Sunday, April 29, 2012

The evil genie LOSES again!

Have you guessed by now that I'm a bit driven? I come by that naturally, but that's a story for another day, for sure.

      April was almost over and my adventure for the month hadn't happened yet. And my week-end was going to be spent visiting friends 5 hours away from home. Maybe I could just skip a month, 
I thought to myself. What harm would it be, my evil genie rasped into my ear? This second year of exploration is really icing on the cake of anticipation that the whole experience has added to my life, anyway.

     I couldn' t skip it. I simply had to fulfill my monthly obligation, even if that obligation is to myself. But how to do that at this late date? One lesson I've learned is that I cannot rely on others to accomplish this event for me. It's not that they set out to disappoint me or tie a knot in my plans. They simply don't have any personal stake in this journey of mine.Plans had been laid earlier in the month for another adventure that I have never tackled, but those plans rested on the shoulders of other people who couldn't follow through. Aging has taught me many things, one of which is to take control of my own destiny. Blaming others is a reflection of immaturity.

     So, I swallowed my reticence about this exercise phenomenon called ZUMBA and stepped into Studio 1 at my gym last Friday evening, thinking I could blend into the crowd of exuberant women in the back of the room who were sweating and dancing to Latin music.

     You know what they say about the best laid plans, right? There were three of us in the class. That's right.....and I was the newbie in the group standing adrift in the center of the floor of this very large exercise studio. Alone. Highly visible. And very uncomfortable. The music started and the young instructor started jumping and dancing and making strange "yipping" sounds that actually meant something to the group. Well, everyone but me, of course. I tried to keep up with the intricate steps, even the one set of movements where we wore belly dance scarves around our hips, sashaying from one end of the gleaming floor to the other, with mirrors mocking me 360 degrees around the room. Oh, joy.....I would say some trite word like "cute," those scarves with the shiny silver and gold disks sewn all over them, but by this time I was panting and dripping sweat into my eyes and onto that highly varnished floor. Cute, it was not.

     But, I have to admit that it WAS fun. I was able to keep up with my two classmates and my dance lessons for the past year helped with catching on to some of the patterns, too.

      I fulfilled my self-imposed obligation to experience something new each month, and I may have found a new class to add to my exercise regimen. Compulsiveness pays off sometimes. And the genie loses again.

PS....It was one year ago this weekend that I walked into a dance studio to take ONE ballroom dance lesson as my "new thing" for that month. Most of you know that result of that: I found a joy that I had never experienced previously, and a hobby that is the most fun I have ever had, although it challenges me every minute I am in class. My instructor taught me that I do not have to be perfect all the time and that I can actually stop thinking every once in a while and just move. I am ever grateful.

People need to be made more aware of the need to work at learning how to live because life is so quick and sometimes it goes away too quickly.
Andy Warhol

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


It seems that we're never too old for an "A-HA!" moment. I had one hit me between the eyes the other day, right in the middle of a conversation. I was carrying on of my near-monologues with a new person in my life. Oh, he talks to me, there's no problem with that. We talk a lot. It's just that I have a tendency toward philosophical discourse and I sometimes verbally follow the thread of my  mental gyrations while my audience sits and waits it out.

Maybe that's why I have a change purse that says it all, right there printed on the side in bright colors: "Consider me a challenge!"

And that was the topic of our conversation. Relationships. Hunkering down for the long haul. Navigating the passageways flowing between two people who have already seen a lot, if not all there is to experience when someone catches another's attention.

Marriage and I have been bedmates a couple of times (pun intended, we need to have fun where we can in life), but not successful companions, I admit. I CAN be a challenge, although I'm also kind, patient, and loving. And we were talking about that when I said, "I'm just me, and I don't apologize for that any more."

Too many times we get involved with someone, all is well at first, and then we start trying to change that person to fit some mold we have in our heads of the "perfect" man or woman for us.

What's up with that, anyway? 

Two people come together for a reason, some traits that tickled the fancy initially. And then, over time, we start noticing things we wish were different. But we shouldn't be in a relationship to change the other person, or to be changed by them. If that becomes part of the deal, we need to keep looking.

But then it hit me: I can't change the other person, nor should I want to, BUT I can try to be the best version of me that I can possibly be. I like this person....a why shouldn't I want to please him as much as possible? Won't that end up pleasing me, too?

I know my strengths, but I also am very familiar with my weaknesses, those characteristics that do not play out well in close proximity to other people.

For example, I know exactly when I cross the line from involved to controlling. My brain also can now monitor my mouth whenever I choose to do so, instead of watching in horror as I say things that cut deep, only regretting them, too late, as the blood from the wound flows around our feet.

Our skin may wrinkle, our memory may weaken, but it seems we always have the capacity to see new paths open up in front of us. Mine hit me squarely between the eyes with a mighty "A-HA!" that can improve my life in many ways. I'm not interested in changing HIM, but I certainly can improve ME in ways that I know are already there inside.

It is never too late to be who
you might have been.
George Eliot

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's that tattoo say??

What's with the bruising? I walk around looking like a social worker might want to take notice, with mean looking bruises on my legs and arms, all from seemingly insignificant bumps against things like the edges of desk drawers that SOMEBODY left open. One day I caused a bruise on my thigh by resting a heavy box on my leg as I balanced to open a door, although I forgot what I had done as I watched the brown welt turn colors over the next few days. Where did THAT come from? (Impaired memory as we age, coupled with a tendency to bruise easier makes for really fun thought experiments, take my word for it.)

It makes getting dressed for a semi-formal event (I don't go to formal events, so no problem there) a bit difficult, what with the fact that no one wears pantyhose any more.The women, I mean. Here I've got bruises and other unexplained brown spots on my legs...which USED to be one of my best body parts...and nowhere to hide them, unless I want to highlight my age YET AGAIN by wearing pantyhose with my sexy strappy sandals. I've even tried concealer on my legs, but I ended up leaving it on the seat at the concert hall downtown. Bet they didn't like that as they cleaned up after the show. And afterwards, I had all those distracting, blotchy marks showing anyway.

Maybe the answer is tanning. No wait.....that causes cancer. And someone my age tries to protect the ones we have left, the years I mean, so purposely chalking time off the tote board of life doesn't make sense. Does it? I think most people know that those tanning beds are life-stealers, but they seem to be busy all the time, anyway.

Just last week, the nice saleslady in the lingerie department looked at ME with suspicion when she saw the huge bruise on my mother's arm...the one she got from running into a rack in ANOTHER store the week before. That woman was thinking about calling social services on me, I swear she was.

It's a conundrum. If you're under age 50 or so, you have no idea what I'm talking about, other than to recall the "old people" you know who do seem to have lots of bruises tattooing their bodies. You will, too, no matter how you try to hide behind that trite "But it will be different for me!" wishful thinking. All those secret thoughts you have about "old people" (don't lie, I know you have them) will come back to laugh and point in your face someday. Save this column to remind you.

Maybe that's the answer, though. Bruises can be the new tattoo art for those of us marked without the benefit of needles. Our skin is already sagging, too, so we won't have to listen to that boring warning about "What do you think that tattoo is going to look like when you're old and have sagging skin?"

I'm going to throw all my pantyhose away now.

"Life is full of bumps and bruises. It's what you learn from it and what you do with it that makes you who you are."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Change, and then change again.....

Life is all about perspective, isn't it? We all have one, and it's often very different from the person sitting next to me, or walking with me, or looking at me with disdain as I navigate through my day.

But as we age, some strange things begin to happen. We either lose total sight of everyone else's right to even have a different perspective, or we embrace the fact that life is like a carousel, with constantly changing people and viewpoints around us as we ride those brightly colored horses labelled "experiences." I hope I'm in the latter group.

Last week I accomplished my "thing I've never done before" for the month, which showed me my city from a new perspective.

Here in Jacksonville we have an elevated Skyway that consists of a few automated cars that creak along a track through the downtown area. It was built sometime within the past 20 years, and I had never ridden it. (Which illustrates its usefulness around here, but this city has been debating THAT point ever since the little self-propelled car pulled away from the station the very first time.) I can remember when my now 28-year old daughter was a little girl, we stood and watched it on occasion, and said "We should do that some day." But we never did.

 So, downtown I went last week with a friend to ride the Skyway. I'm not sure why it was free (THAT'S a new perspective!), but we went through the turnstile and up to the platform. I looked down on the roof of the cars in the parking lot below, huddled like toy vehicles scattered across the dirt. We don't often get to see how dirty the roof of our car is, do we?

We boarded the next car that came by, not really knowing where we were going. I've gotten much better at that, too, as I have aged. I don't always need to know where I'm has been so much more fun operating in the dark, too.

I saw the central plaza in the city from above the trees, and city hall workers on the 4th floor peering out at us as we rode by. We crossed the St. Johns River that runs through our huge urban area, and saw it stretched outside the windows, our ever-present reminder that nature is mightier than we are, no matter how much we try to puff ourselves up.

I saw myself looking at, well, me in the reflection of a passing building, an admonition that there are eyes everywhere, a lesson we all learn the first time we do something we think no one will EVER find out. And then we get found out. It never fails.

There weren't many people riding the Skyway, although we met a nice gentleman, impeccably dressed, who rides for entertainment every day. We encountered two young women (twice!) who seemed to be students, and were using the train to get to the college downtown. But their perspective remained focused on the little screens on their phones, as do most young people today. Some day they will realize that life happens elsewhere, but who am I to spoil their fun?

Perspectives change over time, too. Riding the Skyway showed me new views of the city I have lived in for nearly 30 years, giving me a new perspective of my least until it changes again. 

Just like we do.