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.

Finding Silver Linings

Cali 011Thanks to a friend, I’ve been thinking about discovering the silver linings in sad or disappointing events. She says every experience has the potential for a silver lining. I didn’t think that was true, but I decided to try to find the silver in one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced: the gradual realization that my kids (grown men now) would not be returning, perhaps ever, to live in their home state of Michigan. Where I live.

We were not going to have any more family holidays together. We would not be meeting for lunch. We were not going to throw a barbecue for our friends and invite the boys to bring their friends. We were not going to shop for Christmas gifts, groceries, or school books together. Tim was not going to be taking over the garage for yet another car project. That part of being a mom, being in close physical contact, was over for me.

Cali.2014.5photoMothers have to let their kids go, and I did, of course. I had no choice, and while it makes me feel sorry for myself, I am happy for them. Their happiness makes me so very happy, always.  So, besides their happiness, where is my very own personal silver lining? I just didn’t think there was one, but finally, the other day, I realized  Tim is living my California Dream. (When I was four, we lived in California for about a year. Growing up, I constantly wished that we had never left.) There’s something about being close to the ocean that has always fed my soul. I know why he chose it; it’s part of our shared DNA.

Mike is living another kind of wonderful life further up the coast. 2011vac.AcHas a wife he loves. Great job. A dog, for the first time ever, and a house. He has a baby boy of his own on the way. Of course I am overjoyed. But my first grandchild will not know me the up close and personal way my sons knew my mother. Where is the silver lining in that?

It took me a little more time to figure this one out: the fact that there is to be a grandson is a gold star, which everyone knows beats silver linings. And I will consciously create moments with this already so beloved boy still yet-to-be.

Here’s my big selfish silver lining to all of this, and it’s been happening for years. Al and I have visited California six times in the last decade. First when Mike was a grad student at USC, then when Jessica and he moved to Beverly Hills, then at their wedding in the canyons of Malibu. Twice, we’ve visited Tim and his wife in their beachside community an hour north of LA. And once, after Mike and Jessica moved, we took a road trip from LA to Seattle, visiting with the kids on either end of the journey.

A&C.cali.2014

We wound our way through Big Sur, a dream of mine since I first read On The Road a million years ago. We found out-of-the-way beaches and tall mountains and generally did so much traveling to places I’m not sure we’d ever have seen had our children not moved west. And we plan more silver lining places: Vancouver this summer, maybe the Canadian Rockies or Alaska or both, next.

Which makes me think suddenly that there’s another silver lining especially for me in all this. I’m finally getting serious about becoming fit enough to venture afoot to all the places I still want to see in this wide world.