This Old House (& Body)

images-2I just arrived at the NY State Writers Institute which I have attended every summer  for the last 14 years. For the first seven, I was a student, and the last seven years I have been writer-in-residence working with students on their novel manuscripts in one-on-one tutorials.  This is my favorite job, and it’s in a new jungle all together. It’s hot and humid with my tribe of literary folk. Today, as I was leaving my apartment, I ran into Howard Norman who was heading to his car. We caught up for a second about how our year went. The subject turned to health as it does after the age of 50, and he told me a photogreat story about how he is working on an old house in VT and the man working for him said he needed to replace a few boards, then looked Howard up and down.  We both laughed at the metaphor.  My partner and I are also working on an old house, and the metaphor of an old house and an old body can be carried through on so many levels. Old houses, like old bodies need TLC.  First it’s just some coats of paint you need, then it’s new windows (reading glasses), then it’s the plumbing, then then it’s the foundation. On and on. But I wouldn’t trade my old house for a new one.  My house has character and flaws, and will never be perfect, but it has memories, both mine and the previous owners.  It creaks and it has cracks going this way and that. My house is solid though.  It’s lived through earthquakes and rainstorms (when we had them in CA), and it’s still standing.

I left Howard and went for a bike ride.  In the small town, of Ballston Spa, about 10 miles away, I was standing at a stoplight, waiting for it to turn green, when woman who stood at the curb asked images-3me if I knew what was taking the light so long. “I’m tired of waiting,” she said, “but I’m not willing to get hit by the traffic. That’s just not an option.”  I agreed, getting hit by a car wouldn’t be a good thing.  “I’m 70,” she said, “and I plan on making it to 100!”

“I love your attitude,” I told her.

“I have six great grandkids,” she said, “and I plan on having the great greats, you know?”

“I know!” I said back, and realized I’d never thought that far, but that I too want great greats.

Then the light turned green and she was off.  I’m pretty sure she’ll make it to 100.  I’m right behind her.

It’s been a great day!

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50th Birthday Hike

Seems everyone is turning 50 these days.  Makes sense that my friends would be my same age.  All this time I thought I was so young.  Turns out I’m as old as they are.  In fact, some of them are younger than I am, by months!

UnknownI went to my friend Hope’s 50th birthday celebration this week. Hope Edelman was a writing group partner of mine and has been a good friend for years.  She chose to invite a bunch of women friends to climb a mountain with her on her special day. What a brilliant idea, not to mention beautiful. The day was perfect. We hiked in the Topanga State Park up behind Santa Monica with the Pacific Ocean as our view.  We hiked about 2.5 miles in, up to a giant rock formation which we climbed, then turned around and took group photos.  Unknown-1

A day spent with old friends and new. Some of the women on the hike were friends I hadn’t seen in ages because I live 3 hours away, but we picked up our conversations right where we had left off. What books we were working on, what new work we had in our computers. This is what I love about women: we bond, we climb mountains together, both proverbial and physical, and we gather old friends and introduce new. This is what I love about getting older: we savor our friends and we add more friends as we go, and we have more confidence at the top of each of those mountains.

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Pulling the Proverbial or John Deere Tractor

I’m 50 and feeling it.  That is, I ache here and there, I have wrinkles here and there, bulges come and go and rearrange themselves.  But I’m loving it for the most part. I have this new urge to do things I never thought I could do before.  Not that I can DO them now, but I seem to not care.  I say, “seem to” because it really does appear to be a subconscious 10250311_762739367100004_3901883393610898304_nvolunteering. I signed up for the Epic Challenge last month and this month is was the Paddle Games competition.  I should make it very clear that I am in no way an athlete.  I am the girl in 6th grade who was picked last for any team and I am still the woman who has never gone out for any team.  Until now.  I don’t really know what has come over me except that I’ve always WANTED to be an athlete, to participate in all the reindeer games, but just never thought I could or should.  By “should” I mean, it didn’t seem polite to participate in something where I would hold everyone back.  And believe me, I’m not being humble when I speak so lowly of my athletic ability.  I really have none.  I have gotten stronger this year, I’ll give myself that.  I can lift weights I never could before and I can run farther than I ever could in my life.  Nine blocks instead of one. What happened?  I’m not sure.  But I know for some reason I don’t have the fear I once had.  It’s like I woke up at 50 and poof! I’m not afraid of drowning, getting stung by a bee or getting clobbered by a ball being thrown at me.  Maybe I made it this far and my psyche is so relieved she feels immortal.

What ever it is, below is what I’ve done this year.  And it’s only June!  And trust me when I say I’m not bragging (maybe a little) I’m a little afraid of myself.

Epic Challenge Tractor Pull Across the Finish lineA tractor pull.  You can take the girl out of redneck country, but you can’t take the redneck out of the girl.  At least it wasn’t a monster truck drag race. And I did actually pull that tractor all the way across the finish line.  Surely it was made of plastic?

After the tractor pull, I competed in the Epic Challenge obstacle course. I climbed walls, threw sandbags over other walls, climbed over those, pushed sleds, ran around a 500 meter track carrying a beer keg (empty), ran the same track carrying a long tube filled with sloshing water, pulled weighted kegs up and over a crane, and there was some sort of tire with concrete that I had to lift and topple and runaround and do over and over (I did not break a single nail!). There was more, and most of the time I didn’t even know what I was doing or how to do it but I was there and I was doing it.

10458980_782160925157848_2196856372837623724_oThen, this month I signed up for Stand Up Paddle Board Games. What was I thinking? I’m afraid of the water.  Sure, I love the water, but I have been afraid of drowning since I was five and my swim teacher held my head under. I don’t get wet below my neckline. But this past weekend, I went out on a paddle board into the ocean bay.  I made it through the obstacle course in the water, then raced onto the sand and went through another obstacle course.  I pulled a 75lb 10339528_782162095157731_7754626624240243809_orailroad tie 95ft through sand, I threw an 8lb medicine ball 20ft over my head, I paddled on a simulator for 500 meters in less than 5 minutes and I stand on the Indo balance board for, Pulling Railroad Tiewell, they don’t have a time less than 1 second.  I had the best time! I completed the course, I don’t know what my time was, but I don’t care.

But the best part, the part that made it fun, the part that may have been the scariest of all for me–I did it with a team.  I have never participated in team sports.  I have always been the “I in Team.”  I never understood what the point was.  But now I get it.

My whole life I’ve been really good at being alone.  Being alone is essential for being a writer.  I have friends and family and all that. And I have experienced the big support of close friends when I’ve been in dire situations.  But I’ve never had the feeling that comes with the support of another team member helping for the good of everyone. In the last obstacle: we all went out into the ocean on one big air mattress with oars and had to make it around the water’s buoy obstacle course. At one point we had to all jump in the water and then climb back the wobbly raft.  I couldn’t get a grip on anything, I kept sliding off, in water too deep to stand up in, I tried hoisting myself on, only to find the other half of my sliding back into the water.  My teammates all around me were climbing on, yelling helpful hints, and laughing.  Then I looked up and a teammate held out her hand for me to grab.  Together we hoisted me back onto the raft.  Together, we all sailed off to the next buoy, laughing and huffing and puffing as we tried to beat our other teammates on another raft.   10379832_782162948490979_4752332465485864194_o

What’s next!

 

Still Grousing About Motherhood

images-1I’m still jumping up and down on my box of Tide about not being REQUIRED to be a mother.  I just read an article in the LA Times about how an organization called FrogLeap, Inc. has been working to reduce the quantity of “early elective deliveries”.  I couldn’t believe this phrase.  If you don’t know about it, and I certainly didn’t, nearly 20% of births at hospitals are delivered at least (at least!) two weeks early.  REASON:  The mothers-to-be are tired of being pregnant. images Okay, here’s where my bun gets too tight.  Should these women be mothers at all?  If they think pregnancy sucks, then wait until the terrible twos! Or until they poop on your friend’s new sofa. That’s awkward, embarrassing and excruciatingly painful.

Here’s the link.  Feel free to tell me I’m an insensitive, jealous old lady with raisin-like eggs, or maybe you’ll agree with me.  http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hospital-early-deliveries-20140303,0,7918490.story#axzz2uwInPyt1

Be a mother, that’s fine, and can certainly be glorious (for some), but don’t feel like you are supposed to if you’re not cut out for it. Maybe we should require that Facebook quiz for more women. And men.

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Dressing the part

In my lifelong quest for a sartorial style I can call my own, I have realized that I return over and over to the tunic.

In the 80s stretch pants and long blouses were the fashion hit and I embraced them. Those long loose blouses covered all the bumps I was insecure about.

In the 90s, it was boyfriend shirts that came below the hips. Again, coverage and comfort were the goal.

In the next couple of decades, we started wearing empress waist tunics or what at one time would have been mini dresses, over leggings.

The goal now is to make sure it’s really an in style tunic and not an old lady shirt. A big oversized blouse with no shape and loud print. It’s a fine line when you reach fifty to balance comfort and style and not turn into my grandmother. Stop me when I start wearing rhinestone sweaters, please.

Becoming a Lady

Unknown-1Lady is relative, I suppose.  But as I think of age, I think about those milestones along the way.  Rites of passage.  Make up was a big one for me.  I wanted to wear make up since I was about, well, since I could stand on my tip toes and watch my mom put on her lipstick in her dressing table’s mirror.  But the first time I bought any cosmetics, I mean real cosmetics, not the blue eyeshadow from Wal-Mart, was when I was 17.  My girlfriend and I had been shopping in downtown Bartlesville, OK (the days before malls) and wandered by the Mary Kay store.  The flashy pink interior with its black accents enthralled me from the moment the first glare-free bulb around the vanity mirror caught my eye.  Makeover?!  Sure.

images-2We were guided to the comfy chairs, and set up in front of big three way mirrors.  My makeup artist began by rubbing astringent across my face with a cotton ball, asking me how often I got makeovers.  When I replied “Never before,” she must have thought “Sucker!” She flattered me with comments like, “Did you know you have a double set of eyelashes?” I didn’t, and I still am not sure what that is.  And, “You have a heart-shaped face,” which my insecure side thought she meant I had fat cheeks.  But when she said I had “high cheek bones” I knew that phrase.  I’d read about it in Seventeen magazine, the resource for all teenage girls in 1980.  Cheryl Tiegs, the CoverGirl model had “high cheek bones”.  I had never noticed mine before and figured that was due to the pudgy heart shape.

make-up-bag1At the end of the session, I had been so flattered that I bought almost everything the makeup artist said I needed in order to maintain the stripper look she’d applied to my face.  I spent nearly $19 on the supplies.  Nineteen dollars was a fortune to me.  I went home and cried (luckily I was wearing expensive water-proof mascara).  I couldn’t afford this kind of make up.  I would never be able to be a lady, I thought.

Another About Time

images-3My yoga instructor tells me to “be present”.  Sure, at that moment, when I’m twisting my left leg behind my right and balancing on my ear, I attempt to “be present”.  But present is a hard place to stay, especially since time keeps moving forward, keeps moving toward the future.  Just once, it would be fun to have a yoga teacher say, “be future.”

A good writing friend of mine, who is also past the fifty mark, and I were discussing our books, how many we have in us and want to get written.  She said something that I thought was brilliant and has stuck with me.  “Time doesn’t so much seem shorter at this age, but it definitely seems narrower.”

flush_hallwayI took that to heart, and I’m relinquishing my role as responsible human being this month and focusing only on my writing.  This blog is a nice and fun respite, but it may be neglected just like my cats.  Occasional feedings, and some water, but for the present I have a narrow passage I need to navigate.

Stereotypes

UnknownI’m still pissed about the Facebook quiz apologizing to me for suggesting I shouldn’t have kids.  I want an apology for the apology.

One of my favorite things about growing older is the constant learning.  I’m aware imagesthat I will be learning forever.  It’s one of the reasons I looked forward to being 50 and why I look forward to being 70.  I’ll know even more when I’m 70 than I do now.

One of the most powerful things I’ve learned in my 50 years as a human being is that we are all different.  That everyone’s reality is theirs alone.  In essence, there is no reality.  But there are individuals.  When I was younger, much younger, I thought we all wanted the same things, that we all had the same core goals.  But really, other than that shelter, food and love stuff, we have individual needs. And no matter how you look at it, we are as different as you and me.

s-ELIZABETH-ADENEY-largeDoes society (Facebook), in this day and age, assume that because I’m female I want or need children?  I’m mulling this.  Society’s misdirected assumptions, not the having kids part.  Why can’t I just be me? What makes it wrong to not have kids?  Why would that choice ever deserve a “Sorry!”?

 

 

Facebook Schmacebook

I took one of those Facebook quizzes today. Usually I don’t.  I think I took the one that told me what literary character I would be, and maybe the one that told me what color I would be.  But otherwise, I avoid them.  I don’t remember the results to either one of those previous quizzes.  But today’s quiz seemed safe.  It was “How Many Children Should You Have?” I’m over fifty (by 30 days), child-bearing out of the question, so why not. But I worried as I started to answer the questions that it would tell me I should have 1 or 2 kids, or maybe more.  Would I feel bad if it did? I don’t have any kids, so would I suddenly start going through some sort of maternal regret? Would that biological clock that never ticked for me suddenly start up?  TICK TOCK! making me run out and adopt 5 starving African children?  Then, the results were tallied: “You should not have any children. Sorry.”  Whew.  But then I had to start resenting that the quiz felt the need to apologize.  I was happy with my decision.  There was nothing wrong with my decision. And obviously, it was the right one.  For me.  No need to apologize.

Below the results, it did say, (and I sensed a sigh and jealousy), “You will have more money and sex than your parent-friends.”

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Ms. Magoo

A weird week to say the least.  My partner got laid off from his job. While disruptive, it is a good thing in the long run for many reasons. But that’s another post. From the moment he came home, it seemed crazy things kept happening around me.  When I stopped at 7-11 to get gas a woman started raging and calling me a slew of bad words. Okay, this isn’t a PG blog.  Here’s what she did, she leaned over like she was constipated, double flipped me off, then screamed “Fucking bitch whore slut!!” Now, I’ve been called almost all of those things, but never all of them in a row.  “Someone’s having a bad day,” I said and I got in my car. She pulled away, then stopped her car and screamed the lovely epithets again, flipping me off some more, in case I didn’t get the message the first time.

images-1Meth much?  Then while I drove down a side street that afternoon, I crossed a main thoroughfare and just as I passed to the other side I heard a loud screech of brakes and then saw two cars hit each other with such tremendous impact that they bounced off one another, then spun back toward opposite corners of the intersection. A wreck out of a Quentin Tarantino film. In my rearview mirror, I spotted one driver walking to the other car, then stepping back aghast. I kept driving onward, as a crowd had gathered and 911 had been called. But it was pretty clear someone didn’t make their next appointment.images

The next day, I went for a peaceful hike in the countryside with a friend. The trail empty of other hikers, the air quiet and many trees stood like skeletons dead from the drought. When the mountain lion growled at us to get out of his territory, that’s when I knew my adrenalin had reached its peak for the week.

I felt like I’d been walking over land mines, like Mr. Magoo walking along oblivious to narrowly missed dangers along my way.  Only I wasn’t oblivious.

What does this have to do with getting older, to living the better half of my life?  I found it was a reminder that survival continues day-t0-day.  I know I handled each situation with much more patience than I ever would in, say, my 20s or 30s.  That’s not to say I wasn’t scared to death each time.

It’s a new week.  Whew.

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