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…..!

The Freedom of Mortality – or…..Why Not???

I have lived my life trying to please others. As many know, this can never be attained….and it will never be enough. It can never be enough when the judge and jury is seen as outside of yourself…ready to pass (mostly negative) judgment on what you say, do, look like….everything. And that jury then becomes internalized and the harshness taken up a notch (or a thousand) in intensity, condemnation, and the inevitable verdict of “guilty”, whether earned or not.

And so the drive to please continued, and the instinct to hide and try not to be seen too much, so that others could not condemn. But the self recrimination never left.

I have had enough….not that I don’t slip into this all too familiar pattern easily. But now, I try to catch it sooner, and dismiss the jurors within, and let the jurors without know that they have fulfilled their service and are no longer needed. Actually, the invitations for their jury duty were sent in error.

What is helping me to get to this point? The ever growing reality of mortality. One of the bittersweet gifts of aging. It is becoming more real that indeed death awaits. Not that I want to rush it and not that I don’t want to live the best and fullest life possible, but it is becoming increasingly clear that there is an expiration date on this human body that I have been allowed to borrow for a while. I see the signs….the changing skin and body, the slowing down (not necessarily a bad thing, as it does allow more time to notice things and simply “be”), the waking up with new aches and pains, the realization that going to the gym is now a necessity for continued best functioning, movement, and strength and no longer for the never realized goal of getting completely fit and “chiseled”. (I don’t seem to have a body that lends itself to the chiseled look….As I read on a greeting card once, some of us are built more for comfort…)

So I find that I am challenging myself (on my braver days) to risk leaving my comfort zone more and more. I reason with myself and ask “What difference does it make? What will this matter when I am gone?” Why not try new things? Why not take more calculated risks? Why not try and keep working on dreams that I never seemed to have time for when I was busy working for a living and coming home to recover from the day, only to start over again the next morning? I did enjoy what I did (social worker) and I loved helping people, and the time came to stop and take a look at who I am if I am no longer a social worker (one of the gifts and challenges of retirement) and what my purpose may now be.

I love to write – and so I blog. I didn’t even really know what a blog was when I started this. So what? Why not? I want to write a book. Why not?

I love to paint, and have done so up to now mainly for my own pleasure, which has been great. I now have the chance to actually put my work out there – possible art shows, submit photos to magazines and other venues to see if anyone may enjoy them. Why not? Who cares if they don’t sell or if I don’t get chosen? I feel like the point is more to put the work out there, to allow myself to be seen. What is the point of hiding? What is the danger of being seen? Why not?

I love animals, and so I volunteer at the local zoo. I get to be around the elephants. They have taught me much ….about being in the moment, about no apologies for a larger size and wrinkles and saggy skin…..about being absolutely beautiful just as they are. They are beautiful for the beings that they are. Can we all possibly feel this way about ourselves? Why not?

I remember giving one of my (very anxious) housemates in college a funny little plaque. It read “Don’t worry. You’ll never get out of this world alive anyway….!” I didn’t realize how much wisdom was in that.

So here I am. I have days where I forget all that I have written above – that’s human and ok too. But now there are days that I truly ask myself, each time I hear those internal jurors trying to pipe up and hold me back, why not? Why not live life to the fullest? Why not try things that interest you? Why not dare to follow dreams that were put on hold, with no real expectation of any outcome – but simply to follow them and see what that feels like? To finally let that being that you were initially were come back out to play. And live. And be. While you still can.

Why not?

The Families We Choose

For me, family is something that I have been lucky enough to choose.

I am an only child…..so there are no siblings to hold shared memories with. My parents were born in another country, and much of their families were left there when they immigrated to the United States. So I didn’t really grow up with the cousins and aunts and uncles that I might have had otherwise. I chose not to have children of my own, so there is no family in that arena as well. This all leaves me in an interesting position.

I think that being an only child has made me very comfortable with a high degree of solitude…in fact, I need solitude and space and quiet to replenish my spirit. I do love to be around people (small groups work better for me than large groups) when I feel comfortable with the people, but find that after some time, I need to come home to restore myself in quiet.

And yet, I have found myself thinking about some of the things that I can indeed miss about having family around. With the death of my parents (my father died 26 years ago, and my mother died 11 years ago) it has become an increasingly poignant thought to me that I miss having others to help hold some of my history with and for me. There is no one that I grew up with that can help me reminisce or laugh or cry about things past. There is no one that holds pieces of me from the past that I may have forgotten about. I am divorced, so even my relationships have been part of the lesson of letting go…although I still cherish memories of them and always will.

My ex-husband re-connected with me several years past and that has been such a gift to me. To have a connection with someone that I have loved (and always will). To have someone that has memories with and about me. To be remembered seems more important as I continue along this aging journey.

Several of my other partners in past relationships have died….as I continue to befriend grief more and more as each year goes by. And some dear friends have also passed away….aging is truly so much about loss. Its about more than that, for sure, but definitely about dealing with loss (and learning to appreciate each present moment more and more…) It’s easy, sometimes, to feel as if the pieces of me that were in those relationships have gone as well.

Yet, there are such gifts all around. I recently was lucky enough to be able to attend the 75th birthday party of a dear friend that I used to work with. This woman and I worked closely together, and we have maintained contact through the years. Indeed, she and her family “adopted” me in many ways and have been so kind as to include me in some of their family functions. One of those was a family reunion….I felt so honored to be included and seen as “family”. They have become a family of mine.

As I walked up to the front door on the way to the party, I ran into another dear, dear friend who also worked with us – I had not seen him for years. The welcome and joy and love that we felt was beyond description. I entered the house, saw my dear “birthday girl” friend and her many daughters and their families…..and felt such a sense of being included and significant to them. It was such an honor and privilege to be there….to be able to absorb some of the love that was flowing all around.

And so I realize, I do have family. Family that I have chosen that has chosen me. Family not by blood, but by love. Family that holds my history with them and sees me now. Family that remembers me and my presence on this earth. Family that I mean something to and that means so very much to me. Family that helps me reconnect to pieces of myself that I had somehow lost along the way.

I want to let you know, dear readers, that you have also become a family of mine. You read about my innermost thoughts and feelings, and when you respond, I feel the connection and the relatedness. When I feel the need to write and share, I post on this blog and feel as if I have been received and welcomed. And heard.

Isn’t that what family is about? A place to go to be seen, heard, accepted, included…..?And I hope that I offer you the same when I read your many wonderful blogs…..I really treasure that connection. We find family in so very many ways and in so very many forms. And I am grateful for them all. For each and every one of you.

Ageless Heart…Ageless Passion

This is a vulnerable post, as they seem to be more and more for me as of late. I feel that we need to share our vulnerabilities and connect with each other, validate each other’s experiences – particularly those that may be more difficult to share for whatever reason…..to realize that we are not alone. To realize that this journey of aging is a complex one….a road with many twists and turns.

I am referring today to the feelings of attraction and desire….the passion that we so easily attribute and validate for youth, but not so easily for those of us who may be older. Yet, I am discovering, the feelings and desires and passions are still so very much there…..however deep inside they may be buried at one time or another for each of us.

I attended a dear friend’s 75th birthday party yesterday. We worked together years ago, and have maintained contact and connection, for which I am so very grateful. She, not too long ago, lost someone that she was involved with and grieves him still. And she has this friend, this dear friend that she has known since second grade, who clearly loves her. I can see the depth of the connection….. I can see the love. I wonder, can others see it? Can they feel the strength of this?

This part of us, I come to realize more and more, does not go quietly into the night.

I have had a recent experience with this myself. I had a man reach out to me on one of the social media sites that I belong to …not one that I would normally expect this from. I notice that I find his photo extremely appealing (and find that I am somewhat embarrassed to even admit this here. As if I should not feel this way…..as if I should somehow be “past” this.) He is younger than I…. I can tell from the photo. I respond to his greeting, and kindly inform him of my age (people tell me that I don’t look my age, and I want someone to know upfront so that it does not come as any surprise. I thank him for his attention and for giving me a smile that day…thus giving him permission to stop communicating gracefully – an easy out).

I wonder, and get suspicious ( I have been warned by friends that when younger men approach older women, that these men may be looking for “a nurse or a purse”.) He is 14 years my junior, I discover, during an online chat. I express my concern about the age difference, and he responds that age does not matter when it comes to the heart. (Such a smooth line, my cynical part responds inside me).

And yet, I know that age can indeed matter. People of different ages are in different stages of their lives, have different goals, may have different energy levels, different visions of the future, indeed different perceptions of how long that future may be. He has taken in his nephew (after the death of his sister) and I greatly admire that about him. He is raising this child (age 7 at this time) – This is no easy task, being a single parent. But this child will be a huge part of any relationship that he will enter into, of course. And someone has to be prepared for this and all that it involves. I have never had children, and am not too sure that I would be able to handle having a young child (and everything that this involves) be part of my life…..maybe if I was younger. At this age, I think about where to live for whatever time I may have left, how to finally express my own Voice (having focused on others to the exclusion of myself, even without having had children). I want to write, to paint, to enjoy life now that I have retired. To fully inhabit my life. Finally.

And yet, I am surprised to discover the depth of my attraction, that I still have desire that I had thought had finally quieted down. It distracts me, and I find myself embarrassed about that. But, here it is, still inside me. Very much alive…..very much present and not quiet at all. I find it humbling. And I am also struck by the tenderness that I feel for this sweet child that this man is raising, this young boy having lost his mother at such a young age.

I have not spoken of this to many friends. I fear that they would think me silly, foolish, and vulnerable to being taken advantage of. I appreciate the place where their concern comes from, as there is much to be concerned about out there.

And yet, can we hear all that this situation can bring up for someone even while expressing our concern for them? Can we witness the shy emergence of feelings not deemed as acceptable for older people in our society? How many tv commercials and jokes have we all seen and heard about with regards to sex and older people? That this is somehow laughable…pitiable…to be patted on the head about with a “there, there, isn’t that cute?” attitude. I can assure you, what I feel inside is anything but cute or to be pitied. In fact, it has marinated for many years to become the rich ripe wine that it is….that I still am, even if only known to myself and others my age who may relate and be brave enough to speak about this.

It doesn’t matter what actions may or may not be taken….What matters is that we are able, even if only to ourselves, to be able to validate and cherish these feelings that are still so very much alive inside of us. To appreciate them. To enjoy their presence, persistence, richness and complexity. We are still very much here, still very much alive. Don’t write us off quite yet. Hear and see all that we have been and still are. We are not dead yet……not by a long shot.

Painful awakening – Releasing the Past – Emerging into the Present

Today is going to be a challenge. I volunteer at the local zoo, which I absolutely love to do and am grateful for the opportunity. I get to observe elephants….what a blessing and sacred gift this has been for me. I am able to be with them quietly and simply observe their being. The zoo collects data about what they do, how much they move, interactions with each other, and anything else that we, the observers notice. This helps to provide these wonderful creatures with the best life possible and to try and make any adjustments needed, as well as to keep learning about them. I started volunteering while I was still working, and it quickly became my favorite part of the week. Now that I am retired, and my weeks are very different, this still continues to be one of my favorite parts of the week. I feel very lucky.

Today there is a special event at our zoo…..it is an opportunity to return any items that were obtained through wildlife abuse and trade that people may have inherited or been gifted that they no longer want to keep but don’t know what to do with these items. All the items will be collected by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and used for educational purposes. It’s a good thing.

Over the years, and particularly since volunteering at the zoo, I have become educated about the many horrible abuses that we humans inflict on our fellow beings on this earth. Although the animals that I observe are in a zoo, and we know this is not ideal, this zoo works hard for education and conservation and many of the animals are rescued animals. I feel good about being part of this education and so pleased when I hear families talking with each other as they learn about things that they did not know. Like how elephants are killed for their tusks so that trinkets can be made from the ivory. How our tigers were rescued as they were no longer “suitable” for the pet portraits (“Have your photo taken with a tiger cub”) that their “owner” had obtained them for when they were cubs How elephants are really trained for those “elephant rides” or how they were trained to perform in circuses, with cruel instruments like bull hooks that leave bloody wounds. The cruelty is beyond understanding and is heartbreaking. And heart-opening.

Heart opening…..it is difficult to hear about and learn about all the pain inflicted on animals, but we can use this pain to open our hearts. To learn, and to help in whatever way that we can. As I continue to age, I become more aware and ever more sensitive to other creatures, the earth, and all that is around that I did not have or take the time to really notice and pay deeper attention to before. It hurts, but perhaps I can use that pain. I no longer eat meat and will work toward including fish in this, which I still occasionally eat. I now look around in my closets and in my house and see a different thing altogether when I see leather items. I’m working on that and am pleased when I see “vegan leather” items in stores now.

And this brings me to the event today. My mother died 11 years ago, and left me her belongings, one of which was a mink coat. It was something that she treasured and loved having, and I understand what it meant to her….times were different and there was not as much awareness. And now it is hanging in my closet…..and I cannot bear to think about how this was made, how these animals were killed for their fur so that it could be made into a coat that is not really to keep someone warm, but rather to look beautiful. A status symbol in days past. Something to be proud to own. And now, for me, a symbol of cruelty and shame. But….it is a part of my mother and who she was…..and I deeply feel that part of her. This coat that she wore, that was around her ever more frail body toward the end, that she held onto as the gift from her husband, my father, who left her 15 years before her time came. Although there were some challenging mother-daughter dynamics between us, I did love her and do treasure the good and loving times and memories. She was my mom. She is gone. And I miss her. And this coat…..it feels like a part of her.

It is a part of her, however, that I cannot resonate with. And so now it comes time to let another part of her go….My journey, my own heroine’s journey in this life (the book that I hope to write) includes my struggle to emerge from the definitions of myself that were imposed on me by others that were not true to my inner self and being. It has taken me all these years to feel as if that real me, the me that was buried under trying to please everyone else and fulfill their expectations (at the cost of my own soul) is finally emerging. I am giving it Voice, I am listening, and I am working to act with more and more integrity toward that true self inside.

So I will donate this coat, and donate it from the place inside that tells me that I cannot keep it nor can I give it to someone else to wear (which would only continue the practice of admiration for the slaughter of these animals). I feel the pain of letting go of that part of her….even though I know it is only a coat. Not really, though. It is a part of her that I don’t relate to, a part that I do not agree with, and a part of her that I need to let go of as I stand more strongly in the me that must be heard and validated. I let go of the coat with some grief and sadness, but with a realization that I must choose me first…..that indeed, this is my life…..and I need to live it for me. And abide by my own values. I send love to the spirit of my mother, and I now send love to the spirit inside me. I must fully emerge before it is my time to go. The time to do that is now. The choice I must make is me. With blessings to all…..and I now include mySelf in that – first. Then, when I give to others, it will truly be from my heart and soul. It will be genuine – and that is the best gift of all. The journey we take, I believe, is to start with the Self we were born into, and finally, finally come home to that. Welcome home.

A Day Trip to the Land of Old

I want to tell you a story about a mini trip that I took this week – a trip to the Land of Old. This land is a very unique place, with its own fashions, devices, people, and culture. It’s a land that we actually, if lucky enough, enter someday if we live long enough. After my day adventure there, I wonder to myself….how long have I actually, without my conscious awareness, been already living in this land and just not known it (or not wanted to know it….?) But, that is for another story…

The first stop in the new land was an appointment with a hearing aid clinic. Yes, I had been assessed as having lost a bit more hearing in my left ear, enough that a device might make a significant difference. Although I knew of this loss, entering this new land of the hearing aid clinic still came with surprises. I enter the waiting room, and notice that all the people in there are “old”. Of course, I have not really seen myself as belonging to this group, but…I realize….indeed I do belong to this group and I am here for a reason….that I have some hearing loss…..related to age…… I sit quietly in the room, observing others, working with my own reactions and realizations… I notice a younger woman walk in and feel some relief (how strange to have that reaction, I realize now).. Alas, I soon find out that she is dropping off her mother’s hearing aids to be cleaned (who knew that they had to be cleaned?? Of course that makes sense, but I never thought of that…!) And I continue to wait….listening to the receptionist answer the phone loudly to make sure that whomever was calling could hear her.

I am called into the office. My record of my hearing test is there. with the same person who administered it to me. I find some comfort to have the same person walk me through this next step – a familiar and kind face….a guide in this new land. He brings out different models of hearing aids….I defer to his expert opinion as I know nothing of these things at this time. He suggests a particular brand and I agree. He makes a mold of my ear and shows me ….and then it’s time to choose a color. (Somehow this is much less exciting than choosing the color of a new car….) We agree on a color that seems to match my hair. And there we have it – the device is ordered and I will pick it up and be trained on how to use it (and how to get the app on my phone that can help me adjust it- is there anything that doesn’t have an app??) on the appointed date in about a month. He apologizes for not getting me in earlier…which, frankly, I am very ok with, since I am not in a hurry. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel gratitude that there are devices and aids that can help us….I just don’t remember getting to the age where I would need one. But, here I am.

Ok, I leave this appointment . Next stop – the pharmacy – as my doctor has recommended (and I have been resisting for a year) a statin for my cholesterol, which is a bit higher than when we last measured it. I always read about all the side effects of any medication that is prescribed (which usually scares the living daylights out of me). One of the side effects of this particular medication is that it may cause some memory loss or confusion. Now, to an older person, (am I now really referring to myself as that????), this is especially frightening. We already live in dread of the “D” word, dementia, and any slight movement toward that is not something that we will easily risk. I am assured by both my doctor and the pharmacist (who I had to inform about this particular side effect, which he was not aware of), that the effect will stop once you cease taking the medication and that if this happens to me, I can stop the statin. Ok, I can live with that….so now I have this new little pill to add to my daily regimen, along with my blood pressure pill.

Next stop – the uro-gynecologist…..Men, you may want to skip this part, if this may make you squeamish and uncomfortable. Women, you will know what I am talking about.

So I now have figured out why these years are called the “golden years”. It is about the color of urine and that you have to know the location and distance to every restroom from where you currently are, as “holding it” now no longer feels like a viable option. I now plan my hikes based on the number and location of rest rooms that are available. That is not what I envisioned when I first heard the term “golden years”, but now I know…..all too well. I am at the uro-gynecologist’s office to get an assessment to make sure that nothing else is going on, and also to get some ideas and possible tools and assistance with the gold in golden years. All seems ok, and we talk about options. I am both horrified and amused that one of the options that the doctor mentions is a Botox injection for the bladder. Seriously? I have not had Botox, and am not sure that I want to start that with my bladder. The thought makes me cringe. Apparently it is about 60% effective. And 100% unbelievable. There is also something called tibial stimulation – apparently a form of acupuncture that can also be 60% effective and has no side effects. I opt for that, which they will call me to schedule. Weekly….for 12 weeks. 30 minute sessions with a needle stuck somewhere in your ankle. It’s a good thing that you are older and retired when you may need this, as who would have the time to do this weekly for 12 weeks???

Since this doctor also has gynecologist as part of her specialty, we talk about that area as well. (I have to tell you that I debated about including this part of the story, but it is, I think, an important part for many of us women….so here goes. These days, when embarrassed about something, I ask myself what will it matter when I am gone? And maybe it will help someone else to be able to relate.. So…..onward…..)

After my exam, I, for the first time, get to hear about the term “vaginal atrophy”…. I somehow did not connect that my vagina would age along with the rest of me, and that this can cause some issues and discomfort. We talk about options. Estrogen is one. …..The doctor assures me that the external version is much less risky than the oral form, and that she would be comfortable using it herself. She says it will give me a “younger vagina”. (What does one even say to that?? Seriously??) I need to think about this. I now go back to the pharmacy (and people wave at me in recognition as this is my second visit there in a few hours) and get to hear, in all the lovely details, about the side effects of this particular medication. The pharmacist asks…..”You know this is a hormone..?” Seriously, I am older, but not demented yet (I think…..) I read the pamphlet as well – and , to my horror, dementia is also listed there. In addition to various forms of cancer, which again, I am reassured, is different for the externally applied version than the oral pill version. I take my prescription home. (I tell myself that I need to remember…..my sexuality and sensuality have not atrophied….They are still very much here and part of who I am and hopefully will continue to be.)

I am home, exhausted from my day trip to this new land……It has left me much to think about, much to process in terms of feelings and reactions, much to ponder…..Here I sit with my statin and estrogen prescriptions and my appointment to get my new hearing aid. I will wait and process this emotionally for a few days before the final decision to take either or both of the new prescriptions. I don’t know how I got here. I am a bit in shock (as I have been in denial, clearly). I made it through the day. I survived. I have survived into becoming older. I have arrived. And there will be more adventures to come in this new land. And I will keep moving forward, prescriptions in hand…..and keep living my best life possible….and, God help me, I will keep laughing as much as I can. Laughter is vital. And the best prescription of all.

The Birds and the Bees….

Did I get your attention with the title? I know that you may be expecting something in this blog based on the title, but this really is about the birds and the bees!

So I have, since my retirement, enjoyed not only more writing, and painting, but also have found such joy in simple things. I have a small birdbath in my back yard, and several potted plants whose bottom containers also serve as birdbaths. I have absolutely loved watching all the various birds come and splash enthusiastically, and if I am home that day, I find myself refilling the water frequently. It has been a pleasure to do this….until….

So we, here in California, are in the midst of our summer drought (as well as smoky unhealthy air from all the fires in the state). This leaves not only people suffering, but wildlife as well. It breaks my heart to think about this. It also provides yet more life lessons. Yet again.

As a little girl, I was terrified of bees and would run screaming from any that I saw anywhere around me. It was a pretty irrational fear, as I had never been stung by one (not until a young adult, and although not life threatening, it was unpleasant – but certainly did not warrant the level of fear that arose in me around bees.)

And here I sit, writing at the table, as I look outside at the huge number of honey bees that have taken over the sources of water, especially around the hottest part of the day. The birds do still attempt to approach and do get their baths earlier in the morning, but right now the bees have dominion. And I find myself torn…..I love that the birds bathe and drink the water, but am also more aware these days of the importance of honeybees as well to the environment. I have read that ,indeed, they are endangered and that we need to protect them and encourage their survival in this ever challenging environment and climate. So, it is now time to face my fear, put my money where my mouth is, rise to the challenge and face the bees.

So here I sit, refilling the sources of water so that the bees can also have their fill, (and so that there will also be enough for the birds as well…I still need to figure out if I can do something to better help them co-exist – yet another project that will have more lessons to give, I’m certain – but that is for another post…). I now find myself, since I want to respect as many life forms that I can (I am not sure, however, that I will ever be able to extend this compassion to mosquitoes…..I’m human….)..I find myself going out and finding branches to put in the water so that the bees can find a way to climb out if they go too deeply into the water and become in danger of drowning….and have even taken a twig and extended it to a floundering bee caught in the water and taken it to to safety. I never would have thought this possible. I still, of course, feel some anxiety and trepidation when I venture out among the bees to replenish the water, but am able to talk myself through it (as well as having quite a few conversations with the bees while I am out there, reassuring them that I mean them no harm and hoping that they will extend me the same courtesy and good will.)

Perhaps we can apply this lesson to other fears in life….face them, get to know them, understand where they come from, co-exist with them. Maybe realize that we don’t need to be as afraid as we are…respectfully cautious when needed, yes, but not terrorized…..Maybe we have more courage than we give ourselves credit for? Maybe we can be more than we ever thought possible? Some thoughts and questions we can perhaps let buzz around in our minds….

The Weight of Grief, the Measure of Sadness

Today I am thinking about the heaviness of our feelings, the weight of grief.

Grief, as I have written about in past posts, for me feels like an ever more constant and familiar companion as I continue this aging journey. Losses of friends, family, pets, roles, structure (since retirement), youth, bodies as we used to know them, skin as we used to see it, faces that look different (though familiar) in our mirrors.

Literally, grief carries weight for me. One method that I have used to comfort myself in my life (it can work in the moment, but not so much in the long run) is food. I have struggled with weight for most of my life, and all the shame and other judgments that come along with not being the perfect size that society tells us that we must be. But, even deeper, the shame of using this substance to numb myself and somehow get through whatever feelings may be going on that I don’t want to feel or acknowledge. Sadness, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety – all become triggers. I have been on every diet pretty much known, and could even write a diet book. Knowledge and facts can help, but are not the total answer. The feelings and reasons and emotions underneath and inside of us need to be heard and seen….and validated. Not shamed and stuffed down (literally). And so, I am looking once again at this issue and “coping” method these days. Is it working? Not so much? Has it helped? Yes, I suppose in some ways it has helped me get through what I needed to get through. I don’t need to shame myself even more than has already been done – by myself and others.

We all try to cope as we can. Sometimes in healthy ways, sometimes not. Some use alcohol, work addiction, sexual addictions, other substances or even other people…..and some use food. It all has consequences. It all is used for some purpose, even if not in the healthiest of ways. I don’t believe that we deliberately go out to try and destroy ourselves, but rather to cope with pain in ways that may not always be the best.

Grief is one of the things that we face – and more as we age. And for me, grief carries weight with it. Weight I can see. Weight I can feel. Weight I need to now have a dialogue with. As I do with grief. As I do with everything that comes up from deep inside me. We spend so much of our lives avoiding, denying, running from, pushing down, pushing away, stuffing, surviving, tolerating, settling…..And we don’t need to judge ourselves for that, either. We are doing what we know or have figured out to do that we think might help us cope.

Here is, then, yet another challenge. How can we love ourselves to the best health that we can achieve? How can we forgive ourselves for whatever it is that we need to forgive? How can we learn to see and weigh and measure ourselves by who we are inside, to finally see and hear ourselves deeply and just “be” with who and what we are? And not have to push or stuff or shove it down and away….but to acknowledge and accept and understand….finally….to hear…and listen. To learn to deeply nourish ourselves…. so that we can be the best version of ourselves while we are still alive….and share that with those who can hear and understand and resonate with us and our being.

We will have many losses. And we are still here, still present, still hungry for attention and love (especially from ourselves)…..still hungry for life.

The medicine of self compassion

I am struck these days, in observing myself on this journey of aging and life, with how challenging self compassion can be. I would ask each of you, how often did you show yourself the same kindness and compassion that you are able to show others?

I recently had an experience that once again brought this topic to light for me..

I was having some work done on some trees, and needed my neighbor to move her car out of her driveway so that the workers could access a tree that they had to work on. She was going on vacation and so she gave me her keys to her Prius. Now, I have never driven a Prius, so she gave me a quick lesson on how to move it out of the driveway and back.

The day of the tree work arrived. The owner of the tree business kindly offered to move the car himself since he had, in the past, owned exactly that same car. Great, I thought, one less time I have to be nervous about moving it. Tree work done, and time to move the car back to its original spot. And so I started to back it up, and oh -the dreaded sound of the car hitting something. I had hit one of the low concrete posts on her retaining wall. I pulled forward and then came the next dreaded sound of something being further damaged. With much trepidation, I got out of the car and to my horror, I had managed to actually pull the bumper off on the right rear side….there it was, hanging there for all to see my shame. I stood there, not quite believing what I had just done. And then, and then, the internal voices of shaming and self recrimination began their relentless chorus of attacks. I was immobilized in my shame and horror and disbelief. I won’t repeat what those internal voices said to me, as it is unfit to print. (Needless to say, this was not helpful in the least.) And those voices did not let up for a moment. I was unable to focus on much of anything else for the rest of the day, and felt truly as if I was in a nightmare. Why couldn’t it have been my own car? What was I doing to have this happen? Was I losing my mind, ability to drive, ability to focus? The intensity of the self recriminations and attacks was something so painful to try and tolerate. I emailed my neighbor, who was due back that night. I called my insurance company (what the heck is the purpose of insurance, I wondered, as they told me that my rates would be raised 20% for the next five years….?) I texted my neighbor’s son, who lives locally. He was kind and reassuring, told me it was a good idea that I had let his mother know and “pre-heated” her. (What an interesting choice of words, yes?) And I stewed in my shame and humiliation and total horror at myself for the rest of the day and well into the night. As I look back, the punishment seemed a bit severe for the crime, but there it was. The level of stress and shame made it impossible for me to really think clearly. And waiting for my neighbor to get back so that we could talk and deal with this…..was excruciating.

Fast forward to now…..I have a friend who knew of someone who did really good auto bodywork out of his garage, charged a reasonable fee, and was less than 5 minutes from my home. Great! I called him, and he was able, with my neighbor’s agreement, to fit us in on the very day that I called him and was able to fix it right then (apparently the damage was more easily fixable than I could have imagined ). And charged me a really low fee (so low that I had to talk him up a bit!) My neighbor was happy with the repair, and I was so relieved ….beyond what I am able to describe. Problem resolved the very day after the dreadful incident. Insurance company called and claim cancelled.

So…looking back….What an interesting process to observe in myself. How deeply and quickly my feelings of shame can get triggered. How easily I can turn against myself. How I would never do to someone else what I do to myself internally. How fragile we can all be at times with our self esteem and how quickly and cruelly we can speak to ourselves – so much so that it can immobilize us.

I don’t believe that I am alone in my reactions, although the intensity and the triggers may be different for each of us. And how much time have we spent berating ourselves for things that were accidents? (There is a reason that they are called accidents, after all). How much we can expect the unattainable perfection from ourselves and then constantly come up short and lacking. And what that self cruelty can lead to….either in damage to ourselves or perhaps in ways that leak out in our treatment of others as well.

Self forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things to practice. Self compassion can get put on the bottom of the list after everyone else is taken care of first. Self love can be seen as selfish. (And sadly, that word (selfish) has become a word that has negative meaning attached to it). I would ask, if I cannot be kind and forgive myself, how genuine and real can be my forgiveness of others? Of course we need to take responsibility for our actions and face whatever consequences may come, but do we really need to add more punishment to that? I think not.

It’s time for us to recognize one of the greatest superpowers of them all…..kindness …..and that we, too, deserve that from ourselves.