We are winding down. This time next week we will begin our next phase in a little town called Lavaca. Lavaca means cow in Spanish - ha - of all things this may make me the happiest. I love cows. I miss cows. I grew up with cows. The name Lavaca, "Cow", goes back to a time when it was referred to as the "Port of Cows" for its cattle industry and its location near the Arkansas river. We love it there. It already feels like home to us.
Cordova, Tennessee on the east edge of Memphis, has been home for the last two years but it took us awhile to feel a part of things here. I think we already feel settled in Lavaca and we don't even have all our things there yet. It all feels surreal though. Like a really long visit to summer camp with an international flair. We were different people here. We were challenged in different ways and we will take so much of that back with us. I think we are better for our struggles. Tougher. Enlightened. Sometimes surprised but in the end we are more seasoned, with an appreciation for what "big city" means.
I have to be honest, this post is really for me. (which is not uncommon - hehe) It is my voice saying goodbye to all things Memphis but wanting to mark the changes too. Both the good and the bad have been very important. The best of the best has certainly been our walks in the Shelby Farms Dog Park.
Imagine 100 acres of OFF-LEASH dog park. Trails, ponds, deer, ducks, and all things nature. We have loved it. We have had some of our best times out there hiking around the loop, letting the dogs get in the ponds, visiting with other dogs and their owners. Our fur babies began to know that they are dogs as they ran through puddles, followed the trail of deer, made puppy friends, and ran free like they have never done before.
At the dog park I found my inner athlete again. I knew she was hiding in there somewhere and she struggled to gain every fiber of muscle again and wake up from a long slumber. She still has a long way to go, both with weight, healthy living and the challenges of staying active but she has made herself known and has stamped her foot in protest when she felt she was being ignored. She is back to stay. She will not let me become complacent when we start our next phase. Oh no she won't! She is already sitting on my shoulder, reminding me that if I don't get out there I will start slipping downhill very quickly. She gives me no peace and I love her for that!!!
My inner athlete represents the best of me, the can-do attitude, the resilience, the courage, the strength. When I listen to her, I am not misguided. I have a feeling some day I will see the outer shell of me fall away to reveal the inner athlete and then I will feel reconciled. The outward appearance will match the inner fire - that's the goal. I crave the day, about 50 pounds from today, when the books are balanced, when I am balanced. I am certainly on my way. Memphis, you challenged me to get my health back in control and you gave me a wonderful setting where I could exercise my dogs, my demons and that inner drive that I had lost for so long. I will always be grateful!
On an even more personal note, Memphis, you gave me friends, women friends. My history with women friends has always been sketchy. I think there are many deep reasons for this but here in Memphis, miles away from all my family, I had to get serious about creating a new family. Memphis is not short on good people.
From my wonderful Painting With a Twist coworkers to my new friend Fiona who I met at yoga class, to my upstairs neighbor and my coworkers at Ellis and Ward Consulting, I have been so incredibly blessed with friends. I also came to a place at 50 where I could be a friend without feeling self conscious, or sharing too much or too little and I actually have grown to a point where I can hear, and sometimes follow, someone else's suggestions, advice and insights about my life, as I feel they apply. I am willing to give and receive in my relationships. I quit hating on women and began to embrace the strength that comes from accepting the power of women. I have felt successful for the first time in my life in balancing a variety of female friendships and the reward has been great. I leave behind in Memphis some very wonderful friendships. I feel empowered.
I will also miss the International Farmers Market just down the road from our apartment. If you want to travel the world without spending much money, go to an international supermarket. I have tried new foods, new recipes, and seen such a melting pot of cultures in the food offerings and the people that shop those isles that take them back to their native home, if just for a moment.
At the international market the variety of people is as broad as the variety of foods. I have enjoyed watching them as they try to navigate the culture and the language of our nation while hanging on to the remnants of their own. Every trip to the market was like a visit to a foreign country. I have tried to soak up as much as possible. I will miss the market as I shop the small offerings of our local grocery store and dream about the plethora of choices, and the variety of faces we had here in Memphis.
But the International Farmers Market was not the only challenge, and yes I'm going to go there. I just have to because this is so important to me. We have come to understand a little more about the cultural war going on in the black community. We are not experts but we have seen a lot here. You only have to watch the morning news to see the down side. Young people with no hope, no direction, no respect, flood the neighborhoods shooting each other, robbing innocent people (and not so innocent people). They create an atmosphere of fear. They bring shame to their race, their families and themselves but this shame only fuels more hatred for themselves and for others. Of course this decline in morals is not only in the black community but here in Memphis, it is a large problem and ever growing. I feel sadness as the community of Memphis as a whole seems ill equipped to bring about change fast enough to get ahead of the problem. But this doesn't mean they aren't trying. There are heroes scattered here and there and even though the task is daunting, there are people, amazing people, trying to facilitate change.
Which brings me to the other side of things. If we judge people by the color of their skin we are participating in the perpetuation of the problem (my opinion). While the problem is real, the statistics are telling and a large element of the black community is in real trouble here, it does not mean all black people are bad. Not even close. I have met soooooooo many amazing African American women here in Memphis. Women who are educated, enlightened, classy, achievers. Women who stick together as a group and care for each other. They operate with open minds, willing to make mistakes and take risks to learn and grow. They are kind, giving and honest. They are raising children who are respectful, fair, and conscientious citizens. I wish the local news reported as much about these African Americans as they do about the ones who are misguided and creating mayhem.
So the challenge remains the same as it always was, to continue to give everyone a fair assessment. I admit, when you hear all the stories about the bad things within the culture it is easy to lump everyone in together but easy is not always right. Even as I have experienced first hand some of the less appealing elements, the reverse discrimination, the lack of respect, I feel very strongly that I want to remain neutral in my assessments. I want African American people to give me a fair shake, don't assume that I'm a bigot or bad person and I remain determined to do the same for them. I would rather identify with the human race, than to single myself out in any other way.
While I am glad to be leaving the big city and the crime that is scary and seems so random at times, I will miss being a part of the African American community where I felt like just living and working among all people of all races gave me a chance to promote human kindness, love and understanding, rising above all the prejudice, judgments and fear which are so common among the white community. Doesn't every positive interaction, erase a miniscule fragment of the misunderstanding and distrust between the races? Every day was an opportunity to be an ambassador of equality on a very personal level. I have always wanted to be a part of the solution. I wish I had done more. This may be my biggest regret. But I'm glad I was able to at least be a part of this melting pot and learn and grow while trying to share a greater love and to give and receive from people of all color a mutual respect for our likenesses as well as our differences. I truly and honestly and passionately feel this has been my privilege.
So as I pack the last of the things we use to enrich our lives and I prepare to return to Arkansas I am excited about the next phase. I am proud of all I accomplished here. I am happier with who I am leaving than who I was upon arrival. I plan to keep building on that. I will miss the friends, places and variety of experiences but I will keep these memories in my heart as I go. I don't think Memphis will miss us too much but I hope it will a little. I hope we have made a few lives brighter and contributed some positive things in our short time. While I wish us Godspeed on our journey, I hope for Memphis that the good will continue to strive to out- love the bad. There are so many good people here I can't help but hope and believe, Memphis, you are gonna be alright!
That's All! from Memphis ~ Thanks Y'all!!