Where do I go from here? Restructuring Life

Where do I go from here? Restructuring Life

A few months ago, my mom passed and I find myself adrift.  Lost in the desert, I need to redefine my life.  Unmoored at 57, where do I go from here?

Eight years ago after my dad’s funeral, I moved back to Tucson to take care of mom as she went through cancer (surgery, radiation treatment, pill-based maintenance chemotherapy and their side effects), dialysis and the gradual dwindling that is aging.  All that time I stayed positive: believing fervently that she would live. Driving her to bingo and thrift stores, using interlibrary loans to order Japanese books and doing what I could do to make life pleasant so that cancer and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) did not define her life.

It is so weird.  I never stopped being myself in caring for my mom.  However, with her passing, I feel like I lost a piece of myself.  You fight off death for years, staring him down and then when Death wins, as he must, it’s like, “Huh?”

Mom was ready.  I know that. She said dad was visiting her in her dreams.  Her last night I could hear her singing on the baby audio monitor.  An Okinawan folk song that I didn’t understand.  Eight hours later she was gone. And I lost the fight — even though rationally I know it was better for her. Her mind was starting to slip and she would have hated that. But knowing and feeling are two different animals.

So here I am. California had been my home for decades and honestly I never thought I’d move back to Tucson.  I remember I couldn’t wait to get away and go off to college to find meaning and adventure somewhere else.  This is home now, again, but I don’t know what that means.  When both your parents die, they take home with them in some deep essential way.

What do I want to be important to me now?  Where do I want to go from here?  Like on New Year’s, I am making a list of what needs to be restructured.

Health is important, this I know.  And it will become more important with age

  • Food
  • Fitness


    • Organizing.  Much of my stuff got shoved into the garage and back porch when I moved here and now it’s time to create space for it. It’s really hard to move decades of things into a house already filled with decades of living.
    • Tucson.  Explore Tucson. Find out what makes it special like I did with Oita and Koriyama when I taught English in Japan and again in Oakland/San Francisco when I moved there.  Time to be a tourist in Tucson.

 Budget / Income

  • Living cheap.  When you are a caretaker, you never have vacation.   I need some time out.  If I live frugally, I can buy myself a few months.
  • Income. Explore other ways of creating income rather than the traditional 9-5.

Joy / Meaning/ Bucket List

This one I will leave open.  While I know what had meaning in various points in my past, only by being open and exploring will I find what will have meaning for the second half of my life. Family, friends, relationships and work defined me a lot in the past.  Actually they still want to define me but taking care of my mom, I’ve let go of the need to take care of them by buying into their expectations.  It’s time to go to Walden’s pond.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep … and, if (life) proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. ”

— Henry David Thoreau in “Walden”, 1854

So I am assuming if you’ve read this far, you are re-evaluating your life.  So what do you want to focus on? Where do you want to go?

I thought about adding books on grief/grieving but decided not to. Grief is both personal and individual so people go through it differently. I withdrew from everyone. I just really wanted to be alone for a few months. My sister cried on everyone. I felt like we were from different planets. So what works to help one person may not help another. I’ve decided not to make a list right now although I may later. Time sometimes helps to define later what helps the most. I am listing “Walden” as I like the quote which was helpful to me.

Disclaimer: I have signed up as an Amazon affiliate so I may get a small payment if anyone buys anything by clicking the Walden link. The sheet said 4.5% if it’s a book. They haven’t accepted me yet. I think this next quote is required but I’ve noticed on some sites they have written their own personal text so I’m not sure. “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

8 Replies to “Where do I go from here? Restructuring Life”

  1. My parents moved to Tucson the year their last daughter (me) went off to college. My father died there and my mother lived there for 30 years, so I spent lots of time there on holidays and vacations. They lived at Tucson Estates near Old Tucson and later moved to Broadway East Apartments across from the Broadway Mall. Someone said they have now been turned into University housing.

    My husband died right before we were to start driving down to Mexico to live in a new house we’d just bought, so I know well the stages of grief–at least in how I lived them. My catharsis came when I wrote a book based on 8 years of journals written during his illness, death, and my move to Mexico without him. The main thesis of the book is how we must go on and see the best in the worst events that happen to us. I think perhaps you’ve already discovered that. Go find all the enchantment you can in Tucson. Go to the gem and mineral show. Visit Tubac. Walk in the desert. You probably know all that as well! Now going to read more of your blog.

    1. wow, talk about a small world. My dad loved Old Tucson — being a Western movies aficionado.

      It sounds like you had a hard time when your husband passed. I lived with my mom for 8 years after my dad passed as she had cancer but it was actually only in the last couple of years that it became severe. My mom was pretty feisty so for years she did her best to live as she had before despite the difficulties. I think my caretaking load was probably easier than yours but it’s hard because it’s 24/7 and you have to be up/hopeful all the time to balance out the negativity and keep her spirits up. I miss her but I know there’s an afterlife so the missing is balanced by knowing it’s better for her now — no pain, no worries about her brain going or the cancer getting worse and she’s with my dad.

      I do think losing a long-term partner is different than a parent no matter how close you are to a parent as long as you’ve spent some decades not living with your parent/s. With children, teens and people in their 20 or who have spent their whole lives with their parent(s), their identity is still meshed with their parents so grief is tangled with that loss of some part of their identity. With a partner, I’ve noticed that people feel like they’ve lost a piece of themselves as well. I think when identity is more meshed like it is between partners, the loss/grief is magnified. I also think when you’re doing caretaking, the process of grieving is happening unconsciously during caretaking. All the stages of grief? I didn’t go through it after mom passed as I had gone through it in the 8 years before with fighting the cancer. The anger, the bargaining, the denial, the acceptance had all been targeted at the illnesses (for the elderly, it’s never one thing and they are all serious). Besides I feel both Mom and Dad visit occasionally. I’m not psychic or anything but it just feels like that.

      A friend of mine moved to Mexico for years and loved it. Probably hard for you in the beginning but I hope you are enjoying it now.

      I’m starting to enjoy Tucson. The gem show sounds cool. I keep meaning to go but forgot this year. I still haven’t been to San Xavier, can you believe it? so that’s on my list too.

  2. ?Hugs? Mary Rose. It is never easy to lose a loved one and never easy to reconstruct your life. I hope your blogs help you to reconnect with your new self(?) It’s a pleasure to meet you. Looking forward to reading and seeing your posts.

  3. We are close in age – I just a tad older.
    I have no maternal/paternal elders or in-laws – though I do have a step parent in a retirement community – in a dementia section.

    I know of too much death. Moving to often when younger I felt a drift. Now home is with my husband – children out of the nest but near and grands to watch grow.

    Semi-retired I get to travel with my husband for his work.
    One of these days I’ll organize my photos. I’d like to also create some haiga…I hope I spelled that correctly – haiku on art/photos.

    Learning is good. Getting to play tourist where you live is good too. I’ve been trying to do that this year.

    I’ve been to AZ when the In-laws lived there… in their retirement. Went through an ancient Cacti forest up to a man made lake for a paddle boat ride and saw an Eagle.

    Home… they say is where the heart is. Cheers Jules from Gems/ Strands and Fiction. 🙂

    1. Sounds like your semi-retirement is good. Are you getting some fun pictures while you travel with your husband for his work?

      I moved a lot too during childhood — dad was in the air force so it was every two years until I hit 14 and he retired to Tucson.

      It’s cool you saw an eagle. I haven’t seen an eagle yet but I’ve seen hawks.

      I’m thinking home is where I am. I could make a cave into a home if push came to shove but I prefer a house — heated and air conditioned with running hot and cold water. I’m glad I have that. I’ve traveled a little in my 20s so been to a few places. In Japan, I lived in an apartment where you had to buy a portable heater and you heated the bathwater in the bathtub (there was a heater under the tub). Problem is it took awhile to heat so if I started reading a novel, sometimes I’d forget and then I’d hear the poka poka of boiling water. then I’d have to wait for it to cool down, lol.

  4. Hey Mary Rose, Namaste 🙂

    A lady with a delightful name and a gentleness of heart wanders a path through an enchanted forest to arrive at Castle Deeply Dewin, where upon she crafts two words with a delicate hand and a rapier quill that leave a smile 🙂 Thank you, it is a perfect Haiku for the post, you are a genius 🙂

    Mary Rose, I am pleased to have met you, and pleased also to have had chance to explore a path or two through your Blog. I am so sorry to read of family loss in recent years, it is an experience I have yet to endure but one I imagine will be forthcoming. You seem to have born your grief with resilience and compassion, which is a credit to you of course: care provision for those dying is immensely difficult to accommodate, yet the investment of oneself in the relationship cannot be denied as it is led by Love. I hope the fond memories you have of the time you spent with both mum and dad in life will live on and never fade.

    And so a new life in Tuscon and chance to start afresh with the past already written and the future still to be penned. Your bucket wish list seems perfect, the pace just right for a poet and a rose called Mary. Walden’s Pond sounds a perfect place to begin an exploration of a new chapter of life. I imagine you are keen to get going 🙂

    Regards your writing, your poetry, I do admire your ability to condense so much meaning into so few words. Writing Haiku is a skill you have, one that I lack and will try to improve upon. Your site will be a wonderful source of reference for me: your disciplined approach when compiling and the rules that underpin the Haiku form make me feel a little anxious and constricted – I am more a narrative poet per se and never short of a word or two. Perhaps you can suggest a way to quieten my verbosity whilst also leaving me receptive to the word that sings loudest to be heard 🙂 I find quieting my mind a little difficult. What method might you use to still.

    I am fascinated by names, and your full name Mary Rose is an indulgence: such an eclectic mix of origins and cultures, it is unique to me. Your father’s distant heritage stands out as a highlight as too your mother’s roots in Okinawa. (Okinawa is a place name I have not heard for several years only to have it show up twice in two days. Curious uh?) Are you one for family history or pursuing interest in knowing more about your family ancestry: would you now be the family archivist? I imagine pursuing leads would be immensely absorbing: an opportunity for travel as well perhaps?

    Which just leaves me to ask how you are actually getting on with checking off the items on that list of ‘must do’s’ you have compiled? 🙂

    Thank you for chance to sit and chat a while: your company has been inspiring 🙂

    Until next time Mary Rose, take good care of you and enjoy both Tucson and getting lost in the woods 🙂

    God Bless. Namaste 🙂


    1. thank you for admiring my poetry. I appreciate it.

      I am not a genealogist but am curious. I think a lot of people are if they only know a little about their history. At least here in the USA. I don’t know how it is for your family or country residence. My parents were not much to talk about their family’s past. I’ve been to France and Okinawa. both are cool places even though I cannot speak French or Okinawan.

      Yeah, my list, lol. It’s a lot like the New Year’s list. not my has been checked off. I’ve been sidetracked by poetry.

      Thanks for stopping by Dewin.

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