My coworkers used to criticize me.
They would say I was trying to show them up because of all the extended hours that I worked. I would get there early in the morning before everyone else arrived. I was always the last to leave in the evening and the first to volunteer to work weekends.
I didn’t do it to make them look bad or to make me look like the best employee of the month. It was my coping mechanism. The long, continuous hours of distraction kept me from thinking about my life and all of my mistakes.
The isolation brought on by the quarantine from the pandemic and my recent retirement gave me all of the extra time I never wanted—to face the things I had become an expert at avoiding.
I can still remember my life before, when I considered myself more free and living a life without regrets, or at least that’s how I saw myself. I was determined to live in the moment, to not have to look back and wish I had done something differently.
Now, I sit quietly in my converted garage, filled with empty hours and nothing to do, my wandering mind forcing me to look back on that life and experience those regrets—the ones I said I would never have—and wishing I had done some things differently. As I move into what I am calling my last adventure, I’m trying to come to terms with the pain I’ve caused myself and others and find a way forward with some peace and some joy, all while making a difference and being of some small good in this world.
I know that I have a caring heart and a warrior spirit. Even in my reckless past, I believed I was doing good things for the right reasons, but many times, my pursuit of self-gratification kept me from seeing the bigger picture.
As I do the shadow work to heal my past, I hope to find peace within. I hope to explore ways to create a more joyful, loving, and just world.
That journey of reflection has led me to sign up for all the “right things,” to order all the “right books,” and to listen to all the “right podcasts.” The online courses fill my inbox with reminders to participate. The self-help books with their beautiful covers sit on my table providing me comfort just knowing that they are there to be consumed whenever I feel ready. And I have an ongoing list of podcasts that I plan on listening to one of these days.
I have found nuggets of gold in all of this. The Maitri course that I am taking with Elephant Journal, led by Waylon Lewis is helping me learn to love myself as I am and not take myself so seriously. The book, On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff is gently guiding me through releasing my feelings of shame, and Glennon Doyle’s wonderful podcast, “We Can Do Hard Things” makes me rejoice with the realization that we are all in this together.
After I’ve spent the day with all of these new best friends—crying, screaming, meditating, and laughing my way through the pain of release—I open my door and walk outside. The sun shines down on my face and the cool breeze gently moves me into the present moment as I listen for the laughter of my grandchildren coming from the house.
I let out a huge breath of relief knowing that this pure instant in time is all that really matters. I know I am okay just as I am. The healing I am experiencing will ripple out through my tight circle of family and community, and my hope is some of it will expand out into a world that has given me so many reasons to be grateful.