It’s my Birthday, and I feel compelled to write something about the changes in my attitude toward aging. Ok, I am 69 today. Yes, it does feel strange to think about the actual number. BUT, here’s the deal.
I am so very fortunate to have achieved this number. In French you say, literally, “How many years do you HAVE”? So, owning these years is an accomplishment. I have 69 of them; and I have lost so many good friends and dear relatives who have NOT made it this far, that I see myself as very fortunate. I have no need to hide my age or pretend I am not getting older. It’s a really lucky thing to have more years. I feel really blessed today.
It is important today to take stock of what is IN my life, as well. I have People in my life who love me. They show me this everyday with their acts of kindness and caring. Friends, relatives, and my own Family show me constantly how they are happy that I am in THEIR lives, too. How incredibly lucky is that? My circle of close friends is supportive and attentive and giving: marvelous, intelligent, hilarious beings, all. I have my daughter and my grandson, who bring joy and laughter to my days.
I also have the greatest DOG in the Whole Wide World. Theodore, know to most as “Teddy”, is smart, loving, forgiving, and has a great sense of humor. He is always up for anything I suggest, and stays close to me to keep me in line.
And I have my True Love. He is sensitive, compassionate, courageous, protective, creative, supportive, and brilliant. So, today I will have another Very Happy Birthday. What’s not to like?
The idea came to me recently that human relationships have qualities similar to the navigation of a boat. (Hmmmm….I wonder why I am thinking in marine terms these days?) Anyway, here is the point: to successfully keep a relation-SHIP afloat (see what I did there?), both partners have to be able to navigate the dangerous and challenging waters of Tolerance, Patience, Compassion, Forgiveness, and most of all, Difference. We all see and experience things differently; just ask most couples and you will find some extraordinary ranges of perception between them. So, how do we deal with these, often extreme, disparities?
I have asked friends and relatives about what happens when two people have diametrically opposed views on…let’s say…politics. The answer I have consistently gotten is: “we just don’t talk about politics in our home”. Sounded rather strange to me at first; but then, as I understood more about the give and take of a long term and deeply committed relationship, I got it. There is so much more than political ideology between the partners, that they can put that piece on the shelf, and go forward. Of course, there has to be a very strong bond in place; a bond that is built on many commonalities of world view, life goals, civility, respect, mutual admiration, and…oh, yes..LOVE. You have to really LOVE someone to make the kind of concessions required to steer this boat. Each of you has to be ready to give the other a break, take the helm, and move smoothly forward.
Not easy, you say? What if your husband’s kids are a mess? What if your Mother-in-law is a constant thorn in your side? What if you cannot stand your partner’s ex? All of these things are potential Icebergs in the Sea of Love. However, this is where the work lies. We all have be willing to regularly work on establishing more compassion and tolerance, IF we want to sail off into that wonderful Sunset of longevity with our partner.
I think we need to pull back, take a deep breath, and inhale the deep and resounding Truth that Love is all you need. Really. If you have enough of it, you will find the ways to accept the differences, respect the other person’s perceptions, and honor their spirit. All this is absolutely necessary to keep that vessel chugging along.
I have been thinking a lot about Brothers these past few weeks. When I was growing up, I always yearned for a full-time Brother. I had a half-brother, Ralph, from my Dad’s first marriage, who lived with his own Mother and visited when schedules allowed. The childhood photo above shows us in 1959 when I am 8 and he is 11.He turned out to be very bright, funny, and a solid citizen-much like our shared Father. We have stayed connected throughout our lives, despite being raised in separate homes; since neither of us ever had other siblings, I think we bonded early and fostered that relationship despite our distance and very different interests. He is special to me for many reasons.
I have also had the good fortune to be given many other Brothers; these are the chosen kind, not the blood-related kind. Over the years I have forged some very tight friendships with some amazing men who have become what I think of as my “Band of Brothers”. These guys are smart, talented, and compassionate people who have, for one reason or another, taken me under their strong wings and supported me. Sometimes they are people I can call to just talk through difficult times, or people I have to call when something hilarious, outrageous, or heartbreaking happens. They are always in my corner, which is such a comfort.
First there is Thom. We met when I was dating my then boyfriend (later husband), David. He was one of David’s best friends, and I could easily see why almost immediately. Thom is amazingly talented, very sensitive, and full of that special combination of compassion and integrity. I know I can call him anytime and he will listen, comment, and cheer me up just by being himself. We have shared heartache stories, single parenting stories, and so much more,that I almost cannot remember a time when I didn’t know him. Angels guided Thom my way early on, and I am so grateful.
Then there is Lenny. This Brother came into my life when I was twelve and working during school vacations for a florist where my Mom worked. Lenny worked there delivering flowers for a while during his college years at Portland School of Art. He was 11 years older than I was, so our friendship didn’t really start until I was in my twenties. At that time, he was a well-known local artist and musician. I enlisted him to play in a band that I put together, and our strong friendship was cemented. Over the years we have discussed every subject imaginable. He has come through for me in so many ways, from musical situations, to support for my many and various creative projects. I also became close to his Family, particularly his Mother, over the years. We are truly Scorpio Sister and Brother.
Craig came into my life through David, as well. He was part of the original Los Angeles gang of musicians and buddies that I met in 1971. But Craig and I developed a separate friendship based on common values and hard-won fights. Our struggles were sometime similar, sometimes not; but we have always had an innate understanding of each other that has proven to be a real blessing in my life. When I hear his voice on the phone, I know I will learn something from him, and I know he will really listen to me. This talented and special man is another Brother I love dearly.
There are other Brothers in my life for various reasons. Neil will always be a Brother who listens, analyzes, sympathizes, and sends love my way. He is bright, complex, and empathetic in so many ways. Mike is my dear pal who is like family to me: we learned to write together in High School and have kept up our strong connection for over fifty years. He is very smart, kind, uproariously funny, and a true Brother.
As usual, when I reflect on my past friendships, I realize how lucky I am to have the people I treasure in my life. My Brothers support me, challenge me, protect me, and cheer me on. I love all of them. Thanks, Bro.
I have always thought of myself as having a lot of self-control and good anger management. Lately, however, I am questioning this assessment.
For example, if I see ONE more article, post, or advertisement incorrectly using an apostrophe (either when there should be one, or when there should not be one), I may go postal. Seriously. When someone writes “I hope your feeling better”…I want to scream! Or how about: ” I have a collection of Santa’s”. Santa’s what? Leftover cookies? Anyway, these are reasons that some of my pals call me “Conan the Grammarian”.
Another thorn in my side is the constant loud and ubiquitous usage of cell phones. Unless you are a World Leader, Brain Surgeon, or CIA chief, how important is that conversation you are having? I mean, really? Does everyone at the supermarket need to hear about your latest bunion removal? Do we all need to know that little Kaylie won a trophy for attendance? Will there ever again be silent shopping? Isn’t the “music” played over the sound system torture enough? But I digress……….
If I made a list of the THINGS THAT BOTHER ME THE MOST these days, it would go something like this: The News. I now call it “Death, Dismemberment, Disaster, and Divisiveness”. I can no longer call most of it Journalism ( in which I have a degree). Scam Phone Calls. They are constant around all meal times, and becoming more and more cleverly dangerous. I really wish I could reach into the phone and grab the jugular veins. Too much? Remakes of movies and television shows. Some things really cannot be improved upon, and no one should try. Waiting for to see a physician. It is stressful enough that you have to be in the Doctor’s office for an appointment; it seems to be extreme cruelty and abusive treatment to have to wait for (sometimes ) hours. Maybe the physicians could offer free craft classes while you wait; that way you could have your appointment and leave with a scarf or potholder.
Maybe it comes with age, this intolerance. Maybe we get cranky because we start to feel that we have less time to waste, and every moment is precious. Or maybe I am just feeling the accumulation of a lifetime of small frustrations we all get to experience. I don’t know why, but I am more easily given to thoughts of slapping someone upside the head these days. I guess as long as I don’t act on it, I am still within the bounds of civilized society. Right?
Rituals are comforting. Winter in Maine is full of rituals, and I have come to see them as reassuring. If I were younger, these daily tasks and predictable chores might seem annoying and boring; but at this time I find them a consolation for enduring the dark, cold, bitter Winter days.
Each morning as we layer on clothing and prepare breakfast, there are birds and squirrels to be fed. My man puts on the necessary sweaters and hats and boots, and ventures forth, cups full of seeds in hand, and doles out the first of several buffet rounds for our furry and feathered pals.
I am in the kitchen, cooking oatmeal while watching out the windows to see who arrives first at the Maple Tree Smorgasbord. After breakfast it is time for a brief dose of what I now call “death, destruction, and division”….the headlines of the morning news. Two or three minutes in, and I can take no more, so I head for the warmth and escape of the shower.
As the day progresses there are meals to prepare, for both dog and humans. There are cleaning chores, shoveling, trips to the market, and as always.. laundry. There are at least two or three phone calls I must make to check on various family members and friends. I have my online business to take care of, and He has archeological work to organize. I have Writing to do, and He has Art to create.
When the afternoon sun reaches West, we slow down activity and watch the late comers feed on the deck. After dinner we unwind with an old sitcom and Jeopardy, keeping those Geezer neurons firing at top speed.
If I had read this ritual recitation at twenty-five, I would have yawned, laughed, and said ” How boring. They should get a Life”. But at sixty-eight, I have come to realize what is important: We need to nurture our most important relationships with those we love. We should try to improve our corner of the World in whatever small and kinds ways we can. We should do something that feeds our Souls every single day.
Often I think of the Zen Buddhist quote: ” Before Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water”.
Rituals are an acquired taste. Rituals are comforting.
Valentine’s Day is approaching, and I decided to write about LOVE. It’s a funny thing, Love. You may spend most of your life either looking for it or wondering about it; but when it arrives, you are almost always surprised. It doesn’t give a lot of warning. It just shows up with a parade of crashing cymbals and blaring trumpets, overwhelming you with new sensations, sounds, and feelings. Then, it moves next to you with a quartet of strings, softly swaying your heart and soul. Soon it becomes a somehow familiar melody that keeps running through your mind. Ultimately, you succumb to the joyous music and it penetrates every fiber of your being, until it becomes a part of your every breath and thought.
I have been in Love before. I have also been infatuated, had crushes, and been in varying stages of lust before. But when the REAL THING comes along, it is very, very different. This Love is the greatest gift of all, because it is transformative and all-consuming. Every single atom in the Universe takes on a new meaning, and the simplest of actions or events have significance. I now have a greater sensitivity to the beauty around me in Nature, in Humankind, and in the vastness of the Cosmos.
I am sure there are cynics among my readers who will assume that this is hyperbole, or that I am looking through rose-colored glasses. But I am here to tell you that this kind of Love actually exists. I am experiencing it daily, and I am as flabbergasted as can be. I have not known these feelings before, and so they astound me.
Those of you who are already familiar with all of this may chuckle with recognition, or sigh with fond memories. But for those of you who, like me, have spent decades wondering if this Soul-Mate kind of Love can really happen…….please take Heart. Literally. Because it can, and does happen.
I hoped and dreamed for years that someone would come into my life and really understand Me. Someone who really gets me. Someone who loves me the way I love Him. Well, he arrived.
Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. I will leave you with this quote which the remarkable Vladimir Nabokov wrote in a letter to his wife:
“You came into my life-not as one comes to visit…but as one comes to a kingdom where all the rivers have been waiting for your reflection, all the roads, for your steps.”