Monday, September 21, 2009

Things I've learned about being 50...or so...

Two one way signs pointing to opposite directions
  • Those "Over the Hill" cards that were funny when you turned 30 or 40 aren't funny anymore. Give me something sappy that makes me cry. Which is easy when you're hormonal.
  • Ditto for funny gifts containing hemorrhoid ointments, wrinkle creams (sometimes the same thing), laxatives....They are now considered "Care Packages" and taken seriously.
  • Your face reveals whether you've smiled or frowned more in your life. I like to think there is still time to reverse the trend.
  • If you manage to get to sleep and stay asleep at night, God forbid anyone wake you for any reason. I mean that literally. God, please forbid it.
  • You have little patience for people who seem to think they know everything because the older you get the more evident it is we know very little.
  • You don't care what people think of you. Unless they criticize you.
  • Facial skin becomes particles cling to it for long after the meal is finished.
  • You realize you chew with your front teeth. How else could salad get lodged right there in front? You probably don't even need those molars your dentist is so anxious to crown (no coincidence his 4th child is going off to college either.)
  • As a result of the above, everyone needs a meal buddy to check 'em out after meals and make sure we won't go off into the world to humiliate ourselves.
  • You can still learn new things! But the learning curve is much longer, steeper, and more painful.
  • The job you always wanted doesn't exist anymore.
  • About the same time you realize your own limitations you also realize that God (all that is Good) is limitless.
  • Your hairdresser suggests "lowlights" instead of "highlights".
  • The clothes at Chico's start looking cuter.
  • You wonder why people sneer at "mom jeans." I mean, I AM a mom. What the heck?
  • Your kids wince when you talk about your thongs (and you're talking about footwear.)
  • They also wince when you tell them you just hooked up with an old friend. I mean, when did hooked up get to mean something sketchy? Who hijacked our language?
  • It's easier to forgive and forget than to hold a grudge, because, well, grudge-holding requires more memory capacity than you have to spare.
  • It's a good idea to gravitate toward people with happy attitudes because attitudes are contagious.
  • Open minds are far more interesting than closed ones.
  • Tolerance for arrogance goes out the window. By this time you realize that arrogant people are too nearsighted to take seriously anyway. It's just another form of vision impairment.
  • It feels a lot better to laugh than to...well, do just about anything.
  • You don't mind that extra 10 lbs anymore because it fills in some wrinkles. And, besides, all clothes are pretty stretchy these days.
  • You notice that most people who live to be really old admit to having a cocktail every night for decades. And you embrace the wisdom of the elderly and drink from the fountain of youth daily at 6:00 p.m. Because it's important to take care of yourself.
  • You forget what you were going to do when the kids got older. Heck, you forget what you were going to do after lunch.
  • You overhear two young moms planning a class party with complicated spreadsheets and timelines and think to yourself, "Hey, ladies, get a LIFE!" Then you go home and spend all day blogging about it. hmmm ;-)
OK, now, get back to work. You have a life. :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Right Where I Want To Be (for the next 24 hrs. anyway)

Man standing on rural road holding road map, head obscured by map

I've wanted to live on the coast of Maine, on a lake in Vermont, in the Berkshire Mountains, in the Texas Hill Country, in the boulder formations of Arizona high desert, on an island in Puget Sound, on a river in Central Oregon, in lavender fields in the Willamette Valley, on the red cliffs of the Colorado Monument, on a farm in the Amish country......for starters. Just in the last few years.

Almost every time I visit a new place, I want to live there. Within 24 hours I have memorized the local Homes and Land Magazine and scouted out the best views, coffee, and places to eavesdrop (which is the only good way to get to know the local vibe. It's like visiting colleges---forget the formal presentations and head for the bookstore and cafeteria. Alone. And listen.)

You'd think I live in a miserable place. I don't. In fact, I live in a place so close to perfect that finding fault with it is like trying to find the wrong side of the tracks in Heaven itself.

So what's up with that?

I mean, roots feel good. They hold you in place when the weather gets rough. They feed you from down deep when pickings are slim on the surface. They spread out and define your place, your breadth, your mark, your territory. They tell you who you are. Right now, at least.

We're all a bit territorial, let's face it. Like Robert Frost said, "Good fences make good neighbors." Partly because they help define our turf. Our edges. Our tribal land. Our comfort zone.

Yet I know few people (admittedly, there are some) who don't try on the idea of change, dream of new kinds of community, imagine different ways to live. Simpler lives, perhaps. Or more focused ones. Perhaps more open to serendipity. Or just...different.

I love my life. I have been blessed with people and experiences that define my little mark in this world, however modest, and the opportunities to pursue them with unfettered passion. But there is more to come. Different things.They will all, in the end, weave the fabric of my own unique existence here.

My fantasy is to live a year in every place that pulls at me. Four seasons in every little world that has teased me with promise. Which is completely unreasonable, hence the term fantasy. But how great would that be?

Those who love to travel know that it is transformative---sometimes in big, gut-busting ways and sometimes in small, measured whispers. The places and people you discover in locales different from home plant their seeds in your brain and go with you on to the next place, and return home with you, marking out a new spot in your soul.

So don't you just get curious sometimes? What parts of yourself would erupt from latent hibernation? There is such promise in open-ended journeys. So much room for my favorite friend, serendipity.

I guess it's not practical to take risks that big. Perhaps not completely pleasurable, either.

But somehow it seems that we humans are here on this earth for no other reason than to love and learn and to encourage the learning of others (which is really what love is, in many ways.) There is so much to learn, and let's face it, you can't keep growing in the same school, library, class, etc. forever. It is the unfamiliar that points us inward, makes us find our own inner yardstick with which to measure the world around us.

And learning means change. In fact, learning cannot exist without change---it is both the process and the by-product.

So even when we live in a perfectly sunny climate---we long for seasons. We live in a city and long for open spaces. We live in the country and long for urban vigor.

It's not that we're unhappy. It's not that we're unappreciative.

It's just that we're born to be somewhat discontent. It's a good thing. It makes us keep moving, in one way or another, toward new experience. And new perspectives.

This doesn't have to happen in the context of a geographical move. Sometimes just identifying the lure of a different locale can give us the tool to transform life right here where we started.

But stepping away gives us fresh eyes. Stripping away routine gives us a clean slate.

Unless you empty a bucket that's full, you can't get anything new into it. Vacations are like dumping out the bucket contents and collecting new perspectives to take home with you.

I'm shopping for a big new bucket tomorrow. I feel another road trip calling.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Laugh or Cry?

Elderly Woman Laughing

Two scenes from life-with-grandma yesterday stand out. How to respond? Well...

First: G-Ma, feeling fragile, ( "I'm on my way out, I think...") sits on the doctor's examining table. He says, "I'm going to take a look at you now" and uses the foot pedal to raise the table up-up-up.....G-Ma's face reacts in shock, fear, confusion (she thought she was leaving her body right then and there, floating up-up-up to heaven.)

Nice doctor shouts, "I did that, don't worry! I'm sorry, I should have warned you!"

G-Ma bursts out in riotous laughter, telling us that she had thought her spirit was leaving her body at long last. We all laughed hard and it turned her mood around. Laughing is good.

Anyone else out there holding the hand of a parent with dementia? Being a live 2-way filter, protecting him/her from a suddenly confusing world while simultaneously protecting the world from a suddenly confusing person?

Well, you can laugh or cry. (In reality, of course, you do a lot of both.)

I worry about sounding disrepectful when I share some of the laughing moments. Believe me, that is not my intent. Nor is it a way of denying the sad truth of this journey. It's just that I have to find the humor or I'll drown in other, less pleasant emotions.

I remember Mom and her sisters laughing at similar events with their own parents. (Yes, I'm taking my blood pressure medicines and not planning to walk this same genetic road...)

So here is the biggest laugh of the day. Or cry, depending on how you look at it:

Mom needed at CT Scan of her brain. Walking into the hospital, we passed a wheelchair-bound woman who had obviously had some major head surgery, as her entire head was wrapped in a huge turban of bandages with various tubes coming out at all angles. Mom looked at her, laughed (!) and said loudly, "Hey! Nice hat!"

What do you do? Laugh or cry?

I didn't have time to do either right then. I was too busy steering Mom in the other direction, which is hard to do with your eyes closed and teeth gritted.

I've got to laugh. On good days, Mom does, too.