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Archive for the ‘On getting older’ Category

Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

livingontheedgeI am not a control freak. I easily delegate, happily let others get on with whatever their thang happens to be, accept the changing tides and times. Heck, I’m even happy enough grasping the idea that comfort zones need a slap upside the head from time-to-time and change can be a good thing.

I’ve lived long enough to get that bumps in the road make sense when looking back on the journey, that time heals wounds (or vice versa), that good things come to those who wait, and all those other aphorisms routinely trotted out when life is crappy.

 

But …

When the list of things I have absolutely zero control, influence, even minor sway over is thirty times more impressive than the couple of bulls whose horns I can manage to take … well …

I try to grow hope.

Hope: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design; optimism, expectation, expectancy; confidence, conviction, assurance; promise, possibility. Yeah, there more versions of hope than there are shards of broken glass on a beach, and although forming an aspiration or two is easy enough, expectations that plans or designs will provide assurance, or even possibility, rather lack conviction. As Robert Burns so well put it, albeit most likely with a touch of whiskey and haggis on his breath … which may account for all Scots talking funny …

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Having found my bootstraps on many occasions and tugging fiercely, often for years, I am well practiced. My kids’ lives are sorted safely, securely and happily, so I can put down the lead umbrella I’ve been holding since the age of seventeen. I can take care of myself. I don’t need saving or completing and I’m okay with seeing to my own daily needs.

Ain’t life grand?

Compared to some, mine is pretty great — roof overhead, wine in the fridge — and I’m not knocking what I have, what I have worked for, or the plans I’ve made that actually almost worked out. Neither am I regretting … anything.

I am, however, doubting an adage I once trusted; that things happen for reasons and in their own time.

Another relationship ending disappointingly, thousands of miles between me and my kids, a tenacious tether to property, advancing age that has done jack shit to lower my desires or expectations … all beyond any jurisdiction I find in my realm.

Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent.                              ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I know I don’t have many years left, more behind me than ahead, and very much want to live fully, but am feeling restraints it seems I have no power to loosen. Doing what I can … involving myself in endeavors I find worthy, learning stuff I’ve not paused to cozy up to in the past, conversing with those I like, admire or disagree with … fills time and brings some relief, but I’m frustrated as I feel days and weeks and months and years flash past … and don’t mind.

Some would call it ‘being at loose ends’, but it feels more like the tank is running low, and although I’d like a refill there doesn’t seem to be fuel around and I don’t know where to even look anymore.

The free-floating anxiety I’ve experienced in the past is returning and I find myself again constantly checking the sky for shit asteroids, even though I know damned well you never see them coming.

I have been, however, gently nurturing a few seeds of hope. I’ll see my small kids in a couple of months — always a bright light that warms. I’ll continue to try to sell my place to free myself up for more travel, more adventures. I’ll finish that fuckin’ book I’ve been working on. I’ll continue to lend my voice to those who think it will help.

I’m not 80 … part of the hill is still before me … and a quarter tank just might get me further than I think.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. ~ Anne Lamott

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For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot

The_Little_Engine_That_Could1Anyone reading me for a while knows I have no great fondness for the changing of the years and the obligatory omphaloskepsis that accompanies the calendar flip it requires.

Not only does it mean more thinking about time and its passing, causing an infernal hesitation before jotting dates on checks and documents, it stirs shit that has taken 364 days to settle uncomfortably to the surface and forces contemplation of said shit.

In the grand scheme of quantum quandaries linear time doesn’t exist, an idea rejected out of hand by our puny biological built-in chronometers, so just try moving your head beyond the day-by-day plodding that can only feel to us like a train moving along a straight stretch track and hell-bent on a final destination not to be found on any map we know of.

Pausing at stations along the way is an illusion, as the train is always moving, and always in the same direction. It may seem we’ve dallied, stepped off to enjoy time on the platform, but it’s all just part and parcel of the ride.

Accepting that, we ignore the train and try our best to focus on the journey. Throwing ourselves into our personal odysseys (and occasionally under the train … bus … whatever …) and using our imagined stops along the way to gauge the distance traveled and judge progress feels natural to us, so that’s what we do.

Being confronted by the timetable on a regular basis hits hard though, and once a year there are few ways to avoid the slap upside the head. The turn of the page from one year to the next shows us an indication of how far along the track we’ve traveled, and the angst in our baggage is prompted to contemplate every stop we didn’t make, how much we have added to our load, how much we’ve lost, and how long we’ll keep moving.

Some choose to imagine an engineer in control, some expert that guides the trip up and down mountains, through tunnels and avoiding obstacles along the way. It’s handy and alleviates responsibility, but the fact is we are all driving our own trains; storms, fallen trees, rusting components, precarious terrain are ours to deal with as they happen; there’s no reversing and no stopping until the end is reached. It is for us to navigate, to face decaying bridges in the dark and make necessary repairs to keep the damned train moving.

Personally, I find it much easier to calibrate myself with a new timetable when the track ahead appears to be clear. Once again, though, that’s not the case with the flip from 2015 to 2016. I know what’s behind me, but have no idea what’s ahead, and if there is a light at the end of this tunnel I just hope it’s not the headlamp of another train set to derail the one I’m driving.

In preparation for contingencies, I’m trying to work out a strategy.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

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Not dead today ... just at the beach ...

Not dead today … just at the beach …

Today is my 15th Not Dead Day.

Yes, I have had a few thousand days of being not dead, but on this day in 1999 I very well could have been.

During the course of what I thought was a routine checkup with a cardiologist while on holiday in Singapore I was yanked from a treadmill after about 10 seconds, told to lie down, had a Heparin patch slapped to my chest and was informed that I was within one to thirty days from a massive and certainly fatal heart attack.

Good thing I took that vacation, huh?

I’ve written before about the process, recovery, etc., so no need to do that again. What I would like to do today is talk about living. Fifteen years … nothing to sneeze at. I would have missed a lot had I not been around. Not that everything has been peaches and roses (sometimes not even coming close with pizza and rotgut), but an unpleasant slog through what we know as real life. There have been times I’d have rather avoided, some that almost broke me …

You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave. ~ Quentin Crisp

But so much has been worth much more than the price of admission. Fifteen years of sunsets and puppies and laughs and love and friends and fresh fruit and hugs and cuddles and kisses and great books and conversations and new experiences coming seemingly from out of the blue.

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies. ~ Erich Fromm

I’ve had

They're growing, and I get to watch the process...

They’re growing, and I get to watch the process…

another fifteen years to learn new things, to confront my personal ghosts, and wrestle them for lessons, to put effort into making the world a better place.

Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I’m still around to see Sam at 11 and Cj at 9, to fill their heads with as much wisdom as I can and as little baggage as possible, to do my best to leave them with as few gaps as I can … and I have no doubt I will leave them before the gaps are full, just as all parents do … and to live up to Walt Whitman’s edict in “Leaves of Grass”

“…the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

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This evening, as the kids and I watched the “Wizard of Oz’, I had a sudden recollection that ties the generations together for me.

The movie came out in 1939, the year my mother turned seven-years-old, and made quite an impression on her.

It began what was to be an annual run on American television in 1956. I was five that year, but we watched it as a family every year of the ‘50s from then on.

I don’t remember ever not having a TV in the living room; sitting in front of that tiny (by today’s standards) screen in the huge wooden cabinet on the oval braided rug as my mother … either perched on the brown, skirted couch, cup of coffee in hand no matter what the time of day, or standing behind the ironing board with a bowl of starch water at hand … did the ’50s version of multitasking. It was a position I must have mastered very early. Color TV had yet to arrive, so black-and-white was all we knew. Ricky and Lucy’s apartment, Sky King’s sky, everything the Mouseketeers got up to … all were sans any shade but variations on gray.

Image

The 1939 Poster

And that was fine … most of the time.

The exception to the whole being-okay-with-B&W thing came with the opening bars of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. My mother’s WoO had imprinted itself on her brain before the age of television, when films were only seen in ‘movie houses’ where a show cost a dime … unless you wanted to sit in the loges … and grownups could add a bit of atmosphere with clouds of cigarette smoke.

By 1939, cinemas also offered films shot in Technicolor, something this movie was made for:

Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score and unusual characters, over the years it has become one of the best known of all films and part of American popular culture. It also featured what may be the most elaborate use of character make-ups and special effects in a film up to that time.

The fact that this beloved experience was reduced for us kids to NO color annoyed my mother no end, apparently, so she did a running commentary to enhance our viewing pleasure … or hers.

This is where, all of a sudden, everything goes into brilliant color!

That is the YELLOW brick road!

The witch has GREEN skin! (No mention that she looked just like our Aunt Mary when seen in B&W until we were much older.)

Those flowers are poppies … bright red poppies … and are so beautiful.

The whole city is GREEN!

That’s the ‘Horse of a Different Color’ and as it walks around the color changes from green to purple and more!

And so on …

All these years later, I found myself tonight explaining my mother explaining the colors to me to my kids as they watched a hyper-hued DVD of the road and the witch and the poppies and the horse, realizing as I did that time sometimes moves in circles.

Now … if I can just find those damned ruby slippers. I know they’re around here somewhere …

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A: Every useless bit ever mentally digested pops up even decades later.

Q: What is really fucking annoying?

I have a prodigious memory, one that recalls without prompts everything from the profoundly impactive to the ridiculously trivial and much in between. I remember names, events and circumstances leading to them, jokes, phone numbers, all the verses of the Mr. Ed theme song … and a zillion other bits of pop culture … recipes, teachers, lessons, and much more going back now a very long way.

It sometimes comes in handy, and as the depository for life’s detritus in my family my brothers can find me useful. At other times, however, it is just fucking annoying.

Take last night for example …

I’m trying to get my head to slow down enough to drift off to sleep when I’m suddenly conjuring images of the guy in the photo at the top of this post and wondering what ever happened to Commando Cody.

While sleep evades, I recall buzzing around a living room with arms outstretched, then reaching down to punch an imagined communicator button where a lapel pin might go, cocking my head toward my chest and sending messages as I fly from the couch and run patterns on a braided rug as a little brother tries to mimic the antics.

Because I can, I Google ‘Commando Cody’, find images I instantly recognize and the disturbing information that this was a TV show that aired 12 episodes over a period of two months in 1955.

I was FOUR.

NBC, weekly, Saturdays, 11:00 to 11:30 AM, July 16 to October 8, 1955 …

Two years after their (very unsuccessful) theatrical release, the 12 films were sold to NBC, which ran them during the late summer and fall of 1955, only after all other space adventure TV programs had vanished completely from the air.

What else is locked up in this head of mine that might seep out in the dark of night? If recall of not only the sights and sounds, but also the true title and lead character of a TV show that was barely a blip on the radar of entertainment for an eye blink of time when I was four-years-old can slide from a cranial fold into conscious thought fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus more than half a century later it’s a wonder I ever get any sleep.

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There are times when I truly can’t figure out whether I’m losing my battle with depression or life really does suck, not that it matters, since I can’t do much about either and both piss me off.

The down-and-outness of being down-and-out for so long makes it difficult to rise above the ever-mounting shit and even I am bored with my pathetic attempts to climb. I hate this wimpy, beaten me, but my hands are so shredded from grasping at straws, pulling at bootstraps and clinging to hope that it’s hard to concoct oomph from ack, yikes and not again.

I’m not unfamiliar with the layout of this tunnel, but the repeated encounters where light at the end of it turned out to be nothing but a rapidly approaching train have have set me to cowering along the moldy walls, and with retreat not an option, advancing unlikely and standing still dangerous it doesn’t help much that I know where the exits are since they are locked tight.

Recent flickers of brightness were mere tricks of the eye that proved to be annoyingly less than nothing and only served to emphasize the darkness, but that’s actually okay; I’m not afraid of the dark, just of what lurks in it. You’d think by now I’d have stopped paying attention to to gleams cast by fool’s gold, yet I I still tend to stumble in their direction, knowing all along that I’m bound to fall on my face … again.

I know the old adage that says, “Sometimes the only thing one can change is attitude”, and I can wear that for a while. It’s easy enough to count my blessings, revel in the good fortune that brought me my children, my friends, the creative outlet I have, the beauty around me … and be grateful.

In so many ways I am a very lucky woman. I’m not starving in Sudan or in danger of freezing on the streets of St. Petersburg. I have a house and a view and a car and a fridge, shoes and shirts and shorts, books … even an iPad, FFS. Three out of four of my kids are alive … wonderful, smart and healthy … blessings every one. I have great friends, interesting conversation, and laugh often.

So what’s my problem?

See?

I can see the glass as half full while at the same time knowing how close to empty it is. It just takes effort.

I have problems. I suffer from depression, impetuosity, rotten taste, generosity, hope, pride, a wide range of faults, fear. I live on a small island, am a 60-year-old single-parent with limited prospects and energy, few resources and am running out of ideas. People expect a lot from me, and I rarely let them down. Demands mount daily while nothing presents that might allow me to meet them.

I need help, don’t know where to look for it and would be reluctant to ask if I did.

Consider this post blather. I’ll get over it.

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17 to 60

The question of the week seems to be:

How does it feel to be 60?

After a flash of “Ya talkin’ to me?” that clears fairly quickly since I can only be delusional in short spurts, the answer so far comes in some version of: Well, it sure feels weird to say it.

For much of the time, I can go with Erma Bombeck’s take:

As a graduate of the Zsa Zsa Gabor School of Creative mathematics, I honestly do not know how old I am. ~Erma Bombeck

That gets harder to swallow when birthdays present, and decade-flipping ones make it close to impossible even though most of the time I have no idea what bloody month it might be and how notoriously crap I am with numbers.

All-in-all, I don’t feel different. I’m less-than-chuffed about how I look, but I felt the same at seventeen so nothing odd about that. The list of places I want to go, things I want to do, people I want to see has grown no shorter. I still wonder what I’ll be when I grow up and which paths I may discover will lead me there. I like loud music, raucous laughter, rolling around on the floor with kids, occasionally drinking myself stupid and wild sex when I can get it. I make more decisions with my heart than my head, gamble outrageously with my health and safety and take comfort from hope no matter how often that has proven fruitless. I have all my own teeth, can read without glasses or 5-foot-long arms, don’t color my hair or inject toxins into my face. I avoid doctors, ignore aches and pains and spend a lot of time in the sun.

I’m as intolerant as ever of the cautious old who set life behind them and choose recollection over participation, dependability over experience, sagacity over enthusiasm, no matter how many years they may have chalked up. On the same hand, I’m still far too lenient when it comes to devil-may-care brilliance, too easily dazzled and can highly enjoy hours spent in conversations on topics I’ve not had before from angles new to me. I dream of happy-ever-after.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
~Samuel Ullman

So … 60 years …

Okay … it’s now my mother’s hands sprouting from the end of my arms, I’m slower up a hill, I allow myself a certain rudeness I’d been uncomfortable with when younger (especially with “authority figures”, since many are whippersnappers). My epidermis grows thinner no matter how thick-skinned I become. I don’t pop up as fast after a knockdown. My rose-colored glassed sport a cynical filter. I need more, trust less and spend a lot of time pondering the meaning of it all.

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.
~Victor Hugo

Maybe I do do delusional … maybe I’m living it … but, for now anyway, I’m going with the thought that I’m a teenoldager.

Here’s a birthday gift from my beautiful eldest that illustrates some of the steps between past and present …

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