Dear New Tenants

When you rent a place that you know has been a rental property for many years, you tend to think of it as having no emotional history whatsoever. It’s easy to assume that it’s just a space that has been occupied by a long line of non-owners who came, paid their rent, and then moved on. Maybe I’m unique in this way, but I like to think that the house I am in has been a home, and I’m just continuing that tradition. With that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter to the people who are about to move into the place I’ve just vacated.

Dear New Tenants:

Welcome to your new home. My name is Barb, and I have lived here with my dogs for the past 3 years. It’s hard for me to leave this place. I’ve loved every minute of my stay here.

I came here from Florida, and I didn’t know a soul. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, and it was all very new to me. It’s kind of scary to start over when you’re in your 50’s, but that’s what I did.

As I struggled to get used to a new job and make new friends, and as I attempted to grasp a completely different culture, this house was my stability. I looked forward to coming home each day. In the warmer months I would sit in this wonderful back yard and eat my dinner while my dogs played, and the wind blew gently through the trees. I’d watch the birds and bask in the peaceful solitude.

When feeling sad or lonely, I’d take a nice long bath. And I’ve always felt safe here, so I was able to sleep better in this place than I have anywhere in my entire life. I’ll miss cooking in the kitchen and gazing out the window. I’ve made plans here. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried here.

Paula and Kevin and Jackson next door have become very good friends to me, and I will miss knowing they are only a shout away. I’ve had many delightful conversations with them as they stood in their back yard and I looked down from my bedroom window. If you have any questions about the neighborhood, I’m sure they would be happy to answer them for you. Also, if you have any questions specifically about this wonderful house, they know how to contact me.

I have bought a house down in Xxxxxxxx, simply because I knew that rent in this area would be going up each year, and would quickly get too expensive for me. If not for that, I’d have stayed here for the rest of my days. I will have tears in my eyes when I lock the door for the final time.

I hope you come to love this place as much as I did, and that you continue to fill it with happy memories. I wish you well.

-Barb

welcome home

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The Past Isn’t Going Anywhere

I heard that somewhere recently and it really struck a chord in me. I know so many people who dwell in the past. They’re bitter about unresolved issues with people, or they’re longing for better times, or they are using the past as a convenient excuse not to move forward, or they are just exercising a lifelong habit of facing backwards. It makes me sad.

All that time we spend gazing at bygone experiences is really wasted energy for the most part, because that stuff does not require any care or feeding. It will always be there. It doesn’t need your nurturing or attention. On the other hand, what is happening right here and now, with the people who are standing right in front of you, most certainly does need your focus.

I’m not talking about reminiscing. It’s nice to recall happy memories every now and again. I’m talking about obsessing. I’m talking about being so stuck in your ancient history that you cannot progress. People who make that mistake rarely look up to see those around them. They don’t stop and smell the roses because they don’t even realize that any are in their midst. They are missing the everyday gifts that are given to all of us: the feeling of wind in your hair and sun on your face. Potential friends. Opportunities. Growth.

Am I some sort of expert at facing forward? Hardly. I have my issues. But at least I’m making an effort. I hope you are, too.

Take a moment to breathe in the now, and be grateful for it.

LiveNow

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Changing My Trajectory

As many of you know, I’ve been house hunting lately. I’m dreading the whole packing and moving thing, but it’s nice to think that my next move might just be my last. But who knows what the future holds?

That’s the exciting part. By moving, I’ll be changing my trajectory in life. I’ll be shopping at different stores, visiting different doctors and vets, going to different libraries and post offices. That means I’ll be meeting people I would not have met otherwise.

I’ll make some new friends, no doubt. Maybe one of them will consider me her best friend, which is a luxury I haven’t experienced since high school. Maybe I’ll finally meet another man who sees my value.

Either way, I will be taking a different route in life, and that’s always an adventure. It’s an opportunity to have new experiences and broaden my horizons and learn new things. I will create memories.

The future I’m creating today will become part of my history. It will shape me. I look forward to seeing what color my butterfly wings will be once I burst forth from my current chrysalis!

butterfly

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If Our Thoughts Were on Intercom

As I was walking around doing routine maintenance on my drawbridge today, I decided to keep track of the things that were going through my head.

  • The song Cover of The Rolling Stone by Dr. Hook.

  • The idea for this blog entry.

  • I should have worn a jacket. I was wishful springing.

  • Wow, he was good looking.

  • He’s also young enough to be my son. Get a grip.

  • People don’t say hello in this town.

  • Let’s try not to get mowed down in the crosswalk for a change.

  • Traffic in this town is out of control.

  • A conversation I had with a friend recently in which I laughed inappropriately. I really need to learn to control myself. But I’m laughing even now, just thinking about it.

  • I wonder if I’ll ever be able to buy a house here.

  • I miss my dog. He’s probably home playing poker or something.

  • Hostile work environments.

  • Did I remember to bring my lunch?

  • Outstanding stuff on my to-do list that I know I’ll never do.

Basically, if my brain were on an intercom, it would be spouting trivia that no one would really care to hear. But lest you act all superior, that’s most likely the case with you, too. Can you imagine walking down a crowded sidewalk, having to listen to the minutiae of everyone’s daily life? It would be maddening.

It would also force us to be honest. That would be interesting. And potentially dangerous. Because while those shorts don’t make you look fat, c’mon. Plaid is soooooo 1972.

intercom

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My Happy Easter Memory

Since I’m not a kid or a Christian, Easter tends to go by without my taking too much notice these days. Like Halloween, it’s kind of a non-holiday holiday for me. But when I was little, I absolutely loved coloring eggs. (Come to think of it, I’d probably still find that fun. Therapeutic, even. )

My mother would put fuzzy pussy willow sprigs in a vase, and we’d glue pastel ribbons onto the eggs and then hang the eggs from the sprigs, so it would sort of be like a spring Christmas tree, with just as many Pagan connotations. I wish we had taken pictures, but I don’t think there is one anywhere in my boxes of photos. It would have been in black and white anyway, so it would have lost much of its charm. I’ll just have to rely on my memories, as long as they last.

I have another amazing memory that always makes me smile at this time of year. One Easter morning I woke up and there was an Easter basket beside my bed. It was empty, except for a note. It was a little poem, along the lines of “roses are red, violets are blue…” and it gave me a clue as to where to go next. At that location, there was a chocolate egg or something, and another note with another clue sending me off on another tangent.

It was all really exciting. It led me throughout the house and yard, and took me ages to work out. At the end my basket was full of peeps and candy. But the best part about it was that my sister Andrea had done this for me. I recognized her handwriting.

It was clear that she put a great deal of effort into this. She’s 9 years older than me, so she must have been about 16 at the time. That made me feel really, really special. It’s that warm feeling that I remember most whenever I think about that day.

The funny thing about it is that Andrea doesn’t remember it at all. All that work, and all the joy it gave me, and it seems not to have remained in her memory banks. That always surprises me. And it kind of makes me sad, because I’d love to thank her, but when I’ve attempted to do so, I think it stressed her out that the memory is lost.

So these days I just smile to myself, and think, “Violets are blue, red is a rose, go to the place where we dry the clothes.”

Thanks, Andrea. I love you.

egg tree

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Sound Memories

This coming June, I’ll have officially lived longer without my mother in my life than I did with her. What a concept. I can no longer remember her voice, except for the sound of one painfully high note she would hit when we’d sing a particular song. “Ain’t gonna GRIEEEEEVE my Lord no more!”

I think she did that on purpose to make me laugh. At least I hope she did. No one in my family is known for singing, but that… that was excruciating.

I miss it.

It’s funny, the things you remember and the things you don’t. Sounds, smells, songs… Sounds particularly stick with me.

I remember the sound of cowbells on a distant slope in Switzerland when I was 19 and more in love than I had ever been before or since.

Travel sounds, in particular, seem to stick with me. Coqui frogs chirping on one swelteringly hot evening in Puerto Rico. A fog horn on the coast of Canada. The call to prayer in Istanbul. Mariachis in Mexico. Flamenco dancers in Spain.

I can hear those things like they are happening right this minute. I also remember hurtful things that have been said to me. I wish I didn’t.

I remember heading out for work one day, just like any other day, except my dog Sugar ran up to the fence and threw back her head and howled like her heart was going to break in two. Before I could leave, I had to run over and give her a hug.

I remember being told I’d never leave the little redneck Florida town where I grew up. Ha! You got that wrong. But you’re still there. And you voted for Trump, too.

I remember a loved one beside me, snoring. I was irritated at the time. Now I’d give anything to have someone beside me, snoring.

“I ain’t gonna grieve my Lord no more…”

coqui

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Are We the Stories We Tell Ourselves?

It’s always rather disconcerting when someone else has a different version of a memory that I’ve been invested in my whole life long. Which version is correct? And if my version is wrong, how did it change over time?

This is particularly unsettling when I’ve told a story time and time again to explain why it is that I’ve come to be the way I am. Have I been molding myself out of pure fantasy? But it feels so real…

Memories, it seems, can take on lives of their own. That kind of makes me feel as though I have nothing on which to hang my hat. The solid foundation I thought I had, as poorly constructed as it may have been, now seems to be built on quicksand. Scary.

And here’s the kicker: the older you get, the more memories you have. And the more they tend to fade. And yet you’re still you. Aren’t you?

Or are you?

Quicksand

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