Snorkling in the Caribbeans

In April I took a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to eight Caribbean islands. The first day in Fort Lauderdale I lost my camera. It was the second CoolPIx which I had lost and was quite disappointed not only to be without a camera but also I had taken some neat photos of my sister and her friends that were on my digital.

On the ship they were selling cameras (duty and tax free), one of them a Cool Pix. I felt like I wanted to upgrade and I hemmed and hawed not knowing quite what kind of upgrade I wanted.

It was my second time snorkling and I had the good luck to meet two expert snorklers, Joe from Manchester, England and Claire from New Mexico who sort of took me under their wing as I followed them through narrow reefs and learned how to stay in place to watch the fish.

At one point I ran into Joe on deck and she showed me the photos which she had taken underwater. I at once knew what my upgrade would be.

I bought myself an Olympus underwater camera. And really it was a good thing that I lost my CoolPix in Fort Lauderdale for I never would have taken these photos of such wonderful fish. Snorkling opened up a new world for me.

Bonaire Island is known as the Paridise of snorkling and deep sea diving.

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Retire to Do What You Love

This afternoon I had a personal meeting with Thelma Mariano, Life and Retirement Coach.

When I first started my blog nine months ago I was newly retired and asked the question: what do I want to do for the rest of my life? The answer to this question is becoming clearer but meeting with Thelma helped me to re-evaluate my goals at this stage of my life.

Our meeting started off with her stating that when you retire you have to build a new life for yourself – one where you’re going to fulfill your needs and pursue your dreams.

“Now that we’re living longer, if you retire at sixty it’s reasonable to expect a good twenty or thirty years ahead,” she said. “My ninety-one year old father still plays golf and has a healthy social life. Because we have become more aware of our health and are taking care of our bodies, we can be active well into our eighties or beyond.”

We baby boomers may be ready to retire from our regular jobs but certainly not from life. And we’re never too old to go after our dreams.

Ms Mariano’s tools are based on twenty years of research and coaching experience. One such tool which she gave me as “homework” is “Your Life Values” questionnaire. This is in two parts. The first part requires you to identify what you still want to experience and express. Forget those values which you’ve already integrated.

Along with a suggested list of values came two pages of notes. For example:

* Our Life Values are powerful, as they actually determine what we create in our lives and show us the areas that need change. They are also what motivates us and what ultimately gives us satisfaction.

The exercise also requires you to prioritize your list:

* Changing the priorities of your values affects the way you think, feel and behave in every area of your life. Someone who puts Challenge/Risk at the top of her list will go after very different opportunities than someone who puts Security as #1.

I relied on my gut feeling to prioritize my values and define how I will achieve them. So here’s my list:

1. Tranquility
2. Being recognized for my writing
3. Having a loving relationship with a man
4. Deepening my relationship with my daughter
5. Meeting more writers
6. Going to Barcelona
7. Having my own website as a writer
8. Spiritual growth
9. Going to interesting writers conferences
10. Attending a yoga workshop in Hawaii

The only reason I put spiritual growth at the number 8 position was because I had previously done Mariano’s “Slice of Life Satisfaction Chart” and spirituality had come out very strong so I didn’t feel that I needed to prioritize that aspect. I hemmed and hawed at whether a loving relationship with a man was more important than my writing career.

Then I thought of a TaroGold. quote which I received in my inbox a few weeks ago: “If you sacrifice your growth and talent for love you will not find happiness. True happiness is obtained only by fully realizing your potential. Love should be a force that helps you expand your life and bring forth your innate potential with fresh and dynamic vitality.” In the midst of writing this I felt caught in a chicken and egg situation. So I guess my number 2 and 3 values go hand-in-hand.

But wait! The test is still not finished. Now that I’ve identified my values I need to define them and set goals to achieve them. Yikes!

You can use some of Thelma’s tools which she’s posted on her site.

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The Guest

A few posts ago I wrote an excerpt titled Hello, Cowgirl in The Sand. You can read the essay in Mindful.org, a sister publication of Shambhala Sun.

View the article here.

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Excerpt from Retirement and Cocaine

1
I am in one of those funks over my retirement. I am supposed to be joyous about this situation but I am everything but joyous. Instead of joy it is anxiety and fear that inhabits me these days. Will I be able to make it financially? Will I be too sheltered and see the world close in on me.

It is as if I am dying. Or at least part of me is dying. That part that I so identified with: the teacher. Suddenly she is gone. Or perhaps she is merely shifting classrooms and now her teaching will be somewhere else. Her writing will be her classroom.

I guess what I fear is having nothing to do. I don’t mean literally nothing to do for I could spend my days cleaning my house, cooking, doing yoga , meeting friends for coffee, biking and going for long walks. That would fill up a day, all right. But there would be something missing. Some personal fulfillment not met and this is what I fear the most about my retirement.

I cry a lot these days following my retirement but I associate them more with missing my mother, my father, my sister.

My friend, Sylvie calls and I tell her I can’t stop crying. I am so fragile and sensitive.

Sylvie is a great listener but also a great comforter. She is in a way like a man for when you tell her a problem she has the need to find a solution. Unlike a man though (at least many of the men I have met whose solution is to say not to think about whatever it is I’m thinking about) Sylvie offers solid solutions.
Don’t forget you’ve just retired. You’ve got to mourn that. In all the mourning I’ve been doing this past year and a half mourning a retirement seems so banal. Superficial almost. But maybe she is right. It is another stone on my pile of grief.

2
The school year has begun and I feel an empty hole in my life. There is lonesomeness for my colleagues and I wonder if I have done the right thing in retiring.

3
I am truly retired. The fact of being retired is in my face. I am in its early stages and although I am going towards something new and unknown I must go through this passage of grieving my career. I did not think it would leave such an emptiness inside of me. This feeling of loss and being in liminality is how Murray Stein describes this transition between work and retirement.

Liminality refers to “… a threshold between consciousness and unconscious portions of the mind… a person’s sense of identity is hung in suspension. You are no longer fixed to particular mental images and contents of yourself. … the “I” is homeless.”

4
I love not working. I am so happy that I retired. The greatest gift retirement offers is time. The luxury to do things slowly. To get out of bed when I feel like it. To chart my day as it arises.

My friend, Thelma, friend, writer and life coach sends me an e-mail regarding an update to her website. It’s full of neat ideas for anyone wanting to retire. View her articles here.

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Spring is Coming

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Excerpt From Hello, Cowgirl in the Sand

It frightens me when Sophie tells me that she isn’t coming to my sister’s commemorative because she doesn’t believe in the afterlife. What if she’s right and I have been wrong all along? What if this anger that is lodged inside of me forming a cliff around my heart is anger at my own disillusions? Two flautist play Bach’s magnificent Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring while the names of the dead are projected on a large screen. I think about what Sophie said at the hospital as she watched Life fade from her mother’s body: “How am I going to tell Emme that there’s no more Nannie?”

No more. No more.

At the end of the commemorative ceremony my sister’s name is written on the sand of the beach and I think about Neil Young’s Cowgirl in the Sand, how I played not just that song but all Neil Young’s songs over and over in the seventies. I wanted a boyfriend like Neil Young. I was in love with Neil Young. It’s the woman in you that makes you want to play this game.

My attention focuses inward where in the flesh of my memory I am seeing Neil Young on stage. Hello woman of my dreams. (Will I ever be someone’s woman of my dreams?) By the time it was out on the charts my sister had married. At her wedding I was her bridesmaid in a long pink A-line dress, my happiness stained with anger for her abandoning me to marry Richard. And now she is leaving me again. But this time it is for eternity. The song has nothing to do with my sister. If anything I am the cowgirl, the Brown Eyed Girl while she is the Save the Last Dance for Me and Ain’t no Sunshine when She’s Gone. Perhaps this is what the Buddhists mean when they talk about interconnectedness. Past, present, future merge into one. Events are not so random as they seem. Facts. Fiction. Imagination.Thought. The butterfly in Madagascar. Your ancestors. The child not yet born. Timelessness. This is not the way it seems. Continue reading

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Excerpt From Bye-Bye Miss American Pie

The second time I come across a psychopath or think I do (one cannot know these things for sure on first seeing someone, can one?) I am in New York City’s Central Park. Alone again, naturally. It is dusk and I am roaming around Central Park when the sound of Don McLean’s American Pie lures me into the crowd. There I stand swaying next to a man. Tall. Blonde. Slim. Man I dig those rhythm and blues. He starts in with the usual talk, first about the music, where I am from. Montreal. He’s from Brooklyn. Then the weather and how hot New York gets. It is a warm summer evening, even balmy for New York City. Helter skelter in a summer swelter. It comforts me not to be alone and I welcomed the attention of a man although I am still too frightened of myself to realize that it is my neediness and fear of loneliness that makes me open to this man. It will be years later that I will begin to understand this part of myself but back then, in my mid twenties, that kind of consciousness remains stowed away under rock like unawareness.

“Where you staying?” he asks me.

I don’t know I tell him. I’ll find somewhere to park my car. Without much money but an appetite to be on the road this is how I travel. In the back of my orange Ford Pinto I have built my personal hostel with a sleeping bag over an inflatable mattress and a suitcase filled with change of clothing and a cosmetic bag with toiletries to bring into the public showers of truck stops, gypsy style.

“You can stay at my place,” he says, “if you give me a ride home.”

It is the seventies. I am naïve. Trusting. A generation lost in space. It is love and peace time and more important, I believe in the goodness of mankind like someone who’s never been hurt or thinks bad things happen to other people, not me. Continue reading

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