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Ready, Set, Live !

If there is one thing life has taught me in 54 years, it is to take your time when making important decisions.
It’s easy to get into relationships, but very hard to get out of them.
Easy to buy a house, but very hard to sell one.
Easy to start a business and sign a lease, but very hard to do what it takes to make a business work. 
Easy to spend money, but hard to earn it.
Easy to make plans and dream, but hard to follow through on all the inspirational talk.


For many years I lived with someone who was inclined to act impulsively. In some ways, riding the wave of his enthusiasm and embracing his romanticized vision of himself and life was fun. Life was this daring, wild rollercoaster that included abrupt changes of direction and leaps of faith. Occasionally, things worked out, and this reinforced our belief that the “Universe provides” or “Without great risk you will never get great rewards,”  but in retrospect, I think we occasionally got lucky, and that luck supported our foolish behavior rather that teaching us practical lessons. Eventually, we didn’t accurately see the truth of how and why things worked out for us, and we certainly didn’t embrace gratitude or appreciation for those that helped make our achievements possible.  We just chalked our successes up to our being talented artists or smart or special. But time and distance helps to see things clearly, and in retrospect, I see that most of our history is seeped in loss, heartache, and feelings of being trapped or not really having a choice due to cages of our own design. We lived in a constant state of chaos, worry, and stress – all a result of acting without careful thought or patience, shifting gears randomly, and not thoroughly exploring issues under the surface or waiting for the initial excitement to subside to gain honest perspective. Delusion and ego fueled our belief that we could defy practical odds and would end up OK. In the end, impulsive acts and random choices destroyed our lives, our family suffered financially, emotionally, and in every other way you could count. That is a sad story, and not something that needs revisiting, so suffice to say, like most people my age, life has taught me important lessons the hard way.


Once I was on my own, I couldn’t help but celebrate that I was finally free to follow my own instincts. I could forge a practical plan with good odds, play my own devil’s advocate and prepare for wrenches in the plan, then proceed with caution towards happiness. Best of all, I could do this without being accused of lacking faith or being a bubble buster. I was delighted to regain control of my life without guilt or worry that my practical nature was stifling someone else’s dreams. I felt empowered by the fact that whatever plans I made I could follow through to the end, as long as I had the fortitude and determination to do so. This doesn’t mean I stopped taking risks or leaps of faith, but being on my own allowed me the time and space to really explore what I wanted from life and redefine my own priorities. This should have been easy, but was in fact hard, because when you spend years and years making someone else’s dreams and happiness the top priority of your world, you become numb to your own needs.


I was an emotional mess for a long time, and I see that as a gift now, because it kept me from attaching to whoever came along.  Had I married the first person (or second or third) that I dated after becoming single in a quest to fast track my life to domestic bliss (which would have made things easier financially and emotionally so it was tempting, let me tell you) I would no doubt be stuck in an unhappy situation now, and perhaps even facing another divorce. I cared very much for each of the lovely men I dated, and yet, I knew I wasn’t ready to make a decision regarding love and commitment when I was still reeling from feelings of loss, resentment and sadness over my family’s demise.  Everyone seems like a great potential mate when they are putting on their “A game” but it takes time to really know someone, and see if they are all they first appear. So I curtailed every relationship as it started getting too meaty and continued to insist “I need space & time to heal.”  Let me point out that I didn’t WANT space, because I was lost, lonely, and feeling unloved, and the best cure for heartache is to hook up with someone who thinks you’re special. But still, I recognized my NEED for time to heal before making another man’s dreams and desires my life’s priority. 


When I met David, I instantly saw he had all the qualities I respected and most wanted in a mate. He was kind, socially & morally conscious, liberal, educated, creative, healthy, fit and sporty, sexual, open minded, immensely talented, sensitive, and as my mother says, “perfect for you because he is your  intellectual  equal.” (This always makes me laugh; because David is a genius and the most intellectual person I’ve ever met who doesn’t come across as pretentious or obnoxious.) I am deeply flattered by her comparison, but I don’t consider myself his intellectual equal. I do however, very much appreciate being with someone who has so much knowledge about the world, is quick to research new ideas, can creatively brainstorm like there is no tomorrow, and who listens to NPR as much as I do and likes to come home, pour us a glass of wine and start conversations with “I heard this great interview on NPR while driving home about (fill in the blank) and wondered what you would think about it.”  If a shared curiosity about the world, an inclination to read & research, and a mutual love of learning makes people good partners, then we are indeed well matched.


Nevertheless, as my relationship with David grew, I still kept him at arm’s length. He asked me to marry him and I accepted a ring as a sign of my long term good intention, but I really couldn’t imagine going through with an official ceremony. I didn’t want to be with anyone else but him, but still, I couldn’t imagine calling anyone other than Mark Hendry my HUSBAND. That title just seemed too poignant and intimate to pass on to someone other than the guy I had spent twenty years working beside, sleeping beside, making babies with, interacting with each other’s families, etc…  Even when Mark got married the very week of our divorce to the first and only other woman he has ever dated (I was his first and only girlfriend until then, unless you count a one night stand he had at the end of our marriage) I couldn’t get past the belief that marriage was sacred and a HUGE commitment that must only be offered to someone who you love so deeply and with such integrity that you absolutely believe no one else could ever earn the title. I was hurt that I was so easily and readily replaced by the very first gal that came along, because it made me feel my entire marriage was a farce, just a random act of convenience to a guy who didn’t set the bar all that high when it came to selecting a mate. But more than that, I was jealous because I wanted to move on emotionally as he so easily did, but I just couldn’t.  I just couldn’t imagine calling David or anyone else “husband” ever. Mark was my husband… a dirty-rotten-stinker-glad-to-be-out-of-my-life-because-he-caused-nothing but-grief-and-hardship husband, but my husband nevertheless. (I say that with a smile, for the record. I’m not seriously bashing my ex.)

Poor David. After over a year of dating, I agreed to move in with him, but even so, I only wanted to move into a house my family owned, one that I could afford alone if ever we split up. I just wouldn’t put myself in a situation where my life (and my daughter’s) would again be disrupted or I couldn’t afford to take action and kick the boyfriend to the curb if things didn’t work out. This semi-commitment had to be frustrating to David, but he is a wise and patient man and more than once he’s said, “I want you heart and soul, with no reservations or compromises involved. I will wait until you are ready.” Meanwhile it was hard on me, because I was killing myself to financially hold up my end of bills. I did not want to owe David anything or start depending on him.


For a year plus, David and I have lived together, exploring the ebb and flow of life as a couple. Watching him handle work, housework, my daughter, me and all my moods and idiosyncrasies, career challenges, the stress of my demanding business, and all the mundane details of life such as who takes out the trash, whether or not he snores, or how he responds to family holiday expectations, has assured me that all the surface stuff I loved about him in the beginning was not smoke and mirrors. He wasn’t on his “A game”. David only has an A game. I have now seen David sick, tired, in a good and a bad mood. I’ve witnessed his grace and patience when my daughter is difficult, watched him handle money responsibly and discovered that no matter how angry, hurt, or frustrated he might be, he never, ever will speak to me or treat me with anything less than respect and tenderness. Being treated with consideration in a relationship is HUGELY important to me at this stage in life.


Meanwhile, my business has been unfolding with similar tentative action & slow exploration. I have worked crazy hard to get a footing in an economy that is very challenging. I have not caved to frustration and nurtured opportunity while my business takes shape and finds a voice.  My school is not what I originally imagined it would be- and by that I do not mean better or worse.  Just different.  My constant evaluation of priorities and my commitment to “right livelihood” has resulted in a business that fills me with a sense of purpose.  The point is, after several years of being tentative about decisions while I heal my life, I have become very sure of what I want. And I have grown strong again.


This summer my three year business lease expires. So I have been thinking a great deal about how to get my life moving in positive, exciting directions. The thought of signing another expensive lease that forces me to work this hard for another three years just to help my landlord make money while I struggle is killing me. I know that I should do all I can to purchase a commercial building so my hard work has an eventual return, but I am not financially capable of that step just yet, since they want 20% down and every building that would suit my business costs a million dollars or more. (Lord knows, I’ve met with bankers, realtors and others to seek out my options.)  I also have been thinking about what I want in my relationship, because my choices in regard to work will influence my love life too. My business choices influences levels of stress, time management, and how much I can financially contribute to our building a life together. I just can’t afford to act impulsively knowing that every choice a person makes regarding where they live, who they live with, how they live, what they do, and their overall attitude and priorities is connected. Our lives are the result of our choices. And our lives touch the lives of others and determines their happiness and safety too.


For a year, while pondering all the options, I have looked at buildings. I’ve looked at houses David and I might purchase together as an act of true commitment.  I have crunched the numbers to really understand my business. I’ve looked into dividing the school into two different businesses, selling part or all of it. I have also considered expanding the business and considered getting bigger and more involved, perhaps opening a preschool too. I’ve built up my credit, kept good records, and gotten established “just in case.” I’ve thought about when and if I ever want to retire.  The thing is, I have many many options in my life today because I’ve taken my time, held back to let the dust settle, worked diligently,  and I’ve acted slowly and mindfully to explore what I want, heart, soul and mind. Most importantly, I’ve acted responsibly, creatively and carefully in a quest to keep options flowing. My choices are not easy or simple, but at least I have choices.


But being cautious and moving slow, while good in a way, also means missed opportunity. You can’t drag your feet forever if you want to accomplish anything of merit, and anyone who knows me well understands it is NOT in my nature to be patient or move slowly on anything. Some days, I feel like a race horse that has been detained in the starting gate, stamping her feet as she waits for the gun to go off so she can run freely. Oh, how I miss running with absolute commitment to a distant finish line!


Suddenly, recently, if feels as if the gun has gone off. While exploring land for potential retreat sites (after giving up on a commercial building) David and I stumbled upon a piece of property that seemed to pull everything together. The moment we snuck over the gate illegally (we couldn’t help it, we drove up and saw our dream come true and we had to explore the property even before calling the realtor.) we knew this was where we belong. We had a found an answer to our home and business dilemma at once. This land spoke to us.


A week later David and I bought the property– well, we made an offer and it was accepted. We are now waiting for bank approval, but we have plans we believe will make it happen even if we hit a stumbling blocks. God willing, we are buying 8 acres of land with a barn, a separate yoga building and room for gardens, trails, outbuildings and more.  It is everything I’ve ever wanted in a home, and in fact, it’s the kind of artistic, rustic home I dreamed we were going to build when I sold my business years ago to retire and live “the dream”. This property is only 18 miles from ReFlex just around the corner from one of my previous businesses in Lakewood ranch. It is nestled in nature, a perfect site for retreats, yoga trainings, Ayurveda product manufacturing, farm to table dinners and so much more that I envision my business adding. For David, there is a workshop and space to create furniture, build a boat or whatever. For me there is a place to raise chickens, bees, and perhaps even bring home a donkey as a new life mascot. With a small creek on the land, pastures, space for gardens, huge oak trees and unique, artistic outbuildings, this place offers David and me both a chance to blend love, work & personal interest so we can live creatively and in harmony with nature.


In my next post, I’ll share our vision and a few pictures of our (hopefully) soon to be new home & business site. For now I am buried in books, studying how to build a labyrinth in nature, a medicine wheel, the ins and outs of Florida garden design, retreat planning and more. Every dream begins in planning stages – takes shape with research.


I’m ready for someone to open the gates! It is time to let the ole mare run!

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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