Sunday, May 12, 2013

Letting Go


 

We have been back in upstate New York for several weeks.  These few weeks seem to be all about letting go.  I can’t return to our cottage here and not think of what the stream bank was like before the flood destroyed it.  It is hard for me to let go of those graceful, but gnarly old willows that lined the stream and learn to love the large boulders that now hold the water back from our lovely cottage.
Saying Goodbye to My Trees
 
Some friends invited us to dinner last night along with others who were colleagues of mine when I taught at the college here.  We caught up with each other after our six months absence, and since five of the six us were retired, we talked about retirement and how we found the adventure.   I commented that it has been four years since I visited the campus and observed that I don’t return because that part of my life has been replaced by my work as a mystery writer.
 

At another university when I was an administrator, I met several faculty who still retained their offices on campus and still went to the office each day.  They were adamant the administration not take away these spaces because they needed a space in which to work.  Perhaps, but I also sensed something else.  They did not wish to let go of the life as professor they once had.  In fact, it seemed they could not let go of it.  I vowed I would not do that when I retired.
 

I enjoyed my years teaching college students, but now I’m quite happy to have others do it.  I think it’s like publishing a book.  Once you have put it out there in print, it is no longer yours.  It belongs to the readers.  Once you’ve left life as a college professor, it belongs to those who come after you. 
 

Sometimes it’s little things that you have to let go of.  Glenn and I used to go to this country bar and restaurant in Okeechobee every weekend and dance to the bands there.  Last year it changed ownership and now has become a bar that allows smoking, has installed pool tables where we used to dance and holds TV sports events.  No more dancing.  Here in upstate New York, there are no places to dance either.  I miss that part of our life.  And unfortunately it’s a part that seems to remind me I’m getting older.  Who me?
 

I’m aware that it is easy to assert that we should move on with our lives and for some not so easily accomplished.  I feel lucky because I have my writing.  I have friends who insist they cannot retire because they have no life other than their work.  So I feel very fortunate I found another part of myself I could develop.  As a developmental psychologist I know life is all about change, and change comes only when we are confronted by challenges and find we must adjust.  It can be fun, and it can be painful.  It can be both fun and painful.

What else have I had to let go of in these weeks?  Well, I thought we would begin renovating our downstairs bathroom.  Instead I had to let go of that idea until Glenn finishes building an extension onto our shed.  So I’m still carting laundry to the nearby laundromat.  The good news is that it’s right next to the ice cream shop.
 
What does letting go mean to you?

 

 

26 comments:

  1. I LOVE the picture at the top of your blog. I want to walk in that water, it's sooo real looking.
    I enjoyed this post. I, too, know people whose lives would be at an end if they didn't have that "one" thing. I'm more diversified. I have my two kids, 19 and 14, and know they will move out one day (or not) though I won't ever be ready for that. However I have my writing and my riding (horse) and my two sisters to visit and my husband and sister-in-laws, so I won't be totally "out on the street" so to speak. Thanks for posting these delightful musings.
    Patti

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    1. I love that picture too. It was taken after the flood and still shows how beautiful the water is. I'm getting used to not having the trees in myh backyard, but it's been hard.

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  2. Fabulous pictures.

    Letting go can be harder for some than for others. My dh still lives in the late 50's and gets very indignant at every sign of 'progress.' He laments that the grandkid cannot walk home from school safely, that he cannot go hunting over land that is now subdivided, or that old-fashioned can openers (that ripped the flesh) can no longer be purchased. As a result, I find I act irresponsibly at times when it comes to letting go. Throw out stuff I need the next week, instigate moving house when maybe it would have been better to remain stuck.

    It takes all sorts!

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    1. My hubby doesn't want to throw out much of anything because he, too, thinks he might want to use that next week, or next year, or in ten years. Somehow we manage to compromise and keep stuff for a shorter period of time.

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  3. First of all, I hope you find some dance floors real soon!! ;-)

    And, I recently had an experience I needed to let go, but it was quite difficult. I held on to that bugger for about two weeks... However, I let it go and I'm back to my cheerful self. It wasn't easy, but it had to be done.

    Great topic this week (well, okay, all your work rocks) but it sounded like something good to say at the end of this comment.

    Thanks for sharing!!

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  4. I dance around my house, but, gosh how I yearn for a live band. I'm so honored you think mhy work rocks.

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  5. Lesley - I'm a retired prof, too, and fill some of that gap with writing. But I also shifted my research interests from Big Ecology to the taxonomy of mites - where I started a career in 1949, I am the US expert on chigger mites. All the others have died. Well, there's Glen Goff in Honolulu... And recently a new project came along - mites parasitic on bats, and the white nose disease. So I keep my hand in where i enjoy science.

    Dancing - there's plenty of live music here in Athens, Georgia and some of it is danceable.

    Cabin on the lake - I let that go. I'm alone now and have become more of a homebody.

    And there are always new friends - such as you - among the writers

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    1. So if Glenn and I come to Athens, will you take us dancing? You know that's my old stomping grounds, but when I was there it was not such a lively nor cosmopolitan place.

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  6. Lesley,
    I had to laugh as I read your post, which I enjoyed, by the way. I laughed because I just finished writing a post for my blog in June titled "Change." (Great minds think alike?) :)
    I think most of us resist change because, one way or another, it disrupts our lives. But, because change is inevitable, at some point we have to come to terms with it. "Let go and let God" is one of my favorite slogans and, when I remember to use it, it helps me to accept what is rather than focusing on what was.

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    1. Well, of course we think along the same lines, oh sister great mind. I think the point is that the only way we change is to be challenged. Only when what we've been doing does not work any longer because of death, tradgedy, or happier events like marriage and the birth of a child, do we change. I've oftgen said that's why I write about murder, the really big catalyst for change in people's lives.

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  7. Lesley, Your post really resonated with me because I too am recently retired, writing mysteries, and enjoying friends who are also in the retired mode. I feel much like you--I couldn't retire from teaching high school and then college unless I had something to do. It wasn't about adding to the GNP, it was about keeping my mind active and feeling as if I were doing something worthwhile. I have watched friends who are satisfied with retirement and some who are not. Those who are not are having trouble with change and feeling as if they are someone other than "the teacher" or "the accountant." So now I'm writing, I may have a book deal in the works, and I appreciated your comments and advice on my own blog last year. Keep up the great work!

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    1. And you keep up your own good work. If that book deal comes through, let us all know. You'll find your life will not be the same after you sign it. You'll be working harder than ever!

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  8. Lesley,
    A lovely post about the need we have to accept changes in our lives. Being a "new" widow, I'm adjusting to letting go of a shared life. Thank God I have good friends, good health, and writing.

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    1. I've watched several close friends struggle with widowhood. They adjusted by having important things and people in their lives.

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  9. Lesley, this post is wise and wistful. Accepting change ain't easy, and I find as I grow older I'm more and more afflicted by hardening of the attitudes. Frankly, I still have a hard time letting go of the twentieth century. But change is going to happen, and with luck we can find some grace and even joy in adapting to what comes, letting go of people, places, and things we can't hold onto.

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  10. I wish I could find that grace you're speaking of, butI go kicking and screaming into new adventures, then find they aren't so bad.

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  11. We all have nostalgia for some aspects of the past. But I agree, change is part of life; either accept it or wither. I saw that early in the difference between my grandfathers who both found reason for rich and full life in retirement while siblings bound by the past experienced despair.

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  12. I understand that retirement issue. I was able to retire with ease because it meant having more time to write. But my husband, who is four years older, is reluctant to let his work go because he doesn't know what he's wants to do when it's gone.

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    1. Here's hoping that your success may encourage him to let go and connect with another aspect of himself.

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  13. I'm saying goodbye, one by one, to optimally functioning joints. The knuckle on my right pinkie is enlarged so my favorite pinkie rings don't fit anymore! We've said goodbye to Texas after about 30 years, but are eagerly embracing our new life in Tennessee. I guess things get replaced, as you mentioned--places, houses, favorite eating joints, even physical joints. I was a little sad when I noticed the publisher of my latest book deleted all the interim editing files, but that's a good sign--the book is done! One to the next one.

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    1. This aging thing is a tough one, one harder to ignore as the years go by and especially difficult living in a culture that worships bodies that look about 13 years old1 Taht 's why I go to a gym dring the middle of the day when the young foks are at work and only us oldies are puffin" and huffin' and sweating. I get enough of firm flesh watching TV, so I rearrange my day to let go more easily.

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    2. Wise choice, Lesley, on the day-rearranging. :)

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  15. Hi Lesley,
    Excellent post! After retiring from a 31-year teaching career, I decided to devote my second act to writing. I started with articles and book reviews and worked up to writing novels. It's taken a while (5 years) and I've encountered several detours along the way, but my debut novel will be released by Soul Mate Publishing in the fall. Like some of the others, I've also watched the other retirees adapt (or not) to having more blocks of unstructured time. Having a new direction certainly makes a difference.

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  16. Nice going, Lesley. Good thoughts on change. For the first half of my life change was the driving force, so I got used to change as a way of moving through life. Then I moved into a house of my own and was always itchy for change, but it never happened. So I had the unusual experience of craving change that didn't happen. When I retired, I embraced the change so I could finally write.

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