“You are a guiding light for us all, a symbol that (at this entrenched age where we get more and more attached to our routines) change is liberating and courage abounds. Thanks for holding that adventurer archetype!” ~From A friend on my journey
The friend’s comment made Nellie pause and scrunch up her forehead. She did not own being a guiding light for anyone. And what does getting older mean? She was puzzled by the idea that we become “entrenched”. It was hard for her to wrap her thinking around becoming entrenched or held by routines that go unexamined.
Entrenched brought to mind her fight with the idea of “hunkering down”. She bristled at the concept, a concept that people, she knew, only wanted to hunker down. It just made her feel squirmy, depressed, stuck, enclosed. It made her feel as if she was curled up with a blanket pulled taught over her head and she was pretty sure she would never, ever emerge again. In fact, she was certain that was true. It brought to mind a life sentence of submergence, possible severe depression and in this case, the opposite of freedom and therefore the opposite of Nellie’s life
She knew life was that hard, from too much experience, and she was always trying to find ways to make life easier. She was a seeker, a healer, an adventurer, who wanted to understand the dark, death, life and The Mystery, the deep knowing in a wisdom way.
Hunkering down made Nellie feel as if she would be surrendering to the difficulty of living and she, the Mountain Climbing Goat Woman, was not interested in succumbing or surrendering.
She had so many questions about aging. Do people just get tired of how much work life is, so a routine is something they don’t have to think about? Do people decide that sticking to all that is familiar is the best bet, no more adventures into life, because who knows what could happen? Or is it just about our beliefs and the stories we tell to make sure our beliefs are real. Perhaps it is simply the character we come into the world with. Or perhaps something about karma?
Nellie could feel her brain darting around to comprehend this aging business. She grew up with parents, at one time young socialist, always interested in the new, the different, the interesting, conforming enough to live very comfortably and generously, which suited Nellie well. Among the things that made up family life were jokes made about aging bodies but always there was due respect for elders, their wisdom, gifts, and talents. There was something of a tongue and cheek acceptance about aging and criticism for those complaining too much. So watching people age in her world, was not about slowing, hunkering or being entrenched. Nellie learned that aging was yet another adventure; the wrinkles spoke wisdom and sometimes there were difficult, challenging and upsetting times, sometimes heartwarming, sweet and loving experiences.
Nellie was indeed an adventurer, mostly solo, and sometimes a person might come along for a bit. Her dog, Henry, AKA The Mr., Buddy, Honre, Henrique… was always with her. Her life journey was never about safe and this current stretch was a lot about the opposite of safe. Nellie knew she had a propensity for wanting to do things differently. Her character served her well this way. She wanted adventures, she loved statements like Life is Art because it suggested embedding creativity into every breath of every moment. With this, she was reminded to keep things sacred, stand outside, watch with new eyes, breathe, move to get a new angle or perspective and let the moment change her, even if for one second. And that brief moment could be an adventure.
The forethought, which many people were naturally inclined to have, often eluded Nellie, which made her life both rich with adventure, including some necessary and some not so necessary drama. When she was younger, she thought she should do something just because it scared her. Now, she does things a bit less recklessly, but still trying things that aren’t about staying or doing the same as what she has known.
Part of the Story
Nellie was a young girl, about 3 years old, when things began to turn. She was to learn many years later that that was when things changed in her. Her Aunt, who adored her, told her that something happened then and she stopped being a free spirit, and became very serious, started biting her nails and being quiet and sullen.
Of the times she could remember, one was the 2-3 hour drive to Lowden State Park, Illinois where her father snapped photos of her, her mother, brother, and cousin at the Black Hawk Statue. She thinks that might have been the beginning of The Change and remembers being with her family, enjoying her father’s sense of adventure, the cigar smoke blown into the back seat which made her both vaguely nauseous and connected to her father, the cool jackets her mom had made for her and her cousin, offering the cozy comfort
in wearing what her mother had made. And there was the angst Nellie remembers over wanting to play with her brother but thinking he just didn’t like her all that much.
On this trip to Lowden State Park, she clung close to her mother all the while feeling her every emotion. She could feel her mother’s upset, her turmoil and while she looked at nature all around, she was continually drawn back to her mother. She was very young but very aware that things should be different. It was unclear how she knew this, she just did, she felt it, she watched expressions, she hoped to change it so they could all be happy. She had the experience of a pervasive anger the encompassed that day and everyday she could remember.
Life, then, was hard for Nellie. And, why was that? What happened? What didn’t happen? Was this story necessary to tell again? Really?