Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THE 50'S SUCK SHE SAID



 
Some time ago my sister in law began telling me “the fifties suck”. She’s nearly sixty and has nothing good to say about her fifties. I was there for my sister in laws fifties. They really did suck.
Recently, at fifty, a woman I went to high school with died of cancer. We barely knew each other. Mary was simply a kid in a small town in an Idaho high school who was kind to me, the new girl. The outsider. Teeny tiny, blonde and beautiful. She was a hellacious arm wrestler.

A week before she died I thought of her for the first time in decades. Wondering what her life had become. Her life was over. Weird.
One of my closest friends got cancer in her fifties. Diagnosed the weekend before she was scheduled to start a new job in a new town. The pink slip from the new job came six months later. In that time she’d undergone one major surgery, one less major surgery, chemo and radiation. The entirety of it left her unable to absorb nutrients or gain weight and leeched her energy. Much of her fifties was spent wondering. Wondering if the cancer would come back, if she would be employable, if she was living her life well, considering she might not live it long.
Last spring a neurologist informed me he wanted to keep an eye on my symptoms to determine if they were “indicative of something worse”. Looking slightly embarrassed he followed with “because your middle aged”. Although my friend Jerri laughed out loud when I referred to myself as middle aged. “You’re not middle aged anymore honey” she said. Like I couldn’t live to be a hundred and two.
Even if you don’t get cancer and live or get cancer and die, have your second child die, or have a neurologist want to keep an eye on you… Shit just might get real in your fifties.
Like menopause. Whether you suffer the severe symptoms or not, it’s a strange thing to know the hormone associated with being a juicy female (don’t pardon the pun) has disappeared from your system. Your skin changes, your hair starts going gray, and all the things you thought happened to other people are happening to you. An older friend of mine told me ten years ago that dying the hair on her head was one thing. Finding gray pubic hair was another level of horror altogether.
I started writing this blog because I turned fifty. Figuring it was a milestone of some sort; that there would be changes. I knew my sister in law thought it sucked. But women’s magazines would insist “the fifties can be one of the best times of your life”.
So which is it?
A year into my fifties, I’d say it’s a combination of the two. My health has fallen apart. I haven’t been free of illness more than six weeks since July. That sucks. Without a doubt. I hate every single thing about it. The lack of energy, the black circles under my eyes, the fucking up of my workouts. The workouts which are keeping my butt up where it belongs and my self-esteem semi intact. I doubt the fifties are to blame for my health though. It was just the luck of the draw. There are plenty of people in their fifties who aren’t unwell this often.
On the other hand, I’m not lonely anymore. My younger years were gut wrenchingly lonely. Not only am I surrounded by love and people I love back, but something has changed internally. I can be alone for days at a time and not feel at all lonely.
From twenty eight ish to forty something I spent a giant amount of time obsessed with whether or not I’d sleep at night. In my forties I gave in and took sleeping pills. I was uber cautious with them and never got dependent and they helped. I could write a book about insomnia and anxiety and what came first. The anxiety or the insomnia.
 In my fifties I just sleep. Beautiful, incredible sleep.
I think I sleep because I’m not scared anymore. I’m just not. Until my almost fifties I was always scared. The DSM, a tool psych professionals use to make diagnosis would call it “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”. No tangible reason to be anxious, nothing logical about it, just in general anxious. I still get anxious on planes, and boats and in a handful of other situations. But in general, the anxiety I lived with most of my life is gone.
There are dozens of blog entries I could write around each of these things: loneliness, anxiety and insomnia. But for now let’s just say the fifties don’t suck. So far, logically and like everything else in life, it’s a tradeoff. I’ve traded some of what was good about my youth for things that are good about my fifties.
I would like to keep my ass up where it belongs though.
 

 

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

REBELLION


 
I had a bizarre urge to stop at a local bar and get drunk the other night. I’ve been drunk maybe a half dozen times in my life. The last time in the late eighties. Where alcohol is concerned, I have a stop button. It isn’t a conscious thing. It’s just there. I don’t choose to not get drunk. Not getting drunk chooses me.
Lately, getting drunk sounds wild. I’m wanting to be wild. To dance on tables, hike through the wilderness, without a shower or a real bed. I want to be scared, be uncomfortable, be crazy, be loud, be incorrigible. I want to dig ditches, drag race, smoke cigars, get in a fight. I want the stories to tell that happen when you’re drunk.
If my kids and husband are reading this…
What I really want, is to have the energy to do those things. I want to not think about my back pain or my blood pressure or how tired I am. I want to have the energy to stay up past nine pm, hear a band, and dance on tables. I want to wear high heels and cute skirts and feel good doing it. I want to feel desirable. I want to feel on fire.
I don’t want to go to the doctor or physical therapy. I don’t want to talk about the doctor or physical therapy or meds or sleep number beds or anything to do with being unwell in any way. I want to get dirty in the woods and stay dirty and shoot a deer. I don’t really want to get drunk. I want to have the energy to get crazy and do the unexpected.
To do the unexpected…
I quit wearing my motorcycle helmet this week. And every day, while I’m still not tired, I go riding. I take roads I’ve never been on before. I ride fast, I listen to loud music and love the feel of wind in my hair.
It’s my small rebellion. The one that says “I’m not done yet”. Because I’m not done yet.

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

When Life Gives You.... Oh Never Mind


I’m not sure how I feel about positive thinking. About gratitude, acceptance, believing in yourself, staying strong, and all those other Facebook memes cluttering up my newsfeed with positivity. Not that Facebook is the only place describing how you’re attitude entirely determines how good your life is. There are bzillions of self- help books on how to perceive life in order to have a better life. Even the big box stores like Target and Pier one sell art work with instructions on how to be happy and fulfilled.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results”

“Find a place inside you where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain”

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow”
It’s like pain isn’t real.
Several years ago I had a friend die of cancer. An ugly cancer that took over a beautiful young woman’s body. The kind of young woman you can’t imagine dying. When alive she glowed. People noticed her wherever we went. Drop dead gorgeous with an incredible sense of humor and energy. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of her in my mind. One particular day when I was feeling bad about myself and she appeared to be everything I wished I was.
During her illness, when she was up to it, we e mailed. There was also an e mail chain for her friends and family that was all about staying positive and helping our friend stay positive. The message being “we can change this if we stay positive. She can change this if she stays positive”.
It’s like the pain isn’t real.
In actuality my friend wasn’t all that positive. She told me so in one e mail. Saying she was “having” to stay positive but in reality…wasn’t. I don’t recall the exact words anymore. What I do recall is knowing she felt guilty for believing she would die and not being able to find the right attitude. The attitude that would keep her alive. As though she were responsible for her illness and therefore her death.
It’s like the pain isn’t real.
It’s like we’re supposed to live without pain.
I guess how I feel about all that positive thinking is this: While being positive is better than being negative and absolutely can affect our lives. Our attitude is not always responsible for our pain. Sometimes, our pain is responsible for our attitude.
Sometimes it is flat out fucking impossible to find the silver lining. It’s more comfortable when we can find it. Like the first blush of a good buzz from a nice wine at the end of a terrible week. But it isn’t always going to be there.
Sometimes the pain is just real. Until it isn’t.
 
 
 
 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Anatomy of Friendship


 
 
In the rearview mirror I see my friend Jinny has fallen far behind. That’s unusual. Jinny is my motorcycle “riding soul mate”. We’ve traveled close to five thousand miles together. Having found each other through a love of riding and a search for the type of self-worth that comes to women through women friends alone.  
This year we’re riding from Arizona to Idaho, then Eastern and Central Washington. We ride “fast and tight”. More like one unit than two motorcycles. At the moment Jinny starts to fall back we’ve been riding a Utah freeway at roughly 85mph. I slow and pull off on the shoulder as her bike rolls up to mine.
Her face is covered in blood. Her bike’s windshield shook loose and blew into her face. She lay down on the side of the freeway saying “I just need a minute to put my head back”. First I took a picture to post on Facebook (like you wouldn’t!). Then called 911. Can you say “HIT WITH A WINDSHIELD AT 85MPH”?!
After the EMT’s cleaned her up and let her go we rode on. By the end of the day we’d been broke down on a mountain pass, planted a smiley face sticker on a homeless man and an outhouse, guzzled some alcohol, and laughed and laughed and laughed.
The anatomy of a friendship.
I think a lot about friendship. About people who have come and gone and why or how they mattered. I think about the people who remain in my life. Why and how they matter still. It’s important to think about these things. There is only so much time and energy. 
Jinny and I are walking back from the store with three of the twenty women we’ve ridden motorcycles with for thirteen years. Every year anywhere from twenty to forty of us take a three day motorcycle trip. We’ve been to Canada, Idaho, Montana, and several places in Washington. We’ve ridden horses, rafted rivers, skinny dipped, danced on bars, been banned from ever coming back and been begged to come back again.
This year we’re in Leavenworth. A beautiful town near a beautiful river that escaped burning down just before we got there. I’ve volunteered to go to the grocery store after spending hours in my room incredibly fatigued. This thing that’s wrong with me, this thing… rearing its ugly ass head to interrupt something I love once again.
 We’re walking back carrying our grocery bags, unusually quiet for us. My mouth opened up before asking my brain. “I’m not happy about my health”. Jinny stopped and looked at me with awe on her face. “Thank you for that” She says. “I was wondering. Everything you’ve said about it is always so positive and strong”. That made me cry. Sob actually. I sobbed. And the women gathered. They put their arms around me.
In Deanna’s arms I’m crying: “I miss my old self. I miss who I was”. She replied “that’s okay honey. We all do.” Deanna who has seen tragedy. We walk back to the house in silence, prepare dinner and do cartwheels.
video
The anatomy of a friendship.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Talking About Grown Kids


Several months ago I asked my friends and family on Facebook what they thought I should talk about via my blog. My sister in law posted “grown kids!” A request made weeks before her youngest child, who had survived his older sister by twenty years, died of a heroin overdose. Yesterday, along with a picture of her son and daughters graves, she E mailed “This is what my life with kids is reduced to...tending grave sites. I can't stand it.” 
 
I’m going to write about grown kids, for my sister in law. Who will be tending the graves of her only children until her death. Who will face every mother’s day, every holiday, and her children’s birthdays with nothing but memories of them, and gravesites. I will write about grown kids because “there but for the grace of God go I”.   

Grown Kids 
 

People with little kids don’t know how those of us with grown kids are watching them. Watching them try so hard. Believing they have answers their own parents and their friends parents didn’t. Believing their kids won’t be drug addicted because mom is going to be home and not working, or working and not home. Because they are going to home school. Because they, unlike us, understand that you can’t spank or you have to spank or you need to let kids have a voice or kids need to be seen and not heard. Parents of children not yet grown are always going to do it better than we did.  

No they’re not.  
 
There are reasons why the person who is in and out of jail has a sibling who’s a healthy functioning adult. Because children are people to. They are individuals. They are affected by their peers, their teachers, strangers, neighbors, television, books, and most of all by their perceptions of the world around them.  

There is only so much a parent contributes to the life of a grown child.  

The parent of young children who is determined to not parent the way their parents did, has no idea how their children will respond to that. They decide to live in the same house in the same neighborhood for the duration of their child’s schooling because they moved around a lot growing up. Unbeknownst to them their child would have been better off in a different city in a different kind of school.  

I’m largely convinced that one of my daughters would have been better off had I not moved out of the low income school district we lived in when she was very young. She was at the top of the heap in that hood. With the nicest home, the nicest clothes, and parents who supervised her. It made her special. She needed to be special. We moved to a much “better” neighborhood when she was in fourth grade. One where less than 10% of the school received free lunch as opposed to the 80% at her prior school. In that neighborhood she felt “less than”. Everyone else’s houses were nicer, clothes were nicer, they’re mothers didn’t work, and they took trips to exotic places on school break. She spent the rest of her school years trying to live up to her peers and in her opinion, failing miserably. Go fucking figure.  

The things I thought I was doing right when my kids were little turned out to be either totally wrong or not that important to them in the long run. Neither of them followed my lead in regards to exercise, no cigarettes and healthy diets. Something I believed was incredibly important to their overall development and would carry them into adulthood. I might as well have just fed them hot dogs for dinner every night and chain smoked.

My husband and his ex-wife DID feed one of their son’s hot dogs with mac and cheese for dinner every night. It’s all the kid wanted and they allowed it, making a separate meal for the rest of the family. I’d have thought they were nuts and never ever allowed it. Today that kid is an uber fit sports competitor and healthy eater. Go fucking figure.  

There is only so much a parent contributes to the life of a grown child. 

I’m not absolving abusive or neglectful parents. I spent many career years trying to repair the damage parents can do. I’m not writing about those grown children. The ones whose parents were so bad they deeply scarred them in ways that other people can’t fathom. I’m writing about all the others.  

Over the years I’ve developed a theory. The theory: there are two types of parents. The really bad ones and all the rest. I have never known a parent, professionally or personally, that I would say is “the one”. The one that all parents should model themselves after. The reason I’ve never met them? It’s simple. The perfect parent for one child is not the perfect parent for another.  

I was the “put your oxygen mask on yourself first” mother.  Among many things it meant that when I realized my marriage was bad for “me” I left. One of my daughters barely noticed, other than how it affected things important to her. Like not being able to afford cable television. I can say with 95% confidence that her parents’ divorce did not affect her development in any direction. The other was absolutely devastated. For nearly a year after the divorce she carved broken hearts into walls and furniture. If she wasn’t carving she was tearing family pictures up. She didn’t smile for a long time.  

Had I known then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have left. Would staying have made her adult life any easier or better? I don’t know. Now days she can’t even imagine her father and I together. Seeing us for the people we are instead of just her parents.  

Those of us with grown kids spend a lot of time questioning our parenting then and now. I would suggest we stop that. It’s too late to change anything. Our “kids” are no longer kids. They are grownups. They have the same amount of responsibility for themselves that we do. They are not simply products of our parenting. They are products of a ginormous universe. A universe that includes DNA. A universe that with any luck, they will live in without us someday. They will make their way as best they can just like everyone else in the world does. Just like we do.  

Your adult child’s life will become what they make of it, not what you make of it. So give yourself a break.

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Creating Your Life: Suburbs and Marriage


I hate the suburbs. At least the suburbs of Arizona. It’s difficult to find anywhere blander than a gated community in Gilbert/Mesa/Ahwatukee/Glendale Arizona. The houses are so close to identical it took me a year to find which street was mine without conscious effort.  If you’re a stalker trying to find my house let me tell you where I live. I live in a beige house in a beige neighborhood a couple miles from a strip mall. Good luck with that.
I like to walk, and you can walk in the suburbs. There are pathways and wide sidewalks. It’s safe. And like a lot of safe things it’s exceptionally dull. You can walk but where can you go? There’s nothing to see on the next block or the next mile that you aren’t seeing on the first one. That is not a symbolic statement. It’s literal.
I can walk to a Starbucks of course. I mean who can’t? If you live in China I’m pretty sure you can walk to a Starbucks. If you live in Seattle you can crawl to one. There is also a nail place, a Gymboree, a Jack in the Box, another nail place, a Panda Express and a Target.
Picture me rolling my eyes while making the universal “gag me” sign.
The worst thing about the suburbs is how lonely they are. I tell my family I’m starting a front porch revolution. I sit out on the front porch drinking coffee in the morning or drinking wine at night just hoping to see something. Anything. Over coffee I see people drive out of their garages and over wine I see them drive back in and shut the door. It confounds me to some degree. Isn’t anyone else bored or lonely? Doesn’t anyone else want to share stories on a porch and watch kids play in the street?
 
A couple of the neighbors have felt obligated (by sheer force of my will and smile) to come close to the porch and say hi. Later, as they come and go from their garages, they pointedly avoid eye contact.  Last week my husband and I stayed with a friend in Portland Oregon who lived in a real neighborhood. The neighbors talk to each other and have poker parties. She’s a new widow and just before we left one of her neighbors came over to say “hi”. They all check on her. The twin six year olds come tell her all about their day and she tutored their dad in math.
Sigh.
Is it me? Maybe I should brush my hair more often.
I’ve tried to create a neighborhood in our home. I invite people all the time. I encourage them to stay for days and even weeks. I’ve made one side of our home a virtual guest house, stocked with mini shampoos, magazines, and a separate TV for guests. I have stacks of towels sitting out by the pool and a full bar. If I can’t go to the neighborhood maybe it will come to me.
I’ve had a measure of success with my creation. Our home is the place for people to come. It’s full fairly often. A pale shade of what I really want. To live where there is color and vibrancy. To see some dreadlocks and/or purple hair at the independent coffee shop I walked to in my neighborhood. To never see an Applebee’s again.
In middle age I think a lot about the life I’ve created. How close is it to the one I want? Am I making too many compromises or not enough? Have I become lazy or apathetic? I’m not entirely sure what it says about me, that I live in the burbs, hate them, and do it anyway. Although in large part it says I’m married, and I want my husband to be happy to; and he loves the burbs. It’s his world. Everything all lined up in order, the HOA making sure no one builds metal sculptures in their yard or covers their house in seashells.  Nothing wrong with that. It’s his thing and we’re not the same person. I like metal sculptures and houses covered in seashells.
 
My husband isn’t forcing me to live in the burbs. If I made it a big enough deal he would live where I want to live. He’d do his best to ignore the homes where the weeds are prolific or the owners are “creative”. He’d tolerate my love for the murals he thinks are ghetto. He’d even suck up the extra hour to work it would take him. He wants me to be happy to. 
In creating the life I want I’m creating a life with another person. That means I don’t’ always get what I want. Which means defining where not getting what I want is okay and where it’s not okay.
I love my husband
I want us both to be happy
I hate the fucking suburbs
I love my marriage
Stay tuned

 

 

 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When All Else Fails: Whine


It began in luxurious beautiful sleep. Sleeping when I was tired. Laying my head down at night and falling asleep. The kind of indulgent sleep that had eluded me most of my adult life. Then a day of luxury. Doing nothing but laying on the couch reading a good book.
At some point, book in hand, I thought “my mother would be so proud”. Year after year she would say to me “slow down Kelly. Take some time to relax Kelly. Why do you always have to go go go?” I thought “finally, at close to 50 years old I’m relaxing”. I’d smile to myself throughout the day, giddy with the extravagance of doing absolutely nothing. I thought “I deserve this, I’ve been busy, I’m learning to just be.”
Slowly the luxury turned into a type of need and seemed odd. Even though I was sleeping like a log, I was so very tired. I’d wake up tired. I’d get my coffee tired. I’d start doing dishes and five minutes later think “I just need a little break then I’ll finish the dishes”.  Thirty minutes later I’d look at the dishes and think “I’ll feel better in a while and do them then”. It might take half a day to feel well enough to do dishes. I’d read, watch television, skim facebook or throw in a load of laundry.
I never felt better.
A day of luxury and relaxation turned into a life changing year. I quit working out the way I always have and began just walking or swimming. I quit grad school, never rode my motorcycle, and planned my days around not being far from somewhere I could “rest”. I started to hate the word “rest”.
The one millionth time I looked for an answer online, I watched a video of a man with MS describe his fatigue. “MS fatigue is different. To call it fatigue doesn’t fit. If you called what most people think of as fatigue a firecracker and MS fatigue Hiroshima that would about describe it”. I thought “that’s me”. Telling people I was “tired” or “fatigued” simply wasn’t the truth. It was something else. Something deeply organic and all consuming.
Then one day, after tons of lab work, two MRI’s, and three different doctors it just... went away. December 24th 2014. I was baking cookies around two in the afternoon and realized I wasn’t tired. Then realized I’d felt normal for about twenty four hours. I blogged about that earlier this year. Thinking doctors had missed a simple infection by not doing the most basic of tests, a urine sample. 
That was five months ago. I thought it was gone. It’s not.
A different doctor, a Mayo Clinic doctor, has a possible line on the etiology. I don’t care. I just want my energy. I don’t want to “rest” EVER. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. “This is what it must feel like to be truly old” I think often. Wanting your energy and health back because your mind hasn’t given up on things your body has.
This post feels a bit morbid because I’m feeling a bit morbid. Whatever is wrong with me I can’t make go away using the tools I’ve spent a lifetime developing. I can do everything right and it still won’t go.the.fuck.away.
 I’ve beat debilitating anxiety using exercise, healthy food, and a positive mental attitude. I’ve had a difficult surgery and quickly got back in tip top shape using exercise, healthy food and a positive mental attitude. I’ve gone through divorce and loss and heart ache using exercise and blah blah blah you get the point.
My tool box feels inadequate and instead I’m whining in a blog. If exercise, healthy food, and a positive mental attitude doesn’t do it maybe whining will.
Yep, I feel better already.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Gravy Days

I wrote an article called "Gravy Days" not long after my nephew died. Found by his parents on the floor of a room in their home. It consumed me and everyone else near them for a couple of weeks. It still consumes them. The rest of us are living different lives. I can barely wrap my mind around that fact. They are living every minute with unimaginable pain while the rest of us begin to go about our days. It divides us.

For now.

Gravy Days is acknowledgement that while today our lives may be consumed with the mundane: irritation at our spouse or children, grocery shopping, working in a cubicle, or feeling bored. The mundane and the every day is temporary. It's an acknowledgement to my loved ones that while I cannot change your pain, as a human being I share in it.

I love you.

Gravy Days is published by an online zin called Fifty is the New Fifty. You can read it at the link below.

 http://www.fiftyisthenewfifty.com/gravy-days/


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do You Really Want a Nice Guy?


What do you want? I have a theory that in fact, regardless of how happy or unhappy you are, you have exactly what you want.
 It’s a highly developed scientific theory. Like most of my highly developed theories it was born of laying on the beach with a friend discussing human behavior. Ours, our friends, co-workers, children, boyfriends of the moment, and total strangers. Back when we believed whole heartedly that given the chance and resources we could fix all the world’s problems.
And maybe we could have.
 If we’d really wanted to.
I remember the beginning of this theory like it was yesterday. Probably because I’ve thought about it a lot in the twenty plus years since.  After all, people talk every day about what they want.  
“I want to quit smoking” “I want a happier marriage” “I want to be healthier” “I want to live where it’s warm” “I want to make more money” “I hate my job” “I want to get out of debt” “I want to feel better about myself” “I want to date nice guys”
“Why do I not have what I want?”
Twenty-ish years ago my beach friend was nearing forty. She had one tween and some teen children of her own. The man she loved was a little older with no children. He talked often about how much he wanted kids. He would get sad around the holidays because everyone he knew had children to share them with and he did not. His pain around being childless affected his behavior and it affected her.
So she went to a doctor to discuss getting her tubes untied. Mostly to make him happy. Partly to help her decide if she wanted it to. She didn’t. Her love was very disappointed and it was a big problem.
Then, in a moment of sun baked clarity, my friend asked “if he wants kids so bad why does he keep dating women who either don’t want them (or more of them) or can’t have them? He could be dating younger women or women who really want children. Why me? Why put all this time and energy into a woman whose tubes are tied!? If it were me I’d have said early on….I like you, but I plan on having kids so this isn’t going to work for me”.  
LIGHTBULB!
Her love didn’t want children as much as he thought he did. Or he’d have been doing exactly what she said. He knew early in the relationship that she had her tubes tied. For the obvious reason that she didn’t want more kids. Yet he pursued her intensely. Why? Because he wanted something else more than he wanted children. Something I can’t define and he might not be able to define either.
When I hear women tell me they never meet nice men. I think to myself “I meet them all the time. And so do you. You just don’t want anything to do with them”. You want something else. There are a lot of nice men in the world. I’ve got a highly developed scientific theory about what women want who don’t date nice men, but that’s another two pages.
People put their energy into what they want. So they get it. If you want to smoke cigarettes, you’re time, energy and money go into smoking. Money you could spend on that laptop you think you want, but what you want more is a cigarette. Time you could spend on anything else you think you want, but you actually want that cigarette.
Yes that’s somewhat dumbed down. Cigarettes are an easy target. And people’s true desires can be deeply hidden, even when it comes to something as simple as smoking. Maybe your true desire is to connect with people and all the people in your life connect while smoking cigarettes. Your desire for connection is more powerful than your desire to not smoke. The deeper desire is difficult to see and difficult to find a replacement for.
Someone is in a miserable marriage. They’ve complained about it for years. They ask themselves every day “why don’t I change this?” Maybe it’s as simple as the fear of having to change an entire life; financially and otherwise. But maybe their desire to see their spouse punished for an affair they had ten years ago is stronger than their desire for a happy life. Whatever it is, they don’t want what they think they want.
What do you really want? Don’t look at what you don’t have when asking that question. Look at what you do have. Look at what you spend your time doing. Because it’s the answer. You want whatever it is you put your energy into.
You’re actions speak louder than your words. You’re reality is what you have made it. When the day comes that you actually want something, more than what you have, you will be actively working at making it happen.
I don’t let myself off the hook. I asked myself this question recently. I won’t tell you the answer yet because I’m somewhat ashamed of it. But someday.

 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Green Grass Part 3: DREAM

The e mail from my daughter contained a link to a job posting for a "content writer" at an online magazine called fiftyisthenewfifty.com. She said "you should do this mom". They asked for a resume and writing sample. I figured they wouldn't be impressed with my ten years as a probation officer, my stint as a child protective services investigator or the years I contracted with family court as an investigator in contested child custody battles.

 Dilemma.

My first thought was to delete it. Instead I said "what the hell"? I sent a semi goofy e mail, links to this blog and the facebook page associated with it. The publisher responded with interest, we e mailed, we discussed and ultimately we agreed I would write an article for her magazine based on an upcoming trip I was taking to the U.K by myself.

Cray Cray! My dreamer daughter who always believes you can make the life you want was dreaming for me.

Below is the link to my first PAID writing job. It's also my first experience with being "edited". A tad annoying but something I can live with. It's not going to pay enough for me to make a living and I may not ever get paid again. But what it did was tip me over the edge of "what now" into "anything is possible. Do some dreaming".

Do some dreaming.

fiftyisthenewfifty.com is the website and the publisher is also a woman in her fifties looking to live her next act. Check it out.

http://www.fiftyisthenewfifty.com/traveling-on-my-own/

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What Do You Love?


 
What do you love? What are you grateful for?
I know, totally cliché. There can be truth in cliché. If you struggle with finding something you’re grateful for, or you don’t have something you love in your life, then I’m sad for you. That would suck.
By “something to love” I mean now. Not “if I had more money” or a different job, or no job, or lived in a different town, or lost weight, or found a man. Today. What do you have in your life that you love? 
If you have something you love, then I’m guessing you’re already grateful.
Years ago I told someone “I have no tolerance for being miserable”. And I don’t. To be clear, I have no expectation of happiness either. I’m grateful I was born into circumstances where my basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) were met. Someone loved me. I was born with good health, above average intelligence and decent looks. In a time and into a country where women have opportunity. If not equal opportunity. All of these things contributed to my ability to pursue the cliché “more out of life”. I’m aware that’s not a given. I’m grateful I’ve had a certain amount of luck in my life.
 I do not expect that no tragedy will touch me or that I will never be ill. That people will never disappoint me and that in short, things will not always go my way. But I have no tolerance for misery which I have any control over. Not even a little bit. Therefore I have things I love and I do them. They make me happy. Happy is better than unhappy.
When I ask what do you love? It’s not the same as who do you love. Who do you love can be tricky. It can be a trap. It can mean that you mostly do what someone else loves, that you put their needs before your own, that you forget what you love.
No, I’m asking what-do-YOU-love and do you do it?
When was the last time you realized “this moment could not be better”? Whether you were gardening, cooking, walking in the rain, writing a story, riding a motorcycle, taking karate lessons, singing a song, dancing, or…. You get the point.
When was the last time you loved something so much that there was nowhere else you would rather be and nothing else you would rather be doing?
I hope it’s today.
 

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Whose tougher than Ray Lewis? Elizabeth Smart!


 
 
“Elizabeth Smart is a flat out bad ass” I thought, looking out over the crowd of women I fit in distressingly well with. Hundreds of “ladies who lunch”. Invited to a fund raiser for a girls group home. Elizabeth at the podium being inspirational while telling as little of her story as possible. Something I admired and understood. She described herself pre-kidnapping as a “wallflower” and “beyond painfully shy”. For the most extroverted of us, having the world voyeuristically invested in your abduction, torture and rape would be ugly.
It’s incredible where you can find bad assness. This benign looking young woman drenched in it. A girl that frankly, without her kidnapping, and in her own words would be “just another blonde girl from Utah”. Someone your eyes would slide by on their way to shinier more interesting targets.
I kept thinking about how I’d see Elizabeth if I didn’t know her story. How I might tell someone “I met the sweetest kid today”. People watching at the mall I’d dismiss her as a “wallflower”. Her shoulders are slightly rounded in and her face a bit flushed, she doesn’t look quite comfortable. She seems an introverted even frightened girl. Sitting at a table of people, if she stood out, that’s what she’d stand out for.
When in fact she’s a bad ass. A David kills Goliath kind of bad ass. An “I eat navy seals and NFL linebackers for breakfast” kind of badass. She’s a real hero that mostly matters just to women. It’s the way we define tough in this country that puts Elizabeth Smart on the speaking circuit for women’s and children’s issues. While someone like Ray Lewis, an ex NFL something or other, will be sought out by corporations, politicians, government agencies, and likely even some women’s and children’s organizations. He'll command much larger fees than Elizabeth’s. He’ll be a highly sought out motivational speaker because he played football. Because he was good at football. Football (sigh).
Would he have cried hysterically and begged for his mother if someone (bigger, stronger, and meaner than him) woke him up in the middle of the night with a knife to his neck, drug him to a remote mountain top, chained him like a dog and repeatedly raped him. Keeping him, in Elizabeth’s words “as an object. Not even a pet”. There for him to “do whatever he wanted with. To be a permanent audience when he wanted to talk” and a physical object when he didn’t.
The kind of tough men we glorify in sports and television, men like Ray Lewis who may have killed a man in real life and can beat them on a football field. And Jax Teller from the TV show Sons of Anarchy. Jax whose biker gang character runs hookers and films porn. Jax who beat up his ex-girlfriend in order to gain custody of his son. Men who carry guns and get in fights and pick fights on sports fields. We think they’re tough.
Those men have nothing on Elizabeth Smart. Who literally walked through the valley of death and came out a gracious, loving, and optimistic human being trying to make the world a better place. Elizabeth Smart who understands that “everyone has a story and a struggle but everyone’s struggle is different”. Whose hope for the abused and neglected girls she’s championing is that they “understand nothing in their past can cheat them of their value as human beings”.
In this video of Ray Lewis, giving a motivational speech for a group of young athletes at Stanford University, he asks “If tomorrow wasn’t’ promised what would you give for today?”
It’s a good question. And one that Elizabeth Smart can answer. At 14 years old, that little girl spent every day thinking tomorrow might not come. But Ray Lewis faced down big mean football players while making millions of dollars to do it. He's a bad ass.
I’m amusing myself with the pictures in my head of Elizabeth Smart walking into that locker room in Stanford, asking the question “If tomorrow wasn’t promised what would you give for today”. The looks on the boy's faces that say “who the hell is this? Joe… who IS this? Ummmm coach the social work departments speaker got lost”.
 
They don’t know for tough.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Blame Christie Brinkley


When Desperate Housewives was in its first few years of popularity, Nicolette Sheridan, Terri Hatcher and I were all in our early forties. Nicolette and I have near identical birthdays. When pictures of the cast were dominating magazine covers with “can you believe how beautiful they are at their age” I thought it a terrible thing for so much focus to be on their looks vs their age. It was sending a message to all us regular Jill’s out here that looking thirty two at forty four is a) something we should aspire to and b) possible if you try hard enough.
 
Of course it was only terrible for middle aged women.  A group not a lot of people care about. Except for advertisers. They at least are enthralled by our buying power. Especially advertisers of beauty products like: Botox, Restylane, Latisse and of course boobs. I bet Desperate Housewives increased the sale of these products by a large percentage. If anyone who can study that reads this, please do.
The women of Wisteria Lane made me uncomfortable. They made me think I was slacking. It’s not something I knew consciously, it was subconscious. I’d see a picture of Nicolette in a bikini with six pack abs and think that the grueling workouts I was doing obviously weren’t enough. If I just worked a little harder I could look “like that”. Maybe I shouldn’t eat that cookie, or have a glass of wine, or red meat, or a handful of tortilla chips EVER.
I’m pretty disciplined. We’ve established in prior posts that I exercise regularly. And fairly intensely. I worked out this morning with fit women half my age who couldn’t keep up. I’m not an uber “clean eater” because it’s not fun. But I’m height and weight appropriate. I eat lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat. I don’t smoke, do drugs or drink to excess. If I don’t look like Nicolette Sheridan or Terri Hatcher at our age who the hell can? If I don’t have a set of six pack abs, the skin on my hands is aged, and I’m starting to see a little bit of old lady knee, what real woman does look like one of the Desperate Housewives?
I’m on a rampage lately over what’s happening to women my age. The surgeries, the billions of dollars we could be saving for retirement spent on injections and creams. Some of them safe, some of them not. Surgeries are never just safe. And I’m blaming Desperate Housewives.
And Christie Brinkley
And People Magazine
 
This cover made me almost apocalyptic.  Does anyone reading this know anyone that looks like this at 60!? Okay even if you do. That's not the point. The point is, does anyone want to focus on looking like this at 60!? Shouldn’t we be focusing on things that are actually important? Things like authenticity, curiosity, joy and health. Or living the last couple decades of our life with more freedom than the first six of them?
Apparently People Magazine, many more magazines of course, as well as any number of internet sites believe the most important thing about women at any age is how they look. Oh, and having three kids like Christie, four husbands and a tough divorce is no excuse for slacking ladies! You must have golden flowing locks, the body of a 35 year old and beautiful skin!
Somewhere there are plastic surgeons in a room with this cover of People plastered on the walls doing a happy dance and drinking champagne while counting money.

 

 

 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Out of Style



I’m not sure how to write about the boob thing. But the boob thing is both pissing me off and making me sad. I understand why women want boob jobs. I do. I totally get it. Boobs define us. Boobs are female. Females are boobs. As little girls, boobs took up a huge amount of our thinking when we were without them and a huge amount of thinking in the neighbor boys after we got them.
Before internet porn, cable TV porn, and porn accessible on a telephone any time anywhere made it necessary to show everything beyond the bush, there was boobs. They were idolized, revered, written about, photographed, filmed and in general loved. Boobs are more than boobs, they’re love and desire and power.
I’m pissed off about boobs after spending today with a friend who got a boob job. A beautiful fifty four year old woman with some of the best DNA on the planet. No joke. She looks thirty five without trying. Still dewy skin, Pantene Pro V hair, virtually no wrinkles and the body of a teenager. A teenager from the seventies. Before the country got fat.
In the surgery center most of the female employees had boob jobs. The nurse was providing personal experiences as to pain and recovery. They told us that usually “older women do better with the pain than the eighteen year olds who haven’t had any real life experiences yet”. Eighteen year olds? Getting boob jobs? WHAT.THE.FUCK?! I say fuck a lot when I’m mad.
I’m mad that women’s boobs just aren’t good enough anymore. That the beauty seen in girlie magazines from the 1950’s through at least the 1980’s has disappeared. Those women had all types of boobs: big, small, pointed, not pointed, light colored nipples, almost no nipples, and dark nipples. In this millennium we’re turning women into cartoons. Live versions of Barbie or Jessica Rabbit.
What pisses me off the most is that women think they’re the driving force behind the phenomena. They’ve convinced themselves that they really want to pay thousands of dollars (plus interest on the credit card), take a physical risk, spend weeks or months recovering and live with a foreign object in their body. One that makes it more difficult to spot breast cancer on a mammogram and has the potential to cause a variety of problems in the future. They will tell you “It makes me like my body better, gives me more confidence”.
What makes me sad is the truth. The truth is no woman anywhere would do this to herself if she didn’t think it was necessary to make a man want her. When did that happen? When did regular every day beautiful boobs go out of style?
I guess about the same time regular every day women went out of style.
Fuck that.

 

 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

If Men Read this Blog....


My friends and I spend a fair amount of time talking about sex. We always have. During long lazy summer days at the beach (ruining our skin for middle age), we’d discuss the men we knew in detail.  One was tall with giant hips. We decided the hips meant he was “hung like a donkey”. One spent so much time lifting weights to get “big” we were sure he wasn’t hung at all.
We mused about which ones we’d have sex with. So and so “is married but never flirts. That’s a turn on”. So and so “is super funny but seriously needs to lose weight”. So and so was probably “nasty”. We decided who had already had sex in the office after hours or during hours and who was going to. One friend already had and I was hoping. 
We’ve discussed oral sex, anal sex, hetero sex, same sex sex, married, single, and sex by yourself sex. I’ve got friends who are swingers and friends who still can’t turn the lights on when they’re naked. In case I haven’t been clear…. I know a LOT about the sex lives of my friends and some of their friends who I don’t know and a few random female acquaintances met at parties.  
Therefore when I make this next statement consider me something of an expert. Sex changes for women in middle age. It changes faster and in different ways than it does for men. Most women don’t know how to talk to their partner about it and most men don’t know anything about it at all.
It isn’t all about menopause either. It’s also about the health of the relationship, body image, energy level, and boredom. Yes… boredom. By the time you reach middle age you’ve had a lot of sex. Sometimes it’s all been with the same person. Not long ago a woman nearing her 80th birthday and married to the same man all her adult life told me “I regret not having had sex with more men”.
The other day it occurred to me that if men spent as much time reading things designed to make their relationship better as women do; then more middle aged women would be having better sex and more of it. If you do a quick review of online magazines for women they all have a tab somewhere that says “relationships” or something like it. Men’s magazines have a tab that says “girls”. And yes, it’s pictures of beautiful girls.
In case my husband reads this (unlikely since it’s a “girl thing”) I better quantify that “I” am not a middle aged woman in a dry spell. I married late in life, had learned what I wanted and had no fear expressing myself.  Plus, my husband and I are both talkers. The kind who are able to listen while our mouths are moving.  We talk so much that in twelve years neither of us has ever said “we need to talk about something”. It works for us and works for sex. Which is a good thing, because he won’t read this blog and he certainly won’t click on the “relationships” tab on the internet.
If it weren’t a girl thing, if men read this blog… which they won’t. I’d tell them “do some reading”. It’s all out there. Do a little research. Read about menopause, read about women’s sexuality. Read the things your wife is reading and talk about it. Watch Oprah! She did an awesome segment on women and sex. Being interested in what women care about sexually (centerfolds turn ons don’t count) will for sure get you laid more than complaining about how you don’t get enough sex. Instead of your wife or partner doing all the work and research then having to take the emotional risk of being the one to bring it up. Do a little educating yourself. Help a girl out for god’s sake.
But men don’t read this blog.

 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Girl Thing

"Honey how do I read your blog?" ...... uh oh
 Tentatively "Did you like my blog?"
"Um ya...It's kind of a girl thing"

 Whew... I'm doing it right

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Green Grass Part 2: I'm a Loser


We agreed to meet at Denny’s near the freeway for our first ride. I’d been feeling resentment towards my husband for not wanting to ride motorcycles anymore. Another story for another day. In this story I’m resentful. Yesterday I said to a friend “if you’re feeling resentful it means you need to change something”. That’s what I was doing at the Denny’s, changing something.
The woman across from me joined the meetup group I started for women motorcycle riders with time during the week to ride. We were getting to know each other over coffee and eggs before “kickstands up”. I asked her what she “did” that allowed her time to ride during the week. I should have known she’d ask me back.
I’m overly curious these days about what people do for a living. It’s a kind of vicarious thrill. She said “I’m a nurse in the ICU unit”. There’s that quick twinge of envy I get when someone has an interesting job. She tells me she works 12 hour shifts and has several days off at a time. I make jokes about how nice it is to have an ICU nurse on a motorcycle ride. Hoping the subject will change quickly. “What do you do that allows you to ride during the week?” she asks. My face feels a bit flushed and I say “I’m a loser. My husband makes the money”. I pause and include “It’s kind of embarrassing, but it is what it is”. She does the laugh people do when they’re a little uncomfortable and makes statements about how it shouldn’t be embarrassing. I think she meant it. She’s a really nice woman with sad eyes.
“I’m a loser”. I’ve said it several times since quitting grad school. It’s sort of like the fat kid making fat jokes. Say it out loud first. But don’t feel sorry for me. I know it’s not true. I say it because I think that’s what other people think when they find out I don’t work. I say it because in my prior life I had disdain for women like me who didn’t work. There is some psychological hold over from that. And I say it because the things I “do” that contribute are truly difficult to explain and undervalued even if I could.
I take care of my marriage. It’s important to me. I manage relationships with my friends and family because I have the time to do it. I’m the person everyone goes to for support. I spend hours on the phone listening to people’s lives. I make sure that so and so knows how to hook up with this person or that person. I open my home for days or even weeks at a time. I share what I have with people who need it or would benefit from it. I love seeing other people thrive. I love helping them thrive. I used to make money doing it, now I don’t have to. The downside being; now I don’t have a “job title”.
 There’s an entire human behavior theory called “Relational Cultural Theory” that talks about how important this kind of work is and how undervalued it is and how it’s primarily women who do it. The original theory was published in a book called “The New Psychology of Women”. I learned that in grad school right before I quit. I recognized myself.
None the less, it’s embarrassing to say I don’t work. It’s even more embarrassing to say that I don’t want to anymore. That I’d rather be available for my grandkids or my husband or my in laws than be admired by a boss. It’s even more embarrassing than THAT to say I don’t have to work (at this time). It’s embarrassing to not be valued for anything other than my support of other people.
I’m not sure where this is going. I’m not truly content being in only this role. I want to do more.
But I’m not a loser.
 
                               ME AND MY STEPSON  AFTER FINISHING THE "GLADIATOR"