Saturday, January 29, 2011

Have you hookahed?

The place filled quickly, smoke hanging in the air from the hookahs sitting on the floor next to nearly every table. Sweetness instead of stench, that's one thing I noticed about this smoke, the thing that made it tolerable to even be there. We ate stuffed grape leaves and meat pies while a belly dancer, no wait, an EXOTIC belly dancer according to the menu, shimmered and shimmied around us accompanied by strange, unusual, wonderful music. And something I had never done before.

That was the point, the first of my 12 adventures into the unknown in 2011. For new readers of this blog, I learned of this oral tradition out of the Pyrennes from a book I'm reading called The Second Half of Life by Angeles Arrien. The point is to reivigorate as we age instead of getting old, stagnating, dying to life before our lives even end.

Here's what I learned leading up to the evening at the hookah lounge: It IS hard to find new things to put on my calendar. But that requires mental effort, one of the very points of this exercise. And it demands that I get out of the house! I love my home, where I am enveloped in softness and music and flowers, so I tend to get stuck there, not wanting to leave it for much of anything. Getting OLD.

I also enjoyed anticipating something again, a feeling that has become foreign, remote, as I've aged. It's why time flies for us, whirling faster and faster as the years tick by for us. I remember what it was like waiting for Santa to come when I was a kid. Would the weeks NEVER pass, I thought as I stood in front of the calendar, tapping my foot impatiently, waiting and waiting for the days to disappear? This week I revisited a bit of that joyous anticipation. 

Next month....rock climbing?

The second half of life is the ultimate initiation.
Angeles Arrien

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cosmic comics at work....

The cosmic comics play their little jokes with great glee, I'm sure. I can just see them now. They sneak up on us as we get older and then, with much mischief, kick sand in our faces as we try our best to keep up with our lives. Then, little devils that they are, they scamper away and hide behind corners, giggling, as they watch us wipe the grit from our eyes.

There's a Greek word, a-kedos, that means sour. And that's what seems to happen as we age, isn't it? Boredom and apathy set in if we're not careful, which manifests itself as "crotchity." You know.....the old man or woman who gripes and grouses about everything, beginning most sentences with some form of "When I was young....."  Sometimes they even use words like "whippersnapper," or "wood shed" as everyone smiles politely and moves one foot closer to the door. Accepting all these new fangled communication devices, for example, is just not going to happen. Acedia sets in, the lack of energy to even look at new things, much less use the darn things. Maybe this is why, as a society, we shun our seniors instead of learning from their experiences. They don't make it easy, with all the complaining and grumbling.

But, what I've learned with my own aging is that my desire is tempered by a physical lack of energy. Yes, I know, I know. I can generate more energy by just moving. (See I get that. It's that cosmic comic playing tricks on me, though, the one who teases me with a world with much still to be experienced while I am struggling with less energy to get there.

I work hard at bodyslamming that trickster out of my way, but it's still hard work. I know that stagnation and stasis are creators of crotchity, though, and I refuse to have sand thrown in my face. You know, the sour old lady with no goals, no dreams, and no future. AGED does not have to mean OLD.

Two days from now is the 28th, my birth date, and I vowed to experience something new each month on that date during 2011. Acedia won't catch me laying on the beach (although that does sound good, doesn't it?) instead of seeking out new ways to live life to the very end.

Wonder what I'll find to do?

And then the knowledge comes to me that I have space within me for a second, timeless, larger life.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jiggles and wobbles....

I exercise. A lot. This isn't something new to me, either. I think I started when I was in my 20s and lived in Denver, at least that's my recollection. (I do remember living in Denver...I'm not THAT far gone yet.) I do think that's when I started going to a gym nearly every day, though.

They had a jacuzzi and a steam room, which are wonderful things to have access to when you live in a really cold climate, I can tell you that. So much so that I eventually bought my own hot tub, which now sits on my screened-in porch. My favorite time to get in that bubbly, steaming water is when it's as cold as it's going to get here in Florida, a throwback to my days in the Rockies. In any case, it's a great treat after a work out.

But to get back to the exercise thing. Someone gives me a workout routine and I go through the paces about 4 times a week amidst other really sweaty people, all trying not to get caught watching one another. I have attacked and mastered that torture machine that makes you climb steps until you know you MUST have reached heaven by the time it stops. I have worked up to over 150 sit-ups in various contortions, can lift more weight than any 62-year old woman has a right to lift, and my arms are toned and buff to prove it (even though the chicken skin thing spoils the buffness a bit). The whole thing has become an addiction for me, not that I'm complaining. There are far worse things I could be addicted to by this time. Believe me.

So, could someone please tell me why my thighs still jiggle and ripple with....well, whatever makes them jiggle and ripple?  I don't overeat, either, so don't even go there. (I changed doctors once over a remark about "pushing back from the table" without even asking about my diet. He just assumed I must be eating too much, the idiot with one less patient now.)

Ask anyone who knows me. I don't eat a lot! And I follow the program of a leading weight management company, one that helped me lose 30 pounds two years ago....and 4 years ago...and 6 years ago. That peskly 30 pounds that started tracking me down shortly after I turned 40 and is determined to hang out on my hips and thighs.

It's gone now, though, and I continue to work out. So, what it is about aging that insists on defying the torture we put our bodies through? Here I am with great arms, shoulders, and back...ripped, even....with this jello on my belly and thighs. Am I doomed to wobble on the bottom?

Well, I'll go to the gym and think about it as I climb those stairs....forever.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where will you wake up today?

Getting "older" in our society isn't all bad. Really. There are some great insights that come with age, especially if we are paying attention to our lives.

Let's see....

A few years ago I looked around and decided that what I was doing for a living probably wasn't making much difference to the teenagers I was teaching. In fact, I wasn't sure I WAS teaching most days, considering the silliness that those in power have decided to insert into education. And for a teacher to face herself in the mirror and grapple with that demon is heart wrenching.

I had no one at home who could pat me on the back and say, "Honey, if you want to quit and take some time to find something else, it will be OK. I'll take care of everything for us." And since teaching was my second career, I didn't have enough years to walk away with those great retirement benefits many folks hold out for as they spend every waking minute counting the minutes until their company gives them a party and waves good-bye.

I own a small house, a car, I need to eat and stay warm/cool depending on the season. I'm a basic kind of person, but the basics sure do feel good, don't they?

When I was younger, I would not have had the courage to walk out the door of that school with no benefits, no salary, and no back-up person at home to carry the slack. When I was younger, my self-image was so weak that I couldn't handle anyone thinking I was a bit crazy for taking an action that had so many negatives.  But I did it at age 55, and the feeling of strength in myself was incredible. I walked out without any job and I went home to regroup. I did get advice from someone important to me on a way to provide some income until I found out what I wanted to do when I grew up. ( Houses provide more than a roof when some extra cash is needed, I learned.)

I think that comes with age for many of us. Especially women, perhaps. (I can't speak for men and won't even try. We'll go there another day, I promise.) We have enough experience at life to know our limits and those limits grow as we age. Today I am self-employed, doing what I love, and make a living for myself in the midst of the worse recession in years.

There are other things, of course. I now dare to leave the house without make-up and sometimes my socks don't match.  I've taught my daughter if someone judges us on those kinds of things, that person needs to get a life. I've also taught her to trust herself a bit more than I ever did at her age, and to take chances sometimes. Doing what everyone else thinks you should do should be of no concern to you. Listen to advice, yes. Then chart your course, call forth your reserves of strength, and follow the yearnings of your heart.

The only life you have is the one you woke up with today. Age has taught me to cherish the days I have left and I vow to follow my own advice.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Losing it.....

Hair and music.  I'll wait. you give up? I admit the connection isn't apparent. In fact, maybe there isn't any relationship at all, it's just that both things have been on my mind this week.

Getting older does that to you, it seems. Kind of like, you think of something you need to retrieve from another room, but when you get there you can't remember why you're there, standing in the middle of the room muttering to yourself. I drive a lot for my work, and have suddenly found myself (and it often DOES feel like I've been found when this happens)  "waking up" on a major road wondering WHERE THE HECK AM I GOING?? Not, oh, I forgot how to get there....I don't even remember where I was headed to begin with.

That has to be dangerous. (Note to DMV....I drive very carefully wherever it is that I'm headed. Honest.)

And whatever you do, don't interrupt me in the middle of a sentence. Break that chain of thought and it might be GONE. To be honest, as I've gotten older I sometimes lose that tenuous tether to my ideation without any interruption when I'm talking...the next thought simply floats away, out of reach, playing tag with my sanity. At least that's how it feels. My brain just leaks things out before I can finish with them. I hate it when that happens. Especially in a business meeting and I'm the one talking. Not impressive. and music. I got sidetracked again, didn't I? (No, I did NOT forget what I was saying!)  Hair grows where you don't want it and never HAD hair before, and stops growing where it's always been at home before.  And have all restaurants conspired to drive us insane with the volume of the music in their establishments? Shouldn't the goal be to keep customers in the place as long as possible, spending money so your employees can keep their jobs? Why are you driving us out the door to find a place where......

What was I saying?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What were we talking about?

The weather.

     Doctor's visits, complete with an itemized description of all medications.

The weather.

     Surgeries. Often accompanied by unveiling of the incision(s).

The weather.

Oh, my. The topics of conversation around me are dwindling, it seems. Maybe it has something to do with that shrinking experience thing we talked about before. As many people move along the time continuum, their activities shrink as their age grows. Just think about all the events you have attended in your own lifetime, events that you will never experience for the first time again. It takes dedicated thought and intention to keep finding new things to do (see, something that is just too much work for lots of people.

The result? Many people talk about the two things they DO see on a regular basis: The weather, which is always new no matter how many days we hang around, and all the strange goings-on in/on their bodies. And it doesn't seem to occur to them that maybe we don't want to hear the minutia of their body's gurgling, itching, or groaning.

Upon being asked how my day was recently, I talked about the topic I am currently researching for a writing project, going to the gym to work out, and then running errands before going home for the day. Without responding to anything I just said, the "listener" responded with, "They say it's supposed to be foggy in the morning."

Foggy? What part of my response referred to, or even HINTED, at the weather? Somebody please tell me. Am I missing something here? (And I'm still trying to find out who THEY are, because THEY are always wrong anyway.) And how was I to answer that without sounding snippy, anyway? "Uh, OK. Foggy. So what?"  What I actually said, nice person that I am, was, "Uh, OK. I haven't seen any fog here today." And just like that, I become part of the problem.

I've given my daughter license to slap me silly if I start wandering along this path, lost in the murkiness of boring everyone with a commentary about rain, sleet or snow and what medications make me gassy or incoherent. She assures me she stands ready to assist.

Now, what we were talking about?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dealing the cards and moving on...

I've been avoiding this topic. It is a landmine, one that I have stepped in several times myself, and have recently decided to tiptoe around. Meaning avoid at all costs.

Relationships as an "older" woman.......I'm sitting here with my fingers on the keyboard and can't even finish that sentence. Someone told a group recently that he had been married for 25 years. If you add them all together. Me, too.

I won't go into the 40+ years of my relationship history, because that's not my point here. The landmine I'm tippy toeing around at 62 is dating. It even sounds silly, doesn't it? Yes, I tried the on-line dating thing, starting when I was around 50. And I have to say that I met some very nice men and went out on lots of dates. I observed the rules of safety inherent in this scene, and can only remember one time that my evening got a bit dicey, but it was because I broke one of those rules. The whole process led to an 8 year relationship that ended two years ago. Another 8 to add to the total number of years "joke."

All the advice about meeting people in ordinary, everyday places didn't work so much, either. I met a man in a video store once, and we went out for dinner. Where he proceeded to relate his history as a mercenary, and how he once bit off someone's toe. (I am NOT making this up! I called a cab.)

I joined a church, hoping to meet someone there. Couples, kids, picnics for couples and kids doing kids' things. Loud, noisy, reflective of my own years as the mother of a child involved in every sport imaginable. But not where I am today.

Then there was the Saturday a clown sat next to me on a bench and hit on me. No....a REAL clown. Honest.

So, here I am again. However, at this point, I have come to some hard-won conclusions. I'll explain it this way: My parents were married for 67 years, together since they were 15 or so. Just think of all the problems they faced together, most dealing with outside forces, but some within their relationship, too. It's just inevitable that two people will disagree over the span of all those years. They raised a family and built memories and shared experiences to clasp tightly to their joined hearts.....especially during the bad times.

They had a bond that secured them, in every meaning of that word. They were secure in their love and in their history together. And it probably didn't happen overnight or even always easily. But it eventually bound them together for life.

I will never have that. It just isn't possible that two people who meet when they are over 60 years old CAN have that foundation. They might be companions, people who can sit next to one another in a theater or at the dinner table to chase away the shadows of loneliness, the shadows that sometimes grow teeth and creep in close to those who are alone. But the tethers stretched over decades like my parents? Just not possible.

And for my purposes now as a single woman over 60, it is even more difficult to find someone who is willing to look at a "dating" site and see past the years etched on my face. Our youth-drenched culture makes it nearly impossible. My experience has been that most men over 60 themselves are simply not willing to match themselves with a woman their own age. We can't blame this on my unwillingness to look at THEIR photos and agree to meet for a drink, either. I think I have a bit more depth than to judge someone unworthy due to their appearance, especially when I'm squinting at a computer screen while trying to gauge someone's character.

Many women are terrifed of being alone as they grow older, and are thus willing to adapt (maybe I should say settle?) for any relationship, even a bad one. I had to make that decision a couple of years ago, and what I realized is that the statistics dictate that many women WILL be alone no matter what they do or don't do within the realm of being a couple. Men just die sooner than we do. My decision, then, was to reinforce the relationship I have with myself.

Do I wish I had strung all those years of broken relationships together? Taken more time and insight and effort to making it work, like my parents did? Of course. There are some lessons here for younger women, if they care to learn from my story.

But here I am and my belief is that I will run the rest of this race alone. I have worked my way around the landmines (and clowns) and left them behind.

And I've found that I'm pretty good company!

 Sometimes the cards we are dealt are not always fair.
However you must keep smiling & moving on ~
Tom Jackson