mamculuna: (Default)
( Jun. 18th, 2005 09:26 pm)
Wishing I had a record of every time I've started over. Exercise, diets, meditation, yoga, writing, even school and work. Even marriages and children. It seems that I'm not the kind who can start something one day and just keep it going for years with no lapses. Mostly it's my own laziness, lack of will, lack of confidence, etc., but often outside circumstances: pulled tendons, broken computers, rejection letters, etc., etc., etc. Whatever. It doesn't matter if it's something inside or outside that makes me fall off the horse, but inevitably I'm sitting in the dust watching the hooves go down the trail.

At one time these events threw me into despair. I can run a 10 meter race! Well, no, I can't even run across the street. It was hideous. I'd feel doomed to weakness and failure forever.

Don't know what kinds of things came along and told me that I had to get up, catch the beast, and get back on. Somehow or another I did it. Eventually it got to be not how far I could go, but how quickly I could get back to where I used to be, or even to where I was at least trying to go somewhere.

The hard part is that most of the time as I grow older, each time I start over I'm going to lose some ground, and yet now it's gotten to where even that no longer seems so bad, as long as I do start over. Once I felt so angry at having to struggle to get to what used to be so easy, but now I'm glad to walk a familiar path.

A while back I did a series of posts based on I Ching readings, but never got to the one that should be the label for my life, I think: Work on What Has Been Spoiled.
mamculuna: (Default)
( May. 23rd, 2005 02:54 pm)
It's been a year now since I retired, and I thought this would be a good time to consider what it's meant to me. For any who've just recently joined in, I was owned by the state for the previous 30 years, more or less, working mostly as a community college English teacher and administrator--the kind of job that was very an interesting and rewarding thing to be doing, but a wonderful relief to quit.

I had worried in one way that my sense of who I am might mostly come from my work and that when I no longer worked I might find myself feeling unsure of where I fit in the world. That turned out not to be the case. When I first started work, I recall its being a huge identity shift (thinking about my first year of teaching high school at 21) because I went overnight from being a kid to being an adult--from rebel to enforcer, in a way. And when I went back to work later in my 30's, that was an identity shift too, from mom to teacher. Required new clothes (which as Thoreau points out can be a bad sign). Actually maybe that's a clue--at retirement, I didn't so much take on a new outer self as just sort of stop using one that was never quite really me to begin with. I'm just being my Saturday self all the time now, and mostly wearing my Saturday clothes (when I'm not in PJ's till noon and yoga clothes after that--but that was my Saturday outfit!) Clearing out the closet but not so much bringing in new stuff, unless I really want to. But maybe too--after all these years!--my sense of who I am no longer comes entirely from things like what I do and what my job is. Or actually maybe I'm getting to where who I am is not all that important. Maybe.

So then another worry was that when I cut out all the mental, physical, and social activity associated with work, I'd be left with great hollow spaces in my life. Well, no--it was kind of more like digging a hole by the ocean's edge. For everything that I took out of my life, lots more was just waiting to rush in and fill it up. Much more regular writing, more seriously studying Spanish, working harder on meditation and yoga, travelling more, spending time with Lydia, etc. Now Lydia (the baby from China) is leaving, but there'll be something to take her place, too. I don't foresee a problem of nothing to do. In fact, there's stuff I'd planned to do, like getting back to gardening, knitting, and sewing, that I just don't have time for. And my travel plans go on forever.

Last worry was money. I didn't work as long as I could have, didn't get the highest benefits, the extra double-dipping I could have done. I won't know if I regret this really until I'm about 90. But for right now, since I did start getting Social Security soon after retirement, I'm making about what I made before I stopped work, and that's plenty to live on and have a little left for saving or travel (or repairing the old house...). For now, I'm healthy, no big debts, no one else to take care of financially. I'm extremely lucky, here. Good genes and good guidance from Bill--I'd never want to use his money, but I'm glad he doesn't need mine, and I'm really fortunate that he knows so much about money. And what would I pay for such good years of freedom healthy and energetic?

I know people who haven't had such a good experience as I have, and perhaps in the future things won't be quite so good for me either. But I feel fine about having made the choice to do this now. I'm more than lucky to have a good marriage, happy and healthy kids, wonderful old friends and new ones (especially you, flist!) and to in a privileged class in a privileged place where bombs aren't falling on my head.

The one thing I'm beginning to think about more and more is the need to contribute something to the world. It's so nice to live self-indulgently, but I think I really need to get serious about finding some ways to do some worthwhile volunteer work.

I know how many people--how many of you--struggle although you work long hours every day, and reading about your lives reminds me daily that life's not fair--why should things be so easy for me, so tough for you? The wheel turns, and I've been in some bad circumstances, and I know how unfair it is to see someone else having things so much easier. I wish the world were different.
mamculuna: (Default)
( May. 19th, 2005 08:27 pm)
A while back at a retreat there was discussion of how being pleased and happy is as much a hindrance to stability as being sad and failing. There was a time in my life when I would have snickered at that, but now...maybe I'm beginning to get it.

This week in yoga, the focus was intention. And I set mine on dealing with fear, on taking the fear on the journey with me. So of course the challenging poses in both classes were flexibility poses--which happen to be the only ones I can really do well. So no fear, no journey, just loose hamstrings. Not that I object to having at least one ability! But it meant my journey was suddenly one of dealing with ego and pride, and of trying to find a challenge in what seemed easy. A big shift, and not one I'm sure I made well.

I've had that happen in other parts of my life--gotten praise when I expected criticism. (And it's not a bad thing! I'll take it!) But still, my mind is thrown off track, and I'm all caught up in it--in many ways, exactly what happens when I fail and get criticized. Obessing on me. Not getting over myself. The only difference is that this is a kind of racy excited good feeling instead of a dull duh feeling.

But they both seem...unreal. Really unreal. Like when your 8th grade crush smiled at you.
"You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head
Do you think, at your age, it is right?

"In my youth," father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."
(Lewis Carroll, of course)

I went back to the intermediate yoga class this morning, and discovered it's gotten a lot more demanding, which is ultimately good. Yoga is definitely one experience that reminds you that your "reach must exceed [your] grasp, or what's a heaven for?" Making progress toward a difficult pose really is more powerful than doing one that's become easy for you.

Yoga stuff )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Jan. 13th, 2005 02:51 pm)
Finally decided to take advantage of the last warm day (cold front coming) to start clearing out the deadwood (sticks, leaves, blossoms, etc.) from the garden. I cut the lantana back and realized it's gotten as big as a small house, and the sweet clematis vine has almost solidified. Last summer I wasn't here, and the drought and overgrowth had almost killed everything except such hardy weeds as these. Sadly, the last two weeks of warmth have fooled some plants--forsythia's buds are beginning to swell. The camellias though are looking good, except one that has that awful mildewy stuff. I'm not up to using poison in my yard just for a few more flowers, so hope it doesn't spread. Will look into organic remedies.

Next task is getting out the blackberry and grapevines, the honeysuckle and oak sapling-ettes. By the time I get that done, I should be able to divide the iris and Mexican petunias, moving some to the front yard, and plant some oak-leave and regular hydrangeas. I'm not sure they'll survive, since I always winding up going to Chicago during the hottest part of the summer, but I'll give them a try.

My ultimate yard may well be just lantana, spiderwort, forsythia, azalea, camellia, Mexican petunia, sweet autumn clematis, and Turk's turban. I also have some extremely hardy swamp sunflowers that grow 8 feet tall, and some nice purple asters that bloom very late. And the Confederate rose may be coming back after all--looked dead last fall, but some of the branches still have green inside. And, oh, yes, dear althea.

So much like the rest of my life. Ignore things, don't nurture them, let trivia crowd out the important things...and then in the darkest days, a warm time when I find there's lots still living to cherish, and under all that's dead the possibility of things growing to blossom.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 20th, 2004 10:27 am)
Well, thanks to Scroll and Ann and all for guiding me to the handwriting analysis link. It is pretty good--I've had a trained person analyze my writing and they came up with something similar.

My Handwriting Analysis )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 15th, 2004 04:53 pm)
ganked from [ profile] ann1962 and [ profile] oursin

I knew when I planted
how little sun filtered
these close-needled pines
how meager's the sand
how voracious the blight
how melons rot
beans spindle
slug and centipede

It was
my instep though
the shovel scored
my fingers
the damp much shriveled
shedding seeds
in hoe-drawn lines
my neck the sun burned
as I thinned withered losers
staked the strong shoot
my heart
glory of okra bloom surprised
cream trumpet, purple throated
pistil’s staff gold-dusted
my eyes gauged
fat tomato
ripe in thunder
my tongue was anointed
my throat drenched
juice crunch
sparkle pungence
sliced sizzled canned
a steam a jar of summer

and in autumn’s garden
I uprooted
mildewed failures
leaves cores stalks
I hoed to rot
next year’s compost
against sand & shade
beetle & mold

When you see this, post some poetry in your journal. Leave me a note to tell me you did. There can never be too much poetry.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 4th, 2004 10:34 am)
Sorry I've been absent from so many interesting discussions--I went to the beach for a week, most of it alone without a computer. Also without a hurricane! I haven't spent that much time alone in a long time--even when Bill's not here, I'm seeing friends, etc., and spending lots of time writing or online. I rediscovered how wonderful is time on your own.

I can remember a time, right after my first marriage broke up, when I was terrified to spend the night alone--every sound seemed like an imminent attack (of course in those days I slept in a first floor bedroom on a busy street and several times woke to find concrete blocks stacked under my window. Now I sleep on the second floor of secure houses in quieter neighborhoods). And I'd grown up with so many ghost stories at the beach, for a long time even the alarm system didn't help (trusting all you fantasy readers/viewers will understand that).

Now the nights alone mean drifting to sleep with the sounds of crashing waves and whip-poor-wills, and waking to the misty sunrise and the chatter of blackbirds and cardinals. Days alone mean reading all morning, going for long slow kayak rides, wandering the beach, going to art galleries, painting windows, writing backstory for the bad guy, and sitting on the dock with a glass of scotch, watching the tide come in and the sun go down.

Maybe someday I'd get lonely. Not yet. But for some reason I made plans so here I am, back again, and glad to see Bill, chapter five, and all of you.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Aug. 30th, 2004 10:41 am)
Gaston dumped on us yesterday and now Frances is taking aim. I haven't been to the beach since the 4th of July--tenants told us the house was OK except for some minor screen damage, but we are hopeful that we'll get a new roof--the old one's been there since Hugo. Family )

I watched Hidalgo last night--for Viggo and for the horses. Both beautiful, but more than a bit of cultural stereotyping in spite of Omar Sharif. I liked him a lot better in Monsieur Ibrahim, a truly charming but sad movie, with wonderful characters and great photography of Turkey or some look-alike.

I'm trying to decide whether to go to Hero now or wait for my husband to come back down here. I could do both! I think I'll see what happens about the beach--I'll wait unless I'm stuck here, in which case I'll go. But I'd better tell him so he doesn't go up there. He's also not big on fantasy so I didn't go to the most recent Harry Potter yet either--which has really taken restraint. So I can have a great escape this weekend if I don't get to the beach.

Modesty )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Aug. 29th, 2004 11:37 am)
Revolution )

I've been getting some email from some people in my old school. I knew they'd need to contact me sometimes about details of unfinished business, and that's fine--I tried to leave everything tied up, but know that's not possible. But this is different--it's a brand-new problem. The administration made a faculty member cancel a section of the minority lit course that had been publicized as focusing on gay and lesbian literature--not because of enrollment, but because of content.

This totally infuriates me on several levels: academic freedom, free speech, and of course the idea that it's fine to look at other minorities but not these. Having a gay son makes me identify with this a bit, too. Adding to the complexity for me is the fact that the instructor of the course is a guy that I'd really had some difficult dealings with in the past over completely unrelated issues, and in those cases had taken the side of the administration (still think I was right then).

I did help rewrite the petition to reinstate the course or offer it next semester, but have since decided that I'm no longer paid to get tied up in knots over what happens there. I'm able to ignore other things, even including the fall off in enrollment and possible cancellation of the program that was my baby, but find it more difficult with this one. Now is not the time, but I think eventually as a citizen and taxpayer I will find myself at least sending an email.

But another part of me says drop it completely, that's the old life. Forget it.
mamculuna: (Default)
( May. 8th, 2004 10:38 am)

Joyce Sutphen

The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.
I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion, and my hair shall be
Whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers shifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Jan. 21st, 2004 06:38 pm)
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-- J R R Tolkien

Today I was listening to an NPR talk show about American nomads, from the RVs to the trainhoppers, and I had this sudden vision of myself on the road alone--packing a tent and a sleeping bag in my Beetle and hitting the road, just going on to the next place )
mamculuna: (Default)
( Dec. 17th, 2003 07:22 pm)
Not a good day, although the Chinese visitors were a gift from heaven and yesterday was wonderful, talking to them (more on that later), and even the duck was OK.

But today was the day when all the bad things from the semester really came to a head, all the problems finding their way to my office, and even worse an hour long meeting with some people who were very unhappy about a decision I had made, and I knew I wouldn't change my mind but felt that I had to hear them out--at great length, and with a lot of forbearance on my side for what I perceived as a really self-centered view of the world. And then going to office parties held by people with whom my last interaction was an angry phone call on their part, again in my view not provoked by my actions (but who knows). Again forbearance. And in both cases not wanting forbearance to become hypocrisy, trying to be pleasant but not change where I stood. Not my idea of Christmas.

So to top it off I go to work out at the gym and the woman behind me keeps chatting. Of course there is only so much forbearance to go around, and she was last in line. So I sshhed her, and then spent the rest of the workout feeling selfish and egotistical (aside: this kind of interaction doesn't happen in yoga classes, at least not so far).

Be now not feeling good about anyone else or myself, grumpily stopping in the cold to put gas in the car. You know how there are just certain wires and roofs where pigeons congregate? Well, the cover over the gasoline pumps was one of those places. You may be imagining a final disaster--and a Paris pigeon did that to me once--but these were different. I was standing there watching the $$ mount up and grumping away, and heard a sort of rushing clatter. I looked up to see about fifty pigeons wheeling off the roof just overhead. It was just deep twilight and the sky was a wonderful deep indigo, and the pigeon's white and silver lit from below just glowed. And they kept circling and landing and rising again, until I finally got the message.

Dust of Snow (Robert Frost)

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.


mamculuna: (Default)


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