Young…Middle-Aged…(??)….Old!

Stephanie:  “Mom, great outfit! (turquoise t-shirt, jeans, bright coral cardigan)  “You look so young!  You need to dye your hair.”

My hair is gray.  Different shades of gray.  Whitish in the front, darker in the back.  But all gray.  I like it.

Me:  “No, actually I don’t need to.  This is me.”

Comfortable, mildly stylish clothes. At 61, not so young, but also not old.  Cool, definitely cool.

She stared at me for a few seconds and said, “I still think you should dye your hair.”

She is 35.  And already talking about Botox for wrinkles.  I tell her to just buy really good moisturizer and use it faithfully.  Especially on the neck and chest.

“I believe we older people risk wasting the second half of our lives in unconscious compliance with a youth-obsessed culture.”  (Lynne Morgan Spreen)  We need an alternative to the belief that maintaining the appearance of youth is an antidote to aging.

We don’t even have name for this time of life, 55-70!  At 61, there is no question I’m beyond middle age, though I stretched it out through my fifties. I don’t know when “old” starts.  I think it depends on which birthday you last celebrated.

Every morning, I walk down the driveway (actually, the retired man I live with walks down more than I do), get the newspaper and come in to have a cup of tea while I read words printed on newsprint that I hold in my hands.  No matter how many times they redesign the website, I will not cancel my subscription to the printed version.  We older folks like to turn paper pages.  Most days I just read the front page, the obituaries, the editorials, the letters to the editor, the comics, and horoscopes for me and my family.

I started reading the obituaries years ago when I worked as a volunteer coordinator at Hospice.  I learned you don’t have to be old to die, but back then they were usually older than I was.  Most still are, but not all.  A lot are in their 60’s.  A good day is when everyone who died is older than me.  Is that weird?

So, fellow boomers,  what stage of life is 55-70?  We need a name.  Got any ideas?

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Published in: on September 18, 2013 at 3:59 am  Comments (22)  
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Does It Matter?

Human bodies are complex and mysterious and keep on changing.

Some of the early stuff I expected–periods and cramps (and sometimes being glad when they appeared), groping of various parts by others, and complexion issues like pimples and eventually laugh lines.

As I passed 40 and 50 and approached and passed 60, surprises popped up.

During the time I colored my hair brown, I started seeing grey hairs in my eyebrows.  I used Just for Men Mustache and Beard dye to color them, even though the box said not to.  Now, with grey hair on my head, I can see some brown.  But I didn’t know my eyebrow hairs would get sparse.  I don’t know what to do about that, other than not look at them.

A couple of years ago I read in a women’s magazine about all the things plastic surgery can fix.  One was saggy eyelids.  That day I looked in the mirror–I had saggy eyelids!  Now I notice every time I put on mascara.

I’ve always known about cellulite on the backs of my thighs.  Everyone deals with that, right?  I didn’t know that my leg skin would sag.  I laugh and blame it on gravity, but really I am fascinated and horrified each time I look in the mirror in my underwear.  Do I think it might go away while I sleep?

Then we get to the whole menopause transition thing.  My 1st hot flash hit on a hot August day while I helped my youngest child pack for her first semester of college.  Not the last time I saw a connection to emotional stress.  They lasted for years.

For about 3 years during that time, I exhibited intermittent, long-lasting PMS symptoms.  My husband said I was nuts and I thought for a long time he made it up or at least exaggerated.  He was right.  I was an emotional bomb that could go off at any moment.  It helped to have friends going through the same stuff.  After a hysterectomy, the passage of time and some estrogen therapy, I settled back into my normal level of volatility and drama.

My 90-year-old aunt is here visiting us.  She flew–alone–from Iowa to NC.  She calls it “the trip from hell.”  She had a delay on the first leg, a missed connection in Detroit, a later flight that sat 2 hours on the tarmac because they couldn’t unhook some tether, and a twenty-minute wait for a parking spot at the Raleigh airport.  Original arrival time was 7:30 pm.  We finally saw her come up the hall toward us about 11:30 pm.  We got to our house after 1:00 am.  She was in better shape than either of us.  (We were up way past our bedtime!)

All the way home, she told us about the nice people she met along the way who helped her and talked with her.  She believes that there is something of God in each of us (she is a lifelong Quaker) and that most people are basically good.  And with that attitude, they are.  Her life, like all of us, has had tragedies and difficulties and challenges.  She sees the glass as half-full and each day as full of possibilities.

Acceptance of things as they are is a life-long challenge.  The older I get the easier it is to laugh and surrender my need to control.  Maybe by 90, I’ll get the hang of it.

I’ve had a cancer scare.  Saggy eyelids and leg skin and sparse eyebrows are irrelevant.  I’m here and I’m glad.  And I’ve got to quit looking in mirrors with my glasses on.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm  Comments (6)  
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Disabled

I asked the Social Security Administration of the US government to label me “disabled.”  The application process left me drained and depressed.

I listed my “Physical and Mental Conditions,” 6 of them.  I listed my “Doctors and Other Healthcare Professionals,” 5 of them.  I listed my “Medicines'”, 7 prescriptions.

The paralegal at the attorney’s office helped me with the last section, “Remarks.”  She asked questions, I talked about what all I can’t do, she suggested more specific words and she typed it into the application.  Here is what she wrote:

I can only walk 5-10 minutes due to joint deformities due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I do not have an even, steady gait and use a cane at times as my doctor recommended.  This has caused me to have intermittent back aches.  I cannot stand long for the same reason.  I drop things a lot due to the weakness and deformities in my hands and fingers and cannot lift more than 10 pounds and even then I have to use both hands.  I have loss of dexterity and some of the joints are frozen in my hands.  I can’t do cross stitch anymore, either.  I cook much less now as I can’t safely lift heavy pots and pans nor stand very long.  I have trouble changing the sheets on the bed and I can’t clean my bathroom.  Even though I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma in the past, I no longer have any limitations or symptoms for that.  I started having Vertigo a few weeks ago and my heads spins when it hits.  In my latest blood work I was anemic.  I am fatigued easily now.

Wouldn’t you be depressed?  I was upset for a couple of days.  Then I listed things I CAN do.

I am resilient and strong and creatively adaptable.

I thank my husband for helping me when I ask and never complaining.  (Although he said one time if I have another knee replacement he might not be my primary caregiver.  The first one was rough.)  I thank him for not offering to help all the time.  He sits back and watches me struggle with tasks of daily living.  He says okay when I want to travel by myself (even the time after the cancer diagnosis when I told him I wanted to go to Paris by myself, which I did in 2006.)  I know he worries, but he doesn’t burden me with those thoughts.

I am grateful for my daughters who cheer me on, give me shit when that’s appropriate and worry together behind my back. I hope I model fierce, not stupid, independence.

I am grateful for my grandchildren,  my joy and reasons to take care of myself.  They know me only as I am today. I can’t lift them up by myself, though I can hold a sleeping baby for hours and cuddle on the couch really well.  I can’t change diapers anymore (hee hee) and everyone is okay with that.

I thank God for my family, friends and therapist who keep me functional and medical science for the medications and doctors and nurses who ease my discomfort.

I recognize that the people I know who are HIV positive teach me about acceptance, letting go, the power of faith, and living with pain in all its forms.

I am who I am because of my challenges, my limitations, and the lessons to be learned from them.

The letter from the Social Security Administration came last week.  “You are entitled to monthly disability benefits.  We found that you became disabled under our rules on March 31, 2009.”  (I wasn’t disabled on March 29?)

I shouted to my husband, “I qualified for disability!”  “Congratulations,” he said and we high-fived.

Is that something to celebrate?

I choose, most of the time, to celebrate and be proud of what I can do today.  I certainly get frustrated and upset at times.  I say bad words and even let myself cry a bit.  That’s just okay, as my friend Jan says.

We all have choices.  I choose to keep going, laugh as much as possible, and try to ask for help when it’s wise to do so.

The US Government says I am disabled.  I say, not really.  Who ya gonna believe?

Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe.

(Here is why I haven’t written much lately for this blog.  And why it may be a while before I post again.)

My younger daughter (with her husband, 2 1/2-year-old daughter and 5 month old son) has been moving from our town to the next town over, 30 minutes away, for the last 2 weeks.  Their leases overlap so everything didn’t go at once.  Maybe not a good thing for a couple who are organization-challenged and procrastination-inclined.  (She didn’t get those traits from her daddy.)

The retired man I live with has helped A LOT.  My job has been to watch and care for and amuse the children.  The toddler still takes a good nap.  That helps.  The 5-month-old is still totally nursing, will take a bottle of pumped milk and can go about an hour or 2 before Mommy-withdrawal sets in.  One day we drove to the new house to get his mom–we couldn’t settle him down.  After that, my child care and his mom stayed together.

My older daughter’s 8-month-old baby is having heart surgery on Thursday, 9/27.  Her abnormality was diagnosed the day after she was born and she has grown and developed well since then.  The surgery is necessary to guarantee a normal life as she grows into adolescence and adulthood.

We know a couple of grown women who had the surgery 30-40 years ago.  Each has lived with no restrictions ever since.  We have confidence that all will go well for the baby.  Our concern is mostly for our daughter and son-in-law.  When one of our children hurts, we hurt.

Our mantra these days is right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. (Thank you Anne Lamott.)  We know that love and prayer and support always help.  We are surrounded by many friends who are praying.  We feel it.  And we are all grateful.

Know Your Colors?

Do you remember back in the 80’s when we all tried to figure out what colors “brightened” us and which ones made us look washed out with dark circles under our eyes?  A book called Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson started this new quest for personal perfection.

A woman in our neighborhood had her colors analyzed professionally.  From then on, all her clothes were from the appropriate color season.  (I still wonder how she could afford to do that and what she did with her old stuff.)  Most of us just sort of guessed at our color season and then hoped we had a few things in the right colors.

My clothes tend to look the same year after year.  Jeans, t-shirts, black pants, dressier shirts.  My size might change, but not my basic shape or style.  I do like to look at what’s new each season, the colors and styles, but they rarely work for my body or my age or my tastes.  Jeggings?  I think not.

My colors shifted some when I stopped dying my hair.  Some of my gray hairs sparkle like silver and some hairs are still kind of dark.  When it was a warm brown, I couldn’t wear gray.  Now I have tops in several shades of gray.  Why?  My skin color didn’t change.

Several years ago I found the perfect black pants–for me, anyway.  Jjill Sympatico Stretch in petite.  The waist fit.  And the hips, too.  The length was fine.  They needed no alterations.  I bought 3 black and 2 dark gray pairs.  I celebrated.

Then I lost enough weight to drop a size in pants.  I wore those Jjill pants until they were baggy enough to look ridiculous.  No problem, right?  I’ll just get some more in a smaller size.  I looked everywhere on the Jjill website.  They are gone.  Discontinued.  Not available.  Why??

Now I have no nice black pants.  A sixty-year-old woman can only get so far in jeans, even a size smaller.  I have hope.  I found some before and I’ll find some again.

By that time I’ll probably be the old size and will be able to wear the ones that are too big now.  Which I will save, along with the jeans that I used to wear.  What?  You don’t have more than one size clothes in your house?

My husband always asks at these times why I can’t just go into any store and pick something out in my size like he can.  How do I answer him without my voice getting louder and louder as I rant about the stupid, inconsistent sizing in women’s clothing?  And why can’t I?

I got a new Lands End catalog.  I like them and L.L.Bean.  Trendy I’m not. The fall colors  look good.  The one color I know consistently “brightens” me is dark green, forest green, pine green.  Lands End online has a v-neck, 3/4 sleeve tee-shirt in pine green.  I ordered two.  And a silk/cotton blouse in the same color.

I’ve learned not to wait when I see something I like.  And to buy multiples.

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm  Comments (6)  
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Living Beyond the Warranty

Last week I wrote about my ailing computer.  It ran really slow and I was afraid it had early-onset dementia and would lose its memory.  Which contains a lot of my memory.

My computer and I are reunited.  It has a new hard drive.  Its memory is intact.  Now I can’t connect to iTunes. I need to connect to sync my iPhone calendar to my iCal (calendar) on my computer.  (That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?)

I see a pattern.  I increasingly rely on my tech-toys to back up my memory.  I’m okay with that. Really, it’s kind of cool.

Now I need a new hard drive for my body.  I celebrated my 60th birthday in March.  And, as a cancer survivor, I am grateful for every day.  However.  My parts are wearing out and beyond the warranty.  I don’t think I have enough time left to replace them one by one.

After 25 years of rheumatoid arthritis, I have artificial joints in my knuckles on one hand and a left knee replacement.  I set off the metal detector the last time I flew.  No one cared about my official card from DePuy describing my titanium knee.  I had to go into the total-body scanner.  On the inside I giggled about the poor guy in some little room who had to look at my body unfiltered by clothes.

I miss being independent.  My damaged hands frustrate me daily.  Now I’m anemic and so I have limited energy each day.  I choose my activities carefully.  I drive myself around town and go most anyplace I want, but I get tired and I feel very vulnerable in parking lots.

I want to replace everything at once.  A new hard drive rejuvenated my computer without losing any memory.  A rejuvenated Robin with intact memories and no loss of hard-won wisdom?  Perfect.

What would I do?

I’d pick up each grandchild with no fear of dropping or hurting them.

I’d swim laps without hanging on the wall to catch my breath.

I’d get on an airplane and fly to NYC or Paris.  Alone.

I’d clean my house all by myself.  (maybe!)

Or I could just accept the body I have and be grateful for medical science and my own determination and resilience.

I could find joy in each day and learn to ask for the help I need when I need it.

And pray.

The Retired Man I Live With

He retired 3 years ago.  I knew it would be an adjustment for both of us.

We worked together for the first year or so of his business.  I learned he has ADD.  He learned I don’t like to be ordered around.  We are both oldest children and both like to be in charge.  It did not go well.

The retired man I live with is always “doing.” His retirement hobby is puttering.  He loads and unloads the dishwasher, vacuums up the clumps of dog hair Sydney drops this time of year, and often fixes dinner.  Our yard is beautiful.  He painted the upstairs bathroom and put in new stick-on tile flooring.  He does his own laundry.

He takes care of me on days when my rheumatoid arthritis acts up or zaps my energy.  He has patience I never expected.  I feel loved.

His busy energy permeates my house and makes me crazy.

I am an introvert who requires solitude and quiet.  I never had long-term sadness about the “empty nest.”  They didn’t go far and I enjoyed the empty house while Mike worked.

I miss my empty house.  I miss my solitude and quiet.

I am spoiled rotten by the retired man I live with and I complain that he is always around.

Okay.  I know.  The only thing I have control over is myself.  And I’m better than I used to be at having the wisdom to know what I can change and what I cannot.

I’ve known the retired man I live with for 40 (!!) years.  He is not going to change.

I’ve never liked those little iPod ear-bud things.  But I think I’ll try being like a teenager and play some mellow music I like and tune out the active energy seeping up the stairs to my office.  I might even stuff a towel in the space between the door bottom and the floor, like you’re supposed to do if there’s a fire.

Got any other suggestions?

I just want to ask why

I are amazing,”

says a 2-year-old girl.

“Who are you?’ we ask.

Me!” says a 1 1/2-year-old girl.

These kids are well-loved.  They were planned-for and very welcome.  They are surrounded by caring and supportive adults.  I pray they don’t lose that feeling of delight about themselves.

I doubt they will grow up to be computer hackers.

A hacker got into my yahoo email account.  My contacts got an email asking for money  because I was stranded in Madrid.  I was at a writing retreat at the coast with my phone turned off.   Mike was at home babysitting our granddaughter.  He answered a lot of phone calls from concerned friends.

I’ve changed my password and communicated with yahoo security.  They are investigating.  The hacker erased my address book.  I hope yahoo can get it back for me.  (Please send me an email if you want me to have your email address.)

I really do want to ask the hacker “Why?”  I guess it’s probably about money.

Maybe the hacker wasn’t wanted or loved.  Maybe nobody taught him/her that choices have consequences.  Maybe no one cared enough to teach right and wrong.

Or maybe he/she is just a clever, bored teenager with too much free time.

I think the whole thing is just mean.

Published in: on October 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm  Comments (9)  
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So What Do You Expect?

(an excerpt from Sacred Healing by Janet Davis)

Though most of my friends and acquaintances experience me as a positive person, I’ve come to recognize that I’m really not.  I am quite the pessimist, always expecting and preparing for the worst.

Such “negative thinking” is, at least in part, simply the overuse of a positive penchant for planning.  A critical part of effectual planning is anticipating bad things and arranging life so that you can avoid those hazards.

I, however, take this to the extreme, seeking to banish all grief and pain, loss and harm from my life and the lives of those I love.  With that goal in mind, I am disproportionately aware of hazards around me.  And there are many.  Thus, the pessimism…

God wants me to expect goodness and abundance rather than evil, abandonment, and scarcity.  Even in the midst of pain and loss, to expect grace, comfort, and provision.

Now, I don’t think God is interested in the power of positive thinking as much as reshaping what I believe about the God I serve.

My negativity says that ultimately I do not trust God’s ever mindful, ever effectual love to be very loving or to be very good.

Will I ever grow up?  Will I ever learn to trust this God who has carried me every step of the way?   Will I ever begin to expect goodness and abundance?

Skin of an Elephant

We are creatures who live in a single skin throughout our lives.  Our own consciousness is embodied in a skin that grows wrinkly over time.  Our aging is obvious, no matter how much we try to resist it.

Our nearest cousins in terms of mammalian skin are elephants.

Can we be at home in our own skins, our own bodies, adjusting to the changes the various seasons of life bring to us?                                      Dwight Judy

Elephant skin?  Really??

Remember playing with the loose skin on your grandmother’s hand?  Or her floppy, un-toned triceps?

I have the hand skin thing.  I say it’s due to medication but it’s probably age-related.  And the triceps?  My trainer keeps trying different ways to work on them.

I can’t hold onto hand weights because my arthritis has damaged my wrists and fingers.  She talked me into buying black suede weight-lifting gloves.  Do they go with grey hair and black crop pants?

I sat at the bank drive-through today watching a young woman’s hand go back and forth.  It was all smooth and tan.  I looked at my own hands.

I remembered.

How many cloth diapers did they dunk?  How many sticky faces and hands and dirty feet did they bathe? How many tears did they wipe?

My hands don’t care what they look like.  They just try to do what I ask.  And I’m grateful.