarian things like baking and practicing.

She hummed along and danced about her work.  We share the same birth year and a similar religious upbringing so most of the melodies were familiar to her. She did, however, pause for a chuckle when I came flourishing down from a rollicking “Do Lord” to a sultry “Imagine.”

No one.  No one knows me so well as my piano. Every now and then my soul is laid bare and then healed – comforted. 30 minutes spent on a wooden bench addressing 88 keys yields more self-awareness than an hour with a therapist who knows me not. 

The usual suspects and their alibis – a scenario in which I feel strangely affirmed

The package was suspect from the beginning.  The return address indicated online mail order shipping.  I did not order anything, so I held it at arm’s length and gingerly pulled the tear strip, shielding my eyes lest something sinister or invasive explode into my living space.

Boom!  It was a T-shirt. Black.  Presumably in honor of Mother’s Day since my birthday will not come for another month. Common but for the text that made my knees weak and caused my heart to sing.

The material evidence that caused me to roll-call the usual suspects
The material evidence that caused me to roll-call the usual suspects

But who was it from?  “Your kids?” My helpful roommate suggested.  I shook my head.  “Are they not musicians?”  Yes.  Yes they are.  All of them. “Even the youngest?”  Yes.  Especially the youngest.

The youngest with the band
The youngest with the band

Especially the middle one.

The middle one.  Girl drummer. With the band.
The middle one. Girl drummer. With the band.

Especially the oldest.

Kevin at the Mesa, 2010 With the band.
Kevin at the Mesa, 2010
With the band.

“Well, I confess,” she said, looking like she had inside information, “it wasn’t me.”

But who? Let’s round up the usual suspects and hear their alibis.

My parents: generous, but never order anything online with a credit card

My daughter: flat broke.  Just returned from missions trip.  Ready to start new job.

My oldest and D-I-L: suspect, but not their style.

My youngest: not his style, though he designs and works textiles.

My other roommate and longtime friend: generous, busy hosting her own family during the specified time.

Friend and former co-worker:  implicated because she was guest at a birthday party where the live band consisted largely of my three children and she retains details like that in her mind.

My favorite band - live at my birthday party
My favorite band – live at my birthday party

Cousins: I have 32.  Three have been known to gift and acknowledge me in musical ways.

Brother and S-I-L:  Always culpable when it comes to generosity and gift giving.

Ex-husband: Highly unlikely. I have two.  One would be capable of this.  One not.

Current friends:  Thoughtful, insightful; would they do this for a lark?  If they could. Like me, their first gifts, allegiance and obligation go to their own families and futures.

A dozen writer friends:  Would they dream up something like this to create mystery or fulfill a good story?  You bet. They get it.  They are also starving writers.

Past coworkers and friends who know me well:  Though the memories remain, the past is in the past.

Miscellaneous benefactors: They gave already this year in the form of symphony tickets.

A multitude of old Band Mates and Choir Mates on Facebook: Doubtless guilty of sharing information that led to this incident.  Uh huh.  Indicted as accessories.

I am pretty sure now who gifted me this T-shirt  (As always, the one you least suspect) but it was heartening to round up all the suspects – more than 50 – who can be accused of the motivation, interest and generosity to carry out a plan like this.   You see, recently I have been feeling overlooked -starved for affirmation.  Analyzing this mental list of suspects made it clear just how blessed I am!

decisively incriminating evidence
decisively incriminating evidence

Job serenity or job security?

The courage to change the things I can

I will leave, she said.

I will resign. I will pack up my skills and gifts and find someone who acknowledges and values me. I would not put up with this kind of churlish denigration from family members be they parents or spouse.  I have gone the extra mile. I understand contentment in service to others in authority, and I understand gaining freedom when you can. If I would not permit this kind of treatment at the hands of family whom I love, why should I permit it from someone to whom I have no connection other than they hold the stability of my job in their capricious hands?  Is this the time I should choose to gain my freedom? What price freedom?

The wisdom to know the difference

“There is no question.  I have the wisdom,” she said. “I have the skills and the experience to do something bigger and better.”  So she betook herself to the job boards to seek a better life. At that very moment, there were no vacancies remotely suitable to her goals and needs. Too hard. Too soft.  Too hot.  Too cold. Too big.  Too small.

“I will sleep on it,” she said. And she did.  As she drifted off to sleep, she mused on the perfect job; something enjoyable and rewarding in every way; consisting of just the right amounts of people time, alone time and creative challenge.

“I think,” said she on waking.  “I think the job I now have fits that description.  Why should I initiate the grueling unemployment routine just because of one or two persons acting like a bear?”

Then she understood with clarity; often the one thing you cannot change is a person.

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference (Serenity Prayer by  Reinhold Niebuhr ).

 “Anyway,” she said, feeling a bit like Goldilocks, “why should I let one or two bears frighten me?  My boss attempts to motivate with warnings, veiled threats and putdowns.  But, I am self-motivated and care not for posturing. What is there to fear?  Serene and independent, I will stay until it is time for me to go.”

And I, acting as Little Red Writing Hood, affirmed and adopted her perspective of acceptance, courage and wisdom.  Because, after all, daily work is rarely a fairy tale.