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30 Years

How do the next 30 years play out, assuming I’m ‘lucky’ enough to live as long as my father did. He died in June from Covid. Shitty way to go, for all of us. It would have been nice to hold his hand, to give him a hug, to sit by his bed and play his music. But that didn’t happen. I’m a little bitter. And I’m still a little sad. I talked to him a lot after he first left, but he never answered back so I’ve just started talking to myself. Sometimes I answer. Sometimes I don’t.

How do the next 30 years play out? Too often, lately, I’m consumed and distressed by the ugliness and greed in this world. It makes me unhappy, so I try to ignore it. Am I irresponsible for not following the madness, all the time? If I do, my heart is broken – all the time. So, to beauty I turn. I go looking for it. If I forget to look for it, I often don’t see it. I see the scum, the anger, the void. Why is that so much easier to see lately than the beauty. The beauty is still there, but it’s harder to find. And if I do find it, it’s harder to stay in it.

I have hot tea by my side. I’ve opted for it over beer or wine because I feel better when I drink hot tea. Not that that’s enough to sway me all the time. Often, too often, I’m lured in by the thought of immediate relief to whatever the day has brought on. But not today. One sip and the heat fills my hollow soul with goodness, and I’m happy I chose it.

How will the next 30 years play out? I ask myself, knowing that much of it is out of my control. I ask myself, because I still believe that much of it is mine to shape. Dad hated vegetables. I tried to encourage them, but he would say “hey, I’m still here”. He was. But not so strong, and often in pain, and always aware of what he called ‘the bus’ that was coming to get him. The bus came. I hope there were some familiar friendly faces on it. I can only hope.

I started smoking pot again. I don’t see it becoming a habit though. I had a knee replacement and the pain was intense and long. Pot helped the pain, but not my brain. Anything more than a minuscule hit puts me into an existential tailspin and leaves me wondering why we aren’t all insane. Maybe we are. I tasted extreme anxiety for a spell, being high (but feeling low), feeling like we were all part of some screeching underground world, allowed to surface for a short time, only to be sucked back into the pits of despair when the ‘bus’ shows up. An hour later, with my pain subdued, I’m relieved to be out of that nightmare and grateful for the physical relief. Slowly, gratitude for my humanness and the planet we share returns. But I went there. I’ve been back once or twice, so perhaps it’s best if I just don’t smoke pot – or anything else that bends my brain. Perhaps. Regardless, I have a new appreciation for those who live with anxiety.

How will the next 30 years play out? I keep asking myself that question. I know that there is only the here and now. This moment is all that really matters. It’s the only one we can really affect, because it’s the only one in the present. But 30 years is a long time, even longer if you’re miserable. Get happy, and it will fly right by. Stay happy, and you won’t really care. The knee replacement was more than I bargained for. I was told the recovery time, but I didn’t really believe it. I thought I was younger, stronger, and healthier than most – so I would zip right through. Almost 8 weeks, and I’m barely walking fast, let alone zipping. BUT the pain is starting to go away and I’m excited about the prospect of a better knee. If I want to really heal and be strong again, I can’t fall back into this habit of drinking every day. IT will have a lot to do with how the next 30 years play out. Every day that I make that decision to habitually wash away the second half of the day, I will decide how the next 30 years plays out. I need more sober friends. I wish my sweet husband had some interest in even a semi-sober lifestyle. Meaning – drink occasionally, like weekends. It’s a good habit to lose, but when my society surrounds me with it, sometimes I’m just too lazy to fight it. And sometimes I enjoy it. But day after day after day… then it just makes me sick and depressed and I have to muster up the energy to fight it all over again, alone. The cycle is nauseating.

I’m away right now in my van. I drove to Maryland to paint and hopefully, find some beauty. There is a lot of it here. It’s everywhere – water, boats, trees, bridges, old cottages. This might be my new escape plan. The drive left me too tired to paint when I arrived. I worked my leg a bit and walked the grounds of a waterfront vineyard without drinking wine. I ate cheese and salami and climbed into the cozy bunk in my van, wondering if 6:30 was too early to go to sleep. Aware of my bulging belly and my atrophied leg, and my disinterest in much of anything I asked myself – how will the next 30 years play out. I thought of my Dad. I pondered death. I pined for my interest in life. I see beauty around me, but I just want to go to sleep. I hope it’s still here tomorrow, and that I have more reserves in the morning to respond to it.

FOLLOWING DAY UPDATE: The beauty was still there, and I had more reserves to respond to it. It wasn’t without sadness, but it was still beautiful.


8 Responses to 30 Years

Kelly, I am so sorry to hear about your DAD. This virus is bad. You weren’t able to be with your DAD I feel bad about that. I am sending YOU PRAYERS. Keep painting !!! Your friend, Charles

Posted by Charles G. Tomaski · via · 18 months ago

Such a poignant and honest depiction of your experience. I am very sorry to hear about your father. My dad passed away on April 3rd in Colorado. I know how hard it is not to be with your father when he is passing away. I am with you in recovery from knee surgery, but man, I feel like a wimp compared to you, with a knee replacement. Happy to hobble around on an alcohol-free amble with you at some point.:)

Posted by erica rubine · via · 18 months ago

I love it that you can get away in that wonderful van. Everyday is a,search for creaticity and calm . I understand your pain and I understand your anxiety. I still wish I could speak with my parents gone now for decades. Today I was asked how I was. My answer most days is depleted. My legs are not what they where a year ago. I wish you peace and health.

Posted by Annelies van Dommelen an · via · 18 months ago

Right with u on so many fronts. My Mom died alone in July, in a nursing home with frontotempolobular dementia, but passed from Covid 19. I am haunted by it daily, and wondering why I was destined not to be allowed to be with her during her passing, as I had my Dad. Bless u Kelly. Here’s hope for better times to come.

Posted by Michele mcbride · via · 18 months ago

Thanks for taking the time to read this personal piece. I hesitated multiple times before I hit post. We’re taught to always be strong, not to give power to our moments of loathing. But… in the end, this has been helpful. Charles, thank you for reaching out and checking in. For support my work, and for keeping me in your prayers. Erica, I would be pleased to hobble around on a alcohol free amble anytime. Annelies, yes, everyday is a search for creativity and calm. The van is wonderful, even if I can’t use it all the time, knowing it’s there gives me a sense that I can get away if i need to. But my state of mind follows along so sometimes an escape is just the same problem in a different location. For me, it mostly takes a few days (or more) of a healthy diet, regular exercise, meaningful work… and then I’m back in action. I really have to be careful not to join in at happy hour everyday, or I’m back in darkness in no time. Funny how we all suffer the same stuff, but feel so alone in it at times. Thanks for your thoughts and well wishes. Michele, oh God I’m sorry. It’s a big hole, and one that never should have happened. We can only hope that there was peace on the other side. Look for beauty, intentionally. It’s so easy to forget to notice it. I’m listening to the birds this morning and watching them flock around. It feels good, and my Dad would have enjoyed it too. Maybe he’s flying around in there somewhere… with your Mom… churping out a Bing Crosby song. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by kelly sullivan · via · 18 months ago

Good morning Kelly, I was visiting your website this morning to check out your new work. I too was looking for beauty and upliftment which is a sure bet from your art and blog! I found quite a bit of comfort and reassurance from your introspection and exploring in’30 Years’. I have thought about you so frequently as concerns your dad and his recent death and wondered how you were doing emotionally. It’s something I didn’t feel I should bring up as I don’t want to ”˜remind’ you of it or bring it up and bring up the pain you are working through. However, as my own mom is so close to her own death, I struggle with an overwhelming helplessness and sadness about it and your insights give a gentle nod to recovery and your wisdom in not denying your feelings but coping with them as they present is a valuable nugget for me. Thank you for the beauty Kelly!!❤️

Posted by Reed · via · 18 months ago

I’m a neighbor from down the canal path, meandering the peoples’ store for gifts, wound up the stairs, found you. I noted you teach beginners and read your bio. Thanks for being brave and hitting Post””seems very much in the spirit of the way you’ve lived, facilitating a thoughtful collaborative joining, to be elemental with you, with each other, for all. And, I, a stranger, am going to hit post soon too because I chose to enter this space and commune so out it must go. Sensing the echos of loss you are feeling; the missing, the finding, the not finding, the absences, the more recent surprising depressing elusiveness of beauty. I am so sorry you could not be near your father at the end of his life. There may be something in simply listening for him in relaxed readiness, knowing you will hear him when your attention is simply elsewhere. I don’t know. My father is 89, had two surgeries in 2020, and I’ve seen him once. Is that really stupid or really generous? I need to call him. Every day I feel like I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop. Something like that. It’s SUCH a difficult time. I’ve edited, I confess. Taken out mention of the tidal wave I see us all suspended in in my mind’s eye; taken out a degree of presumption. Kelly, there are sober new friends down the road when you want em. Closing to post. Lisa

Posted by Lisa Goetz · via · 15 months ago

Hi Lisa, thanks so much for this post. For bothering to read my ramblings, and for being open enough to respond to them. I will look forward to seeing you in the studio again, or on the canal path, or perhaps somewhere in town for tea when COVID allows us to gather with our friends and neighbors again. I’ll look forward to that.

Posted by kelly sullivan · via · 15 months ago


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