Aimless: Birthdays and Butterfly Wings

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It’s time for my annual birthday rambles, and I feel, this year, to write about change. Of course, we always hear, “Change is good.” And I’ve tried to believe it. But somewhere along the lines, I’ve experienced changes that bring challenge, perhaps more often than not, so while my faith asserts that “Change is good,” my nervous system sometimes responds differently.

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But this year of change, my faith was affirmed. Moving through so many changes, deep and lasting, I’ve felt protected and guided. Change is good, and life is, too.

It’s the time of my second Saturn return. Those of you who’ve lived through your first Saturn return, which comes around the age of 28 to 30, have experienced the restructuring this astrological transit brings. The second return, for me, has been as significant, as life-altering, as self-shifting.

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Some stories of change:

Over Christmas break, I felt inspired to get some plumbing jobs done that we’d been putting off. Both were more than I could tackle on my own: a leaking shower valve and a leaking kitchen faucet. A plumber fixed the bathtub, cutting through drywall and leaving a patch-up and tile job for us to complete. I’d picked up a replacement faucet for the kitchen, and we had someone from Home Depot come to fix it, only after twenty minutes under the sink with his flashlight and monkey wrench, he poked out his head to say he couldn’t do it. We’d need a new kitchen: new counters, new sink, new cabinets. We knew that day was coming, but I’d been hoping to postpone it for another six years, until I retired, so as not to have to take time off work. But the time had come.

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It’s a big change, getting new cabinets, a strong new counter, a deep double sink with a goose-neck faucet. We’d lived without hot water in the kitchen for nearly a year, and a drain that needed frequent plunging. And now–everything works! It wasn’t the timing I would have chosen, but it was the timing that was right.

Saturn returns to demand restructuring: If things don’t work, this is the time to get them fixed. Change. And it’s turned out to be good.

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Another story of change:

Not long after we discovered we needed a new kitchen, but before the work had begun, a crown on one of my teeth fell off. I was worried, fearing a root canal or extraction. But the dentist cemented it right back on. “It happens,” said the assistant. They took X-rays, anyway. “They look good,” said the assistant. But the dentist found a dark spot in the X-ray at the base of an old root canal, next to the tooth where the crown fell off.

“That doesn’t look good.”

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He referred me to the itinerant endodontist, who’d be there the next month. The endodontist didn’t like the look of it either. He drilled through the crown that had fallen off to give that tooth a root canal. We scheduled another appointment for more investigation for the next month.

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Work began on the kitchen, meanwhile, and we were without kitchen counters for a few weeks.

Then, the day before the scheduled endodontist appointment, I received a letter in the mail notifying me that the dental office lost their lease, unexpectedly, and had closed. Just like that. They referred me to another branch, but I could keep my same dentist and endodontist. A string of complications and cancelled appointments, then I finally got the recommended appointment with the endodontist. The kitchen was almost, but not quite, done.

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I arrived for the appointment on a bright Saturday morning after a drive along the river wash through early spring air that smelled like yellow palo verde blossoms and sage. As I walked into the building, the dental assistant rushed out. “Are you Cathy? We’ve been trying to call you! Our water-vac system broke. We have to reschedule your appointment.”

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I relaxed into the news and rather than feeling bothered, worried, or irritated, I felt waves of relief. This wasn’t just relief at not having to sit in the dentist chair that sunny morning: This was the relief of a timing adjustment. I was being redirected, protected.

I never was able to schedule an appointment with my previous dentist or with the endodontist. When the new office was finally able to see me, it was with a new dentist. She sat beside me, looking over my records and the copious notes taken by the other dentist and the endodontist, shaking her head. She closed the file with finality.

“All right,” she said. “I’m your dentist now. You’re going to be OK.”

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I had never thought I wouldn’t. What had those others written in my file? What were their concerns that they hadn’t told me?

I had a chronic dental infection, going back over a decade, maybe two. This, in spite of regular visits to the dentist for the past 16 years, and in spite of thousands of dollars of work having been done (even with insurance). My new dentist sent me to an oral surgeon. Three extractions later, the infection is gone. It’s a major change, and it’s good.

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Through all this, I never worried. Each cancellation of an appointment felt like a gesture of protection. On the morning of my first visit to the oral surgeon, I felt complete peace wash through me. I could hear the universe whispering, and I knew that all of this had lined up to bring me to that particular doctor at that particular time.

I felt immediate relief once the procedures were done. It’s taken a while to heal, and several weeks of good rest and self-care to completely knock out the infection. But now, it’s gone. I’m well.

Saturn returns to demand change. Things need to be restructured. What do we bring with us into the next era? Not old kitchens that need to be replaced and not old dental infections, either.

We’re entering something new: We need to be new, too.

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A third story of change: My boss, whom I loved and who built our fragmented team into a collaborative group, recently left. We felt heartbroken. Those of us who’ve been there through the past six changes in supervisors felt cynical and worried: Here we go again.

But our new boss, who started two weeks ago, seems, so far, to be even better for the dynamics and individual autonomy of our team than the old one. The habits of gossip and blame-shifting that our old supervisor overlooked or contributed to have stopped. We’re in a better place.

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My work partner of nine years retired. We redesigned the job description, and another team member moved into the new position, and now I have a compatible, smart, hardworking, intelligent new partner, who likes me, to boot!

Our work team is adding to new employees, and someone needs to move to make room. It’s my work partner and I who will be moving into the new office. But change is good: the new office has better natural light, more privacy, and will hold just the two of us, rather than a crew of six.

Over the past decade, I’ve seen so much change, personal and professional. I’ve tried to find the good always, even when the change was hard. Often, the good was that I was building strength and resilience in spite of hardship and challenge.

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But this year, all the change–and it’s been substantial and significant, as well as completely unexpected–has been overwhelmingly positive.

Most people I know who follow astrology hold superstitions about Saturn: the energy is stern and demanding. The changes brought about, while perhaps for the overall good, are painful.

But that hasn’t been my experience, not with the first Saturn return, which led me to grad school and a new life as a professional. Nor has it been my experience this year with the second Saturn return, when so many things that were ready to be let go of (leaking faucets, dingy counters, crumbling cabinets, chronic infections, gossip in the workplace, overcrowded offices) are being sloughed off.

Change is transformation, and maybe that’s why, sometimes, it’s scary and dreaded.

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This year, I gave myself over to change. I trusted the energy associated with Saturn. I trusted that loving, guiding, peaceful protection that I felt, whenever I was still and quiet.

I know I’m not the same as I was a year ago: I’m moving into this new era, the last, or maybe, next-to-last Saturn eras of my life. And I’ve left behind that from the past which doesn’t benefit me, which doesn’t belong.

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I gained trust again. I gained such deep gratitude and love. I know the feeling of being protected and guided. In this next era, not all change will feel welcome–of that I can be sure. But I won’t fear it. I’ve felt the benevolence of the universe. That’s what I trust.

Some birthdays see us from one year to the next. This one, for me, is a portal I’m walking through. Can you get younger as you grow older? I think so. For life is always new.

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 12

A letter to Kaitlin

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Dear Kaitlin,

It’s been a while since we’ve written. So much has happened in our family–and in yours, too, I’m sure!

Congratulations on Reese and Brooke’s graduation! And even more congratulations on their wedding!

And, is it time yet to congratulate you on your divorce? (Does one even congratulate a friend on a divorce or offer condolences?)

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Well, since the divorce paves the way for you and Leroy to get married , I will offer congratulations. So, congratulations!

Norm feels terrible because he really laid into Newt when he found out about Newt’s past with you. He was furious when he answered Newt’s letter. I told him maybe it’s best to work through the feelings first, and then correspond, but that minor detail hadn’t occurred to my brother. I hope that Newt is OK. I mean, he’s got enough to deal with without having to deal with my raging-bear mode brother on top of it!

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How are all your kids and grandkids? Everyone healthy? Everyone happy? How is Ben doing?

We are great. Jena has grown into a big, confident, know-it-all five-year-old–and we love so much that our hearts burst! She has a terrific attitude!

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Nothing can stop her. I’ve read a lot about how girls lose their confidence when they enter middle school, and Mizuki Suzuki and I are already doing research to find ways to beat that trend with our girl. I hope she carries this strength with her all through her life.

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Remember when you first wrote me, years ago, and my house felt confusing and full to me with just one little two-and-a-half year old in it? Well now our home seems to be always full of children!

Jena is so out-going and friendly. She brings home loads of friends after school! It keeps me busy making cookies, slicing apples, and brewing hot chocolate! I love it.

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Mizuki Suzuki loves it, too.

Sometimes in the evening, I’ll see her sitting in the living room with one of Jena’s toys.

“Our house has space for more children. Don’t you think?” She used to always say.

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I always thought of your old two-room apartment, and how you filled it with children and teens. And I have to agree: Our home does have room for more.

And it looks like we just may be getting another!

One of my other pen pals told me about another group of refugee children who need homes. She’s sending me the contact information for the agency in charge of placing them, and I have a feeling that within a few months–if not sooner–we will have another little toddler, originally from somewhere very far away, filling our home with laughter and cries!

My life has changed so much, dear Kaitlin, from knowing you. You’ve shown me how to look outside of myself and notice others. I have always cared, but I have never known how to be caring. Now, all I need to do is think of you and how you are, and the road is clear to me.

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Thank you so much for changing me, Kaitlin. When the person I am now looks back on the person I was when I received your first letter, I can’t help but chuckle wistfully, the way we do at our younger selves. I have grown so much, and so much of it has come from knowing you.

Wishing you all the best, and sending you so much love!

–Meadow

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