New Year, No Fear

In a few more hours it will be 2019. The year that I’m going to turn 60…when did that happen? I’m just grateful to still be here. The last few years have been kind of rough, but I’m still kicking.

I’m not making any resolutions this year. I’m just carrying on with the mantra I’ve been repeating to myself for the past few months: No Fear

I’ve taken a few leaps of faith in my lifetime, some of them during the past year. I gave up a lucrative job because I felt isolated working from home all the time, and I had the desire to get back out there and do massage. I was a little concerned about walking away from a regular guaranteed paycheck, but I’m getting along just fine. I also allowed myself to fall head over heels in love with someone new, and so far, that’s working out, too.

The thing is, fear creeps in when you don’t expect it. I’m not talking about fear of the things that go bump in the night…that happens when you live in an old house. I’m talking about insecurity-type fear. Fear of not being everything everybody expects me to be. Fear of not being a good enough partner, a good enough teacher, a good enough writer, a good enough musician, a good enough friend, a good enough human being…fear of just not being good enough, period.

I’m trying hard to let go of that, because I am the only one I have to face when I look in the mirror. The older I get, the more I realize that I am not obligated to live up to anybody else’s expectations of me, and maybe I’ve been too hard on myself, and take too many things personally. As someone dear to me who is gone used to say, “What you think of me is none of my business.”

I may never write a best-seller. I’ll keep playing music in local bars…I won’t ever play at the Coliseum. I might teach classes that attract 20 people instead of 200. But I realize that I’ve had the same core group of good friends for most of my life…a few of them since childhood, others for 3 or 4 decades, and some newer ones who think I’m worth their time, and money can’t buy that. I am blessed with someone who knows my shortcomings, and loves me in spite of them. I may not have everything I want,but I do have everything I need. And I’m good enough.

Happy New Year to one and all, Peace on Earth, and I wish you a 2019 with No Fear.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I have an old hand-written address book that I usually only get out for the purpose of sending Christmas cards to old friends and relatives that I don’t see very often. This week as I was doing that task, it was a wake-up call to see how many of them are dead…including many who are younger than I am. And a few whose cards have been returned “address unknown.” People who at one time were important to me and that I have fond memories of, who for whatever reason, I’ve lost touch with…they’re gone, but not forgotten. I hope they think of me occasionally, with the same good wishes for me that I have for them.

As I’m prone to do this time of year, I also remember some of my favorite Christmases from childhood. The guitar my mother got me with Green Stamps (only people of a certain age will know what that is) when I was nine. The year there was a big, heavy box under the tree with my name on it, from my brother Robert, that turned out to be a bottle of Scope mouthwash wrapped in about a hundred layers of newspaper. The year that I bought said brother an album he really wanted, only to find out on Christmas morning that he had carefully unwrapped it right after I put it under the tree and replaced it with an old album. The year I got a tiny grand piano that really played, which I loved, and which a neighbor kid sat on and destroyed. The year we got a mini-bike, which was one of my favorites. We just knew we were going to get one; my stepfather was working in  a motorcycle shop, and my brothers and I were just convinced we couldn’t possibly get anything but the mini-bike we wanted. Early on Christmas morning, we all went downstairs, and found a nice pile of loot under the Christmas tree, but alas, no mini-bike. We had been up for about an hour when I went to the bathroom, and there it was, with a big red bow on it. We woke up the neighborhood riding it in the yard at 6 am.

My favorite Christmas memories are of being at my grandparents’ house every year with all the cousins. We would all have our instruments and be playing music and singing to entertain everyone. And slipping outside to have a sip of the concoction my mother used to make that we all called “green god-a-mighty.” I don’t know what was in it, but I suspect it was moonshine made by one of my uncles, with frozen lime-aid in it. It was potent. My grandparents didn’t drink, or have alcohol in the house, so my mom left it in the car in a big cooler with some cups, and if my grandma ever knew why we all kept slipping outside and coming back in looking a little red in the face, she never said so.

People who lived through the Great Depression didn’t waste anything. I remember my grandmother very carefully unwrapping her gifts so she could save the paper and bows to be used again the next year. She would use it for years. When she grew so old she had to move out of her home, and we were cleaning it out, I found her recycled stacks of wrapping paper, folded neatly, and every single card that anyone had ever given her in a cabinet, in stacks tied neatly with strings. One of my prize possessions was a butterfly quilt that she made for me, made from the dresses that my mother had when she was a little girl, and the dresses had been made from flour sacks. Yes, young people, flour used to come in cloth sacks. I have already passed it down to my great-niece.

This week I’ve been baking some Christmas goodies, and using the cutting board and rolling pin that belonged to my grandmother. I get her tiny nativity set and a little red glass lamp out every year at Christmas. I remember all the gifts she gave to her grandchildren, which probably cost less than a dollar, and it seems like we all appreciated them more than any expensive gifts we might get today. I still have some of mine, and they sit on a bookshelf along with her picture and other mementos of her. If my house caught fire, they’d be the first thing I grabbed.

Earlier this year, my oldest brother was in a serious accident, and he’s lucky to still be here and be able to celebrate Christmas with us. I will always be grateful for the 25 Christmases I spent with Champ and with his family. We had a lot of good times, and survived a lot of hard times, and I will never forget them.

This year, I have been blessed with the love of a good man, and I am making new memories with him. I will be having Christmas with him and his family for the first time, and I’m looking forward to it. This coming Sunday, I will gather again with the cousins. We’ll eat and visit, and play and sing like we used to do at Granny’s house, and maybe slip out for a sip of moonshine. It reminds me that all the hoopla and stress and shopping surrounding the holidays isn’t important at all. The only important thing is being with family and loved ones, and being grateful for the gift of that, and it doesn’t come with a price tag or any wrapping. Merry Christmas to you, or whatever you celebrate, and I wish you joy and health and happiness.

A New Beginning

Almost every day, I listen to one of my favorite pieces of music while I’m driving in my car…it’s called A New Beginning, written by Ric DeLozier, a very talented musician I first saw perform about six months ago. I’ve been listening to the song ever since. It’s very uplifting to me. There is something wrong with the CD player in my car, and sometimes the CD just gets spontaneously sucked into the player and lands on that song. It always seems to happen when I need to be lifted out of some dark place I’m in <cue the Twilight Zone theme song>.

Ric DelozierThe first time I heard it, I had the thought that I was in the midst of a new beginning myself, one that I didn’t want or ask for. My husband died a year and a half ago, and I was forced to begin a new life, alone. The most mundane things hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to buy a step stool so I could reach the things in the top cabinet. Get out the ladder to change the lightbulb on the porch. Try to adjust to making coffee and cooking for just one person. Get used to the fact that there is no one here to talk to. Get used to being very deprived of human touch. Accept the fact that no one except the dogs would be glad to see me when I got home. I had a lot of meltdowns in the car.  As all who have been there know, grief ebbs and flows, and sometimes it knocks the crap out of you like a tidal wave when you least expect it.

I spent a year deliberately not making any big decisions. Once that year was up, I started to think about quitting my job and switching gears. For the past three and a half years, I have worked from home as the Massage Division Director of Soothing Touch. While some travel was involved, most of the time I got to spend at home with my husband while he was ill. It was good to be able to do that, and I wouldn’t trade one minute of the experience. But since he has been gone, I have been isolated. I felt like I needed to be out working in the world again, making human connections, and using the power of touch to make a difference in the way people feel. Another new beginning happened on August 1, when I hung out my shingle again as a massage therapist at my new business. It just felt like the right thing to do.

The autumn equinox happened three days ago…a new beginning of my favorite time of year. To the Celts, the equinox was known as Mabon, a time to celebrate the changing season, show gratitude for a bountiful harvest, and share our abundance. I do celebrate autumn; it’s my favorite time of year. I am in gratitude for many things: my family, and my family of selection, my good friends, my home, my ability to earn a living doing something I love to do, my travels, my music…too many things to name. I am grateful for every day, and every moment spent with those I love. For me, true abundance isn’t about how much money or how many things you have, it’s about how much love you have in your life and how much you share it. My cup is overflowing.

Some other new beginnings are  happening in my life, and I’m grateful for those: a new friend who is very special to me, new projects to work on, new goals to work towards, new places to go, new people to cross paths with, new songs to sing and new books to write, and new experiences to learn from. New beginnings are sometimes born of grief, or tragedy, or personal trials that test your strength to the very core, and rising up out of it.

I get a new beginning every day, and I don’t want to waste it…I want to get every drop out of it. A few months ago, I adopted the mantra of NO FEAR. I will live and love life to the fullest and be grateful for each new experience. I will seize the day. I will seize the moment.  I will remember the past and honor what has happened, but I won’t live in it. I won’t be afraid to tell people how I really feel, or love like there’s no tomorrow–because there is only the present, and that’s where new beginnings appear. I repeat the old saying, “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present.” Here’s to no fear, and new beginnings.