Thursday, August 29, 2019

So, Who Am I NOW?

Maggie Valley, NC - August, 2019

People often ask me if have “changed” since my husband passed away 4 ½ years ago.  The sarcastic Sharon is tempted to reply, “you tell me,” but the real Sharon loves pondering the question.  The truth is, of course, I have changed.  And I hope you have as well.  If not, we’d all be very boring!  The deeper truth, as you might have guessed, is quite different.  Naming specific ways that I have changed would be verbalizing specific characteristics that would reflect growth or so I’d hope!  As for who I am now as opposed to who I was before, that hasn’t, nor will it, change! 

For an online class I am in, we were asked to post a 100-word introduction of ourselves.  Just to put it in perspective, the first paragraph of this post was 111 words, so already over the limit.  Try introducing yourself to a group in 100 words or less!  After I’d written and posted that 100-word introduction, I got to thinking about self-introductions I’d written in the past and what words they all share.  What I realized is that I am exactly who I have been since I was that free-spirited four-year old throwing rocks in the river that I mentioned in the last post.  What I sincerely hope is that age, maturity and life experience have molded me into a grown-up version of that same free spirit exhibiting the grown-up characteristics that never stop maturing and changing. 
Maggie Valley, NC - August, 2019

I will always be an off the charts introvert (do not equate introversion with shyness - I am NOT shy) who loves solitude and is happiest when walking, reading or setting out on a new adventure.  I dislike noise and crowds.  I need sunshine and wide-open spaces.  The list of things I love goes on forever, but probably starts with quiet conversations in a rocking chair on a porch with a cup of coffee!
Front Porch Rocking!
Maggie Valley, NC - August, 2019

So, who am I now?  Exactly who I’ve always been!  Have I changed?  You bet!  But that’s a tale for another post!

I am in my last few days of what has been a spectacular “retreat” in the mountains of western North Carolina.  Although I am more than ready to see my friends and family, I’d be lying if I said I was ready to return to 90+ temperatures.  We’ll see how that goes!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Moving Forward, But Not On!

Sunset - Maggie Valley, North Carolina
August, 2019 

Have you ever stopped to consider what fills your soul with peace no matter what might be happening in your life?  Peace doesn’t necessarily mean all is well or everything is in order as it should be, but it does carry with it a sense of calm even if only momentarily.  I believe everyone has that “place,” but are often so wrapped up in the immediate that we never stop long enough to find it.  We convince ourselves it isn’t there.  Life is just too crazy and there is no relief. 

For me, that “place” of peace is the mountains.  Any mountains will do, but particularly my beloved Great Smoky Mountains.  Sometimes, I feel that if I can just SEE them, I’ll be o.k.! Thankfully, seeing them isn’t difficult from most any area within 50 miles of my home!  But being in them is even better, a gift that only one who knows their peace is found here can truly understand.  I am currently in my second week of a “retreat” in a cabin at 4300 feet elevation on the North Carolina side of the Smokies!  I couldn’t be more content and at peace. 

My cabin porch - Maggie Valley, North Carolina
August, 2019
You might say I’ve come full circle since March 18, 2015 and you’d be partially right.  You might say I’m no longer in deep grief and you’d be partially right.  You might say I seem normal and you’d be partially right.  You might say I am back to my “old self” and you’d be partially right.  You would be 100% correct in saying that I’ve moved forward, but don’t ever make the mistake of saying I’ve moved on! 

You don’t move on from a life you loved that lasted 40 of your 64 years.  It is so incredibly hard, but you learn to take the fragments of what was into what is.  Moving on implies that you leave something behind.  Moving forward invites you to take it with you and celebrate what was, what is and new things that are to come! 

 Sunrise from my cabin porch
Maggie Valley, North Carolina
August, 2019

There is nothing more symbolic to me of my own personal growth than these mountains.  This past fall, I helped my 91 year old mother move into an independent living facility and part of that journey was cleaning out the home she and my dad built when I was 10 years old.  I found drawers full of pictures I’d never seen before.  Pictures of me at all ages.  Picture after picture of a laughing and happy Sharon playing freely in these mountains.  Throwing rocks and sticks in the river, running up a trail holding my daddy’s hand, roasting marshmallows in a campground, reading a book on a rock by the river, etc.  Looking back over a lifetime of pictures finds not only these Tennessee/North Carolina mountains, but mountains all over the world in so many of them. 

Intuitively, I’ve always known that mountains spoke to my soul in a way nothing else could.  I guess it’s just in the last few years that I’ve come to really understand the significance of that.  I had to be still and I had to listen. It’s all part of moving forward. 
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
August, 2019

Have you found your place of peace?  It’s a place worth finding and a journey worth taking?

 Maggie Valley, North Carolina
August, 2019

Monday, January 22, 2018

2017 - A Pivotal Year

Destin, Florida - January 6, 2018

In a couple of months (March 18), I will pass the three year mark of Bill’s death.  For someone who questioned whether or not they could survive at all, I simply cannot fathom that three years have passed and I will soon be entering my fourth year as a single adult.
2017 was a year of immense learning experiences some of which were easy.  Others were painfully slow and difficult.  Some I learned the first time around, others had to kick me in the rear end a few times before I got the message.  But I feel as if I left 2017 behind a stronger person and can truthfully admit that I began 2018 with excitement. 

2017 found me traveling again.  I visited 13 states.  Several of them more than once.  I traveled as far north as Maryland, as far west as New Mexico, as far south as Florida, as far east as North Carolina.  I attended two conferences, renewed acquaintances with friends I hadn’t seen in years, visited several new-to-me National Parks, State Parks and toured five State Capital Houses I hadn’t previously seen.  I got two more states (West Virginia & Maryland) in my quest to hike at least a mile on the Appalachian Trail in every state it touches. 

In 2017, I completed four courses toward the Master’s Degree I am working on.  With diligent study and no setbacks, I am on track to graduate in a year.  It has been a huge part of my grief journey and is yet another example (we all have them) of how opportunities come to us at the time they are intended.  I would’ve never in a million years told you this was something that I would pursue and I don’t yet have any clue in what way I will use the things I have learned.  I just know that I will.  I know that I already have!

2017 found me stronger and more confident in my ability to live on my own.  I continue to have health issues and one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is how much I took for granted all the things Bill just intuitively did for me because I was not strong enough to do them myself.  Even now, most of my “meltdowns” occur over something I need done (opening a jar, putting together something simple, opening something out of that ridiculous plastic stuff that can’t be cut with a knife, etc.) that he always did, but isn’t here to do now.  Sometimes, I think it isn’t so much that he isn’t here as much as it is the memory of how he would just seem to appear as if he sensed when I couldn’t do something and was just THERE to take it out of my hand without my even asking.  I’ve always been very sensitive about having been diagnosed with severe rheumatoid disease so early and the damage it has done to me.  I don’t like to talk about it and I don’t like other people to see my weakness.  He’s the only one that really knew.  I’m having to learn to allow other people in and ask for help.  Not easy for me by any stretch of the imagination.
But the greatest gift that 2017 brought me was the simple joy of “home.”  It evolved so subtly, I didn’t even recognize it until I caught myself being excited about pulling in my garage and closing the door behind me.  For so many months, I would sit in the garage and cry because I knew when I went in, he wouldn’t be waiting for me like he so often had or if I was at home, I knew I had to stop listening for his car to pull in because it wasn’t going to.  But ever so slowly, those times faded away and my joy in being “home” is complete.  I have made it mine.  I have deliberately made a few changes that Bill would roll his eyes and tell me just don’t “work!”  I just laugh!  I am so grateful that I am content when I am away from home and I am content when I am at home in my condo.  There is so much rest in knowing that “home” is wherever my heart is and that no matter where I am, I am never, NEVER alone!