Category Archives: Midlife Life

Giving Up or Letting Go

Woman, Face, Head, Hand, Write, Glass, Word, Letting Go

I went to bed early last night. Really early. I think it was 6:45. I asked my daughter to tell her dad that I loved him when he got home. I tried to stay up. I grew impatient with my body and that impatience was expressed in snips of angry words and frustration.

Everything seemed loud: the dogs’ scampering paws on the floor; the noise my daughter made as she prepared a snack; the cat’s meows; the nagging inside my head. Especially the nagging inside my head.

That nagging, I know it well. The voice that says, “Push! Just get it done. You haven’t finished this, that, or the other thing. ” The voice that lies and tells me everything is urgent when I know it isn’t. That voice, the one I’ve fought with but given into so many times.

Except, last night. Last night it didn’t win. I did.

I wanted to make a family dinner and sit as a family. I (we) didn’t.

I wanted to get some more work done on our remodeling project. I didn’t.

I wanted to do the laundry and get it all folded. I didn’t.

I wanted to get an hour of reading (at least) done. I didn’t.

I wanted to share some quiet time with my husband. I didn’t.

I wanted to write last night. I didn’t.

I wanted to…. (fill in the blank.) I didn’t.

In fact, the only thing I did get done was the one thing I deemed important, and that was giving the old cat his subcutaneous fluids. Yep, after I sifted through my long, and incomplete, to-do list, I decided the cat would be granted the only additional check-mark on that list.

I crawled up to bed. My body was achy. I was running a small fever. I needed to sleep. Despite the disapproving voice inside my head, I gave up.

I gave up on the rest of it, including pushing myself to stay up “just long enough” to say goodnight to my husband.  I gave up on the laundry and the remodel. I gave up on the family dinner and the reading. I gave up on trying to write. Other than the cat’s fluids, I gave up on everything left undone on my to-do list. I gave up on all of it last night.

Except, I didn’t.

At the start of every month, I set out my monthly goals, with the plan that I will have hit my bigger annual goals by meeting my incremental goals along the way. At the end of last year, I said I wanted 2019 to be my year for a health-makeover. In many ways, planned and unplanned (more about that another time), it has been. In keeping with that larger goal, I listed self-care as one of my (broad) goals for November. Self-care means taking time for me to do those things that fill my bucket. I enjoy meditating, but it can (far too often) be deleted off my list of to-dos when my schedule gets busy; same with reading, writing, walking, visits with friends, time with my family, eating healthy, doing my hobbies, etc.  Self-care is far too easily and too often discarded when that voice inside my head gets loud.

Except, last night it wasn’t.

Last night, I went to bed early. I didn’t give up; I let go. I let go of the expectations I had placed on myself and opted, instead, to honor the goal I set almost a year ago. A “health-makeover” isn’t a one-day-and-done goal, but is, instead, an on-going mindset. There are steps forward and, on occasion, steps back. Last night, I stepped forward. I quieted the voice that tells me to push until the work is done and focused on a bigger project; ME.

Last night’s win, however, was met by a bigger challenge this morning. Would I beat myself up when I had to add yesterday’s to-dos to today’s to-do’s? I was rested, very well-rested, and ready to tackle my to-do list. Nonetheless and very out of character, I avoided peeking at my calendar for a long time this morning. I sipped my coffee. I enjoyed the rays of sunshine bouncing off the new living room floor. I indulged in a very, very long hot shower(thanks, tankless water heater!), and even did some training with the dogs before I cracked open my planner. And, perhaps that long delay was just what was needed to let go of any hidden negative self-judgment. Before peeking at my calendar, I first looked at my November goal planning sheet. Last night, I let go and, in doing so, made the best choice possible to meet one of my November and annual goals.

Sometimes, giving up gives us the freedom we need to let go.

Something Shifted and Sh*t Came Up

OK, confession time. I swear. A lot. But, I don’t swear around friends who don’t swear, and I never swear around people I don’t know or in a professional setting. I rarely swear in public and if I do, I do it quietly and only with close friends. I never swore around my girls until the youngest was almost out of high school, by which time I had also lifted the ban on their use of “gutter language” (with some exceptions.)

Still, when you come downstairs at 5 in the morning on a Saturday, after just having finished your shower, looking forward to writing and a cup of strong coffee, and then notice the toilet paper stand and the bathroom garbage can in the hallway, you can’t say much but, “Ah, sh*t!”

My husband, who works Tuesday through Saturday, discovered the backed-up toilet first. The water had already dissipated. In fact, he assumed the wadded toilet paper on the floor was simply evidence left behind by a mischevious puppy. Alas, it was not, it was our plumbing mainline, again.  The same mainline that was our nemesis when we first bought our house almost 19 years ago. During the first 18 months in our home, the mainline backed up pretty regularly. At the time, I was running my business from home and was grateful my husband was a stay-at-home full-time dad. I was also grateful for his skills. Before my husband and I met, he was the co-owner of a septic system business and knew well what needed to be done to repair our faulty mainline.  It would be both time-consuming and physically demanding, but he did it. He dug up the front yard, removed the old, long-established juniper bushes and their extensive network of invasive roots. Next came removing and replacing a section of the old clay pipe mainline that had been wildly destroyed by those roots. At the same time, he also installed a new clean-out access point so he’d no longer have to crawl under the house to clean out the backed-up pipe. His work served us well in that the backed-up toilet paper, etc, came up in the front yard this morning, at the clean-out access point, as designed.

After cleaning up and disinfecting the bathroom floor, we had only a few moments to connect before he headed out the door this morning. What did he think caused the mainline to back up again, I wondered. Just under two months ago, the night before we left on vacation, the toilet had backed up. But, using a garden hose, he cleaned out the line quickly, taught our daughters what to do in the event of a repeat while we were gone, and we left on vacation with the assumption that perhaps too much sheetrock dust (from our current remodel project) was washed down the sink and caused a plug.  Sadly, it would appear that was not the case. Ah, the joys of homeownership!

Before leaving for work he told me he suspects the seam between the pipes he’d put in (and long worried about because the ground beneath hadn’t been packed to his liking when reburied) shifted creating a gap at the connection. Tonight, as before, he tried flushing the system, but his troubleshooting made it clear he’ll be digging again tomorrow. Something shifted and sh*t came up.  And, whatever is going on can’t be ignored.

Who would have guessed our mainline could be such a graphic metaphor for life? Still, the message from this unwelcomed event was clear: when we make shifts in life, unexpected sh*t often comes up for us to examine. And, like a plugged mainline, we don’t necessarily plan for that sh*t, but we still have to deal with it. It demands both our attention and action, often stinking up other areas in our life until we repair the broken pieces.

More than once in my life, I’ve made some big and positive shifts for my mental and physical health. And, more than once, I’ve had to clean up and clean out old beliefs, patterns, and demons I’ve kept stashed away. The work is often messy and uncomfortable. It is rarely quick. It is rarely linear. But, it is absolutely necessary if I’m to fully benefit from any change or shift in my life. I’ve yet to find a way to clean out the old sh*t without bringing it up first. Still, once it’s been brought up and cleaned out life –no, me–I work better once I’ve flushed what no longer serves me.

Today’s plumbing adventure got me thinking. Life is, once again, on the cusp of some changes. There’s been this itchiness under my skin, not bad, but unrelenting. I haven’t slowed down long to pay enough attention to the messages, kind of like I didn’t pay attention to the slower flush of the toilet. Maybe I’ve been trying to ignore it back into the dark. Old patterns, even if uncomfortable, are at least familiar. Maybe that’s what’s been stirring my desire to write again. Perhaps my own mainline is plugging up.  It seems I may have some digging of my own to do.

Well played, old mainline, well played.

Tomorrow morning, rather than continuing the work on our large remodeling project, my husband will be digging up the frozen ground in our front yard. Say a prayer, if you would, that his work goes easily, that our old house doesn’t feel the need to demand any other unexpected repairs during this remodel, and that I manage to keep my language and patience in check during this small shift in plans.