My life fits on the head of a pin

One day last week I was sitting on a bench in the downtown area of a small North Carolina mountain town, my beloved companion Stella laying at my feet, when a strange memory popped into my head. We were enjoying the beautiful fall day, people and dog watching, so I have no idea where this memory came from – I remembered that years ago in a catalog of  “oddities” I saw the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin. At the time I just thought it was weird and amusing but I didn’t give it much thought. As I sat there on the bench, my thoughts drifting like leaves on the breeze, I wondered why someone would want to put the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin.  I thought about how incredibly focused on the prayer you would become as you read it under a magnifying glass and suddenly I realized that was the point. When you are that closely focused on one thing it takes over your mind and everything else disappears into the background. It becomes the most important thing. Have you ever had that experience – even just for a moment?

We live in a striving, competitive, materialistic society and it is so easy to get caught up in all that and forget to appreciate the things that make our individual human experience special. When we look at our lives we often have the view from 30,000 feet and things tend to blur together until it seems like everything shares equal importance or relevance. I think about all the plans and dreams I have had over the years and how devastated I was if they didn’t work out the way I hoped. Millions, maybe billions of thoughts have buzzed through my head over the years and I attached too much importance to a lot of them. Often I allowed myself to be led astray by weakness and fear instead of being confident in my best instincts – faith, honesty, and love.  To quote Abraham Maslow “be strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of others”.

There is one good thing about getting older: you have a wealth of experience to draw from and, hopefully, you begin to realize that very few things in life are truly important. With age also comes the luxury of perspective and you can look back and see that when one dream went awry, another one took its place and was often better than the old one – the one you thought you would die without! As I sat in solitude watching people walk by I felt like I was viewing my life under a powerful microscope and I could see clearly what had always been  important to me, what had really mattered  – everything else disappeared into the background. Love, food, good health, shelter, faith, compassion, creativity, and awe. There are many things that are enjoyable in my life but none that are more essential to me. Lao-tzu said “If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich”.

I finally understand that my life fits on the head of a pin. Or is it that I finally understand that I am a pinhead? Hmm …

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Stella visits her first waterfall

 

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It’s just the gypsy in my soul

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a restless streak. I was ready to hit the open road at any time and the only things that held me back were either responsibilities or lack of money. This restlessness isn’t just about visiting different places, it also applies to living in different places. I don’t have a sense of “roots” or of belonging in any particular place – maybe it all started 56 years ago on the Queen Mary when my parents immigrated to the United States from England or maybe, as my Mom says, “it’s just the gypsy in my soul”. It could even be genetic since Mom says she has always had the same kind of urges.

I have moved many times in my adult life and I’m sure I would have moved even more if I wasn’t  grounded by my sense of responsibility to my son and, of course, financial constraints. I actually enjoy the feeling of settling into a new place and finding my way around a strange town. I like the way my furniture looks so different in a new place. I even like the feeling that no one knows me in the grocery store. In 1993 I moved from New Jersey to St. Augustine, Florida and, for a few years, I was content and felt like I was in the “right” place. I had been longing to move to a warmer climate for several years and I fell in love with the old city during a vacation so, I decided to take the plunge. As a single person, I was making the move alone with limited funds, which was scary, plus I only knew one person in St. Augustine and I had no job. My parents were upset with me for selling my “nice little house” and giving up a “good job” but, as has happened at other times, a couple of factors converged to create the catalyst that pushed me into a “reinvention” (oops – there’s that word again!).  Not all the moves I have made turned out as well as the move to Florida – I found  a “good job” that turned into a rewarding 16 year career.  I built a home that I love and enjoy living in. I met my best friend and some other very nice people. I have lived here longer than anywhere else and I used to think I would want to spend the rest of my life here (do you feel a but coming?) … BUT, about 6 years ago I started getting that old restless feeling again. I wanted to quit my job and move to a different place – I wanted a new beginning again. If you’ve been following my blog, you know there were obstacles in the way and I wasn’t able to do either of those things but that doesn’t mean the restlessness went away!

As we all know, in 2008 the economy took a nose dive from which we still haven’t recovered so I decided I better be practical.  I longed to move – I had my sights set on the mountains of North Carolina – but, the housing market tanked and I couldn’t sell my house for a decent price and then things deteriorated to the point where now I would have to pay to get rid of it! That isn’t the only obstacle because, even if the housing market improved significantly, my Mom doesn’t want to move and I certainly wouldn’t leave her here by herself. I decided to stick it out at my job until I was old enough for early retirement. I knew that, even though I still wouldn’t be able to relocate, I would be more content with my life if I didn’t have to continue in a job which no longer interested me and that has been true … for the most part. I still have the desire to start again in a new place and there is always a suppressed restlessness that lives below the surface of my conscious mind and periodically emerges to torment me. To quote Mom again “You can’t have everything”.

Part of life, no matter how old you are or what part of the journey you’re on, is learning to deal with disappointment and accepting the fact that you can’t always have or do whatever you want. My latest reinvention is a great experience in so many ways and I am eternally grateful that I am able to spend my time doing the things I enjoy but, one of my challenges has been finding ways to deal with my restless nature. If I had unlimited finances I would buy an RV and travel all over this beautiful country and I would buy a  second home in the mountains so I could take off whenever I need a change of scenery and climate; however, that isn’t possible so I have developed other ways to satisfy the gypsy in my soul. I take a couple of vacations and short getaways each year and keep myself immersed in creative work and in learning new things but, most importantly, I put a lot of effort into changing how I experience my life. I try to keep my focus on gratitude. I remind myself that I am fortunate to be healthy and free and have everything I need. I try to keep my mind from wandering off into the land of want, because that’s where discontent and disappointment live.  As Eckhart Tolle said, you have only three choices if you don’t like your situation 1) leave it, 2) change it, or 3) experience it differently.

Lately I have been missing the crisp autumn air of more northern climes so next week Stella and I will be enjoying a few days in a small mountain town in North Carolina. We’ll stroll the old-fashioned Main Street and visit some waterfalls and maybe even see some fall colors. It’s not a trip to Europe or even an extended RV tour of the United States and I won’t be looking for a vacation home while I’m there but the gypsy in my soul will be very happy to go!

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Stella’s always ready to hit the trail