Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Me and the Z......

Some loves burn bright and quick, flaring up and consuming everything in its path before there is nothing left but ashes. I had one of those once.

Others build over time, friendships slowly turning into familiarity touched with gentle intimacy. There was one of those for me once, too.

And then there is me and the Z. We comfort each other just by knowing we exist. We don't have to be together all the time, or even every day. Such neediness is never attractive.

I have wanted to own one of these cars since they first were introduced, probably 40 years ago. They were Datsuns then, and I almost had one once.  It was black and sleek and purred in my ear. Life intervened, as it often does, and my chance slipped away. I see them on the road all the time, today's models still sleek, making a statement merely by being on the road. "I'm here, and always will be. People may be surprised at our relationship, me all sporty and hot, and you looking so conservative and.....sane."  

Monday was the third installment of doing something I have never done before every month for a year. So, I drove a Z for the first time since that near miss years ago. I realize I'll probably never be able to own one, but we've had that experience now, together again. We were hot together, me and that gun metal gray Z.

Some may think it's silly to get enjoyment out of such a materialistic adventure, but hey.....this is MY year of enjoying life in a bit different way each month. Go get your own.

Nissan 360 Z

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The scary guy...the one with the black hoodie and scythe.

You knew I would get to it eventually, didn't you?

The topic that has built (and destroyed) kingdoms, both earthly and spiritual. The one that is sure to clear a room if you bring it up over cocktails, except Catholics who bring the wine right into the social hall along with the bingo cards. But they don't really want to talk about it, either, whether they're drinking or not. And especially not during bingo or a reverse draw, let's get our priorities straight here, OK?

I'm talking about the guy with the scythe who peers out at us from the depths of his hoodie, scaring the bejeezus out of folks. Well, some of us. There are people walking around who refuse....absolutely acknowledge his presence at all, so they dance through life ignoring the fact that in order to dance THROUGH life implies you come out the other end somewhere. Don't bother them with reality, it's messy and makes them hyperventilate or call you ugly names like infidel.

But I can handle it. That's one great thing about aging. We don't care what you think about us, a totally freeing experience with boundaries falling left and right. The ones about what is "polite" or "proper" or "I don't want to say that because they may not let me in." Wherever "in" is, I'm not interested any more, so here goes.

I read somewhere that John Lennon felt that death was kind of like getting in a taxi and then getting out the other side at the end of your trip. I think he was saying that the trip doesn't end just because you got out the other door. You'll still be SOMEWHERE, it just may not be where you expected to be or where you can even imagine (pun intended for Lennon fans). And it may be a bit strange at first, kind of like going to Albania. I don't understand Albanian (and like most Americans, I don't understand much of any other language at all, so it wouldn't really matter where the taxi stopped, would it?), the customs will probably look a little weird, and it might take some time getting used to the food. Or the fact that all portions aren't SUPERSIZED.......I'm going to starve here in this crazy place! But, if we open ourselves up to new possibilities, we can learn a new way of seeing and being. I promise.

Energy never dissipates, and the essence of who we are is made of energy. Just try following a two year old at the mall or a bunch of texting teenagers. So, I believe that the energy that is me (and you can call it "soul" if you like) will continue when this body eventually screams "I GIVE! I'M DONE!"

Where that will be is the mystery. And millions of people simply cannot handle the not knowing. Some evade, they hide, they get ugly when you aren't afraid of it yourself or want to take a different taxi than they do.

But I'm OK with the whole thing. I know my ride is getting closer every day and I also know that I will exit that taxi somewhere. And wouldn't it be great if John was there to help me step out on the other side?  Imagine that.

“For death begins with life's first breath. And life begins at touch of death.”

                                            John Oxenham

Friday, March 18, 2011

For sale: Mountain property in Florida.....MUST SEE!

Getting older allows us to act younger, maybe even childish. And we can do it knowing that we will be given tacit permission by the world: "Well, you know she's a senior citizen, after all," tsk, tsk, rolled eyes and slightly raised eyebrows. Maybe they even reach over and pat my hand.

All the while, we are acting out what they all wish they  could. We have experienced the swing of the pendulum from one extreme to the other dozens of time, with the result that we know if we wait long enough, all the things that are bad for us will eventually regain their solid footing and be good for us again. So, we begin to ignore the latest studies, the most current edicts "they" engineer for the public. We learn to carry on, vowing that no university or research facility can ever dupe us again. Like chilren we ignore those in "authority."

We have also seen the arc of that same pendulum get stuck, a result of society's brokenness at times. Those who follow this column know how I feel about the upcoming elections in my city. ( Over the decades I have moved from being an impassioned participant in the democratic process to being a jaded nonbeliever in that same process. I believe that the political machine, fueled by huge amounts of money, consumes anyone "lucky" enough to run for and win elected office. Candidates routinely lie, evade, deceive, and engage in vicious politicking, all of them desperate to win the keys to the kingdom of power and greed. If you actually believe either party holds the answers to our many ills, I have some mountain property in Florida to sell you. Come on over and take a look.

I value our freedom to vote, though. So I signed in the other day at one of the early voting sites, and was pointed toward a voting booth. Instead I made straight for the ballot box. The nice poll worker there thought I had misunderstood.

"No," I said. "No one on this ballot deserves my vote." And I slid the ballot into the box. "But I showed up."

Illegal political signs outside polling place, Jacksonville, Florida
You may call that foolish....maybe even childish. I call it acting on years of experience and really not having to care what anybody thinks any longer.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Body blows....and no necks

I used to have a neck. When I was in college, admittedly a long time ago, I sported lots of turtlenecks. Even then, my neck still had a bit of skin showing above the folded turtle, if that’s what it's called.

A few years ago, I began to notice that same fold was pushed up against my jaw, making me squirm with the touch of claustrophobia that runs in my family. But mine seems to be completely gone now.

I now wear lower necklines, if only to breathe easily.

My massage therapist spent 15 minutes yesterday stretching my neck muscles. Not a pleasant experience, as it turns out. I know all about bone loss in the spine and realize that most of us do begin to lose a few inches as we age. That’s one of the reasons I’m so faithful about my weight-bearing exercises at the gym. But I think there is more to this neck shrinking issue for me, and maybe for lots of other women, especially.

We’re waiting for the next blow to hit.

I was divorced when my daughter was barely four, and for the next fifteen years, the two of us made our way alone. I taught school during the day, worked the counter at a dry cleaner after that job, and then tutored kids after that one. If something broke in my house, it either stayed broken or I had to find someone to fix it for free. And there aren’t a lot of handy people in our family. I drive cars until the wheels fall off, sometimes literally.

If I ran out of money before my next paycheck, well, too bad. There was no one at home to pick up the slack and write a check to cover the bills or buy food. When the school district I worked for “forgot” to tell me until May that I wouldn’t be paid over the summer due to some bureaucratic snafu, oh, well, suck it up and work two more jobs to keep the lights on and the roof over our heads. You do what you gotta do.

When a hobby shop refused to refund $20 hard earned dollars for a duplicate birthday present for my daughter, I had to pitch such a fit in the store they threatened to call the cops. But I NEEDED that $20, and I didn’t care that the darn box had gotten thrown away. (Not one of my finer moments, I admit.)

No one at home to help me, no one there to pat me on the back and console me. And every time something happened, I felt my shoulders hunch up near my ears, waiting for the next body blow to hit. I might as well have put my arms up to protect my head…it was such a visceral reaction.

And I don’t think I am unusual. There are many women, and dads, too, who literally have to fight their way through life. There are  millions of other people warding off body blows now as the economy beats us all up, with threats of losing our homes and transportation, food and gasoline prices skyrocketing out of sight. 

I'm 62 years old and still have to worry about just holding on to what I have. My work could disappear at any moment, poof! I have enough to last maybe two months without work. Retirement? Are you kidding me? 

No wonder we have no necks.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The beast breathes.....

I used to teach my students that their reality was not automatically anyone else's. Our movement through life is curiously individual, and to assume that everyone makes exactly the same imprint on life's magnificent soul is a dangerous one.  Human, perhaps, but dangerous nonetheless.

As the years spiral by for me, something strange has made itself clear to me. Maybe only to me, I don't know; you'll have to tell me what you think.

Elections are coming up here in our area and maybe yours, too. Glossy political flyers stuff my mailbox, my phone rings at odd hours accompanied by disembodied robotic voices extolling the virtues of one candidate or another, illegal political signs litter the roads. (Why would I vote for someone who breaks the law to get my vote?) On election day, people will be holding those illegal signs at every intersection, waving at me when I should be concentrating on the oncoming traffic, most of whom don't know how to turn properly, thus endangering everyone else. But I digress....

And my reality has come to tell me that none of it will make any difference in the scheme of the huge problems we face as a country and even as a society that seems bent on self-destruction. The campaign madness, the voting day hysteria spewed out by the media, the platforms of any of the candidates. None of it will make a whit of difference in what happens AFTER the election. Because once an organization, including a country and its bureaucracy, attains a certain gargantuan size, it becomes a moving, breathing machine of its own, with only one goal: To survive with all its machinations intact. It breathes like a beast with a mind of its own and it simply will not be contained. It apparently can't be contained.

I have seen this play out in numerous scenarios during my lifetime. And I don't think it will change based on my vote or yours. Or theirs, either. I can't explain how this happens, since the machine was created by us and it is maintained by us. But at some point in building organizations of any kind, size begins to matter. A lot. And the beast soon takes its first unassisted breath. When that happens, any attempt to change it by sending different people into the cage is futile. No matter how empassioned they appear during their campaigns, or what their so-called "party," these (perhaps) good-hearted folks are eaten alive by the beast. They become sustenance instead of masters of change as they promised. As maybe they really believed they could be.

As I taught my students, I cannot assume this reality is anyone else's. However, based on what has happened in this country alone during my lifetime, I have seen nothing to alter this reality for me.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A spinning virgin no more....

I don't sweat.

A friend and I went to a gym together once and after about two minutes on the treadmill, she had sweat dripping in her eyes. Thirty minutes later I was still dry as a bone. Go figure.

Until yesterday. As the second installment of "doing things I've never done before" I signed up for a spinning class at my gym. A stationary bike in a separate room of the facility among about 50 others that go nowhere. Maybe it's the fact that these folks go into a room all their own and turn out the lights that has intimidated me a bit. I'm not sure, but in any case I've been a bit hesitant about sticking my head in to find out what the heck they're doing in there, much less joining them. I'm more comfortable doing my exercise routine alone, out in the main, well-lit room where no one can sneak up on me in the dark.

But I conquered my fear and did it yesterday as a celebration of ME, like I told you I would every month for one year. Yesterday was installment #2. (For my first adventure, see

I arrived early so I could make sure no gremlins hid in the corners when all the lights WERE on in the room, chose a bike, and hopped on as others dribbled in over the next 15 minutes or so. All ages, I noticed, but I also noted that none was extremely overweight. (I now know why.) These folks came in, chose a bike and adjusted the seat, the handlebars, chatted with one another, and then jumped on and slowly started pedaling. I guessed they were warming up, so I pedaled along with them. I've never been much of a chatterer with people I don't know, but maybe that will come if I spin with this group more often. I have heard shouting come from this room, too, once the lights go out, but I guessed I'd discover why soon. I would love to be that uninhibited around strangers, much like I'd love to be able to dance somewhere other than in my head. Maybe that can be another month's journey.

The instructor arrived, fiddled with all the sound equipment at the front, put on a headband (yes, she did), and then shouted out, "Is anyone here for the first time? Anyone need help?"  I'm not keen on having attention called to me, especially with about 100 eyes in the room, and no one else was raising their hand, either. So, I just kept slowly spinning away on my bike, head ducked in hope that no one would identify me as the lone "spinning virgin." She jumped on her bike, someone turned out the overhead lights, and suddenly all the white shirts and reflective materials on shoes glowed in the dark. I felt like I was back in college, with lava lamps and eerie lips glowing in black light splendor, Jimi Hendrix music throbbing in the dark, and other things going on we don't even want to discuss.

But she cranked up what sounded to me like current dance tracks (not waltzing, folks, get with the times here), and started shouting out instructions everyone understood but me. "Up to 2! About a minute, stay with me!"  "Go to 3! Hold it there!" Everyone was up on their feet, pedaling to the music, up, down, up again, sit (today my butt is sore in places I don't even want to consider,) drinking water while the music slows down for a whole 3 seconds, then they're all up again, cycling to nowhere as they increase the tension on the bike when she yells "One turn to the right, folks!" The music never stopped.

This non-sweating person was sweating within about 5 minutes. Yes, dripping in my eyes sweat.

After the second song I was just hoping not to fall off the bike and embarrass myself. I was told the class lasted 45 minutes, but I couldn't see the clock at the front of the room once we started. All I know is that I don't like to be conquered by anything, ever. This pesky trait has caused me great distress in life, and I realized this might be one of those times. But, I would not give up.

In fairness to the instructor and the gym folks, they did emphasize that we should take this at our own pace. We should slow down or even stop when we felt the need, no matter what everyone else was doing. I adjusted, I slowed, I DID NOT stop, and soon I began to get into a rhythm. I was able to stand up and pedal for longer periods of time (we're talking longer SECONDS at a time), then I had to sit down and focus on my breathing until I was ready to follow the instructions again. But I still couldn't see the clock.

I started estimating how many songs had played and about how long each lasted. My calculations added up to nearly 40 minutes, give or take a missed song or two. Several other people had gathered their things and left already, which was a great comfort to me. (If I DID leave, I wouldn't be the first!) Finally, I couldn't stand not knowing any longer, so I hopped off the bike and peered around about 10 people between me and the clock.

I had been pedaling for 51 minutes.

I didn't fall off, and I didn't embarrass myself. I loved the music. And I might just do it again!

You can't go through life quitting everything.  If you're going to achieve anything, you've got to stick with something.  ~From the television show Family Matters