If not a perfectionist, I am pretty darn close. I grew up needing the nice perfect 100% in red atop my test. A 98% meant failure. I needed to be named the very top student, not one of a group of the top 15. It’s paralyzing. It’s exhausting. It sucks.
Who knows why I grew up that way. My assumption is that I felt it necessary in order to feel worthy, or in an effort to feel loved. Certainly I was trying to live up to my parent’s expectations. If I made the very highest grade then clearly I could not have done better. Anything less and just as clearly a little more effort or smarts on my part would have led to the better result.
Elizabeth Scott, MS, in her article “Perfectionist Traits: Do These Sound Familiar,” from VeryWellMind.com, which you can read at: https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-you-may-be-a-perfectionist-3145233, gives some hints on how to tell if you are a high achiever (awesome!) or a perfectionist (not so great). Do you focus on your mistakes and imperfections, or on lessons learned and the fun you had along the way? Is “almost perfect” a failure? Does a goal pull you toward it because it sounds so alluring, or does fear push you towards it because you’re afraid you won’t reach it and must? Do you tend to wallow in self-criticism and disappointment if you fail to reach your aim, or bounce back and on to the next objective? Are your goals so high as to be unrealistic? Can you enjoy the steps along the way, or is it only finally meeting the goal that will satisfy you?
If the rather miserable sounding situation described for perfectionists above wasn’t enough to convince you to change your ways, then perhaps this will do the trick — Scott says that perfectionists generally achieve less and stress more than high achievers. This is in part because procrastination is a huge part of perfectionism. Fear of failure often means you fail to try at all.
And, for another take on the issue, check out Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza’s book, “Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action.” In it, they point out that “doing nothing” — finding time to sit in silence and solitude, to slow down and let go of the need to know, to treat yourself to some time to simply be — can counteract the busy, stressful, go-go-go feeling so frequently found in perfectionists. Perfectionists have a flawless version of ourselves that never allow us to accept failure, so that even when a goal is reached we cannot be fully satisfied.
As someone who has grown up as a perfectionist, with my self-worth accompanied by impossibly high standards, I’ve also been driven by the inner voice drilled into me as a child by a mother who often warned me not to be “a lazy-ass” if she caught me not completing to her satisfaction some chore I’d been assigned, or completing my homework quickly enough, or if for any reason I was “wasting” time. I’ve always felt as if I am never working hard enough. As a single mother of two, I worked full time as a senior associate and then Of Counsel trying to make Partner at one of the largest law firms in the world and refused to hire a nanny or any help because then I’d spend even more time at work. It’s hard to remember much about those years, because feeling as if it would be selfish and lazy and undeserved to spend a hot minute taking a breath or a nap or a day to relax meant missing out on many beautiful moments of life, especially rested and mindful moments with my children when they were small. I may have been around as much as possible, but my mind was often elsewhere or simply too exhausted to be fully present with them. But I didn’t know any better. The thought of slowing down simply didn’t seem a viable option.
So, among the other advice on overcoming perfectionism, the authors urge you to consider spending some time in silence and solitude, to listen to the small still voice in your heart — the one that often cannot be heard over the loud chattering the inner critic in your mind. Stop listening to the doing voice for a moment and simply be. And maybe you’ll find a better way of being than being perfect. Maybe how you are and who you are is good enough, even if it isn’t the absolute best you could be. In fact, I’m sure of it. Be you, in all your messy, less-than-perfect, sometimes lazy, glory. Thank you inner critic for all of his or her hard work on your behalf, and give them a well-deserved vacation. Hey, go crazy and take one yourself, even if it’s just 30 undisturbed minutes in a hot bathtub with bubbles and the refreshment of your choice, a long walk in nature, or the luxury of a nap. Enjoy this one wild and precious life you’ve been given, even if neither it — nor you–is perfect.
Who am I if I’m not “crazy busy”? Productivity was drilled into me, and unconsciously I felt that I was only worthy of taking up space in the world if I was being busy doing something. Relaxing was being lazy, not self-care. For 30 years I’ve billed by the hour as an attorney whose income and value to the firm is driven largely by how much of my one wild and precious life I spend working. Then there’s the unpaid work of a mother’s daily life.
A friend mentioned that the world should rediscover the “lost art of doing nothing,” and I was immediately intrigued. Does “doing nothing” mean lying on a hammock, watching the world go by, 24/7? To find out, I picked up Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza’s book, “Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action,” and I was hooked.
A quick read, it was filled with stories of learning to widen your view of how to get things done. Its stories show that “trying harder” isn’t always the best way, and trying less may be. Busyness can actually keep you from doing a good job — limiting creativity and foreclosing strategic thinking in lieu of doing, doing and doing some more.
The book reminds us that Martin Luther and John Calvin conceptualized hard work, self-denial and discipline as Christian duties, with hard work being considered a source of personal value. Soon, hard work became an end in itself. And that, my friends, is no way to live.
The first Fling Reunion was held June 18, 1950 at Loves Lookout in Jacksonville, TX, with 60 members present. The picnic lunch celebrated Charles R. Fling’s 67th birthday. Someone suggested the family hold a reunion annually, and Granddaddy invited the Family to be his guests at Starke Park in Sequin, TX July 4, 1951. These annual reunions are one reason the Fling family have remained close throughout the years.
The map above shows Sparta, TN as well as Cherry Creek and Dug Hill (discussed below).
These are the stories of Loucinda Carrick, known to family as Granny Lou, mother to Mama Fling, and her family.
Loucinda Carrick was born in or near Sparta, in White County, Tennessee to George Dawson Carrick and Martha Glenn Sims. Her mother’s parents were William Gilmore Sims and Lucinda Mae Glenn. William Sim’s first cousin, also named William Gilmore Simms (but who added an extra “M” in his last name), was a famous Southern author of the 1800s, and his portrait hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.
William Gilmore Simms
(first cousin to Loucinda’s maternal grandfather)
Left motherless at two, this William was raised by his maternal grandmother as his father fought the Creek tribe of Native Americans and served under Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812’s famous Battle of New Orleans. His grandmother told him stories of the Revolutionary War, which she had lived through, and those stories inspired his love of history. William began writing poetry by age eight, and ultimately became a prolific writer specializing in books about the South. Edgar Allen Poe considered him a friend, and called him the best novelist American had yet produced. Simms’s “History of South Carolina” was used as the textbook for that state’s history courses for most of the 20th century. He collected perhaps the finest library of historic manuscripts in the South, with Revolutionary War-era manuscripts and more than 10,000 books — but all were lost when stragglers from Sherman’s Army burned down Simms’ plantation home and everything in it. Impoverished after the war, he was not forgotten. Most of his books have been digitized and are available through print-on-demand.
Lucinda Mae Glenn (Loucinda Carrick’s maternal grandmother)
Lucinda Glenn Sim’s husband William died in 1855, when she was 40 years old. He left her well-off, with plenty of land along Cherry Creek in White County, Tennessee. A few years after he died, in 1859, she built the home pictured above. (She left the home to her youngest son, Perry, and it is Perry and his family who are pictured above). One winter day in February 1864, her home was visited by Union soldiers, who requisitioned her horses, carts and wagons to use for the grim business of picking up the bodies of those who had been killed in the Battle of Dug Hill the day before. (Cherry Creek and Dug Hill are both shown in the map above.) Dug Hill was the only official battle of the Civil War fought in Sparta, though fighting, robbery or worse were part of daily life during that time. Middle Tennessee was split between Union and Confederate sympathizers, though after the fall of Nashville then-Colonel Ulysses S. Grant held the area. Despite being under Union control, few men were left in Sparta to protect the residents from guerrillas and bushwhackers from both sides who roamed the area.
The guerrillas shot, stole and murdered in these hills and woods with impunity, making every-day life a challenge to all, including for Lucinda and her family.
It came to a head on the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1864, when Military Governor and future president Andrew Johnson sent a Col. Stokes to rid Sparta of Rebels. Stokes loudly asserted that he would do the job, offering no quarter to any Confederates he may find, promising to kill rather than capture the Rebels caught in his snare. Stokes planned to address the citizens of the area in a speech later that day, so he sent out a band of 80-100 soldiers to clear the woods of enemy forces and ensure the festivities would not be interrupted by gunfire. While he was setting up for his address, his soldiers rode straight into an ambush. The Confederate forces in the area had heard Stokes’ plans, and came up with one of their own. They hid out and waited for the Federal soldiers’ path to take them to the area of Dug Out Hill, a narrow road between the Cumberland mountains and CalfKiller River, where immense boulders, scrub cedars and laurels lined the path and created ideal hiding places. As Union Private Clark, with the Advance Guard of the Union’s 5th Tennessee Calvary’s rode near Dug Out Hill, he noticed fresh horse tracks in the road. Looking up, he spotted two Confederate soldiers mounted on fine steeds, guns resting across their saddles.
“Boys,” Clark yelled, “yonder stand two Confederates. Suppose we get ’em”! With that he raised his gun and began shooting. The Rebels started galloping and led the advance guard towards the trap they had set. When the Feds entered the narrow pass, the Rebels emerged from their hiding spots and began firing. The Union soldiers were surrounded, and as the volley of shots rang out from all directions the soldiers were scattering everywhere, Rebels in hot pursuit for any that seemed to be escaping. Riderless horses stampeded in all directions, adding to the chaos. All that were found or surrendered were killed the spot, as the Rebels decided if Stokes would give them no quarter, they would do the same.
Blissfully unaware that his men were even then fighting for their lives, Col. Stokes laid the pages of his speech out on the podium in front of the church, cleared his throat, and was just beginning to speak when a tattered Federal soldier burst through the doors — missing his shoes, hat and coat — and stammered “Colonel, the damn rebels have attacked the regiment and killed them all. I’m the only one left to tell the tale!” That turned out not to be true, as several more survived, but there was such pandemonium each survivor felt sure he was the only one. It does not appear that any of our family fought that day. However, a detachment of the Feds went to the Lucinda’s home (pictured above) and took her horses, carts and wagons to use in carrying away the dead soldiers’ bodies. Despite that, for years after, Sparta residents found skeletons in the nearby woods.
Although the Battle of Dug Hill was the only official battle fought in Sparta, violence was ever-present. Loucinda Carrick’s mother and Lucinda Sim’s daughter — Martha Glenn Sims — had at least one fright of her own. She went with a boy named Jeff Snodgrass (likely a relative, as Martha’s grandmother was Martha Snodgrass) to a meeting at the Cherry Creek Presbyterian church, near the Sim’s house. Several bushwhackers were present, as was one of their sisters, Diana Bradley. Jeff Snodgrass was Diana’s former sweetheart. Diana did not take being rejected by Jeff in favor of Martha well, to say the least. When the meeting was over, Jeff started off with Martha and a friend named Arva Cameron. As they were leaving, Diana called out to him — “Take back what you said about me!” Jeff turned to look back at her and when he did she shot him in the chest and, to make sure he was good and truly dead (or so as not to be shown up by his sister), her brother ran up and shot Jeff again as he fell. Fearing Diana and her brothers meant to kill Martha and Arva as well, they ran away. Before the bushwhackers could go after them, they found trouble of their own. The boy Diana was with that day was shot by another bystander in the neck. Bleeding profusely, Diana rushed him off to try to find a doctor to stop the bleeding and save his life.
In the meantime, with everyone fearing more trouble, no one was brave enough to retrieve Jeff’s body, so it lay there until all day, until an old slave finally was sent to retrieve him and bring his body home. There was essentially no law at this time, so Diana was never arrested for the crime. After the war she went West with the bushwhackers. Martha married another neighbor, George Dawson Carrick, and the rest is history.
Martha’s sister Mary also had at least one story of note to tell during this time. A neighbor, Mrs. Bledsoe, fell sick and feared she didn’t have long to live. She wrote to her son, fighting for the Confederacy, and asked him to come home to see her one last time. Mary knew that the soldier was at the Bledsoe home, and as she was outside near the home she noticed a group of Yankees riding towards the Bledsoe home, no doubt on a mission to capture the Rebel. Mary hitched up her skirt and started running, trying to outrun the horses. Spectators that day say she soon was only a few feet in front of the charging Yankees, and they were sure she would fall under the horses’s feet and be trampled at any time. Mary stayed upright, however, and the commotion warned Bledsoe and gave him time to try to escape. He jumped on his horse and sped off, but, seeing that the Yanks were going to catch up to him, he leapt off his horse and ran into a large briar patch, where he hoped to hide. Instead, he became entangled in the undergrowth and ultimately was killed. It is said that his wife had to pick the briars out of his face before she buried him. [Credit for these stories goes to research conducted by Coral Williams, who wrote “The Heritage of Daniel Haston/Legends & Stories of White County, TN” based on both research and interviews with those in the area.]
George Dawson (Loucinda’s paternal Great-Grandfather)
George Dawson is said to have run “Dawson’s stand” in the early 1810s – 1850s in White County, TN, and he served as Postmaster General at Dawson Store in the area between 1826-1828 and 1837-1843. He and his wife – Nancy Mosby – are the parents not only of Emily Dawson (Loucinda’s paternal grandmother), and Susan Dawson (George Dawson Carrick’s step-mother), but also Hero of the Texas War of Independence Capt. Nicholas Mosby Dawson, whose stories are told below. In addition, Nancy Mosby’s sister was mother to the three Eastland men mentioned in the story of Texas’ War of Independence, below.
Emily Dawson (Loucinda’s paternal Grandmother)
Emily Dawson died, likely due to a childbirth complication, only a few weeks her son George Dawson Carrick was born. Emily’s brother, Capt. Nicholas Mosby Dawson, was a hero of the Texas War of Independence, as were her three cousins — Nicholas, William and Thomas Eastland. History tends to capture the stories of the men, a situation I would love to remedy. But for now I know nothing more of Emily than that she died soon after giving birth to her second son, and that she had a famous sibling, two years her junior, who left for Texas shortly after she passed away. I would like to think the two were close, but I have no way of knowing. Her younger sister, Susan, later became the step-mother to her son.
Capt. Nicholas Mosby Dawson and the Dawson cousins – Nicholas, William & Thomas Eastland
The Dawson and Eastland children were born in Kentucky, but soon moved with their parents to White County, TN. As young men they became entranced with the idea of Texas, and all four decided to move there, even though the land was part of Mexico. The Eastland brothers and their families moved first, in 1834, and Nicholas Dawson followed the next year. Mexico was giving away land to settlers willing to brave the Native Americans who, not surprisingly, had not taken kindly to their land being taken over by others. The Eastland and Nicholas Dawson all settled in LaGrange when it was still part of Mexico. For a few years the cousins volunteered to fight the Native Americans, and soon volunteered to fight the Mexicans to win independence for Texas. Nicholas and at least two of the Eastland cousins fought in several battles, including the Battle of San Jacinto which was the decisive battle that won Texas its independence. Nicholas was 2nd Lt. for Company B of the Texas Volunteers, and then captain of a militia unit in 1840 during an Indian campaign in which is now Mitchell County. When the Mexicans invaded Texas in 1842, he quickly signed up to fight again, taking his 16-year-old nephew (Nicholas Eastland’s son) and about 14 others from LaGrange with him, and joining up with others along the way until his had 52 men under his command.
They were marching towards San Antonio, to join up with the Texans who were already there, attempting to recapture the city. They unfortunately ended up trapped between the Texas forces and a group of lance-wielding Mexican Dragoons along the Salado Creek.
Dawson laid out the options to his men — fall back four miles, or shelter in the nearby mesquite and fight it out. Despite the odds, their decision to make a stand was finalized after hearing the words of old frontiersman Zadock Wood, who said, “We have marched a long way to meet the enemy, and I do not intend to return without meeting them. I had rather die than retreat.” With that, the men voted to remain and fight, and fight they did. At first they had the upper hand, gunning down the Mexicans with their sabers despite being outnumbered three-to-one. Then the crack of a canon broke through the noise, and fragments of trees rained down on their heads, and the Texans’ hearts sunk with the realization that artillery they hadn’t seen had been wheeled into place above them, and that artillery made all the difference. Soon more than a dozen of the Texans were dead, along with most of their horses. Cherokee snipers working with the Mexicans were picking off the survivors. Though it soon was clear they were done for, the Texans continued to fight valiantly for as long as they were alive. Finally, a few made a break for it and bravely and with a lot of luck on their side rode straight through the enemy to safety on the other side. In the end, 15 of the 53 were captured as prisoners, many of whom soon died, and only two escaped. All of the rest, including Nicholas and his nephew, died that day along the creek.
Later, their bodies were dug up and reburied at Monument Hill State Park, overlooking the Colorado River, near LaGrange. [Credit for much of the information in this story goes to Austin photojournalist and Texas history lover Ben Friberg.]
Perhaps Dawson’s fighting spirit was no surprise to his parents, based on the snippet of a news article I found from Fayette County (home to LaGrange). It talks of three “nice young men” sent to jail for horse stealing, one of them being Capt. Nicholas Dawson’s youngest brother, George. Nicholas was also sent to jail, for supplying the prisoners “with the means of escaping from jail.” Apparently they were not kept in jail for long.
The Eastland Cousins
The cousins — the Eastland brothers — all also fought for Texas, without much more luck than Dawson. William Mosby Eastland had left the saw mill and lumber business he had begun in LaGrange and went to serve as first lieutenant of the First Division of Volunteers under Col. John H. Moore in the campaign against the Waco and Tehauacana Indians from July 25 to Sept. 15, 1835. In 1838 he was awarded land for having participated in the storming and capture of Bexar after the Siege of Bexar as part of the Texas War of Independence, as well as the Battle of San Jacinto. On Dec. 7, 1836 President Sam Houston, upon the recommendation of the Texas Sec. of War, nominated William Eastland as Captain of a company for Gonzales County in a battalion of mounted riflemen. After General Rafael Vasquez unexpectedly invaded San Antonio on March 5, 1842 and a few months later General Adrian Woll made a surprise raid and captured many prominent men attending a District Court in the area, carrying them to Mexico as prisoners, Sam Houston gathered volunteers to retaliate by sending an army to invade Mexico. For unknown reasons, however, once they reached the Rio Grande River they were ordered disbanded. Three hundred of the men, surprised and displeased, ignored the orders and continued marching into Mexico. Captain Eastland and 25 men in his company fought in a fierce battle in Mier, Mexico not far from the Rio Grande River on Christmas evening, 1842. The Texans, though greatly outnumbered, were victorious. However, the Mexicans were reinforced the next day and, through a ruse, left the Texans in a position such that there was nothing left for them to do but surrender. They were made to march towards Mexican prisons when, on Feb. 11, 1843, they overpowered their guards and escaped to the mountains. Many died of starvation, though four made it back to Texas. The others eventually were recaptured and returned to Salado — including Capt. Eastland. Santa Ana gave orders to execute every tenth men as punishment for the escape. The prisoners were blindfolded and forced to draw from a clay jar of 159 white beans and 17 black beans, knowing that anyone who drew a black bean would be executed. Captain Eastland was the first and only officer to draw a black bean and, thus, a death sentence. A few days later, he along with 16 others were blindfolded and shot in the back, thrown in a single trench and buried. Five years later they were exhumed and reburied along with those who were killed in Dawson’s massacre, on Monument Hill in LaGrange. Eastland County, TX is named for William Mosby Eastland.
Nicholas Washington Eastland lost both his son Robert (in Dawson’s Massacre) and his son Charles to the War, in addition to his cousin Nicholas Dawson, his brother William (discussed above) and his brother Thomas, who died as a prisoner of war in Mexico, as well as his good friend and Texas hero James Walker Fannin (massacred at Goliad). Nicholas Eastland served as the first County Judge of Fayette County (1838-1844), was Chairman of the Board of Land Commissioners, and served as Probate Judge. He was Representative from Bastrop County in 1863. He had a lot of property, and had a sawmill operated by slaves near the town of Bastrop.
George Dawson Carrick (Loucinda’s Father)
George Dawson Carrick’s mother, Emily Dawson, died only a few weeks after his birth, presumably as a result of childbirth although there are no records of her cause of death. I suspect his aunt, Susan Dawson, was a part of his life early on, as she was a younger sister to Emily, his mother, and married to his father’s brother. After his father’s brother — Moses Carrick — died in 1843 Susan married George’s father and officially became his stepmother (but by that time George was 13).
George, a slave owner, fought for the Confederates during the Civil War. He joined Captain J.H. Snodgrass’ Company A 25th Regiment of the Tennessee Company as a private Sgt. Major July 25, 1861. He later transferred to Company D, 13th Tennessee Calvary, where he was a private. He is said to have fought in Readyville, TN, and to have fought again Union General Verbage in Saltville, VA and General Sherman in Georgia, as well as in North and South Carolina. Some sources say he was discharged in 1862, others that he was discharged in Jan. 1864.
George married Martha Sims on Oct. 6, 1868 and they had six children: William Montgomery, John Addison, Loucinda (Mama Fling’s mother), Frank, George Dawson Jr. and Emily. After Martha died in 1890, when Loucinda was 18 and a new bride, George and his three boys (each of whom married one of three Little sisters)– along with Loucinda and her new husband, Anthony Houston Metcalf– moved to Northeast Texas and then to Harmon County, Oklahoma. (It’s unclear if they moved, or if the state boundaries moved around them.) He originally took two of his freed slaves with him (Matt and her daughter Allie) but neighbors in the new territory forced them to return to Tennessee. George’s youngest daughter, Emily, did not stay long in Texas, and is the only one of the family to have moved back to Sparta, TN. A photo of Emily (Loucinda’s baby sister) and her family are below.
Loucinda Carrick (Granny Lou)
Loucinda married at 17, to a neighbor — Anthony Hugh Metcalf — whose first wife (Loucinda’s cousin Mary Snodgrass) had died. He was 37 years old, with four children, so Loucinda stepped into a ready-made family. Mary Fling, her first child, was born 8 Nov. 1891 and named by her half-brother “Bevy” after his own recently departed mother. Soon she was “Sis” to her siblings, Mama to her children and Mama Fling to her grand children, great grandchildren and many others in the Turney community. Sometime between 1891 and 1894 the family moved to Wilbarger, TX. Wilbarger, in northeast TX, had been buffalo hunting grounds of the Comanches until the 1870s, and Indian hostilities caused few settlers to settle there until 1878. In 1886 Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad built a train going into the area, and encouraged immigration. This may be why the Carricks and Metcalfs settled there, around this time. However, after a peaceful and prosperous decade in the 1880s, and soon after our family moved to the area, times changed. Many farmers and ranchers suffered reversals in the 1890s, so the Carrick’s/Metcalfs didn’t move to the area at the best of times. At some point the family moved to Oklahoma, not far to the north (or the shifting boundary between Texas and Oklahoma changed the state designation of their land, it’s unclear.) Loucinda’s child born in 1898 was born in Wilbarger, TX but by the time of Joe Bailey’s birth in 1901 the family had settled in Gould, Harmon County, Oklahoma. They remained in Harmon County, OK for the rest of her life.
Granny Lou and her husband grew cotton, which was then spun into thread and woven into cotton fabric, which Granny Lou used to make her girls’ dresses and her boys’ shirts and pants.
Mama Fling loved it when she was able to visit with her mother. The photo below was made sometime around 1939. Loucinda is in the front left, sitting next to her are Eddie Glen Wheeler, Billy Shepherd, Burton, and C.L. Wheeler. Mama Fling is at the end behind C.L., with Granddaddy sitting behind Eddie Glen.
I scour the internet, Ancestry.com and the other genealogy sites as well as the Salt Lake City Family History library for information on our family. I would love to hear from anyone who has more stories to tell, or photos to share. I will scan them and return them, and add the information to the story for future generations to tell of the men and women who came before us, and whose blood runs through our veins.
History is, for the most part, written about men, by men, telling the tales of men or that interest men. Thus we are left with few clues to the lives of the women who shaped history, who even though they were granted less power used their influence to shape their worlds. I ran across an interesting tweet today about one medieval queen I knew nothing about, and now want to learn more about her … if there is any more to be learned.
Check out #earlyenglishqueens on Twitter for more introductions to women whose stories should not be forgotten.
Reviewing John O’Donohue’s collection of poetic prayers
I recently finished my morning readings of John O’Donohue’s Book of Blessings and it was truly a blessing for my soul. It’s a book ideal for those times in your life that mark an occasion – a birth, a death, a new home, a new job, retirement, but I read it daily and found it to be an ideal start to my day. He thought of everything — my husband has an old friend whose son was arrested last year for a serious crime, and it’s hard in those situations to even know what to say or do. This book has a blessing for the parents of a child who is imprisoned, and it made me weep it was so touching and heart-felt. It is an ideal book to have handy when you need to give or receive a blessing of any kind. Read it, and your heart will thank you.
and Finding a Path of Plentitude at One With Your Life’s Desire
I am learning to find ease in risk … the safety and security that have seduced me for so much of my life are slowing losing their attraction. I’m 61 years old — if not now, when? I once served on a panel asked to describe a lesson learned from taking a big risk. Each of us agreed that, whether the risky venture had turned out to be successful or not, we were glad we had taken the leap. The question we asked ourselves, then, was if we all were glad we had taken the risk, if it always enhanced our life in some way — why do we nonetheless continue to fear it?
Do you know John O’Donohue’s poem, “For a New Beginning”? It resonates with me, and to carry it in my heart I’ve worked this month to memorize it. I recited it from memory for the first time this morning, in perfect conditions, as I sat on a sandy, mostly empty beach and watched the dawn create the new beginning of this day. I hope it encourages you to kindle your courage enough to step out into that new beginning that’s been quietly whispering, patient yet persistent, waiting for you to leave behind what no longer serves you and step onto a new path, to live at one with your life’s desire.
“Retired,” says the LinkedIn profile of a law school classmate . “Retired!” I immediately write in my message to this man I haven’t seen in 30 years. “Not fair! I want to be retired. I’m jealous … you won.”
I’ve been longing to retire for at least a decade by now, to replace billable hours with something more enjoyable. Jealous he’d achieved that status before me, I thought back to the competition we’d had against one another through all three years of law school, taking turns being Number One. His LinkedIn profile seemed like a taunt — telling me that he had the final win.
He wrote back today. Yes, he said, he had retired. Because an illness had nearly killed him, and made him to sick to hold his job.
I wish I could take back what I’d said. Instead I craft a reply that apologizes for my thoughtlessness, knowing that no matter what I say it will not be quite enough to make things right.
Now I know how lucky I am not to be retired, when not working is forced upon me by my body giving out. I feel both stupid and lucky, embarrassed and grateful. Fortunate to have the ability to work, terrible to hear of his illness, relieved he’s on the mend, and reminded that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Our 6 a.m. walks are one of the best parts of my day these days. The weather is perfect, the sun just up, the breeze still with a hint of coolness from the last remnants of evening, few people out and about, so little need to wear the mask I carry at all times. We live 1/2 mile up the hill from the start of Sunset Cliffs. Ideal at sunset, obviously, but beautiful in the morning as well.
From Gentle Chirps to Loud Squawks
The wild parrots that frequent our area were out in force at dawn, squawking to bring in the new day. We passed several of them on our way down the hill, and two in particular flew close enough to touch, then perched on a tree branch to give me an opportunity to admire them before flying off in a search for food. The parrots are a colorful addition to the neighborhood, and noisy as heck at sunrise and sunset. No melodious tunes from their throats, but they are a joy to look at and it’s just cool to have them perch nearby, so unexpected among the softer grey and brown birds I typically see.
Music and Movement
When we made our way down the hill to the cliffs, there were only a few people about. One of them, which you can barely see in the photo below, had found a quiet spot just over the water and was playing his guitar. The tune didn’t carry far enough for me to hear, but it was magical nonetheless. A few steps further a woman had set up her yoga mat and was practicing by herself. I often say I’m going to bring my mat down, but am too embarrassed to do so knowing others will be watching. One day I’m going to be unselfconscious enough to enjoy the breeze and beauty of an ocean-side practice without worrying what other people think.
My Partners in Crime
My husband, a huge Earth, Wind and Fire fan, patiently waited for me to walk down closer to the water, to breath in the ocean air, to be close enough to be feel the power and energy of the crashing waves, to fill me up for the day ahead. Our dog was not so patient for my picture-taking, but is the most wonderful dog in the world. A rescue from Tijuana, she is loving and kind and doesn’t let the big dogs bully her but never acts aggressive toward others (except, for some inexplicable reason, our postman).
Admiring My Neighbors’ Yards
On the way back up the hill, I enjoyed capturing images of my neighbor’s yards. Some are filled with roses and picket fences and remind me of the English countryside. Others are wooded, with beautiful shade trees looking serene and stately at the same time. About half are more typical of southern California, with bougainvillea climbing the fence, and succulents displaying a water-wise landscaping encouraged in our climate. My favorite this morning was the cactus growing in the back of a house under construction down our dirt alley. Easily missed, but with a solitary beauty.
Signs Along the Way
Finally, I noted the signs along the way. From graffiti on a Neighborhood Watch sign to a generally ignored warning not to feed the birds. My favorite is the brightly colored Justice for All’s wisdoms, and the gratitude expressed in a thank-you for those risking their lives.
It was only about 3,900 steps on my way to 10,752 so far, but with much to experience along the way. The more I remind myself to pay attention — to think about what sounds I hear, what sights I see, what smells I notice — the more aware I am of each step I take along the way in my one wild and precious life, the more I love and appreciate my day.
Wishing you many beautiful walks in your neighborhood!
Listening to the podcast this morning, I loved Tom Hanks even more. I also realized that I did not think that “everyman” is as nice and kind as Tom Hanks seems to be. But I always thought my father was that man — with a huge heart and a desire to be kind and do good, with lots of love for everyone and a belief that life is good. He would wake me in the mornings singing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning,” and I would run to jump into his arms when I heard his truck pull up at the end of each day, so full of joy that he was home, because he made me feel protected and loved.
What should have been a happy, uplifting story about the kind man that Tom Hanks seems to be was, to me, a heartbreaking one. It broke my heart because my father, who used to say that Hanks was his very favorite actor, now will not watch a movie or TV show with him in it.
I don’t know why, exactly. When Dad announced he wouldn’t watch anything with “that man” in it, I was too shocked to ask for an explanation and I already knew it would have something to do with Hank’s supposed “socialist” or “liberal” leaning which my father now sees as such a threat. I dare not bring up politics with him because it will just end in a fight and when he made the statement I was into week 2 of living with him to help figure out how to deal with the coronavirus and my Mom’s recover from an emergency hip replacement. I hadn’t lived at home in 42 years, and my Dad thinks a Costco and grocery store run are a daily necessity, and this is in Texas where I was not at all sure people were taking necessary precautions and he has an underlying heart condition as does my Mom.
Our nerves were already on edge not only because of all of that, but because the drugs she was taking had Mom calling us at 4 a.m. every morning from the Rehab Center telling us to come and get her out of that “hellhole” (a newly built, pristine, well-reviewed center we visited each day to speak to her via our cellphones through her window). We had a lot of adjusting to do, and our nerves were raw, and our political views are strongly held and contrary to one another.
To see my always kind, loving father turned into a man who cannot stand to watch the nicest, kindest actor play nice, kind characters anymore makes me cry. Politics and the desire for power and control have created too much divisiveness, so much mistrust, an overabundance of anger and hate.
What we need are more Mr. Rogers in this world. What we need are more Tom Hanks.
The first time I tried to learn French was in high school. It was my favorite class, but not because of the subject matter or the teacher but because my best friends were in it with me. We delighted in entertaining ourselves and not in doing the hard work of learning a foreign language, no matter how much I dreamed of traveling to and living in France. Nonetheless I managed to learn enough in high school to coast through the semester of French in college. It was easy, and I got in the habit of not studying.
About half-way through the second semester, with the class now conducted entirely in French, I first realized that I had absolutely no idea what was being said. I could not answer a single one of the questions the teacher directed at me with anything other than “Je ne sais pas!” It was true. I did not know. I did not know anything. And at this point I was lost.
Rather than doubling-down, as I should have done, or hiring a tutor, which would have been another brilliant idea, I simply fumbled my way through the rest of the year, barely seeking out a passing grade, my standard answer for all questions in or about French remaining the same — je ne sais pas, I do not know.
But one thing I do know is that I love France. Walking the cobblestone streets of Paris, spending the day in the Cluny Museum and the next one in the Louvre. Exploring the Dordogne region, from ancient cave drawings to medieval castles to the gorgeous wines produced there. Soaking in the depiction of life in 1066 through inspecting the Bayeux Tapestry, or walking the beaches of D-Day in Normandy. I love it all.
So, after ignoring the golden opportunities of my high school and college classes, I decided in my 40s to try again, this time with Rosetta Stone. Then, in my 50s, with the podcast “Coffee Break French,” and, at 58, through my local university’s extension courses . Again, in frustration, I gave up. But I have re-started my efforts yet again. Now, at 60, I listen each day for 30 minutes to Pimsleur and I diligently add on teaching myself from “French: Learn in 4 Simple Steps” to get the grammar right as well. It is so hard! I am determined to finally get this right. To one day be smart enough to understand the question being asked of me in French, and brave enough to risk ridicule for mispronouncing the words to answer with something other than Je ne sais pas. I will know. I do know. Je sais…allons-Y!