As a young woman I mostly remember feeling too fat, too rubinesque, too tall, too feminine… I was an independent and carefree spirit who didn’t need anyone to be happy on this planet and looking so striking made me nervous.
Looking back at the pictures of my youth, I see a stunning and beautiful smiling face looking at the camera, always laughing and having a good time.
Now that I’m older I feel more vain and aware of my looks, as if what is left of my “beauty” is fading fast.
I cried and cried because here I am, feeling vain about my youthful beauty that I never appreciated, while the women and men who have lost their hair and their carefree existence thanks to cancer, have nothing to look forward too.
And then I cried some more because I’ve recently lost my dear Aunt Ellie to cancer, and Frannie, and Melinda’s mom…and I just have to accept that I need to fall apart once in a while. I like to cry, and have been finding it hard to let go lately.
So I’m drying my eyes and I’m feeling more fragile and more human and more thankful for this gift called life.
Because that is exactly what it is – a present every single day.
Thank You to those at the Mimi Foundation for doing this project.
You think the 50’s and 60’s will be a time for us women over fifty to refocus on our own hopes and dreams. As baby boomers, the children are raised, and hopefully, financially independent. It’s time to question the need of the big house with the big yard, a time to reassess, revamp everything from daily life to long-term plans.
But, for so many of us, tragedy shows up and wrenches our lives apart — heart attacks, breast cancer, the stark realization that your finances are not in the state they should be for pending retirement, or worse: an out-of-the- blue death or divorce.
We’ve read much about recovering from a death, or divorce or cancer, but when it strikes in the 50-60’s, you’re more vulnerable, for you are no longer young, and less flexible because you are no longer young, but neither are you old enough to expect death and, divorce after thirty years of marriage seems as unlikely as losing an arm. It’s hard to go home to Mom and Dad at this age, although I’ve seen it done under the guise of caring for them.
There are paths back to wholeness and life. The following techniques will vary in appeal depending on your beliefs and personality, but those who have traversed a personal crisis successfully have utilized them, not necessarily in this order, not really in any order, and sometimes, all in the same day. And, remember — time is the ultimate healer.
1 .) Meditation- People who don’t meditate often say it’s because they don’t have time. But when you go through a trauma, time seems to lag unbearably. This is a good opportunity to start or build your practice. Start with five or ten minutes and work up to half an hour. Sit up comfortably (if you lie down you may fall asleep) and watch your breath go in and out. If thoughts intrude, gently push them away and continue watching your breath. Sounds too simple to matter, but this practice will center and calm you. For more about meditation, Google Deepak Chopra. Also, pilates and yoga offer a moving form of meditation.
2.) Spiritual – There is nothing like a trauma to make you wonder about God. If you open yourself at this time, you will likely find God in whatever guise you perceive him. Suffering seems to open the channel in a way that being happy or content just doesn’t.
3.) Nothing– There seems to be a whole lot of what feels like “unproductive” time, time that you can’t account for. Daydreaming? Crying? Moping? Whatever — do it. Allow yourself to be unproductive.
4.) Gardening – There is something about promoting life in any form that gives a primitive knock on the soul and mind that not only yes, life goes on but that life is a magnificent, driving force that will not be thwarted. For me, the visual for this is the daffodil or tulip that forces through the asphalt.
5.) Walking– Exercise and endorphins, yes, but walking offers a means to wake up to the world, the neighborhood and what’s going on, the beauty of nature, the feeling of the breeze on your cheek.
6.) Reading – The self-help books do help, so do spiritual ones, but the best are probably the laugh-out-loud ones. For me, that’s Carl Hiaasen.
7.) Be with Friends and Family– You’ll think they don’t understand what you’re going through even though they try, and you’ll be right. But they want to be there for you. When I went through my particular trauma, my closest friends started Sunday Supper, a time where we all got together for a couple of hours, to sip wine, cook and chat. It turned out to be a comfort to them as well.
8.) Change of Scenery – Get out of town. Go somewhere far from your usual haunts, somewhere out of your comfort zone. Everything will feel so unfamiliar that your pain will take a break due to shock.
9.) Routine – And, conversely, find solace in your daily routine. Filling the bird feeder, sweeping the front porch, feeding the dog, and, if you don’t have a job, volunteer somewhere where you can leave your own troubles behind.
10.) Moving forward – Without realizing it, you’ll eventually begin to feel some forward movement. You may continue to relapse into sadness or dismay from time to time, but the push forward towards life is a natural given, if you just let it happen.
From the forthcoming book, Breakdown in Swannanoa, available as an e-book in June of 2014.
Only a few weeks ago, I wrote about how overwhelmed I was feeling. Well, actually, I’ve posted on that subject quite a bit. In fact, it’s a pretty common theme these days with us baby boomer women. But, after spending ten glorious sunny days in California, I feel somewhat renewed. No whining for me for a while. I guess more vacations are in order.
My nephew’s wedding at the Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon was beautiful as was his bride, Noelle. Her family came in from Hawaii and it was great meeting them as well as their Bernese Mountain Dog, Walter, who was actually in the ceremony. What an event. My sisters and I rented a cool house in Santa Monica for the week, and although we didn’t always agree on little things like what bread to buy for the house, or which coffee is better, it was wonderful spending time with them.
In Santa Monica we went to a cool flea market with wild stuff, stuff I don’t see too much in Asheville, like tons of vintage clothing and art deco furniture. Then my nephew took us to the Santa Monica Food Truck Lot where we feasted on Lobster Rolls, Peking duck tacos, and even curried fries. Yummy. Then, there was the Getty Museum which I had never seen, and how lucky was I to stumble up on a Vermeer exhibit?
Once the festivities of the wedding were over, I visited two friends I hadn’t seen in years, and what a treat that was. One friend took me to the Shoah Foundation (founded by Spielberg) after Schindler’s List where I discovered my dad’s s cousin had given a four hour interview/testimony about her experience in Auschwitz. I will write about that separately, when I can process that experience of just listening to her and what happened to many members of my family.
To end on a happy note, we finally got a puppy. After losing both our dogs several years ago (you remember, Gus and Carli), we found our dear little Chesapeake Bay Retriever from an incredible breeder only 40 minutes from our house.
So, let me introduce you to Whiskey Creek’s Terra Cotta – 11 weeks old. You’ll be hearing a lot more about Terra in posts to come. She’s pure joy – well almost. Still potty training her…
So I pondered night after night on how to introduce myself to you. I finally decided I would begin with the present and work my way back. Most people describe me as a creative, energetic, a self-starter, and a highly motivated visionary and entrepreneur who loves the Lord. I am also well known for my gift of hospitality, a field of work I enjoyed for over 25 years. In short, I would say I am called to love, lead, create and serve and I do this in various ways with the various roles and positions.
Having turned 53 last June, I find myself now newly married for the first time, a daughter with 2 siblings, a business owner, corporate coach, health leader, community organizer, workshop facilitator, speaker and friend. This is what I do. And yes, I’m part of the baby boomer generation.
So what do I believe? Most importantly I believe in God; I am a woman of great faith and hope. I believe people are basically good and that we are all born with at least one gift that allows us to be prosperous. I believe in love, a deep passionate love of family, friends, and our life’s work. I believe in support, coaching, teamwork, lifelong learning, mentors, diversity, girlfriends and REST. In fact, I hope to be known as the Queen of REST.
I love God, my husband Chuck aka Dr. Blues, chocolate, spa-ing, brownies, traveling, girl movies, fine hotels and resorts; dining with friends, life changing sermons, dancing to great music, a good spy series , great conversations with fellow visionaries, and last but not least, I love to pray and to relax with my sweet dog, Ella Fitzgerald Robinson Beattie.
I hope to connect with you on many levels. I will be sharing my thoughts on my favorite topics: leadership and faith. I hope to be a carrier of goods news and encouragement. In fact, just call me Elaine, the midwife of hope. This is perhaps a good place to pause until next time. Always remember these words: “I surrender, I win!”
I’ll start with my daughter. I was still eating chicken when she was born, so she grew up on that classic American child diet of spaghetti and chicken fingers. Around the 10th grade, she decided to become vegan. That was about six years ago, and it was much more difficult to be vegan then: no veggie burgers, no great websites like gardein, no cashew cream, no vegenaise.
I struggled to find things for her to eat–mostly pasta with olive oil and whatever vegetable, such as broccoli or asparagus, I could cajole her into eating. I wondered how she would survive in college, but, lo and behold, she chose to go to a school that served up a vegan menu for visiting students’ day! I vividly remember her gleeful description of their vegan pesto pizza. Only one problem: the school trotted out those vegan selections only on visiting days. They craftily ensnared her in their overly expensive system for four years: four years of battling the food system there and spending an equal amount of dining hall dollars at the local Whole Foods. (At one point, I even tried in vain to get the school to let her be on the commuting students’ dining plan, since she rarely found anything she could eat in the dining hall–and, even when she did, she’d later discover that it had been labeled wrongly or that the cooking staff had no understanding of the difference between vegetarianism and veganism.)
But she survived, and, as a result, has a strong interest in food issues and students’ rights. She spent the last year and a half working with Real Food Challenge, an organization working toward a just and sustainable food system by empowering students to enact change in their college dining halls. (I still remember one of her successes. The excitement came through in her text on the train ride home: “THE DINING CAR HAS VEGAN VEGGIE BURGERS!”).
Finally, the world was coming around to her way of thinking, and life was becoming easier around our dinner table. Vegan cookbooks appeared, and all the little secret substitutions to turn a regular recipe into vegan became common knowledge. There were even frozen food options by the score when you didn’t feel like cooking from scratch. Yes, life was good, and it wasn’t that difficult to cook for my husband and feed my daughter at the same time.
Then my husband went on a diet.
This was a terrific idea, long in coming. By the time he started, I’d long given up on trying to get him to eat better and focused more on keeping our dogs from getting harmed by anything he might be consuming, such as chicken bones or grapes. The diet has now been going on since October, and he’s dropped 30 pounds, and I’ve become the queen of salad–and not just your average, dump-the-bag-salad-on-the-plate-and-add-a-tomato variety. No, I’ve felt obligated to make things interesting, add almonds, raisins, artichokes, pears, feta, and those little orange segments whose name I can’t remember (yes, Jane, this is what the 60’s are like!).
Whatever may come next must be predicated by the best damn salad you’ve ever had. But–because of the diet–along with all of this necessary forethought, I’ve lost the ability to fudge dinner. No more luscious grilled cheese sandwiches at the last minute. No more homemade pizza, no more spaghetti, sob. My husband is thinking of food all the time because he’s starving, and I’m thinking of it because I’m trying to figure out what he can eat. Oh, and did I mention that my daughter doesn’t like salads that much? Are you beginning to get the picture of the war going on in my head each night over dinnertime?
I can either cook for him or for her but not really so much for both of them at once. My husband loathes beans; tofu makes him squeamish; and when his sons come to visit, I hear them grumbling about the almond milk in the fridge. And that brings up a whole other nightmare: two big, big, bigmeat eaters, who, when visiting with us, slip out in the night to purchase their ice cream or in the morning to get a Bojangles fix.
Worst of all: with my husband’s new diet comes competition for the foods I like. Whereas I used to get a bag of dates and savor them for days, now they get carted off to his work or just disappear altogether. I can’t keep apples in stock, and why is it that he can’t eat the older ones first and not take the prime new ones as soon as they appear? I reach for my morning banana to add to my oatmeal, but they’ve all disappeared in the night. And just as soon as I join in the game and restock sufficiently, my husband’s tastes change, and I’m stuck eating three boxes of clementines that he’s no longer touching. The irony here is that I’m not dieting, but I’m sure I’m thinking about food as much as (if not more than) he is.
Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been neglecting my daughter at mealtime, so tonight I made the lentil soup from the great classic Moosewood Cookbook and leek fritters from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (find the recipe if you click here). (Thank you, Sadhvi, for a comment in a column long ago aboutsmittenkitchen.com). My husband had the barest of tastes of each, but my daughter and I enjoyed both until we sat satiated and content. One more night down. Nothing to worry about until tomorrow!