I Look Good, Now Pass Me My Readers So I Can See

It’s amazing as I get older what I am willing to convince myself is acceptable in terms of my appearance. People over 50 will tell you with age they’ve learned not to care what other people think. That is untrue. You simply get to a place where you acknowledge you’ve just wasted a precious 30 minutes (and time is a commodity at 53) trying to make yourself attractive and discovered you look the same as you did before you started. But you still have to go to the store, so you explain away your lack of effort with the preposterous notion that you are comfortable with aging. Sure you are.

I was reflecting on it today and I think I’ve figured out what happens to older people. You hit a certain age and suddenly you are farsighted. Your near vision is GONE. In a restaurant, you are screwed without your readers. You pull out your phone to see if the flashlight will help. You complain about the font on the menu, as if it’s the font’s fault your eyes no longer work. You can’t see. It’s okay. It happens to most everyone at some point. But I think this is why older people look the way they do when they go out in public. They did try to make themselves presentable. Indeed, they thought they were presentable. They just have no idea what they really look like anymore because they can’t see themselves very well.

Some of us gifted older folks actually manage to convince ourselves that we look good the way we are. Today I pulled the top of my hair back with an elastic band, curled my eyelashes, put on my tinted sunscreen and my progressives, and went out in public. Just. Like. That. It’s not that I didn’t care what I looked like or that I didn’t care what others thought of how I looked. It’s that I thought I looked just fine because I can’t see. In fact, I had myself convinced that I looked rather adorable in my little glasses with random wisps of stray hair breaking free from their elastic confinement when, in reality, I looked like a lazy, hot mess with bad eye make up and thinning hair. And that’s okay. It’s part of the journey, right?

Go ahead and judge, youngsters. If you’re lucky, someday you will be over 50 and eating out in a restaurant, thinking you look pretty good for your age. Then you’ll pass your readers around the table to all your friends because no one remembered theirs and none of you can read the menu without them. And you will order a whole bottle of wine because, once you can read the menu, you remember you know how to choose a nice bottle of wine.

There are some good things to getting older. You can’t see as well, but you can afford greater quantities of better wine, which helps you forget about your failing eyesight. Where God closes a door, he opens a window.

Perspective From Two Hours On A Flight Next To A Hungry, Tired Toddler

This was once my reality

Sitting in the small airplane, four seats wide, sharing the row with a young mother of three with a screaming toddler on her lap. Toddler is tossing everything she is handed onto the floor.

“It’s been a while since I had littles,” I tell her with as much patience and understanding and motherly wisdom as I can muster, “but I remember those days well. No worries.”

Her four year old son sitting behind me kicks my seat the entire flight, stopping only to push both feet long and slow into my lower back. Six year old daughter next to him bugging him for the iPad. The mom next to me looks exhausted and, boy, do I get it. Her toddler thrashes in her arms, grabs my hair and pulls. The mom is mortified and apologizes, and I nod with understanding. It’s been seventeen years since I last held a wailing toddler on a flight, but that experience never leaves you. The muscle memory of the anxiety and embarrassment remains fresh.

The toddler in her lap, likely desperately tired and frustrated, begins howling with increasing ferocity. The mom hands her off to her husband who is sitting next to their oldest daughter across the aisle from the young ones behind me. As her daughter thrashes like a shark in shallow water, the mom shrinks, puts her head in her hands, and shakes it slowly back and forth. I know she is counting the seconds until her tiny creation at last succumbs to the sleep she needs.

As she is doing this, I look out my window-seat rectangle with its rounded corners. I am grateful to be wearing a mask as the silent tears slip behind the fiber filter on my face. You see, I said goodbye again to my almost 21 year old this morning after I passed him the four bottles of wine we couldn’t fit into our checked luggage. And I’m heading home to my high school senior who will be moving away in four month’s time. The ache this mom is feeling as she wishes the time on this two-and-a-half hour journey would pass more quickly is a similar ache I am feeling as I wish these last few months would pass more slowly.

I would never tell her these things, as she will be in my shoes far sooner than she can fathom. She will discover in her own time the way childhood speeds up as it approaches puberty and adulthood. What starts as seconds moving as sand grains, imperceptibly draining through the narrow tube in an hourglass ends as deluge of sand dumped from a toddler’s beach pail. And this mom will learn, as I did, that those prayers for time to speed up aren’t selective. Time doesn’t speed for the rough moments without also speeding for the good moments. Time is brutal that way. Lucky parents will learn this the hard way, seeing their children mature in the blink of an eye and move on. We’re the fortunate ones, the ones who get to see their children reach adulthood. Many parents don’t have that same good fortune.

This is my reality now

For now, I say a silent prayer for this mom in opposition to her prayer to speed time up. I pray that she will embrace all the moments with some quiet, inexplicable gratitude for what they are because she will be like me sooner than she knows, with greying hair and reading glasses, hugging her adult son and handing him wine bottles. She will be both excited to get home to her high school senior and afraid to get there because she knows there are 46 days until graduation.

Parenting is the greatest purveyor of perspective I’ve found. It simultaneously breaks me and saves me over and over again.

Going To The Monaco Grand Prix – Ka-chow!

Photo by Reuben Rohard on Unsplash

Next April, my youngest sister will turn 50. And while it pains me to realize that the baby of our family is turning 50, which therefore makes me ancient, something worthwhile will come from this milestone. Julie has always wanted to go to Monte Carlo for the Formula 1 race, so that is how we plan to celebrate her 50th. I don’t see how her turning 50 and requesting this trip, or my turning 55 in Monte Carlo over the race weekend next year, can be negative. I mean, we’ll be in Monaco experiencing the most glamorous motor race in the world. That might even make 55 palatable, which means my position as the Luckiest Girl in the World continues.

The plan is for all three sisters and their significant others to travel to France and then on to Monte Carlo. The specifics have yet to be determined. Julie messaged today to request a sister meeting this weekend so we can discuss timing our travel and each couple’s wishes for the events. I’ll be honest. Going to Monaco for the Formula 1 was not on my bucket list or travel bingo card. I have no clue what to expect or what I want to see or do. I’ve reached the age in my life where I believe travel is important for the sake of experiencing life out in the greater world. I no longer get bent if, while on a trip, we don’t get to see all the sights or do all the things. I’m simply grateful for the opportunity to escape my own reality and live a few days in someone else’s. With travel, it’s easy to get caught up in all the going and doing and seeing and forget to be swallowed by the experience of existing somewhere else for a brief while. And I get it. When you’re shelling out thousands of dollars to fly thousands of miles away, you want to get your money’s worth. I just think it’s worth refocusing your expectation around what you want to get for your investment. Maybe you don’t need to see ALL the things. Maybe you can take a beat and just be for a bit too.

Don’t get me wrong. I will do my research. I will figure out if there is something I absolutely do not want to miss in Nice or Monte Carlo. Mostly, though, the thing I don’t want to miss is time with my sisters and their companions. I look forward to traveling with them and learning what I can from their perceptions of this foreign landscape. Traveling with others is fun because you often get as much insight from your travel companions’ observations as you do from your research and sightseeing.

So next May around Memorial Day weekend, expect a post or two from Monte Carlo, where I will be keeping my eyes peeled for Lightning McQueen because that is the extent of my knowledge about the Monaco Grand Prix.

Clothes Shopping Over 50 – Zero Stars, Would Not Recommend

We are going out of town soon to meet up with friends in Walla Walla for wine tasting. We’re beyond excited because we haven’t had a couple’s weekend away in forever. The last time that hubby and I have been away from home and without spawn was right after we dropped our oldest at college, and that was not exactly a carefree, romantic, two-day journey. The past two years, spent mostly at home and with limited travel, have left my wardrobe feeling outdated and worn. So I have been going out intentionally and looking for clothes. This is what some people call “clothes shopping” and what I call “oh, god, do I really look like that.” What I discovered on today’s excursion after two years in my Covid hole is that the 90s have returned. I vaguely recall the 90s. They were not a good look for me. All the mom jeans and pleats and clunky shoes and maxi skirts and flowy silhouettes do not work on my figure. I am on the smaller side with no curves. Large, shapeless outfits with oversized features (like huge collars and ruffles) make me look bigger in the places I don’t want to be bigger and yet somehow smaller in the areas I don’t want to be smaller. It doesn’t make any sense, but I don’t need that sort of help. And the colors. Brown? Gold? Seafoam? No thank you.

Here are some examples of fashion I found today:

What I learned on my clothing sojourn is that I will likely be mining my own closet for clothes to wear wine tasting.

Fashion is a mixed bag. And it gets increasingly difficult to be fashionable as you get into your 50s and beyond. Your body isn’t what it used to be, and fashion trends decidedly favor the young. I mean, at this point my choices are A) a cropped top and 90s denim or mature woman clothes from LL Bean or Talbot’s. But I’m not 25 and I’m not 75, so neither choice is acceptable. If I ruled the world, everyone would be fashionable wearing whatever clothes best fit their form and no one would judge except on individuality. In that world, my world, it would be an endless array of skinny pants, pencil skirts, blazers, fine merino wool sweaters, and cap sleeve t-shirts for me. But ready-to-wear doesn’t work that way. You can’t always find what works best for your figure. Sometimes you have wait for an undesirable trend to fade away and keep your fingers crossed that the next trend will offer you what you need.

All I know is I may not be the most fashionable while wine tasting in Walla Walla, but I will be perfectly comfortable and happy not wearing any of the styles in these photos.

And I will still be fabulous.

I Found An Age Older Than Dirt — Golden Girl Age

I guess this is what a Golden Girl would look like if the show started now instead of in 1985

I recently discovered I am as old as the characters in The Golden Girls were when that show started. I can’t begin to express how horrifying this is to me. When the show first aired, I was 17 years old. Now I am 53, inching towards 54, firmly in Golden Girl territory. It’s appalling. How the hell did this happen?

Now I guess the only question that remains is which Golden Girl am I? Obviously, because I’m not 79, it’s safe to say that I am not Sophia. Not yet, anyway. Clearly, I am not the charming, sexpot Blanche. And, I’m not nearly as doe-eyed and sweet as Rose. So that means I am, of course, Dorothy. Sarcastic, cynical, strong-willed, and, quite frankly, a little bitchy. She might have been teased for being a little manly, but at least Dorothy was arguably the smartest of the group. So that is a positive, I guess. One thing Dorothy and I do not share in common is the wherewithal to live with other women. I would not at this age live with my mother and two other women, or just my mother, or just two other women, or actually any women at all. Women are complicated. I prefer my husband, my sons, and our dogs. They take up less counter space in the bathroom.

Aging is a mixed bag. I am so grateful for the wisdom I have today that I did not have at 17 when The Golden Girls began. I like myself far more now than I have at any point in my younger past. I don’t want to go back in time to when I was younger. I simply want to be who I am now but in a 25-year-old body. Oh, the trouble I would get into being that young and understanding my power. It’s frightening to think what I would be capable of. Damn.

Sometimes It’s Best To Be The Last To The Party

On Friday, February 18th, my husband and I were searching our television haunts for something to watch. Truth be told, we subscribe to a lot of services. We have Hulu, Netflix, Prime, Disney+, and Apple TV+. Despite having all the services, we usually aren’t up on what’s coming out to view. We know about the new shows on Disney+ because of our sons. Other than that, we often are late to the party.

Anyway, while flipping through our choices that February night, I found Severance, a new show beginning that day on Apple TV+. The premise looked fascinating, so we figured we’d give it a go. At the end of the 57-minute premiere, we were hooked. We were feeling pretty smug about being early watchers of this brand new show. Maybe we could be the first ones out in front sharing the news? Each week since that night, we’ve looked forward to the next episode. With each episode, we became more engrossed and we told more people about it. Tonight we finished the latest episode, the seventh installment, and I found myself livid that I have to wait another week to see what happens next. And then I I remembered why we don’t get on board and watch shows in real time. It’s because we’re impatient.

After years of binge watching shows we missed out on while others were raving about them, I’m used to having ALL the episodes available to me and burning through them one episode after another in rapid fire succession, staying up until 2 am each night for a week, if necessary, to do it. Watching the entire show in a series of lengthy sessions keeps the story progression fresh in your mind. There’s no digging through your brain for the nuances of what happened the previous week. It’s simply a more efficient means of digesting a story plot. Of course, the streaming services producing the shows don’t care about that. They want to build intrigue and grow viewership. They want the public conversations at the water cooler to expand their audience without having to advertise their show. Greedy jerks don’t even care that binge watching is what we all want to do now. We have no patience. Why should we when so much television is on demand these days?

I am no longer capable of delayed gratification because delayed gratification takes too much time and dedication. And this revelation clued me into why my husband and I don’t hop on the bandwagon of a show immediately. It’s because watching television one week at a time is frustrating. So we miss out for a while. So what? We’re late to the party, but what an amazing party it is when we finally show up. It’s so good we sometimes stay up all night so we don’t miss anything. At 53, this is the closest I get to an all-night kegger and its accompanying next-morning hangover.

Binge watching is where old college students party. Now you know.

Like Howard Beale, I Literally Cannot Anymore

Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash

Today I feel like the world’s biggest phony. I try to blog about situations that might resonate with others or that might be inspiring or hopeful. I know I don’t always succeed at this. Sometimes I can tell, based on the replies I am getting, that people can see right through me. They know I am writing all this bullshit as a means to make myself feel better or to inspire myself to make difficult changes while inside I am crumbling like a saltine squeezed in someone’s palm. Some of you know I’m faking positivity (fake it til you make it?) and others of you, based upon which posts you might have read, may feel I’m living a pretty damn good life, devoid of acrimony.

The truth is that I am lost. Thanks to tons of therapy, I am no longer lost about where I came from or why I am the way I am. I long ago got the sobering answers to those questions, and I work daily to slay those demons and move on. And, honestly, I feel pretty good about that. I no longer hate myself. I no longer see only my bad qualities. I know they are still there and I acknowledge them; it’s just that I see the other side too now. I see why I am worth my carbon matter, and I accept that as reality even when others don’t seem to see the good in me.

But I am struggling. A lot. I enjoyed my peaceful weekend, came home filled with optimism about my plans and ideas for writing and my plans and ideas for getting better sleep and more exercise and eating better, and the minute I walked back into the door of my home I was right back into my struggles because nothing at home has been addressed. All the things I want to achieve or do for myself can only happen if there are changes at home, and there have been none. So today I am feeling deflated and hopeless. Today I want to sell something, take the money, get in my car, and run away. Except that I don’t really want to do that because I would miss my people. What I want is to snap my fingers and have all the negativity in my life evaporate so I can pick up from there and move forward. That isn’t going to happen.

Hard conversations need to be had and hard work needs to be done, but no one wants to talk or work. We’re going along in this bubble where we’re pretending everything is fine and everyone’s needs are being met, but that isn’t true in either case.

I come from a family of defensive fighters. We explode. When there was tension in my family of origin, it was resolved with a blowup. The tension would build, someone would need to release steam, and then there would be nasty, no-holds-barred, critical exchanges where all participants were hurling hurtful and unnecessary blows in an attempt to win an argument or make a point that could be neither won or made. There was often door slamming and item chucking as well. None of this was very healthy. Then, I married into a family of stuffers. In my new family, nothing negative or difficult is discussed. Everything is stuffed deep down or swept under the rug. This means that conversations that need to be had to set boundaries, resolve disagreements in viewpoint, and determine appropriate paths forward are simply not conducted. The result is that everyone is anxious. Everyone is talking, which is great, but nothing of importance or consequence is being said because everyone is afraid. It’s verboten, not part of the family dynamic. This is untenable as well. And as a result of my family affiliations, I am now adept at being both a venter and a stuffer. Oh boy.

The older I get, the more I think that what needs to be taught in preschools, kindergartens, grade schools, and high schools across this country (as well as in homes and churches) is communication. We need to teach kids early how to communicate their needs, how to listen to others, how to compromise, and how to support others while protecting the boundaries they need to feel safe. A large portion of this teaching needs to be done by having adults model these behaviors, but we can’t model something we don’t know how to do. This can be witnessed in our current political environment. We’ve become an entire nation of selfish toddlers, unwilling to discuss our feelings in a civil manner, grumpy that we aren’t getting our way, and cruel to others to make ourselves feel better about the shortfalls we perceive in fairness. I’m not saying communication is the only or most important thing that should be taught to our youth (and our grown ups), but it needs to be addressed one way or another because we are all struggling and no one wants to go to that dark, vulnerable place of admitting our fears and needs. No one wants to sit and listen. People want to point fingers, blame, name call, and live in their self-righteous bubble. This is ruining our families, our social groups, our churches, our schools, our government, and our society in general. We hide behind screens, spewing hate, and then go on about our lives because we’ve normalized cruelty and bullying and eliminated common courtesy, patience, and empathy. We live in unkind soundbites and talking points. And this has only been exacerbated by our isolation during this pandemic.

I know I have fallen short in all the good behaviors I’ve listed above. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting in my house feeling misunderstood, ignored, taken for granted, and overwhelmed. I can’t live like this anymore. Like the Howard Beale character in the 1976 film, Network, I want to stand in my living room and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

I’m finished stuffing my feelings and playing nice and pretending everything is great when I am losing my mind. I don’t want to revert to the patterns of my childhood and explode and say hateful things. The time to resolve things civilly is now. I am going to start by opening up in my own house. Maybe if we all decide to undertake some of the difficult conversations we’ve been avoiding having, perhaps we would open a release valve and vent some of the explosive gas currently expanding our national dissatisfaction. Maybe not. But I believe it’s worth a shot.

Existing Or Living: It’s A Choice

Is he existing or is he living his best life?

We’re sitting at home watching Queer Eye on Netflix (full disclosure: I’m only sort of watching because I am doing on some online shopping with my eyes) and someone on the show mentions there’s a difference between existing and living as you get older. This caught my attention. It is easy as you age to fall into habits and get into patterns that don’t leave much room for new experiences and personal growth. After all, you’ve been around 5, 6, 7 decades and you’ve got a history. People hold you accountable to that history. You’ve been defined, and being thus defined you settle into place like gum stuck under a table. You are stuck, and you exist in the well-worn grooves.

I’m going to be 54 in May. My husband and I will celebrate 27 years in August, and later that month our youngest will begin college. This is when the gum can get stuck to the wall. I know a lot of people my age and older (and even younger) who are stuck. There is nothing new in their lives. There is no freshness, no growth. They are existing.

I don’t want that for my life, but I know that since March 2020 that is what I have been doing. I have been simply existing. I’ve been lazy about self-care and home care. I have been going through the motions. And, yes. There has been a lot of change, stress, anxiety, and adjustment these past two years just trying to negotiate our Covid-19 world, and I have to give myself a little grace for that. But I am ready to move beyond this stagnation and start living again. I’m ready to carve out a place to care for myself and not self-soothe by checking out. I’m ready to accept myself where I am at and move forward and live again because time isn’t slowing down, Covid isn’t going away, and the longer I stay stuck the more difficult it will be to pry myself loose.

If you did a self check in right now, where are you? Are you living or are you existing?

Young At Heart

“And if you should survive to a hundred and five, look at all you’ll derive out of bein’ alive,
And here is the best part, you have a head start, if you are among the very young at heart”
~ Frank Sinatra

Tonight my 13 year old puppy did not want to stop playing with her squeaky squirrel. I finally had to take it away from her because she was panting like crazy. Over the past couple months since we learned she was in kidney failure, Ruby has become more puppy-like than she was, even as a puppy. She walks 2-4 miles a day. She’s finishing all her food in record time. She’s rooting through the trash can. It seems she is Benjamin Button dog, aging in reverse. She’s clearly unaware of her age and condition.

Once again, this old dog seems to be teaching me a new trick. Age is just a number that only matters if you are a cheese or a bottle of wine. The young at heart never truly get old.

Thought Experiments

Every night we take a walk with our thirteen year old border collie, Ruby. I like to think it’s the high point of her day. Often the walk is just Steve and I, but sometimes we can cajole the boys into coming along. Tonight we got to enjoy their banter. Luke was world building, designing a college. He calls these imaginings “thought experiments.” Joe was, of course, bickering with him about some of his ideas, and I had to jump in and tell Joe that he doesn’t get to tell Luke his ideas are misguided. I’ve been telling him that for as long as Luke has been his brother.

We often walk the same route. We look for the toads that appear after dark. Tonight we saw a tiny one and a big boy we decided to name Chonk. The moon was full and small clouds glided in front of it intermittently. At one point, the moon had a cloud handlebar mustache.

When the world is crazy, these walks are my zen. Ruby has done her best to keep us going out into the world, even and especially during a pandemic. For thirteen years, she has been our constant keeper. She reminds us how lucky we are to be a family, to have each other, to have someone looking out for us.

Times are changing, though. Joe goes back to college soon. Luke is applying for colleges now too. And, sadly, our beautiful puppy girl is nearing her unfair end. Our days on this earth are the same as the clouds floating over the moon tonight. They’re sailing by, indecipherable from one another, here and then gone.

I said these walks are the high point of Ruby’s day, but they’re actually the high point of mine. They remind me of all the good things still left after childhood’s end.