reVision

A few months ago I pulled out my journal and wrote:  I’m changing my life. 

I’m not even sure I knew what I meant when I wrote it, I knew it didn’t mean anything earth-shattering, but I could sense a shift coming.  Every once in a while things just click into place and you find yourself moved from one space to the next.  Around that time I got rid of my smartphone. (Best decision I ever made, truly.) Since then, a friend and I started working our way through The Well-Educated Mind.  I really committed to running. I recalibrated my writing goals to make them both more consistent and more manageable.  I started outlining a new novel.  I let go of some restrictions I’d put on myself that weren’t serving a good purpose.  I got rid of time wasters (like watching Netflix/movies at home) that were cluttering my creative process.  I started working on projects I’ve been procrastinating for years.  Somehow, without thinking too much about it, I really did start changing my life.

*

For our anniversary, we rented a house overlooking a tidal bay on Puget Sound.  In the mornings, the sun shone off the water and osprey circled overhead, cormorants rode the low air streams.  Later in the day, the tide lifted its skirts and left a mudflat behind.  The herons moved in, dozens of them, joint and feather, long gray necks snaking into the silt to find clams, a luckless fish.  We made coffee on the stovetop, darky and gritty, sat by the big windows watching their strange high step across the muddy plain in fascination.  Hour after hour, water returned, the herons waded, their long legs disappearing inch by inch until they lifted their wings and fled.  The low lands filled in, the flat became a stream again, a river.

On the second day we slipped our kayaks into the high tide and paddled toward the ocean.  The air was scented with brine and rot, that particular tang of the sea.  Jelly fish floated around us, yellow, orange, a skirt of white – giant eggs poaching under the surface.  I have a bit of thalassaphobia. (I came to kayaking partly to confront that fear.)  So while my husband was delighted, I thought, oh my god, if jellyfish, what else is under there?  That’s all it took for the panic to rise up.

The value of being afraid in a kayak over a body of water is there’s nowhere to run.  I had to force my mind to reason, force my arms to paddle, my breath to slow.  It wasn’t long before the anxiety had passed and I had gained that small accomplishment, the vanquishing of a fear, to take with me for good.  It occurred to me later, tucked back into the house, scrubbed of sea salt and sweat, that changing your life in any way at all hinges on facing down fears.  (As a perfectionist, my fear often involves failure.  Better to never start something at all than to do a poor job, or to quit midway.)  You have to take yourself in hand and risk it.

Sometimes changing our lives though, is really about changing our thinking.  I turned 47 this month, and the last of our kids graduated high school in May.  Cue midlife angst. Halfway through your life the doors start closing.  For almost five decades I have made choices, traveled a path, and that creates natural limits.  For example, it doesn’t really make sense for me to go for that college degree at this point (too much money when I’m already doing what I love and don’t plan to change it.) And there are other things – big things I thought I wanted earlier in my life that are unlikely to happen now.  There’s fear involved with shutting those doors – will I get to my deathbed and regret?  (Probably not.)  But I’ve been working on facing those insecurities, redefining the idea of “success”, changing my language, being confident in the direction I have chosen for myself.  It takes just as much intentional work to do that as it did to paddle through a bay of jellyfish.

I’m someone who believes fully in the value of a small and focused life.  It’s a constant challenge to own that in a big, splashy, motion-forward culture.  I keep refining, letting go of the things that tangle me up, make me feel inadequate.  Some of those are outward things – the smartphone, social media, the television – but there’s an equal amount of self-talk, intangible expectations, perfectionism, and discontent that trap too.  If I’ve made a goal for 47 it’s to deal honestly with the interior struggles as well as the outer struggles.

June 19, 2018:  I’m changing my life. (Ongoing.)

10 thoughts on “reVision

  1. “It’s a constant challenge to own that in a big, splashy, motion-forward culture. I keep refining, letting go of the things that tangle me up, make me feel inadequate…” right there with you Tonia.

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  2. Loved this. At 52 I’m confronting similar issues. I even pulled the Well Educated Mind off the shelf and started Don Quixote! Sadly, I couldn’t find a friend to do it with me. I’ve never thought of change as facing down fear, but you are right.

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    1. I was so lucky to find someone who wants to read hard books and study them with me! I can’t believe my good luck! (I’ve tried DQ a couple times and never make it that far….it’s a tough one!)

      Who knew we’d have so much work to do at midlife…recreating ourselves, repurposing ourselves. I hope you find the courage to go for some good things!

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  3. Your posts always inspire me Tonia. I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone. I gave it up for lent this year and experienced a deep sense of peace and re-connection with myself and my spiritual life. I have always been disciplined about the amount of time I spend on it but that time so easily increases without vigilance. I can also feel the beginnings of mid life and all that entails so your thoughts on that were really interesting to me. Strangely enough, I have also always had a fear of the ocean. My nightmares have often featured being overwhelmed by water! Not too sure what that says about my psyche 😉 but I’m glad I’m not the only one and that there is actually a name for it!

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    1. Gah! The ocean is just plain scary, lady. We need to just stay far away. On land. With our books. And tea.

      I just made my smartphone into a dumbphone. I went into my restrictions and took off all the apps. I use it only for texting, maps, photos and podcasts while I’m running now. It’s changed everything. EVERYTHING. I feel like I’ve returned to my self again after being absent for a long, long time. I’m halfway through my life. I just knew I didn’t want to look back and realize I spent the time I have left bent over a damn smartphone!

      Love you darling. Sending hugs across the ocean.

      tonia

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  4. I have been thinking about your thoughts here and I do find them especially poignant at this point of our lives. The desire to remain small in our success driven culture is a struggle. I have worked in pretty much the same position my entire career and while at times, it can be mundane – I like it and it pays my bills. But, then a friend/colleague decides to take a new position where she will be groomed for leadership happens just last week, and I start to question my worth. Then like you as well, the kids are all graduated so what’s next is being asked of me too?

    I have always loved home and found my worth there. I desire home more than anything. I never would have pursued my masters degree if I had to pay for it myself. My employer completely covers the cost. Yet, I have no desire to pursue a demanding career. I love coming home at the end of my day leaving work at work. The concept is almost a luxury now.

    I do hope you will continue to share here. These deeper richer conversations I desire than a scroll through a social media feed. Thank you for showing up – real as ever.

    Denise

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    1. Isn’t it amazing how the little doubts and discontents can just jump up suddenly when you least expect them? I’ve had that happen quite a bit regularly. So of course, I have to work it out in writing, keep disciplining myself to stay the course.

      I think it’s wonderful that you have the opportunity for your masters. I’m sure I would choose the same given the chance! I have always loved how you (at least online!) bring balance and beauty to your world. Your love for home shines, and your love for the outdoors, and your children. It’s what I’ve always seen as your priorities and joys.

      I do hope to write a little more here. I seem to need an outlet for all my self-talk! HA! I’m glad to know you won’t mind.

      xo

      tonia

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  5. Oh Tonia this is beautiful. I have not seen you on Instagram so I tuned in here to see how you are doing. Thank you for these beautiful words. They are quite comforting to me. Be well! Have a beautiful day! xx

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    1. Thank you for tracking me down, Janet! I’ve been away from IG, trying to decide where it fits in my life. It’s kind of you to remember me.

      So glad you found something comforting here.

      pax.

      tonia

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