I almost missed this gorgeous sunset some years ago.
I was busy. I had a zillion things left on my extensive “to do” list and the day was burning down around me without much progress. The phone was ringing, there was someone at the door, and the washing needed hanging on the line. I had to get showered and dressed for a school board meeting, but I was frantically trying to juggle cooking dinner and catching up on the television news while scrambling around trying to find my grocery list, because if I really rushed, if I really pushed it, if I tried to sneak out of the meeting a little early, I could, maybe, (if all the stars were lined up properly), race to the market on the way home!
But, I needed a moment.
I needed a breath.
I needed a cuppa tea.
I craved something I could not name.
So, I stepped out onto the back porch and there was this sunset.
I had to sit down in the old wicker rocker (whose cushion I really was going to re-cover some day), on the front porch (that badly needed paint), with a cup of tea (in my favorite old chipped cup), and watch the dragonflies skim the absolutely still surface of the water, while the sun melted into the cool pool of evening.
I sat there. For two whole hours. Long past when I had to leave…missing the meeting, the news, the laundry, the groceries…but feeling the beauty of the world, celebrating a very rare sense of timelessness and complete peace.
I was hooked. I enthusiastically began to
Before that, I had a terrible case of “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) fever.
I over-booked myself constantly, collected new hobbies and interests, cultivated new passions, took up a boat load of “good causes,” and assumed responsibilities waaaaay beyond my pay grade. I was up for everything; a tireless adventuress in a dozen realms. I read all the latest books, saw all the best new movies, and knew the names of dozens of musical groups across many decades and styles. I kept up on all the global news AND had intelligent views on many subjects. I was devoted to being an energetic and enthusiastic “part of the change I wanted to see in the world.”
And then I turned 70. I had a heart attack. My Sweetheart was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had to re-prioritize. Re-think the “busy.”
That’s when I heard about…
At first, it was counter-intuitive. I was addicted to a wonderfully abundant and demanding life. I had responsibilities. I’d made commitments. People depended on me. But, gradually, cautiously, thoughtfully, I started to “retire” from most of my “busyness.” I slipped out the back door of many old responsibilities that no longer fit my commitment to slooooow down. I stopped racing out the door to DO and tried to just sit more often and BE.
It’s getting easier as I practice. I’ve unsubscribed from three dozen emails, I’ve stopped obsessively checking the news, I don’t even have a cultural calendar of cool things I could be doing anymore…in favor of just staying near the core of my own life, in my own home, at the Creative Cottage, with the wonderful circle of good folks who love me. And I may just be happier than I have ever been in my life!
For the most part these days, I don’t feel like I’m “missing out” anymore. I can still get caught up in the old habit of saying “yes” to too much. And there are lots of things I’d LOVE to do that I just can’t squeeze in. But the difference now is that the sunset comes first. The joy isn’t the last thing on my list anymore–squeezed in around all the stuff I’m ‘spozed to do.
I can actually say these days that I prefer letting the world rush right by me!
The “news” now is about the speckled eggs nurtured by the cactus wren in the raggedy nest in the cholla. The next big event is the full moon coming up over the barn. The “vacation” is the sweet peace of a deep sleep after a long day in the garden.
Now, instead of reading about the world or seeing movies about it or obsessively “pinning” ideas about things I’ll never actually DO, I
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a constant tug and under-tow, this trying to learn to let go of being in the big, colorful fray every single day.
I miss the days me and my Sweetie did archaeological stewardship or spent the whole weekend at the fabulous Tucson Folk Festival. I miss our weekly jaunts to the Loft Cinema and hanging out in the evenings with convivial friends. And I really, really miss camping and road trips.
But, as it turns out, I can amuse myself just fine, thank you very much. I like solitude and actually prefer quiet pursuits. And the joy of missing out means there’s time to
and that’s what I’m doing.
So sometimes I go quiet and you don’t hear from me for weeks. Sometimes these blog posts are a little spotty and class schedules have to wait because there are tomato plants and marigolds that need to get planted. I don’t go out much at night or travel on jet planes anymore. These days, I decline most invites, don’t sign-up for many cool classes or attend many fascinating lectures. And, frankly, I’ve stopped thinking I can single-handedly “save the world” from itself.
Around all my Beloved’s chemo treatments, doctor appointments, prescription runs, worries about money, and concerns about the woes of the world, I’m trying to carve out a little island of peace. I am discovering that “Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. “We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the next extraordinary moment,” as Brene Brown says.
Sometimes, to really change your life and priorities, you just have to
And that is what I did…and do, every single day. Grateful for the past. Hopeful for the future. But ardently trying to live in the NOW. Trying to embrace with open arms the great joy of missing out on all that isn’t important (or meaningful) to me anymore.
My Sweetheart’s cancer is really digging in now and his marker numbers are off the charts bad, but he’s bravely starting a new, fiercer, more complex form of therapies that may have even more challenging side effects. Life is beautiful and precious, fragile and worth fighting for. We’re on the journey together. It’s scary and exhausting and fraught with danger but…
Just climb into the canoe, put your oar in the water, and head out toward that far horizon where there’s a glorious sunset just waiting to fill your heart up with joy again.
I’ll meet you there.
© Copyright, Kaitlin Meadows, 2019. All Rights Reserved.