Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cleaning House

I basically missed spring cleaning this year. Most of the month of May, my normal spring cleaning time, was spent traveling. Not a bad way to get out of deep cleaning my house.

However, I did a lot of "self" spring cleaning. And, I really needed it.

I consider myself a sentimental person. I treasure the antiques that I have that have been passed on from my family members, mostly now long gone. Even the cheap, little knick knacks that have no real value except that maybe it once sat on my Grandma's window over the sink, holds special meaning to me.

Therefore, it is not surprising that I hold on to other things as well - mainly relationships long over. And, as part of hanging on to the relationships, I hung on to the things that came along with the relationships - pictures, cards, notes, etc.

It was strongly pointed out to me  that I need to discard all the "stuff" that was cluttering up not only my drawers, but my emotional well being as well. How could I move on with him, if this "stuff" was still around. True - tucked aways here and there, but still around.

In April I did a purging of all these items. My shredder was in high gear as I discarded the pictures, the cards, the notes. My computer deleted files as well. Since I had things tucked all over the place, I went through drawers, files, cubbards - all over my house.

Some things I barely glanced at as I loaded it into the shredder. A few pictures, I spent a moment or two looking at. I did read a card given to me over 8 years ago. It brought back a little sadness and then a annoynance. I wondered why I held on to it all these years. It, too, went into the shredder with no regrets.

Letting go of this stuff was long overdue. As with the card, I wondered why I still had them. There were some pictures of men I am well rid of. The cards and notes no longer had any meaning to me.

Once it was done I sat back and felt, well - I felt free. I felt clean. The dust had been wiped clean, the cobwebs removed.

Now the real work begins. Actually, it started at the same time as when I shredded everything. The "outside" stuff was removed. Now, I had to start working on the "inside" stuff. Like - why did I hang on to "things" that no longer had meaning? Why did I still have occasional contact with men from old relationships?

Self questioning, exploring one's inner self is good, is difficult, is scary and is necessary. Issues and feelings I avoided dealing with came crashing down on me this winter/early spring. Self discovery and letting go has been an important part of my growth.

By finally letting go, by finally getting rid of old "stuff" and old relationships, I now find I am open to and able to receive the love, trust and joy I have found in my relationship with the man I have been waiting for all of my life. And, I am able to return it to him, to give to him a heart that is finally open, uncluttered and free to give. What a gift this has been!

Maybe I'll thoroughly clean my house this fall and maybe I won't. However, I won't let the dust and cobwebs collect on me, on my sense of who I am and what I want. I will no longer hold on to the past and will keep my heart open towards the future.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Travels and Pen Pals and Friendships

I'm starting to gear up for a two week trip to Ireland and Scotland.

This will be my 3rd visit to Ireland. My good friend, Anne-Marie, lives in a rural area outside the little town of Corofin, County Clare. I am fortunate enough to be able to stay with her, travel the country and more importantly, I am blessed to have her as a friend.

Sometime around 1991 I was at work and filling in for someone over the lunch hour. Without much to do, I grabbed an Irish/American newspaper sitting on the desk. Inside was a small ad for Irish and American pen pals. I had always dreamed of going to Ireland so I thought, what the heck? I wrote a note expressing my interest. About 6 weeks later I received a short application form, which I promptly filled out, mailed and forgot about. A couple of months later a letter from Anne-Marie arrived and a wonderful friendship began.

In 1998, newly divorced and before becoming a homeowner, I decided the time was right for me to travel to Ireland and meet this woman I had been writing to for 7 years. Now, I had never traveled overseas before and I had no idea what to expect. I had no clue has to how Anne-Marie lived, where exactly she lived or what she was really like. Although I felt very confident from our many letters that we were meant to be great friends, this was certainly the biggest adventure of my life to date. And, a huge leap of faith.

I love being able to say this and it is the truth - from the moment I spotted Anne and her daughter, Melissa, at the airport we started laughing and laughed for the duration of my 2-week visit. Only when I was leaving did tears begin to flow. I had a wonderful time. We agreed that when Melissa graduated from high school they would come to the States and the year after that Anne-Marie and I would tour Scotland.

In 2001 Anne-Marie invited me to join her on an all-Irish Caribbean cruise. Sail around the Caribbean in February on a ship full of great Irish people and entertainment - I jumped at the opportunaty. Boy, did we have fun! (the picture in this post was taken during that cruise - please note - the glasses were empty and the guy went around posing for cash!) In 2004, I returned to Ireland with my friend, Susan. Once again, we had a great time. Finally, in 2006, Anne-Marie and Melissa (now an all grown up young woman of 18) came to Milwaukee for 10 days. And now, Anne-Marie and I will have our Scotland trip that was tentatively planned 9 years ago.

Whoosh! Has it been 9 years already?

I'm looking forward to spending a few days with Anne at her home before flying to Scotland. I have grown to love Melissa and Ned (her elderly house guest of 20+ years). It will be great to see her Mom, sister and extended family. I am so fond of all of them. And, I get to meet Anne's "fellow", Mike, who I heard all about last summer.

Most of all, I'm looking forward to traveling the moors of Scotland with a dear friend. I know we will laugh, talk, share stories and have a wonderful time.

What started as a shot in the dark to find a pen pal in Ireland has turned into a remarkable friendship. Who would have thought that two women from different life styles and different countries would have ever become such dear friends?

This weekend I will haul up my suitcase and start to pack. I have a while before I go, but I always pack and unpack several times and trying to narrow down my shoes to only 3 pair is always challenging! As I pack I will smile with delight of the adventures Anne-Marie and I will enjoy together.

Last summer when Anne-Marie was here, we joked that we would continue to meet and travel, but in different countries. We've talked of Paris , of Spain, of Greece, of Atlanta and all parts in between. Where should we go next?

In the long run, it really doesn't matter. We can sit in a pub in Galway, a restaurant in Chicago, my porch in Milwaukee, her kitchen in County Clare or a cafe in Paris. The important thing is our friendship. No amount of miles or locations will ever change that.