Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wow! What a ride....

I've shaken my head in the past and "tsk'ed, tsk'ed" when I see them on the road, sometimes weaving in and out of traffic, as if the rules of the road don't apply to them. How foolish, I'd think, these daredevils who climb on, often without the proper equipment to keep them safe. After all, I've muttered to myself, if they kill themselves, they might take one of us with them, plus somebody has to pay to clean up the mess they'll leave on the road. HARRUMPH, I grumbled in my old lady-ishness!

My, times change, don't they? I'm nine months of the way through my year-long journey of rejuvenation, and I have to say that my world has been knocked off its axis already. I can't wait to see how the rest of the year plays out!

This month flowed by, a river of seconds transforming themselves into minutes and hours until the days were nearly done before I decided how to recreate myself once again. The joy that fills my life now is incalculable, on so many levels. Instead of searching for new things to do, unique adventures to grab onto, I find I have choices  each month now, the floodgates opened to a new psyche. I love it. If you pass me on the street today, I might look like the same person.....but you would be wrong. Seriously wrong. 

So I was ready to step a bit farther out of my box, the one whose sides have been torn by my previous months' ventures as I stretched my mind, my body, and ultimately my very existence into a nearly unrecognizable internal landscape.

So, here I was, riding on a motorcyle for the first time. You know, the machine that mothers everywhere shudder whenever the mere word is spoken, the icy fingers of death poking them in the eye with threats of taking their matter that those children have become adults with briefcases and mortgages of their own. The insidious things kill people. Smear them all over roads or smash them against cement abuttments on highways.  

I climbed on that back of that motorized killer and loved every minute of it. We didn't go far, but we travelled miles outside of the life I had been so stagnant in, the one where fear often ruled the roost. The day was crystal clear and warm, the sky a bowl of blue above us as the wind blew in my face and the motor purred beneath me.

I now understand the attraction, the willingness to taunt an existence that is always practical, safe. Boring.

As Hunter Thompson said, Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow! What a Ride!'

And that can apply to riding a motorcyle on a breathtaking fall day or to just plain getting older.

Thanks, again, J. You keep me on my toes in more ways than one!

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.”

                                                                                Leo Buscaglia

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A new day dawning.....

I won't ever forget that day. There was no way I was going back to that place the next least that's how I felt as I climbed in my car outside the junior high I had been sent to after 5 teachers had come and gone in that classroom. All by November. I cried all the way home, a 25 mile drive, as I made my way to my second job at a dry cleaner after school ended at 2:30. I actually looked forward to that job every day, the one where I got to talk to adults and not think very much as I handed their clothes over the counter.

But, no, I did not want, could NOT go back to that classroom again. The one where the teenagers screamed and fought and generally acted like I wasn't even in the room. The one where I had been ushered by the department head, handed a roll book, and shoved in the door....kind of like a lion tamer, but no one bothered to give me a chair or whip.

But later when I finally picked up my infant daughter and made my way home well after dark, I sat down and faced facts. I HAD to go back. You don't give up your health care when you have a baby. Not when there is no other adult in the house to pick up the financial burden, pat your hand, and say, "It's OK, honey. You stay home and I'll take care of everything."  You look at yourself in the mirror, take a deep breath, and iron your clothes for the next day. You know you will get back in the car, drive back to whatever chased you away the day before, and face it all again.

And do you know what? The next day was always better. Every time.

It sounds like a small thing but it is a lesson that has stayed with me for over 20 years. And it is one that I added to my parental toolbox, the one that is full of adages that kids roll their eyes at, but we still hope they soak in somehow.

When a day kicks your butt, and does a grand job of it, take solace in the fact that when the sun comes up again, things really will look better.

I stayed in the classroom for 14 years after that first horrible year. I became a good disciplinarian.....mostly by caring for the kids I taught......and I learned to navigate the bureaucracy that hampers any large organization.

And when I have a tough day now, I rummage around in my mental toolbox, wrap the lesson from that horrible day around my shoulders, and hunker down to wait for the sun to rise again.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely...”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Should we tell her??

A friend and I watched the young woman come into the foyer of the restaurant where we waited for the rest of our party.

There wasn't an ounce of fat on her body. None.

Her legs were lean and tan and unblemished. 

Her shorts were VERY short, but they fit her perfectly. Along with the halter top that showed off the smooth skin on her arms and back.

Her hair was thick and lustrous.

My friend looked at me. I looked at her.

"Should we tell her?" 

Of course, we didn't tell her anything. First of all, she didn't ask us, but why spoil this child's fun? She has years before it all starts to....well, sag and wrinkle and generally become unrecognizable.

I can remember looking at older women and thinking, complete with a self-righteous sniff,  "Why don't they take care of themselves?" I really believed that none of that was going to happen to ME, no way, no how.....nope.

Today I exercise like a fanatic, I dance several times a week, I walk miles before I sleep......and still have body parts that just will NOT cooperate. I'm strong, but that doesn't seem to matter in all the ways I think it should. My stomach might be getting smaller but it still has ripples and moguls that taunt me when I dare to face a mirror at night. My legs have muscle now, but strange brown spots dot the skin, too, just like the ones on my hands.

And the skin on my arms continues to resemble a dead chicken, no matter how much expensive lotion I buy from that company in New Zeland. I'm toned from hours of working with weights at the gym, but that just means that the crepy skin has less fat to spread itself it hangs there, leering at me, like one of those ugly Goonies from the movie.

The oddest thing about this whole stage of life, at least for me, is that I still feel young, and my mind continues to be active and very busy. One thing I CAN tell younger people is that we continue to think outrageous thoughts and covet what we shouldn't (in all the ways one can covet, I might add!). Now, however, we have a better braking system to keep us out of trouble.....or at least, most trouble. We don't care too much about what other people think of us, which comes at a perfect stage of life, I can attest to that.

We watched the young woman walk away, and we sighed. Do I wish someone had told me what to expect? Probably not. Why spoil the next few decades for someone like that??

Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children. ~George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, September 11, 2011


When I was younger, marking events was not important to me. I'm not sure why I didn't have a "celebration gene," but one thing I've learned over the years is to spend more time looking forward rather than trying to figure out what screwed us up so badly in the past.

And I've always been amazed at friends who knew exactly how many [hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades] have passed since some huge event in their own lives. Me? I often couldn't tell you my own age, often missing it by a year either way. (Nowadays that might be a good thing!)

But I do think as we age we experience our lives in deeper ways, as well as feeling the impact of events going on around us. Today our country marks 10 years since the horror that shredded our sense of security forever. There is no question of this day's significance. And I feel it deeply on many levels....

      For the people working in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that day,
                           unaware that hell was about to explode in their faces.

      For their families and friends.
                           Especially their children

      For the responders and their families.
                           Especially their children.

      For those on United Flight 93, and their families and friends.
                           And their children

       For those filled with hate and righteousness who perpetrated the horror.
                          And their families and children.

      For all those who have been lost, both military and civilian, in our attempt to
                          make us safer in a world that will never feel safe again.
                                      And all the children, from the neighborhoods in America to
                                                       deserts halfway around the globe.

      For all Americans, as shock and fright and fear wrapped their icy arms around us.

      Finally, for those who have embraced the brand of hatred of the terrorists,
                           somehow believing that it is the only way to show our strength.

September 11th can never slip by me unmarked and unobserved. My only hope is that we don't lose our humanity in an attempt to prove our might.        

“For never can true reconcilement grow, Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.”
John Milton

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dancing fool, part 4

This will be quick. Sometimes less is better (well, very often less is better, but we do like the sound of our own voices, don't we?), and this is one of those occasions. I could write a whole column on this, but it wouldn't be any better. Just longer.

During one of my dance lessons last week, I was (still) struggling with the finer points of technique in one of the Latin dances. My instructor, who is about half my age, looked at me and uttered one of those statements that knocks you on your butt by hitting the target, BULLSEYE!, without even realizing what he had done.

But I did.

"You need to keep taking the step and then going back! You need to COMMIT!"

Oh, my.......

There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.
  ~Edwin Denby

Thursday, September 1, 2011

That line in the sand...

Boundaries in life are funny things.

They keep moving. Just when you think you know where one is and you make your decisions accordingly.....zap! It moves this way or that, making you start all over again. Very confusing. Often, though, we are the ones  pushing that line in the sand with the tip of our shoe, hoping no one is watching. Because we want what we want when we want it. And that only means trouble for us and anyone else who is wandering in our desert at the time.

But as I age and become an Active Master, I'm getting so much better at recognizing those lines in the sand. And then respecting them.

In my "wild child" days (yes, I did have them!), I often decimated  boundaries. If I even saw them at all. And that can be dangerous to one's health and well-being. It certainly tends to complicate one's life, believe me.

OK...I'll tell on myself in an attempt to be helpful to younger people who might have the same situations arise. Take the boundary of not getting involved with your best friend's other half. (Don't stand there with that shocked look on your face. I bet there are skeletons in your closet just banging on the door to get out right now.) Even though my friend insisted they were through, DONE!, never to get together again, I shouldn't have crossed that particular boundary. I saw it there, but I chose to ignore it. I wanted....well, you know what I wanted.

Because you know what happened. If you're over 40 or so, you know what happened. After the dust cleared, I had lost a friend and a lover, and everyone was hurt and very angry. And, yes, I felt ashamed. An emotion that is not good company.

And there are clues that tell us we KNOW we shouldn't be crossing to the other side, aren't there? Like the fact that I didn't enlighten her about the person I was seeing the next night. If you have to hide things from people who are important to you, you might want to re-evaluate what you're doing. Or about to do.

Listen to that raspy voice that is trying to warn you, especially if it gets more insistent over time. Kind of like an alarm clock that is designed to get louder the more times it has to "alarm" you in the morning. And you should listen before you move the tip of your toe over that line. Don't throw a pillow at the noise in an adolescent fit. Listen, then consider what you're doing, and if you're not sure....don't do it.

I have a boundary facing me right now and I bet you do, too. But I know exactly where mine is and I have no intention of getting too close. That's all part of becoming conscious, mature human beings who value those around us, as well as ourselves, too much to trample on them.

Now, get your toe away from that line.