It Was Easier Than I Thought to Leave My Old Life Behind

I never knew my house before… until it became my world.

These past two years have been the pause I needed to look at how I wanted to live my life.

Contrary to what I thought, I wasn’t at peace. My life was chaotic, rigid, and highly scheduled. Every day was a race to the finish line, only to start again the next day, and the next.

Anxiety was a part of daily living, and it manifested itself in ways that affected my mental and physical health. I struggled to catch my breath, I suffered sleep issues, and I often felt a sense of melancholy.

Then the world stopped

Suddenly, I was forced to stay home. My office closed for daily business, my client base stalled, and my daily activities reduced to nothing.

That’s when something changed in me, and my home became my everything.

For what I thought would only last a few days, turned into weeks. And slowly, my home became my safe haven, my joy, and my space for serenity.

I no longer rushed out the door to work because it became my workspace, a place where my creativity grows, and my writing unfolds.

I didn’t really need to report to an office. A good part of my work could be done on the phone and the internet. I could slow down, take my time, and begin to design a new way of doing business.

And then… the strangest thing happened. I began to breathe. I mean really breathe with a kind of peace and relaxation I’d never known before.

Now… every day, my home is my destination

We’ve all been through a transformation in these past two years. For some, the stress has been unbearable. I can’t imagine how hard it has been for parents with young children, and elderly alone in their homes.

My daughter gave birth to my first grandchild, and his first year on this planet has been sheltered. My 95-year-old mother had to stop her volunteer work that kept her spirit alive and her days meaningful.

But I want to share what is working for me… and what I don’t want to invite back into my future.

I began taking daily walks in my neighborhood to replace the gym. It quickly became my daily Zen.

Each morning I venture out, navigating the sidewalks. I say “hi” to my neighbors (those I never bothered to know before!), and I head to the trails behind my neighborhood. Miraculously, it opens up to a wildlife preserve.

Walking allowed my consciousness to change

For the first time, I pause and look. Bunnies run across my path, seeking refuge in the scrub oaks. A pair of pure white egrets gracefully fly overhead, landing by the creek, poking at the watercress skimming the water’s edge. I witness tadpoles transforming into frogs, and I hear their mating calls echoing against the rolling hills.

Emotion wells up inside of me… a feeling of awe that I’m seeing things through a new lens.

I remember reading Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, and he expressed the importance of seeing things without naming them. Once you give them labels, it becomes a thing, something confined to a word.

For example, a “tree” cannot possibly define the majesty of a hundred-year-old oak firmly rooted beside the trail, hovering over the creek’s edge. But, if you look at it through your eyes and emotions, it transforms into something more. It becomes an experience.

In almost two decades of living in this sleepy little Southern California town, I’d never walked the trails.

Now, I can’t imagine life without it.

Old habits… did I really need them?

I used to have rigid daily habits and a schedule for myself. I got up to an alarm. I’d hop out of bed to get to the gym on time for a class. I’d come home, shower, then fly out the door, stopping at Starbucks to get an iced tea before work.

My weekdays involved office meetings, connecting with clients, showing properties, lunches with clients and friends, and sitting at the computer for hours at the office.

I’d grocery shop at the end of the day, come home, fix dinner, do Netflix, over and out.

Then came The Powerful Pause

I don’t think I ever truly understood how to embrace the day with presence. Today is golden, even as frustrating and chaotic as the world seems. We can be afraid of what the future holds, but we can also be present and enjoy today.

For the first time, I began waking up without setting an alarm. I wanted to find out exactly what time my body wanted to wake up! Sure enough, It was later than I thought… 7:30 am every day. I realized I hadn’t been getting enough sleep!

Now, instead of hopping out of bed, I gently wake, make a ritual of brewing coffee, and look forward to what my daughter has named “Mom’s resort mornings.” My husband and I have coffee in bed, not rushing to get out the door, but expanding the pleasure of togetherness. He’s my focus. He’s the man I chose to wake up to and love for the rest of my life.

Work has become such a pleasure since reframing my morning. I show up at my desk with such optimism. I’ve made it a beautiful space, and it loves me back in the way it makes me feel.

Plus… I get to spend more time with my husband.

My husband and I had a two-state marriage… until now

We’ve only been married for 10 years, but we’d never spent an entire month together! His business is in Tucson, and mine is in California. Typically, we’d piece together our calendars like a puzzle.

We keep homes in both states, and we’d rarely have more than ten days together in a stretch.

But now time seems vital. I look at this beautiful man with more tenderness and awe because I’m able to stop, take a breath, and look into his eyes.

Sometimes we share our morning walks together, sometimes separately.

For us, the experience teaches us how we each see things differently, but walk the same path… and we get to talk about it.

Before this year, my husband and I used to focus on the future, planning when we could be together, our travel, parties, and events that kept our calendars full, and traversing the states.

Now, we look forward to our early evening glass of wine sitting in our backyard.

You can’t imagine how much joy I feel as I sit here and find the calm/personal photo

Just in time… because we don’t know time at all

Our California yard has whispering palms hovering over the pool, pepper trees laden with branches of pink peppercorns, flowering pear trees, lemon, apple, and fig trees.

And lots of roses. Nineteen years ago, I planted roses, to always have a pitcher filled with fresh flowers on the kitchen table. Never has it been so important.

Those roses remind me of my son, Garrett, who died of meningitis when he was just 16. He always used to pick roses for me on his walk home from school. I planted a special garden for him in my backyard, so he is always with me.

I’ve experienced loss in the blink of an eye when my son died within 24 hours of contracting bacterial meningitis. I never believed I could survive, but somehow I did.

We’re never immune to sudden bad things happening. It’s part of being human. That’s why it’s so important to look at today and every day.

How long will this pause last? How long do I have? How long does my husband have? It’s the great unknown. Being present today is the greatest gift we can give each other.

And so… instead of being separated so much of our time, my husband and I travel between California and Arizona together.

The Sonoran Desert is a different experience…

Peaceful desert acres/Personal Photo

I love our little ranch in Tucson. After we got married a decade ago, we discussed the pros and cons of having two homes. My husband’s business is located in Tucson, so even though much of his work can be done online, he still has to show up every month to keep things smoothly running.

Our home in Tucson is quite a different experience. It’s a Hacienda-style Burnt Adobe home surrounded by 3 ½ acres of quiet desert terrain where wildlife lives. Deer, javelinas, and bunnies run around as our afternoon entertainment.

Being a California girl, I never thought I’d like living in the Desert, but I really love our sanctuary. There are numerous cactuses, some more than 100 years old! This time of year, they’re drenched with rain and everything is green.

My husband loves birds, and I’m certain he feeds the entire bird population in Tucson, hanging feeders all over the surrounding mesquite trees. Our seed bill surpasses that of our daily bread and cheese.

And, there’s an occasional rattlesnake that sends me scrambling! Yep… the photo below is one little guy we had to relocate off of our property!

Personal photo

Let me show you love

My husband and I cook fabulous meals together, and we’ve just resumed entertaining with our friends. That’s what our home and kitchen are for, “come to our home and let us cook for you and show you love.”

I see clearly how my life was driven and obscured by my obsession with achievements, money, things, activities, and competitiveness. I was in love with “busyness.”

At last, I feel my priorities are finally in alignment with the life I want to live.

Enjoy the present

I know that life for all of us can be challenging and ever-changing… and with that, it will change you.

Those difficult times, as painful as they are, can be opportunities to remind yourself of the power that love has in healing us.

Love is at the very core of all we need. When you focus on love, it will enlighten and connect you, not only with those you choose, but to greater humanity, too.

And it will make you happy.

Previously Published on Medium

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internal images courtesy of author

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