VI. Groundlessness

(Wauwatosa, WI. January 2014)

“When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test of each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize….The next step is refraining….a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately filling up the space…just because there’s a gap.”……….Mindfulness is the ground…refraining is the path……Pema Chodron from When Things Fall Apart

Anyone who says retirement is easy doesn’t know what they’re talking about. So far, I’ve felt best when I was completely involved in the present, preoccupied with my move. How to get everything scheduled and take care of each little detail. This left little time to think about the future. But finally, I’m here and those pressures are off. Now what.

Everything so new and strange, I’ve moved hundreds of miles toward a new place and a new life. It felt good to be occupied for the week or two when I was putting things away, organizing my new home and then in November when I wrote every day. But now, I wake up each morning, look around and wonder what I’m doing here.

When will I feel more centered? More at peace. How long will this anxiety go on. It’s hard having no place to go each day, no project to work on or anything that needs completion. After working for so long, I can’t seem to break my usual habit of getting up early, showering and getting dressed. But, for what? There’s nothing on my schedule. I don’t have a schedule. I feel out of body. Groundless. Unbalanced.

Pema Chodron says groundlessness is based on fear. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. How can that be for someone who’s already met so many challenges and changes in my life. I’m not a young person just starting out. It’s a mystery why this time seems so different. So difficult.

I watched the movie, Back When We Were Grownups, based on the Anne Tyler novel. It’s about a woman who looks back on her life and sees that she’d lived it, not as she’d planned but for other people. Their lack of appreciation makes her feel lonely and she wonders how the rest of her life will be. It made me cry at the point where she’s feeling at her worst. I felt the same.

She thinks she doesn’t belong anywhere. I don’t really belong anywhere either. By the end of the movie, she sees that she’s had a good life even though it’s not the one she’d planned to have. That’s how it is, realizing the difference between the life you’d planned and your real life, the one you get.

So, what is my real life? Is it still ahead for me? And how will I know when I’ve achieved it? Perhaps I’m on overload, having changed so many things at the same time. Or could it be that change is harder with age. Less options and more needs. The finality is sobering. I honestly didn’t think I’d be alone at this stage of my life and that’s added more to the mix. It’s the abyss. I can’t see what’s out there. Or, even if there is anything out there.

Refraining, the second step, is maybe the hardest. I was already doing it, had made that decision to go slow and not clutter up my new life. I just didn’t know there was a word for it. So, maybe that means I’m normal and what’s happening to me is the usual, the expected. I’m no different than anyone else and have to go through this just as everyone does. I’m going to refrain for a while.

This unbalanced feeling is my new reality. My job is to figure out what I wanted the rest of my life to be. Getting to know myself in a new place of my choosing. I’m going to be groundless for a while.

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