"After a while you learn the subtle difference Between holding a hand and chaining a soul. And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning, And company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts, And presents aren’t promises. And you begin to accept your defeats With your head up and your eyes open With the grace of a woman, Not the grief of a child. And you learn to build all your roads on today, Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans, and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn that even sunshine Burns if you get too much. So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure… that you really are strong, and you really do have worth, and you learn and learn… With every goodbye you learn." By Jorge Luis Borges
My last few posts have been, well, depressing is one word that comes to mind; a little disturbing since now, looking back, I see the progression towards the rabbit hole I’d tried so hard to resist and avoid. But there it was, lurking just beyond the forest as I made my way through. Or at least I thought I had.
I’m not going to repeat the past months here, only to say that I had hoped I could stay at White Feather for at least a year. Turns out I could not. Turns out I had six months, which would have had me looking for another place to rent in the midst of snowbird arrivals and holidays. I couldn’t face that, so I started looking for a rental. Again. Everything was overpriced, overly small, or just a room in a house. The fact that I looked at Facebook Marketplace at all still surprises me. But again, Mom is up there guiding me in ways I’m not aware of until afterward. On there I found a 2/2 condo on the third floor of a 55+ complex on the outskirts of Ormond Beach – yes, I now have a Daytona Beach address – but it overlooks the pool and the Intracoastal and I have it for a year, at least. I again started packing. I arranged for movers this time, and in mid July, I got the keys to my current place. I’ve had to start completely over again. Oh, I had some kitchen stuff, a lamp or two, my office. But no furniture to speak of. No bed, no dresser, no living room, dining room; nothing that makes a home livable. Thankfully the place had some very old, very dated things in it that got me by until the house sale when I was finally able to hit some used furniture places and start filling it in.
I think it’s so interesting how we perceive ourselves. I’ve gotten through some pretty difficult times going back to my teens, and usually, at the time, I’d wonder how I was going to do it. This past year is almost a repeat of the period my dad died, though I won’t go into that. Suffice it to say, this wasn’t my first rodeo. And while my head was going in a million different directions still waiting on the house sale, still waiting on the divorce, planning a move again, juggling all that, my days consisted of going through the motions of putting one foot in front of the other, falling into a fitful sleep, and repeating that the next day.
My friend Anita and I share a common experience with what we call ‘the rabbit hole.’ It’s a dark place that gets more comfortable the longer you’re in it. Comfortable to the point where you don’t want to climb out, you don’t want to interact with anyone; not your friends, not your kids; you just want to lay down and be miserable in your misery. That’s where my good friend Chris found me the last time. After sharing her experience and how she finally came out of it, I decided the next day to contact my doctor who suggested we try an antidepressant. He said it could take two to three weeks to see results. Silently I wondered if I could make it that long. He called it in. It was a low dose, so I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I know about depression and chemical imbalances in the brain. Again, the rodeo thing. I was loathe to go back down this road, but I knew I had to do something.
Morning came, and it was as if a fog had lifted and pulled me out of the hole. Just like that. I woke no longer feeling the heavy weight of sadness and despair that had plagued me. It wasn’t as if I were high or giddy. No. It was an evening of my mood, a balance that wasn’t there before. My tolerance and patience came back. I wasn’t crying or tearing up suddenly. I was … relieved. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it could happen that quickly. What it suggests to me is that the stress of the past six months had taken its toll on my body, both externally with the eczema, and internally in my brain, knocking out whatever that pill replaced so that I could function again, live again, enjoy the sunrises and sunsets again.
I think I’m on the other side now, or at least pretty darned close to it. It’s been less than a month that I left Flagler Beach, but it seems like a lifetime ago. If you’ve never experienced a deep depression, first be grateful, but second, don’t underestimate the seriousness and scariness of it. I don’t ever want to go there again. If I have to stay on these, I will, but we’ll see. I will be forever grateful to Chris who most likely saved me from either being Baker Acted or not being here at all. I think there’s only so much one body can take. When this happened long ago, I had family around, lots of friends, my kids were younger and more dependent, and my mom came to my rescue. It was different, but it was still scary. This time it was just me. I’ve always to believed that I’m strong, that I have what my dad used to call MOXY. And maybe I do. I’m still here; right?
Now I need to look forward and stop dwelling on what was, on what happened. It’s in the past. Everyone has problems. Everyone goes through hard times. Some have people around them, but some do not. I’ve learned to be more compassionate, more patient. I don’t judge. If you have been lucky enough to avoid the rabbit hole, be very grateful. Too many people don’t make it to the other side.
I haven’t written in a while. I don’t know what to write. I keep waiting. ‘I just have to get through this month.’ And then another month goes by, and, ‘I just have to get through this month. It seems it’s always something. The house closing getting delayed time and again; learning my year’s lease will be only six months, which means a move around the holidays when all the snowbirds head back south. Big things. Little things. No sleep for me. I rented a condo just inside Daytona Beach, the last place I really want to live. But it’s nice. Small; very small; but nice. And it’s right on the ICW, so the view is relaxing. Another move. That’ll make nine in 11 years Trouble with my credit union for well over a month. Changing banks. Address changes that don’t quite take. Cleaning out said condo; slowly re-packing this place. Trying to order/buy furniture for the new place without money. I signed a contract in April. We were scheduled to close on the 8th of June with the possibility of an extension to the 23rd. Now, ‘We’ll close on July 5th.’ Wait. ‘We’ll close on the 7th.’ I’ve never experienced such a shoddy, unprofessional, debacle as this house sale.
Did I mention I’m not sleeping?
If I try to sum up the last four months of my life, it needs to be done in bullet points. Oddly enough, 11 years ago I was enmeshed in a similar set of life-changing events that forced a move from Michigan to Florida. Between the years of 2007 and 2009 I lost my dad-my champion; I lost my little yarn shop to the big box Hobby Lobby; I lost my 30-year marriage, and I ultimately lost my home; life-changing events that nearly plunged me down the rabbit hole that is so difficult to climb out of. And now I find myself, 11 years later, in a similar situation.
My 95-year-old mother had been living with us over the past year and loving Florida. When January came around, we discovered we had major water damage to our home that involved a complete tear out of the master bathroom and laundry room. We were without hot water for four weeks. And then the insurance company pulled the plug (no pun intended) on our claim.
In less than four months:
- With the water damage came a critical mold issue that seriously affected my health and my mother’s to the point where we were forced to very reluctantly move her back to Michigan the first week of February.
- A month later I was at her bedside when she died.
- While my mother lay dying, my husband never once asked how I was doing; he never even went to the funeral. I filed for divorce.
- In April, while I helped my daughter move to New Mexico, he moved out and left me to deal with all the bills, the emptying and the sale of the house.
- Mid-May my son’s family relocated from four miles away from me back to Michigan taking my two young granddaughters with them.
- After finding a new place to live, the never-ending process of emptying the house began. Countless items were donated, tossed, or stored with the help of some incredible friends.
- With the help of these same friends, I moved into a little rental, a wonderfully sweet bungalow on a canal where I am attempting, on my better days, to begin again at 67 years old.
I feel so extremely fragile right now. It takes very little to send me to the precipice of that darkness. I know I need to avoid any more stress; an online stress test revealed a 476 score. Anything over 300 raises my likelihood of illness in the near future to about 80%. So I know I need to surround myself with positivity, joyfulness, and gratitude. But I’m not sleeping. My stomach is constantly in knots. I dread phone calls because I’m tired of my own voice.
But I also know I’m my mother’s daughter. I am made of pretty sturdy stuff. I’ve been through a similar period before, albeit at 56 and not 67. I need to constantly remind myself to give it over to God, offer it up as a prayer and keep telling myself that with His help – and Mom’s – I can do anything. That rabbit hole will just have to wait.
I’ve been struggling trying to find a way to stay in my house after my divorce but have hit roadblock after roadblock until finally crying uncle and deciding the heck with it, I’m just gonna sell it, split the proceeds and be done with it all. Since that decision, I have been looking for a rental, preferably in the park I currently live, but I also like the 55+ park next to this one called Bulow Plantation.
This afternoon I went and looked at a darling 960 square foot furnished bungalow on a canal with a cozy shaded lanai that I will rent for at least six months, possibly longer. The owner is a travel nurse (similar to my daughter) and may extend her job into next June. It is quiet and peaceful and just what I think I need at this point in my life. Now to the interesting part:
The address is 65 Whitefeather. Just for fun, I thought I’d look up the spiritual meaning of “White Feather.”
“Many Christians believe the appearance of a white feather has an angelic connection. Some believe their guardian angel is communicating with them and offering a message of love, comfort, hope, and peace. There can also be a strong feeling of angelic energy associated with the presentation of a white feather, especially when it has no logical reason to be where the person finds it.”
“Finding a white feather could mean any of the following:
- Angels are near: The first meaning is simply that angels are nearby. This could be someone they know who passed on or a patron saint.
- Watching over you: The most common meaning is that a loved one is watching over you. If you’ve recently lost someone close to you, this is a source of comfort.
- Peace: White feathers are also a symbol of peace, even if you’re not a religious person.
- Everything is okay: Lastly, a white feather is a reminder to stay faithful. Everything is going to be okay with time.”
Yes, Mom, I’m finally listening.
This past January, we discovered mold growing in the laundry room and master bathroom due to a slow but steady water heater leak that caused excessive damage to two rooms and triggered a wicked case of eczema in me that has lasted for months. With the tear-out and dry-out period, we were without hot water for weeks on end, eventually having to move my 95-year-old mother back to Michigan the first week of February. By the first week of March, she was dying, and my life has not been the same since.
Now it’s the end of April. It’s nearly eight weeks since mom died. Since then I have stayed with my cousin at Lake Huron, my brother in Fort Myers, with my daughter in New Mexico, or with a friend in Ormond Beach; anywhere but at my own home where my soon-to-be ex-husband has been holed up in his tv room busily packing up his 3,000 DVDs in preparation for his move to a new apartment 60 miles away. It finally happened on April 19th, and I still don’t feel like I can take a deep breath.
My hope has always been to stay in this house. I love this area, my neighbors, and this home, especially with half the furniture out of it. But it’s not to be. And aside from the dread of having to sell most everything in it, it’s just stuff, and stuff can be replaced. I’ll rent something furnished and lighten my load. It’s probably for the best in the long run. I don’t think I want to own a home anymore. Too many things can go wrong, and now it’s just me. And I really don’t want to have to think about all that.
It seems each of these past four months began with, “I just have to get through this month.” But today is May 1, and I just have to get through this next month. Hopefully, at the end of it, I will have sold this house, seen my ex-husband in the rear-view mirror, and found a new place to live. Maybe I can start to look forward to the beautiful days in this wonderful area that have been too long ignored. I want to enjoy short and long trips back to Michigan and Oklahoma, go kayaking again, meet up with friends for dinner or drinks, or perhaps just do nothing at all. I’m going to get past the stress from these last four months and remember to be grateful every day for the many, many blessings I have.
I know I’m standing in the middle of the forest. I’ve been standing in the middle of it for months. And with each event, I say, “I cannot see past this.” And yet it passes. So again, I cannot yet see past this. But I know the days will pass, the house will sell, the divorce will happen, and I will move on to be on my own once again to find my way out of the trees.
It’s that time of year again. I can’t complain since last year was COVID where nothing was the same as before. But it does seem like ‘it’ starts earlier and earlier every year. Where I live in a 55+ community, I actually saw a Christmas tree in the window of a neighbor’s home around Halloween.
When I was younger, every holiday seemed like a separate event to me. Now, with retailers so aggressively promoting Christmas earlier and earlier, it feels like all the preceding holidays take either a back seat, or they are simply whizzed through to get to The Big Event. Interestingly, while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, I searched high and low for decorations for the table and a little something for the yard. I went to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s and found nothing! (I didn’t try Walmart. I just can’t.) When did they stop Thanksgiving displays?
And so now the outside Christmas decorations are beginning to go up around me. I’m tempted to join in. In fact, I was this close to putting up the tree for Thanksgiving! You have to understand; when we were kids – hand to God – we did not get a tree until Christmas Eve! (Of course I now realize it was because the trees were so cheap by then.) We would then spend the day happily decorating it, totally oblivious to the fact that this was not what every other family did.
Thank God I have a robust relationship with Amazon. I have been Christmas shopping for months. In fact, I’m pretty much done but for a few things here and there — oh, and stocking stuffers. So it’s not like I didn’t know it was coming, and coming fast. It’s just that when it does come so fast, I somehow want to slow it down, kind of stave it off for as long as I can, not because I don’t like Christmas, but because I do.
I wonder if it’s because these end-of-year holidays are just that. They are the beginning of the end of the current year, rolling us into the next. It feels sometimes like it’s an accelerating somersault that begins with Labor Day and rolls us through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, only to land us seated, feet splayed, hands braced, and eyes crossed, bracing us for the new year where we’ll start all over again.
After years of raising a family, a career as a freelance court reporter, and trying my hand at different jobs, the end of my marriage prompted a move to Florida. During a five-year stint at a job I loved, I met my last love. He was retired and wanted me retired, too. I was 63.
As a younger version of myself, I always had a difficult time picturing myself in my 50s, much less my 60s. But I was blessed with good genes and a quick metabolism, so aside from three pregnancies, I was able to pretty much maintain my weight and thus my activity level. I have never felt myself age. It just happened. Kinda suddenly, in fact.
A couple years ago, after I bit the bullet and left hospice, my LL and I took a day trip to The Villages south of Ocala, Florida. Coming from my experience with online dating, I’d heard all the horror stories about the high incidences of STDs at The Villages. Not really knowing what to expect – were people running around with boils? – I have to admit I was truly blown away by everything we saw at this retirement community so often read about. These people didn’t seem old. They were golfing, walking, dancing, socializing, enjoying adult beverages and laughing with each other. Rather than a retirement community, it seemed like one big outdoor party, and I wanted to get invited!
Friends of ours recently moved there. We’re hoping to visit for maybe a long weekend come spring. We know we like the atmosphere. Whether or not we could afford to live there is another thing. Plus, we have grandkids here now, and it’s a couple hour drive away. But should that stop us? They moved all the way down here to be by family, and then we move? I get it. But, hey, we’re retired. We should be able to come and go as we please at this stage. On the other hand, I would miss the kids terribly, miss seeing the grands grow, miss the whole ‘family’ thing, too. We’d only be a couple hours away, but it’s not the same, and I know it.
Even thinking about it I’m plagued with Catholic guilt (see previous post). Though I know my kids only want us to be happy, I’m not sure they want us happy that far away. When all is said and done, if I just think about what I would like and what would be good for us as a couple, if I’m going to be retired, that’s the retirement community I’d choose.