I read somewhere that the happiest people are those who can adapt to the changes in circumstances that life throws at them. Apparently, it is the ability to adapt to those changes without stress that counts. It makes sense to me. The Buddha said that one of our sources of suffering is trying to hold on to things as they are and refusing to accept that everything changes, whether we want it to or not.
Of course, things are changing around us all the time, and there is little we can do to stop them. Our kids grow up and move out. We get married and then, often, divorced. Our parents grow old and die. We change jobs, change homes, and change friends. Getting through life is much easier if we are able to accept these changes and move on. I think the secret may be to file the fond memories away in our hearts, and then jump right in to find out what other adventures life has in store for us.
Twelve years ago, when I first retired, my plan was to spend a year traveling all over Asia. It was an ambitious plan - Japan, Korea, Shanghai, Taiwan, the Philippines, Bali, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong - but I had been looking forward to it for a long time. A few weeks after I arrived in Japan, the bombs went off in the nightclub in Bali. Then the US State Department began issuing warnings to Americans traveling in Islamic areas of Asia. To put it bluntly, I chickened out.
I had, by then, realized that I really liked Japan, so I just decided to stay there, maybe even get a job teaching English for a year or two. After traveling around for the first three months, I rented an apartment in Osaka and settled in and had met quite a few friends. I was ready to go to work when I realized out that something was wrong with my mother. So after six months in Japan, I said goodbye to my new friends and flew home to Portland, Oregon.
Mom had diabetes and couldn't seem to figure out what she was supposed to be doing to manage it. But there was more to it. My mom was only 70 and had always been very intelligent and independent. Why did she need me there? I leased an apartment in Portland while she stayed at her house in a tiny coastal town a few hours away. Then she got a pancreatic cyst. We decided that maybe we needed to live together, so we bought a house outside Portland. Two weeks after moving in, we found out the cyst was really cancer. She died at home two months later.
As you can see, life threw a lot at me during that first year and a half after retirement. If I had focused my mind on all the things that were going wrong, I could have been pretty miserable. I didn't get to see all of Asia that I wanted to see, but Japan was lovely. Then I missed the spring cherry blossoms in Japan, but Portland was just full of pink and white cherry blossoms when I got there. My apartment was delightful, but our house was even better. Mom truely believed that she was going to be with my father and her parents, so she almost looked forward to her death. I was able to resell the Portland house at my full asking price in one week, and I was soon on my way to Mexico, which was what I had planned for after the Asian trip.
Fortunately, the past nine years have been much calmer, but not without unwanted and unplanned for changes. While I was in France last spring, I found out that the best girlfriend I have ever had in my life was leaving Mexico and moving back to Florida. Then I learned that Mexico had changed their immigration laws and I would never be able to nationalize my car. I liked that Honda and thought I'd drive it the rest of my driving life. But even these changes haven't turned out to be that bad.
Patty ended up renting a house in Leesburg, only 30 miles east of Terry's brother's house, so we will be able to visit now and then, and last Sunday, she and I talked on the phone for an hour and a half, just like the old days. And thanks to Skype and Vonage, there is no reason we can't continue that quite regularly. I hired someone to take my car north of the border for me and sell it, quite easy and painless. When I couldn't decide what Mexican-made car I wanted to replace it with, I realized that I really did not want a car. The buses run about every 10 minutes and cost me only about 30 cents. I figure I'm saving a ton of money on gas, insurance, maintenance, registration, and depreciation. That will easily cover the cost of an ocassional taxi or rental car. I'm really enjoying walking around the villages rather than driving on cobblestones and trying to find a place to park. And I've always had a bike, but now I have more excuse to ride it. Also, my former carport is now a new patio right inside my front gate!
One more huge change... before she left, Patty got me involved with an art quilting group that she had joined. Quilt guild politics and lack of selling opportunities had led me to just kind of give up on my old quilting passion. My new quilting friends have re-inspired me, and I'm now look forward to spending five or six hours in my studio every day. And that, essentially, is my excuse for not posting to this blog for the past five months. I will try to improve -- I promise!