It’s a yelp. And not a small one. A piercing, booming, where-is-this-coming-from-and-how-can-I-make-it-stop yelp.
Even worse. it’s 5:00 am. My quiet, sanctuary time. I’m happy to see our oldest girl when she rolls down the stairs but when she breaks out into that bark it’s a mad scramble to figure out how to make it stop.
It’s a throwback to parenting a screeching toddler. Do they need a snack? A toy? The blue blanket? The red blanket? The swing? Music? A pacifier? A TV show? A diaper change? Long succession of whatever she might fancy. Anything to get the screech to stop.
Her bark is the same way.
Which means at 5:00 I’m scrambling to figure out what she is asking for. I go from serenity with my candle and reading to here, there, everywhere, filling the water and food bowls, taking walks, scratching her back, swaddling her in a blanket…anything to get the ruckus to stop. This never used to happen.
Life being lifey (including an unexpected new dog) and her old age makes her more likely to be all topsy turvy and persnickety. Old girl wants what she wants. Why can’t pups use telepathy or just speak my language? Where’s a crystal ball when you need one?
Sometimes I get it right, but sometimes I run out of choices and I haven’t solved it. I just keep trying. A couple of times she just wanted her person to wake up. I can’t help that. Sometimes she gives up on trying to make me understand. She must find me so frustrating.
Just another glimpse into the lives of the chicks and our pups.
Life is being extra lifey these days. War, weather, mental stresses, financial hardships, on and on and on. It’s everywhere. My work life, my personal life, family friends colleagues acquaintances are all full of it. People are messy in their best times. Now, their messiness is more like a shambles that spills out and spreads all over.
Assume people will get sick, have issues and set backs and not be able to execute. Assume extra tasks, jobs, and responsibilities are coming as a result of the balls that others will drop. It’s just how things are right now. How can I thrive, survive, persist, stay sane in light of these times?
Here’s how I am hanging on for this bumpy ride:
Eat well. There are certain things I don’t farm out to anyone. Nutrition is number one. I own every step of that process from planning it to shopping for it to cooking it to packing it up. I don’t like being off plan and I don’t always make great decisions when it’s left to the last minute, whatever I can get my hands on. I know that eating well makes me feel better and do better. End of story.
Exercise first thing in the morning. The only possible exception is Sundays. Exercise helps me manage stress and gives me a sense of accomplishment and strength right off the bat. Extra boost if I see my friends and get the social sweat aspect of life first thing as well, but this isn’t always possible. Movement always is!
Stay ahead on things, knowing curveballs are coming. Busy season is about to kick up. When I have an idle moment, I try to think about what task I can push one step (or more steps) forward. Throw the laundry in. Clean something. Stock the pantry with two instead of one. Hopefully, when deadlines come or something is needed, I am ready instead of behind the eight ball trying to juggle and patch things together. Being ahead on what I can eases my stress.
Sundays. Sundays are my reset and ready-for-the-week day. I try to protect this if at all possible. It is often the only day I start with an extended coffee time at home. I write. I pull out clothes for the week. I make lists. I try really hard not to drive anywhere further away than 10-15 minutes unless it is a soul-serving adventure. Looking ahead on the calendar, keeping Sundays “sacred” will get harder and harder as fall’s busy-ness kicks in. Even as I write this, my Saturday and Sunday has flipped for this weekend. But I still try to keep one day with fewer commitments. Go-go-go all the time wears me out.
Notice nature. Get out and immerse myself in nature as often as possible, even for a few minutes a day. Flower farming has been amazing for this. I have a couple of hours a week in our field, just cutting flowers, watching bees and butterflies, soaking up the fresh air. I keep our flowers with me at work and home so I see them many times a day. They always make me take a small mental pause and smile.
What could I add? I need to write more often. I need to stretch. I need to meditate. These fall too low on the to-do list right now and I know each of them would help. This paragraph is a challenge to myself!
These last few weeks have been a lot, at times bordering on “too much, I can’t handle it, get me out of here.” There have been times I’ve considered drinking alcohol, which I don’t do. I’ve considered massive carb-and-cheese-laden meals of things I don’t typically eat. These things float through my mind, I notice them, then remind myself what works for me.
“Self care” has been a buzzword over the last couple of years. It comes with these challenging times. Life being lifey just beats many of us down and we need to take care of ourselves. I am a firm believer that you can’t pour from an empty cup, meaning you have to keep yourself cared for before you can care for others. Self care looks different for everyone. For some, it means doing whatever you want, regardless of the craving and what it costs. For me, self care does not mean self indulgence. Sometimes it means reminding myself what my goals are and what makes me feel healthy. A cocktail isn’t self care for me. Or a piece of chocolate cake. Might feel good for a moment, but then I’m left dealing with the fallout from my own impulsiveness.
In the end, I can only try to control my own decisions, my time, and my attention. I have to redirect myself when the decisions others make upset me. Boundaries are ok to set and adhere to. I only have to explain myself to those select few people who warrant it. But for most people, “no” can absolutely be a complete sentence.
One of 2020 goals was to complete a triathlon. I registered and started training and then, you guessed it, COVID. Postponed until 2021.
A lot of life changed between mid-2020 and now. Still, I kept that race on my calendar and wondered at times if I should still give it a go. The swim was the weakest of my weak spots and I had not really done anything to train it. I happened to be at a lake the week before the race and swam for 20 minutes without touching bottom. It was slow, but I did it. I also completed a 10K successfully the week before the triathlon was scheduled. With those things in mind, I decided to give it a go.
A triathlon is a strange race. So much different than a show-up-and-lace-up-and-get-running 10K. There’s so much equipment, so many rules (a 24-page rule book!) There’s transitions to think about and plan for. There are referees, penalties, even disqualification. All this made me incredibly nervous. I read, made lists, planned, packed, and off I went. Brought my precious facebook marketplace bike in from my car and tucked it in. I was up half the night wondering if my decades-old helmet would meet the standards. Finally, 5:00 am came.
I double checked my list, had some hotel room coffee and off I went. Transition is such a madhouse. By the time I arrived there were already hundreds of bikes hung from racks. A lady saw me in my confusion, forcefully grabbed my bike and told me where to put my towel and transition setup. Everything was tight. You get about 12 x 18 inches to lay out your running shoes, socks, running belt, clothes, and anything else you need. If your space is too big or you block someone else it’s a penalty. Nerve wracking. Timing chip on my left ankle. Race number in permanent ink on both my biceps. My race age on the back of my leg. Now the long wait to start.
One of the reasons I chose this race was the waterslide start. Yes, you waterslide one at a time into a river then start the swim. This made for about a 30 minute wait after the first person started. But, it is better than the scary start-in-a-pack situations I have read about. There were maybe 50 people behind me. I met a couple of other first-time-tri-ers as we waited. We shared out nerves, our whys, and our training for the race. Finally, it was time for me to jump in and hit the course.
I confess, I can move in the water but I only kinda know how to swim in any systematic stroke. I can’t freestyle so I alternated between a sort of breaststroke and backstroke. People passed me many times as I made my way down the course, passing one buoy then another. Just keep going. I finally got out of the water and made my way to transition, being careful not to get hit by bikes on their way out.
I was one of the last to pick up my bike, so it wasn’t very crazy. The first people were already returning from the 14 mile bike. Helmet on almost first thing (that’s a disqualification if you get on your bike with no helmet.) Shirt, shoes, race belt with energy chews, water bottle, etc. etc. Finally I cross the mount line and I am off.
Bike riding is a peace place for me. Just gliding along. Had some energy blocks and hydration. Tried to keep it around 12 miles an hour which is a good pace for me. Looked around. Thanked police and security. Glide glide glide. I missed having my phone but taking pics would have slowed me down. Playing music or having headphones in is cause for disqualification – this was one of the hardest parts!
Finally, the run. This transition was much simpler. Just hang the bike and helmet, grab a water and go. Seeing people who had already finished was sort of hard but also motivating. Just keep going and it will be me, too.
Well, this second transition was logistically simpler, but physically this transition is rough rough rough. Trading the speed and relative ease of biking for the slow plod of running is a shock to the system. I just had to pace it out and keep going. This was hillier than I had anticipated and I just walked up the hills and didn’t worry over it. I met several people who were just walking the whole 5K. It was an out-and-back so I cheered on every one who was still on the course. I passed my two friends from the start line on my way back to the finish. We were going to do it!
Finally, I came up the hill and saw the finish line, so I broke my rule and jogged in. I jumped and slid down the finish slide and got my medal. After a minute to regroup, I went and waited for my new friends at the finish. I cheered them in. What a great feeling, to be a triathlete!
Did I place? No. Do I care? No. I didn’t specifically train, although I am active…but I was still just thankful to have made it through. Completion was the goal. I cheered for the winners. I gathered my things and slowly made my way back to the car.
I have never smelled as bad after a race as I did after this triathlon. It was a long 4 hour drive to the farm. Everyone who saw me in town and on the road seemed to know what I had done. Was it the medal? The numbers on my arms? (The smell?) Who knows. But lots of congratulations. Lots of reasons to smile and feel accomplished.
I would definitely do another one. I’d even train for it. Maybe even take swimming lessons. I have some people I’d like to do one with so that gives me something to look forward to. It was amazing and strange and memorable all in one. And I’ll always be able to say I have done it.
As I age, I notice that certain things are starting to deteriorate. Today’s example: my sense of direction.
When I was young, I would read Atlanta’s Creative Loafing newspaper every Thursday or Friday. I’d check out the list of festivals, events, art openings, even new music releases, and make my weekend plans. I’d pull out my mom’s Atlanta road atlas and set on my coordinate spree to map my weekend adventures. From these jaunts week after week, year after year, I got to know my way around Atlanta inside and out.
These days, I can hardly find my way around my little suburb without waze or google maps. If I’m somewhere without service, I get nervous and often guess the wrong direction. Such a change. It may not just be due to aging. Maybe more a combination of getting older and over reliance on technology. Still not a change I like, no matter the cause.
I spent the past week in a confusing condo building. Actually there were two buildings connected by bridges and corridors. There was also a parking garage. None of the connecting floors had the same number. Walk through a hallway from one building’s first floor and suddenly, without stairs or elevators, you’re on another building’s third. The garage was a totally different mess. I felt lost and disoriented much of the week.
After a couple of morning condo workouts, I went to the gym one evening to make sure I could find it from our room. The next morning I spent a half hour with dumbbells in the gym. After I was done, I decided to test myself and make my way back to the condo from the gym using stairs instead of the path I already knew.
I walked into the stairwell. When I opened the door, I was surprised to find an old man, slightly hunched over, standing at the bottom of the stairs. He was short with groomed gray hair. He wore a cotton t-shirt, athletic pants and tennis shoes. He was there to exercise. He smiled at me.
Good morning, I said.
Are you still moving every day? he said,
Yes sir, I replied. I want to be sure I can move for as long as I can, so I try to do it first thing every day.
Good for you, he replied. I do the exact same thing. Keep it up. It’s so important.
And with that, one floor up, I walked out of the stairwell. He kept walking up the stairs. Up. Up. Up. Moving. Ascending.
It was like the (living) ghost of Christmas Future. Letting me know that taking time to move, for me, is what will keep me moving long term. I can feel confident when I get up and make my physical and mental health a priority each day. What others think of it is none of my business. My approval is what is required.
Did I find my way back to the condo? Happily, yes. And taking that different path gave me unexpected landmarks and signs. I’m heading in the right direction. It was a roadmap to the future I am heading toward, nimble and purposeful.
Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change represents turbulence. Sometimes change is just what we need.
Turbulent times is reflective of my past 48 hours. I won’t recap all the proud moments, but rather share a glimpse as part of being honest with life. Change is in the air whether I like it or not.
Death. The loss of a family pet. Over 12 years of life on earth is a solid age for our pet. She experienced life. She moved with us. She made memories and put smiles on the faces of many. She outlived health challenges and life expectancy on her end as well as offered support to others during health scares.
She was a replacement dog of sorts. One that greatly resembled a dog that passed too soon when the kiddos were young. She quickly became more than a fill in dog. She was a family member. From the long drive to pick her up to laying her to rest. We will cherish the memories. We were so lucky to have a dog like Lucky.
Goodbyes. Family came to visit. The first visit in what seems like years due to the pandemic and other environmental conditions. So much of the family dynamics had changed.
People age. People re-marry. Kids become adults. The visits of yesterday no longer resemble the visits of today. Nonetheless time together is refreshing. Goodbyes are never easy. Sometimes even emotional. Goodbye today leads to hellos again soon.
Change. Time for change. I’m opting to change my scenery in a portion of life. A shift of sorts but a kickstart in another way. With this decision amidst my turbulence I confirmed a change is good. Not one specific reason rather the time is good. There may never be a perfect time for change but if change feels good one needs to own it. Changes spurs growth. I’m always ready to grow. Stepping outside your comfort zone normally yields the biggest results.
Technology. Ugh the phone died. A lifeline gone. A necessity in today’s world. The changing of a phone however is the one change in life I loathe. Transferring contacts. Making sure all email accounts are synced. Do I remember all the passwords that need to be re-entered? So many details. So much time wasted reassembling my technology life that all seems to fit in the tiny phone. The tiny little phone. My life is condensed to this tiny little phone. Sigh.
When I actually think of how much information is in this little device I just shake my head in disbelief. Despite the disbelief there is so much value tucked away inside the little box of sorts. I am very thankful for the photo reel that takes up residency on my phone. Or in the cloud, accessed by my phone. All 19,000 pictures. It always allows me to revisit memories from hours ago to years ago. A simple scroll that is crucial at times. Technology wins despite temporary inconveniences.
Struggle. Facing adversity head on. Discussing difficult issues openly vs. sweeping them under the carpet. Sometimes this is good for the soul. Other times it’s a struggle for reasons x,y,z. Either way I faced my challenge head on. I waited patiently to discuss issues when emotions were not high. Options were weighed. Life moves on. Turbulent times may weigh us down from time to time. Turbulent times offer opportunities to grow and learn. Through life struggles, lessons always appear. For today I’m happy to have turbulent times. This equates to living in my eyes. This post is dedicated to lady Lucky and all the bones and treats she enjoyed in her years on earth.