Getting Older and Birthdays

I turned 67 today.  Of course birthdays have long since not been an occasion for the giddy excitement of childhood but I continue to enjoy having some amount of celebration.  At this age, with no siblings, husband or children and parents in their 90’s, it’s been slowly sinking in for the last few years that before too long no one will be around on that day.

I don’t dwell on it much, but until now, when I’ve thought of it, I’ve felt sorry for myself.  While it WILL be sad just not to have my parents and their pleasure in the fact I was born, I finally have re-defined something about birthday.

Right now my mother and I live together so she greets me with something she’s ordered and a “happy birthday” to start the day and my father calls somewhere after that, having sent a card with a check ahead of time.  So I’m increasingly contemplating the birthday when they aren’t here and how I want to spend the day.

They’re both getting ever more frail and I’m doing my best to see to it that both are okay though I can’t get to my dad very often at all.  Most of the time I’m just worried about them, so birthday and Christmas are the only two times I confront the frailty and what’s ahead and feel uneasy about life without them around.

A couple of times in the past when I lived far from either parent, I put together a small party, specifying no presents, but had a general impression people felt dragged into celebrating and I’m not really into parties so that’s not something I’d do again.

So far one of the main things, since I love really good food, has been seeing to it some sort of treat or special meal is on hand.  But looking deeper into the meaning of birthdays — and not wanting to try to fill empty spaces with food 🙂 — and whether they need celebrating and what would be meaningful for me I’m starting to envision future birthdays spent in contemplation, drawing tarot cards, possibly a spa or massage visit, and meditating on spirit and purpose and why I’m here and whether I’m living my purpose.  Really sounds more like me than a lot of the usual birthday stuff.

Something about creating my own vision for a different kind of day that doesn’t require presents and cakes and someone who says “Happy Birthday” as soon as I get up calmed the anxiety about that future that isn’t here.  And right now I feel so blessed to have parents who’ve made it to 94 and still celebrate as they can with me.

Growing Pains?

In my last post, I was feeling a little down about my struggles with making a huge schedule change.  I’m happy to report I was soon back on track but I have to tell ya, shifting your entire schedule by several hours is harder than it sounds.

Right now I’ve landed in a place where I’m routinely somewhere in between the schedule I’m aiming for and the schedule I used to have.  I’m counting that as progress and an accomplishment.  But this in between place also has some issues.

Way back when school and then working outside the home forced a schedule on me, I routinely had to get up anywhere from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. in order to get ready and accomplish whatever commute required.  I’ve always been a night owl, so pretty much every night I was awake till midnight or one, slept till the alarm dragged me up and headed off.

Lots of coffee all day long helped me to pretend I had energy.  Weekends contained many extra hours of sleep, trying to catch up.  While many things contributed to chronic fatigue for me, I’m quite sure many years of sleep deprivation is one of the threads.  Once I no longer worked on somebody else’s hours, my pretty natural schedule was more or less 1 a.m. to 9 a.m.  But when a combination of kundalini, prana bursts and wild muscle activity started interfering regularly with sleep over some years that schedule slowly morphed to being awake often until 4 a.m. or 5 (and sometimes beyond) and sleeping until 12 or later.

I’ve hated that for many reasons, especially in winter and even more this past winter when night vision problems kept me from driving after dark.  But as long as the muscles mostly ruled my schedule and kept me utterly exhausted I didn’t feel up to trying to wrestle the schedule back.

Now that I’m back feeling quite a bit better and with restored determination, the old 1-9 a.m. seemed attractive and that’s my aim.  Oy, though, trying to shift that much while also changing liquid schedule to stop drinking anything several hours before bed has been far more huge than I imagined.  And yes, the muscles in my faces haven’t finished with me; some nights are impossible…

When I can get to the 1-9, many things have a natural spot and I can see how the schedule will work well, but this in between moment makes it so awkward!  While I long to complete the shift to the new dream schedule, right now I just try to take a breath and appreciate how much I’ve accomplished so far.

I love having extra hours of daylight.  I love being ready to head out for errands earlier.  I love having time to take a nap (so far it’s been easier to get up earlier than to make myself sleep earlier) and still have hours of light left to enjoy.

Just thought I’d let you know I’m done whining… for now 🙂

I like my aging face

For some months now I’ve felt like I’ve been in some sort of hibernation/incubation mix, drawn to studying up on a bunch of current events issues and unsure what’s next.  Finally in the last couple of weeks a couple of epiphanies have arrived.  The first will take several posts so I’m writing up the second one to open.

Lately a number of articles and insights about aging have cropped up, during a spell when I’ve often enjoyed my graying hair in the mirror as well as appreciating my aging face.  They’ve had me contemplating myself as an aging woman.

Time Stopped

Aging has been an odd process for me.  Like many with a long-term ailment like chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia, in many ways my life froze at the point in my mid-thirties when normal life stopped.  For many years I had trouble conceiving of myself as having moved anywhere past that age.

At the same time, the process of moving toward wellness included lots and lots of bodywork and a faithful yoga practice combined with some other movement practices.  Once the process of aging caught up with me enough that I could no longer hold an illusion of being 34 🙂 I had transformed my body from stiff and pained and barely mobile to strong and lithe and flexible.

So I find myself at 66 with a body that feels younger than it did in my thirties and a face that clearly says “66” in a life that felt like a couple of decades went missing.

“Not Fair”

Clearly somewhere along the way I drifted from feeling 34 to seeing the aging reality in the mirror.  Having, in most conventional senses, lost 25 or so years, my initial reaction was, “Not fair!”

Alternating amongst angry and mournful and denying, I grappled with “losing” most of the middle of life and finding myself old and still struggling to get past all the health and emotional issues   Not fair!

Again, because my body was coming back to life and my muscles were serving me better than ever, denial became an easy refuge.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirror, I felt so much better it was hard to reconcile the “old” thing with the state of my physical being.

I never landed on anger or grief or denial for long and through it all I could manage to look at what I accomplished during those years and have a little re-think.

I Earned This Face

I can’t remember how many years ago I quit dying my hair (I’d gone prematurely white around my face in my early 30’s and, like so many, once I started, I kept going too long), but an appreciation of the gray look has been growing ever since.

Lately, as mentioned, I’ve been seeing a lot of photos and posts about amazing “older” women.  Soaking in the tub one recent day and pondering some of these “signs” I flashed to the image of my long graying hair when it’s down and my face with its wrinkles and the deep circles under my eyes that tell me my kidneys are still being squeezed by muscles and I’m not getting enough sleep.

Suddenly I felt love.  I earned this face.  When I look at the photos above I see a progression that may not be as visible to those who haven’t lived it, but to me is clear.

The toddler me is still open and bright; it’s a photo taken before I shut down.

By the time of the graduation photo taken at 17, my face is frozen and the muscle issues have already pulled my eyes back farther into my head than they should be.

The next photo, at 45-ish, was taken after I’d been doing spiritual work for 10 or so years, after going through the Fisher-Hoffman process work and I can see a little more openness, but, not having started work on the facial muscles, my eyes have pulled even farther back.

In the final photo — from last week — I see a face much more open.  My eyes have moved farther forward.  Not all the way yet, as final recalcitrant core muscles continue to work out of the web behind my eyes, but they’ve moved and appear more open again. Still in progress, but a visible confirmation of accomplishment.

I worked hard to move from the girl with the frozen face to the aging woman with masks removed and brighter eyes  I’ve faced into dark depths and wandered down entangled pathways from which I could not see a way forward.

To the outer world my life moved nowhere except from one U.S. state to another to another, but in my essence, at the core of my being, I have traversed a thousand miles of wilderness, facing down the lions and tigers and bears.

At 66 I stand on the brink of being the healthiest I have perhaps ever been.  I’ve jettisoned neuroses and useless beliefs and large pieces of what I thought was my personality.  I’m still not positive where the next phase will find me but I know I’m finally going to be living life as me and on my terms.

I earned this face.

Grateful for small steps

In my ongoing musings on thankfulness, lately I’ve been feeling extremely grateful for small but noticeable areas of progress in my long slow healing journey.  I’m back doing some regular tasks that most people would perform without a thought; and many would (or have) consider it shocking that some of this stuff went by the wayside.

But when the unwinding muscles and bursts of energy were keeping me from sleep 7-9 nights out of every 10 –on top of chronic fatigue and muscle issues– my ability to move pretty much disappeared.  Even simple household tasks were constantly procrastinated.

The main example that’s been having me grateful every morning is dishes.  With only two of us who don’t do a lot of cooking, the dishwasher doesn’t need to be run daily but there are items of daily use that need washing plus things not safe for dishwasher. It isn’t that much from one meal so I generally accumulate through the day so I can just run hot water once and do it all.

At the worst of the fatigue, I would be so weary and shaky in the evening that it wouldn’t get done.  Then in the morning I would get up not feeling much better than I did before sleeping and wander to a kitchen with the dirty dishes waiting– many of which had to be washed before I could fix breakfast.  Man is there something disheartening about facing dish washing first thing!

Somewhere in the last three years the sleep shifted a bit so now there are more nights when I get a decent amount of sleep and nights of only 2 or 3 hours are far less frequent.  When the shift occurred and I started trying to do stuff, I realized I lost incredible amounts of stamina during those do-nothing years.  So I’ve been slowly trying to work up more staying power.

Laundry gets done more often before the piles need to be divided into more piles.  More areas get picked up more regularly.  Errands get run in a timely fashion (and in the interim I now have to run all my 93-year-old mother’s errands as well).

Lately as I’ve wandered near the pristine and empty sink each day I’ve been realizing that I’ve been spry enough to do the evening dishes daily for so long I actually can’t tell you when the last time was I had to wash dishes before breakfast!

The house needs much more work — hours and hours of clearing and sorting.  I need to build more physical energy as I’m still startled by how little activity can leave me feeling drained.  But right now I’m just grateful for the small steps of doing more that have become normal.

My concentration for so long has been only on accomplishing the healing, it hadn’t occurred to me that there’d be such a long transition to accomplish from being too ill to do anything back to being a person who gets stuff done.  But it’s in process and that feels so good!

 

Feeling thankful

As so many of us do I’ve been reflecting on thankfulness and gratitude in honor of Thanksgiving.  Lately that always includes an especially strong feeling of appreciation for the friends I’ve made through this blog.

As I’ve pondered insights about being ahead of the curve in much of my thinking I’ve realized the great gift the Universe offered in nudging me to this blog and to finding others who are out there in the advance guard on compassion and peace and love.  I don’t know if some of you felt as much like you were out there alone and offering messages which fell on deaf ears but I sure did and having this group has meant the world to me.

So thanks my blogging pals, you add community and warmth to my life every day.

Outage blessing: a shift

A couple of weeks ago a big storm took out electricity for a couple of day (previous post) and then our phone/tv/internet service went down for a week.  When the electricity came back but the other stuff was still out I pulled out some DVDs to have something to watch.

I’d been drawn for a while to re-watch some “positive” stuff, like Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life” or “What the Bleep”.  But you know, have to remember how to get in DVD mode and find the stuff to watch, so it kept getting put off…  But with DVD the only possibility, the draw became compelling.  So I started with the Louise Hay.  As I watched for what was probably the sixth or eigth time since i bought it, I suddenly felt like a switch flipped.

Having been aware of her mirror work for years, I finally actually went through all the exercises in one of her more recent books about it a couple of years ago.  I enjoyed it and felt like it did some good, though years of work on similar things meant it didn’t feel like a big change happened.  But I’ve long been aware of a gap for me between my intellectual understanding about positive thinking and my ability to hold on to positive thoughts.

Many people I’ve known over the years have seemed to just flip a switch upon encountering Ms. Hay or Eckhart Tolle or whichever “you create your reality” guru they found.  It’s always amazed me that someone could turn it around so fast.  Sometimes I realized they became very good at saying only positive things but it didn’t necessarily mean they’d really cleared the negative thoughts or explored their origins…

On my journey I realized in increments over many years that lots of old personal and ancestral issues created endlessly looping negative tapes in my thought patterns and that I didn’t know how to turn them off.  It’s taken years of release work, self-examination and creating positive thought loops to progress slowly into a more positive mindset.

But suddenly as Louise and friends discussed loving yourself and mirror work, something in me went, “yes, of course, I love myself.”  I’ve been smiling and looking in the mirror to repeat variations of loving myself affirmations daily ever since and spontaneously looping positive thoughts through my mind at intervals each day.

I’ve waited a while to write about this, wondering how well it would stick.  Must admit the constancy of it has faded a bit over the course of a couple of weeks (probably time to watch the video again?), but by and large I’m still finding myself running affirmations through my mind and smiling into the mirror daily.

It feels like a big shift.  One that was fed by all the work on shifting, sorting, examining and changing that went before, but a shift nonetheless.  Quite a blessing to receive from an outage!

The week+ with no Internet or t.v. has also changed my viewing and on line habits a bit, as I actually watch instead of half watching more things, take more time away from computer and t.v. to read, cook, weed, etc.  I have to say, frustrating as it was, the blessings were greater than the inconvenience.

The Blessed Project 2017

Susie at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride has invited us all to create a post about our blessings and link to her post by Dec. 19.  Since I’ve been practicing gratitude and noting blessings, seems like a perfect project.

 

Another view from my spot

The last couple of years I began making a concerted effort to spend more time on our sun porch.  I love lots of light and our tree-surrounded house tends to be on the dark side except for the sun porch which not only has lots of windows and skylights but is blessedly the only area not shadowed by a big tree.

This year I managed to be really faithful about setting up for an hour or three of computer and/or reading and/or writing time out there most days and the light and airiness have really been a blessing!  Lifts my spirits and keeps the positive mojo working.

Ever since last year’s (U.S.) election, I’ve been focused on living from a place of lovingkindness and compassion.  I’ve been blessed to have learned many great tools for such a journey over many years and from some great teachers.  A number of teachers made videos and books available for free this year and I purchased some books that have helped as well.

As a long-time fan of Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness:  The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, I was pleased to add Real Love.  Louise Hay offered me a book on mirror work and I meditated with Deepak and Oprah too.  Blessings all.

Coffee Love

When the coffee revolution began in the 70’s, some of my college friends pulled me into the world of fine coffees. Honed over the years as I lived in the land of the original (and far better) Starbucks and was privileged to spend time hanging out in cafes in Europe, my taste is pretty picky and I LOVE a great cup of coffee.  I’m able to order really good coffee from La Coppa (founder originally worked for Peet’s and then founded San Francisco’s Spinelli’s –which I loved when I lived there) and my daily pot of espresso is one of my most treasured moments every day.

After seeing Paul Hawken on Charlie Rose (not a blessing, btw, to have lost the pleasure of watching his show…), I got his wonderful book, Drawdown, which outlines the path to ending the climate crisis and, most important, argues that the seeds have already been sown.  I found it so uplifting and encouraging, I recommend everyone to read it.  Truly a blessing.

For some years I’ve talked about heading to Henry’s Clay’s estate, Ashland, to take a walk once in a while.  This year I finally made it something like 4 times (hey, better than the 0-1 times previously 🙂 ).  Childhood memories link me to the place and my love of history finds satisfaction in walking the lovely grounds of this historic place.  Blessed that it’s so close to me and each walk was its own blessing.

L Perfume

One of last year’s Christmas presents was this little perfume with a prominent scent of tobacco.  I wrote a longer post about it,  but the short version is:  it reminds me of driving around Lexington in my childhood at certain times when tobacco dried in lots of barns and the sweet scent filled the air.