The Only Thing That Really Matters Is Love

When I retired and thought my destiny would be found in a tiny little town in Minnesota in the dead of winter, I reveled in the freedom of being able to tie a pretty little bow in what had become my past and move forward with all the energy and gusto of a professional deal seeking, shark-like sale shopper at Saks. Which is to say, I did not look both ways before crossing state lines, I did not attempt to walk on a layer of ice hidden carefully beneath a cute, fluffy, seemingly harmless pile of actual wintertime fell-from-the-sky snow and in general, did no practical homework, research or any kind of information gathering save for purchasing my one-way ticket to (what I thought of) as The Second Act – Out of the Cage.

SPOILER ALERT: It was more like “The Second Scene” that was later cut from the movie and sort of felt like one of those musical colleges of time passing by and whimsical and/or hysterical events take place with our main character. Also commonly used to demonstrate someone getting seriously wasted and/or drugged by someone with something and tripping their balls off. I think of this time and the song playing is “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane.

So yeah, it was trippy in the way that I had not experienced trippy before, having lived the entirety of my life to date on the Left Coast, land of the Nuts and Berries and/or Fruits and Fairies or whatever you want to call the place that I call home, California. I was in no way prepared for snow, ice, reality or much of anything other than the urgent need to escape the only home I had known and venture forth into the great unknown that is the Mild (Yet Wild Weather Wise) Mid-West.

I still don’t know what possessed me to just ignore common sense, basic math and every friend that I told about my plans and instead shut my eyes tightly, turn off the part of my brain that sends warning bells and alarms when danger has been detected and leap off the top of a very tall building into very thin air, with nary a wing or a prayer on my person, but that’s exactly what I did. I had been locked into a place, a job, a way of life for over two decades and while I don’t regret the time, I did not want to spend another second there. I wanted to feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and the distance between me and ALL OF THAT to widen until the memory was literally in another time zone and another physical place.

Well, I got the physical distance, but not so much the feeling of freedom because – wherever I go, I take myself with me. That includes the Committee, the baggage, the worn-out teddy bear from my childhood, who has his own baggage, having lived through what I lived through and having been the recipient of my many tears, angry tantrums and whispered secrets; hopes and dreams as well as nightmares and quiet screams. This is to help explain in part at least how such a wonderfully optimistic and seemingly innocuous decision became the most Magnificent Disaster to date, setting off a chain reaction of events that will continue to ripple on for the entirety of my life.

Now, I am predisposed to end of the world prophecy when it comes to most things; more of a Worst Case Scenario special event planner. But in planning this my greatest escape, I did not even make a list of possible worst outcomes or pitfalls to be wary of at all. I did put on blinders and lock my head at the 12:00 position, eyes on the prize, forward focused and with nary a crumb of doubt or logic in my possession. This is the rare moment that I am able to turn off the WCS planner part of the Committee and simply move forward with all the confidence and single-minded determination of a toddler climbing the cupboards to grab an unauthorized snack.

Honey, I am on a mission.

This is how I ended up retiring, spending a couple of days with a very long time friend (who kept her personal opinions about my choice to herself) before flying out to Minnesota to arrive just in time for Christmas with my other long term friend (I refuse to call them Old Friends) and her family. I had just turned 51 a few days prior, had my last day of work and my retirement party. I was on a dopamine high and riding that tide like I was Thalassa (Greek primordial Goddess of the Sea – check her out here.) I was all confidence and no doubt, which is a rare state for me. Maybe it was just time for a change and maybe Minnesota wasn’t the worst place I could end up, but even now, my mind still isn’t able to sort through all of the emotions and situations and circumstance I was going through at that time, so I just have to know that some part of myself/the Committee took over and just made it happen.

Just as a side note, I’m certain a lot of folks thought that the Wright brothers attempting to fly wasn’t a good idea and even more folks (mostly men, but women too) thought that women having the right to vote wasn’t a good idea and that ending slavery wasn’t a good idea and that prohibiting child labor wasn’t a good idea, etc. So people have opinions and people have orifices and we will just leave it at that. I do know that most people that expressed concern were simply that; concerned for me, my mental health and well being and responding to the seemingly knee-jerk decision to sell everything and leave California on a whim.

I also know that change brings growth and if I were to stay stagnant, I would simply wish myself to cease being at some point. The greatest gift that I got from my time in Minnesota was to realize that I have choices, I don’t need to allow other people’s opinions, fears and beliefs become mine unless they make sense to me and feel genuine and true to me. I had been living for other people, by what I believed they needed me to be, who they needed me to be and how I should live to make them happy. I can say this goes back to my parents, but I think it’s really just a soul thing. I needed to be needed and felt good making others feel good. Perhaps my first encounter with behavior/reward association; do something good, get a hit of dopamine. What I didn’t realize was what I was giving up to get that hit. Eventually, the hit wasn’t enough and I moved on to other things, such as Mickey’s big mouth beer (ugh) and eventually harder drinks and even harder things still.

Tolerance. Start with a little, end up needing more than you can ever find. A little is good and too much is inevitable.

Retirement, whirlwind of selling and giving away and NOT ALLOWING DOUBT of any kind, then moving away from everyone and everything I had ever known and going to a far-away place broke me, plain and simple. No one standing next to me knew it and it was a quiet, non-dramatic undoing. More of a falling apart, falling to pieces, shattering into splinters and flying to opposite ends of the universe. Ceasing to exist, yet being everywhere all at once; my past and all the possible outcomes for all the many choices and decisions and deviations to the plan I could have made. Self-doubt and harsh criticism were my tour guides on this, my “Retirement – She’s Come Undone” 2018 Tour. I let all the stress that I had been holding, an ocean of tears that were waiting to be shed and baptized that little shower with the heartache and the loneliness and the sense of loss and of being lost that bent my shoulders from their weight. Which is to say, I began the first step in the long journey of healing and coming back to myself.

I would not say that early retirement and immediate exodus to Not California was a mistake or a bad or a good idea; I will say that it served a purpose, allowed for me to get some distance and re-evaluate not only what I wanted, but who I wanted to be, now that I was free in one sense of the word. Some would say that experience and that knowledge is priceless. I would most definitely agree. Did I also learn some hard lessons? Absolutely. You don’t make split-second decisions and not bear the consequences of those choices. I had sold my beloved xB, gave up an apartment that I could (mostly) afford, gave away or donated tons of material things and basically had to start all over again. I did get another xB, but that is a story for another time.

The thing that saved me? It was love.

When I decided to come back home, I had no home to come back to, really. I called the friend I had stayed with before flying out and told her I was coming back and all she said was, “Tell me when to be at the airport and I’ll be there. You have a home here, always.”

Deep shaky sigh of relief; letting go the breath I didn’t realize I was holding. My nails that had been digging crescent scars into my palms from clenching my fists so tight released and opened and relaxed. Big freaking tears blur everything and I can hear my heartbeat start to slow and my breathing is no longer shallow and quick, scared and stressed; I can breathe, I can go home and I can build a new life, whatever that may be. I have a space to heal, to rest and to be loved. There’s space for me there and I can move about freely knowing that I am safe and I no longer need to be on high alert, for the first time in a long time. I sleep in a darkened room for the first three days I’m back and I dream; I dream of my parents who have passed, I dream of my grandparents and my dear friend who was taken too soon and has been gone far too long. I listen to my body instead of my brain and when I needed to eat, I eat. When I needed to walk, I took long walks at a brisk pace but didn’t rush because the place I wanted to be isn’t accessible by foot or by vehicle, it’s a state of being.


I wanted to be the still pond, the glass lake, the quiet loch in the early morning light. I wanted to feel again like I did standing on the shore, looking out to sea and not being able to feel my nose or my fingertips from the cold, but feeling my heart beating strongly and my spirit singing and my soul being at peace and calm. I want that for always. I want that feeling of peace to be like it’s a tattoo on my soul, a part of me as much as my curly hair or my dimples. I am the only person who can bring that peace and I must seek it, find it and work for the rest of my days to keep it.

I firmly believe that logic has its place and compassion should always be in vogue; that kindness keeps you young and meanness makes you old. Money is good for some things such as rent and vacations to Scotland, but for everything else, the only thing that really matters is love.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

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