Tag Archives: aging

Family ties……

Remember the TV series entitled “Family Ties”?

I don’t have many of those. The reasons are varied, some known to me, others still (and might remain) buried deep inside the footlocker of my family’s history. But those issues are not my point here.

Recently I attended the funeral of an uncle, my mother’s older brother. At that coming together of friends and family to honor his memory and life, I met relatives that I didn’t know until the introductions were made that day. They are not distant kin, either; they are the children of my first cousin, the cousin I lived with my senior year in high school.

Where have we been the rest of our lives?

Family isn’t always blood, either, right? I also ran into–quite literally–one of my best friends from that same senior year. Heaven knows, there aren’t many of those for me, military brat that I was. She and I hadn’t had any contact since then. Almost 50 years ago.

Once we arrived at the gravesite for the service that day, my cousin pointed out our grandparents’ resting place, right next to that of this same uncle’s wife. My aunt, one of my favorite people ever. And this was the first time I had even seen their resting places, or even known where they were. I hadn’t attended their funerals, a fact that shames me now.

resk graves

Even sadder is that this familial amnesia continues for my adult daughter. She has little knowledge of these family members, something I would love to rectify with a road trip soon. A long one, to be sure, but better late than never.

Family ties have significance far beyond this moment, the one when we’re angry at a member of the group or are separated in other ways. They connect us to a tribe, a ready-made, hopefully well-nurtured, soft place to fall in times of trouble. These sturdy strings were never knitted together for me or my siblings. But it is up to me to get busy and start picking up the loose ends, don’t you think?

“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” ~Erma Bombeck

Consider yourself warned…..

too late

Consider yourself warned…..

  • Eating junk food as your daily entree turns your body to junk. How could it not?
  • Joking about not exercising won’t be comical when you’re 70 and your legs and core won’t get you up off that comfy sofa any longer. It will be funny to those watching, though.
  • Smoking will be the death of you, one way or the other. Yes, YOU. Did you like taking that last breath, the one that just went in without any effort at all? If you smoke–yes, YOU–those breaths are numbered. Start counting.
  • Arteries in all kinds of places in your body can–and will–harden to the point that other important things CAN’T, guys. Yes, that one! Why doctors don’t harp on this with their male patients escapes me. If young men knew this NOW, they might take better care of themselves, because we know what gets their attention, above all else, right??
  •  That gorgeous “bad boy” will be bad for you, girls. Be careful, very careful, who you choose.
  • The trite platitude “It’s never too late” is a lie. Some mistakes can never be corrected, some missed opportunities will never circle back around for a second look. Live intentionally, not by the default position of “what will be, will be.” It made for a great tune, but the lyrics simply made its creator a rich man, not necessarily a happy one.

To reflect on your life with regret is devastating. Consider yourself warned, today, before it IS too late!

 

 

 

Putting sand back in the hourglass……

“It’s never too late.”

Um, yes it is. I hate to add fuel to anyone’s already overactive angst, but I’ve run into this gremlin way too much this week. It hides under the bed, waiting to snap at your ankles as you get out of the bed in the morning, or huddles in your closet ready to grab your wrist as you dress for an evening out with friends.

Time is a controlled substance and a commodity that doesn’t care what you do with it. It keeps ticking away as you make decisions, no matter how valid or valuable those choices are–or not.

When we are young, the end of our life is so far away, out there in the misty future, that we waste a lot of that controlled substance. People give us advice, but we don’t listen. None of us do. Maybe we even ask people we trust for guidance, but as the decision looms closer, we do what we want, often counter to that advice. And our own best interests.

But, in reality, we presuppose that time will never run out for us. The gremlin has bitten my ankles, though, and drawn blood this week. And I never did make it to the event I was dressing for as another wizened goblin  twisted my wrist to the point of tears.

Regret is the offspring of wasted time. Wasted chances. Unfortunate choices that will never be  cleaned up, decades later, as I now recognize where the road zigged and I should have….not.

I know better now. About many things. But my biggest regret is that the sands that trickled out of the hourglass of my life–my life, for God’s sake!–can never be funneled back into that delicate vessel.

Rather than end on that desolate note, here is what I would tell young(er) people from my vantage point today:

  • Behave as if today is your last day on this spinning top. Because it might be. Think about that with dedication every morning of your life, BEFORE the goblin snaps at you.
  • Spend time now considering what kind of life you want. What kind of partner is best for you. What career fits your goals and personality. And then set your course to get those things.
  • Don’t let other people–ANYONE–live your life for you. Make choices and decisions based on what you want for you, not what will make them happy. Seeking out advice in advance is advisable, but make sure these people don’t have a stake in the outcome of their words of wisdom. Consider if they have an agenda counter to yours, and then do what is best way for you to embrace the life you want, the one you spent valuable time unearthing. (Besides, some people are idiots, let’s face it.)
  • Spend time learning to love yourself. No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs understand that the fact that you are here is all that is necessary for you to be “good enough.” Period.
  • Have more fun. Laugh, be silly, watch clouds once in a while. Dance, or paint, or write, or blow bubbles every day. Whatever. Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. To realize this near the end of your life is excruciatingly dismal.

Believe me.

A……Haiket?

 A Haiku*—or two:

Being older means

looking back and wondering

which wrong turn mattered.

 
 

Would it have mattered

if I had not turned away

from this road—or that?

 
 

Or if I had let

my head-strong will and my heart

have equal footing?

 
 

Would it have mattered

if I had taken control

and embraced MY dream?

 
 

Being mature means

seeing with clearer vision,

what truly matters.

 
 

It can also mean

embracing a new vision—

Embracing one’s heart.

 
 

Today, I look back

and see that multiple paths

rose up before me.

 
 

Some say “no regrets.”

I say we don’t learn the truth

by ignoring it.

 
 

Being mature means

Finding peace from knowing

My life is…as is.

_________________________________________________________________________________

*Haiku is a very structured form of poetry that originated in Japan. I choose to write in the traditional style of Haiku for the discipline demanded from its structure:

First line = 5 (and ONLY 5) syllables

Second line = 7 (and ONLY 7) syllables

Third = 5 (and ONLY 5) syllables

Traditionally, also, Haiku is meant to be a snapshot of something in nature. A butterfly resting on a rose. The sunrise. A flower dancing in the evening breeze, awash in its mysterious scent. Any Haiku I have written to date follows this dictate for the most part.

For a writer who normally runs on and on (meaning me), this is first an exercise in being succinct and precise. I love it! In most cases, though, Haiku is simply ONE set of three lines: 5-7-5. Being me, though, I have chosen to string together a series of “Haikus” into one cohesive “Haiket.” There….I invented a new form of poetry!

I have also been indulgent here, and used this beautiful art form to reflect my soul as I move into–and through, because we are never done– the status of Active Master. We do not stop desiring or hoping or striving as we age. People who say we do are, well, boring and have probably always been that way.

We are simply more wrinkled as we do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will it be?

retirement_road

As I moved through the first day of my retirement, everyone kept asking me what I had done all day, as if my work day had to be supplanted with something. Right?

Our society is fueled by work. We learn a trade as young adults and then we practice that brand of work in order to earn the currency that is traded for it. That currency then is traded for our lives. Literally. We eat, we have a roof to sleep under, we clothe ourselves. So, we must then work some more to sustain the whole thing.

Is it any surprise to anyone, then, that we align our entire identity with the most visible talisman of our worth? The one that sustains and insures that the wheels stay on the track of our existence?

When we stop working, what happens to the whole system then? In the case of retirement (because there are people who intentionally jump ship earlier on purpose), we have traded all that currency as long as is necessary in our society, and hopefully have enough to sustain us throughout. Until we die.

Maybe that’s the rub. We realize that our end is breathing down our necks, a salivating beast that we cannot hope to outrun. Many people avoid retirement at all costs, fearing what lies on the other side of that alarm clock that jangles them awake at the crack of dawn.

Others fill it up with more work. We’ll see how I do.

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”
Vince Lombardi

 

 

 

A two way conversation……

“The good writers touch life often.”

Ray Bradbury

There are a couple of things at work here, the “here” designated as the tension created when I write and no one reads it. Or at least, I have no way of knowing if they do or not, which I guess is the same thing from my perspective.

Do writers engage in their craft to be read (and thus, appreciated) or because they are compelled to write? As in all things, I’m sure the answer varies with the person, but for the most part, the writers I know must write. It seems to be part of our DNA, this constant need to observe and then document the world around us.

For myself, writing sorts out my emotions, forces me to unravel the errant threads of life that don’t fit anywhere, until I can stitch them all in place with my words. Much of what I write is never read by anyone other than me; it would scare too many people.

How do I reconcile that, then, with the fact that it hurts when people don’t read the work I DO put out there? One of my friends, also a writer, asked me that the other night. I don’t have a ready answer, I just know that it tickles me when I look at the stats page the day after I post a blog (alright, the hour after) and I see the number of views has increased. And the best gift you can give me is to comment on what I have written.

Does that make me needy? Narcissistic, as a young friend accused when I tried to explain this aberrant behavior?

Oh, you were waiting for an answer?

I don’t have one. The best I can do is this: I must write. It is a part of who I am. But, my choice of topics to share with an audience has a purpose.

Aging in this country is not pretty, so I decided to offer my experiences, and the lessons taught through those events, with two audiences: younger people who might learn from my own struggle to remain relevant, and those my age for a good laugh at ourselves. My immediate impetus was how many times I found myself exclaiming, “Why didn’t someone tell me about this??”

There have been other topics, too, such as my journey to become complaint-free. (That one was certainly good for a laugh by all ages.)

Have you ever left a succession of voice mails on someone’s machine with no return calls….ever? Publishing one’s words with no feedback is kind of like that.

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

You’ve heard the term “needy,” right?

It makes my skin crawl now, to think of myself as needy, but I was. Maybe you have been accused of the same characteristic and don’t have a clue what was meant, someone spitting the word out as they walked (ran) away from you. I had suffered a serious blow to my ego as a woman and as a person worthy of love. Because of that devastation, I needed constant validation, I needed love, I needed attention, I needed, I needed……

I know people today who are in constant need, yet they have no idea why people scurry away from them like roaches when a light is turned on at night. So, let’s educate these folks…..since they need someone to do that, I’m sure:

You ALWAYS need something. You seem to be incapable of tackling a project, a situation, or someone else’s need without assistance. You cannot make a decision, something as simple as what to order in a restaurant. And you are exhausting to be around.

I recently asked someone to enlist a neighbor to help take my trash out to the curb each week. With working full-time right now, it is a task that would be best done by someone else. In fact, last week that monstrous bin the city insists we use did NOT get pulled out, so I have two weeks’ worth now. The plastic bags filled with this week’s garbage are now on the ground encircling the bin like supplicants surrounding a wise sage.

So, the person I asked to take care of this for me informed me when I got home from a long day at work, fighting traffic and construction that seems to never end, that a young man in the neighborhood was approached with this proposition. But rather than nail the deal down and make it happen, I was told that I must talk to him to finalize the arrangements. Really?? Now I’m involved after all, when what I needed was YOU to help me.

“How will he get the gate key every week?”

“When do you want him to take the bin out: in the morning or in the evening?”

“How much money do you want to pay him?”

It’s almost as if these people are afraid to make a move without high level clearance. I’ve had bosses like this. They were so fearful of the senior command chain that they drove the rest of us crazy with their indecision and inability to move forward without specific permission to do so.

I have come to understand that needy people are actually seeking  attention. If you are engrossed in a good book or taking care of your own projects, they are no longer your focus. One way of drawing your attention back to them is to put lots of needs in front of you. They also lack any confidence in their own ability to make decisions.

“Should I park here….or there?”

“Which way would you go from here?”

“How does this [enter any conceivable device here] work?”

“What kind of [enter anything here] do you want me to get?”

We all need help on a regular basis. It’s a good thing to be able to understand our limitations, our strengths and weaknesses, and then occasionally turn to those around us for assistance. But with these people our attention is constantly being dragged back to…..them. We can’t concentrate or get anything done that we have on our TO DO list, because of this unending stream of needs being dumped on us.

Each of these questions is innocuous in isolation (which is where we will want to be soon), but after enough time and dozens of questions, we realize that the true intent is not the get specific answers. The real motivation is to get our attention, and to put the burden of the decisions on someone else. No one can point to them later and say, “It was YOUR doing!”

Unfortunately, my personal way of dealing with needy people is to become deaf while appearing to hear all, to be somewhere else mentally even though my body is right there soaking up all that poisonous need.

And this is unfortunate because we all know what happens when the sky really does fall, right?