Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mind toots.....

Which will go first: My mind or my body?

My morning sittin' spot offered no clues to this question. In fact, it only complicated things as I remembered (there's the mind thing) that tomorrow is the 28th of the month. My "do something I've never done before" day, the self-imposed Year of Renewal I shared with all of you a couple of months ago. Wish I hadn't done that.

Two weeks ago I was all set to go rock climbing at one of those indoor adventure places tomorrow, where I could belay up a beginner's wall. Well, actually, the machinery would belay me up. From what I understand there wasn't much I would need to do, just hang there all clipped in, sticking a toe here and there to make it look like I was climbing that rock. A perfect photo op, and I could post the pictures on Facebook and everything. I'm sure the helmet is spiffy, too.

So what happened out there by my little fire in the rising dew this morning? The best way I can describe it is that my mind is tooting. Not my body. My mind.

Follow me here: Tomorrow I have to teach a class of 4th and 5th grade peer mediators in the morning. It's only an hour but travel time is another hour and the actual teaching time is intense. Once I get back to my office, I have a writing assignment to complete, one that is giving me a bit of a problem. All of this is mind stuff, right? My body just follows along, following the mind's instructions: "Hey! Over here! Next stop!"

By the time all of that is done, my mind begins grumbling about being overworked, where's the union when you need it, mumbling, groaning, looking for a soft spot to land, maybe with a beer in hand. Sigh.....

You want to do WHAT? Get up out of this chair, drive across town, and climb a wall? Are you kidding me, woman?

My body retorts, "I haven't had any fun today, controlling *&%^*! It's time to get movin' here, achy bones and all. It's good for you! GET UP!"

I'll let you know who wins tomorrow.

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
Jack Benny

Monday, February 21, 2011

Valentine's Day reviewed.....

I chose to wait a week or so to review Valentines Day, figuring most of you would be addled with an overdose of chocolate, delectable food, and wine. Hopefully you can focus again, now that it has all leached from your system.

For newer readers, a reminder: I'm a 62-year old professional, single woman, trying desperately to make sense of my life. I don't really know how I got here, either. Thus, I write about it, and take you along with me. Maybe it will help all of us, who knows.

Over the years, I've enjoyed some very traditional Valentine's Day celebrations with "the man in my life" at the time. Hearts, candy, beautiful cards, dinners over candlelight, the complete package. However, I also lived alone for long stretches of time, raising my daughter and attempting to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. February 14th during those times was often marked with cards that we gave each other before we rushed out the door to daycare or basketball practice or one of my multiple jobs. And a jab of regret that I was alone.

And I'm alone again. My daughter is even grown now, celebrating with her own Valentine.

Last year I still longed for the red hearts and other flotsam of Valentine's Day, specifically from A MAN. Someone pledging his undying love, just for me. Without it, the day was empty and incredibly sad. At those times, all you can see is what everyone seems to have, except you.  Hearts can literally break into pieces, I learned first hand, jagged edges scraping your soul raw with pain.

It was different for me this year, though.  At some point over the past year, I had a chat with myself. I reflected on the love I've given and received over the years, some of it with great passion, all of it a gift in itself. There are people walking around who have never experienced great love, have never had any red hearts shared with them at all. I have also come to accept me, the person who looks back at me in the mirror in the morning, bedhead, puffy eyes and all.

So, what did I do this year? I made sure, in concrete ways, that important people in my life know they are loved, no matter how far away they are. As I worked that day, I reflected on my many accomplishments, my past relationships, all of them hard won and teachers in themselves. My 85-year old mother lives with me now, her Valentine of nearly 70 years recently gone. Her first year without him. I can't even imagine.

We had a wonderful, candlelit dinner anyway, complete with delectable food and drink. We celebrated with crimson hearts and silky ribbons, mouth-watering candy, and fragrant flowers. There was no sibilant whisper lurking in the shadows, attemping to convince me that I am somehow not enough.

And I had no regret.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rules be damned....

It took me a long time to get to this point. Decades, in fact.

I grew up in a military family. Rules were king. Authority was to be followed. Period.

Questioning authority and rules, or convention of any kind, was taboo in my house. And then I discovered that the edges of rules could be pushed outward, and if done with a smile and good grace, those edges didn't crack. Convention can be questioned, if for no other reason than to learn why something is done one way when it no longer makes any sense to do so.

My predicament is that I come into contact with a lot of children. I stand in front of them and teach them things like how to get your best friend to stop gossiping about you in the locker room without simply punching her out. Or how to get adults to JUST LISTEN to you. (That's a tough one when so many parents and teachers act like they don't even LIKE kids. Go figure....)  So, it's a very thin line between respecting the rules, understanding that some of them are rigid, yet knowing how to stretch the rest of them with good judgment.

But as I matured into my own skin I learned how to do it. I discovered how to speak up. And I began to tap on the sides of the rule and other precepts, all with a smile. I discovered that I didn't have to actually BREAK it; I sometimes could simply ask for what I wanted.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that most people are more than willing to oblige me.

My 85-year old mother looks at me with horror when I do this in public. She has spent her entire life following the rules, and then I break out with a "But I would rather have it THIS way" statement in a business or other public venue. "It's not on the menu but I would like......" totally flumoxed her in a fine dining establishment one evening. Such simple requests. So easy to do, especially after experiencing success a few times.

It can't be a bad thing to teach kids, can it? I've done it with my own daughter since she was old enough to understand that Mom isn't really crazy. And my reward has come as I see her speak up for what she wants, rule be damned. We don't always get what we want but we are heard. Such things have changed the world, haven't they?

"The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives."
Anthony Robbins

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gracefully gliding....

I refuse to shuffle. I just do.

No matter that when I get up in the morning my feet want to stick to the floor. They don't cooperate as I make my way in the gloom of morning to my first cup of coffee, the luscious smell teasing me out of my stupor.

A friend of mine mentioned this last year. I don't even remember what we were talking about, when she suddenly inserted, "I shuffle in the morning!"  And she's ten years younger than me. Oh oh....

Is this something that happens to everyone? Watch older people in public sometime. Don't they kind of slide across the floor, looking like they might totter over if they dare to pick up their feet, even just a tad? Maybe they're so cautious about falling they figure if they don't actually lift their feet off the ground they can't fall. Not possible if they don't really walk.

We should come up with a new name for it. The senior shamble. Geriatric gait. The rusty ramble.

Once I get going in the morning, my feet work the way they're supposed to. My fear is that I won't even know it when the shuffle lasts well into the day.

Oh, I know! I'll glide........

I am not feeling any better because I cannot stay in bed, having constant cause for walking.
Camille Claudell

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Listening to the voices in my head....

The voices have gotten louder as I've gotten older. You know, the ones that whisper into our ears, hissing instructions like, "Oh, that doesn't look like a good decision, that one there you have your mind cemented around, maybe you should rethink it, YESSSSSS," reminiscent of a mother's voice guiding, advising, counseling....meddling.

There are times now when I am literally stopped in mid-step by such a voice, and I've learned that I'd better pay attention to that inner counsel. I realize now if I given it more consideration over the years, just a tiny bit, it would have prevented me from taking some unfortunate paths, paths that hurt me as well as other unsuspecting people along the way.

Like saying "yes" to a marriage proposal in a casino. What was I thinking? I seemed to believe at the time that I might not get another offer, so I pushed that voice down hard. Smashed it to bits and stowed it in my suitcase in a hotel room in Reno. It kept trying to crawl out, gasping as it tried desperately to grab my attention again. "Hey! Over here! LISTEN to me!" But I was intent on ignoring it, and did, and lived to regret it.

Or even my course of study in college. I went off to Tallahassee a budding, anxious novelist who wanted nothing more than to write forever, even if I did have wrong-headed visions of what writers did, creating mythical worlds in attic eaves and reaping a fortune in the process. Somehow, I veered off that path into the world of French, until I thought, dreamt, and read fluently in French. But couldn't speak a word out loud or write my novels in the language. Withdrawn, socially inept me, unable to make a mistake in front of others, because they MIGHT NOT LIKE ME. That inner voice knew all of that, tried to warn me, but I turned away, until I changed my education, teaching kids history and geography. Literature, you thought? Not even then. The inner counsel lost out again. After all, I could always get a job teaching, right, so best to do something safe. Boring. Until nearly 40 years had gone by, so many years wasted not doing what I love.

Or the time I got in a car with a driver who was a novice to the Colorado roads, especially the one-lane, gravel track along the side of a mountain with a sheer drop off on one side. The voice insisted that I might want to get out before he started up that mountain, but I didn't want to appear silly, now did I? Soon, all I could see out the back window was....nothing. Space, open air, between me and the ground down there....way down there. Luckily, and probably only through luck, we made it down in one piece. But things could have turned out quite differently, just like the voice had been warning.

I took a job a few years ago, one that I wanted in order to escape from another bad work situation, and I knew as soon as I walked into the second interview that something was not right. I could feel it. I knew and admired the supervisor, and thought we would work well together. But my inner voice was frantic, insisting that I wait a while longer for a job, an untainted one, to come along. I didn't listen. I succumbed to expediency, the immediate need for relief from another uncomfortable spot. And the whole situation turned out to be so wrong. Just like I had been warned.

How many times a day does a voice whisper in your ear? Do you listen to it or do you tamp it down due to society's expectations, your family's desires for you (or for them), or just because you don't want people to think you're crazy?

Act crazy. Do what you love instead of what everyone else loves for you. And listen to that tiny, or sometimes very loud, cry in your soul that is trying to guide you. I now take different roads if something inside is telling me to take a detour and I avoid some people for no reason other than that inner sense telling me that it will turn out badly.

The voices are getting louder all the time. And I'm spending more time listening.


“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.”

                                                 Michael Burke

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Trains running us down.....

Remember when we were in school and we had to learn to read timelines in some really interesting class, like history or geography? Time meanders along that line from left to right, the years and centuries passing easily, no bloodshed or angst along the way. Just like real life, right?

Oh, I don't think so. Hold up there a minute, OK? Our perspective changes daily anyway, but as we age we find that we're viewing our personal timelines from right to left, looking back along that line of bad decisions, joyous occasions, and just plain stupidity that have played out in our lives. The individual events on our personal timelines are different, of course, but I bet most of us over the age of 50 can look back along our histories and pinpoint places where we wish we had exercised a bit of good judgment or intelligence instead of...well, what we did.

I've become so aware of this, especially as my daughter matures and makes her own way. We see our kids headed like trains toward a stop on their timeline that looks a lot like ours did, and we want to throw ourselves on the tracks, stopping that engine any way we can in order to save them the heartbreak and trouble we experienced. We might have even tried once or twice, and sometimes they listen. More often not, though.

There is this human learning curve that seems to dictate that we tote around our own timelines, absolutely sure that WE won't fall into that trap, you know, the one that older people warned us about? Get out of the way, Mom, I love you but you didn't know what you were doing. THAT won't happen to ME, so thanks, but I'm staying on this track and I'll call you when I get there.

Unfortunately, THERE usually ends up looking exactly like a station I got stuck in once, too. And when they call, they need help to get the heck out of there. The locomotive ran them over and chugged on ahead without them.

In our culture, older people are not seen as having anything worthwhile to add to our lives. They're used up and worn out, sitting in corners, tolerated, or worse yet, ignored. When they talk, we nod and smile and discount them.

You notice I'm suddenly including myself in the WE. Because we were no different, were we? We refused to accept that someone else, and certainly not an aging parent or mentor, might have been able to save us from hurt and pain and expense. Intelligence skipped your generation, Dad, so thanks but I'll be on my way.

Until our perspective shifts to viewing that timeline from the far end of the darn thing, backwards through time already passed. Then, we find ourselves beginning a lot of sentences with, "If only I'd listened........" And the train moves on down the tracks.

I never expected that. I didn't aim for that. All I wanted was to get some nice pictures of trains at night.
O. Winston Link