Welliest

When I was in college I always wanted the best grade. If somebody got a 100% on a test then I wanted to have done the extra-credit essay to get 106%. I can’t say with any certainty why I was this way, it simply is how it was, and I found myself not only competing with my classmates but with my own self…”this time I will do two extra credit assignments” I might say to myself before a test or an opportunity to improve. More than several times over the years a professor would look at me oddly and ask me why I wanted an extra credit assignment as I already had the highest average in the class, and I never had an answer…for whatever reason I THRIVED on winning at college! So it’s a bit of a mystery to me, why in middle age, over this last decade or so, in a number of ways, I have “let myself go.” This is not a personal pity party but rather a recognition that I have some work to do on me. I want to focus on wellness and get to be the welliest version of myself thus far. Thriving on winning at being is my new goal…it’s sounds silly but it’s absolutely true.

There are parts of my life and my body and my current situation that need improvement. Some parts need considerably more attention than others and I think it’s important to be honest about it all…I recognize that there are things that could be better and I want to do the work to make them better. Period. I have wasted decades of my life feeling like something was “wrong” with me…all of my friends got the “dream” of a husband. I did not. Hours of journal writing, dozens of books of blank paper and miles of ink from pens, was wasted over more than 30 years with me wondering why I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to marry, and why all of my girlfriends “got” something that I was always told I should strive for but never managed to obtain. WASTED TIME WONDERING. When I graduated college there were almost 1,900 of us in that class, and only twelve of us had a 4.0 GPA. THIS was, for me, a major goal and HUGE accomplishment…I worked full time and raised a child while going to college at night and on my days off and graduated in the tippy-top of the class. A BIG DEAL in every way…but I kid you not, A huge part of my brain, even then on that very day of graduation, felt that it paled in big deal-ness to a proposal, a diamond, a wedding, and a new chapter of life as a Mr. and Mrs. What the heck??!! Talk about therapist worthy inner-dialogue???!!! WASTED TIME WONDERING. I don’t want to compare myself to any of these women, or anybody for that matter, anymore ever again. I am tired of feeling like other people “won” at life and I lost. I am tired of it all.

I want only to compare myself right now to the me of yesterday, or the me of last week. I want to improve me every day and not care about what other people are doing and why they are doing it, or what they have and I don’t. I have spent decades feeling “less than” because all of my friends got the “dream” of a husband and I did not. I spent decades feeling like I lacked important qualities that made me valuable enough to be a wife. I turned 55 earlier this month and at a yoga retreat the following weekend I decided, for the last time, F**K that. F**K all of that. I wrote it in my journal just like that. During some of the group discussion and meditation it became abundantly clear to me that we all have goals and problems and wishes and regrets and that they are just thoughts that come into our minds and we have to just let them go…pass by like clouds. These are the last chapters of my life and I am going to work very hard to make them the best chapters. I simply don’t want to waste any more time wondering about stuff that I can’t control, or that already happened, or is never going to happen…I have to just be present, live in this present moment, and do the work to make my present tense THE WELLIEST that I can.

The only extra credit that I need or want anymore is “what did I do today that was better for me than what I did yesterday?” The only winning I need anymore is the competition with myself, “how did you make better choices today than you did last week?” I might ask myself at bedtime…Did I bend deeper at yoga, did I balance with less wobble, did I breathe fully?? Did I make my purchases at the grocery store sensibly? Did I show kindness to someone who needed kindness? Was I compassionate to somebody who is struggling? I would never be mean on purpose to someone going through a hard time, yet for decades I beat myself up with negative self-talk and yet the person I should be most kind to is my own damn self! Wellness is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and to my mind it means simply a well-rounded life…nutrition, sleep, fitness, friendship, fulfilling work, enjoyable relaxation when necessary, finding beauty in the life we are living…these don’t seem like major hurdles one needs to jump over…it seems to me that with calm and deliberate changes to my own behaviors, my own choices, and most importantly my own self talk, I can be, and we all can be, our welliest selves yet!

Half time in mid life

I am well aware that I am well past mid-life, but at the moment I feel like my life has had a “before” and is now going to have an “after,” much like a football game…before half-time and after half-time, and I’ve seen with my own eyes over many seasons, after having an EAGLES fan move into my world a decade ago, how the two halves can be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from one another, and from any game ever played before, even with all of the same players involved! I am in state of flux…it feels like it’s half-time in my mid-life and the 2nd half of my “game” is, I think, going to be very different from the first half.

Remember LIFE, “you can learn about LIFE when you play the game of LIFE” was the jingle on the television commercial…I always chose the orange car and most of the time I ended up with twins. Life does not always turn out the way you think it’s going to, we ALL KNOW THIS, but why do so many of us, okay, me, I am talking about myself, of course! …why do I seem so shocked or sad or annoyed when life does not turn out as I thought it was going to??!! It’s no secret that I like to control things, I like planning, I like order, I loathe chaos and uncertainty and abhor clutter or messes or anything out of place…so when the way life is going to go in MY MIND crashes into reality, you know what IS, I find myself flailing, drowning, struggling, fighting madly to bring this uncertainty and unruliness into a state of calm…SERENITY NOW!!! screams my brain…when my present tense crashes into the way it’s supposed to be going according to my dreams and thoughts…I sometimes have to really pause and regroup, because the way things are in my life for real, are seldom, if ever the way things are in my life in my brain…if you get me, you get me…

I think when you have spent years, decades, caring for and providing for a person, whether it is your child or a spouse or an elder, whatever, you realize at some point that you yourself have been put on the back burner so to speak…your needs, your desires, your wants had become secondary to the needs, desires, and wants of others. It’s a rather extraordinary place to be, having only just turned 55, this morning actually, and finding I am, for the most part only in charge of myself…nobody else…I have no spouse I need to tend to or answer to, I have no young children or small grandchildren I need to tend to or guide or manage, and my parents are quite well, physically/mentally/financially, and certainly did better at this game of life than I did, and so at this time they do not need my tending or care either.

The ONLY person I really have to take care of or tend to right now is ME…my half-time show coming up feels like I’ll have analysts discussing every play from every other game and describing what made me win or what made me lose each time, and where I could have made one quick move and changed the direction of a quarter, where I should have run and when I should have passed, where I could have zigged instead of zagged and changed the entire outcome of a game…if I only had…I am in life limbo in a way, my rose colored glasses got smashed, again, a little more than a year ago, and while I have put them back together with tape and super glue, the reality is that my future became, yet again, uncertain…when you have been horrifically disappointed and oh so terribly let down, even if you put things back together, there is still healing to take place, and the fact of the matter is, when someone quashes your dreams and your plans and your vision, and your big picture gets erased through no fault of your own, a reboot is in order, no matter the circumstance, and in my circumstance, my dreams and plans had to take a really big time out, and my big chalkboard of my game play got erased, totally and completely erased, so last year became like a lost season…too many losses and not enough wins…I felt like the most let down a person could possibly feel, and now I have the chalk ready in my hand to draw out my next plays for the seasons ahead of me, the slate certainly got wiped clean last year, but my hand sometimes shakes as I try to decide where to begin…A big blank board can be daunting.

I recently started to make random lists of what matters to me…I started a list of places I want to go and hope to see before I die; The Grand Canyon, Las Vegas strip, Ghost Ranch, the olive groves of Tuscany, the lavender fields of Provence, a castle in Scotland, a cliff in Ireland, Catalina Island…it’s possible I won’t see any of these things before I die, but I like the list. I think I’d like to learn a foreign language, I think I would like to take tap dance classes again, I think I would like to take a sushi or knife skills class. I like to read, I like to write, I like to crochet, I like to clean, I almost always have music playing and hardly ever have the tv on…and yoga, oh how yoga has saved me from my own thoughts time and time again, and how yoga has made me stronger and more limber than I think I have ever been…I may be perceived as boring or not fun to some, but I don’t feel like I am a dull person, I feel like I am a sensible and peaceful person. The things that bring me pleasure and joy are rather gentle and not Type A sorts of things at all…

I also started a list of words that I want to describe my life in the coming months; words like calm, stable, content, secure, open, cheerful…this is who I think I am. I don’t need bright lights and big city, I don’t need lots of crowds or action or outings or material things to make me feel any of those words…I don’t need lots of stimuli to feel stimulated or satisfied…I get a rush from the morning breeze and chirping birds and wind chimes, I get a rush from the laughter of my granddaughters, I get a rush from good times spent with my daughter…my heart used to literally skip a beat every time my boyfriend smiled or grinned at me across a room…the things that really always have made me happy were never really things… I have a lust for life I guess, and I feel like this half-time show has not yet started, like when you press pause during a movie so you can go pee, add ice to your glass, and grab a snack and check your email…and then once you tended to those bits, you sit back down, get your feet where you want them, and THEN you press play again…I feel rather like I have had to sit out a bit, got benched for a while, to come to terms with how the first-half has moved along, and I can contemplate my present tense and think about what the future might hold for me…I have a game to finish, I can’t quit. I can’t give up any chances of winning and just throw in the towel. I can’t say, “I’ve had enough!” I have to finish out the game, but I feel strongly that the next half is going to be remarkably different than the first half because, now that I have come to terms with many of the things that have changed in me, over the last couple of years and indeed during the first half, I am remarkably different now than then…

I can’t say that I always learn my lessons and I can’t say that I always gain wisdom from my losses or clarity of any kind from my kerfuffles, but I can say that I always remain hopeful that there is something pure, and good, and right coming my way…I have spent enough time at the beach to know that no matter how dark some of my nights have been, the sun still rises…I feel like this is how my mid-life half-time is going to go…so SO So dark for a bit, but just on the edge of the horizon line there was the light…that glimmer, that shimmer, that shine, to know a new day is coming and I am in charge of how I feel in it, how I live in it, and how I will thrive…One morning back in August the yoga teacher said we should set an intention for the class that sticks with us and I said to myself, I want to be fit, fierce, and fabulous at 55. I made, at that moment on my mat, some decisions. I think about who and how I want to be every day and when I have started to stray I reign myself right back in…I don’t have a coach or a playbook, but I have determination, and in mid-life at half-time, that is, I think, the only way to win.

Getting Grounded

I feel like there are easily 55 ways to leave the past behind. 55 ways to move forward into my final chapters of life…they could be decades, they could be years, they could be days…there might not even be another chapter, who knows?! I watched the brilliant show Six Feet Under for all of its seasons and I know there are as many ways to go as there are humans doing the living. I definitely have a really hard time driving 55 but I feel mighty confident that I will have a really easy time BEING 55. I have grown and changed over the last 16 months, dare I write “evolved,” in ways that I never really wanted to, but did, and had to, and I’ve made monumental adaptations to how I think about a number of people and a number of things, and I think these ‘modifications in me’ will serve me well in these later pages of my story. To be very clear, while this is my last week of being 54, and I am feeling excited for who I have grown up to be, when you have a dad whose philosophy in living, whose dharma is to know that any day, any week, any year, this hour even, can quite well be your last in the land of the living, “tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon,” it gives one a clear heads-up that one ought to try to be content, and find beauty and joy in every single day, even the terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad ones…

I have herstory/history of getting grounded. I mean this, now, on this edge of 55, both figuratively and literally. From the time I lied to my parents when I was in middle school about staying over-night at a neighbor’s house, but instead went to the school dance, that for some reason, which I can’t recall, I was already not allowed to go to/grounded from something else, and I was caught in a lie about where I was the night before and became a girl who got grounded, again, while being grounded…I was grounded for what feels like all of my teenage life! Because of terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad circumstances, I moved out into my own rental at 17. THAT experience in life was so horrific, that I would have rather been grounded in my bedroom for a year, or years, to be honest, but that’s another story for another time, it’s a long ago past that I have moved past…

The point is, I got grounded a lot and finally learned that I am a terrible liar and terrible faker and terrible hider. I am a person who does far better in life when I am truthful, authentic, and transparent, an open book perhaps. I suppose what has made me a “simpler” kind of woman has a lot to do with how complicated my teen years were, and I suppose too that my “open book” ways of being work for me, because trying to be silent or secretive did not suit me in any way whatsoever. Lying does not work because people like me always get caught, not telling any truth or the truth just gets jumbled and tumbled into nonsense, and so for me, This is how things are, this is how things happened, this is what is, is what works for me. Period.

Now that I am older and growing old, “getting grounded” has a much more profound meaning to me…grounded in my ways of thinking, grounded in my comfort of home and “nesting,” grounded in my relationships, grounded in my practicality, frugality, and deep desire for financial stability, grounded in my habits and behaviors, grounded in the very best ways, or so that’s how it feels lately, to me. Am I “where” I had hoped to be at this stage of life?? NOPE, not even a little bit close…nothing about the life I have, or am living is remotely anything like the life I had imagined for myself as a young woman, that I’d be having as an older woman…not one detail is what I thought it would be like, to get to this chapter…but somehow I have managed to find a way to be okay with that, to be okay with all of it, that nothing worked out as I had wished, and nothing became what I had hoped, and nothing IS what I anticipated or dreamed it would be, and I have had to be okay with the ways I have failed at life…BUT because I have completely embraced THE LIFE I DO HAVE AND CREATED FOR MYSELF, I feel pretty good, pretty happy, pretty content… I have learned that the Root Chakra, the first of the seven, is incredibly important in yoga practice because it literally is from where all of the energy starts and how we find balance…getting grounded is, as I perceive it, the first step in all healing, growing, and advancement of one’s true self because if you are not rooted and grounded you surely will never be balanced…the dark and the light, the fast and the slow, the yin and the yang…all starts, it turns out, with getting grounded…

Critical update available

iPhone frequently issues updates. I regularly get a notice that an update is available and sometimes we get a notice that there is a critical update available. The adjective of “critical” always makes me think that I had better pay attention. iPhone has newer and better models and designs available almost every year as well, and even when your device is newer, or better, it still needs to be updated from time to time. With some updates, we are advised that they’re simply available to us, if we so choose to accept them, but updates nevertheless, is what they are. If Steve Jobs saw fit to create a product that is absolutely fabulous on its own but often needs modification or improvement or redesign, and Tim Cook sees fit to keep reinventing and reimagining that which is already fantastic, then I am fine with updating myself and not being shy about why it’s necessary or that I’m in the process of changing…

If I am honest with myself, I have been reinventing and reimagining and updating myself since I was 17 years old and was thrust into adulthood through horrible circumstances and terrible choices. I had to, in essence, completely erase my hard drive and download a new version of me, before I had even enjoyed a first summer after graduating high school…Erase all my programs and applications and become a totally modified me. In 2007 when the iPhone was introduced I was hesitant to be excited because I could not afford it; to have to buy a device and also a monthly payment that was more than twice what I was already paying for cell service seemed impossible for me. My flip phone worked just fine and my iPod held all of my music that I needed for work and I carried both with me every day…but a few years later as I realized how often I left the house with music but no phone, or a phone but no music, it became clear to me that my resistance was futile…AND iPhone had a much better camera and I was always taking pictures, and so I got one, a phone and music in one small device that fit in a pocket, however, this write today has little to do with my love of the iPhone product and all to do with the fact that even though the product is great and works well, and every body who has one loves it, it does, over and over, need adjustments, updates, and modifications to the apps and programs, and so do people.

If it is so that I have been reinventing and reimagining and updating myself for nearly 37 years, then it is also so that I am tired. I felt over the summer that I needed perhaps the updated PRO version of RStar, that the standard version just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore, I need the bolder, better, faster version of me. I found myself, over this last year, deeply connecting to thoughts and memories of who I was as a 17 year old girl, experiencing womanhood, & motherhood at an impossibly rapid pace to find myself at 18, miserable, scared, and in charge of a tiny human and wondering how on earth I got myself into this mess…a reimagining was necessary and a survival tactic, and while I am, at present, very grounded, very secure, very content, things that I was NOT 37 years ago, I am confident that my deep feelings of wanting to improve myself in a number of ways was a sign that a critical update was necessary.

My brunette granddaughter turned 17 in July and got her driver’s license in time for her senior year, and my blonde granddaughter made the varsity cheerleading squad in July in time for her freshman year, and watching them over the summer morph into young women, seemingly overnight almost adults, where only months before they were still, or seemed to be, my “wee-ones” as I always thought of them, made me recognize how very VERY young I was when my own young life unraveled, and these thoughts thrust me into a protection mode…wanting to protect THEM from making terrible choices and wanting to comfort MYSELF for surviving mine.

At the beginning of the summer I felt a “pull” to do the work necessary to become a better and updated and modified and improved version of myself…and for myself, not for anyone else…this might be a lot of jibber-jabber that simply means I wanted to lose some pounds, firm up some muscles, get some of my finances more in order, strengthen my body and my mind…update is really the only word, and so I began to update. In order to update you have to recognize that the version you’ve got is lacking some detail, and self reflection can be very ugly and very messy…you can’t lie to yourself when you are considering making some changes because the only person you hurt IS YOURSELF. If you feel a pull to modify then you’ve got to be clear about what exactly it is that you think needs to be changed or updated, it’s not a time to be vague or unclear or indecisive. Tackling a big cleaning project means that you first have to survey the mess in its entirety and then piece by piece/room by room, see where you can toss things out, freshen things up, and re-sort and re-organize and re-prioritize…it’s almost the exact same process for cleaning up yourself.

Last week my new purple iPhone 14 arrived via FedEx and while it is only a week old, already I’ve got a notification that an update is available, and it made me laugh, realizing that no matter how much you think what you are doing is just fine, it can always be improved upon. People and phones can all be made better by a few changes. I have made a number of them over the last months and ones that now feel comfortable and are starting to seem “normal” and do-able. Much like when you first update your phone and it feels weird, but after a few days it feels like it used to…well to be honest, mental and physical updates, the kinds of food you buy and eat, habits you break and behavioral changes you reinforce, modifications to spending and budgeting all feel kind of weird at first too, but after a while they are simply how you do things…you look back on the earlier version of you and think, “oh this is great” when you realize the update was critical and you didn’t even know you needed it.

Nana next door

These last 13 years have been counted by skinned knees, thorns and splinters, belly laughs, trampoline flips and cartwheels, jelly fish and bee stings, greenhead bites, training wheels to rollerskates, scars & bumps and bruises…they don’t get skinned knees anymore, nobody bounces on the trampoline anymore…nobody plays store, plays orphanage, plays detective, plays salon, or plays school anymore…the imaginative make believe magic of childhood has not happened in these walls for a couple of years now…nobody dances on the bench anymore, watching herself in the mirror across the room with pretend microphones in their hands…these girls have watched their mother go from bank teller to college student to teacher, and watched her unravel and reboot through two divorces…inside these four walls and under this silver roof, my home has been a place for peace for my granddaughters, through every upset that went on in their walls, and disturbed their peace under their roof next door, my home has been a place for them to find solace…for all intents and purposes, “childhood” as we all define it, for these girls who are the center of my world, is over…

The “baby” of this family, whose nickname has always been “Bug” and who I often call The Little Blonde Wonder who seems to thrive on straight A grades and learning, starts her freshman year of high school, made the varsity cheerleading squad, and is now the tallest of us all. Her sister, the first “baby,” the brunette bombshell who I call Sweet-Ti who was a dancer, until the pandemic, and used to dance like her life depended on it, will be in 12th grade, is contemplating what kind of career she might enjoy working towards, and is going to be driving them to school…a senior and a freshman, finally in the same school again, and for the last time…

The walk down the long driveway to catch the bus as the sun rose each morning behind the cedar trees beyond the bay, and my truck idling at the base of the driveway in the late afternoons to greet smiling little girls, joyfully waving an art project, or an A+ test paper, as they leaped from the bus at the end of the school day, is no longer going to be part of my life…my parting morning words of affirmation, every day, year after year, “Do good work, and be kind” is silenced this year. What I have tried to instill into these girls either has become part of the fabric of who they are or it fell on deaf ears. Time will tell. I am the Nana next door and my “job” is just about over.

As I started to clean the upstairs bathroom in the loft the other day I had a moment of confusion, when I said to myself, “why is the step stool up here” beside the vanity…and in that split second my brain reminded me that I had the second step stool up there because when the children slept over they needed it to reach the sink to brush their teeth…it’s not that I have not noticed the step stool still there over these last years, it’s just that, I suppose I did not think about the fact that not one foot had stepped upon it for years every time I picked it up when I vacuumed…it just was under the sink waiting for a little girl to need it, and that day I took it out to the garage. It’s those little things that kick me in the gut sometimes, the finality of it all…

I went through ALL of the books in the loft a few years ago and again a few weeks ago…some I simply just could not part with and won’t…some were mine from when I was little, some my daughter’s, and some just so beautifully illustrated and with words like magic, I just can’t imagine them in some other house or a recycle bin, so they will remain on the bookshelf until I am dead I suppose. I have gone through the crayons, colored pencils, and markers…I have gone through the pads of drawing paper and coloring books and I have emptied my upstairs of all that I can handle, some of the remnants of childhood just need to remain, though I’m not sure why… maybe because it makes me feel younger than I am…

I know women my age who have children younger than my grandchildren, so I know that I am not old, but some days I feel it…like this weekend, a heavy feeling, a loss if you will, that my Nana-ing duties are rapidly coming to an end and then what am I?? My years of being a Nana Next Door were, are, probably the most important years of my life, so it begs the questions, “what will you do, who will you be, in these next chapters of YOUR life??” I have spent nearly 37 years mothering…my daughter will soon be 37 and if my mom reads this she will chuckle and think, “what the heck?! how do you think I feel I have been mothering for almost 55 years!!” caring for another, others, putting the needs of other people ahead of my own…the women’s unpaid work of this life, doing and doing and doing for people because you love them, and are, at least when it involves the children, trying to help them to blossom into their full potential, trying to guide them by your words and by your examples of how to be the best possible human they can be…

It’s so much on my mind, this uncertainty…and I am well aware, I am still often needed, there are things that the girls and my daughter will need of me and need me to do FOR them, it’s not that I feel useless in any way, but this particular role, this event that happened to me, becoming a Nana to these girls, was, it turns out, one of the best things that ever happened to me…If I open my mind to possibilities that I had not really before considered, perhaps it is soon time for me to blossom into my own full potential, that maybe I had put my own blossoming on the back burner while I was so busy mothering and nana-ing…THIS is a rather exciting revelation…that as the children next door need me less and less, perhaps I can become me more and more…

carousels of time

I am well aware that autumn is not arriving until September 22, but if you have ever been a parent, or around children, or know people who are teachers, you know that Labor Day, especially here at the Jersey shore, marks, for the most part, the end of the summer…and Labor Day is this week and so to me the end of summer is now…It is not time for pumpkins & clove & spice, but it is time for summer to be over…Last night, hours ahead of time, I turned my wall calendar to September and I was feeling pretty excited to be honest, to just be done with this summer…I have not been once to the beach, or watched a sunset or a sunrise, and other than seeing Elton John, no special nights that go down in my HERstory as ones to remember fondly…This was not a good summer and it is fine by me to say “ta-ta” to it!

I did not once walk to the edge of the sand and look out at the horizon line and remind myself that I am very small, my life and my problems are very small, and the world is so big, and so many people I know have big problems and worries that I myself do not. I did not once walk into the crashing waves that smack into your shins with so much force that you have to adjust your balance and squeeze your toes. I did not once take a walk along the shore line and step on sharp unseen broken shells. I did not once fall asleep under the bright sun in my rusty, but useful, beach chair. I did not once utter my pretend narrative, to try to save my $10 for the daily fee by saying, “oh my husband has the beach badges and is walking down to meet me shortly” which, every past season that I say it, makes me feel bad for lying, as I have neither a husband nor a beach badge, but I also hate to spend $10 to sit for three hours in the sun at the beach!

I know people who this summer suffered terrible health scares and diagnoses with frighteningly uncertain outcomes, I know people who unexpectedly had to move, I know people who were blindsided by divorce and break-ups, I know people who found out secret bad things about people they care for & I know people who lost loved ones…I know people who have real problems, big problems, that I myself do not. I am a very “bright minded” person in that I am forever looking for silver linings, the positive perspective, the good in others and in difficult situations or bleak circumstances…always optimistic, always looking for some smidgen of joy, but still, even bright and silver and positive people can sometimes feel bad, and it’s okay.

Today’s blog is a permission slip of sorts; If you feel bad or sad or mad, then feel it. You have permission to feel blah or blue or bereft, even if you normally are a silver lining seeker such as I. You can’t hide from those feelings, those emotions will find a way to creep in and around all of your up-beat-ness, so you might as well address the feelings when they come upon your spirit because the carousel of time just keeps turning and spinning and going round and round, and ignoring the heavy feelings that you feel does not make them “less” or lighter. I think it’s far better to acknowledge the feelings such as, “I think like this has been a really shit of a summer” and work around the thoughts that make you feel this way and then move on from them. You want to let the feelings enter, wash them clean, and then send them right out the door…they are not welcome to linger in your home/head space.

My work is as busy as ever and I work for extraordinarily lovely people, my health is good despite post hysterectomy middle-aged overweightness, I have really good friends and so many different levels of friendships from all different corners of my world, the yoga studios did not close, I got to swim in my daughter’s beautiful pool and lay in the sun a couple of times with her and have great conversations, my home is beautiful and pretty well maintained, despite the fact that I still have two back sides of the house and garage and the shed still to paint, to the eyes of the Amazon delivery van driver and my new UPS delivery man, the house is pretty well maintained and beautiful, but that’s a whole different blog…how the house painter does not get her house painted!! anyway…I got to see the hummingbirds eat at my dining room window feeder every day, I got to see baby deer and bunnies day after day in my west side yard, and luna moths and butterflies & dragonflies of many colors in and out of my shrubs, bushes, flowers, and trees…all things that make me happy about this little neck of woods near the bay that I call home. AND SO it’s not been any one thing that feels bad, or is bad, about this summer, no definitive event or experience or relationship that has been sour, but I did not walk the boardwalk, I did not go to a festival or a fair, I did not go to a bar-b-q, I did no memory making and here at the shore, memories are made in the summer because the winters can be so bitter and gray and so really the overall feeling for me is this; I am glad summer is over and I am looking forward to the next season of my life…I am going to make the very best of what the fall and winter has to offer me and I am glad this chapter will soon come to a close, and I won’t wish to reread it.

Fear Factors

As I shook a little pink Himalayan salt into my apple cider vinegar water yesterday morning I realized that I was actually feeling scared…“scared of going to a yoga class?” asked the pretty reasonable part of my brain…“YES! Quite!” answered the anxiety ridden portion of my amygdala. It is no secret to anyone who actually knows me that joining yoga after my 50th birthday has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself, but I generally take classes that are sort of slow and flow-y and stretch-y, but yesterday I had signed up for one called HOT POWER and I was nervous.

My body’s ability to sense even a half of degree of temperature change is fascinating science really, I literally can walk into my house and in less than a minute feel that my boyfriend has adjusted the thermostat, AND there I was, shaking some salt into my ice water with the advance knowledge that I was shortly going to walk into a room full of people that has the thermostat set to 90 degrees and then do power yoga. I was a little bit scared that I would not be able to keep up, and frankly was a lot of bit scared that I might faint!!!

Now, to be clear, I work outside quite a bit all summer…I have left landscaping jobs where my shorts are soaked as wet as a bathing suit, but that is just part of my job that is expected on a hot sunny day, but to purposefully, on my day off, go to a yoga studio knowing that I am going to be dripping with sweat had me thinking that perhaps I had recently lost a few marbles…However, I have been to this particular studio before, and when I have been in the foyer waiting for my “happy hips” class to begin, the kind of class that is slow and stretchy and mellow I suppose I could write, I have watched as the HOT POWER class ended, how every single person who poured out of the room was smiling, sweat pouring into all of their eyeballs and flinging off of their bodies, very wet with sweat from their heads to their toes, but smiling, wide smiles and joyful faces, every time I was there to witness the exit from the class, and so I often asked myself, how scary could it be if everybody leaves there smiling?? …but still I resisted trying something new…scared I would fall on my face doing some kind of balance pose on sweaty feet, scared I would fall on my face because my sweaty foot slipped, scared that because I would be “new,” everybody would notice if I could not do something they could do…fears, all of them silly, but fears nonetheless.

…AND so on Saturday morning when some people are still asleep, I was shaking pink salt into my Yeti with a slightly shaking hand preparing to do something that scared me. I have read quotes over the years that are supposed to be inspiring that say things like “do one thing a day that scares you” but they never inspire me, and instead make me quite rather appreciate my relatively boring life with very few experiences, activities, or events that could be described as frightening in any way whatsoever!! But, yesterday, I chose to do one thing that scared me…AND you know what?? it was FABULOUS!!! The girl to my left was half my size with the most toned arms I have ever seen, and the lady in front of me was able to bend and move her body like a baker twisting a hot Philly pretzel, and I still felt fabulous…I did not feel “less than” because I was not as limber, or feel “bad” because I have weight to lose, I felt so good because I was doing something new, for myself.

I don’t know if I have ever sweated quite so much in 75 minutes and I am 100% certain that my yoga mat has never been so wet, and my glasses were slipping off my face and the sweat was soaking through my headband and stinging my eyes, but I did not stop, I worked very hard to keep up with the teacher’s calls and I did not quit. My sports bra broke 15 minutes into class and still I kept on going, I was at that moment more “afraid” of stopping my momentum than I was of untamed titties! She called out what to do and I did it. She reminded us to come back to our breath and I did it. She said to do a standing split and then lift our arm and twist and I just did everything I was told and the enthusiasm I felt was odd and exciting, to be so hot and so sweaty, but so on fire!!! I felt like the best version of myself for those 75 minutes …AND if there is a real thing as a “runner’s high” which I have read about but never experienced, I got it, doing hot power yoga on a Saturday morning!! I drove home feeling a buzz, a zing, a pulse like a high I never had…it was euphoric. I liked the experience so much that I am going to do it again next week, and I am pretty sure the week after, and quite possibly, unless it’s a Saturday I have to work, from that day forward, forever, till death do us part. I suppose I might still feel a little hesitant and worried that I can’t keep up with the “regulars” if she starts calling out tricks, but it will be totally worth it, to feel again like I felt after class was over…no fear, no worries, just POWER. I felt strong, I felt confident, I felt fearless. “that’s hot!” and I think I got hooked after one dose!

Dig deep

The depths of disappointment can be bottomless if you don’t catch yourself from falling…dig deep, dive into that which brings you peace and joy…this is what I was thinking yesterday morning as I was watering the planters on my decks…people and news are terrible and if we let ourselves pay too much attention too often to the terrible people and the terrible news it’s easy to find yourself thinking terrible thoughts. Let’s all agree on this, thinking terrible thoughts makes you feel terrible and makes it easy to think that life is terrible. To be fair, for some it is very VERY shitty, but I would venture to guess that there is always something to be glad for or some good to be found, if you make the effort to look.

I am totally aware that some people are depressed, they have a medical condition that means even if things look good to us, looking in, for them everything is heavy…I am all about positivity and light, I mean, I try, day after day after day, to find, and focus on, that which is lovely, but I know that mindset of optimism and high hopes is hard for some people to achieve. I also know that for a person suffering from depression, no matter how feverishly they shovel, they can never dig deep enough to get to the good stuff. I still try to share my light, even with those who keep getting sucked back into the dark.

My life has been very dark, very many times. If I knew how I managed to get “out” I could probably write a self-help book and finally be successful!!! BUT, the truth is, I really don’t know what I did or how I did it… that despite the really hard, very bad periods of my life, I kept thinking “things can only get better” and then things got better…It is certainly obvious that life can’t be terrific and happy and perfect and easy ALL THE TIME, but by that point it can’t be SAD, SCARY, and STINKY all the time. Up and down, in and out, high and low, light and dark…that seems perfectly normal to me, but I understand, and with deep sympathy, that for a person who suffers often from low feelings, it can feel like grim is the new normal, and that makes my heart hurt for those people because grim does not feel very good.

I know people who have been treated terribly by those they loved or trusted, I know people who have been betrayed, I know people who have been hurt in ways I can’t even imagine, and for some of them they have found comfort in food, in alcohol, in drugs, in therapy, in cutting, but I also have know some who have found comfort in music, running, yoga, dance, meditation, singing…THERE is always a way out, even if we don’t see it clearly. I find so much joy from organizing and cleaning things, crocheting baby blankets, reading, watching bees and butterflies in the yard, listening to music, really simple things make me feel really happy. If could bottle the feelings I had yesterday morning, watching the hummingbird moths and butterflies on the butterfly bush and watching the bees on the lavender, and seeing how plump the figs are getting, I would share it with the world, but I have no way to share the joy other to write that you have to at least try to find it. I walked outside to water the planters yesterday and made the choice to wander around the yard before it got too hot, and just take notice of all that was fabulous, all that made me smile, I LOOKED ON PURPOSE for the good, made a choice to find the light. Dig deep, with any kind of shovel you can find, and find a way out of the disappointment. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Hurry Up! …oh, no wait…slow down, please…

How many times, over my years as the Nana-Next-Door, did I exasperatedly say, likely in a raised voice, “hurry up” or “get your shoes on” or “I told you to get your coat” or any of these sorts of expressions that parents and grandparents utter in the days of the years that make a life…but today, no, today is different… I feel sorry for rushing, sorry for often being in a hurry, or annoyed or fussing over time, and a clock…back then, did it really matter if we were late for the pre-school drop off?? I did then, I do now, work for myself, there was no time clock for me to punch, there was no boss waiting for me to open the doors, if we were late for pre-school drop off and then I was late to drop off the little one to my mom and dad’s house after, back in those days, before I then went to work, who really cared?? What did it really matter?? NOW it’s too late…all of my rushing and worry and hurry, what was it good for?? Today I think, slow down please, and I am sorry for rushing you when I rushed you because now I want you to slow down for me, but you are all revved up with a whole world in front of you…

Today the girl I call SWEET-Ti is 17 years old. SO many songs about 17…Young and Sweet only seventeen and a dancing queen, just like a white winged dove on the edge of seventeen, and the way she looks is way beyond compare, and seriously, whatever you do, don’t listen to the one by Winger, ‘She’s only 17’ or you will want to lock your child (or grandchild) in the attic, and Janis Ian’s song “Seventeen” will break your heart… Julie Andrews had it right, ‘Eager young lads and rogues and cads will offer you food and wine’ …oh, it’s both a happy and weary day for me today. I can still remember so clearly, driving down to North Carolina after work on a Thursday in later spring, or maybe early summer of 2005 to paint the nursery where this baby was going to sleep, and as I got onto I95 north that Sunday, after a weekend of painting and baby’s-bedroom preparations, late in the afternoon, as the sun began to move around to my driver’s side window, tears flowing until I got to Virginia…I just could not even believe that this baby was going to be living in North Carolina and I was going to be here in south Jersey…How would I be able to live with a grandbaby 8 hours away??!!

AND so, I took a month off of work, in July no less, my only busy time of year, to go tend to things when she was born…I wanted to help my daughter fall into motherhood, and I figured it would help her young marriage, to not have the stress, sleeplessness, and worries and exhaustion that newborn infants bring, but mostly I wanted to bond with that baby. The way I saw it was this; if I am the one who gives her her night time feedings and talks to her in the dark on the sofa, and puts her in soft fresh clothes, & eases her discomfort and soothes her tummy burps, then she will know who I am, even if she only sees me a couple times a year…this was my train of thought, to help with her first four weeks of life so that somehow her body and her brain would KNOW me for all of her life. I remember thinking that once she was a few months old I would have my daughter call me and I would read out loud to the baby over the phone at bedtime, reading after bath and before bed was a ritual I had with my daughter until she was practically in middle school and something that mattered, still matters to me, and I thought that I would be fine with reading over the phone to her for all of my life. Little did I know that three years later I would be her next door neighbor! Then I never could have even dreamed of this amazing experience, to be a Nana-Next-Door, oh!!! how many nights, over how many years, I walked a few hundred feet down the driveway to read to her at bedtime…truly one of the greatest joys of my adult life!

She gets her driver’s license tomorrow, and I will be, for the most part, just a person in her periphery. I understand this, this is part of the plan, the role I played was to help my daughter raise her daughters, that was why we built our houses next door to each other, and so I knew the day was coming that she would be off on her own, but it still feels heavy in my heart. I suppose much of my “job” is done, again. We have talked about very important things, and deeply discussed the often uncomfortable discussions and have as open a narrative as one could wish for with a young woman in today’s world, so there’s that. We don’t like much of the same music, but we do like a lot of the same food, and we both love lying in the sun and the beach, and a good yoga session, and she has recently, after a long break, fallen back in love with reading…so we have much in common and I hope that lasts for all of my years left on this earth.

Her eyes are still the same chestnut brown as they were at birth, and she has that same caramel skin, and her snaggle tooth that was so precious as a toddler, grew into a perfect smile, with the help of a local and well loved orthodontist, and when I look at her face I still see the face I used to see in the dark, with the moon shimmering through the sheers on the windows, as we sat on the sofa in the wee hours, for those four weeks, figuring each other out…the face is the same, just matured now I guess, changed but not, that face I could not stop gazing upon for hours and hours and hours during her first month here on earth… It’s a little bit funny, when I think of that first month knowing her, I was in no rush whatsoever to do anything…all I did was dote on her needs and delight in her existence.

I was in no hurry to have her fall asleep, or eat, or get bathed, or burp, or poop, or whatever kinds of things you want an infant to get on with, so you can get on with your day, or get back to bed and try to get some sleep, when you are the mother…no, when you are the Nana of a newborn you really have plenty of time…all the time in the world…and I suppose I am regretting all the times I rushed her during the last many years, but will try now, today at least, to be present in today and I’ll focus my attention to the first 31 days she existed when I gave her every second of my time, and every ounce of my energy, and every beat of my heart. She was my whole world for a whole month, and even though I am not all that important to her now, I think it is still deep within her, that knowledge of knowing how deeply I loved her and still love her. Sometimes when she looks at me, and is not rolling her eyes, or bothered by my old fashioned comments, I feel like she remembers our bonding hours all those years ago, like it’s deep within the cells of who she is, our time together became a part of who she is…All the times I rushed her to hurry up, I just did not realize I guess, that the time I would wish her to slow down would be here so quickly…

Weak week

Today is the “anniversary” of one of the worst days of my life. Three weeks after I graduated high school, on a soft flannel blanket atop a cold steel table, I was told that I was about three weeks “more along” than I thought, because although I got the monthly biological evidence over three cycles that everything was functioning normally and was fine…nothing was fine. I got myself unraveled from the paper gown and got dressed and the kind lady with the kind eyes at the front desk handed me back my $400 and I waited out front on the curb for three hours because my girlfriend was told at 9 o’clock, when she dropped me off, to come back for me at two…she was at the mall, cell phones had not yet been invented, and so for three hours on a hot curb on a hot July afternoon on Route 9 in New Jersey I vacillated between whether or not I should just walk into the busy four lanes of traffic or something else. I did not really have a “something else” but I also had never been one of those suicidal tendencies types of teens. I had not had anything to eat or drink since 6 pm the night before, and to write that I was feeling about as low as a teenage girl, with her whole life ahead of her, and with dreams bigger than her brain could hold, could feel, is quite the understatement.

This July day is 37 years away from that July day, but the feelings that I have about the day are exactly the same. It was one of the worst weeks of my entire life because when you are imagining the life you are going to create for yourself when you finally are “an adult,” and in one afternoon all of your dreams you had for yourself are quashed by a biological mishap, there is very little to happily remember. If you have never wanted an abortion, or never had one, you might have a very specific opinion about them, but that is all they are, your opinion, and your opinion should not have ANYTHING to do with some other female body. I have never had lung cancer, I have never had lupus, I have never had a broken leg, and my opinion on how to treat lung cancer, lupus, and leg bones should have NOTHING to do with your lung cancer, your lupus, or your leg, and in fact, the CORRECT THING FOR ME TO THINK ABOUT THINGS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, is that I want your lung cancer, your lupus, and your leg bones to be treated with the kind of medical care that you desire and that will be BEST FOR YOU. See, my feelings about things which have nothing to do with my own body, are that I want what is best for you and your body. I have no business thinking that my opinions about what is going on inside of your vessel has anything whatsoever to do with me, you see, I hope you or your loved ones get the care that they wish for…see how that works?? My opinions about chemotherapy and radiation, immunosuppressants, and bone resetting should have no weight, whatsoever, about your care…and yet millions of people think that their opinion about clusters of cells, dividing inside the uteruses of females across the country, is their business. My anger, my fear, and my rage, FRAGE as it is now called, over these last days is valid.

When I say and when I write that I love my daughter with all of my heart, that is not a lie. When I write and when I say that I did not want a baby, or to be pregnant, or to be a mother, that is the truth. I did not ever imagine “my baby” with the kinds of “feel good” feelings most expectant mothers have, until literally the first seconds that she arrived on this earth in human form and I heard my sister say, “it’s a girl.” THAT moment is when I decided that I could find a way to be happy with the situation I was in and wanted to be a mother to that baby. THAT moment was my own. If I had said at that moment, no, I don’t want to be a mother to this baby, and asked that it be put up for adoption, THAT moment would have been my own. AND if I had had the biological clues that I ought to take a pregnancy test three weeks sooner than I did, and gotten a girlfriend to take me to the abortion clinic three weeks earlier than I did, THAT would have been my choice too. MINE. Your opinion about it lacks merit, BUT LOOK AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED…because of the opinions of others, tens of thousands of women and girls are scrambling to find care, far from where they live, in many cases hundreds of miles away, because in one day the opinions of some wiped out the options of many. There is nothing kind or caring about it in any way, the cruelty of it is unforgivable.

July 9, 1985 was a summer day that, as far as I know, most of my friends were having fun in the sun at the shore, with their whole lives ahead of them. That week of July was the weakest I had ever felt before and perhaps since…I felt completely defeated by biology and by my body. I hold anger still, nearly 40 years later, that that doctor wouldn’t help me that day. Yes I love my daughter and yes I did the best I could and yes I made the best of a bad situation, but that does not erase my anger and the constant gnawing in my mind of what my life might had been had I not been married, a mother, and divorced all before my 20th birthday. EVERY single thing I had wished about my future, EVERY single thing I had imagined and dreamed about my adult life, was erased, POOF! GONE! Bye-Bye DREAMS!…in one afternoon. I will hug my grown up 36 year-old daughter today, because I do love her, and it is true, had that doctor helped me that July day 37 years ago, she would not be here on this earth, but I would have been a different person too, and the anger has eaten away little bites at a time at me for all of these years, what might I have expected of myself and expected life to be like, if I was not expecting a baby at 17…I imagine a totally different life for myself every day, but also every day I try to make the best of the life I have. This is the truth of who I am, however, it is my own. AND it is partly why a RIGHT TO CHOOSE is so important to me…there is nothing just or fair or compassionate about taking away a choice. Unless you are in fact pregnant and do not want to be it should be no business of any other person but you and the doctor who will help you. The cruelty of this court, which disgusts me, to limit bodily autonomy has literally made me sick…I don’t even have a uterus anymore, but I am sick for all of the little girls and women who live in states where their choices in the matter are gone…I am horrified and I am angry and I wish I could find a way to channel my anger in a way that is not making me sick, but I am working on that…

WHY do some people think that their opinion about a woman’s choice to have an abortion, or to maintain a pregnancy, or a girl’s option to clean out her tiny uterus from the poison of a rapist, or worse, a trusted family member, is any of their business?? I think to myself, unless you have ever had a weak week of your own, get off of your high horse and shut your mouth. Your opinions have caused an event that, as of now, has, or could completely, ruined the lives of thousands of girls and women in your own country, the country that you so boldly claim your patriotism and love and wave your flags for, and so dearly want your guns to protect, well step off, back up, and mind your own business. We have work to do…