The Gentle Brutality of Self Honesty

I am working with being more honest with myself these days. I realize how much I actually withhold from others at times, out of fear of offending them or being rejected by them. This has been a a lifelong pattern for me, learned early on and reinforced along the way until it took over. And it has not served me in living my best life.

So here I am, in my late 60s, looking at this pattern yet again. If I am honest, I don’t always tell the truth. I don’t always let others know when something that they said or did may have hurt or offended me in some way. I tell myself it’s not a big deal and to just get over it. Now there are times when something small is really not all that offensive, but, I think that some of these perhaps not so little things can build up inside, eventually creating a wall between me and others. A wall that I have used to protect myself. But, as I now am realizing more and more, a wall that has also separated me from my own truth and inner integrity.

I do not mean that I need to be brutal or harsh with others…..and I am beginning to also realize that this can also apply to being honest with myself. Yes, I can be brutally honest in realizing that I don’t always tell the truth. The next question can then be, rather than the self condemnation and proof of further evidence against myself….to ask….why? What is going on that I feel that I have to hide who I really am? For me, one of my fears is that if I show who I really am and what I truly feel, that I may be rejected, condemned, left completely alone and unloved.. Pretty harsh judgment, yes? The truth is, the person who has been doing this the most to me is myself. By not speaking who I am, by not allowing myself to tell my truth, I have abandoned me – reinforced the belief that I am not good enough, don’t deserve to speak up, will be seen as the bad person that I really fear that I am inside. Again, pretty harsh judgment. And sometimes, because I have held things inside for too long, when they do come out, they come out much more forcefully than necessary…..and may push others away, thus confirming the fear that I will not be accepted. Self fulfilling prophecy.

So…how to work with this. How can I finally really be more completely who I am for whatever life I may have left to live? How can I show you who I am and risk losing you,, or take a chance that we may grow closer still? And how can I allow that inner self to come through , finally, into the light? Flaws and imperfections and all….but still a worthwhile human being who has the right to be here and be who she is.

I find that I can somehow do that more easily with the written word, in this blog….and now the task is to learn to take the chance and risk to do that in person, face to face…one small risk at a time, one hesitant step….one breath at a time. I want to die having fully expressed who I am, and allowed that self to be seen, perhaps loved even. But, most of all, to see and love myself…..

I wish the same for each of you who may relate to some or any of what I have written. You deserve to be seen and heard and loved……and you so very much deserve to give this to yourself. Come along with me on this path….this path of gentle brutality…..with compassion, understanding, room for mistakes….and love.

The Challenge of Self-Forgiveness

It seems that I can forgive (sometimes it may take a little while) everyone but myself.

Why is this so hard? The self recriminations, the self punishment, the rumination about how I could have done things differently, better, with more grace and kindness- these are relentless and punitive and toxic. And yet, it is as if I feel that I deserve the toxicity and punishment. To what end???

Yes, I can look back and see where I learned this as a child. I don’t want to stay stuck in blaming my parents, as they did the best that they could.. But, do I need to keep staying loyal to the lessons that they taught me about how to treat myself? When does the jury in my head finally stop condemning me to a life of impossible to reach standards and thus to a feeling of being a perpetual failure? When can I say ENOUGH? When can I let go and learn and be compassionate with myself for being flawed and human?

I have done some things recently that were less than kind. I said some things that came out of my fear, and did not even take the time to hear the other well, as I was too much in my fear. I feel awful about this. I tried to apologize (and the jury in my head says that I didn’t do that very well, either….). I didn’t mean to hurt this other person, but I did. And I regret that. I can’t take back the words that I wrote. And I have no further chance to try and talk about it, as the communication was stopped by this other person. I understand that, but it is a hard pill to swallow.

A pill that I feel that I deserve. But…..I now continue the punishment toward myself. And I am having trouble working my way through this, through the self flagellation and self rumination to get to the other side of this. So that I can learn, and try to do better next time with the next person, and move on and keep living. It is as if I am stuck in the no forgiveness zone. This feels like a version of hell……to live with punishment that has no end, to live with shame and guilt and remorse that has no place to vent and be released. To live with thoughts of what might have been if I had not acted so quickly out of fear……to face the loss of what my actions caused me.

This literally causes an ache in my gut, a tightness in my throat…..flooding of stress hormones that cannot be good for me. It is what they speak of when they talk about the toxicity of maintaining a high level of stress that doesn’t resolve so that your body, mind and spirit can work their way back to a calmer place.

I wonder how many of us do this to ourselves. I don’t think that I am unique in this. So….how to navigate this….how to allow self compassion and self forgiveness and learn the lessons and keep moving on. Keep living life. Keep working on doing better…..keep working on loving ourselves, flaws and all….that is the challenge.

I don’t have the answers yet, but at least I have begun to ask the question. I wanted to write about this pattern, to expose it…. as secrecy is the silent and powerful partner of shame. That is the first step, I think….to notice the patterns, to pay attention to what the voices in my head are saying to me, to notice the pain that this causes…..and to begin, with the help of my Higher Power/God/Universe ….to begin the slow journey back to self compassion…..self understanding….self forgiveness…..Even if someone else cannot forgive me, I can only apologize and try to learn and keep moving on, and work to not do this again. God knows, though, that I am so very human, and will continue to make mistakes….not out of evil intention, but out of my own insecurities and fears……But a lifetime of self punishment for all the ways that I am so much less than perfect….seems a very harsh sentence. I am horrified by torture….yet seem to allow this toward myself by myself…..And with this internal jury, each “transgression” allows them to bring up all other past mistakes and use them in the trial……This would never happen in a regular court of law, but there seem to be no such rules for this internal jury from hell….

And, in addition, maybe I can even look at the fears and what they may have been trying to tell me…..maybe they were protecting me from potential harm…..maybe they came from my gut, and although expressed less than gracefully, may have had some wisdom to teach me. Maybe there is also a lesson in this… notice the fears, ask what they are trying to tell me, where they are coming from, and what I may need to do to pay attention to them …..and do this with as much grace and kindness toward others and myself as possible.

But in the meantime, I think I need to address this internal jury in my head – to be the fair and just judge who deals fairly, but compassionately, with the human condition and all of its flaws and imperfections. Perhaps this jury needs to be instructed that self-forgiveness can actually be one of the verdicts. I don’t think that this has been offered as a possibility before- not toward myself, anyway. But maybe it’s time to offer that as an option. I’m not sure exactly how to do this, but at least it’s up for discussion.

A Sacred Moment

I witnessed another being die today. I was at the gym, on the elliptical looking out the window….and I happened to see a moth flying around by the ivy. I delight these days, even more than usual, in watching nature and all of its beautiful creatures and plants. And so I watched this white moth fluttering and flying …..and noticed that its flight seemed a bit erratic. As I continued to watch, it flew closer and closer to the ground, until finally settling on the ground lying still. I waited, hoping to see it take flight again….but it did not. I, in fact, just witnessed its last flight as it gently landed on the ground to die.

I was so very moved by this. This tiny creature, having reached the end of its life and time, dying before me, with me as the only witness. No one else around to see the last fluttering of its wings or it slowly letting go ….to fly no longer. I felt, and still feel, so sad and deeply quieted by this.

Of course this is the circle of life, and the final destination that we must all reach. As I age, and as this destination feels closer each day, I am sensitive to what these final moments may be like – whether we will be alone- whether there will be anyone around us to be present as we take our last breath….whether it matters. But it mattered to me that I was there to witness this moth, its final flight. I was silent, experiencing the finality and grace of that moment….the sacred moment of letting go…..the end of this creature’s time on this earth….and that I was given the gift of being there to witness and honor this moment for another creature… wish it peace and grace… wish the same for myself when my time comes to take my final breath.

It seems important, in this life, to be witnessed, seen, and heard. And perhaps to have our final moment be witnessed as well…..even though this is a journey, this final destination, that we must all take alone. But perhaps we can be surrounded by some love sent our way, by some appreciation for the life we have lived, some grace for the moment that we die. It may seem silly, but I found myself sending this moth love and grace and the fullest presence to its being that I could. That felt important to do. Perhaps someone may do that for me. To honor each others’ lives, to honor the moment of death ….to see until the end, and to remember with our hearts. I hold that moth in my heart. I hold the pets that I have lost in my heart. I hold friends and family that I have lost in my heart. I hold the patients that died in the nursing home where I worked as a social worker in my heart – both those that had family surrounding them and those whose family I had become. It is a very sacred moment that I am honored to be a part of…..and grateful for. Each moment, I learn more and more, has its own special grace and gift to give, if we can stop and have the presence and courage to witness, see and feel it.

Gratitude…..for it all

It is the day after Thanksgiving, the day we are reminded to be grateful for all the blessings that we have. And, indeed, I am very grateful …..for it all.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, I chose to be alone. I have no family that I am in touch with, and even though some dear friends invited me over, I really felt the call to be in solitude and allow space for all that was going on inside me. I visited the mausoleum where I honor my mother and father….and let the tears flow freely. That, at least, is one place that public tears don’t seem to cause as much discomfort in others…. And I sat there for a while…..nodding heads to acknowledge all those visiting those that they had lost….silent companions in our shared grief.

I also gave thanks for everything in my life. Sometimes this can be more of a challenge….like giving thanks for the inevitable pain and grief that comes along as part of life. Grief over those we have lost, both human and four legged (I have lost many close friends, family, and beloved pets over the past few years…). Grief over the losses that come along with aging – losing those close to us, losing our youth and all that comes with that, dealing with age related changes that come along, loss of our illusion of power and immortality that can sometimes be part of our youth, loss of a sense of a future ahead of us……so many losses…..

I am also dealing with the loss of an online relationship that may or may not have been a scam…..but the loss is real. The loss is painful. The loss of the attention, the sweet words that were written to me that reminded me of parts of myself that had been dormant for a while…the loss of the feeling of being wanted …..(yes, this is still very much alive at my age…)….the loss of a hope of being held again and touched again and loved passionately again. It doesn’t matter if this was real or not…..the feelings in me were (and are) very real and I need to acknowledge them and the loss of what awakened those in me once again…..the emptiness and aloneness and sadness that I feel are very real and need to be acknowledged.

And I am working to realize that I need and want to be grateful for all these feelings…..because they are part of being alive and human…they are part of this journey that we are all on. I let this person into my heart, which is why the fears got triggered and I reacted out of those fears, which pushed him away……(see previous post for details)…..But my heart had been opened again. And it hurts. A lot. And, deep down, I am grateful for the ability to still feel that, to still be able to have a heart that lets someone else in….for still being very much alive. There is time enough to be dead to all feelings when we are dead and gone. But, for now, we are still alive. Still here. Still willing to be foolish and vulnerable and make mistakes….and still willing to learn. I am too much in the midst of the grief to be able to name all the lessons learned yet, but I know that there are lessons to learn from this. And I will work to learn those lessons….and to grow.

Life has joy and pain – same coin, different sides. Life has ups and downs, comes with delightful surprises and excruciatingly painful losses. We have such capacity for emotion and feeling in us….what a gift that this is. If I feel my pain (and I am in no way saying that this is fun in any way….) then I can be more open to your pain and sit beside you in quiet understanding and compassion. But I must acknowledge my own pain, allow myself my own compassion and forgiveness and understanding – in order to truly be able to be with you and your pain.

As I sat crying in the mausoleum, I looked around (there are new “residents” each time that I visit, of course)…..and I thought to myself…..why wouldn’t I want to welcome all the feelings that this life brings us? Why wouldn’t I want to be alive while I am still here on this earth? Why wouldn’t I want to share this with others so we can, perhaps for a moment, feel a little less alone? And so, here I sit, the day after Thanksgiving, giving thanks for everything….giving thanks for this precious life, giving thanks for each experience, giving thanks for a heart that can be open and still feel pain and loss, as well as joy and compassion and love. I am hurting right now….and it’s ok. And I am right here beside you if you are hurting too… are not alone. You are alive, and you are precious with all your feelings….each and every one of them. They are a gift, as are you.

More lessons learned…the hard way….Relationship challenges….

A second post today…..I have so much going on inside me. I want to write about an online relationship that has been going on for about two months that became very intense very quickly….and to process some of what has help sort it out for myself and to perhaps help others who may be in similar situations…

I wrote earlier today about “catfishing”….and the possibility that this has happened to me. I am not certain about whether it has happened to me or not (although several friends seem to feel certain that it has), but I need to look at my part in an interaction that I had yesterday with this man online that caused this relationship to end suddenly. When this man shared that he was having some financial issues, I immediately became frightened that this was what the relationship may have been leading up to all along, as we hear about older women being “catfished” all the time….others pretending to be someone that they are not….or looking to use someone. I once heard an acquaintance say that older women had to be careful about being sought after to be “a nurse or a purse”. Clearly, in this case I was older (by 14 years) and would not be the nurse, but did get afraid of men looking for a purse….someone to help them financially. So, I reacted and wrote a text that, looking back, was harsher than it needed to be and did come across as accusatory (without having even given him a chance to even ask for anything…I just bulldozed ahead with my text about having been afraid of this pattern since the beginning of the relationship and that I would not give any money… ) I regret the haste and tone of the text. I also had included some other things that I had been a bit worried about but had not shared up to this point, as I was taking my time to see how things developed. That was also unfair of me, to add on all these extra concerns in one text – I was scared and my adrenaline was flowing. When he received the text, he was, understandably, very hurt and angry and ended our relationship, such as it was. He went on to say that I was not the good person that he thought that I was, that I had broken his heart and that he was so very disappointed. And that I could keep my “sorry” to myself, that he had no time for games. I can understand his anger and hurt, and I tried to say that. He would not accept my apology, which is his right and choice.

So here I sit struggling with more feelings than I know what to do with or how to handle. I did indeed come across too strongly, harshly, and with things that had been inside me for a bit, but that I had not shared. So of course this must have felt like an attack and overwhelming to him. I understand that, and I feel badly about that. It was a mistake on my part. But, here is an interesting additional dynamic that I can see – I also noticed, in the midst of my extreme guilt and self recrimination and shame, that this was really no way to handle a conflict….that there was no room to talk about it, to work through it, to process it, to at least be able to talk about what may have been going on for both of us. And that, separate from the other issues, would be a major concern in any ongoing relationship. Can I really be in a relationship where there is no chance to take responsibility, apologize, talk about things, and possibly work through them or at least have both sides feel heard? The case was closed and I was shut out.

I am told that this can also be a part of the scamming dynamic….a type of manipulation. Possibly so….

What I want to pay attention to for myself and my own growth and learning is –

1.Think and breathe before I react – take time to really think about what I want to say and how it may feel to receive what I say before I write or say anything.

2. Speak clearly and take responsibility for my mistakes, own up to what I have done wrong, and apologize when this is needed and appropriate – apologize for what I did, not for who I am……

3. Watch out for the shame and self recrimination that comes up and tells me to beat myself up for my mistakes and punish myself and refuse to take on my mistakes as a sign that I am a mistake

4. Allow myself to move forward, learn from what I have done, speak my truth as best as I can, and….this is the hard part….to forgive myself. It’s painful if someone else cannot forgive me, but I cannot control that. But, to not allow myself to forgive myself….that is a severe and ongoing judgment and punishment …and keeps me in a cycle of self recrimination, self doubt, shame and guilt…. which does no good….

5. Keep working on growing and learning and trying to do better, all the while realizing that I am oh, so human, and I will make more mistakes. Not intentionally, but they will be made. And some of them may cause others pain. I will work to try and reduce this as much as possible.

6. Speak my truth early about any issues or things bothering me in a relationship and not store it up so that someone feels blasted all at once with things that they may have had no clue about…

7. Breathe and carry on. Live, relate, love, forgive, ask for forgiveness, allow self forgiveness, and carry on…

Was this a scam? I don’t really know. Did I make mistakes? Yes. Did I intend to hurt him? Not that I am aware of…I got really really scared. Do I allow myself to keep punishing myself? Do I allow his definition of me not being a good person to define how I think of myself? Do I refuse to forgive myself? Do I turn my back on myself and shut myself out from my own feelings and pain? Or do I try to understand what is going on inside me and have compassion and try to learn and grow….and be grateful for yet another lesson learned. I think that is what I will try, although it may be a bit of a struggle for a while. I seem to have a pattern of punishing myself for a while…Old patterns die hard. But….I can still learn, I can still grow, I can still, hopefully, learn to love better….I am still here, still alive…..still able to live and learn and love…..and to keep learning that love also includes loving ourselves.

Special of the day…..Catfish

I have written about this online relationship that has been going on for me, and there is much going on about that for me today…..I have fears about being “catfished”, having my vulnerability used to get something from me, having someone portray themselves as something other than what they are, fear of being a foolish older woman. I know that I am not unique with these fears, and with this experience.

Lately this man has been talking about his business, and the financial parts of it…..and at one point mentioned that he didn’t have enough money for a particular thing. He wanted to talk with me …and I immediately got suspicious about him perhaps wanting money from me… I reacted and wrote back with my concerns and that I was not going to give any money….that I wondered about scamming, etc..

His reaction to this was heartbreak and disappointment that I would think this of him. Is this real? Is he real? I have never met him – he is currently out of the country for business. He has sent some photos, which seem real. He seems real, and yet – there is fear and suspicion and confusion in me….

So here I sit, feeling confused, doubting myself yet again, yet unable to shake the fear and suspicions of anything online…..I wonder how many of us have experienced this…I wonder about our vulnerability and loneliness and fears and sadness and all the feelings that are part of being alive, mixed with the particular feelings of being an older woman alone…..His words online were sweet, loving seductive….have I been a fool? Or have I cast aside something that could have been real and wonderful? I am humbled to see how much I still want to be loved, seen, wanted, appreciated, pursued, desired…..all of it…all of it very humbling….

I have no answers at this point to any of this. Communication has stopped between this man and I at this point, and I am left with so many different feelings inside me. What I now struggle with is staying true to all of my feelings, staying with myself and not beginning to tear myself down for writing what I did, trying to be gentle with myself for being oh so very human and vulnerable….and for not having realized that perhaps I was more lonely than I cared to admit or acknowledge.

I now need to tap into my faith and belief in surrender to the Universe….to be guided and directed and taken care of…and to not apologize for having my feelings…..and to stay true to myself and not beat myself up. This is hard. I don’t much like the taste of this possible catfish….it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and a sour feeling in my gut…..and pain in my heart.

Can anyone else out there relate to this? You are not alone. It is understandable. And we can love ourselves through this….slowly…..

To be continued….

Thin skinned…..

I have been called thin skinned, too sensitive, easily hurt…..and more. And I am sensitive, although I don’t agree with the “too sensitive” label. I feel things intensely, and I am grateful for this. Isn’t this the beauty (and pain – the other side of the coin) of life? Are we not here to live, to feel, to cherish each moment of this human ride that we are on? If I am not sensitive, if I do not feel my own pain that is an inevitable part of life…..then I cannot feel your pain…..and we will not connect to the same depth. I cherish that connection, that understanding that we are both so very human and both experiencing all the joys and challenges that life can offer. We can share and be tender with each other. We can hold each other’s pain in our hands and in our heart. We can walk side by side…and perhaps not feel so alone for a while. So, yes I am sensitive. Thank God.

Now as I continue this aging process, I see another interpretation of being thin skinned. I never really noticed how much more fragile our literal skin becomes as we get older. The skin on my hands is much more paper-like with veins even more prominent than before. (I have always had prominent veins, which my clients at the drug abuse clinic where I worked would point out to me with envy…..! An interesting thing for someone else to lust after, yes??) But now, the veins declare their presence even more loudly. And my skin….I cannot bump myself and not notice anymore….my skin now tears more easily and the bruises look a much deeper purple color. I remember seeing my mother’s hands and arms show bruises like this, and here it now is on my own arms. It has come full circle. It is as if our skin becomes more and more fragile, less and less boundary between the earth and us….until it is time for us to go back to the earth completely….

I feel less of the boundary these days between me and the earth and all of its creatures. I feel the connection between and among us all. I, in my volunteer work at the local zoo, observe the elephants. And in moments I can feel completely connected with them as they live their lives in front of me. We are one. Our male elephant (my favorite …even though we are not supposed to have favorites) comes up in front of me (with the huge, heavy fence between us, of course!) and we spend a moment simply staring at each other and being together in that moment in time….two creatures simply being and being together. Those are moments that I cherish beyond what any words can describe. I watch the birds bathe outside my dining room window and am lost in their splashing and fluffing and joy in the moment. This is how I meditate….this is how I get lost in the moment. And I cannot help but feel a stab of pain when I pass some creature on the road that has been hit and killed. A life that was and is no more.

I think about death more these days, as mortality becomes more and more real as time keeps marching on. The reality of death. Estate planning is now one of my projects…..planning for my own death and what I want to give and to whom. There is something very surreal about that whole experience, and yet it is a necessary one. And although it may sound morbid to be thinking more about death, it is actually very life affirming. It helps me appreciate each moment so much more. And let go of the unimportant things that I have spent so much of my life worrying about.

I am letting myself be seen more. Exposing this thin skin to the world, with my writing, with my art. I ask myself (when I feel the fear of putting myself out there come up) what will this matter when I am dead and gone? Who cares what others may think? I have things that I want to write, paintings to create, and life to live.

I am risking more with relationships as well. I am actually allowing myself the possibility of being in a relationship once again, even though the voices in my head tell me it is too late and I am being foolish. It is time to be foolish while we live, yes? To risk, to feel, to chance, to try….to live while we are still here? We are not dead yet. So why not live as fully as we can while we can? So our thin skin may become more easily bruised…is bruising not a sign of being alive and of our wounds trying to heal, yet again?

So yes, I am thin skinned ….and my skin is getting thinner all the time. Until it is no longer there, until there is no longer a barrier or boundary to my soul and spirit…..until I leave this body….Let me live in and feel this skin while I can. Appreciate its fragility and sensitivity. Appreciate the life that still pulses just underneath it…savor that I can still bruise and heal, that I can still feel. What a joy to feel it all. To be alive… here….now….thin skin, bruises and all.

The Brilliance of Autumn Leaves

I am so struck by the beauty of the autumn leaves these days. I have always loved autumn, but now find, on this aging path, that I relate so much more poignantly to the intense last blush of autumn. The colors of the leaves are breathtaking. I almost cannot take in their incredible beauty and brilliance as it stirs something deep within me.

I am now an autumn leaf. I do not mean to say that my beauty is brilliant or breathtaking, but I can feel the depth of my colors and the brilliance of the evidence of the time that I have spent in this borrowed body on this earth. This body….a temporary host for the indefinable spirit, but a host that we pay such critical attention to.

We disparage the signs of aging….the wrinkles, the sagging, the extra pounds and flesh, the changes in our functioning, the undeniable aches and pains that now require that we keep these bodies moving in order to avoid the aches and pains or at least reduce them….the visible proof of time marching on.

We celebrate and worship youth in this culture. And that is not to say that youth is indeed not beautiful, because it very much is. The lovely skin, the tight bodies, the efficiently functioning and smoothly moving bodies – very beautiful to behold.

And yet, I now see, out of necessity perhaps since entering the land of aging, the beauty that often goes unseen and unappreciated and not celebrated …but rather hidden in cloaks of shame and disgust and avoidance. We become invisible, because to see us would be too painful a gaze into a mirror of things yet to come….

I can look now at an older face and see the life lived thus far in the depth of the eyes….the laughter enjoyed shown by the crinkles at the corner of the eyes, the depth of eye contact that speaks of life, love, pain and joy that has been lived, felt, witnessed…..the skin that has become thinner and more fragile as the spirit and wisdom deepen and grow….the desire and passion still there that so often goes unnoticed and is invalidated and even perhaps made light of and joked about but that burns more deeply than ever to those that will look and see….the life and light still burning brightly, perhaps because death begins to come into sight and becomes so much more of a reality and a call and a reminder of what will be…..The leaf that becomes the most brilliant just before it releases itself from the tree and drops back down to rejoin the earth.

I have never felt quite as alive as I do these days. I feel things more intensely, appreciate each moment and all that it brings, cry more easily, laugh more heartily, connect with more depth and love, explore solitude and my own depth more frequently, and breathe each breath of life more consciously and with more gratitude. We are that autumn leaf now in our older years, and we have brilliance and beauty that is beyond description to those that will look and see. We can give the gift of seeing and loving and appreciating this in others around us. And, most importantly, we can give ourselves the gift of truly seeing the beauty still deep within ourselves and the fragile leaf of our own bodies.

We are beautiful. Perhaps more than ever……like the autumn leaves….until we release and rejoin the earth. I see the beauty in you all. I see you.

A Slice of Humble Pie….

It’s time for another vulnerable post. I notice that I become more vulnerable with my posts as time goes by, and that makes sense. If I can share and help someone perhaps relate and not feel quite so alone, that is reason enough to bare my heart. And besides, why not? What will hiding my truth serve me? I’ll be dead and gone, with truths that could have been shared and that might have helped….buried along with me. That doesn’t make sense….so here goes….

I wrote a bit in an earlier post about a younger man pursuing me online. 14 years my junior – a sizable gap, for sure. I am flattered, and incredibly attracted to his photo. I, first thing, told him my age – and he responded that “age is just a number.” Well, that’s easier for the younger person to say.

We have been chatting online. I don’t yet know if there would be enough compatibility to make this a realistic possible partnership anyway, but the intensity of my attraction to him is quite humbling, to say the least. I have written about all of our younger selves still being inside of us, and I am deeply surprised at how much this is true. The younger woman that I was is still very much inside me, still very much attracted, still very much has desire and passion. Very much. Sleep has not been restful as of late. Humbling. He, like some other men that have approached me before, is intense, ready to say that he is “falling in love”, calls me “baby”, which I find amusing, given that I am 14 years older than he. And , dare I admit, there is a part of me that takes delight in being called that term of endearment. Not that I want to be anyone’s baby or be made less than or powerless, but just the sweetness of his voice calling me that does, embarrassingly, move something inside me.

Am I being “catfished”? I don’t think so, but am, nonetheless more cautions and aware of this happening to older women. Am I treading on “cougar” ground? And why are older women called this? What are older men called? I’ve heard that when it comes to men looking for older women, that they often look for “a nurse or a purse”….That’s flattering, yes?

So….we chat.

Today he sent me a very poignant video of various movie stars and their process of aging. It was so bittersweet to watch, and, I thought, perfect timing. I was actually pleased that he sent this, that he is thinking about this, that he is looking at this seriously. And so, I wrote back. I wrote that the video was so moving to watch, that it brought up so many important issues, that I worried about my being that far ahead of him on the aging path and that aging, as I am observing it, seems to accelerate as it goes along. So I, although I look ok at this point (but still see the signs of aging in the mirror that cannot be denied), I will continue to age faster than he…and look it. And feel like I can’t compete with what a younger woman could offer him – including matching his physical beauty. I was brutally honest with writing all of this, of what is in my heart and mind, of what I worry about, of what is is the truth for me…of very real concerns and issues. We have not met yet, and if we were to meet, I would be extremely self conscious of my body (I have been working on slowly losing some weight that I had gained over the past few stressful years at work, and the skin is not forgiving as it once was….there is no bouncing back anymore….bouncing, maybe…..bouncing back…not so much……) That would be hard. And even if we were to get through that, time marches on. And on. And the changes continue. It hurts, it is sad, it is bittersweet in terms of this possible relationship – but it is the truth. And, if nothing else, truth has become even more important to me with each passing day….each passing month….each passing year. I cling to it to help me navigate all of this.

Here I sit, very humbled by all of this reality and poignancy and ache, loneliness and desire. They are all very real and very much a part of me, as is the truth of my aging body. What will his response be to what I have written? Will he be able to hear me, really hear me? Will he admit the truth of what I write?

And how do I learn to keep living with this as I continue to keep aging (God willing) and keep changing? Will it not matter as much at some point? I am not there yet, so I don’t know the answer to this question. But I will keep asking, and paying attention, and speaking my truth as much as I can. Where will this all lead? I don’t know. I just know that I have to speak and honor my truth, perhaps take risks at times and other times not…..and live from my core. From my heart. From my soul. From my truth. And always leave room for dessert…..a great big slice of humble pie.

The Vibration of Life

So I did a thing yesterday…….I have long loved to draw and also finally took some beginning painting classes several years ago, which I also loved. And work got busier and busier, and so I didn’t devote much time to painting, or writing – two of my deepest passions.

I have a friend who I used to work with who came over to my house a few months ago, saw my paintings, and turned me on to a local art association. Why not, I thought? So, I joined, and found out that if you are a member, you can participate in their art shows. So….

Yesterday they had an art show, and I signed up for it, got ready for it, and was there as a “participant artist” (how thrilled was I to have that on my ID badge????) I have to say, it was both anxiety producing and exciting – sometime it can be difficult for me to distinguish between those two feelings. But, I had committed and there I was. I hung up my paintings with great excitement, trying not to look too closely too soon at the other art, as I can get into negatively comparing myself to others (that infernal jury in my head). And there I was, paintings hung up for all to see. I cannot really adequately describe the feelings of watching people stop by and look at my paintings. I feel as if they were gazing into a piece of my soul. But, why not? If I don’t do this now, when will I ever do this? (This is but a sample of the self talk that I engaged in to keep myself from tearing the paintings down and running out of there, afraid to be seen as an imposter artist.) And I stayed….. for the whole thing.

Several people came up to me and expressed a liking for my art, which I really appreciated. One woman really wanted one of my paintings, but did not have the funds at this time. I gave her my email so that we can talk about it more. Although I don’t want to devalue my paintings and how much I put into them, it also means a lot to me to have someone really connect with one of my paintings (which she did) and have it really mean something to them. This makes me very willing to negotiate, as I would love for her to have this painting that has so touched her. She gave me a gift letting me know that.

I didn’t sell any of my paintings at the show, and that was ok. It was my goal to simply show up and have my paintings and me be a part of it. To finally validate that part of me that has been shoved aside (as has my writing) for so long because life, work, etc…all got in the way and took all my time. The other artists there were lovely, supportive and welcoming, which I also appreciated. (I had let people know that this was my first show.)

I came home, and the buzzing and vibration inside me was amazing to feel and experience. So this was what really being alive in the moment (and validating who I was and what I loved) felt like? This feeling was what I had, in various ways and forms, stuffed down for so very long. But, it was still there. It is still here today inside me…the excitement about having expressed, to the world, a piece of who I truly am…that I allowed myself to be vulnerable and exposed (as I do in with this blog). That I not only survived, but felt such a deep aliveness and connection to the parts of me inside that I have kept hidden and quiet for so very long.

I did it. I showed up for myself. I took that little girl inside me in hand, the little girl who always loved to draw, and showed her paintings to the world. And let her know that she was worth it. That she deserved to be seen. I also let her know that she deserves to be heard with every post on this blog. I am feeling so very exposed. And more alive than I have felt in a very long time. I was telling friends that I feel as if I had walked out onto the diving board and was about to jump off from a very high place….scared, but also realizing that I could not, would not turn back. It was time to leap. So I leaped.

And I am so grateful that I did. So very, very grateful.

To top it off, I was texting with another dear friend who I used to work with and she, for the first time, expressed that she would love to have one of my paintings. I never knew…And was so happy to hear that. She did not want a “friend price” and told me not to dare to “go low” with the price. And so, she decided on a painting that spoke to her, and has already put down a deposit on it! I sold a painting yesterday after all, just not in the way that I had thought it might happen. You never know what the Universe may have in store for you, if you stay open to it all.

I went to the Farmers’ Market this morning and bought myself some beautiful flowers. I wanted to be careful and aware of one of my patterns to sometimes sabotage myself or punish myself somehow for daring to allow myself to be seen. I did the opposite. I got flowers. I met a friend for coffee…another dear friend who came to the art show to support me.

I recently did another thing….I submitted photos of several of my paintings to a magazine. I actually did this, mistakenly thinking that this was connected to the art association that I had joined. It was not. There are no mistakes. I got an email that the magazine accepted one of my paintings for their September issue! I am still in the process of letting that sink in!

Here I sit, vibrating with the energy of life. How interesting to have this happen after retirement and after my career, but yet at the beginning of the rest of my life. My head is buzzing, my insides are vibrating, my energy level is difficult to contain.

I realize that it is never, ever too late to come home to yourself. I am still here, still alive – in fact, more than ever! And so I say to all of us women “of a certain age”…come join me. We have much life yet to live. The road home is there in front of us. Yes, there is pain and loss and many other parts of aging that are painful and difficult, and we must feel those things as well – as they are part of life. And there is much life left to live. Take my hand …. let’s support and hold each other along the way….. We are still here, we are still alive, we still have much left to give and to live. We are not dead yet…..not quite yet…..!