Less is More

img_3337Home in Michigan now. The biggest unexpected thing I learned, something I never thought about, was that I have too much stuff. When we went down to Florida, we had a set of dishes, a television and a little desk. My dad had left us a sofa and a kitchen set. Also a bottle of wine and two coffee cups. That was all we had.

We knew we needed stuff, so we hit Costco for silverware and lamps. Then we bought a bedroom set and were dismayed to learn it wouldn’t come for two weeks. We had also brought down an inflatable mattress, which wasn’t too bad for a week, but by week two, we were ready for a real mattress. And pillows.

I got the basic kitchen stuff and added to it as needed. I’d clipped an article about “the only cleaning apparatus you’ll ever need” and I bought those. (Microfiber cloths, steamer mop for ceramic tiles, and vacuum for carpets). We painted the important rooms. Got cable. I bought a book cabinet and then books to fill it:) Except for art and picture frames, we were done.

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And for three months, I was fine. I had everything I needed. Then I came home and was overwhelmed when I opened a cabinet or closet. So much food! Bowls! Glassware! Clothing! The basement could be another little house for someone; it’s full of stuff we do not need and will never use. I am going to be paring down significantly, but there’s a problem named Al.

Al had a slight tendency to hoard things. To “sell” someday. Or to “fix” or because it’s “cool” and a “classic.” The basement and his loft office here are Al’s territory. I cannot get rid of anything in those rooms. But I can go through my kitchen and my closet. And I know now living with less is somehow more.

 

 

 

 

Rocky Reunion

IMG_36867 weeks and 5 days. That’s how long we’d been apart. I don’t know what I was expecting when Al arrived, except to feel relief and happiness. That’s how I felt, but all too fleetingly. He came in at night, and we had our first argument a few hours later. It had to do with me wanting to stay in Florida longer next year. He said something rude and I snapped back and we went to bed without saying sorry. First night!

It happened again the next night and the night after that I picked a silly fight over nothing. I vented for about five or six pages in my journal and started to notice I was going over all the ways he’d let me down over the years. I stopped and went to bed, third night in a row with no kiss goodnight. We always kiss goodnight. What the hell was happening with us?

The next morning I remembered a book I’d been reading by Amy Morin…one of the things mentally strong people do not do is dwell on the past. There’s a check list with every chapter and I’d come out as needing to work on that. (Out of the 13 Things, I need to work on 6 of them!) So I reread the chapter and noticed that dwelling on the past means there are unsolved issues that need to be cleared up.

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I realized that I was angry with Al not because of the past but because next year we were supposed to be here for four or five months together. He was supposed to retire at the end of 2017. When he told me he’d decided to work a few more years, I immediately buried the hurt and rejection I felt because I wanted to be supportive of him in his career as he had always been of me with both writing and teaching. I didn’t even realize I’d bottled it up.

Instead I waited until he got here and picked on him about stupid shit. Finally that 4th morning, I told him how hurt and upset I was about him not being with me next winter. He started to remind me that we always supported the others’ work decisions. I said “I know and agree, but that’s in my head. In my heart, it hurts.”

Al did not say “that’s it, I’m retiring tomorrow.” He’s still got his plan, which is fuzzy and depends on when his auto plant actually closes down. I hate having the future be so unclear, but I do know I can’t abide another Michigan winter. It has been more lovely here than I ever could have imagined. I did just fine on my own, something I would never have suspected. I’m dreading going back to Michigan in a few days. That’s probably not very mentally strong of me, because mentally strong people do not fear change, but at least I am admitting the problem. And I’m working on it.

 

 

 

Away From the Fray

IMG_3635Sometimes I get in trouble. I never mean to, because I dislike conflict. So I try to get along with people, but I am a liberal, so if someone tells a racist joke or utters a homophobic remark, I might say something. Sometimes I just walk away, other times I’ll say, “you might not know you’re telling a racist joke” or “I support the LTBGQ community.” I don’t hide my ethics or values, and I very much dislike when bullies gang up on good people.

I am the program director for Detroit Working Writers, an organization I’ve served since 2008 in many different capacities. I’m currently program director: I find seasoned, well-published people within the organization (or they find me) who want to give workshops to the membership. I’ve been doing this since being appointed by President Carl Anthony in late 2015. Naturally now that I live in Florida part of the year, I’ve had to resign.

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Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish out the workshops and other events I’ve scheduled. I also have had lots of interest in others who want to give workshops. Really talented people who have won awards for their writing, been nominated for Pushcarts, and just really good folks who want to help our members reach their dreams. But I’m not planning any workshops for 2018.

So. Dilemma. Then I met with our president and said “Can we utilize this talent with a conference?” DWW has had an annual conference for several years, but the board had not been enthusiast. Nobody wanted to chair an event that takes a lot of work to pull off. So President Carl and I decided we’d do the work required and Carl got two other members who are not on the board to help. We have a conference committee. This 2017 conference will be the last event I’ll participate in for DWW. Because I love Florida so much I’m going to be here even longer next year.

But also because our board has become divided, which is normal. Despite my once held belief that all writers are liberal, that’s not actually true. You have your liberals and conservations in writing circles too. So the board is currently at odds which is awkward for me. I’m in Florida, away from the fray for the moment. I wish I could stay here forever.

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Laid Back

IMG_3620Despite the fact that periodically I had to stoop to their level when my weight got out of control and my doctor started talking about diabetes, I used to think people who continuously made the care and feeding and exercising of their bodies top priority were missing something. I pitied them because I had an idea of their sad motives: vanity and fear of death.

This was not my first stupid idea, but it’s been the most persistent.

It’s not a secret: I love  to write. Writing is a reliable friend, words knit me together, there is safety in sentences. Everything else is black and white, writing is color. I used to say I’d write until I died, and I still believe that, but in the past few months I’ve gotten way more laid back about the whole writing thing. I recently stopped writing morning pages. I just didn’t want to do them anymore. Maybe the urge to take pen in hand before the first cup of tea is done brewing will come back, maybe it won’t. Either way, I’m cool with it.

Contentment, I’ve learned, comes in more ways than one. The gym rats knew a few things all along that I never guessed. Like how much mood improves with exercise. Yes, I “knew” this, just thought it didn’t particularly apply to me. I had the creative person exemption.

Turns out, sunshine helps color my world, too, way more than I ever dreamed during the frozen Michigan winters. I think I might have had S.A.D. my whole life, but it felt normal, so I didn’t know any different. The Florida sun has lit me up in new ways. Ways that have me thinking that maybe writing doesn’t fix everything wrong in a life. Maybe all of it can be in color. With palm trees and pink flamingos.

Thousands of self-help books later, the truth dawned because I did a geographic. My good life comes not just from exercising creative muscles but by balancing body and mind. By walking out there in the world with my own two legs. Working on my physical self  for my mental health might not be the ultimate vanity project. It might in fact be the next right thing to do until I die.

Going It Alone

img_3598While becoming a little annoyed by Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, I have to admit the course has brought big changes and been a good companion on what has been an amazing and mostly solo journey. Julia’s been nagging me to take a walk, but I’ve been too busy dancing.  And very week there’s a new artist date to plan; these dates are to be taken alone so nothing I do with friends counts.

This week I got the bright idea to combine a date and a walk and take myself on a beach walk. I’ve been five minutes from multiple beaches for a couple of months, but not once have I ventured to a beach alone. Not sure why. I love walking on the beach. The mellow sound of the waves rushing to shore. The gritty sand under my feet. The way each new wave washes my toes clean. The glitter of sunshine reflecting off water.

I guess it’s just always been something Al and I do together. If there’s any prevailing theme of this winter in Florida, it is Going It Alone. It’s been fine, but, honestly, I didn’t get married so I could be alone. I was terrified much of last year leading up to this time, worried about how I would handle things on my own. Al calmed my concerns by pointing out that it would only be for this one year–he planned to retire in December of 2017. That plan has changed, and it looks like I may be here on my own again next year, and possibly the year after that.

img_3502I don’t have to be here. I can stay with him in Michigan and we could rent this place out for the season. But I have a choice and I know I don’t want to live through another Michigan winter ever again. This has stirred up a bunch of uncomfortable feelings. I feel selfish. I feel tricked. I never planned to have a long distance marriage, even for a season, so I’m attempting to overturn an image, burnished over a lifetime, of what I thought a good marriage should look like.

Honestly, I’m a little upset with my husband for deciding not to retire quite yet even as I understand that he’s his own person and he should pursue his career the way he sees fit. He has always allowed me that same freedom. So yeah I’m a little pissed off at Julia and Al but I also know that each of them, in their own way, is helping me go mine.