Category Archives: Getting Older

The Thrill of a Second Chance

Martha Carr, author
Martha Carr, author

My fifties started with a bang.  I jumped out of a plane, following behind the person I was interviewing for a book.  As soon as I was clear of the plane I felt myself relax and one clear thought came to me, “You’ve done it now, you might as well relax.”  If I was going to hit the ground, I might as well enjoy this last minute.

I landed successfully and stood up with another clear thought: Stop doing anything that isn’t working.  There was a long list.  My entire way of thinking up to that point was to try and make sure everyone else liked me, no matter what the consequences.

By the time I turned fifty, I was more of a chameleon than a human being and I had no idea what I liked to do.

As a writer, I was all over the map.  Fortunately, it turned out I had some talent that over time became stronger.  But as soon as I was headed down one path, someone would point out how I could be getting ahead faster if only I changed direction.  Doubt would set in, and I’d let go of the plan that I had and set out again.  Frustration and resentment built as I blamed others for why I wasn’t getting ahead in my life.

However, just a few months after that skydiving trip I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given one year to live.  One month later, an unrelated cancer was found that took a good part of the skin on the lower part of my face.  Suddenly, all of the outward need to please others fell away and I was able to give myself permission to say what I was really thinking, and stick with it.

The cancer didn’t spread any further, something the doctors only have ideas about but were never able to explain.  No matter, the entire episode, which included having to learn how to walk again, transformed my way of thinking and then my life.

I started out in life being told that I was part of American royalty. I am the great-great-great-great-niece of Thomas Jefferson, named for his sister, Martha Randolph Carr and with that came a certain responsibility.

I interpreted that as a responsibility to look a certain way but had no idea what would be the most acceptable or virtuous front.  Over the years it became whoever I admired or at least saw as successful and I’d change to match their vision of me, as I saw it.  I wasn’t running my own race as much as playing a part in a lot of other people’s lives whether they even knew it or not.

2ndchanceGetting a second chance at being alive changed that and as usual, it’s reflected in my writing.  I finally started writing a thriller series, The Wallis Jones Series that focuses on a woman a lot like myself who’s doing a pretty good job of building a life until she finds out that she’s part of a legacy she can’t just leave behind.

In The Keeper, the second in the series, Wallis finds out just how deep those family ties go and realizes running away won’t work anymore.  There are a lot of people who have an idea of the right thing to do but Wallis has to find out for herself her own definitions.  It’s going to take faith in herself and those around her like her husband, Norman and her tween son, Ned to find peace again in the middle of a dangerous situation.The Keeper front cover

The legacy of finding out that our roots are legendary is not to try and appear as if everything is alright.  It turns out that my fifties gave me the gift of learning how to live up to the past by creating my own future, even if it doesn’t look a thing like anyone expected, including me.

Gift Giving, Thank-you’s, and all the Rest

Annice
Annice

I’ve been thinking a lot about gift giving lately.  Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of it in June.  Birthdays, graduations, baby showers, Father’s day, new jobs, retirement, and just a lot to celebrate.  Coupled with all those celebrations and gifts, I have noticed the lack of thank-you’s over the years and that makes me feel sad.  I know I shouldn’t expect anything in return when I give a gift, and believe me, that’s not why I give, but what about a simple no frills thank you letting me know the gift was in fact received?   I find it embarrassing to call to find out if my gift ever arrived.  And, if it was a check or gift card, why do I have to log into my bank account to verify if my gift was debited, leaving me with the feeling of having just paid my utility bills?  Don’t get me wrong, I have lowered my expectations – I certainly don’t expect a hand-written note.  Heaven’s no!  They are somewhat inconvenient to write and then there’s the stamp and the post office.  But, how about a voice mail or even a 3 letter text that says thx?

Giving Gifts

Thank-you starts with parents teaching little ones what a gift is, and that a gift is not a requirement.  It is not an obligation to give either, and one is not naturally entitled to receive a gift.  This is an important lesson in giving and receiving, not to mention gratitude. I will admit that Baby Boomers (and generations before us) learned to write thank you notes at a very early age – in fact, as soon as we learned to write.  But since kids don’t actually learn to write anymore, I’m very willing to accept a digital note.   Something!  Anything!

I am not totally alone in my thoughts.  I have conducted a very informal survey and talked to women over 50 who have told me if they don’t receive a thank you (in any format) – they simply stop sending that person a gift.  One friend had a great solution for the non-thanker.  The next time she is “expected to give a gift,” she makes a donation to her favorite charity in that person’s name.  What a concept. kidtocamp

Here is what Cicero has to say: 

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

Let me know your thoughts – am I unrealistic?????

The Enlightened Poppy

Oriental Poppy Stand
Oriental Poppy Stand

 

I wait and watch every spring to see where the poppies will appear.  No, not the Oriental Poppies (pictured) because as we all know, they come up from the same basal root year after year. I must say that this year they are putting on a spectacular show, and as a poppy lover I am just thrilled!  I know this is not the first post I’ve written about my poppy joy, but I just can’t help it.  They don’t last long, and they are so beautiful.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have any children, because I am sure I would have named them “Poppy Joy”, “Oriental Poppy”, and/or “Opium”.

That sense of excitement of not-knowing is only attributed to the “Breadseed Poppy”, because those are the ones that come up from seed…here, there, or someplace else.  And they are all about to open!  I always find them coming up in my garden beds someplace different every year, and I like that because it is kind of crazy and not expected.  I can remember back in 1994 (hey that’s 20 years ago) when I made my first garden in Switzerland, it was so very neat and lovely with flowers all around the edges.  Along with getting older and letting-go of so many things in my life (including that perfect order in my beds), I kind of let the garden have its own life, with me just giving water, some food, and some tilling (oh, I almost forgot the weeding part, which I call “yoga”).  I just planted some blue bachelor button seeds in one of the beds, just because I love the color “blue”.

There is one poppy coming up and about to open in the next day or so right under the chicken run.  I don’t know what color it will be, but how I love surprises!  I saw it coming up under the flowering quince bush a few weeks ago and had to clip back some of the branches so that that one poppy will be able to get the sun it needs to open.  I hope I can get a good shot of it with my camera, because I am sure you will want to see it as much as I do.

Oriental Poppy
Oriental Poppy

 

Already we are around 15 inches or so under the amount of rain of what we had last year at this time – so far so good.  After last year’s sad 70+ inches of rain, my gardener’s heart almost broke in two, but once you have the experience of smelling the witch hazel, the lilac, the rose-scented daffodils, and the calycanthus after winter, and just seeing the flowers, the roses, the peonies, and then tasting the basil, the lettuces, the cucumbers, the parsley, the cilantro, the gooseberries, the raspberries, the swiss chard, the beets, the mints, the carrots, the roses, the peonies, and of course, the beloved tomato right off the vine, well, how could there not be a garden in my life, even if I get old and can’t move very well.  It is absolutely essential for me to anticipate joy in my daily life, and that is what a garden brings to me.

In Love,

Sadhvi

Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature. The first recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless. They not only had a scent that was delicate and pleasing to humans, but also brought a fragrance from the realm of spirit. Using the word ‘enlightenment’ in a wider sense than the conventionally accepted one, we could look upon flowers as the enlightenment of plants.  — “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle

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Red Poppy
Red Poppy

A Retiring Mind: Part IV: Amoke’s at it Again

Amoke Kubat
Amoke Kubat

My retiring mind is on the mends.  It’s a fighter!  I’m on the other side of a health crisis. Physical conditions finally identified, and I have clear directives for maintaining my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

My days begin in deep gratitude.  I wake up.  Others don’t.  I’m not in pain.  I herd bottles of pills around, vitamins and minerals and one for blood pressure, until I get them all down, generally needing 2-3 cups of tea to do so.

tea time

I make it my job to laugh at least 3 times daily.  The shaking, hurting belly laughter, you know, that breaks out from between your legs, whereas you just might pee yourself, if not sling snot, piggy snort or cry.  Sometimes I laugh at myself.

I’m at that age where you have to have TESTS and PROCEDURES that nobody really wants to talk about: example, the colonoscopy.  At my appointment, I arrived feeling confident about the necessity for this procedure and what to expect.  I balked upon entering a very crowded waiting room.  My ticket was number 26.  I took a seat and summoned my big girl attitude.

My name was called.  I was ushered to a room, guided through changing into a gown and positioning myself on a table.  I would watch the exploration of my guts on a big screen.  I thought the whole thing to be cool, like my own Magic Science Bus adventure.

I greeted and asked the doctor, “Have you really seen 25 assholes today”?  She blanched but continued her preparations.  Her nurse struggled to keep a straight face.  My excitement and curiosity blinded social decorum, “What kind of doctor are you?  What did you have to study”?  I continued my own bedside banter.  The doctor muttered something about gastrointestinal something or other.  She was quick, thorough and seemed surprised that she didn’t discover nothing from rooter to tooter.

Fast forward.  Last week, I began a more aggressive response to the arthritis along my spine’s lumbar region.  A young physician and two assistants injected epidurals into my lower back to shrink bulging herniated disks and relieve pain, spasms and numbness in both legs and feet.  I was positioned face down on a table.  My pants were rolled and tucked to reveal the small of my back and a behind that gives “mooning” a whole new concept.  Think, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart” (as in cardiac arrest) or “Bad Moon Rising”. They informed me about possible discomfort as the series of injections begin.

As the team worked, they chatted about a ten dollar taxable bonus check gained for their personal healthy health practices.  What could you buy with less than ten dollars, they lamented.  The physician, young and slim said, “SUBWAY”!  She loved SUBWAY!  They discussed in details the variety of breads and endless combinations of meats, cheeses and veggies.  Mind you, I was being stabbed in my behind. They asked if I liked SUBWAY.  I told them about how I loved a very carefully constructed BLT Footlong on wheat, with spinach instead of lettuce.

We were all done in about 20 minutes.  I was sat up, stood on my feet and given after-care instructions.  Did I need a wheelchair?  I bristled.  I was independent and capable.  I stepped, and my right hip swung like a wagon turning a treacherous corner.  Tried again, and my step produced a swagger and a slow dragging foot.  I walked like a pimp! They assured me this would pass.  I told them that I really hoped they wouldn’t think of my butt every time they went to SUBWAY.  We laughed. I t wasn’t the socially polite and awkward giggling but deep women’s laughter.  I accepted the wheelchair.

Despite trekking along a path I never imagined to take, I remain really optimistic.  I take my vitamin L (for laughter) as often as I like, it’s addictive!  It’s real medicine.

She knows it, too.

Amoke Kubat

I’m a writer, artist and community elder living and working in North Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

I Hate How America Looks at Aging

Jane I think I may have mentioned how much I hate it when young people in stores or restaurants  call me things like “sweetie” or “honey.”  And it isn’t even the term they use.  It’s more the way they say it.  Am I being paranoid to think that they say it more to me than to my husband?

It seems to me that, in this country at least, people have a warped view about people aging, in general, but  a doubly warped view about women in that phase of their lives.  I have trouble not making this kind of thought chain in my head:   we have a general fear about aging, therefore we are obsessed with looking young; and, since women tend to be the focus of any obsession around the subject of looks, we get especially scared about women losing their looks because that might mean that any one of the rest of us could also get old and eventually do the “d” word!

I’m sure it’s all tied up to our fear of death.  I’m wondering if it’s also tied to our fear of losing our mothers!  Who knows!  I’m probably getting too far afield here, but I know the following:  we don’t like death, and we don’t like aging.  We prefer for people to just go on looking young forever,  getting face lifts or competing in old-people sports events that make us all feel invincible.  old women in sports

And one manifestation of all this fear is that we apparently don’t like for women to have any dignity in old age, at least if our movies and tv shows are any indication!

Here’s my evidence:

1) Have you noticed the number of videos on YouTube that are of dancing grandmothers?    They are very popular and very embarrassing.

2) Have you noticed the way we portray aging women on television or in the movies?  I admit I liked the characters in The Golden Girls when that show was on tv, but the writers at least managed to keep things real even when portraying or creating some stereotypes.  But ever since then, it’s been downhill.

3) Please, save me from one more old female character in a movie or on a show who does any of the following:  a) flirts with a man a quarter of her age in a very sexy way b) does outrageous, physical things  that defy reality or c) has potty humor that isn’t funny.  It seems to me it’s mostly female characters that end up with this kind of script, but correct me if I’m wrong.  I’m just thinking of the painful moments on screen I’ve witnessed. Probably the one that sticks in my head the most is the horrible, terrible scene in The Wedding Singer with the rapping grandmother.  HELP!!!

4) When was the last time you went to a movie that portrays a grandmother (or grandfather, for that matter) who isn’t, what is that word everyone loves, oh, yeah, feisty? What happened to the stereotype that used to be in the movies, the Aunt Bee grandmother-type who bakes cookies and rocks babies to sleep?  We’ve replaced her with tough-talking, sarcastic old birds who live by themselves and chop their own wood or foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, “cool” grandmothers who love to make sexual innuendoes.

What I would give for one thoughtful, intelligent old woman, maybe even one with normal aches and pains.  She doesn’t have to be bedridden or dying or out of her mind.  She can just be a normal person, living life and showing the effects.

If Robert Redford can go off in a boat and be the only person on screen for an entire movie, let’s at least give Betty White ten minutes of dignity on the screen!  And let’s please please please come up with some better female role models for aging gracefully!