Time for a New Chapter?

Community.  Lately I’ve been struggling with balancing the two communities in which I occupy space. I know I’ve written about this before, so obviously I haven’t figured out how to resolve the problem.

Basically, it feels like there’s two versions of me.  There’s shop-me and home-me.  It’s nothing to deep or philosophical.  Both versions of me are pretty much the same – both have food allergies and “regular” allergies, both like the same colors, both know how to drive stick.  But due to location, it often feels like theses two versions of me are in conflict – neither one is ever 100% me.

The town we live in is struggling to regain its identity and become a vibrant community again. It’s got a lot of potential, and there are many things happening that show great promise. Business are slowly moving back in, restaurants and breweries are opening, green spaces are in the works, and beautification projects are springing up. But my business isn’t one of the happening things in this community.

Seven years ago, when I started looking for a larger space for my business, I had difficulty finding a suitable location in my price range. When a space in a unique building, and with a lot of potential in a neighboring town became available, after much thought, it seemed like the right move. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough. Maybe I took the easy route.

Honestly, I don’t think my business would have lasted as long as it has had I remained where it was. But there are days when I wonder what it would be like to be part of the revival happening in our town, instead of operating a business in neighboring town.  If we could have found a space closer to home, how much about the business would be different today?

I’m not planning on moving, again. And regret isn’t the word I’m looking for to describe this problem of hindsight. The word I’m looking for eludes me….

But I find myself thinking about this a lot lately. Especially as I see other similar businesses straying closer to my goals than I am able to. That might sound strange, but like many people, I had/have a vision for my business. Lately it feels like many of my goals are slipping away and my vision is getting blurry while I watch as other’s success seems so much more certain than mine, and I flounder to stay afloat.

It doesn’t help that I’m struggling to see myself as part of either community – the one in which I live vs. the one in which I work.  And this makes me feel divided, like there are two of me.  My time and resources are divided. I no longer have the time for volunteer work at organizations in either location. And I can’t support those organizations financially anymore either.

Sure, most would advise me to find a way, after all. where there is a will, there’s a way, right? But that’s just it, I can’t figure out which community I belong to, so the will isn’t there. My nonchalance has left me paralyzed to act.

And that in itself is causing conflict between the two personas.  Nothing major, not like a breakdown or anything, but it is making me wonder if it’s time to move into a different chapter in my life, if it’s time to regroup and recoup.

I’d like to be able to contribute to our household, as little as our household is, as well as the community.  I’d like to travel, see more of the country or the world while I’m still young enough to enjoy it, but old enough to understand how amazing it is and appreciate the opportunity.  Right now I have neither the time, nor the financial resources to do any of this.

I used to find ways to do volunteer work, and I enjoyed it.  I used to have time to cheer on The Goat at his events, but now I’m lucky if I can find time to even attend one of two of them a year.  I used to have a bountiful garden and enjoyed spending time in our yard, now I have to schedule weeding sessions and struggle to stay ahead of the yard work.

There’s just this little nagging voice at the back of my head, like the emotions in that movie “Inside Out”.  Maybe it’s a midlife crisis rearing up, voicing itself through discontent and self doubt, making me question which of the two me’s I want to be.

Usually I can keep quiet this voice by thinking about the people and the friendships I’d lose by closing this chapter of my life.  Let’s face it, every time someone finishes one chapter in their life and starts a new one – moves away, changes jobs, switches school – they lose many of the friendships central to the closed chapter.  Sure, you might stay in touch for a while, and with today’s social media, you might actually stay in touch electronically for years afterwards.  But we all know, that over time, those connections weaken and finally those once close friends are just acquaintances, if you’re lucky.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s what happens, it’s part of life and part of being human. We all have friends that we categorize based on the chapters in our lives; friends from work, friends from a previous job, friends from school, kids from the neighborhood.  But am I willing to willingly give up some of the people in my life right now just because I feel divided in two?  Honestly, I don’t know.

It’s easy to be excited when you know what the changes will bring- like when you’re going to college or starting your “dream job”, you’re excited because you know you’ll meet new and exciting people who will likely become friends.  But when the outcome of the change is hazy, and the change itself hard to describe or grasp, it’s a bit harder to jump into the new situation without worry and trepidation.

Change also brings it’s own set of problems.  A new chapter in ones life brings with it a new set of compromises.  There is always a trade off.  Change brings new routines, new habits, new problems to solve.  Are these trade offs worth it?

While change can be good, change when you’re not sure if you should be changing, makes you question a lot of things.  And that’s where I am.  Questioning.  How do I center these two personas?  Do I even need to do that?  Is it ok to be divided?  Is it time to write a new chapter?  If so, how do I end this one?

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Steady On (into Spring)

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged. I’m a bit embarrassed actually, at just how long it’s been. It’s not that I haven’t written anything, there are a few rough drafts floating around between the last one and this one… I just can’t seem to focus long enough to get them reread, edited, and on-line.

There’s just so much tumbling about in my brain right now. Some days I’m lucky if I know what day of the week it is – or even month?! As it is, our garden is a disaster, the bathroom and kitchen need cleaned. There’s a sun-choke harvest I need to do something about and the attic needs tended to (we can only comfortably get up there a few days out of the year – and it needs a good going – through.), Yet here I sit…typing instead.

In my defense, I seem to have contracted tennis elbow – in the left arm. Which is kind of ironic to me, since I’m right handed and don’t play any racquet sports. Now, I know you don’t actually need to play tennis to get tennis elbow, but I can’t seem to remember lifting or doing anything repetitive enough with my left/non-dominant arm to cause it.

So instead of cleaning up our garden from winter, and believe me it needs it, scrubbing some tubers to prepare them for freezing, sorting old junk in the attic, or even washing the kitchen floor or bathtub, here I sit. My list of things I need to do seeming to grow longer with each word I write.

The list is long, but let’s just address the garden issues. #charliebrowntheairedale has not been kind to it, and neither has Old Man Winter.

We were unable to get many of the leaves raked in the fall, a tree fell, and there’s nothing but mud where there should be grass, due to Charlie’s overactive fetching sessions. (Which is also why the kitchen floor needs a good scrubbing.) Some of the raised beds are deteriorating and need dismantled. The asparagus patch has died off, overtaken by the shade and weeds, making it’s relocation necessary. The compost bin has collapsed (uhm… it was made of wood and rotted like good compost should.) The front bank could use some reseeding, while the back bank is eroding (again, thanks to an overzealous Airedale). We’ve got a pile of debris we need to dispose of, and finally the goal of planting a few cool weather crops like lettuce, peas, and radishes seams like an unattainable dream.

I have been trying to take advantage of the longer days, weather permitting. I was able to get some garlic in. So that’s a big plus. I also purchased, and attempted to plant, new asparagus crowns. Charlie promptly investigated and dug them back up. I replanted and covered them with wire shelving barriers, so hopefully they’ll still grow. Sigh.

The compost bin has been dismantled, and I’m sifting through the black gold and slowly filling containers around the rest of the garden, turning the unfinished compost into another bin, and leveling the dirt around the old bin, trying to decide what to make of it. Sitting area? Fire pit? Car park? Shed? All of the above? It’s amazing what I’ve seen people cram into little city plots.

The fallen tree has been chopped up and is being disposed of bit by bit. The Goat puts some out each week for garbage collection and I used the larger branches and trunk bits to fortify the back bank. Along with found rocks, extra plants, broken pottery, and random flotsam and jetsam – including but not limited to a turkey fryer part, hubcaps, bed rails, tricycles, and ski poles – they now make up one of the most creatively armored banks in town. Now let’s just hope it really does help with erosion. Pictures may be forthcoming, as the season progresses.

Last night, as I was cleaning up the mess I made while cleaning up the mess that is our garden, I thought to myself “Why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep tending to this mess? How bad would it really be if I didn’t keep it up? If we just let it go, and just had grass and a plain “yard”, would that really be that bad? No one notices, after all, it’s just me, The Goat, and the crazy dog.”

And then I thought, “Another few days, and we’ll be able to eat outside!” Even though I know my allergies will derail my best efforts again this year, the bugs will drive us inside at some point, and the garden will only offer lack-luster crops ’cause I will be unable to tend to the veggies as they need, I came to a conclusion.

My allergies and health often keep me from enjoying “The Great Outdoors”. Seriously, I’m allergic to most everything in or around the woods, prairies, grasslands, farms and swamps. I hate camping, I don’t enjoy hiking, or any of the other outdoor activities that The Goat and so many of my friends enjoy – again because I’m allergic to most of it.

But if I can work in our little garden, this little 1/12th of an acre, while completely covered – bandanna over my mouth and nose, hair tucked up under my hat – then I’m not completely giving up. Sure it might not be the “Great Outdoors”, but the view from my favorite Adirondack chair on the back porch in the morning, it’s still pretty damn good. That’s why I do it.

That might not be the most profound realization I’ve ever had. But it’s a big one right now. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of stuff tumbling and percolating in my brain right now. Things at work are busy, summer scheudles are filling up fast, The Goat is struggling with work related changes, and things happening in society are weighing heavy on my heart.

Trudging around our little garden, moving dirt, trying to tend to something in the hopes of seeing tangible results – and results that I know I will enjoy in the coming weeks is a big accomplishment for me. It may not seem like something that will change the world. But it will keep a small part of my world steady. And that little bit of certainty will help right and steady other parts of my life. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Maintaining my own little piece of paradise isn’t selfish, it’s self-care. Sure that’s a trendy word right now, but don’t let that discredit it’s importance. There’s just so much uncertainty right now. I feel as if it’s shaking many of us to the core. We’re loosing our footing, in one big massive swoosh of a downward spiral with a number of us clinging to the edges, trying to hold on and figure out a way to level the ground beneath all of us.

Maybe you can’t understand how gardening can have a steadying effect on me. That’s ok. We each have something that helps center us, makes our world steady. Find yours. Cultivate it. Use it to hold on and level your footing. Maybe, just maybe, once steady, you can help those nearest you.

Me? I’m going to plan on a productively unproductive gardening season – and to wash the floor before my next blog.

Steady on My Friends.

Merry, Merry, Happy, Happy?

My paper mosaic Nativity.  All paper shapes, pieces, hand cut by me.

It’s that time of the year, again.  The Holidaze are here.

Please don’t read into this blog and think that I’m depressed.  Maybe I am, but I don’t really see it that way.  And if I am depressed, it has more to do with S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) than the actual holiday.

First of all, I work in retail.  Sure, my shop is a niche market, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the rush and hubbub that is the end of year gift giving frenzy of the retail sector.  What it does mean, however, is that just like most who work in retail, my holiday spirit spark of joy fizzles out before December.

My solution to this, is that next year I’m going to try and do the bare minimum for all the holiday stuff happening in the village, but not much else.  The gifty ideas and inventory will arrive in November, and I’ll showcase it starting around Thanksgiving and through early January.  At least that’s my plan right now.  

Also, I’ve noticed that in the past that the gift idea bits and bobs don’t really do well for me, so I didn’t order any this year.  Maybe it’s the new location and the growing patron base, but I’ve had more requests for those things this year than I ever had before.  So I’m going to try and up that next season – I wrote both these ideas on my 2019 calendar, but actually remembering it and following through will be the hard part.  

Then there’s the fact that neither The Goat nor I have family locally.  That in itself isn’t unusual anymore.  What is unusual is that we don’t “go home” for Christmas or have people visit us here, which makes for a nice, quiet Christmas without the rush of trying to cram all the family visits into a 48 hour period and overeating because one or more family member will be upset if you aren’t at their house for a meal.  But once again, all of our gift giving and celebrating is over before Christmas even arrives.  We see The Goat’s family over Thanksgiving, and my family all live far enough away that gifts are sent via the post.

Then there’s the whole religious aspect of Christmas.  Even as a pre-teen/ young adult, I didn’t understand why Christmas was often a bigger “event” than Easter.  They both have ties to Christ, family dinners, and fictional benevolent beings bestowing gifts. 

Christmas, however, has a perceived necessary larger monetary gift giving tradition, while most adults never even think about what they’re getting for Easter.  Radio stations don’t play Easter songs for weeks prior to Easter.  Can you even name an Easter song that is’t a hymn?  Peter Cottontail is the only one that comes to my mind.  Many have started decorating for Easter, but not like they do for Christmas. 

And have you ever heard anyone claim there’s a War on Easter?  No.  Because most people understand that it’s a (mostly) religious holiday, even non-Christians who still give their kids Easter Baskets.  Many people even accept the religious aspect while acknowledging that many of the Easter traditions are mash-ups of pagan or other religions’ traditions related to Spring and rebirth.  Yet, for some reason, these same people often get angry when you suggest that Christmas traditions are also a mash-up of pagan and other religions’ traditions related to Winter and they “death of Mother Nature”. 

Why has this always bothered me?  Because from a religious standpoint, Christmas is essentially, at its most basic, a really big birthday party.  While Easter,  is a celebration of what makes Christians Christians – Jesus’ final act as a human on earth, the resurrection and redeeming of humanity.   To me, everyone has to be born (even if it a miraculous virgin birth), but resurrection and redemption of the human race?  Now that doesn’t happen every day!

I’ve come to understand, more fully, now that I am learning to live with S.A.D., why the lights and festivities surrounding Christmas are so important for our morale, especially in cold, dark, winter climates.  And maybe that’s the sole reason for the difference in celebration exuberance between Easter and Christmas, but it still always leaves me wondering. 

If you live in a warmer climate and Easter is the bigger holiday, please let me know!  I’d love to hear about it.  After all, Christmas and Easter don’t fall during the same seasons everywhere on the planet, and there are even places that don’t celebrate them as a legal holidays.

All of these factors, and the glum weather, have compounded this year and have made me less enthused about Christmas than I usually am.  After all, I love listening to Christmas music, wrapping gifts, Christmas trees, and Christmas cookies (that’s another thing, you know you can make “Christmas Cookies” any time of the year, right?).

I don’t enjoy the expectations that every Christmas is a perfect scenario of family and friends, sparkly things, and amazing gifts.  In the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold had this idealized, perfect, Christmas in mind.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know how that ends.

Often, many of us do the same.  And in doing so stress ourselves out over what is supposed to be a birthday party for a saviour that’s been gone for over 2,000 years!  I’m not trying to trivialize it, I consider myself a Christian.  But seriously, is there anyone else who’s been gone for even 100 years for whom you’d throw this kind of a birthday party?   

Again, try not to read to much into this blog.  I’m not trying to be a Grumpy Gus, I’m just trying to think things through and come to terms with the fact that my expectations surrounding Christmas need to be reexamined.  After all, Christmas isn’t the only thing celebrated during the time surrounding the first day of winter.  Why should any of us expect Christmas to outshine all the other traditions of the season?  In examining my expectations and rethinking everything else happening at this time of the year.  I’m hoping to relight that spark that gets extinguished so early in the season of light, hope, and love. 

Merry, Merry, Happy, Happy to you and yours.  May 2019 bring many good things into your life.

              

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