Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Voices from the Past...SHUT UP!

We are formed in great part by the messages we receive growing up from the people we regard as all-knowing, wise even.  Elders we admire or admired.  I had a great uncle that through my adolescent eyes was bigger than life and everything I ever knew about him seemed "right".  He was not only a big personality, but he was a very large man physically.  He was easily 6' 5" and he  was never an ounce under 300 lbs as long as he was alive. He had big opinions too - conservative ones.

He was my maternal grandmother's brother.  He married a woman that was a good match for him in every way.  She was even tall, but never an ounce overweight. Never!  She was a nurse and he worked hard in some sort of steel mill I recall.  They never had children which for the time was unusual.  One side effect of the no children thing was that they never had to spend their hard earned money on the costly little beasts that they are so their money just accumulated and compounded and by the time they reached retirement they were very very set.

They owned a big old Victorian house that was divided up into 3 apartments and they lived in the largest, poshest main floor of the home, collected rent from the other 2 units and made money that way too.  By the time they reached retirement age, they owned a cottage in Muskoka and a winter place in Florida AND a very cool Airstream travel trailer that they used when they felt the urge.  When my parents first married and I came along, we actually lived in one of the rental units  in the small wing of the house on the ground floor - a one bedroom apartment with a small kitchen, living room and one bathroom.  The wing had it's own porch which I spent hours playing make-believe on and under - my own little wing in a way. the house was on a very large lot, easily 3-4 acres and so the sprawling yard was also a boon to my curious toddler wanderings.

There was a sandbox near a gully and a ravine with woods and a back field that was good for rabbit and pheasant siting...or shooting apparently.  It went on but I never witnessed any of that.  I did dine on pheasant at an early age though. We moved when I was 3 but I will always remember those early years and the opinions I formed of our "landlords".  They kept the house and property in impeccable condition and there were rules regarding not making messes or pinching the peonies or being too noisy on Sunday afternoons when my uncle might be enjoying an afternoon catnap.

By three, I had pretty much figured that "perfectionism" was the goal, untidy yards were bad and there was no other real path in life but to save and accumulate money and possessions.  When I took off to go backpacking in Europe at 19, my great uncle came to the backyard BBQ my parents threw for me to bid me farewell and he handed me some money.  I can't remember how much but likely it was a fifty dollar bill (always more than anyone else would have given me) and he looked me square in the eye and said, "Just remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss."  I recall taking offense to his remark and the rebel in me sloughed it off as something old people say to let you know they kind of disapprove of your choices.  It sure did not stop me from getting on that plane the next day and proceeding to have one of the greatest adventures of my life.  What did he know about rolling stones?  He had never been outside of North America. Pfffttt!

That was when I decided maybe I was not going to follow the expected path or at least not the gospel according to Uncle Ken.  He is likely rolling around in his grave right about now wishing he could try and stop me from heading off on my next great adventure.  I can almost feel his grasp, his huge over-sized hand shaking mine, turning my palm upward, examining it closely and shaking his head in disapproval, unable to find even a trace of moss.

Sorry Uncle.  Not everyone is fond of sitting in one dank damp dark place long enough for fuzzy green shit to grow all over them.

I prefer breathing...and LIVING!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Freedom 55....Day ONE

You have all heard the hype.  It has been going on for years now, although since 2008 less so.  How many people do you know that can really afford to retire at 55?  Hmmm, that's what I thought - not many.  The ones that do seem to manage it, are generally itching to get back at some sort of productive activity before long either because they are bored, or they can't quite live on the money they saved and/or have coming in - at least not the way they are used to living. 

I certainly cannot afford it.  But it did get me to thinking.  All the things that we are putting off until retirement are usually things we will likely enjoy doing more at 55 than we will at 65 or 70.  We are still in fairly good health if we are lucky, we still have energy and many of us do have a bit of cash in the bank by then.  What if, instead of waiting to do some of these things 10 years down the track, we pause for a year and do a bunch of them NOW?

You can see where this is heading, can't you?  Yup, that's my new plan.  I turned 55 in December and since then I have watched one man die at 52 and another come real close in his early 60's and who knows when my number will be up?  What if I never make it to 65?  My bucket list is still pretty full.  Time to start spilling a bit of it.  So here goes, my dear readers - 2013 is going to be my "adult gap year".  I am going to chronicle the adventure here in my blog - all the ups and downs and the fears and joys and with any luck, at the end of 2013, my bucket will have far fewer   dream droplets to spill and I will have fed my soul some, learned some new shit and filed the word regret somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain...just in case my number does come up sooner rather than later.

I called this Day One because although I left my soul-sucking job last Friday, Monday seems like the appropriate day to really begin.  That was the first step.  The job had to go.  It was a mistake from the get-go and all I got out of it was an insulting pay cheque every 2 weeks and 15 lbs of anxiety weight.  Fifteen lbs that I had worked very hard to get rid of 3 years ago.  So today, the  new regimen began.  I dusted off the treadmill, hauled the weights out of the closet, the big exercise ball and the mat and did a good 90 minute workout followed by an 8 oz glass of Vital Greens.  I have 7 weeks to lose at least 10 of those 15 lbs before I grace the beaches in France and Spain in mid April.  

That is the first stop. Marseilles, Barcelona, Sitges, Mojacar.  A virtual trip down memory lane.  These are places I visited 36 years ago.  I have some very fond memories of them and have always wanted to go back.  I will unveil the second stop soon.  For now, I invite you to join me as I plan and plot and slosh around in my bucket.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Don't Ask!

I got a note from a friend the other day that said she had noticed I had not been blogging much lately and had not been on Facebook and she was wondering what was up with me.  She was correct.  Not blogging much. Not on social media much. Laying low. Quiet.

I go through periods like this.  Maybe it is time spent building. Times of introspection. Who knows?  Hibernation maybe.  Fucking winter. It did make me aware of the fact a bit - having someone point it out and all.

I wondered if I was losing my mojo a bit.  Nothing was really crying out for comment.  Then again, I have been somewhat preoccupied of late.  Mostly personal stuff I don't really want to share with the world so don't get too excited - not about to share it, but I do miss writing when I am away from it from time to time.  

There is something that keeps rearing it's head - not necessarily an "ugly" head, but a head nonetheless.  It is something that has left me wondering if I was "less than" since my early twenties in fact.  It goes something like this.  It's Friday afternoon.  You are at work.  One of your colleagues asks the question.   "So, whatcha doin this weekend?"  I cringe every time.  Most times I really don't really have any significant plans worthy of a big mention.  I'm not going to some hot club or some sold out concert or heading to my cottage or jetting off to NYC for the weekend, so any answer that springs to mind seems lame and boring and surely not what the questioner was hoping for or expecting.  

I mean, I could say - well, I am thinking I might catch a movie on ROD or go for a power walk or go to The Village Butcher to get farm fresh eggs or change my sheets or read a bit or cook a little or in finer weather, go for an EXTRA LONG power walk or play tennis outside or hike a local trail that I don't do regularly but somehow these answers seem so - dare I say - boring?  I like all those things but I suspect these are not the activities they want to hear about.

Must even my simple days off feel like a competition?  I actually love it when I don't have a "plan".  That is my favourite kind of weekend.  Nothing scheduled. No particular place to go. No engagements.  It's not that I don't like social events - I do, just not every weekend, or every night. I like time to just be.  I like the feeling of no deadlines. No alarm clocks. No obligations.  I have been this way my whole life really.  Even when I was young and "supposed" to be crazy busy and out all the time, I needed a night off now and again.  I know there are people who are so over-scheduled they can barely find time for themselves.  That would be anathema to me. 

WHAT? No time to daydream? No time to be still? No time to reflect?  I just wish people would stop asking me "What are you doing tonight? What are your plans for the evening or weekend?" That way I would not have to feel like such a loser when I say - "not much".  I just don't need to be scheduled every minute of every day or week.  I never did it to my daughter either.  I let her have plenty of free time to herself and made a point of not over-scheduling her life.  Maybe I was wrong but she seems to be very comfortable on her own and content with her own company so maybe it worked.  She does not complain of being bored.  Come to think of it I am not usually bored either.  

Maybe it just takes less to amuse me.  Or a lot more to amuse everyone else.