Some people think that to be strong is to never feel pain.
In reality, the strongest people are the ones who feel it, understand it, and accept it.
~ an Instagram meme
What the hell am I still doing here? A question I posed closing out the blog essay it’s linked to (I encourage you to read it, even reread it). It was written four years ago. Tomorrow, June 10th, Florida will be my state of residence for the past six years.
Two days ago, an old friend tagged me on one of those ‘this day in history’ reminiscent Facebook posts. It was lighthearted, witty and fun as I did my proverbial social media duty to give it the ‘ole thumbs up ‘Like’ click. I didn’t think anything more of it — or what else was happening back then — on that day, four years ago as I went on with my scroll-troll activity. Yet, in the last 36 hours, the Rolodex that is the memory bank of my brain has been firing off nuggets covering a 5-day period, June 5 – June 10, during these last 6 years. Here’s a reflecting retrospective stroll down memory lane capturing how and where renewed peace, patience, progress and hope evolved between then and now:
- 2011: Selling a house, offloading furnishings, leaving Illinois — my lifelong home — with my then-husband, Boomer. Saying goodbye to family, friends, a profession, a town I loved, winters I hated and venturing south past, well beyond the Mason-Dixon line near the gulf shores of southwest Florida without a plan, nor a clue tragedy awaited our arrival forcing me to confront harsh realities.
- 2013: Two weeks in Chicago doing all this.
- 2014 – 2016: Surving. Healing. Figuring it out (what’s next, including what the hell am I still doing here?). Weeping. Cursing. Cutting ties and process closures. Learning. Finding and losing a few nonsensical, misguided part-time jobs. Growing spiritually. Turning 50. Cutting off my hair. Taking a few steps backward, a few more forward, several stalled stand-stills. Beginning a new relationship. Losing a grandparent. Selling another house. On a few occasions, I’d even considered throwing in the towel and running away.
- 2017: I’m still here physically — geographically placed in SW Florida. Emotionally and mentally I am not where I was. Whew! What’s weird is how the details are fading. The raw specificity I’d written about back then, has dramatically faded. I catch that exasperated breath as I witness how much has evaporated all together. June 8th this year came and went without even a fleeting thought of 2013. I’m astonished rereading it — this was my all consumed life the last 6 years. As significant as those drive-by visits were in 2013, as June 10, 2017 arrives tomorrow, I have neither inkling nor appetite to drive-by the old house 7 miles away. I can’t go back. I won’t go back. The scale tipped to an absolute, no way, no how looking back closed door. A good sign its all about looking ahead.
Where I’m focused now is moving from surviving to thriving. In order to do that I have to define what it is I want. Where do I want to go? Where do I want to be? What do I want to do? When? Literally answer the questions; get specific about my life today, right now, and where I want it to go, as I had about each of those agonizing memories of the last six years. That is taking all of my time. To be honest, I have never sat down to lay it out: condition, plan, prepare, short-term, long-term, pairing the strategic view with the tactical actions. I just bopped along, getting through one day, one week, another month, another year, shooting from the hip. It wasn’t awful, but it was directionless which yields a low satisfaction-ceiling. I’ve always been career dissatisfied , bored as hell personally, confused and lost. In order to change that, it requires serious focus, concentrated focus, the unwavering conviction kind of focus. The kind of focus that wakes you up in the morning, I must do this, my life depends on it. No matter what; I must do this.
To this point, life has done me; I haven’t done life, intentionally, with a purpose. I reacted to life, I wasn’t proactive pursuing a vision, a dream, like photography which I’ve fantasized about and am now, finally undertaking, along with all the other juicy delicious stuff that makes for an interesting, well-lived life, to me. I’ve always looked out and wanted that ‘other’ life, but never applied myself to actually attain it. I wrapped myself tightly in the weeds of present situations and circumstances; playing both martyr and victim of the status quo, while pretending I was doing what I wanted to do. It was safe, familiar and I knew when the weeds were cut, they’d grow again, giving me an immediate excuse to remain where I was, perpetually unfulfilled.
During a press conference golfer John Daly did in the 1990’s, following his meteoric rise and plummeting series of career stumbles and fumbles, he acknowledged, I was never taught how to be successful. I said to myself, hey, me too. That doesn’t mean I’m a lost cause. It just means there’s work to do — NOW. So I’m doing the work, maybe a little later than some.
I agree, the strongest people are the ones who feel it, understand it, and accept it. It doesn’t just stop there. Acceptance is the launching pad to what’s next. You need to invest the time to map it out, try it out, stumble, fumble and make adjustments. No looking back. Eye on the prize to what’s ahead. For now, Florida provides a satisfactory base-camp space to do the work I need to do. The full picture is still unfolding which excites the hell right out of me.