Unexpected Adventure

I looked at the quote on our home page today. Adventure definitely is an attitude we need to get through day to day life. Sometimes, our adventures are a result of someone else’s.

My third marriage is ending. We’ve been together 10 years, married for 8.5 years. I always felt like there was ‘something’ that kept my husband from being close to me. He wasn’t able to talk about feelings. He couldn’t tell me why he loved me, saying, “I just do – isn’t that enough?” There wasn’t any intimacy. We lived as roommates.

Five years ago, I started to count down the days until my son graduated. I’d already left his dad and I wasn’t going to break up his family again until he was done high school. My husband knew how I felt. It still wasn’t enough to make him realize our relationship wasn’t working. We argued – a lot. He always said something worth having is worth fighting for. “Bickering” was normal.

We finally decided we weren’t giving each other what each person needed and opened our marriage. Little did I know where this would lead.

It turns out, my husband is interested in men. At first, he believed he was bi-sexual, but it’s becoming more and more apparent he’s gay. He hasn’t dated a woman in over a year. He started smoking pot because it’s what one of his friends does, he bought a motorbike because another friend rides them – it was like living with a 14 year old again. A month after I moved out, he asked one of his friends to move in with him – not as a roommate but as a partner.

It explains so much about our relationship – his inability to be authentic with me, to feel and express his emotions, the lack of intimacy. He was living his own lie and not being honest with himself. How could he be honest with me?

So, here I am, 54 years old and starting over – again. I thought I’d be retiring in 5 years, not paying off another mortgage. I’m happy my husband has realized who he really is, and at the same time, I’d like him to take ownership of how repressing his sexuality affected our relationship. He doesn’t see how the two are related.

I’ve had over a year to process my feelings. I don’t miss living with him. I don’t miss the house or the yard – and I thought I would. I love the condo I’ve bought. I love living two minutes from the lake. I love the freedom of being able to do things and not be told I’m doing it wrong, or being given a “pro tip” to do it differently. I love that his partner/roommate loves dogs and is happy to have Keo visit a couple of times a week to play in the big yard.

I’m starting this adventure because of the one he’s realized, and started, for himself. It’s not what I had planned when we married, but it’s our reality. I could choose to wallow in the grief of ending another long-term relationship, or the unfairness I felt, but that’s not me. Sure, I felt that for awhile; it’s natural. Being on my own has given me a sense of freedom and “lightness” I haven’t felt in a long time.

I’m embracing the rediscovery of “me”. Doing what I like, when I like. Making decisions that are for me alone without having to consider anyone else. Midlife is not only arising, it’s propelling me forward in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Finding my “self” is the biggest adventure of all.

White Blood Cells

May’s theme is to “Follow Your Dreams”

Laying in Savasana (Corpse Pose)

There is a body. It’s laying on a carpet of green grass in what appears to be a room in a house. It’s face up, hands with palms up and at its side. I can’t see the face clearly.The cavity of the body is open and I can see the internal organs. On the right mid abdomen side I see what I think is the kidneys but it is made up of white milky egg-like objects. They are translucent and bunched together like grapes.

The view shifts and I am in another room talking to someone. I am frustrated and angry that I had to go pick up the body from somewhere else. The person says that the body has lost its memory. I don’t understand the comment as I saw the white egg-like objects. I understood that they were its memories.

I woke up at that moment confused. I wanted more dreams and here is a doozy. Not really clear as usual but interesting enough to want to pick apart.

I just happen to still be my dream yoga class. Yesterday, we used the Kundalini system to analyze our latest dream edition.Using the method the first thing I did was write down as much as I could remember of the dream, date it and sign it. The next step is to describe what was going on prior to having the dream.

A couple of things have been coming up for me lately. One, I have been thinking about my relationship with my dad. It wasn’t a great one. He was loud and a lot of the time it was embarrassing to be with him in public. You tended to try and distance yourself and hide when you were with him. He put himself first most of the time. That made it difficult to grow any feelings of being supported or safe when you were with him. Since I had rescued him several times throughout the years I could easily understand if the corpse was his and I resented having to go get it. 

I have also been struggling with getting the COVID vaccine. I do want to travel, I want this pandemic to go away and I want some sense of being free to connect with others to return. The type of vaccine available for someone like me in my area is controversial. There have been some reported cases of people dying from getting it. I am reluctant to put myself in that scenario.I am not an expert here. I can only make decision on the type of vaccine for me and no one else.

Conscious Concerns- The body is frozen in place at the moment, corpse like in pose. The memory of something seems to be missing. The lack of “motion” has become “emotional”.I have been worried about getting the wrong type of vaccine and having negative consequences. Being pressured into it and regretting the outcome. I have been frozen in fear,reluctance and lack of trust.

Picking of three symbols- Memory loss, White Cells, The Corpse Pose

Memory Loss-

What had I forgotten? During the class exercises it hit me clear as day. For the first 4 years of my life I was isolated in doors. I was born with low white blood cells and had low immunity to childhood diseases. I haven’t had any normal childhood infections like chicken pox or measles. I have lived this type of pandemic existence before as a child. I had forgotten. I required outside medical intervention to grow more white blood cells and increase my ability to be immune. Being closed off from others had triggered this experience to come up for me.

White Cells

Through the class I started to understand what the white milky like eggs were. White Blood Cells are essential to fighting off bacteria and infections. They rush in to help fight off illness. The dream reminded me that I have had a history of needing help to fight off infections in the past and that this time was no different. Whoa right?

The Corpse

If you are a yoga type you know this pose and enjoy the Savasanas. What I have been missing is the connection to the pose and what it does for you. Lying in corpse pose and practicing savasanas helps to calm you. Induces relaxation and peace to help distance yourself from your emotions. Think about the circumstances in a clear and rational way. The body wasn’t my dads, it was mine. I should know this by now as every time I am more than one person in the dream I can’t make out faces or gender of the “mystery person”.

Putting it into action

It’s ok to be frightened and cautious of the type of vaccine you get. Do your homework and decide what is best for you by yourself. Be informed and choose what feels right. Remember you have tools and practices that have become life changing. My husband mentioned to me that I have started to chant or hum in my sleep. My inner guru must be working overtime to keep me on the right track. I was bummed that he didn’t recognize the melody or that he didn’t tape it. I said next time to please record it as I would love to know which mantra is being repeated when I am unconscious. 

Surrender control and trust that you are making the right choice by getting vaccinated. You will be able to reduce isolation sooner and start building the community you crave. I want to stay open and willing. I have been given the opportunity before. I am a walking example of being born without immunity and by the gift of science and medicine being given a second chance.

My dreams have become essential gifts of wisdom and knowledge. I eagerly await the opportunities to learn and grow from them. We, at midlifearieses.ca have dedicated the month of May to following our dreams. I hope you will join us in this adventure!

Namaste.

Community

Beach at Yasodhara ashram.

Community Support

What’s next for me? I have been thinking about what I want to do and how I plan to contribute. 

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other day. His thinking is that you contribute to society by going to work,don’t complain to outsiders, pay your taxes, obey the rules and mind your own business if you can. He isn’t wrong. 

I have had a chance in my life to see a variety of communities as I travel, work, live in and explore different cultures. I would be curious to see how this pandemic has influenced the communities I adored.

What does it mean to be part of a community? What does it mean to support or be supported by those within a community? Where are you going with this you might be asking?

Here are two examples to help me explain what I mean:

Scenario One:

You have many projects on the go and numerous obligations/commitments that you are currently juggling.Your mom passes away. You are devastated. You contact work and they agree to let you take a couple of weeks off. You are reminded that there are services available to help you and even are sent a link to conveniently take advantage of them. You are also reminded to input your time off in the HR system and if you can make notes on your current projects so that someone else can pick them up if time permits. Sorry for your loss, we are here for you. We have noticed a slip in your productivity lately but we can talk about that when you come back. 

Scenario Two:

I have just come out of a class at the ashram and looked at my phone. My husband texted me that he has been admitted to the hospital with COVID and shows an image of his wrist with a hospital band on it. I don’t have a vehicle with me and no means of leaving the ashram. I am upset. The teacher of the class comes out of the building at that moment and sees me upset. She asked what’s wrong and I told her. She insisted we sit on the steps. She asked me if I have phoned the hospital yet? I haven’t so I do that first. The hospital says my husband was discharged earlier. I phoned home and got no answer. The whole time the teacher is silently sitting beside me with her hand on my shoulder. I turn to her and say that I will be “ok” and she can go. She insists that she will stay until we have a resolution. After contacting my kids and relatives that can go check on my husband, I find out that he was admitted but not for COVID. He had cut himself while trimming a tree and got stitches. I finally got of hold of him and he apologized for the joke. He was making a joke. During the whole ordeal I was experiencing I felt supported by the teacher. She didn’t leave and kept prompting me as to what to do next. Offering encouragement and suggestions and even reminding that even If I did have a means of transportation I couldn’t see him as he would be isolated. She helped me to realize and work through the situation. I had two weeks left in my stay which was good. At home, I would have been isolated from my husband for 14 days. She followed up later and texted me the next day to make sure I was still ok. She let others know that I needed extra support and connected me with them. I was in crisis mode not able to help myself or think through the most practical ways to cope with the stress. I didn’t need to as I had community support to help me.

I realized for the first time in my life what community support entails. I am very independent to a fault and asked very little of others to help me. It’s a learned behavior which has really not been very helpful to say the least. Can you see the difference in what it means to be supported by a community here? I know the scenarios are not the same. Work is work and you really shouldn’t expect anyone to offer that kind of experience in a professional setting. I am curious then, why do we have slogans like “We are in this together?” We are a company that supports mental health? Our foundation is built on trust, empathy and compassion. Hmmmmmmm.

My mother was the 5th person to die in my life in under 4 years. The trauma built up in my mind, body and spirit was overwhelming. Some days it still is. How long does it take to stop griefing? How much time should one take off of work to work through the pain? There isn’t a right answer here. What I have noticed is that it takes time. The more you try to suppress your grief the more time it will take to unravel the impact. You can store it in dark places or “cracks” in your foundation. Just know that It won’t go away permanently. It will probably reappear when you least want it to.

I find myself gathering pockets of community support now that I understand the value it can offer me. I can find it by staying connected to the ashram. I can find it by reaching out to friends and family. I find it often in this community of bloggers, the wonderful ladies I blog with and comments from strangers that I have helped them in some way.  It doesn’t have to be work related though I would challenge you to question the next co-worker or leader that says to you “ I/we am/are here for you”. What do they mean by “here”?

I am reminded of day 2 in quarantine at the ashram. I was told “You have to learn how to trust” and with that “You have to ask for what you need”. Words of wisdom when it comes to understanding of community and being immersed in warmth of genuine support. I don’t blame the corporation for not understanding my state of mental health nor have any expectations of companys to build a genuine state of community support. It would be hard to juggle productivity, profits and being human feelings.

PS. It has taken 7 months to get this far in unravelling my emotions and how much the death of loved ones has contributed to my “coma” state of existence over the last several years. We live in a society of instant resolution to our pain. We numb up with substances and mindless stimulation. It takes courage and discipline to feel raw emotions and work through them until they no longer paralyze you. It’s worth it though. The work is worth it and community support is worth finding and cultivating.

Namaste

Letting Go

Do you ever have moments when you sit back, take stock of your life, and grieve because it’s not what you’d planned? I’m going through that now.

My husband and I have separated. We originally agreed to share the house – me living upstairs and him finishing the basement the way he wanted and living downstairs. We’d share the kitchen and laundry on the main floor. Now, he wants to buy out my portion of the house. I know that mentally and emotionally, it’d be easier. Yet, I’m having a hard time letting go.

I wasn’t supposed to be starting over at this age. We were supposed to be easing into retirement in this home we bought together. I’ve spent 8 years creating a backyard oasis. Last year, we put on a 600 square foot deck that is more a work of art than a wooden structure. I had plans to build a fountain, dry creek, and arbor this summer. We have a beautiful south exposure and I enjoy being in the yard.

Even after we separated, I wanted to believe we could truly be roommates. It wouldn’t be much different than how we’ve lived the past few years. Now that I’m not trying to salvage our relationship, I see his true colours. He’s stopped trying, too. I doubt we can even be friends going forward.

I’m looking at giving it all up to move into a condo or townhome. I can’t afford to buy him out if I want to retire at a reasonable age. For the last few years, I’ve had the better paying job. Our agreement was always I’d support the majority now and, because he had more in RRSPs, he’d support the majority in our retirement. Now, I have to uproot my life, pare down and purge, move out before my son leaves the house (he wants to stay in the house where he’s grown up), and give up my dog – not many condos accept a 120 pound rottweiler – no matter how friendly he is! I can’t imagine a life where I don’t have my own yard space and it’s been 32 years since I lived without at least one dog.

I’ve spent the past week or so feeling sorry for myself. Last week, my Dad moved into long-term care. He’s completely lost his sight and, after four years of living with me, I can’t take care of him anymore. I could barely leave the house for more than an hour. I’m also coming up to the two year anniversary of my mom’s accidental death, I lost my job in the fall, and now I’m losing the house and neighbourhood I love.

I’ve been working to reframe my thinking. I am truly experiencing Midlife Arising!!

I get to go into the next stage of my life on my terms. It will be the first time I own a home that is what *I* want. The compromises I make will be based on my wants and needs – no one else’s. I can choose where and how I live. If my son decides to come live with me – that’s fine. But, it will definitely be “my house, my rules”.

The neighbourhood isn’t going anywhere. I won’t live here, but I can visit my friends.

Dad is happy in his new home. He feels safe and his needs are met 24/7.

Will I miss this place? Yes. Will I miss putzing in a yard on the weekends? Yes. Will I miss my dog? Absolutely.

Yet, as scary as it is, it’s exciting. I’m thrilled and sad. I’m eager to see what the future holds, and grieving what I thought it would be.

Change is messy. It’s hard. It hurts. Yet, somehow, when we let go of the past, we come out stronger in the future.

Change is Tough

“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus

This quote, along with “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” have been running through my mind a great deal the past while. Do you ever think, “Enough! I’m strong enough! Stop testing me!”?

For the past four years, I’ve been the primary caregiver to my parents. We lost Mom two years ago, and today, I moved my dad into long-term care. I had no idea how difficult the day would be for me. On one hand – he and I are both ready for it. He asked to move. I’m burning out. I know, deep in my heart, it’s the best move for both of us. With his vision loss, he was getting more easily disoriented in the house and it was scaring him. I was responsible for getting his meals, medication, doctor appointments, transportation, and keeping an ear open to make sure he was safe at all times. I couldn’t leave the house for more than an hour or two at a time. We were thrilled when a spot opened at one of the homes we had chosen.

Today was moving day. I thought I’d feel relieved. It’s the last thing I feel. I’m sad because Dad won’t be in the house anymore. As much of a toll as it was taking on me, I feel sad that he won’t be cared for by his family. I feel sad that Dad can’t see what a lovely place he’s at now. He’s got a room that faces the mountains and the airport runway. I know he’s love to sit and watch the planes take off and land. The home has pool tables, plenty of couches for cozy conversation areas, raised gardens outdoors – all things he’d enjoy if he was more able bodied and had his vision.

I’m concerned that he’s going to get disoriented in his new room, despite setting it up much the way he had it at the house. I spent 30 minutes having him walk to/from the bathroom so he felt confident he could find his way on his own. I had to teach him how to “see” with his hands in his new environment – a bit of a challenge for an 83 year old man who is also in cognitive decline.

I worry that he won’t get the care he deserves. I have no reason to believe he won’t, but this is brand new and it’s not me anymore. I need to put faith and trust in others. The people I’ve spoken with the past week, and met today, are lovely people. I’m sure he’ll be well cared for, but I’ll need to hear from him that he’s content.

Dad has to quarantine in his room for 14 days. My niece and I are the only two people who can visit him. His meals and activity workers will spend time with him – but will it be enough stimulation? Will he be bored? How scared is he?

Once quarantine is over, he can leave his room and socialize with others. He will require assistance to get out of his room and into the social areas. Will the staff remember he can’t see? Will they get him out and about? It’s all so new for both of us.

After getting Dad settled and hearing him say, for now, he is happy, we left. I cried all the way home. I feel that I’ve let him down. I know he’d say I haven’t.

It’s tough. Even though it’s a change we were both ready for, and wanted, we’re not prepared for it. Within an hour of getting home, I fell asleep. I can’t remember when I’ve felt this tired. It’s weird not having Dad here. Dinner time came and went. I didn’t have to get him to the table, get his meal ready, and his medication out for him. I don’t hear the TV blasting from his bedroom. There’s an emptiness in the house.

Dad’s move marks the start of more changes. There’s no reason for my roommate and I to live together anymore. I’m free to move. Our mortgage is due and it’s the perfect time for him to buy me out. I’m looking at being a home owner on my own for the first time in my life.

None of this was in the 5 or 10 year plan. Will there ever be a time when my life feels settled, when change isn’t the constant it’s been the past few years? Or, has it always been like this and, as I age, am I simply more aware of it?

So much of how we react to change has to do with mindset and resiliency. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to being a strong, dependable, optimistic woman who can handle whatever life throws at me.

Tonight, I want to be the little girl who misses her dad.

The Offering

The halfway mark coming quickly approaching for my time at the ashram. Time is clocked differently here. At times it seems to stand still at others it disappears in seconds. I have learned so much about myself, about co-existing with others, about living in a dorm like dwelling. If I ever was regretting going away to school and living sorority style then I can check that epic moment off my bucket list…lol.

Some mornings the karma yogis get together for chanting and discussion. There, a question or exercise is posed to carry throughout your day. This morning the discussion was around “What is an offering?” Is there a difference between helping and an offering? What defines the difference?

So what is the difference?

When I look back at my life and think of when I have helped others I had to really ponder whether what I was doing was selfless or self-serving. As I pondered the question during my day of cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, then doing dishes I began to get a glimpse of what I think is the true meaning of the words “offering”.

In the past, I have looked for a form of recognition when I help others. A thankyou,  a word or two about being grateful or recognizing that I did something for them. It didn’t matter what it was from borrowing money, to helping them move, or even taking on the task of caring for a parent or relative in life and then in death. All that time I could have alleviated my resentment for any lack of acknowledgment from others that I did something they should take notice of. As I think about it now I can’t believe my behavior. I have had many opportunities to offer up service to others in need in a form of less self and more service. I can now let go of my self-serving attitude towards doing things for others. It opens my heart to genuine kindness and pure light.

Many may call my “ah ha” moment non-attachment. I am starting to get the meaning of this and what a profound difference it has made in my feelings towards compassion and empathy.

If the next half of my stay here is as life changing as the first I am indeed lucky to have made this shift. Change is hard for many of us. Some of us let fear and the pain of potential loss over power the desire for something more. Change happens whether we participate or self medicate with our heads tucked firmly in the dark corners of our minds. I am loving the light. The warm divine light that sustains me here. The muscle memories are finding new poses. I have unlearned almost as much as I have learned.I know it’s a fraction of what the potential for enlightment can hold space for me. My cleared space has expanded and now reached into the cosmos. 

I am sharing this blog with you today as an offering. May you be healthy. May you be whole.

Om

Cold Splash of Vulnerability

I started the today in the Beach Prayer room. It’s called that because it’s basically on the beach and over looks the lake. I have been a bit nervous about this evenings Satsang as my guide has asked me accompany her on my piano for singing and chanting. I got in one practice and hope I interpret the songs correctly. I started my meditation with the Om Tara I have been working with while sitting in the prayer room. As I sat and chanted I began to think about my 5 senses. Then as I chanted more and wondered why I was thinking of them literally instead of how I use them when going on a shaman journey. They are tools that can help filter out what barriers are coming up for me.

We see many things in our dreams or when journeying or mediating that don’t exist anywhere else. I have smelt sage burning or the perfume of a flower where none should exist. Sound is a conduit to heal I am learning. I have been thinking that I have spent too much time playing music while here. I now know it’s part of meditation.

I didn’t get to play tonight. Part of me is relieved part is bummed. It was determined that I was too new to the ashram and should be able to attend a few more sessions before diving in.

My guide didn’t know this protocol and when she came to tell me she seemed a bit nervous now. She would be playing and leading the session herself. She was told that satsang isn’t about performance it’s about a creating sacred space. She looked vulnerable and I saw that she was learning just like me. We are all on our personal journey. I have seen so much about human interactions here. How to live where all your senses are eager for stimulation.

I started the day in the Beach prayer room and I ended it there also. Sitting in the dark with another karma yogi just after we had took a dip in the ice cold Kootenay lake. All my senses came alive and it felt vulnerable but invigorating at the same time.

I am learning more than I ever thought possible about myself and about how I interact with others. I am learning I can live without a lot of space. Since I only have spotty internet connections I am writing this blog post on my phone. Another first for me to put my thoughts on such a tiny screen.

The mantras are filling me with strength and insight. I am excited to explore them further. OM OM OM

Om Tara Tuttare Ture Soha

Finding a mantra that resonates

The above sandscript translates into english as: praise to Tara who removes all fear and grants all successes. 

I am writing this blog Sunday morning as I sit at the cabin kitchen table. I ponder synchronicity and timing of things. As I struggle with what is the right thing to do in my life I know I have been given a gift by being here in the right moment with the right opportunity. I am aware of this place, stretch of time and state of desire to explore an alternative path.

Every day, my vision is clearing. My space is becoming infinite.  A focus that magnifies aspects of my life, existence and behavior. The first day of arrival I saw a lake and shoreline across the water. The third day I saw a lake, shoreline, road and powerline. By the 5th day I saw a lake, shoreline, signs of life across the water, waves changing colors from white, grey and shades of blue. On the second week I experienced a shift of perspective. I still saw all of those signs of life and more. Everyday I am able to split through a little bit more of the outer layers of my view to start to understand what is really there for me to see.

Sight is an interesting one of the  senses. It takes a tremendous amount of patience and determination to clear many years of conditioning. We learned at a young age to trust what we see. The challenge is, what do you really see and do you trust it?

I chanted the mantra “Om Tara Tuttare Ture Soha” for a moment this morning to give me the words. I opened my eyes and an eagle flew by, swerved and headed back out onto the lake. It’s been snowing this morning so the view is a bit muted against the clouds. When I saw the eagle I stopped writing, grabbed my coat and went outside. I wandered down towards the cliffs and stood out on the summer house balcony below me. Searching for the direction the eagle had gone. It was nowhere to be seen. Sigh, am I so easily distracted? Is this another test of my undisciplined mind?

The heart of the message, in this blog entry, is about discipline, practice and trust in a process. As I learn more about mantras, chanting, symbolism, life seals and life strategy it all comes to nothing if I don’t take the tools and apply them to my healing. Apply them to stripping away the layers of my life experiences. I am starting to feel like those memories have been learned for me and yet they aren’t my now. The mantras and chanting can help me to channel new thought patterns.

In a class we talked about some of the main Gods that the Yasodhara ashram studies such as Shiva, Krishna, Tara and Radha. We went through a mantra that is attached to each and then were asked to work with one that resonated with us.

I chose Tara. More research on the deity provided me with some intuitive reasons why this one was standing out for me. Green Tara ( apparently there are many versions and colors) the goddess of healing energy that brings awareness and relief from negativity, fear and ignorance. She embodies bounty in nature and the energy of growth and regeneration. Sounds like a good goddess to start practicing with don’t you think?

I have a couple more days in quarantine before I will be relocated to the general population. I am excited and nervous. The solitude has been exactly what I needed to gain footing before I join the chaos.

The snow has stopped and I see a patch of blue sky starting to widen. I won’t go chase the eagle as I know it’s moved on. It only wanted me to know, it’s there when I need it. I may, though, find a secluded spot to chant my newly learned mantra and give thanks to Tara and my many blessings that have come to me through the divine light.

Namaste

PS as I proof read the blog post the eagle is back…sigh. My discipline is a work in progress for sure.

Reflective Moments

It’s the last day of a long weekend, and I’m up so the dogs can be fed. I’m also up to enjoy some solitude in my house. Everyone else is asleep. It’s the only time of day where there is absolute quiet and no expectations of me.

When I invited my parents to live with us four years ago, I had no idea how much work it would be. In my mind, I’d pictured fishing trips with my dad, working together in the yard, and going shopping with Mom when she felt like it.

Little did I know it would become an endless parade of medical appointments, that their health would decline so rapidly, or that Mom would die from a massive head injury sustained from a fall in our garage. In the past year, my Dad started to lose his vision and is failing before my eyes.

So much has changed in the past four years in addition to my parents. My marriage ended. My son graduated high school. I found a new partner. I lost my job, and found another. We’re also one year into a global pandemic.

There are days I’m overwhelmed. Most days, I’m grateful. As much work, and at times frustration it’s been, being able to care for my parents at the end of their lives gave me time with them I haven’t had for years. I moved away from home in my early 20’s and never again lived in the same city. Visits were three or four times a year and weekly phone calls.

The job loss was a blessing in disguise. It gave me time to take stock of where I’m at and where I want to go. I realized I’m not ready to retire, despite how much the idea appeals to me. I learned how much I’d ‘muted’ my true self to try to make the marriage work, and began to bring my ‘self’ forward. I examined what it was about me that made me choose partners who, in the end, were not good matches. I can go forward with new self-awareness.

I do not live a conventional life. When we realized our marriage no longer served us as a couple and acknowledged we were – indeed – roommates, my husband and I opened our marriage. Through that, we both found people who give us the relationships we want. When the pandemic hit, he invited my partner to stay with us on his days off so we didn’t have to rent AirBnbs. Both his partner and mine helped us build our deck.

Yesterday, Valentine’s day was marked by formally signing our separation agreement. We’ve decided to stay in the house together, but separate. I occupy the second floor, and he is finishing the basement to live there. We will share the main floor. This arrangement gives us an economical way to live independently of each other, keep the house we like, the yard we love, and our pets. How long it will last, we don’t know. It works for now.

My day is about to start. I hear Dad coughing in his room. Soon, he will need me to guide him to the kitchen, make his breakfast, and get his medications ready for him. The silence will be shattered by the sound of game shows and “The Big Bang Theory” coming from his TV. When my son wakes, he will start chatting and gaming with his friends. This will carry on long after I go to bed.

I cherish these moments of solitude where I can sit in a sunbeam, drink my coffee, and not have any immediate responsibilities. It’s a gentle way to start the day.

Midlife Sandwich

One thing our readers are sure to notice over the next few months is the different experiences Vanessa and I are having in our midlife journeys. While she’s experiencing all the ashram has to teach her, I’m at home learning lessons about caregiving at opposite ends of the life cycle.

One one end, I have an 18 year old son who is still living at home. He’s taking some classes towards a certificate, working part-time, and weightlifting. He’s developing skills and confidence I’ve never seen in him before. It’s a pleasure to watch him become the self-assured young man I always knew was within him.

On the other end, I have my 82 year old dad living with me. While my son needs less and less parenting, my dad requires more. Over the past four years, I have become Dad’s primary caregiver. He’s lost most of his vision and is no longer able to cook or bathe by himself. I take him to all his medical appointments, do his shopping, manage his money, and try to make life as interesting as possible for him.

I’m in a midlife sandwich. How I’d love to be able to leave the house for two months to go do karmic yoga at an ashram; to have the time to be in nature, learning, growing. Right now, I can barely leave the house for an hour. Dad can’t be left alone much longer than that.

At a time when I’m encouraging my son to find his independence, I’m watching my dad lose his. Just this week, Dad asked me to look into nursing homes. He’s starting to get lost in the house because he doesn’t have enough sight to help guide him. He thinks he’s walking in a straight line, but he’s not. He gets disoriented when he finds himself somewhere other than where he wanted to be. It’s frustrating for him and sad for me. This man who always seemed larger than life, who could solve any problem, who was so giving of his time and energy – he’s fading before my eyes.

It’s a time of such mixed emotions. I’m proud of my son. I feel sorry for my dad. I feel guilt that I can’t do more for him. I feel relief knowing he will be in a place that can give him the level of care he needs – and then more guilt because he won’t be living with family. I don’t know if he wants to move because it’s better for him, or if he’s doing it for me.

We all have our own paths to walk. My son is just starting; my dad is near the end. I’m somewhere in the middle.