Postcard from London

Who am I kidding? I could never fit what I want to say on a postcard. About anything.

This morning of my last full day here, the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin” is the earworm playing on the radio in my head. What a long, strange trip it’s been, indeed.

If you’ve been reading here awhile, I’m sure you know I’m not just talking about my trip across the pond. I’m talking at least about the last few years. Maybe my whole damn life.

But the trip, painful as it has at times been, has also been good and necessary. As my friend who so generously offered me this place to stay and be for the past few weeks said, “You needed to disrupt the pattern you were in.” She is right.

A year ago at this time, I was stuck in a different pattern, one I vowed to break on the eve of 2018. I did. The whole of the year just passed was about the breaking. It was about delving into what had happened in order to understand how I got where I was and get myself to a different place.

Now, it’s time to move on from that, too.

Maybe the secret to a good life is knowing when it’s time to move on to the next thing. Because, if we are truly alive, there is always a next thing coming. Not understanding that–believing in some sort of happily ever after, despite all evidence that such a thing is, literally, only the stuff of fairy tales–has been a source of much angst and anguish. There is no ever after to anything: democracies, marriages, moods. All are in a state of constant evolution. All require perpetual attention and care to remain healthy.

So, this is my official declaration of moving on.

Do I know exactly what life will look like going forward? Not really. I expect it will look, on the surface, much as it has. When the plane taking me back to the US touches down, I’ll still be living in a country in crisis. I’ll return to the same house and the same job. I’ll buy my groceries at the same store. My same creaky old dogs will drive me crazy in the same old ways, and I’ll turn to the same friends for comfort, advice, wisdom, and company.

While I can’t tell you from the vantage point of January 2nd what, exactly, I will add to or drop from this thing called my life, I can tell you that the last year has brought clarity to the kinds of things I need in it. A vision statement, if you will. (Most of us who have experienced the crafting of those for our places of employment might cringe at that term, but it’s actually a very useful thing, if it is authentic and is used to determine actions and make decisions.)

Just this morning, a friend from school wrote on Facebook that he has lived more life than he has left to live, and so it is important that every second count. To which I say, Amen!–even if you actually have more left than you’ve lived. (Wish I could have more fully valued every second much earlier. But, live and learn. Live and learn.)

This does not mean that every second has to be unicorns and rainbows, but it does mean that suffering needs to happen for the right reasons. There will always be suffering, but I’d sure like a lot less of the needless or unproductive kind. His words, and a message from another friend–along with countless conversations with so many people over the last year, for which I am deeply grateful–prompted me to put down in writing what I need going forward to make every second count. I’m going to share it here, with hope that it might be helpful in some way to at least some of you who read here:

What I need in my life:

To figure out more what matters to me.
To create things.
To be healthy.
Friends and family.
Peace within my work, despite its proximity to despair.
To understand the past but not live in it.
To find beauty and joy in a world that is ugly and fucked up.
People who care about the things I care about.
Kindness.
Intention.
To be valued and cared for by the people I choose to let into my life.
Distance or separation from those who can’t give value and care to me.
People who know themselves well enough to be honest in their words and actions with me.
Comfort with my uncomfortable understanding that, in spite of the ways in which people can and do love and support each other, we are also, ultimately, on our own.

Perhaps an annual vision statement is a more useful exercise than making resolutions. My list above is not a set of actions or promises. It is instead a set of principles I can go to when making decisions about how to spend those precious minutes left to me in the coming 365 days. It’s something I can use to determine what to let in and what to keep out. I know that if I can do that, I’ll most certainly need a new list–or at least a revised one–a year from now. Change is the only constant, damnit and thank goodness.

Spent much of my first day of this year exploring the cool things humans create. Want so much more of this in the coming year.

11 thoughts on “Postcard from London

  1. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    I am glad I am not alone in not being able to fit everything on a postcard.
    Just know you aren’t alone in these life things, that I am working on being brave like you on certain things in my life, that I want change for me in 2019 and in my life.
    Sending you a big hug and hope for a much better 2019.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…How to Get Fit in 2019 on a BudgetMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Haven’t you always been brave? I see bravery in you ALL THE TIME. But I am with you on the change. All the way. Let’s do it.

  2. Marian says:

    I love this post, Rita. I am SO glad for you, that you’ve turned the corner and disrupted the pattern, and that you’re ready to finally move on.

    It absolutely IS helpful — to me, and I’m sure to countless others — to read the list of your needs and principles. With the exception of the line about work (although that’s something I’m hoping to be moving towards in 2019) each and every item on your list can be found on my list. (It’s not a gathered-together list like yours is, but all the parts have definitely been woven through my two months of journaling; I think I need to formalize it like you have.)

    These two — “To be valued and cared for by the people I choose to let into my life,” and “Distance or separation from those who can’t give value and care to me” — especially hit home. I’ve been dealing with a situation for the past 18 months, one that’s caused me tremendous anxiety, regret and internal berating, and just before Christmas I took an action. It was done imperfectly (and if I could have a do-over I would) but it feels like despite that I have perhaps managed to finally close a door on my hopes for a person who clearly sees zero value in me. This — “Maybe the secret to a good life is knowing when it’s time to move on to the next thing” — has been my downfall my entire life. Even when I have for all intents and purposes moved on, my thoughts remain stuck in place; it’s been exhausting and it would be such a relief to finally have the pattern of my thoughts broken, to know, and believe, that I can finally let it go and be done.

    I’m so excited for what’s coming next for you, and I hope it does include more creation (your own and other people’s). I feel like that’s our lifeblood, we humans, and once we recognize that we can find it and nurture it in just about everything we do.
    Happy New Year, Rita 🙂 .

    • Rita says:

      Happy New Year to you, too. (Sorry for the delayed response. Traveling back and jet lag and going back to work sort of knocked me off the map for a week.)

      You and I have so much in common. I feel like I have never quite known when to let go. I think sometimes I do it too quickly, and other times I hang on far too long. As for the thoughts, well…all I can say about my own recent experience is that it wasn’t something I could will myself to do. And I think it takes as long as it takes. Back in the summer, I gave myself permission to just be sad, in whatever form the sadness was going to take. Sometimes it took the form of reliving things over and over in my head. It’s hard to know when you’re stuck in an unproductive place and when you’re doing necessary processing. (Well, it’s hard for me to know.) Before I left for London, I was feeling stuck. And I was sick of being stuck. But I didn’t know how to move on. As much as I said in a post I wrote there that I thought it was a mistake to go, I now know it was exactly the right thing. I needed to be shaken up and out of my usual pattern. I can’t explain quite how it all worked, but I came back in a different place. I haven’t tried to write about that. Probably won’t. But I’m really grateful, painful as it was.

      I hope you can get to that peaceful place soon, with the situation you’ve mentioned. And I agree with you about creation and lifeblood. I am full of desire to make things again. I sure missed that when it was gone.

      Take care xoxo

  3. Omeica Hudson says:

    Love this and it is so true, change is the only constant. I did cringe at the mission statement part and then laughed out loud whith what followed. I love how authentic and reflective you are.

    • Rita says:

      I know people hate mission statements, but I saw the value of them when I took on the library job in our district. There was nothing to guide the decisions I had to make (for elementary libraries). Now, that’s what I filter all the decisions through. They are great when you really use them. And when they say real things. I think the problem is that when they are made for large organizations, they become so general/abstract they are basically without meaning. Glad I made you laugh!

  4. TD says:

    Dear Rita, I enjoy your sharing of this post. I especially like that you reserve your right to revise as you grow with your own nourishment as you see life in your own terms and in your own timeline.

    My vision statements would look something like this:

    Keep my own life simple.

    Understand other people are very busy with their own lives, priorities and agendas.

    Being here now, in this moment, will reduce my anxiety about a future that in truth is unknown and will keep my mind from the repetition of broken recordings, missing puzzle pieces, or holes of my own past.

    When I wake, ask myself what do I need to do today and what am I able to do today. Pace myself: hydrate, activity, eat, hydrate, rest, activity, eat, hydrate, sleep. What doesn’t get done today will be patiently waiting for me tomorrow.

    Go outside daily. Sit in sun often. Read, learn, and grow. Connect with people occasionally. Hug, brush, bathe, play and talk with my dogs all day and during the night as needed.

    Remember, I am doing the best that I am able to do with my energy and resources.

    Allow with grace, my emotions to come and go, as my feelings are similar to the tides of the sea, they come in durations with different flows and they go within their own time. Release need to control.

    Forgive myself and others quickly will reduce my own pain of anger and offers relief.

    Understand my raw edges may rub against another’s raw edges unknowingly and without intent.

    Empathy decreases pain.
    Distance minimizes pain.
    Separation increases pain.
    Choose empathy.

  5. Kate says:

    I really love your vision statement, Rita. It looks inspired and inspiring and I hope it helps define your 2019. At the very least I hope it leads to less needless, unproductive suffering. I appreciate that you mention the difference. While 2018 definitely held it’s share of suffering for me and I was good and ready for it to be over, as I slowly settle into 2019 (no starting off with the bang here), I realize a lot of it was actually quite necessary and good for me even if it didn’t feel GOOD.

    I know I too have a few things that are at a forefront for me this year. Health is a big one. Both physical but especially mental. Beauty seeking. Making. Celebrating my people. Being with those who value me, letting go of those who don’t and with grace. I feel like each of those is separate but also so intertwined and just thinking of them makes me feel peaceful.

    Happy 2019, Rita. I hope we can both create more of our vision this year!

    • Rita says:

      Happy 2019 to you, too. I hear you on the things that are necessary and good but don’t feel good. Sure have had a lot of that lately. I’d like to bring in more good that feels good in the coming year. For sure. And I love that list of yours, too. I definitely want more beauty seeking and making. I love the idea that all those things you want are intertwined. Seeing the beauty of your people, making things with and for them, letting go of others so you have more space for the beautiful making you do with your people. Really looking forward to seeing what the year brings for you. You already do so much beauty-seeking (and recording) and making. Hard to imagine what it might look like for you to do more or take it to some other level.

  6. Kate says:

    P.S. I noticed on the chalkboard that the quote circled states, “There is no such thing as bad advice.” It made me laugh. I actually wonder if the reverse isn’t also true. 😉

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