Sunday, June 12, 2011
During the last two decades of my job, I traveled internationally and had the opportunity to be in so many parts of the world: China (six times in various cities), Hanoi, Saigon, Bangkok, Moscow, Paris, Budapest, Macao, and so many others that escape me at the moment. What's important is not the number of places, but how much my life was filled with adventure and what was packed into those years. I remember once when we organized three separate meetings in a single year, and I was so busy I could barely keep up. There was no room in my life for boredom.
During those same years, I also managed to spend every weekend and every vacation skydiving, making as many as 400 jumps annually! When I look back at my life, it is rather amazing that I accomplished so much without noticing. And those years were also spent in a relationship that went from being very rocky to rock solid, which it is today. We have accomplished what seemed to be an impossible task. Perhaps it helped that I was so busy, but for whatever reason we learned to be together and appreciate each other for who we really are.
My life has been a full one, but now I am living in Bellingham, Washington, and retirement has settled around me like a warm blanket. In the three years we have been here, my life has taken on a completely different tone from its earlier passionate involvement. My skydiving journey has dwindled from 400 to 40 jumps in a year, and even that much smaller number is beginning to fall away. Travel is from here to Vancouver or Seattle, unless I am forced to travel by plane because of a loved one's passing. I realize that my life is full in a completely different way that it was during my working years. Passion is fading to contentment. This must be a natural progression, but until now I haven't realized what is happening. Am I okay with it?
The passion I felt for skydiving was akin to falling in love. I remember those first years, when I would wake on the weekend and jump from bed to see if the sky was blue. It didn't matter whether it was July or December, I would head to the Drop Zone just in case I might be able to make a jump. The staff expected to see me, and I now see other skydivers who are just like I was then. But I'm not there any more. I come home from a day at the Drop Zone, as I did last Sunday after three jumps, and the old passion is missing. It was fun, but it wasn't nourishing like it once was.
After I traveled to Colorado in December to attend Emily's memorial, I remember feeling so glad to be home wrapped in the arms of my life partner and snuggled in my own bed, with travel being a burden rather than an adventure. It was Christmastime in Boulder, and I saw my old city all lighted up and decorated, but it was no longer my home. My place is here in the rainy and sometimes dreary Pacific Northwest.
At first, I thought it behooved me to find a new passion, to fall madly in love with something new. I looked for it in volunteer work, exercise, hiking into the mountains, but it was not to be found anywhere. When I was a young woman, I would fall in love with someone and it was magical -- for a time. But it didn't ever stay that way, so I would move onto another person and would fall in love again. I thought I just hadn't found the right one yet. One day I realized that I only knew how to be in a relationship in its beginning stages and hadn't learned how to have a mature love. I am reminded of the saying "familiarity breeds contempt." I thought that was real.
As I move towards my eighth decade, which hopefully will start in a few short years, I am beginning to realize that the passions of the body have begun to dim and the passions of my heart are flaming into life. Today I feel things so much more deeply than I did when I was young, and the loss of a fallen wild bird strikes deep within my heart. My passion has mellowed like a fine wine, into something that allows me to enjoy it slowly, and with deep gratitude for the opportunity to be here, alive and present.