Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Very New Year

Be warned... not my usual post. Feel free to move on to your next blog.

I had a dream last night that I was holding a camera benignly at my waist. Not aiming or focusing it, just holding it there in front of my belly button. It exploded with a loud pop. More resonant than a balloon popping; more like a blown up paper bag right behind your head pop. I looked at my empty hands in alarm and wonder. Huh.

I am finding myself at the strangest junction. Shouldn't I have figured out my life by now? Shouldn't I be settling down with my knitting and tea and good books? Ah, that's the problem: I don't knit.

I am being bombarded with all of the wrong turns I've taken, and lordy there are plenty. Missed opportunities abound. These images fly into my consciousness willy-nilly, uninvited and so unwelcome. While I sliced my banana into my shredded wheat, (after giving a slice each to the beggars Sammy, Swede William, Mama Pajama, Delia, and Luciano), I wondered what my life would have been if I chose to go to Vanderbilt, instead of choosing to go to work with horses, marrying at nineteen, having a child at twenty-two. What if I had chosen Princeton, where my sister graduated and my uncle taught?

What if I had decided to be a veterinarian? Oh the stories I'd have to tell! What if we had stayed on the farm in Maryland, or, what if we had stuck to the plan of buying land somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley, with a modest house and a view of those mountains? I'd be raising several endangered species of farm animals. Smelling the morning barn home air in a mountain embrace. Hosting field trials and race meets. Cursing the mud this time of year.

The grieving the loss of the farm air and the friends has been private, unproductive, and relentless. For the first year, I couldn't speak to Sara on the phone. She kindly took the ancient ponies, Molly and Peter, for me. Nice way to thank her, huh? But the silly untamable keening would bubble out: I was at its particular mercy and it showed none.

I am living in the town of Paradox now. I do not like living in a city. I love this city. I want to move to the country some day, mucking stalls, smelling home. I love the people here. Nets of deep friendships are pitched over me. These golden silk, precious threads pin me firmly on my back, like Gulliver, but seeing only the part of the sky visible between buildings. I couldn't survive the loss of more friends. I cannot wait for the book club to meet.

I do not do my dogs justice.

I must go back to work this year. Bill bears the brunt of this. As does poor Laurie. I am sorry. I am terrified. I haven't been a full time RN on a hospital floor since 1985. I'll breeze through the refresher course. I'll be a good nurse. The kind of nurse you'd want to have. Twelve hour shifts. My dogs. My writing. My book. The Boards. The book club. Is there enough of me to do it all? I'll have the means to go to dog shows again, and that is only good. Financial problems solved.

I am torn whether to post this. So selfish. Sublimely unentertaining. I am blessed. There's something about being fifty-four. Something about looking at a Very Old Dog, who will be fifteen in April. Joy at his small joys. The constant piercing fear of his fragility. My brave athlete who can no longer negotiate stairs. Something about that unfinished book.

Something about all those missed opportunities. And wasting energy on what ifs.

Time to walk the dogs. On the sidewalks. With a wonderful friend.

hug your hounds

23 comments:

  1. Ahhh, Patience! Does the angst never end?

    At this stage, my job is literally killing me. We have been covering for a lost partner for some time, and none of us have had time to breathe or regenerate (there is my selfish response).

    That being said, I can not imagine not working. It feeds my soul right now, although sometimes saps it dry. Knowing you, you will be an incredible nurse, and you will rapidly become a leader.

    Our hind-sight is always 20/20. The what-ifs always abound. The path that you have taken has made you an incredible person; if you had taken the other path, I'll bet that you would still be incredible.

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  2. Patience, you must not mourn for "missed opportunities" for they are not "missed opportunties" but things you didn't do because they were not the right things for you to do.

    And look at it from the other side, if you had chosen one of those opportunities, your life would have taken a very different path and you would not have the things that you have in this life.... Your children, Bill, the Waggle. I somehow don't think you would trade them for any "what-ifs".

    Big hugs.

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  3. Martha &P-DoggyJanuary 4, 2009 at 12:51 PM

    My dearest P,do not worry about "usual"-we are all friends here! I believe we ALL feel this way now and then,and especially at this time of year. It was not any easy one for you,in many ways.Don't regret the paths you chose-you really can't tell where the other ones would ACTUALLY have led!

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  4. patience - you should write more like this - its how we all feel and it is so good to read. i am coming up to 50 and have done something similar to you on a smaller scale - moved from the country to the town. workwise i have moved from full time to part time and on both counts i am way happier. i am in the or by the river or on the beach most days walking the dogs so i get my dose of nature as well. i am sure it will all work out.

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  5. Patience
    I'll answer instead of Asta cause it's not usual..you have accomplished sooo much,I can't believe someone like you has these thoughts too..I have them nightly..they keep me awake..but then I'm sixty..we own nothing, couldn't move even if we wanted to..I'm terrified of the future..being homeless or not being able to care for George if he needs it..I couldn't get anything except a minimum wage job..that goes a long way, especially in NY..HAH!
    I have made more mistakes then I can count..but I've had joy, and a wonderful husband,and my darliing dogs and great friends..I traveled a lot when I was younger, and George and I were able to spend so much time together, not climbing any ladders..so maybe I wouldn't do anything differently if I had the chance.
    We've been so lucky in so many ways..you have had the richest life from everything I've read, and continue to do so..have no regrets..there are more wonderful days ahead
    love
    AMi

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  6. Methinks that is actually one of your best posts. I too have many different visions of what my life should or could look like. There is no wrong and no right, just different.

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  7. An amazing blog Patience! Instead of the angst that goes with dwelling negatively on the "what if's" one needs to simply look to the past to see how you've got to where you are now and then to positively (the key word) look forward to see where you need to be and what you need to do to get there. We all have these thoughts - the trick is putting a positive spin on how we view them as we go forward.

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  8. Excellent post. Usual and customary only works for usual and customary folks. Loved it. Maybe because I've been there, done that. In reverse, kind of. Didn't go to nursing school, did do graduate school. Haven't used ANY of my degrees for their original purpose. Often wonder how my life would have been if I had a profession I cared to fall back upon. Retired when we moved here, going stir crazy anyway. Had kids late, wish I had been able to do it earlier. Love them anyway. Married a LOOONG time. Love him anyway.

    No one I know has the life s/he anticipated. Except maybe Rich. Who certainly didn't sign up for terriers, no matter how orderly the rest of his existence (outside the home) may have been.

    Usual and customary works best for folks who are also usual and customary. Embrace the choices you made. Love your dogs. They will adapt - the most important thing in their lives is YOU and BILL, or maybe, FOOD, YOU and BILL. Think about your options here too. If you recertify, can you work somewhere your hours are more flexible, training, selling, managing?

    We all love you. Hug the Whippets.

    Muzzer

    pee ess...just wait til you are over 60 and still feel this way.

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  9. Thank you for the thoughtful post. Me thinks that your feelings are more prevalent in others than you could have ever imagined but I also need to let you know that I have always envied your talent, energy and all the ways you give back to society. I wish I could have met you through our mutual friend at your farm in Maryland but you had uprooted your waggle and moved already when we reconnected.

    At 48 I had been accepted to graduate school; completed 12 credits and then...out of nowhere I had to drop out of the program when our daughter became very ill. Five years later, after hours and hours of research and networking and finally a partial treatment for her rare disorder, she is a happy and successful college freshman and I am at a loss.

    Like you, I feel I should be further along in my 53rd year of life...

    I appear to be either over or under qualified for everything and I have no idea what it is that I really want to do for the next 10 years and would rather be living back on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland instead of crowded, congested Fairfax County, Virginia.

    So, as you can see by the responses to this particular blog...you are not alone. Knowing this doesn't solve anything but at least you are aware that others feel lost and unsettled or not where they want to be.

    In the meantime, we keep finding the silver linings in everything that happens...and like you, feel like very ungrateful people when we forget to appreciate all the things we do have.

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  10. Your friends are always close to you...in your heart. Even when you think you are alone, you are not. Don't look back, it is not where you are heading. Let go of your losses and don;t let the influences of your past weigh heavy on you. Break away from those chains and free your soul to step forward anew. Make decisions now that are right for you TODAY! And know your friends are always there for you....

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  11. My mom, at 62, just transitioned to a new career as a professor at a nursing school after getting her graduate degree when she was in her 50s. It is never too late to go and try something else. She found in her long career as a nurse that she didn't enjoy floor nursing in a hospital, but there are a lot of opportunities for nurses: home visits, for example.

    You are one of the wisest people I know, Patience, and if some of that wisdom has come from making mistakes, then every wrong turn was a blessing as much as the right turns.

    Hugs,

    Erin

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  12. I think the best advice that I was ever given about dogs was that they live in the "Here and Now" and not in the past. This was explained to me in terms of determining the right time to help an old dog cross the bridge, but its really stuck with me as a truth about them in general.

    I've oft thought what a joyous existence that must be. To actually live in the "Here and Now" without any remorse or recollection of the past! To live life, good and bad, in the moment and live it to the fullest because you know nothing else.

    My guess is that your whippets are just as content with you in the "Here and Now", living in the city, as they would be on the farm. They will adjust to your working absence because they have to and the highlight of their day will no longer be mid-afternoon walks, but your triumphant return home and they will be ok with that because right here, right now is the only place they'd rather be.

    As for the rest, perhaps there is something to be learned from the dogs.

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  13. You sound like a kind and wise woman. I agree with the commenter who spoke of the dogs living in the Here and Now. I wholeheartedly agree. All my dogs have been rescues, our little Jeter (white poodle) was the most terribly abused, but after being with us for over a year, I believe in my heart he has thrived, and discovered he is loved and safe. The injury he arrived with is practically invisible. It is sad when they leave us but that too is part of life, they knew kindness when they were with us.

    PS Thanks for the recommend of The Lace Reader -- looks like a great story.

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  14. Ahh, Patience, you are not alone. So many women I speak to, in midlife or senior years, are still grappling with the question "What shall I be when I grow up?".

    My life will soon change in ways opposite to those you are experiencing - I will leave my career, move from country to town, become much less economically secure. It is not without trepidation. Yet I have travelled many roads before, and even the rockiest of them have added to my life, have helped me become become the very person that I am. Other choices would have led me to become someone else - and yet I rather like who I am.

    There is a saying - I don't know the author -"Accept the pain, cherish the joys, resolve the regrets; then can come the best of benedictions: 'If I had my life to live over again, I'd do it all the same'."

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  15. It has been my experience that those posts you're afraid to hit "publish" on that mean the most. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. Yep,I could say that I agree with everyone! What if I had advanced my nursing degree? What if I did something other than staff nursing? What if I did something other than Pedi?? Will I be able to keep doing this another 10 years? Oh we all have this angst dear Patience.....but know that your nursing will come back like riding a bike,and yes you will be in that category of being the nurse we would want.And that is a wonderfull wonderfull thing....PL2

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  17. If you changed any one thing wouldn't that change everything? I very much appreciate this post as I have much the same thing going on...only I don't have something like nursing to fall back on. I still want to know what I am going to be when I grow up...should that ever happen. Thank you for this one Patience - I think it means more than you could have anticipated.

    Sue

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  18. Yhis may be yr best blog yet. I am just a few years older then you & several years ago sat at my computer & took that dang RN refresher course. I still have not returned to work although think of it often......you see I am still rather goaless for this time of my life although I was exorcised of the angst part a long time ago. But you, you have a goal to go to more dog events, so you will do well.
    Have you considered Hospice work, I feel you would be excellant & it sure would give fuel to yr blogs and do wonders for yr angst.
    Sara

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  19. A mighty post my honest friend. (I presume to call you friend although we have never met) We must tell ourselves the truth no matter what it may be. One of the old time greats said "to deceive yourself is the worst for then the deceiver is always with you. I find I do best when I own my feelings and fears. They seem to get smaller when I do. Thank you for gifting us with your whole self. I, for one, am honored.

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  20. I have it on the authority of six skinny friends that you have wasted absolutely nothing. I think your wise friends have many good things to say.

    wally t.

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  21. Oh but P.. The choices you've made have made you who you are today. And I know I speak for us all when I say you're quite a lady. You've made people smile, laugh, cry and reflect. Not just your (remarkable) friends, not the just the people in your neighbourhood - but people all over the globe. Now how 'bout that? ;)

    Going back to work sure will be a big change - but the sick will benefit from your return and I hope you'll be getting plenty of good experiences. And lots of money for dog shows and meeting friends!

    Big hugs,
    Ane

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  22. It is wise to always question. Keep seeking!

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  23. Patience,

    This is somewhat belated considering there are already 22 people ahead of me with their well wishes and thoughts. But it strikes a cord.

    I agree with everyone that these are very common thoughts, the wondering if we're going down the right path. Your post pretty much summed up my time in Mexico before we moved here to Paducah. And I still have that feeling of straddling the border, with one foot down there and one up here. Where do I belong? Both places, I think. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that it's all an adventure and these decision points take us on our journeys. Yous pays your money, yous takes your chances.
    Whatever the outcome, we learn and grow and become what we are, hopefully for the good. And you are definitely way on the good side of the equation.

    I'm reading something that speaks very much to this issue of finding one's home, especially in times of transition. "Heart in the Wild" by Susan Chernak McElroy. She uses animals as teachers in guiding her down life's lessons. I think you'd find it interesting.

    Hugs from down the street.

    Stefanie

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