In 2004, a year or so after getting divorced, I took all three of my children to Europe for four weeks. It was perhaps financially a foolhardy folly, but just what we all needed. As there were four of us, we each got to choose a place to visit. I chose Tuscany, Sky chose Paris. Bay chose skiing in La Clusaz in the French Alps and Nell chose Scotland. A week in each place. It was a trip for the memory books.
Part of our interest in Scotland was that Sky, Nell and I had each just read the first book in the Outlander series. The site of the Battle of Culloden was eerie. We also went to the Isle of Skye, of course. The myth of the fairy hills and that magic was entrancing. In Inverness, we stayed at a really quaint and cozy hostel. Our room with two bunk beds overlooked a field always filled with rabbits and rolling hills in the distance.
The common room of the hostel was a snug spot, with a fireplace and comfy seating. It also had a computer where I spent time composing our travel log that was being sent back to loved ones. The manager of the hostel was a charming and kind young Italian man named Sandro. Well, younger than me and I was 55. He took an interest in me and was friendly and flirtatious. We talked and talked. While he was keen to take it to another place, being recently divorced and traveling with three teenagers, I never followed through. But, I never forgot his flattery and sweet demeanor.
Just the other day I came across this calligraphy name plate he did for me. It took me back to lovely Inverness, that eclectic hostel and Sandro’s warmth and how it made me feel—pretty, interesting and desired.
There are so many more memories of that trip . . . Indian food in London before going to theater, the walks in the Chianti region of Tuscany and the ancient agritourismo where we stayed, the baguettes in Paris, skiing the mountains of La Clusaz and the meals at the tiny hotel there which left us catatonic nightly. But, fresh out of a marriage and being hit on in such a gentlemanly fashion is fine to recall.
November, go easy on me. This has been a tumultuous time. My emotions are all over the place. My usually grounded self can sway toward worry, anxiety and even sadness. I speak to people all the time who have experienced these same unsettling swings. You can read a plethora of articles on self-care during these uncertain times. And, I am aware of every bullet point. They are thoughtful and appropriate reminders, which I appreciate. Often I can even muster up one of the antidotes. But, even considering myself a relatively conscious individual, sometimes I just falter and fall into the abyss. But, I am writing to just make a mental note to stay centered when it all feels off-kilter. Be nice, November, I’m trying.
Years back I pondered what parenting older grown children would be like. I thought it odd when people said they could not wait for their children to be eighteen so the difficult times would be over. Well, here I am — mother to a 37 year old, a 34 year old and a 30 year old. And, guess what?— the mothering never stops. I still worry and wonder. I am still their mama. I still worry when one of them is sick or sad. I still wonder how the obstacles in their paths will mold them. I often think I have done a fine job in being their mother, embracing and guiding them. And some days I believe I have really screwed up in how I have reacted to them. I am happy that they all like me, as well as love and respect me. That feels wonderful. But each day is new. Remember how you navigated newborn life, toddler life, young child life, teenage life, life watching them become more and more separate? How each milestone was new and you had to constantly adjust? It’s still the same for me. I have never been a mother to a 37 year old. And the 34 year old is taking that chapter on differently than her brother did at that age. And the 30 year old is also, of course, a completely different kind of guy. They each require an approach designed to best meet them where they are. So, my point is — it is always new! Always challenging. Often rewarding. Often frustrating. Full of love and lots of laughter. Each age and each child unique. And the process continues. Mothering doesn’t stop because my children are grown and independent. That’s the joy. That’s the constant work in the relationships. And mostly I feel up to the task I treasure more than anything —- being their mother. It’s just that it is different now, not necessarily easier, just different.
When you drop a pebble into still water, it sinks, slowly sending out ripples from its point of entry. It is mesmerizing to watch.
The world is currently the antithesis of still water. It is chaotic, uncertain and unsettling. But, I continue to try each and every day to maintain some kind of calm amidst the crazy.
And, even more, I struggle to keep with my usual attitude of optimism. I know this will all pass. We will emerge on the other side of this staggering health crisis. We will manage to shift the current toxic political atmosphere.
I also am certain that each modicum of centered harmony I can manage is important. It is vital for my personal emotional, physical and spiritual serenity. And, I truly believe it can ripple out from me. If I can spread some kindness and awareness around me every day, it matters. I just know it does.
Some days this seems effortless to me. Other days I wrestle with the concept. But, I have promised myself that I will continue to work tirelessly to keep a radiant ripple emitting from my little self out into this wild world.
During this time of uncertainty and confusion, I continue to do what, in part, I have done for three decades on this land.
I plant seeds. I grow vegetables and flowers. I nourish them. I harvest them and I sell them. This is my supreme pleasure. This is what North Country Farms was designed to do.
But we are also fully vested in renting our guest cottage to intrepid travelers coming to our beautiful island. We share the intention behind the founding of the farm and we also share the bounty of it, much to the delight of our guests. At this time, Kauai is, appropriately, shut down to visitors. While the quiet is idyllic, blissful, and much like the Kauai I came to 33 years ago, it has crippled the economy. This is the scenario here, for me and thousands of others. And around the world for millions.
So, as the future seems unclear, I continue to do what I do. I make delicious pour-over coffee each morning. I bask in the beauty of the land that we cultivate. I treasure my lovely friends from afar. I hold my grown sons each day for long hugs. I play with my grandson. I do laundry and hang it up in the scrumptious sun. I pick flowers with dew still on them and arrange them in my home. I marvel at harvesting vegetables from right outside my house and cooking them. I relish my yoga practice. I take long thoughtful beach walks. I dip in the ocean and always feel renewed. I read, mostly novels. I watch all sorts of different streaming content from my cozy couch. I play scrabble and do crossword puzzles.
These are what I continue to do. But, also —- I read the news and attempt to remain hopeful. I see the challenges of summer’s heat and random epic rain for our gardens and attempt to find new ways to grow with climate changes. I recognize my privilege amid this shaken world and find my compassion and empathy in full gear. I ponder when our livelihood will return to robust. I cry more easily and feel more deeply.
In the thick of it, I just keep on keeping on. And trust in the future and my own and our collective resilience. Really, what other choice do I have?
There is this time coming out of sleep where it sometimes takes me a few moments to swim to the surface, fully awake. My semi-conscious mind wanders quietly. These days I have this overwhelming feeling in that place that everything is okay, but it isn’t. Then my brain touches down and I realize just where we are at this bizarre place in time.
We are fine here at the farm. Staying here and, when venturing out, being incredibly cautious and respecting all the suggested guidelines. Our gardens are producing for us and the community. Our farm stay cottage is appropriately empty. We attempt to weather that financial uncertainty like so many millions of others. Mostly we are in a state of grace. But, still, all does not feel just right. And my mind and heart feel that in that vulnerable place between sleep and awake.
The world is unsettled. People are in situations they never could have imagined. My compassion and empathy are on high alert and kindness seems the place to rest. I feel emotional, more than usual. The uncertainty is global. I wish to remain cautious, concerned, conscious and clear without being fearful. Some days that seems a reachable goal, some days not.
Everything is okay. But it isn’t.
I spoke with a friend yesterday. She is a giving and caring woman, loved and appreciated by many.
This past year she has had some health challenges. In our conversation, she admitted having a great
deal of fear surrounding this Corona Virus. We talked it through and I hope I made her feel more at
ease. But, it got me thinking. . .Why am I not fearful of this devastating virus sweeping the world? I am
not being unrealistic, nor uninformed. In fact, I am quite a news junky and certainly there is more
than enough coverage of this pandemic online and NPR radio!
I think fear is not the appropriate response. Caution perhaps. Clarity for sure. Compassion. Concern.
Cleanliness. For me fear does absolutely nothing to possibly protect myself and my loved ones from
this bizarre virus. It just sets my mind racing and my actions become ineffective. And it is a proven fact
that fear just stresses our immune systems — just what we do not want at this tenuous time.
I googled “immune system and fear” and there are several articles from medical journals on just this
So, rather than be fearful, what am I doing? Washing my hands. Eating well. Getting outside in the
fresh air. Being sure to get lots of sleep. Keeping hand sanitizer in the car for when I am out. Going to
my yoga classes with my own mat. Taking my usual supplements — an anti-inflammatory, fish oil and
just added elderberry. Breathing in deeply and exhaling a protective bubble around me and my loved
ones. Being fearful does nothing but feed anxiety and unconscious behavior.
Every night when I sink into my wonderful bed with my cozy down comforter, I am grateful.
Grateful for another day here on Kauai. Grateful to be surrounded by so much love. Grateful for the
fine organic food we grow and eat. Grateful for this piece of paradise that has provided such
abundance. Grateful for the amazing help I have on the farm from my sons. Grateful
that my daughter, while too far away, is in such a happy sweet marriage. Grateful for all the friends
who have supported and cared for me for so many years, without whom I would be lost. Grateful for my
health, which I treasure and never take for granted. Grateful that there is always another book to read
and savor. Grateful for the clean water that comes from our tap. Grateful for this
handmade-with-love home, which has sheltered us from storms, both the weather and the emotional
sort. I have so much in a world where so many have so very little. That pause each and every night is
such an important reminder.
This morning in yoga, my beautiful teacher of a dozen years says, while we are settling for shavasana, “Let the practice you just finished settle over you. Let the physical, spiritual and mental all rest in a place of confusion.” My quieted mind reels and my thoughts immediately become chaotic, with images, notions and ideas racing around like mice on a wheel. I take a deep breath. Then I giggle to myself. OH! . . . she said rest in a place of “cohesion.” Well that makes more sense. I take another breath and nestle into a comfortable and peaceful place to integrate while in my shavasana the wonderful practice I have just finished.
I simply am not sure what my life would be without this experience I have a couple of times a week in my yoga classes. The studio is serene. The teacher is kind and compassionate, with a heart of gold. The times I spend there make me stronger and more flexible, in my body and spirit. And I carry those hours spent there into my day-to-day life. I remind myself to sit tall, to breath deeply, to engage my core. And, equally as vital, to be kind and thoughtful. I attempt to weave all that yoga brings to me into my personal and business lives. I truly believe in the “ripple effect.” And, I feel certain that each act of thoughtfulness and kindness is like a pebble dropped into a still pond, with the effects rippling out slowly and clearly to the world. Heaven knows, we all need that. Just as we need more cohesion, rather than confusion.
In case you missed it. . . there was a news report earlier this week that alleged Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in a meeting that a woman could not win against Trump in 2020. Warren brought it up in the Democratic debate on Tuesday night and Sanders denied it. She then went on to create perhaps the highlight of the evening when she said that she and Amy Klobuchar were the only ones on the stage that had won all the elections they ran in and that, therefore, a woman could surely defeat Trump. It was a great moment, a tad sassy, but both classy and worthy of the applause that it created.
After the debate was over, there was the usual handshaking and congratulating between the candidates. Until Sanders extended his hand to Warren and she awkwardly pulled her hands into herself, refusing his handshake and confronted him. What followed was a heated exchange in which she accused him of calling her a liar on national television and he asked that they not go into it there, suggesting they talk another time and place.
I call foul. Regardless of the validity of Warren’s accusation, I was disappointed in her reaction. During the actual debate she professed to “not wanting to fight with my friend, Bernie.” She then adroitly managed to get in her delightful dig at the male candidates and make her point. Then to pull away from a handshake moments later struck me as inappropriate. As a politician, she knew cameras were rolling and people would be noticing and buzzing about it. What was her point? She could have taken his hand, looked him in the eye and said the exact thing.
In my view of Bernie Sanders, it seems unlikely he said it precisely as the Elizabeth Warren camp reported. My instincts tell me there was something missing from the story as told this week. There are four people running neck and neck in Iowa, and the campaigns are going to grasp onto anything in an attempt to establish an edge. But, in any case, it was, in my opinion, a low moment for Warren.
At this point, I am completely undecided about the Democratic candidates and the one best poised to take down the buffoon currently in office and restore our country’s reputation in the global community, tackle the climate crisis, the mammoth income gap and so much more. Perhaps I fall into the “Any Functioning Adult in 2020” movement. But, this kind of incident matters in this important race. I noticed and it stuck with me. We currently have enough rudeness and divisiveness in our country. We surely do not need our Democratic candidates creating more.
There is truth in growing wiser as we get older. However, the truth I have uncovered in my 70th year should perhaps not have taken so long to discover. Here it is: I cannot do it all. And alongside that starker-than-ever truth is this one: Nor should I have to at this point.
Ever since I can remember I have taken huge pride in being a strong and independent woman. Being successful in the mostly-male world of the 1970s advertising scene in New York City made that a necessity. Going through a divorce in my late 20s and having to restructure my life in that same dynamic city also tested my resolve.
There followed a relatively peaceful time in a wonderful supportive relationship and marriage. That did produce two amazing children. The crazy idea we dreamed of and initiated to move across the world to Kauai with a newborn and a toddler surely took stamina. Then the wild gargantuan project of taking four wide open acres and, while living in a barn we built while planting the land, building a home and creating businesses. And, in the midst of that, having a third baby.
I was young and vital and strong. I could take on anything. And I was a supreme giver — mostly to my children. But, eventually to their small sweet Waldorf elementary school and the community. Taking care of myself barely came to my mind. I ate well, exercise consisted of life and I was in a loving relationship. I could keep on giving and giving, working and working. And I did.
Fast forward 20 years to a flat-lined marriage and subsequent divorce. To say it was emotionally draining and financially difficult would be a mammoth understatement. But, I knew in my heart that I had to dig deep and find a way to preserve the intention behind the founding of the farm and keep this home for myself and my children, then pre-teens and teens. And to keep the businesses thriving and providing for the four of us. I was strong and independent still.
Here we are, another 20 years later, and it has somehow, magically, with some grace from the kind universe and some outrageous hard and often exhausting, emotionally and physically, work on my part, continued to do so.
While I remain vital and strong, like that younger woman whose sometimes ragged, but always blessed, path I outlined above, I am 70. I cannot do it all. I am learning to ask for help. I am attempting to create a life with time to just be. Asking for this doesn’t diminish my strength and independence. I am still that strong and independent women, just a tad more tired and in need of a tad more tenderness. That is the lesson in this for me. And I’m attempting to integrate it now. Wish me well.