Getting it together in this gypsy’s life

I’ve gone from friend’s home to car to camper.  The camper is a metaphor.  And I get it.   Get the camper together, and my life will follow.   When you get rid of the extras, you zero in on the necessities. Okay.    Cut the excess baggage. Oh wait—-!  I found out that applies to ME too–my body.  I gained weight the last few months and I was so disappointed because I’d  lost like 200 pounds.  The good news is that I didn’t gain back anywhere near 200 lbs.  No, I need to lose about 50 lbs.   So while I’m working on the camper, I’m also working on myself.   The answer for me?   (Click on the graphic for the app for either Apple or Android!)   It’s an interval program.  It comes with a personal trainer (okay, it’s not a real person but you get your choice between a man, a woman, a unicorn (the one I chose!) or a drill sergeant, and someone else I think.  You can play your own music and hey. It’s only 30 minutes a day three days a week).   I HIGHLY recommend it.   You’re never too old to get off the couch!  You may not run fast, ever, but you and me are still running faster than the one on the couch!

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And about eating–oh my god.  Carbs don’t treat me well.  I blow up like a balloon when I eat too many carbs, with edema.  So I went back on a high protein diet and it was amazing.  My ankles and feet quit swelling up after three days of being on it.  I donate plasma and they kept telling me that my protein was low.  Don’t know why it took me so long to get it.

Now for the disclaimer—this works well for ME.   I know my body and I know what works.  It may not work well for YOU.  You will have to find your own way, little Padawan.   

I applied for two jobs that pay three times what my current one does. Self confidence!

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Ever since I bought this camper, and found out I CAN fix things, and I don’t NEED anyone else’s help unless I ask for it, I have been EMPOWERED in a way that is hard to describe.  So many people seek to take over under the guise of helping a person, when maybe what we ought to be doing is leaving someone alone to let them accomplish!   When we “overhelp,” we are actually taking away that person’s power, and telling them that we don’t believe in them!   Little kids are so independent. That’s good!   We all need to learn to ask for help at times, but you know what?  Most of the time we do just fine on our own if we are allowed to.

See how fixing up an old camper has extended to other parts of my life?  It’s really incredible to me.   I have gotten rid of things, and now I’m getting rid of excess weight.  I have fixed things in the camper, and that has been fixing things that were broken in me–my self confidence, my faith in myself and my abilities.

For example,

I fixed  bad spot in the ceiling of the camper last night.  I had bought some peel and stick laminate that looked almost EXACTLY like the brown paneling in the camper.   I got the idea that a rotten spot in the ceiling that was dribbling down fine powdery rotten wood pieces on my head through the torn paneling could be fixed temporarily (I’m not rich you know), with cardboard and that peel and stick laminate.  I know how it SHOULD be done.  All the rotten wood should be removed and insulation put up in there, and a piece of paneling purchased and stapled in place with an air staple gun.   I get it.  I don’t have any of those things.   Winter is coming.  I’m getting rotten wood powder and pieces on my floor and my head every time I walk under it.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

Here’s what I had to fix: (this was from before I bought it–water damage sustained when a tree fell on the camper):

step 1

 

That’s all rotten wood and paneling.  I scooped all that out and stuck a piece of foam insulation up there.  Then I got out the cardboard and duct tape–miracle worker.  If it was good enough to fix airplane wings it’s good enough for me. I covered the hole left over (stuffed with foam insulation mind you), with the cardboard and duct taped it into place.

step 2

Then….I WHIPPED OUT THE LAMINATE.   Why did I capitalize that?  I have zero idea. It was pretty exciting though.

So I had to measure to see how much laminate I would have to cut.  And there is an annoying white border on the edges of peel and stick laminate that I had to trim off because I am totally faking it till I make it here.

What you need

Isn’t it great!!!   It’s a total lie, just like my makeup, but because I’m a woman and good at covering up blemishes, it sure looks terrific!    I measured, peeled and stuck and oh my god it went on the paneling SO EASILY.   Here’s the finished product.  The hole is sealed up and fully insulated so unlike before, no cold air can get in.  That was the main concern for me because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get the paneling to fix it before winter sets in.    Here’s how it turned out!!  So exciting!

Finished product

Not bad, eh?   It’s not perfect, but it’s a darned sight better than that gaping hole!   I woke up this morning and it felt so good not to have to stare at that broken paneling by the vent on the ceiling anymore.  It is fixed till I can get it fixed!

This is the first home I’ve owned.  It is not what I envisioned.  I thought my first home would be a “real house,” with a big lawn and a place I could have a dog and a basement office.  It turns out my first home is better than I envisioned, because I am putting my whole heart and soul into the place, and making it my own.  In the meantime, my whole life is improving because of that camper, and I am getting outside of myself at the same time and the whole thing is making my life better.   I have some thoughts to share on mourning  and letting go as connected to the last article about my friend Jerry that I wrote.   

I have thoughts.  So many thoughts.   But these thoughts will be for future posts.  This post is the foundation.   Fixing up that camper is an extension of the work going on within me.  I will be living in this camper for at least a year.  I wonder what my life will be like at the end of this year?   How will I be better?  How will others benefit as a result of my personal renovation?   How will my life be better?  Better job?

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Dear past me…

 I see you now.  You are young, and shy, and earnest, and you hide your shyness behind an outgoing personality that often comes across as brash and loud.   You are such an innocent.  You know well the power of people to hurt.  You’ve been watching people hurt each other at home most  of your life.    You’ve retreated to books and writing for safety, and you love school because you’re smart, and because there, you get positive affirmation for being who you are.

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I wish I could tell you all the amazing places you’re going to go, and the people around the world that you will meet.  I wish I could tell you that you travel because you love new places, yes, but also because you ran from love because it scared you, and you ran to get away from home.  You’re a runner.   When things get too hard in one place, you run to another.  You’ve started over more times than I can count, but the trick is, you can’t run away from yourself.   I wish I could tell you to be yourself sooner and not try to be what everyone else wants you to be, especially men.    I wish I could tell you not all men are bad, there are good ones out there, but until you think better of yourself, you won’t meet those good ones and be ready for them.   You’ll meet men who are emotionally unavailable like your dad was, but you won’t figure this out for thirty years.  You will believe that the failure of your relationships is all your fault.  But one day, you will understand that while yes, it does take two, you’ve been picking what you’re used to.  You’ve chosen what you believe you deserve and what you believe about yourself–that you are unlovable, invisible, and unimportant.  Your dad did a number on you.

You will meet a man who will turn a light on in a dark room for you.   He will be the light that shines on a whole new world for you.   He will be interested in what you think and who you are, and will like you for yourself.  He will give you Blake, and Dylan, and  Billie Holiday and Nanci Griffith, and you and he will spend hours talking about all the places he’s gone in the world and listening to this, and to all he knows of literature and poetry and culture will light a fire in your heart to see the places he speaks of, and  know more of the world he does, because you’d like to be able to keep up with him in conversation.  He will call you his girl with the gypsy feet.   He will be  the most confusing, wonderful , tenderhearted man you have ever known, and he will break your heart, not because he was callous, or heartless, or mean, but because he was good, and kind, and he taught you how a real man acts towards a smart woman he considers his equal. He will die, and you will want to, but you will live–first for him, then later, you will learn to live for yourself.

You will be broke most of your life.  You will  go to Ireland and write in your journal in Bewley’s Cafe. You will visit Shetland Islands and sit on the docks and write by the sea, with the sharp smell of fish, and the briny smell of sea water, next to battered old fishing boats that have stories of their own.   You will go to Belfast and look at the murals and wonder why people can’t get along. You will wonder why people can’t get along all of your life.   You will go to Russia, and see the Hermitage and the Bolshoi Ballet, and Moscow and ride a train across Russia with cockroaches for bedmates and cheap Georgian champagne while  listening to the life story of one of the coach matrons who tells you how her parents were collective farmers and she grew up wanting to go to college and become a teacher, but instead, works on the trains.  You will visit Moscow University. You will meet many Russian people who are emotional and passionate and good, and kind, and beaten down. You will wonder again, as this is the end of the Cold War, if Russia can learn to be a democracy.  You will find out they have trouble holding on to freedom.

You will become discouraged at the selfish, self centered nature of people.  Of the rich people who work the system to get what they want, while depriving others of what they need.  Greedy pepole who believe freedom is only for them while taking others’ freedoms away.  People who believe that violence is the only answer and power is everything.

But there will be moments, when the world reveals itself to be a miraculous, beautiful place. When you see deer.  When you see random acts of kindness by strangers.  When you see selflessness. When you see a tiny flower growing out of concrete, or see a sunset on a prairie in Nebraska, or the  Northern Lights in northern Minnesota. At those moments, you will believe in God.

Keep going, be strong, and have faith.  It gets better, girlie.   You will be much more yourself, more self-confident and you will know what you want when you are almost fifty, but….better late than never.   Your whole life will be a sacred pilgrimage to your sense of spirituality, God, and yourself. You get to help people, and love, and be loved.

You get to go home again, and be happy in the end.

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Begin again

I won’t have any money she said but that’s okay because we are all a little rough when we all start out I replied softly

There is plenty to go around she remarked from the rocking chair on the other side of the porch so dont worry just give it

time

At night I saw her rising again out of the dark waters in the calm moonlit nights sensuously wet hair clinging to her breasts and her waist

Moonlight drapes over me walking on white sand shore I

trip over driftwood in my bare feet and I am walking over years and years as I kick up sand grains and frighten sea gulls

who flap their wings nervously as they drift inches above the wave lapped shore then settle down again when I have passed

Here I begin again the stars sing and a single owl watches me without judgment from on high

the lighthouse is dark on calm nights and I sit on the breakwall wondering about love or passion or who is large enough to contain mine and mingle with it

Fly

Fly and my feet leave the sand and I turn into the red-tailed hawk

Bridge to Eternity: Part Two

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(photo taken by me, 2014, Valentine, NE)

The clock ticked inexorably.  Even in her dreams Claire felt the passage of time.  In her dreams she was always searching in the dark for something that was just beyond her reach; in others people long dead came to visit her.   She welcomed their company; her house was empty, and the long nights sleep, when it came with its shadowy visitors, was a comfort.   She had spent much of her life in a restless sort of fashion, moving from place to place searching for that indescribable something—perhaps a sense of home—that was always beyond her reach.  For twenty years her entire life had pivoted around one fateful decision—moving away.   Going home, perhaps, was an attempt to rectify the past, even though the present had changed forever.  And anyway, she mused, one place was much like another these days.   Being alone had become such a way of life that she had long ago stopped trying to change it; a string of failed relationships haunted her; or perhaps more to the point, her failure at love haunted her–and the years spun themselves out behind her effortlessly, it seemed while she watched all the people she knew marry, she felt she was a bystander while the carousel of life spun around her.

    At last she saw the lights of the Duluth hill draw towards her.  What she would do once she got home she had no idea.   She only knew that home was what she wanted; her heart ached for it, and she could not imagine what it had been in her youth that had called her away for so long.

She could no longer outrun the grief as she could no longer outrun the love that had followed her around the world for the last twenty years, outlasted a marriage, and went on still.  

   Claire pulled into town, and turned slowly into the parking lot of a motel.  Wearily, she got out of the truck, grabbed her bag, checked in, and fell into a dreamless sleep.  She did not feel the weight on the bed beside her, nor the hand that softly stroked her hair.  Even if she had, she would not have seen her gentle visitor.  Because everyone knows when you die, you disappear.

 

why I love the autumn

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“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
― Ernest HemingwayA Moveable Feast

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I love the autumn because it seems to me an affirmation of life; a sort of comforting pause before the stillness and seeming bleakness of winter descends on the north, where I am from.  Autumn in northern Minnesota is an explosion of color, the climax of the year, vibrant reds and golds against the green of the spruces and pines next to the cerulean blue Lake Superior.   I understand Hemingway; like him, I exult in the autumn, find that autumn teaches me that the fireworks of color are how one should live before they die, and the cycle of seasons teaches me that nothing really ever dies–resurrection and rebirth are certainties, else spring would never come.

For five years I have lived on the great prairies of the West; there are no trees here–rather, it is the prairie that changes colors, going from varying shades of greens that ripple and shine in the unceasing summer winds, to yellows, golds and deep red, before turning into the listless brown of winter.

I find that something in me is missing living here; that the changing of the prairie in the fall is more sad than the bright leaves falling off of the trees.  I suppose it is because the prairies always look so expansive, empty, like a sea of grass stretching to the horizon, and while the grasses whisper and make their own music brushing up against one another, it is not the same as experiencing trees.   Trees make me feel safe; there is no emptiness in them.  Instead of the empty space of the prairies, I find the claustrophobic closeness of the trees comforting; I think it is because I have carried vast empty spaces inside of myself, and needed to be surrounded by trees in nature in order to fill the void.  I need to glory in the explosion of colors that is to me a celebration of life; and at the end of my days, I hope that people should celebrate the vibrant life I have had so that I might have the autumn of funerals –colorful, beautiful, if for no other reason than to comfort those left behind–that autumn is a glorious doorway that tells us that life only lies dormant; it does not cease, and if we walk through the winter long enough, even endure, there will always be a spring, and life returns.