aging · friendship · honesty · life lessons · love · Uncategorized

Some Trips Are Longer Than Others

Hi there,

I know – it’s been a while. I’m not sure if you’re still passing this way – and it’s certainly understandable if you’ve changed routes. After all, there hasn’t been anything here to see for more than a year.

But if you’ve stopped by – it’s good to see you. Clearly I’ve been gone – and I’m tentatively back. In the interest of abbreviating a very long year – I got sick. If you listen to my hematologist, rheumatologist and every other ologist I’ve seen – I didn’t know how sick I was. The year has been a blur of blood transfusions, biopsies, a bilateral hip replacement and a brain that went wonky because my blood was so compromised. I had to get multiple assurances that I was clear-headed enough to even try writing again. The thought of appearing more nutty than I usually do was a bit too much for me to handle.

I’m better now. I’m a version of me again – one I sort of recognize and occasionally don’t. I lost a year of mobility and engagement with the world. These days, my body is a cranky participant in my efforts to get a bit stronger – thinking it prefers being sedentary to the aches and strain of movement (honestly, I can’t even call it exercise – it’s more like wishful thinking with a beat). But, I can tell you that the return to normalcy is greeted each day with an emotional ‘thank you’, even if my body and I occasionally disagree. There are no more hospital beds, occupational therapy tools and elevated seats. I can put on my own socks thank you very much. I can engage in the most mundane activities – driving, food shopping, laundry – and I think each is pretty damn fantastic. Musing over the monotonous with a significant amount of delight.

And yes, there’s also some fear – fear of a recurrence (the autoimmune world is at best dystopian, at worst just plain freaky), an awareness of how much I am unaware of – I could explain the list, though I don’t think I need to.

So, I’m going to re-enter the community and see how we do. The musings won’t be this intense – they weren’t before and life doesn’t ask that of me now. I’m just going to keep my eyes open and my heart full – and we’ll see what happens next. Thank you for stopping by – see you soon.

aging · friendship · grandparenthood · inspiration · marriage · parenting · Uncategorized

Of Paradoxes and Pop

Hi,

So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener.  So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else.  He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system.  Ok, done.  The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).

Everything needs water – but not too much.  Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn.  My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance.  But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck.  It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it).  I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché.  Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.

Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law.  Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win.  He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely.  He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them.  He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids.  He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community.  Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile.  He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.

Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful.  He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.  His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.

And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift.  Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle.  He reaches out – with no hesitation.  If you surmise that I love him, you’re right.   I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.

My parents were too young when they passed away.  I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now.  What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older.  I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to  play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.

Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years.  And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc.  And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.

You don’t get past grief (I knew that part);  you don’t get over love and you still live.  One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative;  so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing.  Love and grief co-exist.  One doesn’t cancel out the other.  Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance.  They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin.  There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love.  What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest?  Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.

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aging · anxiety · faith · friendship · holidays · inspiration · life lessons · love · Uncategorized

Heartbeats

The year is coming to a close…and I struggle to write of joyous moments and rhythmic episodes of delight.  I know they were there – as I often say, in those spaces in between.  They were in the moments with Sophie’s head on my shoulder or singing (so to speak) on our walks; listening to Sienna imitate all the animal noises she knows and feeling the tenderness of her cheek; watching my sons as adoring fathers…the incredible kindness and love of friends near and far; the excitement of a new home (which with a little luck and prayer we will get into next week); sunsets that took my breath and sunrises that gave it back…

Yes…undeniably there have been moments, magical, wondrous moments.

And yet, this has also been a particularly strange and disorienting year.  Certainly being in temporary living quarters, without Andy more often than not, has been particularly upending.   Somehow as we get older it seems we lose more people – or perhaps age makes us more sensitive to these departures.  And in every corner of the world, there is pain – palpable, horrid, unrelenting pain – that one can’t ignore.  The faces of children – hungry, broken, scared; real-time nightmares from which one cannot look away.  I spend a lot of time seeking comfort, for it all hurts so damn much.

And I don’t get it, I swear I don’t…I don’t get hate, vitriol, bias, ignorance…I don’t get power grabs considered more valuable than the heartbeats of our children – anywhere in the world.  What are we doing?   Kleenex stock must be doing really well, for I’m certainly using my share.

And yet…yet, I hope.  I hope that you all receive all that you wish for and wish for all that you have.  I wish that the orbit of the earth, spins just slightly askew, so that we can stop perhaps, rewind and try again to create something enduring and universally  reflective of the beauty of the heart.  I hope…for all of us..

“Hope

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come

Whispering, ‘it will be happier’ –  Alfred Tennyson

 

most-influential-blogs-of-2012 (1)

aging · anxiety · bias · politics · Uncategorized

Defining Purpose

Note to you, my friends – this post contains some political opinions which may likely differ from yours.  I respect yours; thank you in advance for respecting mine.

Hi,

The night merged at some point with the morning, although I honestly can’t tell you at what point that happened.  Yet here we are, 5:00 AM – the Sirs walked and fed, the sun preparing for its entrance stage right, and somewhere behind the clouds, the moon is tiredly anticipating some rest.

I’m over-caffeinated, over-tired, and my thoughts are a muddled reflection of both.

I alternated between watching our election returns and watching ‘The Crown’ on Netflix.  Arguably one offset the disbelief that informed the other.  I despair of the choice the US has made.  It isn’t the despair associated with backing the losing candidate – one reaches a point in life where loss is not unfamiliar; rather something that winds its way around the soul, infusing it with a sense of dread, a shortening of breath that mimics a mild panic attack when one tries to determine what is going to happen next.  I am not going to offer you chapter and verse of my concerns and/or fears – they matter little in a forum which precludes dialogue.

My mom told us that following Kristalnacht, my grandfather went to synagogue with the belief that what was needed was more prayer.  Whether his assessment was right or wrong is not for any of us to say.  He lost brothers and sisters in the Holocaust, my mother bore the internal scars of a survivor with a burden on her teen-age shoulders that was unfairly weighted.  Yet, my grandfather, grandmother, mom and uncle made it here along with a few other relatives.  Was it faith that got them here?  Certainly, there were millions who perished who were equally righteous.  Serendipity?  Luck of the draw?  I have no idea.  I do know her reverence for this country, the way her eyes welled when she even mentioned Ellis Island – her belief that her life was to be lived for those who had not.  She was a complicated woman; she was a woman of valor.

Her perception of her purpose for being was fraught with ambivalence.  How the heck can an adolescent assume the responsibility for so many lost lives?  How does an adult fully actuate when she identifies herself with such a legacy?  Somehow it all got distilled into taking care of her family – and that was both a blessing and a burden, I think.

During one of the episodes of ‘The Crown’, the Queen Mum, still mourning the loss of her husband, her home (ok, Buckingham Palace isn’t exactly homey, but still…), reflects that these losses were deepened further by the loss of her purpose as a mother.  Her girls were grown, their paths understandably not reflective of any maternal need.  And so, she wonders what her purpose may be.

Switching back to the election results with tears spilling down my face…I’m identifying way too much.   Here I sit, in a temporary house with and without Andy (he’s still working in VA),  my sons fabulously grown, retired from a career which was defined by taking care of others and anticipating strategies for future success (within my purview).  What is my purpose now?  What is my place in a country in which I am not sure I am a part?  We have done such a powerful job of alienating each other, pouring vitriol as gas on a flame.  We have blamed and shaken fists, self-righteously proclaimed opinions with no regard for debate and conversation.  We have been disrespectful and judgmental, narrowing the width and breadth of love for humankind, replacing it with some weird sense of superiority.

So, before I devolve into Alice when she was carried along by her own river of tears, I demand to know what am I doing here?  What the hell is my purpose?  Here’s my short answer – I’m here to chart a path where I can make a small impact (let me tell you how challenging it is to try and volunteer anywhere – no, better save that for another day), I’m here to show that there is more to this world than self-important excuses and justifications for things that are just not justifiable.  I am here to love my family and small circle of friends to whatever degree they need that love.  I am here to breathe deeply and try to blunt some of the painfully sharp edges that reflect our current narrative.  One smile perhaps at a time, one genuine moment at a time.  I’m here to grow really, really, really old (I pray reverently) and take up my small space with unflinching love.  Even when I don’t see it.  Just means I have to look harder.  So world, I’m coming for you…after I take a nap.

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aging · anxiety · friendship · leaving home · life lessons · love · Uncategorized

Connecting The Dots

Hi Simon,

I’m trying to find the better part of me, and when I engage in such challenging activity, I am always tempted to talk to you.  You see me as better than I am.  The truth of the matter is, you see everyone and every situation bathed in a light that softens the edges, mutes the glare, blesses the spirit. (If you don’t believe me, check out his blog windinmywheels.com – there’s just something about my friend Simon).

People spent their snowbound days differently.  Just as the snow began, we were meeting with a stager – a very talented woman who claims the professional mission of depersonalizing a home and transforming it into a space that others could love.  So, I have been packing and purging – nauseous and angry and and considering everything except the pictures of my family (in all its iterations) dispensable.  I’m not convinced I’m ever going to feel that sensation of ‘home’ again.

And yet you reminded me that ‘home’ has a far, far different meaning than I ascribe.  Your quote “Home is where your heart is.  It is your resting place” – my heart is everywhere, Simon.  It feels both full and far too diffuse.  It hurts.  And as stupid as it sounds, home could be anywhere (and has been, believe me) I felt my family around me.  And though we will find a place to rent here and a place there, I am less and less tethered.  Is love what keeps one from floating away?  I have no idea.  Clearly if one were to determine what ‘element’ I am, it isn’t air…

So how does this all connect – bear with me.  Our first dog was a little schnauzer named Demi (hybrid of my sister’s name and mine).  I loved that pup as only a child can (though I think the person who truly adored Demi was our dad – they even looked a bit alike).  Yet, when I was told that I needed to ‘share’ him with my sister, my response was to tell my parents that she could have him.  I didn’t want him anymore. A lie of course, indignant and self-defeating without question.  If I loved him so much and had to let go of him a bit, I would let go of him completely.  Just so you know – we shared Demi, loved him and his nuttiness and there’s no unhappy ending.

And here I am today – plowing through closets and rooms that held the people I love in various stages of growing up (which include some moments that one might want to forget) and railing – ‘Take it all. Give it all away – none of it means anything to anyone but me anyway’.  Hmmm…similar reaction to sharing that little dog all those years ago.

I guess I go to extremes, huh?

And yet my friend, if I want to extend a little kindness to myself, I could just admit that sometimes it’s hard to love – family, home, memories.  It’s hard to let go and harder still to trust.  It’s hard to be understood by the people who you think would get it, and then you are given the chance to cry with relief for the friends who do.   And that brings me back to writing you.  Thank you, Simon.  Thank you for being so selfless that from across the pond, you sat with me for awhile.  You let me go first as we sat and talked.  And you nodded and smiled.  And in that moment, I felt blessed.  Wherever I go, I will remember being there with you and perhaps I will rail a little less and relish a little more…

Much love to you and Jilly,

Mimi