Saturday, August 6, 2011

Re-purposing My Life

I know that I have talked about this before. I have been a little worried about finding a job here. I struggled with two different ideas about how to live. There’s the conventional “find and keep a full time job”…but my nationality limits my ability to do that here and quite honestly, I don‘t want that anymore. Then there’s the path I ended up on, which is finding enough little side jobs to keep me in pasta and olive oil. So here I am, semi-retired at the age of 50. Or, living like a college student. Probably more apt, as I don’t have any retirement funds sustaining me.

It’s not that I’m having a mid-life crisis, a term I purely hate, by the way. I didn’t run away from a life I hated. In fact, it was hard to leave the life I was building after my divorce. But as time goes by I am finding it less scary to live without the security of a full time job. I enjoy spending less time at a kind of work. I draw, walk, ride bike, care for the house, or anything else I want to do without feeling like I am wasting my time. Given my upbringing, this sort of craziness never should have happened

I grew up in a home where making productive use of every free moment was glorified. Now, before my whole family rolls their eyes and says “nu-uh” and “stop being so sensitive” and other uplifting things, just take a deep breath and read further. Listen to what I have to say before you condemn my initial statement as some kind of put down.

Dad’s every waking moment, and many moments when he was awake but could have been sleeping, was filled with work of some kind. Even he won’t argue with that. When he came home from school he got on a tractor, when he got off the tractor he put on clean clothes and played a dance job. Weekends were a mad scramble to finish a 72 hour long list of chores in 48 hours. When he retired from teaching he didn’t retire from everything. He still farms and still plays music. He still tries to do 72 hours of work in 48 hours. This is how he shows his love, by providing.

Is it any wonder that I grew into a adult that feels slightly guilty about living a life that isn’t centered around work as a lifestyle choice? For a lot of years I worked and worked hard. I preferred working to being at home, because working was something I thought everyone admired and appreciated. And I thought my children and husband would understand that in my experience, if someone worked hard it was an expression of love and caring. I’m pretty sure they didn’t see it that way and felt a little abandoned by me.

About five years ago my life started to unravel, slowly at first and then so quickly I couldn’t take it all in. There I sat with a giant pile of the threads of my life and I had to figure out what to do with it. I could try and make something that resembled what it had looked like before, in my mind a useful and respectable cardigan that went with everything (but not with me) or I could experiment a little. Re-purpose my life, like old tires that become door mats (oooh, unflattering example) or old shirts that are made into shopping bags. Dye the threads anything but pastels and create something different. Something that maybe isn’t useful or needed, or appreciated by others. Something bright and beautiful and unexpected like a tapestry. A life I can point to and say, “Whatever this is, it is completely me, and it makes me happy.”

Do I need to say that I didn’t go the cardigan route? A lot of time, a lot of research and a lot of prayerful meditation brought me to the conclusion that I would rather work without the security of a “job” than be tied to a desk for forty hours a week. I want to rest for awhile and fill my life with experiences and people and just enough work to keep me fed. So, sadly, the cardigan must go. I am officially semi-retired and actually not afraid of it. But don’t worry, Dad. The memory of it remains, and I can always unravel the tapestry and make myself into the cardigan again if I have to.

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