Chick stuff

Blah. Blah. Blah….Birthday. Whatever.

Photo collage by Small Talk Communications

“Our true person is outside of time and space. I’m every age I’ve ever been and so are you.” Anne Lamott

If age is just a number, we should be able to pick one we like — and stick with it. I mean, in the techno age, why not a birthday lottery? Choose a scratch off number under 50 and hold on to it. Unfortunately, nothing is that easy. Eventually, though, your birthday barcode comes up on that big jumbo-tron called life, and bingo – the gig is up.

It’s then we enter that magic garden where we see the sagging jawline, thinning hairline, beginning of a wrinkle under one eye and your boobs are certainly not getting any perkier.  We worry about stuff we never did or maybe never will. We have more time to think, which, depending on the day, can be a good or bad thing. When another birthday is about to be ticked off the calendar, there’s no telling where your mind can go. Here’s where mine rolls today, just thinking that:

  • Despite the many late life Pollyanna slogans about getting older, my best dreams and aspirations are behind me (face palm) except of course, for my posterior, which now gets a lot fewer rave reviews.
  • It’s now a whole lot harder to remember what I ate last night — as well as simple words that seem always stuck on the tip of my tongue.
  • I once thought my elders’ morbid musings about how many more months and years were behind than ahead were a yawn, until today, when it’s all too obvious now how damn fast days go by.
  • No matter how many mistakes I or my children made, they will always be the best things I’ve ever done and who I love most in this world. That is, except maybe for their own kidlets, who I’d slay every dragon for, even knowing I’ll only see their future from my rear view mirror.
  • “Regrets, I’ve had (more than) a few” sang Frank Sinatra but pity parties and rant breakdowns can lead to the best breakthroughs. Actually, they are the true blessings of living in a grateful present.
  • Life isn’t fair and no one promised it would be. Pain, uncertainty, grief — all part of the package. But, if you’re blessed with tribes of people who love you, you hit the life lottery.
  • Sometimes the universe answers what your soul needs, though it’s not always a fun ride. But hard times can open our eyes, and expand our hearts allowing a comfort zone rebuild to help us find true north — inside ourselves.
  • The only person I can change – is myself. Period. Like that old saw about leading a horse to water, we can’t change anyone’s beliefs, behavior or thoughts but, if we cherish the currency of the relationship, it’s a win-win for all.
  • It’s okay to voice your values even if you surprise yourself. In these crazy, critical and game-changing times, standing up and speaking out for your beliefs isn’t just okay — it’s necessary. Go for it.
Continue reading “Blah. Blah. Blah….Birthday. Whatever.”
Copy that., Grief is Grief

Life doesn’t rhyme . . . and that’s okay.

Expect the unexpected . . . then roll with it. (That’s the tricky part)

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Long ago, in a lifetime far away, I wrote poetry. Reams and reams of the stuff. It wasn’t great stuff or that well written. It was just another way to try and make sense of the mangled, searching thoughts of a young mom, in late nights with little bodies soundly sleeping.

As women, we’ve gone through so many lives in the one we were given. In my case, I’ve gone through several last names in different married lives. I lost a wonderful young brother; I birthed three children. I was a harried young mom, baking like crazy, driving to piano lessons and soccer practices, scout meetings and school pickups. I dragged oranges to games, towels to swim team and lunches when they didn’t. I was very attached to church, kids and home – and I loved it all. That was one me.

One by one, the kidlets began to fly away and the house became emptier, dinners more of an afterthought and the washer, dryer and dishwasher less on overdrive. I jumped into the work world, both in-house and home office, built an advertising design business, which later added a partnership with a future husband. I suddenly found more time for friends and less time for introspection. And I loved it. That was another me.

The last child left, the weddings happened in succession and grandchildren began to arrive. Having been divorced for a number of years and dated at least my share on that roller coaster of single life, I struggled with money and self-esteem. One day, I found my perfect ‘Match’, love of my life — and married him. We worked together, loved our blended family together, jumping headfirst into the roles of grandparents with crazy adoration. There was of course, a thorn in the rose which showed up before we even said ‘I Do’. The elephant called cancer refused to be ignored, as it threw one curve ball after another into our happily ever after. Yet, we lived our life as best and big as we could and I loved it. It was yet another me.

One day, I came home from my first downward facing dog, Namaste session to find that my husband had suddenly passed from this planet. Many of you have experienced that shock, that trauma so I don’t have to tell you how it devastates in a nanosecond. I had to regroup, find my way out of the dark and into yet another ‘me’. I certainly didn’t love that renovation but, it had to happen. With no alternative, I became both the same and different, both old and new, both sad and happy. Ultimately, the realization that life still stubbornly stuck around in an army of friends, and my immeasurable treasure of kids and grands, I penned this not-so-perfect poem:

     Renaissance

Wisdom never comes

in perfect doses.

It arrives unwitting

As a fragile wisp, or

Bitter medication.

Fed by truth

Pruned strong by life

Stubborn hearts

Resist shallow wars

and good sense.

I am woman, not girl.

mother yet maiden

crone and child

passion and reason.

I am a survivor.

Use my shoulder,

My arms, my laughter.

If not welcomed,

I’ll gather all up

as I turn to leave.

I am not my past.

I’m not the wrong page,

But a new page.

Aging new book;

Reluctant new life.

I don’t melt.

I don’t flinch or run

Unless I am pushed.

And then I walk,

And then I cry

And then I learn.

Like my poetry, life is hardly perfect. It doesn’t always rhyme; sometimes, it even sucks. But, ah, when it works, when words or life pierce your soul, fill your heart or bring you gratitude, that’s everything and then some.

Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

Out of Touch . . . Totally.

Welcome to the pandemic version of ‘home alone’, a place where stillness has a roaring sound, and touch is a thing of the past. We are embracing a new normal – without the embrace.

Photo by rawpixel

As SNL’s Roseann Rosannadanna used to say, “It’s always something”.  Sometimes, that ‘something’, creeps up so sneakily you don’t even notice it until it pokes you on the shoulder. You might have thought it was in the rear view, then, bam — whiplash. Like your very own Pennywise, the shapeshifting clown, it feeds on what gets to you most. It gets under your skin because it’s there that this particular taunting creature, called ‘loss of touch’, lives. 

Yep, loss of touch is a thing. Humans need to be touched. When our arms and cheeks are stroked, nerve cells release boatloads of happy-making endorphins. Simple cuddling can slow the heart rate, and speed up digestion, helping our immune system to be its best self. We instinctively look to hold hands when we’re frightened. We put our arms around each other to comfort; kiss one another to show affection. We need touch to feel safe, anchored — and seen. But, those of us who live alone are on our own – literally. In a time of grief, of quarantine, we go without touch of another human for weeks and months. Stuck in the middle of today’s epidemic ‘touch starvation’, mental health professionals see depression, insomnia and anxiety issues in unprecedented numbers.

Why talk about skin hunger now, when it’s dwarfed by people dying in shocking numbers from a worldwide pandemic, and fear pulses beneath every face mask? Even with an epidemic raging across the globe, we are each quarantined in our own small worlds. Our thoughts, emotions, and feelings still live and grow there. Most have partners, kids that share their quarantine and touch may not be an issue. But domestic violence also finds fertile ground in quarantine and loneliness, anxiety and depression make no distinction between households. Whatever was lacking, lost or thought to be quieted, now has a loud voice and things like absence of touch takes on new life.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch. Leo Buscaglia

When I was first widowed, disjointed emotion and grief were in strong competition. My thoughts centered on coping with the worst trauma of my life. Sudden loss of the person you thought you’d go through time can do that. I assumed nothing, from that point on, that life could throw at me could be worse. In fact, I was pretend badass enough that not even a scary car accident a year later could knock me over. But, when the fog cleared, I realized the elephant in the room was a spouse’s touch I’d no longer feel. Funny how simple neck massages and hand holding can kneecap you. But loss of intimate touch, the kind that says ‘You’re mine. I have your back. I love you” leaves a lasting mark.

To any grieving person, distance is not a new concept. In fact, it’s probably the hardest consequence of loss. The distance of sound, touch and connection gets only wider between us and the person no longer in our world. When we were younger, in the midst of busy lives and busy households raising kids, we barely gave ‘touch’ a thought. We had plenty of it, whether we wanted it or not. Yes, I do remember those times I thought “Puleeese stop poking me” to kids or dogs anxious for attention. Back then, our tapped-out selves yearned for the utopia of sublime peace; maybe even an undisturbed month — alone. I get it. I lived it.

Continue reading “Out of Touch . . . Totally.”
Copy that., Grief is Grief

Everything Happens for a Reason . . . and other fairytales.

by Tori Morrison – UNSPLASH

Believing that nifty mantra wholesale can be hard to swallow sometimes, especially when ‘everything’ ain’t so pretty. We want to believe things happen for a reason simply because order seems a whole lot better than chaos, right? We tell ourselves and others, when we don’t see any other explanation for things that happen in life, that it’s part of a bigger picture in the karma universe. When lives are turned upside down. When our spouse, parent or child is gone in an unthinkable instant. When a sudden loss of job, income, or house leaves us upended and lost. Thinking it was all part of a greater plan might bring momentary comfort, but it can also leave us frustrated and stuck.

We look for reasons everywhere. We try to justify why the world, and the people in it, behaves as it does. We become scarred and scared by experiences that seem to happen for no reason whatsoever. Cancer. Alzheimers. Death. (Anything on that one? I’ll wait . . .) Oh sure, eventually we learn and grow from all the hard stuff. Done right, we even become better people from living through those times, but the ‘why’? That’s the million dollar question.

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. Megan Devine

Things can and do happen for no reason at all except one that’s universal – we are just human beings having a human experience (in other words, shit happens). In our bumbling search for answers, we forget that no one promised us a rose garden. So, we run in circles looking for cause because the effect often sucks. We look back on our choices, decisions, roads taken – and not taken. We might find a breadcrumb, a clue we hope will lead us to believable reasons. But when illness visits, loss completely ravages, we lose our livelihood or worse, someone we loved more than our own life, no facsimile of a reason will ever be good enough.

There’s no earthly way we can sugar coat the why of murder or child abuse, decimating tornadoes or the crushing grief of SIDS. As much as we yearn for any emotional or psychological balm, no matter how well meaning, any phrase du’jour about life events having a reason can’t take away real pain. In fact, it might make people feel even worse. As lousy as it sounds, feeling desolate when bad things happen is part and even necessary to the grieving process. There’s no easy out and attempting to explain it away with platitudes, just get in the way.

“Don’t try to fix me. Acknowledge me. Stand with me. Be with me.” Tim Lawrence

Continue reading “Everything Happens for a Reason . . . and other fairytales.”
Politics and other awkward stuff

The Year That Was

Confetti and noisemakers are so yesterday. But maybe that’s just me.; party animal was never in my DNA. Luckily, my husband was also more into cozy over carnival New Year festivities. Except for an early Chinese nosh, our couch, movies and snacks were our go-to gala though I admit funky party hats were occasionally worn on said couch. Some might think we were either too lazy or minus the imagination to celebrate the night with abandon. But, the cancer elephant in our room was more than enough excitement in our lives. It made more mucho sense to do happy over hoopla.

I suspect I’m plain not wired to do the full New Year’s monty. Having a low-key mindset is not such a bad thing, however. In fact, it came in handy in widowhood. Being able to ‘adapt’ to revelry without my handsome dude in the blue glitter top hat, was an asset. Come to think of it, my kids and married granddaughter must have also inherited some of the New Year homebody genes — so mea culpa in advance for that, guys.

What the new year brings to you depends a great deal on what you bring to it.” Vern McClellan

In the end, the New Year’s Eve ball will never need my help to make its descent into the next year. No liquor store will miss the sale of my one glass of wine and while my comfy jammies don’t fit the red carpet dress code, they are their own microfleece party. My snacks are obscenely healthy. And my out-of-control revelry consists of journaling, movie bingeing and phone gabbing with friends. It works.

When you give yourself space to think about the year that went bye-bye, all kinds of observations pass through your mind. Me? I think about the wide eyed, sweet little New Year’s baby who, by the end of each year, morphs into the weathered, tired Father Time. As each year closes, that long bearded dude passes the torch back to the diapered newbie who takes tentative steps into the next 365. Are we as innocently optimistic about a brand new year as that little tyke? Maybe not but I suspect none of us are ready to be a cynical Father Time either.

 “An optimist stays up until midnight to see a new year in; a pessimist stays up to make sure the old one leaves’”.  Bill Vaughn

Politics can tick us off big time. This past year, walls and homegrown gun deaths went up; morale and trust went down. The rich got mega richer while the poor still poorer. That daily crazy alone can make us doubt we’ll ever be spinning on an even axis again. But, things have a way of turning around. Finances, ditto. Illness? Grief? Those are the toughest of all. When either touch us with the heaviness of a well thrown brick, it’s hard to see any good in the year that passed. I get it. Boy, do I get it. It’s hard to be Pollyanna discovering a silver lining to anything that rips our heart out. Sometimes the digging is hard to find the beautiful moments, the ones that touch that same heart that is also broken.

Continue reading “The Year That Was”
View from the Shoe

#gratitude

They say the secret to having it all – is knowing you already do. But it’s the knowing that often escapes us. Thanksgiving is a pretty good time to put on our grateful glasses and think about what being thankful actually means.

There are things it’s easy to be thankful for, like Amazon, your dishwasher and okay, your cellphone. (Pajamajeans come to mind, too, but that’s just me. Hey, don’t laugh until you’ve tried them.) Seriously, there’s a boatload of deeper, richer things that over my heart like grandkids’ tight hugs, seeing my adult kidlets happy, laughs shared with friends, even the odd parade of wildlife through my back yard.

They say that even when you have 99 problems, you probably still have 99,000 blessings. Unfortunately, they often get lost in the shuffle of just the daily detritus. But even if we’re having a bad day (week or year) we can always be thankful for the troubles we DON’T have. The stuff of gratitude can be pretty great, but when life is really hard or really hurts, gratitude seems like a foreign word. We’ve all been there, too.

I’m thankful for my struggles for without them I wouldn’t have found my strengths.

Over the years my Thanksgivings have changed. I no longer make the turkey; I bring the sides. My table no longer hosts a Thanksgiving throng; I head to my kids’ homes. Not to worry. I have dibs on
Christmas and Easter and, to be honest, I much prefer tagliatelle to turkey anyway. Still, Thanksgiving is that time honored holiday when gratitude is the main course; that is if we do Turkey Day right. Continue reading “#gratitude”

View from the Shoe

You’re An Open Book

So, what’s your story? Huh? Come on, everyone has one; the trick is knowing the naked, authentically real story, not the sanitized one we’ve been telling ourselves for years. Your one true story is the one that started at birth, and weaves all our experiences, the happy, the pain, the mistakes and the hurt together in book only we can write. Some chapters are positive, sparkling even, and some are hurtful, mysterious, lonely or disappointing. Personal narratives alone, however, don’t always tell the whole story. The outline of your story, the way it weaves experience together with emotion, that’s what helps shape the narrative.

“Tell your story. That’s the secret of immortality. The one true way to live forever.” Brad Meltzer

Here’s the thing – everyone has a story.  Yours, though, is the only one you have control over.  You can picture yourself through those cool gels cameramen slap on their lenses to fuzz out all the imperfections. But, hello, we can see right through that and you can, too. Write your truth.

Stories can be runaway trains or, depending how we spin them, old pals who we know aren’t a good influence but they just feel so comfortable in the retelling. These insidious inner spirits are more than happy to reinforce every negative story we tell ourselves. They whisper that we are not worth much, that we made too many mistakes, that we shouldn’t expect too much because they’re down with that. Yet, there’s a small voice that we don’t always hear. This is the one who tells us truth, unvarnished but not unsympathetic, not unkind and not hopeful. These are the dudes who call BS when you’re in that ‘it’s all my fault’, ‘I don’t deserve any better’ and ‘it’s too late to change the story’ mood.

“We’re wired for story. We feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories. It’s in our biology.” Brene Brown

Your story is a work in progress. As long as we are breathing we can still revise the content. We can try to do more good, give back, be open to change. Maybe you are a unicorn with a pristine, tale of pure blockbuster perfection. If so, blessings! But knowing that life can easily turn an uneventful upside down in a nanosecond, be ready to write your story with a different pen, a revised outlook.

If you were putting pen to paper today (or keyboard to computer), what would the plot be? Would your tale tell soothing things to your inner child or does it only tell that kid off? Even if you view your life story as a chronic clean-up on aisle 6, your story is still chock full of everything life is about. From intrigue, love, humor, and mistakes, even serious ones, to success, growth and yes, trauma and tragedy. If we lived it, we own it and we need to learn from it, all of it. We can’t revise the already lived narrative but we can shape the final chapters. Continue reading “You’re An Open Book”

Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Another birthday? Game on.

woman-with-happy-birthday-glasses-blowing-out-candles-on-a-birthday-picture-id1165027849

I’m not old. Ha! But, if a woman’s best years are between 39 and 40, I’m way past my expiration date. On the other hand, as Marianne Williamson said, “You might be depressed you’re no longer young. Be ecstatic you’re no longer clueless.” So there’s that.

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.”  Charles Schulz

Life seems to go by at warp speed, doesn’t it? Maybe not when we were 5 but now, when we’ve definitely crossed the Rubicon, some days life seems to zip by faster than the speed of light. Mine was pretty much a chick flick; equal parts thriller, romantic comedy, and tearjerker. In fact, probably a lot like yours, give or take some weirdo special effects. Whether or not I love everything that flashes across the big screen in my head, it all happened. Both cringe-worthy or fantastic, the movie reel was my life and, hey, if nothing else, it was entertaining!

Some day, we will all die, Snoopy,”said Charlie Brown.
Snoopy answered,“True. But on all the other days, we will not.”

Our desperation to hang onto the gold ring of youth says a lot about our inability to own up to mortality, wrinkles and the changing face in the mirror. In our grief over the inevitable transformation of our once dewy youth, we kinda miss the point. Owning our age, and all the stuff that comes with it, allows us to pass the torch to our kids, to younger colleagues with well-earned wisdom. It enables us to work on stuff we didn’t have time for in the child-rearing years, in the striving to break the glass ceiling or just to break even. If we want a new outlook on the birthday thing, we need a new narrative.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?Satchel Paige

Who’s that kid in the mirror? Where is the girl we saw yesterday? Okay, yesterday was at least 15 years ago but hey, we weren’t prepared for the aged-out version of Dorian Gray. Still, there’s no magic youth wand to bring back our younger selves. Remember the last time you were in CVS, thinking you looked pretty damn good, and the guy who, once upon a time would have done a double take, only has eyes for the deodorant in his hand? Yea, that felt good. Still, even the best cosmetic miracle can uncover the beauty within; the beauty that only living, sacrificing, and learning brings. Continue reading “Another birthday? Game on.”

Copy that., View from the Shoe

What If . . .

. . . everyone on earth jumped at the same time?

. . . tomatoes didn’t exist (think pizza)

. . . Rome actually hadn’t fallen?

. . . our religion was each other?

. . . the 2016 election went another way (oops – rhetorical)?

. . . we could be anything or anyone we wanted to be?

What if’s are funny things. They can spark change or regret. They answer curiosity – with more questions. They can also allow us to let our imaginations run wild, which might be my favorite part.

But, aside from worrying about never being an Italian girl never having tried a tomato, ‘what if’ those words could jumpstart a change we hadn’t thought of. Whether we crave a change in thinking, ideas or behavior, asking ‘what if’ opens our mind to whatever it can conceive, and that can be a world of possibility. The answer to ‘what if’ is also a powerful declaration of intention that can empower us and ignite our imagination. The right question is a diving board we jump off into options and opportunity.

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”  Erin Hanson

On the other hand, ‘what if’ can also be a nifty way of keeping us stuck. Negative questions keep us stuck in the past, produce endless why’s and paralyzing regret. ‘What if I hadn’t changed jobs when I did?’ ‘What if I hadn’t gone on that first date?’ For months after my husband died suddenly, I tortured myself with questions like ‘What if I hadn’t left the house for that hour?’ ‘What if they hadn’t done that last procedure?’ ‘What if we made wrong decisions on treatments?’  No matter how I framed them, none of the answers would have changed what was ultimately not in our destiny. When we are pain, we look for anything to make it better but nothing there’s no answer will change the past and even if we could, that is not the best place to hang out.

Nobody’s got time for dat. Continue reading “What If . . .”

Copy that., Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

Refill, anyone?

HELLO . . . I’m __________.

Imagine those cheery little ID stickers with descriptors like “Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty Person” after our names. We’d be instantly busted as relentlessly cheerful or obsessively pessimistic. Awkward. Those who wander through life under a persistent gray cloud might be predisposed to resent endlessly cheery types. And the perennial blue-sky humans would really be unhappy if gloom ‘n doomers rained on their parade.

Me? I’m a happy/not-always-happy hybrid, and I suspect a lot of you can identify — depending on the day or period of life. Basically, I’m an optimist with varying shades of the ‘other shoe is gonna fall’ thrown in. (get it?)

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.”  Einstein

Two people can see the same glass entirely differently. Though, given a choice, I’d choose half-full every time. Just because I hum Monte Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life”, doesn’t mean I have it nailed or that my glass is half-full of puppies and unicorns. Hey, I’m the girl, who came home, after an hour away, to find my husband dead, remember? That brand of lightening can really derail even the biggest optimist like a tsunami! But, whether you’re knee-capped by grief, have critical struggles with health or are broken, humbled or depressed by other stuff life throws at you, even a half empty glass can slowly be refilled.

Don’t feel like Pollyanna reincarnated? The reality is that pessimists stay stuck in the proverbial black cloud; optimists find the silver lining— eventually. Optimists are not always the happiest campers and pessimists aren’t consistently gloom and doom. On any given day, things can look positive or negative, good or bad. The best thing we can do is not to lounge around too long in the bottom of the glass. Continue reading “Refill, anyone?”