Might have been the 50th birthday, might have been the minor health scare. Might have been the discovery of my 20 year old self, over there in the journals I pulled out of a long ago packed-and-forgotten box.
Either way I have gone and done it. I have quit my job, exited the company I helped found. I have turned over the proverbial new leaf.
Which is quite poetic, given the lush garden that is thriving in my (literal) backyard. On the good days I putter here, planting, pruning and working on what I am certain is an “other” level of sorting. Creative ideas are brewing as I work the warm soil, planting tiny plants, transplanting bigger ones. My hands are dirty and I feel strong. I am in the moment, I breathe, I trust.
And then there are the other moments. Those mornings when I stare wildly at the weeds, seductively snaking around my carefully tended vegetables. I look twice before I realize these clever impersonators are, in fact, choking the life from my heirloom tomatoes. Then, my inner dialogue speaks to me in ALL CAPS, like the angry e-mails I had hoped to leave behind.
Okay what the hell Kerrie? I have quit my job. I have packed up my one battered banker’s box and high tailed it out of my former uptown hipster office. Legal documents have been signed; I have seriously pruned back my life. In the past two months I have not written the great Canadian novel, I have not cleaned up the garage, I have not picked up the accordion again or golf or tennis. I have not become a better mom or wife or daughter or friend. I have not settled blissfully into the quest for my authenticity.
Or scarier still, what if this IS my authentic self. (insert sad face icon here).
If only there was a “breathe deeply icon”. Some texty talisman to remind me all is not lost, in my garden or in life.
I did show up for a writer’s retreat in Washington State, I did volunteer at my daughter’s dance recital. I did sort through 15 years of old taxes and recycle or shred things that no longer seemed to matter. I did start cleaning at a deeper level, culling my literal (and figurative) basement.
The mornings are still my most productive time. I awaken early (old habits) make a cup of tea and head outside. I survey my modest garden, plucking out weeds that demand plucking, watering plants that telegraph their thirst. This work, like Psyche sorting mythical seeds, has purpose.
I am an older Psyche though, still beautiful but mid-life now, more aware. Balanced on the precipice of a third career, looking back, stumbling back really, over a lifetime of projects and people and obligations.
For the most part I am okay. Hardy, occasionally brittle and moving more slowly than I did a lifetime ago. I approach this third phase of my woman’s life cautiously, the 180 degree opposite of my 12 year old daughter. Fearless, she throws herself forward, ready to catch a powerful wave and arrive on the shores of the fertile woman phase. She is impatient, by contrast I am uncertain, trudging through the detritus…the debris created by my life surfing. I seek a quiet space here now, a small landfall. A simple place in our home reserved for me. A room of one’s own and 500 pounds a year, like Virginia Woolf.
My task is the sorting, deciding what I keep and what I burn or shred or simply leave behind.
I am knee high in old files and boxes and journals but really, I am knee high in the stuff I never really did clean up.
Friends and colleagues are surprised and confused by my choice. Seemingly overnight I have fled the scene. While others are working hard, racing to the finish, to save enough to retire…I am opting out? Moving forward in another direction? What am I going to do now? I am a serial entrepreneur, so I know there will always be something. Then, there is the work of mothering, and my still shiny marriage.
This is a new way of being but familiar also, like a long ago vision of summer. Endless, or at least full of possibility.
This is a powerful time in my life. I am young enough to begin again, young enough to remember back to what I imagined lay ahead. I know this liminal space, I have been here before.
But this time is different. I am parenting a 12-year-old girl; I am married to a wonderful man, a champion and friend. Interestingly, I am helping my mom sort through as she prepares for a different kind of change. The 4th phase of a woman’s life, as she ponders what to leave behind.
So I am living the dream. Leisurely teas in my beautiful backyard, weeding with a groundskeeper’s pride, hours spent pulling boxes from the garage and sorting, shifting things inside the house, uncovering a desk and a place to be. Through it all I am solidifying something in me. Solid footing for this next chapter. It is time to move on. I am retired. I am rethinking. I am restoring. I am relieved.
Saving Seeds to Plant Next Spring
My grandmother, whose mother tended tomatoes, would always save the seeds from the tomatoes she was eating to plant for next year.It’s simple (and potentially awkward at a dinner party but make a game of it!) Enjoy your tomatoes, paying attention to the seeds. Grab a paper towel. Spit the seeds onto the paper towel. Let dry. Mark them with the date and type of tomato (if you know). Rip pieces of paper towel (with seeds attached) and plant next year!