A SNOWFLAKE IN FLORIDA

melting-snowflakeA “Snow Bird” is a person who flies to Florida from the cold northern winter and then goes back home in the spring.  A “Snowflake” is my term for someone like me who comes to Florida permanently and melts in an adopted new community.

I’ve met a lot of Snowflakes here who started off as Snow Birds. They tell me that after a few years, traveling back and forth and maintaining two homes, it  became too much of a pain in the ass, so they moved here permanently and brave the summers instead of the winters. I’ve heard several times, “You don’t have to shovel heat.” In fact, thanks to very efficient air conditioning, you don’t have to suffer from it either.

So, here I am. My little snowflake self is melting in pretty fast, I think. Actually, this blog is to reassure the people who expressed such loving concern over my last one. Yes, the realization that this was to be my permanent home was a shock. Yes, I felt very alone in those first days here. Yes, my brown recluse spider bite wound got scary worse, but thanks to my Connecticut dermatologist who phoned in some heavy meds for me, it is healing. And, yes, melting, as a metaphor, is uncomfortable. It reminds me of Hilda, a spiritual teacher, who once said, “Kids, you’re all salt dolls afraid of walking into the ocean.” (Now that’s expansion.)

Even in those difficult first days, I took my fear with me and went exploring and jumped into a mix of culture:  a screening of the Met’s Tristan and Isolde, three fabulous performances at the Ringling Museum’s Arts Festival, a dance class at the Player’s Theater, an all-day Sarasota Ted X event, screenings of  Don Giovanni and The Bolshoi Ballet, another line dance class at the White Buffalo Saloon, four short plays at The Starlight Theater, and last night, a screening of Frankenstein. I’ve been to two churches—meeting people—going out to lunch with a group afterwards. I have met women around my pool, gone to my small community’s board meeting, and got volunteered to steer a committee to have the first group get together. All in about three weeks. So, I am definitely in the process of melting, as you can see.

It’s been wonderful. Happily, all the Snowflakes I have met are open, intelligent, and friendly probably because they are all transplants like me. Mixing metaphors badly there, because tulips and hyacinths don’t transplant to hot climes.  Of course, I will not lose the essential me, but hopefully, the Snowflake part will melt and feed some new exotic plant in my life’s garden that will nurture others.

EXPANSION

pelican-sunset-fishing-1024x768“What have I done? What am I doing here?” I thought horrified as I sat collapsed on my couch in my new home in Nokomis, Florida. I had just arrived, utterly exhausted and totally depleted. Not a good time for self-examination. My life force seemed drained from the long drive and the last two months. First, a bad, lingering flu, then, an unexpected, sudden trip Miami to advocate for my nephew who had ended up in a medical coma in the hospital.  During those three nightmarish weeks as I fought for his care, my house sold. After terrible medical mishaps, John finally made it to a rehab. The negotiations for the house sale were done. I rushed back to Connecticut and had three weeks to get rid everything except what I could stuff in my car. In the middle of that, my nephew died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Loss piled on loss.

I managed to get through it all and make the long drive alone to Florida. Somehow, I even unpacked all the stuff from my bulging car before I got to the couch. But I reeled in shock as I looked around. The house was quiet and utterly calm. I had furnished this place last year. I think it is beautiful and spiritual. In the peaceful stillness, however, the realization that this is my permanent domicile smacked me in my worn-out face, and I was swept away with terror.

The knowledge that I have no family here, and the few snow bird friends I knew were still up north and would be for weeks, left me feeling utterly lost and alone. Everything that I had not processed in the last stressful months came crashing on top of me. I felt overwhelmed by death, loss, and emptiness. “Oh god,” I thought. “It’s one thing to furnish a house. It’s another to furnish a life!”

I lit a candle and tried to meditate. Awful buzzing feelings hummed through my body. My mind was a black hole of negativity. But I knew enough to do my best to just hang out with the terror and not listen to any decisions or conclusions that came from it. Still, fear about an infection from a spider bite on my leg fed the swirling black thoughts. I was sure I was dying.

In the next few days I functioned, albeit on about two cylinders, as I moved through a kind of numb fear organizing the things I had brought. My body and mind ached for rest, so I took deep, long naps.

Awake, I would occasionally stop, light a candle, and sit with the terror. One day, as I surrendered to the scary feelings, I heard the same message I had on one of the last days in Connecticut: that this move is about expansion. Not loss. Not downgrading. Expansion. That’s the deepest fear. Death is expansion. That’s why expansion feels like death. I found that comparison fascinating, and it made sense to me. My fear ebbed.

I realized that my home in Wilton had been a kind of ashram for me and for the people who had done the Creative Explosion workshops there. Now it is gone. I am here in this lovely little villa, but it is not a sanctuary as that home was. Instead, this is a kind of sacred nest from which to fly and explore.

Rest helped, and in a few days, I was ready to get out of isolation. So when I got a notice on my phone about an all-day Sarasota Ted X event, I bought a ticket. It was to be held the very next day nearby at the Venice Theater.  The timing was perfect and just what the doctor ordered: stimulating and inspiring and fun. I met and talked with intelligent and actively involved people.

A couple of days later a friend phoned. She was here because she and her sister-in-law were escaping Hurricane Matthew in St. Augustine where they lived. We went to lunch and I arranged to go to a screening of the Met’s Tristan and Isolde with one of the women the next day. It was five hours of brilliant singing and music. Then I saw an email about a line dance class. I talked myself into going, even though I was sure it would be too hard. It wasn’t. It was great exercise and fun. Another email prompted me to go to see three brilliant performances at an arts festival at the Ringling Museum. All of these things were definitely “expanding.”

With each passing day, I feel better and better. I once more have faith that this move is right for me, and will turn out Better Even Than I Can Imagine.

Yesterday, I went to Pelican Alley to order some of their delicious dynamite shrimp to go. While I waited, I got a glass of wine, stepped outside onto the pier next to the water, and sat on the bench. The sunset was gorgeous.  Pelicans streaked across the pink and purple clouds. Clusters of small birds swooped in formation, under the bridge, and back over the top in a circle in front of me in a kind of dance in the sky.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier than at that moment.

Expansion.  Maybe it just means letting go on a really deep level and trusting what shows up.

This blog is about The Four Principles: Being Present, Commitment, Relaxation, and Communication.