What a great word — it’s my new favorite because it implies so much more than just using a word to express myself. My friend, Lynda, introduced me to a series of detective novels set in and around World War I, the Maisie Dobbs novels. In the last one I read (of course I had to get all nine!) she uses the word “wayfinding” to describe the mental processes that we all use to make sense of what is happening in our lives. It may sound trite, but when I read the description of wayfinding in the book, I thought this is exactly what I am doing. Since retiring, leaving Tallahassee, starting a new life, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I should conduct myself without the structure of job, friends, and reasonable expectations of what each day will be like.
Living alone is quiet, freeing, scary, frustrating, and exciting all at the same time. Roxanne emailed me this morning to add to the tasks that are frustrating when one lives alone zipping up a favorite dress that is clearly a two-person job. Things take longer, too. For example, carting wood from outside to the porch to dry out then to the fireplace to further dry out and warm up. This takes a long time with just one person. I’m not complaining — well I suppose I am — it’s very satisfying to get it done and see those piles of wood where they are supposed to be. People who don’t live by themselves think they understand what it’s like, but I am not sure they do. The simplest chores can make you crazy, like Roxanne’s experience with the zipper, my previously described experience with the Christmas tree, lugging (I prefer schlepping) groceries from the car down the steps, spreading ice melt, scraping the ice off the car, getting the car washed. When anyone asks me what I do all day, I just laugh.
It’s hard to explain how finding my way as a single woman is different now that I’ve moved north. My friends were always around if I was in need of another pair of hands — there are just some things that take two people! Once I moved to the Poconos easy access to friends disappeared, so wayfinding became very important — figuring out ways to get stuff done without getting discouraged. I must clarify one thing — Michael, Allison, Rachel and David have been amazing — making sure that I got settled in, have all the tasks done that take more than one person, and they visit as often as they can. It would be unfair of me to say that I am ever TOTALLY alone because they are within a 2-hour drive which is a far cry from being 18 hours away or a full day of travel away when I was in Tallahassee. And, of course there’s Sydney who is my constant companion who runs away when I yell and swear on mornings like this when everything seems to be going wrong.
A lot of people live alone but it seems the world is not geared towards us — commercials about retirement always show a happy couple kayaking, rock climbing, or bicycle riding together financially secure and delighting in each other’s company. Check out the grocery store sometime and take a look at how things are packaged. I never thought I’d be the type to freeze partial packages of bread, English muffins, and almost everything else, but I do. So…wayfinding is a complex activity that encompasses many tasks in a single person’s life. I thank Lynda and Maisie for introducing me to the concept. Now if I could just figure out how to straighten the Christmas tree!