The “Art” of Moving

There definitely is an art to moving. In fact many industries have been born around this art form. I have successfully arrived on the other side of my move but find that as hard as I worked for the last 13 months, so much more work lies ahead. Do you know that feeling? I’m so glad to be on the other side of the move, meaning I have arrived in AZ. I moved into a furnished and fully stocked condo while trying to sell my condo in the northeast. A few pieces of furniture remain back home for staging.

Warning: this move cost thousands and thousands of dollars. I have broken it down into phases which possibly was not the best way to do it and may have cost a lot more in the end but that is how I needed to do it. Every move, like each child we bring into this world, has its own unique set of challenges. I have moved so many times in my life that I considered myself to be a pretty experienced mover. However, this one is possibly the most challenging one of all.

When I was married and had just given birth to my first son, we were transferred to Tokyo from Brooklyn, NY. As ExPats “the company” provided so much assistance. We had movers and packers and agents to find us housing. In spite of that, moving with a 3 month old baby was not a wise decision. In the end though, it was all worth it because my 3 years in Japan were life changing and provided so much growth.

I have learned that moves are merely outer reflections of our inner growth. As we evolve we may desire different things. Many people would not consider leaving what they have to experience something new, but that’s something I enjoy. It means starting over, over and over again. It means making a life in an unknown place. I always enjoy rising to the challenge but as I get older it is becoming something that is less practical. It took years in my last location to find just the right hair stylist, dentist and doctor. It took many mishaps to get to the right people. That is a big sacrifice when moving. Sometimes, now that I’m here instead of there, I think that returning might be a viable option in a few years. Going backwards though, is usually not a good thing. I chose this area because of the weather and the relaxed atmosphere. I’m going to have to make it my home one way or another. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.

#moving, #transitions, #aging

 

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BC/AC – Before Cancer/After Cancer

My life after breast cancer and how it made me wake up to the realities of my future

In 2013 I had stage 1 breast cancer. It changed the way I see life and it changed all of my decisions thereafter. I hope you have never said what a friend said to me. She said, “Stage 1? That is not even cancer, you had pre cancer, why do you tell people you had cancer”?. I told her to get her facts straight and that DCIS is pre cancer, this was in fact real, malignant, Stage 1 cancer.

An elderly, burnt out sounding, uncaring, cold, male radiologist gave me the results on the phone 3 days after my biopsy. I was stunned by the call. He was a stranger, who had not done the biopsy and he didn’t tell me why the lovely radiologist from 3 days prior, who had promised that she would be the one to give me the results on Thursday, wasn’t calling me instead.  He said, “your biopsy was malignant….let me be clear this is cancer. You do have breast cancer”. Then he wanted me to repeat it back to him so that he was sure I was not in denial about it. There was no concern, no empathy in his voice, no tenderness at all. This was just another annoying phone call he needed to make and cross off of his to do list. I immediately called my PCP hoping for some warmth. When he called back I said, “my biopsy was positive I have breast cancer”.  With a “so what” attitude he said,  “did you want something from me”?  He sounded like he was saying, “so why are you calling me about this?”. “Well…uh…” I thought to myself,  “I guess I don’t want a damn thing from you“.

However, I’m really writing this to say that life has gotten so much better for me since that diagnosis as many people with cancer will tell you. It is the beginning of a new and better life for many, if found early. Of course it depends on the severity of the cancer, the location and the stage. Of course. That almost goes without saying. I felt so blessed to have caught it immediately. In fact, they had been watching that exact spot for 3 years. “What”!? I look back at earlier mammograms, 2010, 2011, 2012, “3:00 L Breast, blah, blah, blah, we are concerned, have her come back in 6 months”. I suppose they cannot remove every lesion when it’s still benign and I did move a few times during that time, so did not have consistency in my medical care, but I did have consistent mammograms. It was after an extremely stressful time that it became malignant. My father had just died and there had been turmoil in my life at work and other areas.

PLEASE don’t misunderstand. I know that I am fortunate compared to many. As a social worker I have heard countless stories of stage 2, 3 and 4 cancers of all kinds with mets, chemo treatments and I never had any of that. I had a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation, 5x/ week. On the other hand, I cannot tell you how much it hurt when that person said “you didn’t even have cancer, your cancer was a pre cancer” and if that were true it would be one thing, but it wasn’t. People often do say all the wrong things but that is not what I intended to write about here.

Breast cancer, as you have heard from others or experienced yourself, was a tremendous blessing in my life. Cancer woke me up to many realities. Anyone who has gone through this will tell you that there are either constant thoughts afterward like, “it happened once, it can happen again” or “my body mutated into a cancerous mass so why wouldn’t it happen again?” Or “if the radiation zapped this part won’t the cancer grow outside of those boundaries since it’s unlikely to come back within that square that they radiated?” (so very close to the heart on the left side). The wake up call is about pending, looming death.

After all the treatments were over I was euphoric for months. The reason I went for that overdue mammogram was because a close friend had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and I remembered that I was behind schedule and needed to get it done. He is gone now. He died at 48 in 2014 and it was heartbreaking to all of us who knew him.  After my diagnosis, we talked on the phone weekly and we called it our “cancer chat”. I knew I was very lucky that I caught it early. I felt ridiculous talking about my little stage one when he had mets and suffered so much with chemo, chest tubes and multiple admissions to the hospital. Mine was nothing compared to his. But he said it made him feel better to check on me to see how I was and we helped each other. He had felt ill for years and chose to take a non traditional route rather than get a medical diagnosis for several years. I am not sure that it made much difference, I think the end would have been the same either way. He walked around probably for years without knowing that he had lung cancer but he had symptoms.

I took that trip to France I always dreamed of after radiation was over and counted my blessings. I went with a choir to Rouen and Paris. It was my first trip to Europe. I sang my heart out in magnificent Cathedrals in France that summer. I enjoyed seeing my eldest son get married to my beautiful daughter-in-law and was thankful, thankful, thankful all the time. I contacted old, lost friends. I had visitors after the surgery, in my home. People were good, they were kind, they helped. I did the renovations in the house that I had wanted to do. I lost a job at that time but I gained a life. I went into private practice and became my own boss. I built my practice during radiation and it grew! The things we do, that we can’t believe we did, when we look back.

I came to terms with the most difficult issue in my life. My autistic son’s need for a future plan. What will he do when I’m gone? Where will he live? How will he function in the world? He was so dependent at 23 at the time. Now he is 26. He was terrified as I went through all of this because he knew that his future was so vague. Who would take care of him?

Fast forward 3 years and we are in a better place with this issue of planning for his future. It’s a complicated and convoluted road. Finding housing and services for an autistic adult who cannot manage independently is costly and there are few good options. We have a plan now. Since I wanted to move west I looked for programs in the state where I wanted to live because after cancer I decided that my needs mattered too. After 26 years of being a caretaker I have decided that my needs matter very much because if I put myself first I will be alive longer and both of my sons need me to be. There are people that hope that I will be around for awhile and so do I. I want my life to feel good and to be my own creation. So I’m making that happen and I’m making sure that my younger son has all the possible opportunities to become as independent as is possible in his case. He’ll attend a 2 year program that will help with that in the state that I want to move to. So we are moving int he right direction and deep down I know, it’s all because of cancer.

When Friendships End

This is a topic that is rarely spoken about. Sometimes even after many years, a friendship cannot continue. One person grows in a different direction or too many incidents happen that are unacceptable to one or both people and the friendship no longer brings joy. To me, friendship should be a happy union of two people that grows with time and withstands all of the tests. There needs to be acceptance of flaws but underneath it all there needs to be love. One has to feel loved for who they are in order to gain from the friendship. I have noticed that there are some people that I outgrow and what was once tolerable isn’t anymore. I also know that others have let me go and yes, it hurts, and you always wonder why, but it’s best to stay neutral about the whole thing and remember what was pleasant and good in the friendship during it’s “lifetime”.

Some people keep their friends from high school and college but not all do. If you have moved often and lived in different places as I have, there isn’t a common ground with those who you once shared a job with or a town or an experience. Then there are those friends that seem to last forever and you come to cherish them more with time because of the longevity. There are friendships that were cut short by death and you never forget them, especially during the holidays or at times when you would have seen them. The world isn’t the same without them in it. That just shows how unique each one of us is and how we can be touched by a person who comes into our life. That must mean that we also touch others in ways that we don’t even know.

In my experience, we find activities early on in friendships that become a ritual for a period of time. You might be one of those people that have kept the same friends throughout your lifetime and keep up certain rituals with them, but I have travelled through many experiences and places and homes in such a short time and have known so many different people as a result.

I have come to value those people who have remained in my life through all the twists and turns. Especially those who “knew me when”. The rare person who has known me through decades of my life holds a special place.The ones who knew me when my children were young, or during or after my divorce are the most precious to me. Those who were part of the spiritual community I belonged to in NYC can never be replaced because of all that we went through together.

As we age we have memories to keep. No one really knows what they are unless we choose to talk about them. Even if we do try to explain, it’s so hard to convey what we feel or see of that memory. They are the precious gems that we store. They have no physical shape and cannot be stolen from us. Locked away in every person is a large storage room of memories to be sifted through from time to time. There might be photographs to memorialize them but as we look at photos we remember all the other details of what was going on at the time. Behind a seemingly happy family photo might be memories of turmoil and misery.  Or we might discount all that and appreciate now what we didn’t at the time. We are ever evolving souls that morph and change and reinvent ourselves all the time. Some of us do that at faster rates than others but in the end, we’re all growing and moving toward something that is greater than ourselves. In the process we hit against other marbles, learn what we need to learn and then move on. What kind of marble are you? Do you mostly stay in one circle? Is your radius small or large? I believe I am a very colorful marble that cannot sit still for long and rolls in and out of circles always looking for its tribe. Perhaps someday I’ll find a community of similarly bright and colorful marbles who have rolled around the earth many times as well and then I can settle down and stop moving.

 

Trajectory

How can we change the trajectory of our life’s decisions? What can we still do today that will undue the damage from past decisions that we might regret? Conversely, what can we change today that will take us onto a new trajectory ending at a better place.

This is one of my favorite words in the English language. Trajectory.

tra·jec·to·ry
trəˈjekt(ə)rē/
noun
1.
the path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given forces.
“the missile’s trajectory was preset”
synonyms: course, path, route, track, line, orbit
“the missile’s trajectory”

The reason I love this word is that it describes how we make decisions that lead us on a journey to an endpoint.

Or we decide to get off of that trajectory and take a different course of action.

Or by taking a different course of action we can reach the end point faster.

At “this stage of life”, between 50 and 70 years old, how can we change the trajectory of our life’s decisions? What can we still do today that will undue the damage from past decisions that we might regret? Conversely, what can we change today that will take us onto a new trajectory ending at a better place.

There is also this other reality in life. Things often don’t go according to plan. We have some control but not total control. No matter how hard we try, life can interfere with our plans. I googled the saying, “Man Plans and God Laughs”, to see where it came from. I was led to this Yiddish Proverb:

“Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht”.
Man plans and God laughs.
English equivalent; Man proposes, God disposes.

We can try to take control over our lives. By doing that we start out on a healthier track. Then something unexpected happens and we are thrown off course. Reality steps in and we have some challenges in order to keep going on the same trajectory. This is the conundrum and it is what makes life so interesting. We can choose how we will react to those challenges and whether or not we will let them interfere.How often have you said or a friend said, “I was doing so well, I was on course and then….”. We are frequently thrown off course, by a crisis, a break in routine (like a trip), an injury and other unexpected curve balls. It’s important to be resilient enough to get back on course whenever possible.

All we can do is to try to set up new trajectories for our lives as needed and expect that things won’t always go according to plan. When everything seems to go seamlessly we can be grateful. I am often sidetracked from my goals. There are so many distractions and staying motivated can be challenging. If we remember what our original idea was and where we thought we would end up then this image of a curved line from point A to point B might help us stay on track or get back to the original goal. Reaching goals doesn’t always equate with happiness. The excitement is in choosing the goal and working on it. There might be one moment where we feel a peak emotion (ie. reaching a goal weight, winning an award, getting a medal, etc) but all the rest is just daily life. The way we choose to use our time is somewhat up to us.

Younger people have many years to experiment with this. At our more advanced age we have hopefully come to know ourselves better. We know whether we are good at this or not and where our weaknesses and strengths lie. Some move through life wanting immediate gratification without a thought as to what the consequences are. Then there are those at the other extreme who might be overly cautious and don’t allow themselves to enjoy life or to take any risks at all. Knowing where you are on that spectrum helps. You don’t need to change and become a different person, instead you can respect how and who you are and work from there. Most goals stem from a desire to be happier once they are achieved. What goals did you set up in the past and reach? Did those achievements make you happier with your life? What can you learn about yourself from the successful ventures and the unsuccessful ones? What have you been really good at? What did you enjoy the most about those journeys?

You can use this image of a curved line stemming from the decisions you make now to help create your future.

Sharing my Reality

I should make it clear that sometimes I can sound like I’m “telling you the way it is”. I don’t mean to do that at all. I hope that what I share here will resonate with some readers. We can never touch everyone in the same way, but sometimes we might say something that seems small and it could have a big impact on another human being. Aren’t most of us really looking for a shared experience? Have you ever described something near and dear to your heart only to get a blank look from the listener?  Either they weren’t listening or they seem to have no idea what you’re talking about. Every once in awhile though,we may actually touch someone with our words and it’s a gift to both of us.

What motivated me to write this blog is to have others join me in my current journey through this stage of life, (thus the title of my blog). I am at one of those crossroads. I realize that some people have kept things constant in their lives and may actually come to this point in time feeling very gratified and fulfilled. This blog is probably not for that person.

I have never been a content person. I’ve often left bad situations rather than stay in them because it seemed like needless suffering to me. Looking back I walked away without a fight. There were things I wanted to stand up for, and didn’t. Many people make the opposite choice and stay in bad marriages, jobs and relationships. My marriage is an example of how I leave when I’m unhappy. I ended the marriage when my sons were 1 and 3. We had been together for 10 years but married only 6 of those. The relationship was full of red flags before we got married and after the wedding day everything changed for the worst. It wasn’t the person I was married to that was bad, it was a bad match. I had no idea at that time in my life how to judge who would make a good partner and a good person to have children with.

Looking back at our differences, you couldn’t have picked two people more ill suited for each other than us. At the same time, I can understand why we came together because there was also some common ground. We had two sons together and divorce only magnified our differences and our contempt. Those who choose to stay in those situations, (and many do) have other long term effects. The point is, there is no right decision or even better decision from what I can see. Had I stayed, there would have been different problems. I wish I had stayed in the marriage longer, for everyone’s benefit. I was headstrong and determined to leave. Eventually though, I would have ended it.

When I became single at 35 with two very young sons, I didn’t know that my life was about to take such a dramatic new direction as a result of that decision. It did. I learned to manage on my own and to become financially responsible and successful in order to provide my children with as much as I could under the circumstances. I also delved into a spiritual journey. I used my spiritual community as my main support. I got the answers I needed there. I got the inner guidance from my daily spiritual practice. I made lasting friendships with like minded individuals. I could not have had as much success with my individual quest without all the spiritual seeking that I did in those years.

Now when I meet women who are becoming single for the first time in their lives in their 50s or 60s, I can appreciate all that I had to learn quickly and under pressure at a younger age. The women that have to do that now, at this time in their lives due to divorce or death of spouse, have challenges that I didn’t have. I had youth on my side when it happened to me. They don’t. I have known some very resilient women that come up with creative ways to make it in the world in their later years after loss. It is sad though when I meet some along the way who are struggling to make ends meet because they never paid attention to financial matters and now are being forced to. How can a person enjoy single life in these later years if daily survival is the main issue?

I don’t have any family members beyond my two sons that can offer emotional or practical support. I have very little contact with the relatives who were part of my childhood and some have passed on. Friends die too. Some just move away. I currently live in a small town in the northeast where people are close to family and friends from childhood. My life experience has been the complete opposite and I feel that I have never fit in here. I kept trying to make it work until I realized, or someone pointed out to me, that I was trying to make the impossible possible. So once again I’m moving on.

This stage of transition is all too familiar to me. It’s about detachment and loss. It’s the phase of leaving one area but not arriving in the new area yet. It’s the array of feelings, senses and thoughts that go along with that. Was my life meaningful here? Did I make a difference? Who did I help? Who helped me? Could I have done more? What didn’t I do that I can do in the next place?

My younger son is autistic. I’m looking for places for him to get some transitional training in areas where I would like to live. So far he has been living with me and is dependent on me financially and for many other supports. This will free me up to have a more normal experience at this stage of life. I won’t be a 24/7 caretaker anymore. It feels frightening and exciting at the same time. I have doubts and enthusiasm all at once. I don’t want to get too excited in case he has to come back home after the 2 years. The program is supposed to teach him to be better able to live on his own but that will remain to be seen based on his limitations and what’s available. I’ve managed to work my life around his and without him being at the center, I think all things are possible for me again. I will write more about this as we go along. Government assisted housing for Autistic Adults is a major lack in this country. The cost of care is left to the parents and siblings. Only those who can afford to help can provide their children with suitable situations. Those who can’t are placed in the wrong level of care and are treated improperly. If you care to know more about this topic go to http://www.autismhousingnetwork.org

 

#aging #transitions #moving west #retirement #pre-retirement #agingsingle #parenting disabledadults  #caretaker #autism

There is nothing useful about saying “I used to be…”

Many of us in this age bracket can fall into the trap of living in the past. “I used to be able to do that”, I often say. Or “I was married once way back when”. Or the ones I am most known for are “I used to be a dancer; I used to be a figure skater; I used to be fit; I used to be active; I used to live in NYC”. I guess the only things that those statements are good for are to divert the attention away from how awful and boring I have become as I passed 55 and am hovering around the pending and looming Six Oh. I will hold onto 59 as long as I can because who in the world wants to be in their 60s?

I met a woman in CO who wrote a book about how wonderful her life was after menopause. She says the “pounds came pouring off” and her marriage ended leaving her to really find her true self. Well that is all well and good for her but Menopause is about the worst thing I have ever experienced. In many ways it has been the beginning of the end for me. The drop in Serotonin levels made me more depressed than I was before, my weight soared without provocation and losing the pounds seems near impossible now. The fatigue has been immobilizing at times and well…if you want me to put a positive spin on Menopause, I won’t. No one ever told us the truth about this. I wish I had known some facts. I turn to Jane Fonda for my information about this later phase of life.

But we travel through the phases of our lives with ourselves. There may be some of the same people in our life that were there in the past and some may havec drifted off, but one thing is always consistent. We are still here with ourself. That can be a good thing if you can see good qualities in yourself. I rather prefer my own company to anyone else’s so it works for me. I think I’m a hoot to be with. I make myself laugh.

But back to the topic, as I look at this fit young women at the gym doing these very complex things with machines and weights, I think “I was like that too at that age”. Or “I was just like that once”, but I am not anything like that anymore. There is a moment of remorse and then I quickly recover, because what is the point of living in the past? It cannot move you forward at all. I have to set a baseline now for where I am in all areas of my life and then work from there. There really is no other way. It’s nice to know that I was once so much better but I honestly can’t say I was happier because of that.

What was the happiest time in your life? For me, besides the day I held my first born son after an excruciating birth, it was a particular day when I was 17. I had achieved success in many areas of my life and had reached many of my goals after always being the underachiever. It was a night when I was ice dancing and had tested in  front of judges and had passed all of the tests. I was being praised by the judges and had reached a goal weight after much work. I had learned that nothing comes without effort and if you do the work it always pays off. It was a lesson for life that served me well in terms of achieving. But at this stage of life, how important are goals and achievements to us? I don’t have an answer to that. I’m sure it varies from person to person. Those who were particularly goal oriented throughout their lives probably continue to be. For me, there it’s taken a back seat to just enjoying the day. My priorities are changing. I am able to take moments to appreciate the very smallest things like my cat staring out the back sliders as she breathes in a little fresh air through the screen. It is this unseasonably warm weather in the northeast while also looking at trees turning to indescribable colors in the yellow and orange families. It’s appreciating being cancer free in this moment until someone tells me otherwise. It’s having choices and options that I never had before. There are some pleasant sensations while staying in the moment. It doesn’t have to be all bad.

 

 

Let me be real

Here is my story up to this time in life. I write for the 50-70 year old set. I hope my story helps someone else.

When I was younger I did a lot of writing, took writing classes and have always enjoyed writing throughout my life. I thought I “knew my voice” on paper but now I realize that I am searching for my voice. The voice that I had in that freshman year course at Ithaca College in 1976 is not my voice anymore. I remember her. I’m not her anymore. The essence is there but life experiences have changed me. She was in love. I am not.

I think it would be better if I just share with you what my current situation is and how this stage of life is affecting me. At first, when I started this blog I thought I would come from a professional angle. Then I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to say at all or the audience that I wanted to reach. I just want to share my story and see if it helps anyone or if it touches someone in any way.

I am 59. there I said it. Some say “no need to tell your age or to keep repeating your age to yourself”. But I think it’s relevant here because I’m right in the middle of the 50-70 year old range. The 50s went by so fast. I was young at 50. I was young at 52, but something happened around 53 that I had never anticipated. My body began to really fall apart. I had taken good care of it. I had eaten healthy foods, and had been pretty athletic throughout my life. Because of all of my athletic pursuits, my body began to strike back. I had multiple injuries, illness, balance issues. Lots of work ups at the doctor’s office. The main issues have been breast cancer in 2013 and Lyme Disease in 2016.

I have been a single mother since 1992 when my kids were 1 and 3 years old. That has taken its toll too. On top of that, my youngest son, now 26 is autistic and my older son, 28, has had his share of mental health challenges as well. For many years I worked 2 and 3 jobs and tried to juggle their multiple special needs at school,  and at the many doctor’s appointments. There were therapists, psychiatrists, geneticists and endocrinologists for the kids. It was really hard. Looking back, it was impossible to achieve what I was trying to achieve, which was…perfection?

It wasn’t a fun life. It was quite the opposite and yet I managed to make it very meaningful and full of great memories in spite of it all. Post divorce, I found a spiritual path that helped me to stay on track and to not give up hope. I became extremely involved in that path and spent hours at the spiritual center at classes as well as teaching and guiding others while also being guided and helped in tremendous ways. We went to seminars all over the country and I managed to get to these several times/year. It saved my life, literally, and helped me to keep going.

Then 2010 happened. Life turned upside down again. But then I put the pieces together. I relocated to a new state. I got licensed in that state in my field. I found work. I bought a townhouse. Life was pretty good for awhile. I lost both parents in 3 years with lots of drama and turmoil associated with each death. My son got married and moved away. He graduated from college and grad school between then and now and has been in his field of work for 3 years.

Where am I today, you ask? It’s the end of 2016 and I’m anticipating a move across the country. I wanted this blog to be about that. I wanted to share my journey with you, the reader and to hear about yours too. Like everyone else I feel disconnected and seek more connection in my life. I want to be part of a community but cannot find a community that I want to be part of. I sort of fit in one place but “not really”. I kind of fit “there” but “not really there either”. My mother used to say I was the “princess and the pea” and I think that is so accurate. I can never really get comfortable and I can feel the tiniest pea at the bottom of my mattress which would keep me awake all night. I am hypersensitive and have learned to appreciate that about myself. My intuition is not my enemy but I’ve learned to keep my inner thoughts quiet because I can rarely get agreement from others but I am right sometimes. Not always. It’s better not to have opinions about others’ situations and to remain neutral. As for my own, it’s best to follow my gut. I am often right about what I need to do for me.