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Repurposing Myself


I had a conversation with a friend last night in which she talked about her interest in repurposing old things. I am intrigued by her effort to let go of items she has held onto for mostly sentimental reasons, but I also love the creativity involved in putting things together in an entirely new manner. All day today I have been thinking about the idea of taking a handful of elements and combining them in a way that gives them a new objective.

Part of the reason for this train of thought is that I have been traveling lately and have had the luxury of letting ideas roll around in my brain without a lot of interruption. To heighten this sense of the wonders of creativity, I am in Taos, New Mexico as I write this, surrounded by beauty and art, both manmade and part of nature. The blue sky, the pueblos, the clouds, the lightness of the air, the color are all spurring me to dream about possibility, movement, and changing the rules, whatever they might be.

In the midst of all of this, I also was lucky enough to watch a short video of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron leading a class. She talked about letting ourselves move out of our comfort zones and into the areas next to those, the ones in which we feel challenged and where we have the opportunity to learn from those challenges. As we stretch and broaden ourselves, she said, our comfort zones can expand.

In a little bit more than four months, I will be 65 years old. I have entered a period of time in my life when the possibilities are simultaneously endless and limited. A huge part of me struggles with the balance between the two. On the one hand, I am a schedule girl, a creature of habit, often anxious about change and newness. On the other, I am envisaging a new-ish life, one in which I can repurpose my own skills and powers, where I let myself be uncomfortable occasionally with the unknown. I can’t say what this will look like, but I know that courage is a much bigger part of the mix of me now than when I was in my shy twenties.

I have entered a period of time in my life when the possibilities are simultaneously endless and limited.

I am a late bloomer and most of my positive attributes are more evident and visible to me now than when I was younger. I lived a safe life back then, taking the easiest road I could find, staying under the radar, dreaming in a very small and frustrating way. But being out in the world is reminding me of the futility of a limited imagination, of perpetually seeking comfort. There is absolutely no chance of being something new, discovering something unique, repurposing any part of me if I don’t let myself dream it. The scared part of me could live a quiet and simple life, enjoying the successes I achieved in a long career. But the older I get, the less I can tolerate that image.

The other day, at the entrance to the Grand Canyon, when I realized I was old enough now to buy a lifetime pass to the National Parks—all for $10—I thought about what life should really be like at this point. This is when I need to use my muscles and bones and brain in a more intentional and significant way than ever before—not when I should put it all on the shelf to rest.

This is when I understand myself better than I ever have and when I fear so much less than before. This is the time to pay attention to the way the world is changing around me and to jump on, to add my wisdom and my courage, but to learn new things, and to give myself a fresh purpose, a new reason to be awake and alive. There is no clear picture of this in my head right this minute, but I keep thinking that must be exactly as it should be.