Birthday Month – How Do We Age?

FullSizeRenderMy mother is 81 this year. I saw her last when she was 50. I look at myself in the mirror now, at 63 and it is her features I see in many essential ways. But when I wake in the morning and sit up to take my coffee cup from my husband, my mind’s eye does not see that image. I no longer see myself at age 23, when I was wed, either. I see and “feel” myself – oh, maybe 40? But lately, the last three years or so, I can feel something slipping into feeling oh so much older.

I notice it particularly on Fridays. Fridays are now when I most commonly walk the Labyrinth with names of men or women often younger than my youngest child. Sometimes, now, I walk it with no names in hand at all — I am trying to set a new habit, you see? Every day around 20 veterans suicide, I have no way to find their names to add to my bitter books. But I know they are gone and they deserve a walking.

I walk, singing, now amidst the fallen leaves and rusty pine needles. And I feel so very old. It is not, as one might think, the hurts to the body that alone age us. At 40 I had nerves dead of spinal injury and still felt young and hale, if in pain! In 2003, the year I built the Walk of the Fallen, I was 50 and I grew strong and muscular hefting big stones and digging soft soil lined trench.  I wore out several pair of heavy gloves.  I felt crazy hearing the air hum with voices of people who could not possibly have been there.

And then every week, several times a week, I took a cup and a list and walked – thinking for the nation that was busy “going shopping” or whatever else they were told to do to NOT think about the sons and daughters of the not rich 1% who make up the nations volunteer military.  Sons and daughters dying, bleeding, suffering, coming home in boxes, or in still-breathing pieces of what they used to be – before the war.  Sometimes, in the first three years, I came back into my own house, shivering even in summer, to collapse in exhaustion of a sort I’d never known.  But I kept going and got used to it – as used to it as one can.

But the war(s) are going on 15 years old with no end in sight.  The names are reduced in number because Afghanistan and Iraq are not done, although neither Presidential candidate mentions it — well, except for Trump blaming the twin wars George Bush began on Hillary Clinton.  So for the last couple years, onFridays in particular, I notice I feel very tired and aged from the second I open my eyes.  Yesterday I lingered till almost dark for the Friday walk, and then realized it was pouring a cold heavy rain.  So the walk waited till today.   And again, it seemed I’d need a set of jumper cables applied to get me moving.

I built the Walk in a fury, in heartbreak and in grief.  I wanted someone to care and practically nobody did.  Finally, within a few bitter months, I simply wanted to feel like the men and women whose names I cupped in my hands felt welcomed home, remembered — not so ignored as it seemed the general populace left them to be.  I was ashamed, not only of a President starting wars with no strategy to finish and get the military out, but of my nation for not caring that the blood of the military 1% was being spent so carelessly, thoughtlessly, heartlessly.  Fifteen years of war, with no real peace in sight.

What ages me?  The carelessness, the thoughtlessness, the heartlessness of my nation, that I carry in my shamed hands once a week.  The faces I saw in my sleep or in waking visions while treading sandstone age me — I’d happily have let slip my own cords to life to save one of them.  But that wasn’t my option.  I had no option.  Neither did they, “volunteer” military aside.  Education too costly, jobs too sparse — old men who send young men to wars they profit from, while none of their own dear ones go in harms way —  war and shame age me.

And looking at my world?  I am glad to be old instead of young.

Birthday Month – the I Can’t Even(s)

Keep pouringMy post yesterday didn’t happen.  I couldn’t sign into my blog.  Thank you WordPress for the aggravation.

Anyhow, as one ages, life reveals more, not fewer marvels. And yet, they are the wrong sorts of “marvels” — the kind that make you both shake your head and want to beat heads against walls or desktops! I am not alone in this; my eldest son -39 next birthday and a fine, bright college graduate shares my bafflement-to-the-point-of-desiring-to-slap-morons.

For instance, he works out much harder than I do. His nickname at his gym is “Thor.” We both work out for the same reason: in this world, physical strength and endurance are NECESSARY. Like a favorite pagan blogger, Thorn Coyle, has said — she works out and takes care of her physical self so she CAN fight for what matters to her. I got lasic surgery for the same reason — in some dire circumstance I simply could NOT be a too-blind-for-self help burden to others. I was accused of doing it for vanity, of course. And here is the part I don’t get — if it was for vanity, how is it I now wear reading glasses? Similarly with the physical conditioning. At my son’s college, he was constantly told he wasn’t physically fit, but “suffering from Adonis syndrome.” By people so out of shape and over a decade younger who got out of breath walking between classes. Now, is that some delusional behavior? So yeah, I can’t even understand that.

Likewise, some of the Trump voters who insist things are such a mess we need change? I ask them how a con-man, liar, groper-in-chief, (un)reality show host could possibly be the change we need? They don’t know. They admit, with 6 bankruptcies and no tax paying for decades, he isn’t “perfect”. Man, he is so FAR from perfect that he could ONLY be a change for the worse condition, not the better. So yeah, I can’t even understand that, either.

Many colleges are declaring themselves “safe zones.” Safe from what, you ask, since college sexual assault CERTAINLY doesn’t make the women on campus safe? Safe from being offended by someone else’s speech. So, if in the student union, my son tells a woman she just said something nonsensical, she is allowed to tell him he “said that because I am female and you are a misogynist.” Why is he a misogynist? Because he disagreed with a woman. Yep, there ya go, that’s all it takes — disagreeing with someone gets you branded a misogynist, a racist, a femi-nazi, a pagan, an atheist — you name it, and you ARE it as long as all you do is verbally disagree with whatever “ist” it is in opposition. What happened to the First Amendment? Or is this tacit surrender to the crew that only hails the 2nd as important? I will tell you, THAT particular line of reasoning could make it more likely for people to speak with guns instead of mouths. Not desirable, I promise you — and look, just like that, I am a “Nasty Woman” who wants to destroy the 2nd Amendment to some folks! So yeah, I can’t even grasp the value of telling tender little college students that they must be protected from every opposing idea in the world.

It reminds me of a teacher my kids had in 6th grade. She never corrected their grammar errors, saying she didn’t want their papers to look like a “pig had been slaughtered” — from all the red ink. I think red ink (and profanity at times) is a terrific tool of focusing attention on a problem! I told that teacher that her students were sure in for a shock when their job applications were returned red stamped as “too stupid to hire.”

I can’t even understand Christians (or other monotheists of the omni-god theory) either.  I get told to be “grateful” for “God’s Grace.”  As my sons say, “Say, what motherfucker?  This ain’t gods grace, this is my busting my ass, making my choices, and living BY them — for good or ill.”  If your “god” is so gracefully good, why are children dying in Aleppo?  Oh, that’s on US?  And “He” stands by so man can have “free will.”  Well, I know all the monotheists love the parenting metaphor for divine action.  I let my children have free will, right up to the point where their stupider choices might kill them — then I swooped in like an angry hawk, saved them and slapped their bottoms to teach them “Now, you won’t to do THAT again, will you?”   I have to say, any deity who claims to be all-knowing, all-powerful, AND all-good who doesn’t do the SAME? Is not worthy of the title, if you ask me!

I can’t even get that people waste time praying, when they might be better spending the time getting off their asses and/or knees, rolling up their sleeves and kicking some ass, taking some names, and getting some stuff DONE to change the world.

I can’t EVEN get that the “cool kids” and techie genius types are blithering on and on about going to Mars. If the amount of time and money spent on THAT shit was put into making THIS world livable, we wouldn’t fucking need to THINK about Mars. I don’t want to live in a dome on some dusty-assed red planet, thanks. This is NOT like “crossing the ocean blue in 1492” even if people who were idiots did think he’d sail off the planet edge, ok? Another world could so easily be inimical to human life — read the novel “Aurora”, or something! Yes, it is science fiction — not meant to be predictive, btw (tho’ it often is) but rather as engaging cautionary tale.  It is time to fix THIS world, this limited edition instead of thinking manifest destiny and pretty Star Trek episodes mean we can keep going “West, young man!”

I could go on, my list is long. People don’t think THROUGH things before they open their mouths. What one thinks, one says,; what one says, one does; what one does, one becomes — if this is true, well, I can’t EVEN imagine the future of my country and I am freaking glad I am old enough to not have to watch for much longer. Yes, I apologized to my children for birthing them into a world dumbing itself down faster by the minute!

Birthday Month – Never Easier

mcesThe storm blowing in from the Pacific comes in gusts that shake the house and set the trees to writhing as if they dance to music only they can hear.  In between the noisy bursts of wind, which jangle into motion the wind chimes the Minotaur-husband adores, it is too quiet — a deep unnatural stillness when if feels as if everything alive is holding its breath.

We wash every dish, afraid of the power failing at any instant and not wanting a sink full of dirty dishes.  Menu plans change if it calls for a long oven use – we cannot be sure of that.  And so, there it is: what CAN one be sure of in the year she, this one, turns 63?

Not much, apparently.  When I was one third this age, at 21, I did not error in thinking I knew everything.  But I was very certain of what I did know and sure I could quite easily learn all else worth my effort.  And at 42?  Oh, such a comfort of mind then, even as a physical monster threatened as I struggled to regain use of my nerve-damaged left arm.  I was happier then that ever before in my life – sure there were problems, but by then they all seemed old familiar ones that would surely respond to old familiar solutions.

Now, at 63, all those sureties seems such illusions.  My marriage was non-existent at age 21.  At age 42, it was troubled but stable in its instability.  At 63, deeply intertwined with my spouse like the M.C. Escher image above?  It is pained and difficult; no, dear ones in the world – it does not get easier with age.  We are new, we two long-wed combatants.  He is all raw nerves awakening from his own self-induced coma of inattention and the world is boiling with pain and shock.  Me?  Oh, I am jaded and bitter with long exposure to the salt and sea and sand of living like a raw nerve all along.

He acts like a man bewitched, enchanted by me – alternately wildly romantic and utterly detached.  I feel unseen, as if he has fallen for some idol of me instead of the woman I am.  I find it hard to feel romantic about him; his health and injuries keep me in care-taker mode and how can I love something so injured that my heart will break sooner or later?  He is, like so many men, spectacularly bad at self-care and when I try to impose it upon him, he is resentful and peevish with me.  I recoil, hurt and furious.

So, thus we dance around the ashes of the marriage that burnt down in a PTSD pyre in 2011; trying to find some ember, some spark.  But neither of us trust that ember not to burn US down, I think.  Neither of us is the person were were before that crisis night; and we need to get to know each other anew.  That is so hard amidst the clutter of daily life in old familiar surroundings.

I long for dates, dressed up pretty and wearing jewelry.  He takes me to coffee and the hardware store.  I go home to repair broken bird-feeders and resist the urge to live in sweat pants or pajamas.  I immerse myself in books; he spends half his time at the VA hospital in endless appointments and classes and meetings.

Nothing gets easier with age.  I am definitely too old for this brand of lonely nonsense.  And so it goes.

 

Falling Into Fall

:::Looks back over last weeks posts:::: Well, that was less celebratory and more pissed-off diatribe, huh? Such is life.  It isn’t all roses and chocolates from age 63, believe me.  Sometimes you have to put on pointy boots and kick a little ass to remind people that you aren’t a push-over.

gold

This week, as I come out of a fibromyalgia flare (or whatever-the-hell-was wrong with me), I worked too hard on Monday and Tuesday.    Tuesday night was sleepless pain.  So yesterday, a beautiful clear sunny autumn day, was spent in “reduced” mode: I did laundry, changed the bed, the catbox, and made sourdough bread.  In between those things, I sat in my sunlit living room in front of windows I had washed on Tuesday, and read a novel.

We have bad weather incoming, it has been raining steadily since last night.  So I prepared, yesterday.  As, I said, I baked bread while I still had an oven to do so.  Our oven is propane, but fired ONLY by electric igniters.  I did all the laundry.  Today, the Minotaur is making yogurt.  We filled every spare bit of space in the family freezers with containers of water — frozen, these will not only keep the freezers cold, but can be put in the refrigerator space to save food there in event of power outage.  We have firewood and a fireplace; normally out propane fireplace keeps us warm even in power outages, but this year it is awaiting maintenance and refusing to ignite.The full rain barrels will provide for toilet flushing, we have a huge tank of water with filters to provide drinking, cooking, and clean-up water.

Part of aging successfully?  Is knowing when to prepare and when to stop worrying about whatever you cannot control. I admit, I fear this “leftover typhoon” coming in upon the Washington and Oregon coast, will not be the last.  Our climate has been changing over the almost 30 years of living here — I fear I may live to see the day when a Pacific typhoon (hurricane) roars ashore full force!  I look at my trees and think to them, one living creature to another, “Please stay in your upright positions!”

To be human is to be vulnerable.  To be an aged human is to know and acknowledge that vulnerability.

Birthday Month – The Guest?

Mondays are my “days off” – which should be an oxymoron for someone who does not have a paying job, right?  But any woman can tell you that even a woman who never worked a paying job outside a marital home with children works herself into a tizzy most days.  So, my mental and physical health both improved greatly when I decided a couple years ago, that Mondays would be my day off.

No doctor visits, no shopping trips, no physical labor not of my own choosing, no drear routines of house/garden care.  Even decades ago, with toddler children and a husband often deployed?  I used to take one day off from time to time — piling books by the reclining chair, ignoring laundry and bed-making, stocking bottom shelf of fridge with finger foods and doing only necessary diaper changes!  It was bliss!

fullsizerender-2I begin each Monday morning with a cup of tea — a forbidden beverage for my allergy-plagued self.  I have it in a pretty cup, one for each month of the year.  And as I sip my one cup of tea per week, I plan my day including what to wear.  Thus, today, I realized something I had finally learned for myself.  Quietly, without so much as a drumroll, I became the “guest” in my own life!

Mind you, ours was never a house with “guest” towels.  And the German china that was one of my year’s wages to buy?  It was used weekly the entire time my children grew up.  They learned their table manners with it, with crystal, silverplate, and cloth napkins .  I never saved the best things in the house only for guests.  I never had a room, like my Aunt L. where nobody but guests were allowed.  We never had foods off-limits as “just for dad” either.

But for me?  Well, unless I was going out of the house – I dressed in some pretty crummy things.  Old jeans with paint splotches; t-shirts tattered as any guy would be yelled at for wearing out of the house, socks thin at the heel.  Last year, cleaning out my dresser to steal it away for sewing supplies; I had to consolidate my foldable wear into one chest of drawers.  I threw away the ugly old shirts, thin socks and battered jeans and disgusting sweat-pants.  Suddenly, I had nothing to wear but “real” clothing!  I had two pairs of battered up wear for actual grub-in-the-mud yard work and outdoor maintenance.  And they had to be left for such actual work days!

Today, I dressed and then, surprised, caught sight of myself in my new mirror closet doors, (put up to defend my clothing – formerly only curtain covered – from a climbing kitten!)  and there I stood in camo leggings, a sleek black turtleneck and shining short boots!  I could leave the house without changing clothing first!  So, yes, make yourself the HONORED guest in your own life — worth dressing “up” for, worth the good dress on an ordinary day.   Dress to impress yourself!  The worse you feel, the better you dress and it will lift you up!

fullsizerenderLike the ‘cup of the month’, I’ve taken myself down off a shelf for daily use, instead of daily abuse.

BTW, for most of my adult life, I’ve shopped at discount stores or Goodwill for the majority of my clothing.  More choices, less money.  I have bought maybe a dozen truly costly pieces in my life (including the birthday present I will show you on my actual birthDAY) and still have ALL of them to wear.  It isn’t what you spend alone, but how you select it.  And screw what is “in style”* – wear what you love.  If criticized?  Fix the critic with your very best, “So who died and made you boss?” look and stare them down.  Make your own jewelry – let your statement pieces tell who YOU are, not who anyone else wants you to be!  I’m now “vintage” enough that I’ve seen some fashions come ’round three times and I still don’t wear the ones that were ugly the first time!

*For instance, I love “kitten heels” and anyone who wants to give me attitude about it will find out mine often have very pointy toes.

 

Birthday Month

artsy pink meMy birthday is this month. I am an official old broad – being over 60. Oddly, personally, I don’t consider over 60 to be really old.  This is likely because when I was very young – say 15 to 22 – I spent a good deal of my time with several women who were really old.  All were past their 80th year!  I adored all of them, too; I did chores, cleaning, shopping, cooking and lots of precious talking with them.  The things they taught me got me through some very tough times and prepared me in advance for other tough times.

So, to celebrate my birthday month, sitting on the doorstep of old age?  Every day this month, I am going to pass on a few things I’ve learned in living 63 years!  Mind you, I don’t know that I have anything as profound to offer as those very aged ladies I was so privileged to know in my youth.

Today?  I want to share a quote not from my personal little old lady icons, but from my favorite novelist, Doris Lessing: “And then, not expecting it, you become middle-aged and anonymous. No one notices you. You achieve a wonderful freedom.”  That is an ideal I have held to since my 50’s.  The idea of age becoming a freedom!  But HecateDemeter is right, there is a dark side and you need to read about it. Be invisible only when and if you like — but never be silenced!

Oh, and those fancy hot packs full of rice or buckwheat husks that you warm up so toastily in the microwave oven?  They are terrific, aren’t they?  I do love them.  However, there is a very old school me who knows that microwaves don’t help much if the power is out.  So, my personal tidbit learned over my life?  Keep an old-style hot water bottle that can be filled with hot water heated on a propane/gas stove!  

P.S. That pink dress?  It is now purple, i.e. you DO NOT have to take things as they come – you can change them!

Poetry Month – Twenty Four – Other Mirrors

mirror,mirror,mirrorI see myself in the morning’s mirror,
Same hair, too wild unconfined,
Same hollows ‘neath boring blue eyes,
Same pale and thin lips
But there are other mirrors?

How do hummingbirds see me?
Lady of the Nectars warm,
With e’er changing plumage,
Save the head, they might say,
Constant in every season’s need?

In the eyes of children?
Do I stand firm in joy or trouble,
With feather beds against cold,
Hot bread and butter against hunger,
Storybooks against loneliness?

My husband says I am a beauty?
Though I do scoff at his eyesight,
Finding grace in my steady stride,
Seeing film star glamour in fall of hair,
He sees no broken dirty knuckles?

My few women friends look at what?
To see support, a port in storm,
Outrage upon a profane tongue,
Facing down bullies bigger than me,
A heroic romantic fool ideal?

Striding on the street before strangers?
Dressed a bit too showily,
No jeans and t-shirt here to see,
Proud boots for stepping, me…
Cockroaches to stomp?

I leave my mirror quickly,
I must ever be more than I see,
Because I am not the image alone,
All that I will ever be,
Is what I do, not what you see!

A Lull, A Lag, A Darkness, A Lingering

FullSizeRenderI’m not blogging much. I find my exercise program lagging. My current goal of yoga three times a week with days of aerobic something in between for a total of six days of work outs a week is difficult to keep. Aerobics, either on my new and still despised Nordic Track Elliptical or my old Health Rider is SO boring only something exciting on my iPad can make me stay there sufficiently to get a work out.  But cabin fever after a long winter makes me want to walk out of doors; that was the plan for yesterday.  But then as I finished a counseling appointment and coffee with one-time co-workers?  The sky opened with rain and hail.  My will failed me.

My garden awaits tilling; the Minotaur has not yet got the tiller running.  We broke the bank with our runaway to Oregon earlier and are so broke presently that I can’t do anything until payday.  The last bit in the bankbook will go this afternoon to buying a load of good soil so we can transplant an ill-thought out tree to a better location.  Everything is alright, nothing is really wrong.  We lack for nothing needful.  But nothing feels really right, either.

FullSizeRender 2I linger in bed longer every morning, sipping coffee and wishing I was still asleep.  I wake in the wee morning hours from dreams of ferrets – over a year from burying my last ferret (Helen), the grief still reduces me to weeping disconsolately in the darkness.  I dream of finding a boxful of ferret kits, for pity’s sake!  There is simply no wisdom in this; ferrets are costly pets and on retirement income, I simply cannot have them anymore.  For twenty years, though, I did and rescued them wherever they were found.  They were the pets of my heart, my “woozles” to the “heffalump” of several dogs we had in that long interim.  The woozles were my anti-depressants.  They kept me alive when my teenaged youngest son ran away.  They got me out of bed when he did tours in Afghanistan as an adult.  They sustained me and gave me reason to live when my marriage took the nuclear detonation of my husband’s long-deferred PTSD crisis in 2011.

I tell myself that soon yard and garden work will make me move and shake myself out of the curious inertia that grips me.  I remind myself there is more sunlight each day, but a darkness follows me – my personal storm cloud.  Depression has been life-long thing, low level for the most part.  I have always fought it with work, exercise and good habits of eating carefully.  But as periodically happens, it is insufficient to move me just now.

I linger, listlessly reading news and wondering what on earth is the matter with people.  The hatred it must take to be a politician telling towns they will be defunded if they legislate paid sick time, for instance.  The open bigotry of making it legal to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and transgendered people.  I emphasize “people” because — yes, these are PEOPLE being treated worse than animals.  The misogyny of several states where unborn (and even damaged and unviable) fetal tissue is held more valuable than the living pregnant woman trying to keep her life (and possibly her entire family’s lives) from being derailed by an undesired and unsustainable pregnancy.  The racism so blatant in the reaction to “Black Lives Matter” protesters and to Muslims make me fearful for my nation.  I have coffee once a week with five German women; they are horrified to see America reminding them of the Germany that led to World War II.  Donald Trump horrifies them.  It all is shockingly awful.

I make sure a set of lights is on a timer to light up daily — bright red heart shapes.  Seeing them insists I must not shut down and quit; that I must keep my bitter, battered heart in play or I cannot win through to some better other side.  But I often feel like those hearts are just a tease and that my own heart’s Will is failing.

In my youth, all my best friends were very aged women for whom I shopped, cleaned, and cooked as they needed.  I often wondered at their seeming calm that seemed to mingle with a subdued sorrow as they watched the then news.  Now, I completely understand the sense that there are so many good things happening that it makes the horrible things happening feel like a bad dream you cannot awaken from at all.

Saturday we go to caucus for Bernie Sanders.  My heart not only will go on, but will go on fighting.  I simply haven’t the energy to talk, write, argue about how, where, and why any more.  But my semi-silence is certainly not consent!