Archive for the 'downshifting' Category

Adulthood is Overrated

What does being an adult mean to you? And does the word have positive or negative connotations?

After an interesting twitter discussion, hot chick Janiece wrote about her take on the mythical adult; here’s mine.

I have always felt *old*. Controlled. Humdrum. Intense. Stressed. A bit melancholy. I’ve never been particularly good at relaxing, playing, letting go. Since I have been very young, I’ve tried to be the caretaker and the adult to those around me. The whole adult thing comes very easily to me, it’s acknowledging that life can be enjoyed that is a little tougher.

Certainly there are moments where I suddenly feel disoriented and think, whoa, wait — I’m just a kid playing house, how did I end up with my own grown kids?

Still, my life has mostly been a string of sobering moments that have made me painfully aware of my adulthood, my level of responsibility.

  • At 15, I vividly recall helping my drunk father to bed, driving my migraine-stricken mother to the emergency room, and waiting up for my sister to return home from a school dance.

  • At 25 I gave birth to my first son. My husband at the time slept through my labor and delivery and I realized how alone I’d be. Thank god for my sister and mom who were with me.
  • At 27 my eventually-to-be-ex screwed up our money yet again, leaving us thousands of dollars in the hole, and me pregnant and destitute in a foreign country.
  • At 30 I finally divorced the man, which cost me my faith, and moved halfway across the country with my job. My dad not-so-diplomatically informed me I needed to stop leaning on them emotionally, I was on my own there too, and I cried for hours.
  • At 33 my youngest, at 5, had his worst asthma attack ever and ended up in pediatric ICU. Seeing him walk down the hospital hallway pulling an oxygen canister drove home my responsibility like nothing else.
  • At 35, when he was 70, my father died. My mom, sister and I held each other up as we put his memorial together, and I closed down his consulting business.
  • At 38, when he was 13, I held my eldest son through his first tonic/clonic epileptic seizure, then stood by as paramedics thought he wasn’t going to come back from it. He nearly died, and was not there for a very long time. It terrified me.
  • At 40, when he was 15, I lived through several months of that same son’s violent, bipolar, psychotic break. (Related to previous? Probably.) Supporting a child through mental illness that I could not help and could not cure is perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, including the next…
  • At 44, when he was 45, I lost my beloved husband to a sudden and unexpected heart attack. Saying goodbye to his cold, still shell and going on alone to support my family and continue my profession and my life was both a challenge and a comfort.

After those painful, transformative life changes I’m consciously trying to enjoy life more, to value family, friends, community and my own health and sanity. I’ve been an adult for everyone for a very long time, and now I choose to work less, to be less obligated, to be less well-behaved. I’ve kicked my kids out to a college apartment. I’m buying a condo and going to Europe.

I plan to grab onto life with both hands, travel, laugh, love and enjoy the ride.

Posted on Thursday, August 12th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: downshifting, family, grief, inspiration | 4 Comments »

The New Normal

tree-poseOne of my friends commented in an email that I’d need to find my own new normal. How profound!

If you’ve ever practiced yoga, there’s a pose called the tree pose, where you stand on one leg to work on balance. I’m horrible at it, I wobble and grab all over the place and never last anywhere near 30 seconds. That’s a metaphor for my life right now. Normal seems pretty out of reach – and probably overrated anyway.

The first month or two will be filled with chaos. All the paperwork, financial and legal, is time-consuming and seems never-ending. The household tasks, cleaning up, sorting out, moving things around, is a huge job and I’m thankful for the teen boy squad. The big ticket things, selling the third car (selling the van, I’m keeping Maggie!) and the boat take time to prep for, and in this economy are not a sure thing.

Beyond that, though, what’s is my new normal, my balance point? Some thoughts:

  • I plan to go into the office more often for people contact
  • I’ll see my family & friends more, for the same reason
  • The boys and I need some rituals and pastimes that will pull us closer together as a family
  • The boys (at 17 and 20) will have to go solo during my business trips to Anchorage
  • I need new routines for taking care of the house and yard, which Bryan helped tremendously with (and I’m highly allergic to grass) – I had a landscaper do my spring cleanup and am starting a biweekly housekeeper today
  • I need a fresh, less-work-intensive approach to cooking and kitchen cleanup, and the boys will do their own laundry. (Hello, crumpled look!)
  • I need a couple of selected external activities, structured, engaging and social, to keep my heart and mind challenged
  • I need to exercise frequently to help with mood, health and getting out of the house
  • I need to work out a new single income budget
  • Within that budget, I would like to travel

I’m sure there’s so many more things to think about. Going to movies alone? Watching tv more or less (usually less)? Playing music more often for background noise? More obedience training for the doggies?

The new normal is going to take a while. I hope I’m able to achieve something livable and maybe even a little extraordinary.

Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: downshifting, grief | 6 Comments »

Irresolute Year

Last year I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. The year before that I made some non-resolutions. How’d I do with those, over the course of the last two years?

  1. Go to the theater and see some good shows. It doesn’t have to be a Vegas-only experience!
    FAIL. Although Cats, Rent, Fiddler on the Roof and Wicked are all coming to Seattle next year, so I have lots of opportunity coming up.

  2. Get a pedicure once a month even in winter – and splurge on the extended foot massage.

  3. Listen to new music every month.
    I did this, actually, with the help of iTunes and exposure to new stuff via Wii Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

  4. Spend less time at work and more time with friends and family.
    Epic FAIL. Sigh. A couple of colleagues and I are supporting each other on this in 2009.

  5. Do something creative every week just for the joy of it, e.g. make jewelry, write, paint, garden, do a home project, or a web project.
    FAIL. But I did complete NaNoWriMo again. :)

  6. Take more naps.
    FAIL. I hardly took any naps last year, although I’ve done a bit more in the last month.

One out of six is 16%, not exactly stellar performance. Apparently even non-resolutions are not for me.

Happy New Year!

Posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: creativity, downshifting, work | 3 Comments »

Surviving it All

In a short story this month, I’m trying to flesh out the character of a crazy post-apocalyptic survivor. I’ve read many different fictional approaches to end-of-the-world scenarios, as well as non-fiction survivalist literature. Some of my readers may have actually been through survival training.

Writing on this subject made me think: how competent would I be at surviving in a low-tech, hardscrabble world? Could I:

  1. Survive outdoors without tent or sleeping bag? Probably
  2. Survive outdoors in cold weather? Probably.
  3. Use a map & compass to navigate by foot on land? Yes.
  4. Navigate by the stars?
  5. Make rope? Yes.
  6. Blacksmith? Yes.
  7. Make a crossbow and bolts?
  8. Make and use a bow and arrows?
  9. Make and use a slingshot? Make, yes – use, don’t know.
  10. Trap birds or small animals? Probably.
  11. Hunt, shoot and dress big game?
  12. Raise breed and butcher livestock? Probably.
  13. Fish without gear?
  14. Sink a well?
  15. Build a weatherproof shelter? Probably.
  16. Build a latrine and a shower? Yes.
  17. Build a boat? Sail it the direction you want to go? Doubtful on building a seaworthy boat – but I can sail.
  18. Light a fire with flint & steel?
  19. Have a basic knowledge of your region’s botany — poisonous/non poisonous plants & berries?
  20. Plant and maintain a survival garden? Yes.
  21. Make distilled water, soap, or booze? Water & soap.
  22. Preserve food for long term storage without refrigeration? Smoked meat & dried fruit.
  23. Sew, knit, or weave? Yes, all three.
  24. Tan hide and work leather? Basic leatherworking.
  25. Make shoes or boots?
  26. Provide EMT support? Basic first aid & CPR, but nothing advanced.
  27. Have knowledge of herbal medicine or basic pharmaceutical compounding?

I’m not entirely sure I’d be a multi-faceted resource to my post-apocalyptic enclave.

Feel free to chime in with your own answers. Note: Jim, we already know that you can do all of this very capably. Blindfolded, underwater, and bleeding from a gunshot wound. You’re hereby elected community leader.

Posted on Sunday, October 5th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: downshifting, inspiration, writing | 6 Comments »

Simple Pleasures

This has been my weekend to make apple and pear butter – and the scent of simmering apples and spices is one of my favorite things. I thought I’d list a few others:

  1. Curling up with a pot of tea and a good book on a rainy afternoon
  2. An evening spent laughing with friends
  3. Planting flowers in the garden on a sunny spring weekend
  4. Walking on the beach with my husband and dogs
  5. Taking a nap on a weekend afternoon
  6. Checking on my children at night, while peace and sleep take a decade off their age
  7. The woodshop scent of sawdust and freshly worked wood
  8. Ripe, freshly picked, tomatoes, sliced with a sprinkle of salt
  9. Hiking in the woods, among the ferns and big trees, where the air is cool, green and earthy
  10. A warm puppy curled up in my lap, relaxed and adoring
  11. Sitting beside a campfire in the dark, watching the sparks fly up into the stars
  12. Turning up a favorite album and letting the music and lyrics wash over me
  13. Playing outside in the first snowfall of the year
  14. The Saturday morning smell of coffee, bacon and pancakes drifting through the house
  15. A summer afternoon drive in Maggie the MINI with the top down (hardly a simple pleasure – but it’s a fabulous de-stressor)

What are your simple pleasures?

Posted on Saturday, October 4th, 2008 by Jeri
Under: downshifting, inspiration | 7 Comments »