Renovating a Life and a House

Welp, here it is. For awhile I had been dreaming of leaving the US. I had dreamed of living a simple life in a country not mired in so much racial strife or expense of living. I had traveled to take a look with Panama, Mexico or Costa Rica being on my radar. Years passed as I settled into a life of comfort forgetting about the long ago dreams. Life moved, cancer happened and life moved again. A little blue house in Cuba became my sanctuary from chaos and comfort. A little yard with a few goats, chickens and ducks sounded ideal. Never mind the noise or the surveillance, it seemed to fit and provide a cultural back drop for which I had been longing. Living in Santa Fe, NM I had began to lose myself. I was reaching for a purpose that I could not grasp. Fund raisers and events came and went as I paraded to each one in the newest dress. There was a longing. Life moved, the winds blew and now I am divorced from a long time marriage in the states and ended a 6 year relationship with my partner of the little blue house. Needless to say with so much loss I felt adrift and uncertain. There is a saying that life happens when you are busy making other plans. I find myself resting in the wings of fate. I allow myself to be carried. Where?

I am in Nicaragua a place that i held in the very deep recesses of my mind. A friend has invited me to visit as he has done for many years and I always refused. Now it is different. I have no where to go and nothing to lose. The beauty of this country surprises me and holds me in a spell. I wonder about life here and about my own life that has unraveled to a place that is unrecognizable. I am in need of an overhaul, a renovation if you will. Yes I am here in this city of Granada, a beautiful colonial city where the air is warm and hangs heavy. It is a place where tropical flowers hang from balconies and the sound of horse hooves with carriages fill the streets. I am taken in by its beauty. It is my birthday. My friend takes me to a lively plaza where I sip rum and the guitarist come to my table to play a serenade. I feel a sadness wondering about my life and where I now will go. It won’t be for long as a realtor contacts me the next day and is set to show me available properties. Never mind that I am not looking to buy as this is my first visit here but something tells me to go. After seeing 4 properties, I rest and head back to my lodging. There is tomorrow when I shall go again. This day is the day I open the door to what will be my home. Here it is. The realtor tells me this is a place of at least 145 years of age and uninhabited for 15 years. My heart skips as a pigeon from the ceiling brushes by hitting my arm. I hear a whisper, this is it. He tells me not to fear renovation as I look around and realize this is a full on renovation from floor to ceiling. I admire the grand columns and the structure. I stroll the massive courtyard and fantasize of what will live here. I stand and realize this old house needs me like I need it. We both need a renovation.

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Getting our Groove Back

I would be remiss if I did not admit to the difficulty of the last 2 years. With covid, my world closed in. Added on top of that was my divorce from a man I had been with for 44 years and the eventual separation from an interim partner. Here I now stand alone. I am alone for the first time ever in my life having left the house of my father to the house of my husband. Never have I lived alone until now. I am now in a space where it is my job to make decisions for myself. I now must make decisions on things I never had to before, like car repairs, taxes and the like. I now get to decide what and when I eat as well as what time I sleep. Living alone has its pros and cons and I am not just learning how to sit for a meal instead of eating from the pan at the stove. I no longer wake in my bed wondering where I am or trying to figure out which side is my side. Yet with all of this uncertainty and learning, I am getting stronger. I get stronger every day. There are fewer days of tears, not knowing or anxiety. I no longer feel a need to explain my status or my life, it just is. I am calling the shots, me and God. Well maybe just God.

I sit here on an island in Nicaragua, a place i have always wanted to venture and now this time in my life called it to me. I am alone but I feel free. I feel comfortable here. So much has been on my mind regarding travel and life in general. I have been very fortunate to be able to have the freedom to travel the world, to meet people and to give back. Now my freedom grants me more opportunity. In this new found strength, I am finding myself. I forgot just how strong I could be. I forgot how tough my heart could be. I always saw myself as weak but now I see a new me. I see a woman capable of coming from the shadows, capable of making a life and capable of handling life’s problems and coming out on the other side. Yes I have felt the fear and still feel the fear but I move ahead anyways. In life I have come to understand there are no guarantees and whatever happens, we either stagnate or we grow. In good times and bad we gain that strength we forgot was there. Hopefully with time we find what we thought was missing but was always a part of us. Courage calls on us to be great. To be bigger than we ever were and forge new ways. Along this path we find those meant to walk with us and if we are lucky, we find ourselves.

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On Life

I am trying to wrap my head around divorce. Never in a million years did I expect to be going thru one yet here I am. In this new era, there are books on cooperative divorce, creative divorce, mediation. I hear conversations centering on co mingled families with exes as friends. It appears no longer is it necessary to be hostile enemies yet many of us remain mired in the hostility. In the midst of divorce I now understand it is not only the couple getting divorced but the entire extended family. From where I sit, it is the rare bird to be able to maintain ongoing relationships with the inlaws. As an observer true colors tend to show themselves in the midst of separation and divorce.There are assets to be haggled over, lawyers dragging on for years and vindictive behavior. What may start civil can sometimes become an ugly trip into chaos. Not to mention the economic upheaval.

Divorce not only impacts the couple but an entire extended family. My parents are in their 90s and yes they prefer status quo. Change is unsettling but even more so to the elderly in most cases. My parents have cared for my soon to be ex as they would their own son and needless to say expressed dismay at news of my impending divorce. Adding insult to injury their soon to be ex son in law saw no reason to visit or say hello during their recent visit prompting my father to realize the true nature of the relationship he thought he once had. It has been difficult for me as it usually is for most of us traveling this road. I feel protective of my parents and refuse to hold any space of forgiveness for those who deliberately cause them pain.

Sadly, many times in divorce, egos get involved and it becomes more about inflicting pain than amicably separating with the hopes of a better life. One day we wake up and realize something is not working. We hope to give the relationship we once had its just due. We hope to cherish the good and give thanks to what we learned along the way. I like to say when relationships end, it is not a failure but finished business. As we grow we come to understand there is something else that needs to be done and all that happens is part of our life lessons. It is the hope we can walk with compassion and kindness knowing we will one day get to the other side. It is incredibly easy to lash out, to become angry and wallow in our own bitterness. It is easy to point the finger of blame and see ourselves as innocent victims but in reality there is no blame. It is the walk of life and sometimes it becomes necessary to navigate the potholes.

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Many years ago my only brother was killed in an automobile accident. No one really ever thinks it could happen to them and I always assumed my family was immune to such tragedy. It was always someone else. Life has a way of being unpredictable. We start out with the best of intentions, with plans of what is to become of our lives. For some reason we think we are in control and get to call the shots. We think we can organize our lives the way players are organized on a field. We expect our good outcome. We tell ourselves if we keep our noses clean and do our work, if we stay out of trouble and work hard then all the riches of the kingdom will be ours. I always dreamed of “forever.” However I have come to understand that forever only exists in fairytales and we don’t get to call the shots. Of course, we have free will and get to make our decisions or our “beds” but the universe quickly answers yes or no and if we listen closely we can hear the whisper.

I am here feeling grateful recovering from a severe foot injury. I awake this morn feeling grateful to still have two feet. I am also feeling blessed to still have my parents and able to have this time to spend with them. I realize that should I outlive them I will be an orphan. I think about patience with myself and others and how all is so fleeting. I call upon patience as I deal with my elderly parents who adore making me their baby as well as patience for myself as I navigate walking without pain. I call upon patience as I deal with an ex who is hellbent on making our communication cold and distant. I realize all of this too shall pass. Now is the time for me to understand the important pieces of my life, my relationship with myself and others.

I have spent too much time dwelling in the minutiae of others with hopes of bringing about change knowing the futility of such an undertaking. We can only change ourselves. As I awake this morning I now see the time has come for me to let things go that no longer serve a purpose and only serve to diminish my growth. It is time for me to say good bye to ego driven actions from others as well as myself. There comes a time when we all want peace and happiness. For me it is about understanding and feeling the warmth of love and support and offering it in return. When we truly claim and stand in our power we are strong and able to withstand the barbs of life.

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Ah Cuba

I am here recovering. I am in the Florida home of my parents sitting in a knee high cast. For those of you who follow this blog, I am frequently in Cuba. My last visit I got the chance to see the Cuban medical system up close and personal. After a mosquito bite and a run in with contaminated water an infection decided to take up residence in my ankle. This my friends was a long and painful ordeal. However, I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned what real friends are and what they do. I learned that nothing is inconvenient for those who truly love us. I witnessed how so many live and endure without basic necessities and comforts of life.

Many home remedies showed up at my door from well meaning neighbors. I rubbed animal fat, drank green water, sliced tomatoes laid on my ankle for 2 hours at a time, neighbors and friends sought black market medications in hopes of alleviating my pain. When all else failed my dear friend and companion carried me on the back of a bicycle to the local hospital carrying me as a baby in his arms thru the halls. These people with very little themselves gave me food and cared for me as if I were their very own. When it got to the point I could no longer walk, an elderly woman sent me her crutches since she was now home bound. I marvel at this care and this love. I have seen the outpouring of love from family and friends here in the states as well. However there have been the ones who have let me know in uncertain terms they were too busy to be a part of my “drama.” Sadly, many of us have a few of those in our lives.

I sit here as I watch the iv antibiotic infuse into my arm and feel incredibly blessed that I was able to come home for proper medical treatment. I think of my friends in Cuba who cannot leave to get the care they need and have to navigate and deal with medical issues on a daily basis. I feel saddened for the lack of medicine and food and give thanks in my heart for such kind souls that were there in my time of need. This island nation holds a special place in my heart and I also hold for them the wish for a better future.

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A little love goes a long ways

Life has a way of taking us on a wild ride. Forrest Gump once said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” So many of us start out with good intentions and a plan until one day fate comes knocking at the door and a choice of our own veers our road in another direction. I am a firm believer that we make our own lives for better or worse and often times bring all kinds of challenges with our choices. I am also a firm believer in having like minded souls to walk along this road of life with us as it is hard and always made less hard with support.

When we are walking on our road, we are truly blessed when we have those beside us who love and care for us unconditionally. It is a rare gift as many we consider friends are what I like to call “fairweather” friends who are with us when the good times are happening or when there is no need for any inconvenience. Sadly when we choose a path and boulders appear these “fairweathers” are no where to lend a hand. Perhaps we made a choice they did not agree with. Perhaps we caused anger. Perhaps we said the wrong thing. In my opinion, with unconditional friendship when times are tough these are the ones who are willing to help no matter the circumstances.

We all make mistakes and cause pain. We are humans and that in itself brings a host of ingredients to life that may not mix well. Life is beautiful but it is also a big confusing ball of mess. Sadly there are those who will take great pleasure in seeing our pain and misfortune especially when we have wronged or hurt them. Sadly these are not our true friends and never have been. Unconditional love and care comes from a deep heart space. Healthy people have empathy and compassion and have great difficulty seeing others hurt or in need. If we are lucky and blessed we see our true friends and know them by their actions. The heart is large and can contain love and care for many. It is not possessive with only room for one. To care for others and to reach out to help those in need is a great strength but sadly there are those whose sole concern is for self and the ego.

I have caused pain as I am sure the vast majority of us breathing and walking have done so. I sit here with a severley injured and infected foot. I cannot walk without a crutch. I am hoping that I get to keep two feet and I am experiencing considerable pain. Sadly I caused pain to one I had been married to for over 30 years. Now it is his turn and there is no help, compassion or empathy heading my way, at least not from him. This is the time where I call upon my own strength and witness those who truly love me. This is the time when we get to see the depth or shallowness of compassion. I am blessed to have family and have called upon them to have a place to rest. to heal. In my mind, to truly care for someone is something that is always there. No matter how deep, we as healthy humans with hearts want to reach out to alleviate suffering for those we care about.

My foot will heal and so will my heart.

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The look of Love

Relationships are a strange entity. We marry and assume it is for the long haul without realizing life changes on a dime. I watch an older couple sitting across from one another barely speaking. Their actions are of those who have been together a long time. Sadly when some are together for many years, boredom takes hold and the loving stops. They become 2 ships passing in the night barely blinking their lights or sounding the horn. Instead of addressing the dysfunction and the discomfort, many choose to live in a quagmire of conformity believing this is the way life and relationships are supposed to be. I once asked my friend who works in a spot if men ever frequented. Her response did not surprise me. She reported more men beautify when they are separated of going through a divorce. That made me sad and I wondered why that same man could not give that same attention to his long term partner. Why can we not appreciate what we have when it is right in front of us. I admire respectful and loving long relationships. When they last and are working well it shows two people doing the work necessary to maintain such an intimate connection.

I am here in Costa Rica sitting with 2 of my friends. We have not been close friends but we are cultivating our connection. I watch as they banter back and forth. They are different as he is the volatile temperamental one and she is the balm that calms him. They know each other well and work in sync to make a wonderful life possible. Yes she laughs when she rolls her eyes when he is on a rant but somehow she knows him and it works. He listens when she speaks and agrees frequently. She is soft spoken and has the patience of 100 angels rolled into one. I am thinking, my lord she needs it. They have worked as a team to make this piece of jungle a home and have navigated together the challenges that are all a part of being a part of a new culture. He confides in me that she is his glue and how lucky he is to have her. He is a big vulnerable kind hearted man. I watch as he breaks off pieces of food for a little dog that has wandered by.

I have come to understand that relationships are about respect and communication. It is the ability to listen and hear without interruption. It is about being able to say “I am sorry or that I was wrong.” It is about giving in to what another may desire instead of it being always about self. It is about looking at our loved one and saying just how lucky we are and how glad we are to have them in our lives. Love is a gift and when we have the one we love to walk with us on the path we call life, it is a blessing indeed and never to be taken for granted.

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Navigating the sharp teeth of change

I sit here this early morn contemplating my existence and my future. It has been a constant partner in my mind now since my long term marriage landed in the state of separation. I am here in my childhood town in Virginia emptying out my childhood home. I am alone and filled with every emotion one can imagine. In the attic, I empty a box of naked dolls missing arms and legs and immediately I am taken back to a time when I argued with my sister about which Barbie would be the girlfriend of my brother’s GI Joe. I pull out a box filled with Christmas ornaments from years gone by and have a mini emotional break down. This is difficult and confusing. I sit and realize that I am in the midst of emotional turmoil and something we all will get to experience in one way or another. I am blessed my parents are still alive, albeit living in Florida but alive. They are elderly and I also realize my time with them on this earth is limited. That too makes me sad. I visit with childhood friends and it reminds me of a land frozen in time as they talk of days gone by and limitations. Some say one can never go home again, I sense that is true.

There was a time when I could see my road or at least thought I could. Isn’t illusion marvelous? Loss of a long term relationship adds to the confusion and clouds our view. We can no longer see the road. There was always someone who cared and could lend an ear or a hand or even check in once in a while. The ground beneath us now is no longer stable. It has shifted and continues to move as we try to hold on. Those of us in the turmoil see we will get thru to the other side as we have seen so many who have done it before us and they seem to survive. I reach out for comfort from my previous long term husband but now that is not to be. There is no comfort to be found there and it now dawns on me that I must continue alone in the fog until it clears. We are becoming anew. We are like snakes shedding skin to find a new and shiny self. Change and growth cannot happen without some discomfort. We are knocked back and down for a moment and may have to walk part of our path alone but if we allow we can get back up and come out even stronger. We open ourselves to the pain of grief and loss and we feel how we need to feel. No one can say how long we need to grieve. We allow ourselves the luxury of giving ourselves space and time. We hide the pain behind the smile pretending all is right with our world as others tell us to “get over it, or move on” but it never goes away until we feel it deeply and give it its due attention.

I continue to walk on, sometimes stumbling sometimes unsure of the next step. All I can do, all any of us can do is to walk on and know we really are not alone.

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Where are you?

Well it’s been a moment. Finally back in the country sitting here at my old laptop thinking about relationship. To be specific I am thinking of marriage. I sit here tonight on the cusp of divorce after a very long marriage. I am sad, scared and wondering what the hell went wrong. Why after so many years did it all boil down to this point. I knew marriage was work as I had always heard it and had always wanted to do the work. Myself like so many women in our society had my vision of that perfect day and that perfect life. I knew what I wanted but sadly, I was the only one who wanted it. When marriages fail, it really does no good to point a finger and name a guilty party. Usually there are red flags all along the way that we fail to see or don’t want to see. My case it was the latter.

Once I read a book that talked about differences between women and men. For the most part, women are communicators and love love love to talk. Men on the other hand can grunt a word or two but usually sit in amazement wondering why they need to be the recipient of such conversation from their female partner. It has been said that women speak an average of 7000 words a day while men a mere 2200. Women adore connection and sadly many men feel that connection is sexual and once that is done nothing more is needed. In my mind as a woman, it really is not that difficult to understand. I would think if I were a man I would want to learn and do my best in keeping my woman satisfied and loved. Communication is at the top of that list. Ask us and we will tell you. Ask about our day, our life, our dreams, our plans. Ask how we are feeling. Stop to listen. Sit and listen. Tell us how happy you are to be with us and how fortunate you are. Know the color of our eyes for god’s sake. I once asked my long time hubby the color of my eyes. “Green” he says. My eyes are brown.

Yes it takes a lot to be in relationship and the longer it goes, the work continues for all of us. This is my moment to understand me, us, and how do I now navigate my world. It is work to maintain a loving relationship and it may involve skills we truly do not have and need to learn but investing in us and those we love ain’t such a bad gamble.

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A moment in time

Some years ago I got a call from my husband to tell me that one of my best friends had committed suicide. I had just spoken to her the previous night and could not believe the words that I was hearing. I did not want to hear the words and I did not want to believe my beautiful friend so full of life had taken hers. I was beyond angry as at that time I had been fighting for my life. I had just undergone surgery for a life threatening cancer not many survive. I was mad and I was barely able to breathe waiting for the monster to come claim me and my friend had made her own monster. Her anguish and pain I had not noticed. She hid it well. Before her death, she spoke to me of my diagnosis and how difficult it was to accept that I had appeared healthy and yet here I was possibly looking at my own demise. I had not seen her sadness. I had small glimpses of complicated matters in her world but nothing that would have alarmed me. I often felt and heard a sadness in her voice as she talked of family matters and insecurities but once again nothing to take away her usual jovial mannerism. She died in October.

The same year in December upon returning home from holiday travel I received a message that another very close friend had taken his life upon the death of his beloved partner. I once again listened to the words and wondered why I had not seen signs and what if anything I could have done. He was alone and my mind thought of how lonely and sad he must have felt. I cried. He was the one who cooked original Cuban rice and beans for me as we sat chatting about his homeland. He was the one who was so proud of his Barbie doll collection still in original packaging. He was the one I had met in a beauty supply store and admired his hair and asked him to do mine. He was my friend and I could not see his sadness.

In this world we pass by those every day filled with lost hope and sadness. They smile on the outside and say all is fine but inside is a cauldron of tears and fear. We go about our days not knowing who is hurt or why. We avoid eye contact as if a look of connection will bring harm. We see them sleeping in the streets, in doorways, on subways and even in our own homes. I wonder sometimes if a kind word, a smile, a touch would make a difference. if reaching out to offer a hand would have saved the lives of my friends. Would it make a difference if we took the time to notice, if we paid attention. Connection is a human need. We all need to be touched, held and cared for. No man or woman is an island. We all need each other. Rest in peace dear friends.

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on
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