Once Again, There Are No Words

How to even write about such senseless violence ?

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

I am simultaneously so very deeply saddened and horrified.

We have had several recent mass shootings here in California recently. One after the other after the other. Yet another one this morning. 

When will this stop?

Then yesterday the gut wrenching violent video from Memphis was released to the public. A horror that I could not make myself look away from. The dark depths that human cruelty can reach. The unspeakable pain we can cause each other. The violence and murderous rage that seem to have no end to them. I am unable to even imagine the depth of a mother’s anguish at losing a son that was trying to come home to her. A son that she will never see again. 

How do we even begin to write about this, talk about this? 

 I found myself crying along with the congressman who was unable to speak through his tears as he tried to address what had happened. How those tears spoke volumes more than any words could. A grief that is best expressed as sobs and heaving shoulders in trying to contain the waves of deep, inconsolable pain. 

There really are no words adequate for something like this.

And yet, we must try and name this more. Name the darkness that we can descend into so that we can better know it, understand it, and then hopefully not act from it. Perhaps find a way to express these frightening parts of ourselves without having to hurt anyone else. 

What is it that can cause people to hate others because of their race, their religion, their gender, or a thousand other things that make someone the “other”? What gets triggered to tap into the primitive part that reacts and loses all reason? What causes someone to shoot groups of people? Innocent children? How do groups feed on each others’ rage and frustrations to then do unspeakable things they might not possibly do as individuals? 

How do we begin to train those that are meant to deal with people in the most difficult of times and circumstances? How do we teach them to know themselves and things that may get triggered so they don’t act from these places inside of them? How do we address that these things are part of the human condition that we must all learn to deal with? 

I see much love and kindness in the world, and I try to spread those things as well, in my own small way. 

And I also know that we are more than that. That we must come to know and own our darkness so that we can then be more conscious of all that is inside of us. So we can have more choice in each moment. So we can learn ways to feel what may be going on inside and find a way to deal with it in the moment. In a way that doesn’t have to include taking others’ lives, shattering families, shattering communities, shaking us to our very core. 

Can we find a way to have unspeakable tragedies bring us together in our grief and humanity?

Can we find a way to come back to working together, to finding what we have in common with each other instead of the differences? Can we find a way to learn to understand and accept and even appreciate those differences?

Can we find a way to own our fears and rages and primitive reactions so that we are the ones directing the actions and not them?

Can we find a way to not create any more tears than life already brings us?

I have lived long enough in this aging journey to know that these questions have no simple answers. 

And I also know that we have to keep asking them. Until we can find our way back home to each other. 

Now What???

Ongoing surprises that come with aging (Writing prompt for Crow’s Feet)

Photo by Andrew Umansky on Unsplash

Aging is such a roller coaster ride, yes? And it brings all kinds of gifts and surprises. Some fun, some funny. Some not so much. 

I look down at a body that I don’t really recognize. Things aren’t where I remember them being. Things don’t look like they do in my memory. Who took my body and left me with this version? 

I make sounds that I surprise myself with. I creak and groan sometimes when I get up out of a chair or bed. I hear crackles in my knee when it moves. At the gym once, I heard these crackles and thought something was wrong with the machine that I was on. Not the machine, it turns out. 

I don’t always recognize the face in the mirror. Where did those lines come from? I still feel like a younger version of myself, but that is not what is reflected there, not what I see, and not what others see. It seems as if the inside of me does not age at the same pace as the outside does. 

I am surprised by how quickly it feels like I got here. And how quickly time seems to have gone by.

I am surprised with how intimately I need to know where each restroom is located on any path or hike that I may try to take. (Is this what they really mean by golden years? The amount of focus on peeing? )

I still get surprised that I qualify for senior discounts. And that I am now a senior in everyone’s definition. For a while, 50 was something to play with in terms of not being 60 yet. Then 60 was here, but it still wasn’t 65. And now I approach 70. A senior in everyone’s book. 

I notice that I can be invisible to others sometimes. It seems that because I am older, assumptions are made about who I am and what my interests now are. Assumptions that I have forgotten my youth and who I was then, even though those parts of me are within me still. 

I see how much more emotional I can be. I have always been sensitive and emotional, and have been criticized for this at times in the past. And now, I am delightfully amazed to find that these qualities are actually precious parts of myself. Sacred gifts. Gifts that help me know myself, and help me relate to and understand others on a much deeper level. 

I am in awe more, as time continues to march on, of how much beauty there is around me. How I can delight in a moment in nature and simply gaze at a tree, or watch an animal, feeling totally present with each. How I can still feel the gorgeous sensuality of life. How I can feel more at peace in those moments than I could ever have imagined. 

I am pleased to discover that I don’t worry so much anymore about what others think. My opinion has now moved to the top of the list. How delightful. Finally.

I now know that I can be choosy and picky about who I spend my time with. I don’t have to try and like everyone. Nor do I have to work to get everyone to like me. And it’s all ok.

 Time is precious. I get to spend it with those that I want, those that feel nourishing, those that speak enough of my language so that I don’t get exhausted trying to translate myself for them. It’s ok. 

I have learned to cherish brief encounters with random others and the depth of the connections that can be felt, even in those brief moments. And I can appreciate those moments and also let them go, not trying to hang on to make them something more than they are. They are enough. 

And now, I am surprised to hear, more and more often, friends talk about how they have lived good lives. 

We have come to that point in our lives where we look back and remember, evaluate, and appreciate what we have had. There is more gratitude. More wonder. More bittersweetness and poignancy as we see that the time remaining is much shorter than the time we have already had. 

Gratitude is a major theme. Slowing down seems to be the pace. There is a desire to let go of of things that were more important to us in our youth, but we find we may no longer need. We’re getting ready to travel, and to travel light. 

And that, perhaps, is the biggest surprise of them all. How real it becomes that there will be an end to my life, and how I want to truly cherish each moment. And to live each moment as authentically and genuinely as I can. To finally claim and honor who I have been all along, but tried to change . To come full circle back home to me. Before I go. 

The Sensuality of Aging

Some feelings become even more exquisite as time passes

Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash

Aging is at times seen and referred to as a diminishing of things. Yes, some things diminish. Changes happen. Losses happen. Bodies change. Things can drop, spread and sag, I joke. It’s true. And we can laugh about it. It can be funny, but not always. 

I can look down at my now almost 70 year old body and see all the not so welcome changes there, as well as in the face that stares back at me in the mirror. 

I remember my father joking about himself “Who is that old man in the mirror?” 

We would all laugh at the time. But, it’s real. So very real, this aging journey.

We elders sometimes talk about feeling invisible. 

I have had the experience of younger women, who worked alongside me and would be sitting right beside me at a table, talk about experiences, clothes, and other delights of their bodies. 

It was as if I wasn’t even sitting at the same table with them. Like I didn’t even exist at that moment. Like I would not be able to relate to anything that they might be talking about. Like I had never been their age, but had somehow always been the age that I now was. 

I have entered into the winter of my life. 

Yet I realize that I still have all those old feelings inside me. Perhaps the intensity is not the same, or it is not directed in the same direction as it once was. Yet, it is still there. I am still there. I am still here. 

Passion and sensuality are still here within me. Sexuality is still here.

I have intentionally not been in a relationship for several years, so I cannot speak of that particular issue of romantic partnered sexuality at this moment. 

I have friends, though, who are in relationships and who talk about passion and sexuality being very much a part of their life and of who they are. Still. Maybe even more than ever. Appreciated even more. Delighted in even more. Wonderfully surprised by, even now. 

I can, however, speak of my own sensuality. And how I feel every small thing so much more exquisitely and deeply. How I can look at the beauty of a rose and marvel at its texture, its colors, all that it brings to the world if we stop and see it. 

I can watch animals outside, birds bathing and delighting in the water, splashing and doing their own form of a water ballet. I can viscerally feel the delight that they take in this dance. 

I can observe the elephants, where I volunteer at the zoo, and watch their own form of sacred beauty that never fails to elicit comments from the guests who come to see them and who are quieted in awe. I can watch the elephants reaching out to touch each other with their trunks, making physical contact, saying hello with their bodies. The way I, perhaps, touch a friend on the shoulder to make that connection beyond words, offer a special kind of comfort that only a kind touch can bring. 

I can look at my own hands, also wrinkled and saggy, like my elephant friends. I can see the years in them, the work that they have done, the tender touches that they have given and received, the drawing and painting and writing that they help me to express. The reaching out to others in a way that is far beyond what any words can do. 

I can see my face in the mirror or in photographs taken. Sometimes I am shocked by how much time has passed and how I see that time reflected. Yet, I can also look into my own eyes and see the life lived, the passion reflected, the tears shed both in pain and in joy. I can see every age that I have been reflected in that image in the mirror, even if others cannot. 

I can look at my body and see the way that its shape has shifted. Dropped. Spread out. 

And I can also feel the embraces that it has known, the pleasures and pain, the light and dark. The sexuality that it has been overtaken by at times. The abandon. The melting into another for a brief, exquisite moment in time. 

 I can see the young bride that I once was, and the single elder that I have now become. 

That young bride is within me still. 

As is the little girl who loved to reach out and touch everything, much to the displeasure of my mother. 

My touching everything back then, I now realize, was my way of knowing the world and the things in it. How they felt. What I felt when I connected with them. A knowingness by touch and feel. A knowingness beyond words. A knowingness with our bodies, with our senses. 

I touch everything still. I reach out to others to make that sacred kind of contact. I delight when someone reaches out to touch me on the arm, on the shoulder, or with a hug. Especially in the world today since the pandemic, where touch has become even more rare, dangerous, frightful. 

I still inhabit this very human, physical, sensual body. I live and breathe and touch and feel. I feel so very much, as aging allows a kind of slowing down to savor each feeling, each touch, each breath. 

And I want to remember all those feelings for myself. Even if no one else sees it, to remember and cherish those parts of me. To honor those parts of me. They are not dead, because I am not dead. To be alive is to be sensual. To be alive is to touch. To be alive is to be here, now. With each other. With ourselves. 

The In-Between Place

The scary space between getting a medical test and being given the results

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I got a CT scan of my lungs yesterday morning.

 The technicians were so kind and helped make the experience as pleasant as possible. I appreciate that, especially in moments of more vulnerability. Kindness goes a long way. 

I have had CT scans and MRIs before, so the procedure was familiar. Yet, each time brings its own unique feelings and experiences. Each time has its own flavor.

I recently discovered that I may have had exposure in my home to asbestos. Many homes and older buildings have asbestos, and it is usually not an issue, if the asbestos is not disturbed in any way. At least this is what I am told.

I had a new heater put in three years ago. And I have had annual inspections and cleanings of that heater done since then. This past year, during the third inspection, the young new technician found an open, broken space in some of the duct work. And the issue of asbestos exposure came up. 

I, while appreciating that this young technician caught this issue, complained to the company as to why this was not discovered during the last two annual inspections. I got apologies and assurances that staff training would be done to correct this issue. 

And I got sent some holiday cookies. Cookies? It made me laugh, actually. 

They were nervous, I think. So many people are litigious these days. And this was a serious concern. Asbestos. 

I have since then had all the heating duct work replaced and the asbestos removed. It’s quite interesting to watch the Hazmat workers completely covered in protective garb in order to remove this substance that I may have been breathing in. 

 I let my doctor know of the issue and possible concern. She wrote back that she was so sorry to hear that this had happened. And she went on to order several medical tests for me to have done to assess any possible problems or damage done.

I got a chest x-ray, which looked fine. I had a pulmonary function test done, which was also ok. I am grateful for both results. 

And yesterday early morning, I had the CT scan. 

I usually get the results of all tests within 24 hours in my medical chart online. This time, I have heard nothing. 

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning, so I assume that we will discuss the results of the scan at that time.

I am anxious about it. My mind goes all over the place, and I do my best to try and calm myself down, telling myself that I don’t have the information yet and to try and not worry before then. 

Easier said than done.

I find that I think about how brief life really is. That is especially in my mind right now, as this is the year that I will turn 70. (How the hell did that ever happen?)

We will each have to die. We each have to face our own mortality. 

And things like this test and this whole incident that I am going through bring that all home in a very visceral way.

Will this be the thing that gets me? Is it going to be my time? Have they not contacted me because this is a result that needs to be discussed with my doctor face to face? 

As much as I think that I am working to face the reality of mortality, it is a whole different experience when something specific makes it quickly feel so much more specific and real in such a tangible way. 

And that gets me thinking even more. Isn’t our whole life, if we really think about it, the space between when we are born and when we die? None of know how long that time will be or how large that space might be. But it’s there. We know when we were born. We don’t know when we will die. 

What do we do with that limited time? Do we spend it fretting? Being anxious about when the end will come? Living in fear and dread? Not living our fullest lives due to the temporary nature of everything?

Or do we rather, live as fully as we can, and use this awareness to help us live even more passionately, more present to each moment? Never knowing when our last moment will be. 

I like to think that we can choose the latter. 

I am humbled by how much more challenging that choice to live each moment can become, in the face of a specific test done, waiting to hear the results. 

It’s real, this whole mortality thing. It’s real, this whole aging process and the fact that our bodies do break down and eventually wear out and let go. It’s real, this fact that we really do have a very limited and brief time on this earth. It’s all very real. A bit too real the past few hours, if I am honest. 

And so I will keep breathing through the rest of this day, evening and night. And I will meet with my doctor in the morning to see what the next step may or may not be. And I will live in the not knowing place until then. And do my best to appreciate each moment. Appreciate each breath. 

And, with whatever the results may be, to once again be reminded to appreciate whatever time that I do have left. And live it as fully and intentionally as I can. And be as present as I can. For each precious breath. 

All the Feelings are ok

Allowing ourselves and others the time to vent before leaping into gratitude

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I have had several interesting challenges lately. 

Living in northern California, we have recently had floods, mudslides, falling trees, high winds, huge sinkholes and more. 

My particular experiences lately have been with several falling trees near or on my property. 

First of all, let me say that I am tremendously grateful that no one was hurt. There wasn’t even any major property damage done to anyone here on my street. Not so far, anyway. I feel blessed. 

I am particularly grateful to several small trees that in two separate cases bore the brunt of the weight of the very large falling trees, sacrificing their own limbs and in one case, even its life, in the process. I am touched and will do my best to save those trees that are left, hoping that they will survive to bud again in the spring. 

I, however, have needed to express and vent about all the feelings that were part of the experience. And that is ok. As a matter of fact, it is indicated, necessary, and even vital.

I find it interesting to notice how some people have reacted to my talking about my feelings. 

What have I heard?

Be grateful that it wasn’t worse. Things happen. It could have been worse, so you should be happy. You are lucky. Some people have it so much worse. Don’t complain, look how lucky you have been. Look at all the suffering in the world. Compared to that, this is nothing. This too shall pass. That’s what happens when you live among lots of trees on hills. 

Of course these things are true. There is much suffering in the world. And it is painful to see and feel, and to feel so powerless about. I don’t mean to discount that. 

But do we need to compare ourselves to others in the service of invalidating our own experiences and feelings?

Things could have been much worse. Yes, I am so very aware of that. And I am grateful. Truly. And I express that all the time. All the time.

Why, however, I wonder, is it not ok to express some of the other feelings that I have as part of my healing and recovering and coping process?

 I feel anxiety, fear about more trees coming down, deep awareness of the brevity of life and how quickly things can change given that I was in the house when my neighbor’s tree fell toward my home and lightly landed on part of the roof. 

I felt a sense of overwhelm at having two trees fall in the space of a week and also having to now have another tree cut that is leaning toward a neighbor’s property. Will more happen? We have another big storm coming in tomorrow. 

I felt anxious about how much all of this cost and where I would be able to budget for it and what I will have to cut out in my expenses. 

Sometimes I just want to sit, hold my head in my hands for a few moments, and say This is too much. 

Can I simply allow myself a few moments to feel that before picking myself up once again and moving forward with what needs to be done?

We are, perhaps, misguided in our attempts to think that we are helping the other person by trying to get them to focus immediately on positive things. Or maybe we are uncomfortable with their feelings and don’t know what to say, not realizing that all we have to do is listen and hear them, validate their experience, their feelings. 

Can we allow ourselves to help to make it ok and safe for them to simply express what they need to express?

Can we allow the space for all the feelings so that gratitude can be arrived at, in its own time?

Can we allow all the weather of human emotions? Sun and clouds, clear skies and dark storms. Happiness and sadness. Courage and fear. Sweet and bitter.

Can we also allow this in ourselves? To accept all the experiences and range of feelings that are part of this human journey? 

Can we allow the feelings that come with each stage of life? The fear and sadness that can be part of aging, along with the wisdom? The tremendous compassion for all of life as we also realize that there will be an end to our own? 

Can we begin to realize that life is about coming home to all of who we are? We can spend so much of our youth and earlier lives trying to repress and deny and conform and mold ourselves into what we are told we should be or think that we should be, only to discover that the true gem of who we are was inside of us all along. Waiting to be seen, heard, expressed. All of it. All of the very human, flawed, perfectly imperfect parts that make up who we genuinely and authentically are. 

I am still learning, as I continue on my own aging process, that who I am is exactly who I am supposed to be. That expressing what is deeply inside of me is the gift that I can give to the world. That parts of me that I have worked so hard to try and bury are exactly the parts of me that so many others may relate to and perhaps, when hearing me express them, feel a bit less alone. 

I feel so many things. All part of this roller coaster ride of life. All part of being this unique creature called a human being. How lovely to contain all of these feelings, all of these reactions, all of these pieces that make us who we are. All of these pieces that deserve to be heard and honored. 

I am so very grateful for all of it. 

The Grace of a Falling Tree

Learning to appreciate the gifts of what didn’t happen

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I woke up at 3am to the sound of something crashing down. Not good, I thought. I got up and looked outside to see what might have happened. 

We are getting a lot of rain here in northern California right now, and the grounds are getting saturated. Trees come crashing down. 

My neighbor’s tree came down two weeks ago just touching my roof. Two small trees had caught the larger tree as it came down, saving my roof, my house, and maybe even me.

 All the neighbors came together, with kindness and support for each other.

I have been so very grateful.

 I have written before about dodging bullets, and the bullets coming ever faster and more frequently as we age. This falling tree was not the bullet with my name on it. Not yet.

So there I was this morning at 3am. It was raining pretty hard, it was dark, and I couldn’t really see what happened. I didn’t see any obvious damage to any property around me. Back to bed I went, deciding I wouldn’t really be able to see anything until the light of morning. After a bit, I was able to go back to sleep.

I woke up, got dressed, and got myself ready to face what might have happened. I looked in front of the house, where my neighbor’s tree had fallen weeks ago. All looked ok there.

 I made my way to the back of the house and the property there, property that is on a fairly steep hill.

There it was. A very tall, huge Monterey Pine had come down, across the hill, falling onto a small fence and another smaller tree on my property. It looked once again as if the smaller tree and the fence had cushioned the fall. These small trees are taking care of me lately. It brings me to tears. 

I looked a bit longer to see what I could see of all that had happened. I took a deep breath, came inside and sat down with another cup of coffee, continuing to breathe deeply. Feeling the moment. Feeling the shock, and the blessing of how this tree had come down without hurting anyone. Without hurting anything as far as I could tell. 

Maybe I will name this my Meditation On A Falling Tree.

I left a message for the arborist who had just over a week ago come out to prune several oak trees for me. Oak trees that I had been planning to get pruned this summer, but thought better of it since my neighbor’s tree that had fallen was an oak. Better to do this earlier,I had reasoned, to prevent any further possible catastrophes. 

I had also asked the arborist, when he had come to prune the oaks, about this particular pine tree that fell last night. He had responded that there may be a chance of some of the branches or the tree itself falling, but that it would not hit anything. Less to worry about. 

Continuing to breathe and calm myself, I sent another message to this arborist this morning. He will be coming out today to assess the situation, once the rain lets up enough. Ok, that’s taken care of for the moment.

I then look outside and see my neighbor’s sons working on something in the area where our properties meet. I walked up there, and lo and behold, a cedar tree that I just got an estimate for (also for pruning) had lost one of its significantly larger branches. I had just received the estimate yesterday for pruning this tree and had written back that I wanted to book them to do the work when they could fit me into their schedule. (The arborist who pruned my oaks did not have the equipment to handle this one particular large cedar, which needed one of those bucket trucks.) I was ready to schedule the work with this other company as soon as possible. 

Clearly this one branch could not wait. 

This huge branch had fallen in my neighbor’s driveway. It had lightly touched her car, but again, no damage was done. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. 

This lovely neighbor of mine (we fairly recently started having monthly happy hours together, now that we are both retired and have time to actually get to know each other more) and I both stood there, watching her sons saw the large branch into smaller pieces and clean things up. Shaking our heads, we talked about the importance of laughter (as in ending the year with a true bang.)

We are the same age, she having turned 70 this month and I following close behind her, turning 70 this coming April. Aging, we said to each other, reminds us to laugh when we can, and be grateful for gifts. And to remember to look for and see those gifts all around us. 

This incident could have been so much worse. No one was hurt. No damage was done. And sweet connections happened on New Year’s Eve day among us all. This may be the only face to face contact that I have today. Hugs were exchanged. What treasures these were. I felt cared about and cared for. I felt less alone. I felt the love of neighbors and friends. 

What gifts that these trees have given me this season. 

The gift of being saved from any injury, both myself and anyone else. The gift of no major damage having been done to anyone’s property. The gift of neighbors coming together in crisis to be there with each other. The gift of feeling less alone in the world. The gift of realizing that we have blessings each and every day if we look around us. 

Life can be hard. There is pain and suffering and loss. All part of the journey. And there is caring. There are small everyday miracles and there is community. 

Today, I am grateful for the gifts and blessings. For the miracles. For the hands reaching out to be there in support and comfort. For neighbors. For friends. For love, in all of its various wonderful forms. For life. In all of its bittersweetness. 

The crashing trees, the small trees that catch them and cushion the blows.

 The suffering that life can bring and the friends that catch us and cushion us from these blows of life. 

The grace that enables us to see another day. To live another precious day on this earth. 

Solitude and the Grace of Friends

Feeling connected, even in solitude

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I spent much of this past holiday season alone, intentionally. A time to reflect, to go inside, to simply be and to be in gratitude.

To feel gratitude for my life. Especially since having had a couple of recent reminders of how fragile life can be, how quickly it can all change the blink of an eye. These reminders are gifts. Gifts that help us to appreciate each precious moment that we still have, never knowing how many may be left.

A tree almost falling on my house, missing it by inches, because of two smaller trees catching and bearing the weight of the fallen tree and saving my roof, my house, maybe even me. I thank those trees every day. And I will do my best to save them and hope that they survive the damage that was done, the torn and split limbs. The trunks that still stand. 

Some medical tests are being run on me for possible asbestos exposure issues. Two of the tests done thus far came back negative. All ok so far. No guarantees, but so far so good. One breath at a time, I remind myself. 

Random other incidents and issues coming up in life, as they do. Dodging bullets until the one with my name comes for me.

 I am still here, still alive. Still here to write about it and tell the story.

And in this, my solitude, my quiet space of being, I realize that I am not really alone.

I visit the mausoleum where I remember the lives and gifts of my mother and father. I feel the spirits of all those there around me. I sit quietly with them, acknowledging their lives. Acknowledging the brevity of it all. Acknowledging what they may and may not have done, regrets, sadnesses, memories. Lives lived. Some stories told. Some not told because time ran out.

I go home and continue my quiet reverie. 

I hear from friends. 

A dear friend calls that I have not spoken to in decades. We have mailed cards or notes, or more recently a few texts, but not spoken to each other. Her voice sounds exactly as I remember it. It brings a smile. That memory was stored within me, the sound of her voice. 

I get another phone call from a friend that I used to work with. We may not have frequent contact, but when we do have contact, the depth and authenticity is there. It amazes me. And love is spoken with appreciation of each other still being in the world and having been part of each others’ lives.

 My neighbors, stop by for a few moments. We have all recently grown even closer together due to that fallen tree. We rallied around each other, supported each other, and became more of a family. 

 I get more holiday texts from other friends that I may not hear from often, but when I do hear from them, the connection is as kind and loving as ever. We remember our past connection, each other’s presence on this earth. We remember that our lives touched, making us forever connected. 

I get a phone call from an ex lover. The romantic relationship may be over, but the friendship continues. How lovely to be able to continue that thread and connection. The love may change forms, but remains there still. 

I am filled with so many emotions these days. So many feelings. Bitter and sweet, each important for their own value, message and lesson. The holidays can bring those up even more intensely. 

I feel very alone at times. I believe that there are certain things that we each must ultimately face alone. 

And yet, even in this aloneness, we are connected. We have touched each others’ lives and souls and somehow become part of each other. And especially during the holidays, I am grateful for this created family. This family is part of the thread of the story of my life. They are in me, in my memories, as I am in them. 

Connection doesn’t always need to be physical presence. It is felt deep within us. Even with those that have already left this earth.

That is my hope, as I continue on this journey of aging, that I have touched some lives and became part of those lives and spirits and stories. That I have been seen and heard. As I saw and heard them. That I mattered to some, made a difference in some lives, even if briefly. That my life was a spark, a light. A gift for others, as they have been to me. 

And so I sit here in sacred solitude combined with the grace of love, friendship and connection. 

And that is the best holiday gift of all. 

A Letter to Santa from a Woman of a Certain Age

Its time to write to Santa again, after all these years

Photo by Jenna Anderson on Unsplash

Dear Santa,

 It’s been many years since you heard from me, I know. I didn’t forget you. 

I got older, got absorbed by life and its duties, its chores, its ups and downs.

 I left you to the innocence and wonder of young children. I was an adult now, and had to do what that required. Or so I thought. 

I am older now. I don’t know where all those years went. They seemed to fly by. 

And, instead of getting into being more and more of an adult, I find I am now moving back more toward the ways of a child. Perhaps this is part of the gift of the wisdom of aging. 

I feel everything more deeply, see the wonder more of the world around me. I can be mesmerized by watching the birds bathe, watching the squirrels come to get the peanuts that I leave out for them.

I can stand in front of a huge elephant where I volunteer at the zoo, completely absorbed in that moment as he and I connect on levels that are far beyond words. I am in awe. I feel a depth of love and connection that I cannot name, but know and recognize. I lose all sense of time in that moment. I understand, for that brief moment, the concept of eternity. 

Sunsets can make me cry.

Towering redwoods become my cathedral. 

Just like the lists that I used to have, I have a wish list again at this stage of my life. This list, however, has different dreams on it now.

I want to believe in heros and heroines to come and save this world, this earth that is hurting, along with its creatures, plants, trees, oceans, air, and people. I want to believe that there is a hero in us all. Deep inside each of us. Ready to be called upon to come to the rescue. Rescuing ourselves. Rescuing others. 

I want all the adults to remember and feel the child that they once were inside them. The child who still believes in magic, the child who dreams, the child who wishes. The child who sometimes lashes out because of hurt, but is really needing to feel loved and cared about, to feel safe and held. 

I wish for us to wake up to what we are doing to each other. I wish for the wars and killings and pain inflicted on each other to stop.

I want people to have enough water to drink, enough food to eat. Enough shelter to keep warm and dry. Enough to feel safe. 

I want us to stop hurting animals. To recognize their right to life and existence and to understand that we share this earth and planet. That we all are connected to each other and need to take care of each other. 

I want us to take care of this precious earth and appreciate that this is our sacred home and needs our love and attention.

I want kindness to be finally recognized as the ultimate superpower of them all. And I want that our striving to be better be aimed toward that goal of more gentleness and compassion. Can you imagine an Olympic event for Kindness? A World Cup for Compassion? Why not?

I want for us to be able to accept our humanity and all of its mixed and sometimes tumultuous feelings. To see that this is all part of the human journey and experience. And to be able to hear that in each other and ourselves, rather than denying it, rather than trying to push all those feelings away and then ending up acting out from that place. 

I want us to understand and hear what people of all ages have to say. 

As an older woman now, I want the wisdom of elders to be heard and used toward the healing that it can help move us toward. I have things to share and teach, but I can’t share those if I am not seen or heard. You cannot see someone whom you have made invisible. You cannot hear someone whom you have muted. 

I want these artificial divisions that we have drawn to separate us to be seen for what they are. These divisions are a way to see someone as Other and then feel separate, different, and thus easier to attack. Be it age, gender, race, class, ethnicity, educational level, religion, political beliefs, and all the other ways that we use to try and define ourselves as different than others. Apart from others. Not seeing those others as reflections of parts of ourselves that we all can contain. 

As for me personally, I want more understanding and compassion toward myself, especially during this aging process. And I want us to be able to give that to each other. To watch the changes that aging brings and to be able to love myself during that process, scary as it sometimes can be. 

I want us to see the whole of each piece of us that is still inside. 

I still have the child, the young woman, the young adult, the middle age adult, all inside me. I want to validate and love all those parts of me as I continue my journey in this life toward the end of the path.

I am more than the image that you see when you take one look. I am complex. I need your time and attention to see all of me. And I want to do the same for you. 

I want joy, laughter (not at the expense of myself or others), peace, and the ability to feel what we feel, in all of its bittersweetness. Life is poignant. And it is a precious gift. 

So dear Santa, I know that this is a big list. I also know that it’s important to name and ask for what we want and need. It’s important to dream. It’s important to have visions of what can be, of what each of us can strive to be. Of what we might be together. I believe in you, Santa. Because I believe in us. 

Validating Our Experience ofTrauma

Acknowledging our feelings to be able to move through them and beyond

Th9iPhoto by Gary Meulemans on Unsplash

This weekend was tough. 

I hesitate to even write about it, as it can be easy for me to invalidate my own experiences and feelings when I compare them to what others are suffering in this world. There is so much trauma and destruction and deep wounding in this world.

Who am I to talk about what seem like trivial experiences in comparison?

Who am I feel anything but gratitude?

That, I believe, is a trap that is easy to fall into. To compare our own issues or problems to the very real and major pain of others. And belittle ourselves for even daring to complain or speak about it with anything but gratitude for all that we have.

I am grateful. For life. For each day. Especially as, in continuing on this journey of aging, I become aware of the number of those days ahead of me dwindling. Mortality becomes more real. Priorities shift.

And yet, life happens to us all.

So this past weekend, a huge oak across the small private road from me fell and crashed down toward my house.

I was home at the time, heard the loud sound, and felt a bit of shaking in my house. That can’t be good, I said to myself. (Living alone affords me the luxury of having conversations with myself all the time.) 

I walked around the back of the house, and looked up at the slope behind me. This is where, years ago, two 125 foot tall Monterey pines had toppled down on top of each other during a heavy winter storm. I felt so grateful at that time that they had miraculously fallen down onto each other and then onto a fence between my house and my neighbor’s and not onto anyone or any house. No damage was done except to the fence. It was unbelievable to think of what could have happened in that middle of the night when all were sleeping in their homes , relaxed with the illusion of safety.

Remembering that night as I kept walking around, I saw that no trees looked like they had fallen on the slope. I dared to breathe a sigh of relief as I continued my path around the house. 

I came back in and opened the front door to see if there was anything that I could see from there. 

I could not walk out of the front door except for a few steps. There, lying at the entrance to my house was the huge oak tree that had fallen victim to the storm and muddy hill (after being dry from years of drought). And, as I looked around, I noticed that there were several live wires that had been taken down by the tree on its path to my front door. And I, for a few moments, simply stared at this tree. At what had happened. Trying to take it all in. 

I think it sometimes takes our brains a few seconds to let in something bad that has happened, to process the reality of the situation around us. 

I was able to connect with a neighbor up the hill. They had called 9–1–1. The fire department very quickly showed up, and stayed and stood guard to make sure that everyone stayed indoors until the power had been disconnected and the live wires would then be harmless. 

The power company ( PG & E in California) soon were there. PG & E , after shutting down the source of power, called in their tree crew, who showed up several hours later and proceeded to begin the process of removing this huge oak from our road. They kept working until the road was cleared, well into the night. 

Once the road was cleared, the PG & E crews who deal with the electricity came back to work on getting our power restored. Not an easy task, especially in the pouring rain. They did not stop until about 3am the next morning, until a new pole was installed, the lines were replaced, and the power was restored. 

I appreciate them so much for their nonstop tireless work to help us out. I am humbled by how hard people work. How much we depend on others. How vulnerable we all really are at any given moment in time.

We, the neighbors and I, are still recovering from this. Crews still come up from PG & E to look at the lines, at what may still need to be replaced or repaired. Cable companies, internet companies are frequently here, blocking access to the road as they do their work.

How fortunate to be able to live where the repairs can happen quickly, where the response time is as soon as it can be. Where we are paid attention to and cared for. Where there are systems in place to handle such emergencies. 

And now that I find myself dealing with the details of what the work to be done is that follows such an incident, I notice inside myself that I am feeling some trauma from the whole experience. To see this tree and how close it came to landing on my house. While I was in there. To realize that others might have been walking on that road at the time. 

There were two small trees that I loved that were in the front of my house. Trees that others had suggested that I have removed. I had refused. 

These two beloved trees were badly damaged from the huge oak that fell.

Those two trees, as the roofer (that I had requested to come out to inspect the roof) told me, are what saved my roof and my house from much worse damage. Cushioning the landing and falling of the huge tree. Catching its fallen limbs at the expense of their own.

I am so grateful to those trees. Indeed, I have scheduled an arborist to come out and see if they have any chance of being saved. I pray so.

We never know who or what may save us. 

My neighbor had parked his truck close to where the tree came down and the tree completely covered the truck. Amazingly, the truck came out with only a minor dent. Unbelievable. This neighbor, that day, had traveled to Las Vegas, where his father had just died. 

He is convinced that his father was watching out for him. I believe in things like that.

I have not left the house since this happened on Saturday. I need to go somewhere this evening. A holiday gathering. Although I am tempted to cancel, I think that I will go and give myself permission to leave early if it feels like too much for me to handle. 

It occurs to me that we need to validate the traumas in our lives. We all have traumas. And they are real. And we react on many levels to that trauma, in our bodies and our souls. Becoming perhaps hypervigilant. Anxious. More fearful. 

And becoming more aware. Of how we cannot take one moment for granted. That things can, and do, happen in the blink of an eye. Your life, as you know it, can change instantaneously. The outcome of this tree story could have been very different. And these stories can come in and enter our lives at any moment. 

I feel the shock of what happened. The shock of what might have happened. The reminder, once again, to cherish each moment. 

 I am reminded to treat myself gently these days. It’s ok to have been scared. It’s ok to get shaken up. It’s ok to feel the after effects of experiences like this. It’s ok to treat myself with compassion. It’s ok to take the time that I may need to fully re-enter my life. 

It’s ok.

It’s ok to allow myself to be human, to feel all that this involves, to validate my visceral reactions to things that happen. To cry if I need to. To cocoon for a bit if I need to. To get under the covers and comfort myself. To stop the world for a minute as needed. This is how I get through things. This is how I grow. By stopping for a bit and acknowledging what happened. Feeling it, moving through it. To the next step. 

And to be so grateful for it all. 

There were such gifts in this trauma. Neighbors coming together to help each other. Emergency crews there to help. Friends reaching out by text to check in. The miracle of no one getting hurt. Caring and connection strengthened. Life, and love, affirmed. 

Tears of a Pope

Overcome by compassion for the suffering of others

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

I watched the news yesterday, and I cannot get an image out of my head. There was a very brief segment about the pope. He had been praying aloud to a crowd for the people suffering in Ukraine, when he had to stop in the midst of his prayer, overcome by emotion. 

He stepped back from the microphone, stood there for about 30 seconds, and simply bowed his head and wept quietly. Overcome by his emotions for the tremendous suffering of the people in Ukraine, the pain of it all flooding over him and making it unable for him to carry on for a few moments.

What a powerful image. To acknowledge the suffering, to take a moment and honor that pain that is so hard to contain. The pain that we humans are capable of inflicting on one another. 

I was raised Catholic, but identify more as spiritual rather than religious. I do like this particular pope as compared to others in the past. He allows himself to appear as more human, compassionate, willing to risk. I may not agree with all that he stands for, but I respect his dedication to a life of service and spreading a message of love and compassion. And I honor his tears.

He is aging, as we all do. And I wonder, as I have noticed in myself, if aging brings even more compassion and empathy and willingness to express those tender feelings when they come. To, indeed, honor their presence as a sacred gift. To no longer be as able to hold them back or inside of ourselves, as it becomes too much to contain. To no longer think that it is a strength to hold these feelings back or to try to hide them. 

I see this increasing tearfulness and inability to hold it back in myself. 

I cannot even tolerate passing a poor animal on the road that has been run over and died there for all to see as we drive by. My tears come.

 I have trouble watching the commercials on tv about animals left out in the cold, suffering, freezing, alone. More tears.

I can barely tolerate a bit of the news to feel like I have enough of an idea of what is going on in this very troubled world. My heart aches. 

 The wars and the suffering of people caught in the power struggle of leaders who are safe and away from all the destruction that they cause. Elders, children left out in the cold with no home, no family, nothing left. Families torn apart. Lives shattered.

The rising crime and people being robbed, hurt, abused, killed. People desperate and acting out of that desperation blindly, unable to contain anger and frustration and lashing out at others. 

School shootings of innocent young children who have barely begun their lives.

Hate crimes against others whose difference somehow threatens those who hate, attack, and kill them. Differences that somehow threaten rather than unite us in our common humanity. 

People in the world with not enough food to eat or to feed their children, with not enough clean water to drink. 

 An earth that continues to be destroyed and ravaged. 

An ocean filled with plastic and garbage. Whales washing up on shore whose bellies, when they are cut open, are filled with that plastic. 

Animals that are hunted to the point of extinction, and often not for food. Elephants killed for ivory trinkets. Their babies orphaned and abandoned.

 Farm animals treated with cruelty in the production of food with no sense of compassion for their lives and suffering. 

The list can go on and on. 

It feels like too much to bear, to contain. 

Perhaps, like the pope, with the courage to feel , to allow those feelings to permeate and fill our souls, perhaps this is what we all need. To acknowledge all the darkness and then somehow be able to face it and do something? To pray, feel, weep, and then somehow work to come together. 

We cannot change what we cannot name and face. Including that which lies within ourselves. Perhaps, as we name and face it and allow the pain of it all to wash through us, to step back and allow the tears, perhaps we can begin to begin to make decisions and take action from that open place, that wound, those tears. Sacred, powerful tears of compassion and humanity.