Leaving Home

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on UnsplashThe essence of leaving home is change. Change brings the excitement of new adventure as well as fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar. As children going away to camp, or as young adults going off to college, many of us have felt the temporary, but very real pangs of homesickness. Those times when loss of the familiar feels like a trap door has opened beneath our feet. But eventually we embrace leaving as a part of natural growth.

Photo by Nils Nedel on UnsplashAnd then something happens over time. We work hard to create a comfortable world around us that is to our liking; our home, friends, activities, the work we do- they all become part of a rhythm of days that flows like a well-worn river bed. Life becomes more complicated too, and entangled with responsibilities. No longer can we simply “pack up and go.” Sometimes there is so much effort involved in getting away that we simply don’t. Pretty soon complacency begets inertia. And once again, we find that leaving home is not so easy to do for a whole new set of reasons.Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

As I contemplate moving to Prague, I wonder if I will be able to leave home when the time comes. The immensity of leaving all that is comfortable and familiar to me; my great little house, my routine, my senior pets, for a place that is entirely foreign sometimes overwhelms me. How will it all get sorted out? Physical aging too has shown me just how easy it is to succumb to inertia. It brings new meaning to the law of physics that states “a body at rest, tends to stay at rest.”

I assure you that my decision to go has not been taken lightly. I believe that acknowledging doubts and fears is not a defeatist attitude, it’s just being honest. Even with all the uncertainty and complications known, and yet to be discovered, I’m still going to continue to work toward my goal in the coming year- because, of one thing I am certain. Just like exercising your body to keep it able to exercise, change is a muscle that must be flexed in order to keep it loose and limber. Remaining flexible and open to change are what keep us young as we age. Leaving home and moving overseas to an unfamiliar place is a big and scary thing, but oh, the possibilities!Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Dear Readers: Have you experienced the inertia of complaceny? Resistance to change? Maybe it was a time when you too were leaving the familiarity of home. How did you, or are you dealing with your fear? Please share.





A Grief Observed

Soundlessly the door opened as a father and his two young sons emerged from a small side room, and into the vacuous lobby of the Animal Emergency and Trauma Center. The boys’ red blotchy cheeks, downcast eyes, and slumped shoulders telegraphed the sad story that had unfolded on the other side of that door. Their father led them over to one of the hard wooden benches that lined the walls of the waiting area where I too was sitting, and waiting. Two days earlier, my dog, Chuckles, had been admitted for a life-threatening liver infection and I was hoping to bring him home after meeting with the doctor.cristina-lavaggi-21229

The room was quiet at 7:00 o’clock in the evening, except for the television that ran incessantly like a kind of “white noise” in the background. I imagined it as a ridiculous soundtrack to all the traumas and dramas that flowed in and out of that space, like the one I was witnessing now, like my own, too. I couldn’t help but watch and listen as this father offered comfort to his sons, each in their own turn. Gently, he cradled the first boy’s face with his hands, and spoke words so softly that I could not catch them, but the sentiment could not have been more clear. With tenderness he kissed the boy on his forehead. Then to his other son he did the same.christopher-harris-57366

I sensed that he wanted to capture the significance of the moment for them, and to honor its solemnity. He did everything with such intention, as though to say, “yes, this is what grief feels like. This is how badly it hurts to lose someone you love. I cannot shield you from the pain but I can reassure you of my love. Today we are bonded by our grief, but also by our love for each other.”

roman-kraft-421410As witness to such compassion, I felt the tears welling up in my own eyes. It didn’t take much, with my own recent fear of loss so fresh and close to the surface. How tender our own grief makes us! How universal the bond! Sitting there in that waiting room, in that time, I felt a part of their story and they of mine. Just then, an attendant came around the corner and called out “Chuckles!” I jumped up to see what awaited me behind another closed-door.

The Potholes of Your Mind

While on vacation in New York City last fall I learned how to tie my shoe. No, really. My friend Joy and I were tromping around the city and after my shoe came untied for the tenth time Joy suggested that I tie the loops together “Romper Room style” making a very secure knot. Much to my amazement it worked great and I felt a gap in my education closing.IMG_2557

My remedial instruction in shoe tying got me thinking about all the other gaps lurking in my education. In the category of formal learning, they are extensive. There are all those facts learned and forgotten as well as those never taught me. You know the ones; the 10 major U.S. wars and their dates, all the wives of Henry VIII, Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, and how the electoral college works, etc.

Cognizant of my deficiencies, I bought a most informative and entertaining book a few years ago, An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson. More fun than any text book I ever had in school, the authors wittily fill in a student’s “serious educational gaps” in scholastic learning. From World Religions to Economics to Art Appreciation they cover what you should have learned in school but didn’t. Because knowledge is enriching, and because, as the authors say, “ bumping along over the potholes of your mind day after day can’t be doing much for your self-esteem.”chalk board

But what about the more critical gaps in our emotional and relational education? What about those potholes that we bump along over in life? Like learning to tie our shoes and learning to read and write, we have to learn how to become mature healthy adults. How to respect others who are different from ourselves, how to effectively handle confrontation, how to listen and compromise, all these must be taught. Likewise, we must learn to love and respect ourselves. To become our true selves, to speak our mind, and to be committed and resilient. We are not born knowing how to do these things.

I daresay most of us have learned how to be an adult the hard way. If you are like me, you have fallen into many potholes along the road of life and have learned by climbing back out of them. Some potholes I have failed to steer clear of repeatedly and I have had to learn the same lesson multiple times. I have annoyingly tied and retied the same shoe before learning how to make a secure knot.IMG_2548

Even if you were one of the lucky ones who had parents who served as healthy role models, you still have probably done most of your learning by the trial and error method. And while there are self-help books aplenty, on everything from confrontation to mindfulness, they seem to help best after we’ve already gotten a few battle scars on us.

As a student of life, and becoming my most authentic self, I am a life-long learner. That is a class that never lets out. I have witnessed that the surest sign of old age is the inability to change your mind and so to become rigid and inflexible. In future posts I will talk about how I learned some of my hardest lessons and how I came back out on the other side.

Dear Reader, what are some of the potholes you have navigated in and out of in your life?