When I was a senior in high school, I spent a day exploring Yosemite National Park with my classmates. It was a school-arranged “Senior Cut Day.” After an early morning bus ride, we were given freedom to explore at our leisure. At one point, several hours into our day, my friends and I came to a lake. The water was still and inviting. Some friends pawed at the water with bared toes. Some stood back, already resolved to stay on the shore. I didn’t think about or test the water before I leapt, I just went for it. The lake was ice-cold and knocked the breath out of me. I frantically paddled my legs and arms in attempt to warm up. It wasn’t long before I got out of the water, but I’ve never once regretted jumping into that crystal clear lake; the cold bite stayed with me as I walked the trails, leaving me feeling energized and alive.
The lake offered me a life lesson that day: sometimes in life, you dangle a foot and test the waters first, and sometimes you jump right in, armed with the knowledge you can get out whenever you’re ready.
When I renamed my blog, I was certain I was ready to jump in the water and start swimming. But, unexpectedly, I’ve spent more time dangling a toe than swimming. For months, I’ve told myself that writing is a priority while allowing so many other things to take priority in my life.
Over the last several years, I’ve participated in NaBloPoMo, also known as “hell month”, where bloggers challenge themselves to write a post every day during the month of November. Last year, a group of us formed a Facebook support group to cheer each other on as we lumbered toward the finish line. The fellowship of that group was amazing and never failed to make me smile at least once a day, filling my heart with gratitude for the amazing group of women that had welcomed me into their fold.
This year, Ruth, author of Being Brain Healthy, was the first to ask, “Who’s in?” One by one, the responses came in; everyone already had full plates with no room for NaBloPoMo. I responded that I was still thinking it over. I thought about the lack of time I’d made for writing over the last months, ahem, year. I thought about my already full plate, but the water beckoned. The stillness of a night, my silent keyboard, the promise of an invigorating ride–it all called like a that lake in Yosemite.
NaBloPoMo, I’ve discovered, is like a mythical Siren luring me to follow the call. However, with the memory of my long-ago swim in an ice-cold lake fresh in my mind, this year I am jumping in with self-granted permission to get out whenever my arms get too tired or the thrill gives way to chills.
As a focus on thankfulness all month long is customary in my home in November, I’ve decided most of my posts will focus on gratitude. Sure, there will be other things I may choose to write about but, this morning, as I thought about this 30 day writing journey and watched the sun rise, gently highlighting the beauty in my yard as it prepares for its winter slumber, the plants became my teachers.
I was reminded to set my eyes on my abundant blessings. I was mesmerized by the colors as I wandered the yard, grateful for the last glimpse of the deep purple of a late-blooming bellflower…
and a last burst of snapdragons.
Then, there was the deep red leaves holding-fast against the cooler temperatures.
As I moved about the yard, I thanked the garden, now stripped of its bounty, for its abundance despite the challenging growing season.
In late July, I announced my newly renamed page, “Reclaiming Mary”, was coming soon. Like a shot, I set off to work on redesigning and redefining my page. With my daughter by my side, we discussed issues like readability, content, and site design. She wrote posts and created backup files of all my old “Transitioning Mom” posts. I ordered new business cards and created order out of chaos in my filing cabinets and my newly repurposed schoolroom. Busy work kept me busy and kept from the most important task: WRITING.
Fueled with excuses like, “I’m not done redesigning the blog” and “I should take care of that hangnail, right now!” I absolved myself of writing. Time, when spent delaying duty, is not my friend. Enthusiasm morphs into fear when the voices of self-doubt and perfectionism (my ever faithful demons) begin to sing their familiar songs, “Oh, that page looks bad. Really bad.” “Who will want to read this?” “Do you even know what you are doing?”
Far too easily, I stepped away from the keyboard and allowed other tasks to steal my neatly carved out writing time.
Late last week, as I walked around the yard and mulled over what I needed to do to the page to make it “perfect”, I heard a (reasonable) little voice inside my head say, “There is rarely a perfect time to get married, have a baby, or go on the adventure trip of a lifetime, but the world keeps spinning and few regret the leap.” I realized then I needed to jump in the pool again.
Thankfully, before any voice of procrastination derailed my internal pep-talk, the fabulous Ruth, of Cranium Crunches, suggested a “Sing Along” post to our blogging FB group. The directions were simple: post 4 or 5 songs (with lyrics because sing-alongs are great exercises for the brain) that reflect my life as it is, right now. Music, I believe, weaves moments of our lives together, creating a fabric of memories captured in song. More often than not, a song flashes me back to college when my best friend and I sang about “the boys of summer”, or suddenly “sitting on the dock of the bay” with my husband years ago, or dancing once again at the farmer’s market with my little “brown-eyed girl”. Music provides the song track to our mental scrapbooks, becoming another character in our life’s play. This particular prompt has challenged me to be in the moment–this moment– and capture where and who I am today, in this season of life. In music and in life, this is a good season and this prompt, I decided, created the ideal foundation for me to introduce Reclaiming Mary.
Won’t you sing along with me?
DAY 1 by Matthew West
Last December, I was in a bad car accident. Though I had no broken bones and only a few bruises, my primary injury was significant. The impact caused my airbags to deploy with a force that simultaneously saved me from further injury and gave me my 4th concussion in a decade’s time. At the hospital, I secretly reasoned with myself that I had recovered “just fine” previously, and the ER doc released me after the tests showed no bleeding in the brain and I could answer the date and name the current president (or something like that. Honestly, I don’t remember.) It took a few days before the full effects of my brain injury started to manifest. Thankfully, Ruth, who has made brain health her life’s mission after suffering her own traumatic brain injury (TBI), got online with me and started coaching me in my recovery. Little did I know things would and did get tougher before they started to get better. “Reclaiming Mary” has taken on both literal and figurative meanings as my TBI has changed my life in many ways. However, unlike my memory and sometimes my speech, Matthew West makes my vision for this day and every day forward abundantly clear.
Landslide by Stevie Nicks
Last spring, when I graduated my second born from high school, the homeschooling job I began 18 years ago came to an end. With my older daughter back in Missouri for her senior year in college and my younger daughter blissfully happy at our local community college, their daily need for mama has waned. However, this is still a season of transition for all of us. I’m still mom, shipper of care packages, receiver of late night texts, and last minute editor of papers. And, while I am in the process of reclaiming me, this song is still one of my favorite anthems about motherhood and life’s seasons, as I wrote about here.
I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz
Including our time before marriage, my husband and I are fast approaching 3 decades together. (Yes, we started dating when I was 5.) Before children, it was easier to keep our eyes focused on each other and tend our relationship, always making time to share and listen to each other as well as carve out time for a weekend get-away, keeping the spice fresh. Even when the children were small, we kept “us” a priority, knowing the dangers children and their uncanny ability to suck the life out of marriage can bring. As our children got older, evenings and weekends were filled with extra-curricular activities, homework, and home maintenance projects in addition to our many other “must do’s.” Like so many, our marriage has gone through more ebbs and flows while raising a family than the great Mississippi River. And, like that great river, we are still here, now flowing into new territory. Marriage in mid-life and with adult children is a new adventure with a familiar friend. With newly found time to share and listen and even enjoy a weekend get-away and more, this is our season of rediscovering and reclaiming each other.
Burning Gold by Christina Perri
The subtitle of “Reclaiming Mary” is “The Adventures of a Midlife Renewal.” I am jumping into this season with abandon. I am embracing work projects and reconnecting with friends and discovering new adventures and creative outlets. I scour my Groupon emails, Pinterest, and Meet-up groups for new things to try and am forcing myself outside my comfort zone. Though I am perhaps busier than I have been in years, I feel so very alive as I reclaim my time as mine and reconnect with old dreams while embracing new ones. These winds are most certainly carrying change.
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – BJ Thomas
This was my very favorite song when I was little. Every time it came on, I turned up the volume on my small round yellow transistor radio until the speaker crackled. I didn’t care. I knew the song by heart and always sang along. In many ways, this song brings full-circle meaning to “Reclaiming Mary.” In reclaiming myself, I am revisiting who I was, rediscovering forgotten interests and beliefs and, though I have changed in some areas, one thing has remained constant; I am an eternal optimist.
So, there is the music of my life. The songs that have been woven into the fabric of my memories, marking this season as the season I began Reclaiming Mary.
What are the songs that are marking this season in your life today?