Be Patient

autumn-10484_1280I write a lot of things and never publish them, so here is something I wrote close to a year ago.  Much remains true.  I’m still not patient enough, although I am feeling better 🙂

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Be patient.  I heard that a lot when I was growing up, whether waiting for dinner, for a birthday, for Santa, for school to start or end, to get my license (I was the youngest in my class), to go to college, to finish college, to finish law school, to get married.  I remember my grandmother’s surprise when I announced at age 23 that I was engaged.  “Well,” she said, “I suppose you’re old enough.”

Waiting has never been a strong suit of mine and I never did learn patience.  This past couple of years I have been really trying, and what I’ve learned along the way is that patience actually hurts.  I’m talking about soul-wrenching pain, where I consciously tell myself to breathe in, then out, in a deep and physically noticeable  way.  Often I cannot stop myself and impatience wins, generally not in a good way.

I haven’t done any writing lately.  These last six months have been difficult for me and my little family and I just haven’t been able to figure out what to say.  I feel almost guilty writing about how hard it has been for me, as I know so many people out there have faced much worse.  Most of what has happened during this time has been positive:  my son graduated from high school and decided to postpone college to pursue ski racing; we sold our home in the mountains and moved back to Denver so that my husband and I could actually live together on a consistent basis; my son moved to a new town, with a new team, got a job and is learning that growing up doesn’t get easier as he gets older; and I had surgery in the middle of all of that.  It should have been a relatively straight forward recovery from removing my gallbladder.  It has not been.

They say that moving is one of the most stressful things we can have happen in our lives.  Our the move was really hard.  We loved our home.  We loved much about living where we were.  We knew it was completely impractical.  We considered staying another year, while Riley raced out of another town.  Had we been PATIENT, maybe we would have done that.  Financially it would have been a stretch.  Emotionally it seemed like it would be hard to be split apart for another year.  Looking back, the emotion of moving combined with my post-surgery illness was probably the more difficult route.

I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I mean that quite literally.  I am sick and I don’t know why.  Since the surgery, I have suffered extreme fatigue, low-grade fever and other ailments that I won’t go into because you, Dear Reader, really don’t want to know.  As a result, this move was really taxing, and I cannot seem to BE PATIENT so I pushed myself to set up our home and get it furnished and make it a place we want to be.  I have no idea whether this has exacerbated my illness (since I don’t know why I’m sick, it is hard to say).  I have tried to get back to some sort of exercise routine and each time I work out (even just a little) I am shattered for the next three days.  The surgeon claims my illness has nothing to do with the surgery (really?!) and I’m hoping some lab tests will help solve the riddle.

I really, really want to move forward.  I have visions of long ski weekends with friends this winter, of restarting my career, of a big house warming party at Christmas time.  Today, I’m feeling completely defeated because I have no idea whether I will regain the strength to do those things any time soon.

I am trying really, really hard to BE PATIENT.  To breathe deeply in and out and wait for healing.  To sit on the couch and rest when I want to be riding my bike.  To let the house be just a house for a while because, really, it isn’t going anywhere.  If this is my new normal, I am going to need a little help adjusting to a slower, patience required life.

 

 

 

 

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The Old Saddle Just Doesn’t Feel Right

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My excuse for this years-long break in my career chain is coming to an end.  The boy who is chasing dreams on the ski hill will soon be chasing different dreams at college.  He doesn’t need me for moral and nutritional support the way he once did (although the financial requirements continue unabated).  It is time for me to reclaim my life.  I march back to Denver, where I think I might find it.

A former professional, hard-driving (that’s a nice way to say it) attorney, I jump back into the fray of what I used to do.  I put myself out there, my resume listing all the great things I have done for past employers in embarrassingly measurable detail.  I shore up my self-confidence and submit myself to an interview for essentially the same job I once had.  I am in a video-conference site (because that’s what the cool recruiters have you do these days) and look at the image on the screen of the woman who would be my boss and I just don’t.  I don’t want it.  I don’t care about why she should want me.  I see the few-years-ago me in her and I am sad.  I do my best to feign interest and enthusiasm, but we both know my heart isn’t in it.

The last half-decade of my life living in the Colorado mountain air has changed me.  My heart is different.  I am softer, more of a mother, less of a shark.  I have volunteered in classrooms, hiked with friends to talk about tough life stuff, given more hugs, been more present. I have ridden my bike over mountain passes and back, breathing in both oxygen-depleted air and God’s beautiful creation.  I’ve listened to a lot of country music, along with the boy’s hip hop and (truly awful) gangsta rap. I have been surrounded by people who made choices to be happy with less, live in the moment, enjoy the sunshine and be grateful for fresh snow.  I have sat, tears flowing, in a gym where young hearts mourned the loss of a 15 year old boy who had personified life.  I have loved more than I have ever loved before.  The long-term growth objectives of a corporate non-entity just don’t carry the same level of importance that they once did.

I head to a local organization that works to prepare public high school kids for college.  My spirit is bouyed by the hope, fears and futures reflected in their eyes.  I answer their questions about what it takes to be an attorney, while secretly praying that they won’t lose themselves in the process.  I remind myself that they are not me.  Their paths will be unique.

I recognize that I must shift gears to match my new self.  I don’t know what that means.  I don’t know how to change course in the middle of life like this.  Is it doing what I did before but in a different way?  Putting this new skin of mine to good use as a more effective me?  Is it a new direction altogether?  Do I become the book store-lurking, public radio-working person Randy Newman sang about.  (If only I could write lyrics like Randy…)

Apparently I just can’t pretend to be the person I once was. Time to put on my big-girl panties and figure it out, because getting back in the same old saddle just doesn’t feel right.

 

 

 

Wait a Minute ….

 

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Patience may be a virtue but it has never been a virtue of mine.  It’s a failing.  I hate to wait.

I’ve had some practice in the last year or so with my twice-daily walks with our aging pug.  He cannot see or hear and it takes him quite a bit of time and effort to find the exact right spot to take care of business.  He cannot be rushed.  I should be getting better at this. I am so not getting better at this.

Lately, my challenge with patience has been pushed to its limit.   Our family is in a holding pattern.  It’s no one’s fault but our own and it is something that we could put an end to but we have consciously decided to wait and see.  As with Heinz ketchup, the waiting is the hardest part.

There is a point in the near-ish future where we will not be waiting.  We will be seeing.  And doing.  It’s not that far away.  But as each day goes by, my patience is more and more threadbare.  It’s beginning to unravel.  The thing is, the possible outcomes from all this waiting are all pretty good ones which, in theory, should make it easier to wait and see.  But I’m so darn ready to do something that I’ve kind of lost sight of the fact that, in the words of Bob Marley, everything’s gonna be alright.  Let it go, already.

My son is in the vortex of this waiting game.  I am trying so hard not to be an annoying gnat (or am I more of a horse fly?) circling his head.  We have promised him we will wait.  We will see.  We should make good on that promise.  We will.  I just may not have much sanity left by the time we get there.  I hope at least one of us does.

<I also hope that you hear Bob Marley singing in your head after reading this, rather than the Heinz commercial or the song from Freeze ….>

Time is an Asterisk: Reflections on UnMommy-ing

I’m smack in the middling place.  Middle America, middle class, middle age.  I wear size middle.  Lately I’ve come to realize I’m mid-cliche.  I’m moving from cliche mommy to cliche mother of a college kid.

In my normally clouded life view, I am still young and vibrant, my life stretching endlessly ahead.  And then I see the mothers of elementary school children and realize that they CANNOT RELATE TO ME, as I am the mother of a senior in high school.  I’m baffled, because I fully relate to them.  After all, my son was 10 just a few months ago (93 months, but let’s not dwell on numbers, shall we?).  When those moments of clarity strike, sharp reality blinds my (I recently learned) cataract-ladened eyes and I squint at my wrinkling and spotted hands with wonder.  David Byrne’s voice flits through my head …  HOW DID I GET HERE?

I took my son to visit some universities this fall, as he considers the next phase of his life.  I spent years of my young adulthood at two of the schools, and they felt foreign and welcoming all at the same time.  I found myself walking past the dorms and dilapidated student houses, feeling that I should be back there with the students, filling a weekend with house parties, football and trips to the library.  Somewhere, close enough to touch, I am still that college girl.  The one who loves to dance and do tequila shots.  The one who hasn’t a clue what her life will become and dances anyway.

I watch my son, as he absorbs this new world, and I am conflicted.  Part of me is the toddler’s mom, who wants to keep him safe from the dangers that I know are there. Part of me is the serious, let’s-not-lose-sight-of-education, this-is-not-about-the-parties mom.  I know that soon I will become the college kid’s mom.  The one he rolls his eyes over when I send him 10 texts in a row because I haven’t heard from him in a week.  The mom who takes him and his roommate to dinner and then leaves, thank you very much. But part of me is also his friend, who wants him to experience college the way it should be.  I want him to love to dance (hopefully he doesn’t love shots too much …) and who hasn’t a clue what his life will become and dances anyway.  I want him to explore and question and fall in love, to have a professor nudge him toward an interest he never even considered.

This is the process of unmommy-ing.  We hear a lot about empty nest syndrome, but this is pre-empty nest.  This is anticipating what the next phase will be, letting go of the roles that we each have played and learning new ones.  This is hoping that we’ve taught him what he needs to know, because time is short.  Soon he will know it all (and then, hopefully, at around age 25, he’ll realize he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did).

The other night, he told me about some incident at school.  Later, when I’d crawled in bed, I panicked a little — had I ever shown him what to do in that circumstance?  Did I need to tell him now?  Never occurred to me …  I made my way to his room and sat on his bed and told him what I thought he needed to hear.  He smiled in a somewhat strange way and said, “Seriously?  Why are you telling me this?  Mom, don’t you think I figured that out already?  Geesh, this is awkward.  Can I just say, I’m so glad we never had the sex talk.”  And then I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh.  What is he telling me?  Maybe I need to have a sex talk with him … I mean, what should I say?  Is he expecting something profound?  He did have health class, right”?

Let it go, I tell myself.  We are in the middle.

Look where my hand was
Time isn’t holding up
Time is an asterisk
Same as it ever was…

Summer Take-Away

Summer rocks.  Hard to say that I love it more than a crisp Autumn afternoon, a perfect bluebird day on the slopes or a morning full of spring blossoms, but as seasons go, summer is my favorite.

I’m an Aquarius, sign of the water bearer.  I’ve always been a water baby and I still love the water — being in it, on it, by it, watching it.  I also love warm.  Campfires, evenings on the deck, hikes in the woods, rides over the hills.  Summer time, and the livin’ is easy.  School’s out for summer.  Yay!

School is back in session and 2015’s best season is coming to an end.  What did I learn this summer?  To focus on where you want to be.  Hokey, I know.  It was a key lesson in a June mountain biking clinic, and it has been floating around in my mind ever since.

As a rule, I don’t mountain bike.  It always seems really hard and I tend not to like being ground into rocks and dirt when I inevitably fall and I’m a grown-up so I don’t have to do something I don’t want to do.  Right?  Well … I should be open to new things, I thought.  If someone shows me how to do it and shares all those little secret tricks that obviously all the mountain bikers out there know, maybe I’ll like it.  And so, my friend and I signed up for the clinic.

Day one was basics in a parking lot.  We rode around, up curbs, tried some wheelies.  Finished up with a drink at the Dusty Boot.  This mountain biking thing isn’t so bad …  Day two, we were on dirt.  They showed us how to look ahead, anticipate, trust the bike.  Check, check, check.  And then we went on a little trail ride, stopping off here and there to learn about obstacles and switchbacks.  We were faced with our first real hurdle — a little ramp over a log.  To one side was a bunch of tree branches and rocks.  “Don’t look where you don’t want to be,” our guide told us.  “Focus on where you are going, where you want to go.”

Our more experienced riders jumped easily over and rode on.  No problemo.  My friend geared up for the log.  “You got this,” we said with bright smiles.  And then she looked down at the brambly mess.  It felt like slow motion.  As she got to the top of the log, her head turned toward the place she most certainly didn’t want to be and the bike followed.  Ouch.  Confidence shaken, she had several more spills over the rest of the ride.  Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Ever since, I’ve wondered how many times I have focused on where I didn’t want to be rather than the trail ahead.  How many messy and painful places have I careened into because I couldn’t keep my eyes forward?  I wish I had taken a clinic like this at age 15.  And again at 21, 30, 35 …  You get the picture.

Bad stuff happens.  It is inevitable.  As a planner and an over-thinker, I can focus way too much on how things can get worse, rather than the way out.  Rather than the way things can and do go right.  As the leaves start to change colors and summer sighs her last beautiful breaths, I’m trying to take to heart what I learned in that clinic:  hold on, loosen up, keep your weight centered, absorb the bumps, trust the bike.  Look toward where you want to be.

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A Rebel Without An SPF

fist-681848_1280Remember when you were a kid, and growing up couldn’t come fast enough?  You wanted to be an adult, make your own choices, no one telling you what to do?

But now that you are an adult, have you noticed that there are a lot more people telling you what to do than when you were a kid?  Used to be it was your parents, an older sibling, your teachers … now just about EVERYONE seems to have an ideal of what you SHOULD be doing and how to do it:  your politics, your faith, your marriage, your parenting, your skin care regimen.  Eat more kale, less bread. Organic this and hyped-up that.  Sleep more, sleep less. Drink coffee, drink wine, don’t drink wine, drink coconut water, wait, scratch that, pomegranate juice!

I just figured out that I took a stand against the YouShould-ites this summer without consciousness or conviction.  At some point along the way, I stopped using sunscreen when I’m out and about, hiking and biking and whatever-ing in the sunshine.  I confess.  I know it’s stupid.  I’ve lost a friend to skin cancer.  I know, I KNOW.  I’m a pale skinned woman living at altitude.  I KNOW BETTER.

And yet … when I religiously cover my skin up with protection, at some point I miss a spot and I get a horrible burn in that one little spot.  But if I let it tan naturally, I don’t get nasty burned patches.  And I’m old enough to engage in risky behavior.  Some people smoke, I expose my skin to cancer-causing rays. I am flossing more, though.  My new dental hygienist scared the crap out of me at my last cleaning.  She said I’d been doing it wrong my whole life and told me how to do it properly …

Odd Satisfactions in Life

cream-194126_1280We have accumulated a lot of stuff.  This is a first world problem and I want to say right away that we are blessed beyond measure and I am so grateful for our life.  It’s just that, over the years, our blessed life has generated an abundance of things.

Some of this accumulation is due to the strange course of real estate sales and purchases in the last 5 years or so.  At the beginning of this time period, we owned a 5500 square foot home with three car garage in Denver and a ski condo in Copper Mountain.  When we decided to move our son to the mountains to ski full time, we sold the ski condo and bought our 3200 square foot mountain home.  We sold the condo fully furnished and took only our personal stuff: soap, shampoo, hair dryer, etc. and linens/pillows/blankets/towels.  Since my husband and I were commuting to Denver, we weren’t sure whether to keep the Denver house or downsize, so we furnished our mountain home and bought stuff for it.  About a year later, we sold the big house and had to figure out what to do with all the stuff in that house.  Everything.  Furniture, TV’s, electronics, personal items, tools, cleaning supplies, you name it.  We already had a mostly furnished, well-stocked smaller home in the mountains, so this was a challenge.

Eventually, we rented an apartment in Denver as our home base down there, so some of the stuff found a home.  The rest, we pretty much crammed into our mountain house.  And it’s okay for the most part.  The most abundant items I’ve been working my way through over the years are cleaning supplies and personal items like lotion, soap, shampoo, hair dryers, hair products and medicine.  And towels.  For some reason, we have a whole lotta towels.  Cabinets full of them in the laundry room.  Some are well-used and appropriate for dog washes, but the rest …. they are perfectly good.  Do you know how long it takes to use up towel reserves?  Neither do I.  I’m still working on it.

I am trying my best to use up the excess stuff.  I celebrate each time I push the pump on a lotion bottle and it spurts the last glob onto my hand.  Praise Be!  Another bottle down, 999 to go.  Recycle bin time!  I really don’t want to throw things away if they are still perfectly good.  That bottle of aspirin looks just fine to me.  So what if it “expired” four years ago?  “When I was a kid, things like aspirin never expired,” I exclaim with righteous indignation as I tap out a few to try to mollify my migraine.

We are working our way through the boxes of Band Aids that now hold only the weird sizes that are no good for any normal person’s cuts and scrapes.  When one of us is injured, we cobble together a few of them and throw some medical tape on for good measure and I gleefully glance into the box and think, only five more to go — woo hoo!!!

Sometimes I do recognize that this strange obsession of using up stuff has gone a little too far.  My son is 17.  I still have a few partial bottles of Children’s Tylenol in the cabinet.  They expired a very long time ago.  In a pinch, though, won’t a good swig of the stuff have some effect on a grown-up headache? (Yes, Mom, I know that this is not good logic and I will dispose of the bottles soon.)

The other day I noticed that I have a remarkable supply of eye creams.  Over the years, those sets of skin care regimens I purchased always came with eye cream.  Despite my best intentions, I don’t ever use it.  It just seems like one more thing that I don’t really have to do, so why bother.  (And please no remarks on how my crow’s feet are evidence enough that I never use eye cream ….)  The important question is:  what am I going to do with them?  I paid a lot of money for those special, magical potions.  So, I Googled  “Can I use eye cream as a facial moisturizer?” thinking that no one would be so gauche as to actually smear the costly stuff on foreheads and cheeks.  Fortunately, everyone has already thought of everything and put helpful tips on the Internet and I got thousands of search results.  Some said no way, that eye cream would either be ineffective or actually harmful (!) to other skin areas. Others said, sure, go for it.  I had my answer.

Just as soon as I use up the remaining bottles of face cream (thank God they don’t have expiration dates … wait a minute, they just might … whatever) I am lining up those bottles of eye cream and using them on my face.  So there.  By the year 2020 I just may have used it all up.  Yay!

Whoooops!

It’s my auto utterance whenever something doesn’t go the way I expected.  It’s kind of embarrassing now that my son has made me aware that I say this.  It’s a sort of ingrained, instinctual thing that I cannot control.  Salmon filet falls to the ground next to the grill:  Whoops!  Baby falls backward in his chair:  Whoops!  Glass of milk spills all over the place:  Whoops!

I am air born due to an icy step on our deck:  Whoops!  followed quickly by “ughmph … uhhmmm ohhh ouch,” as gravity pulls me back down, ribs first, into the step.

Can I just say first off that it’s May.  This happened on the 7th of MAY.  Yes, I live in the mountains and it can snow well into June (July if we’re insisting on honesty).  But really?  My deck should not have been covered in ice.  Also, for the record, it didn’t look like ice.  It looked wet.  It had rained all night.  Logically, the deck should be WET, not ICY.

So, I lay sprawled across the step, in my fleecy bathrobe, one flip flop on, the other one somewhere in the yard.  Wilson made his way to my head and sniffed my hair.  “Thanks for the support, dog,” I mumbled.  “I wouldn’t be here without you.”   My son wasn’t due to wake up for another hour.  I either needed to drag my sorry whoopsied self back in the house or settle in for a cold sunrise.  Up I got.  I don’t know who ever thought “gingerly” was the right way to describe someone moving in pain.  I creaked like the rusty Tin Man with a knife in his back.

I managed to get my coffee, then shower and finish out my Junior Achievement volunteer commitment for the day.  Since returning home that day, I’ve been a pathetic lump, groaning with each wrong move.  Nothing is broken.  I know this because my family made me go to the urgent care place Friday morning because they were sick of listening to me whine.  So now I have good pain meds which are supposed to help me sleep but don’t.  Waaaah.

The best things in all of this:  My husband took fabulous care of me all weekend, and since today is Mother’s Day, it was ok that I just sat in front of Netflix all afternoon.  Also, I learned that our ugly Lay-Z Boy recliner is absolutely AWESOME.  I have never sat in this thing as much as I have the last three days.  I am in it now.  My life may never be the same now that I have discovered the joy of Lay-Z Boy.  La la la.

The worst thing:  I was just starting to get my legs back into biking mode.  I’m thinking that melting into an ugly recliner for several days in a row will not get me up Vail Pass anytime soon.

Whoooops.

Where Is Super Pug When You Need Him?

Where Is Super Pug When You Need Him?

Better with Age?

balance-110850_1280Some of you weren’t out of diapers 20 years ago.  For those of you who were adults in 1995, what were you then?  Are your views different now?  Do you think you’re a better person?  Hint:  It’s okay if 20 years of living hasn’t produced an improved version of yourself.

A friend recently asked his Facebook universe whether our life views had changed over the last 20 years and in what ways.  My mind immediately went to ways that I may have grown and somehow be better than I used to be.  And the responses my friend received (numbering well into the hundreds) were along the lines that I was thinking.  They all recited the life views that had become more accepting, less stark, more understanding, less judgmental, more thoughtful, less knee-jerky.  In other words, “better.”

We are supposed to gain great insights, enlightenment or whatever as we age, right?  Huh.  Yes, most of my views on politics, religion, friendship, marriage, career and parenting have changed over time.  How could they not?  But am I somehow better here at 47 than I was at 27?

Twenty-seven was a time where the glow of youthful ignorance and exuberance haloed everything around me.  I was certain in the rightness of my views.  I was comfortable in the knowledge I believed to be true.  I was ignorant of the ways that life’s river water would tumble my hard, this-is-the-right-answer, edges away allowing the flow of life around me to be a bit less frothy.

Twenty-seven:  married a few years, working my buns off as an associate attorney at a large firm.  No kids, but my student loan debt and a mortgage made me feel like I couldn’t run fast enough on that treadmill to keep up.  My horizon was pretty limited.  I couldn’t see past the hours upon hours and days upon days of grueling work.  The blinders were beginning to come off, though.  For the first time I experienced the raw reality of gender inequality.  I felt growing demands with less support and I watched myself become someone I didn’t much like. Short with my assistant, grumbling, exhausted.

My thoughts on the world around me then were fairly simple.  I believed hard work was a sign of strength.  I thought people generally wanted the best for each other and society.  I was quick to be critical of others’ shortcomings or apparent small-mindedness (in my own estimation, and evaluated based on my own skewed perspective).  In truth, my world was small:  working, eating, sleeping and some play.  I was still enjoying the luxury of an acceptably selfish existence.

Here at 47, my world is again fairly small.  The large career I chased has been shelved.  I am focused on home and family, perhaps to a fault.  My thoughts on the external world, the politically charged issues of the week, tend to be more based on a personal perspective than a political platform someone somewhere else dreamed up in an attempt to get somebody elected.  I recognize that very few things in life are simple or straightforward.

At 47 I am more accepting.  I am more aware of other people’s situations.  I’m less aggressive about being right.  But I’m also still trying to find my way.  For example, I now recognize that I regularly beat myself up.  At 27, I regularly beat myself up but I was not conscious of it.  So I’ve got that going for me.

Am I “better” now?  In some ways, maybe.  Still, part of me misses the simplicity of 27.   And my less-creaky joints.

How about you?  Unless you have been in deep freeze in outer space (yes, I recently watched Interstellar) you are not the same person that you were 20 years ago.  Is that a good thing?

Hairdresser Generation Gap

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You know you’re getting older when you make a pop culture reference to your new hairdresser and realize she wasn’t yet born when that culture existed.

I don’t talk much when I get my hair done.  Back in the day, when I held down a hefty job and was raising a small child, it was a blessed break in which I lost myself in back issues of People and Us magazines.  I warned any person new to doing my hair that I preferred quiet to chit chat.  The hum of hair dryers, music and conversations in the background lulled me into something of a zen state.

I still prefer not to idly chat with my hair person.  It’s nothing personal; she is lovely.  I just find it odd to go two months between appointments and then blather on as if we’re old friends.  And, in my introverted world view, I assume it’s a nice break for her not to be expected to carry on a conversation about upcoming vacation plans and family visits.  I’d guess that she couldn’t care less about the idiosyncrasies of my daily life.  As long as I show up on time and pay her a nice tip, it’s all good.

Sitting in the chair at the salon last week, tin foil folds sticking out all over my head, Pandora played 80’s music in the background.  I don’t know why they had chosen the “oldies” station, perhaps out of deference to the assumed tastes of their clientele (me).  To our great entertainment, the toddler son of another patron really liked it.  He bounced around in front of us as Sting pleaded, “Don’t Stand So, Don’t Stand So, Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”  And I thought about my growing up decade, and I thought about my hair, and I joked about how she could imagine how big my hair could get, back when hair was meant to be big, given how thick and curly it is.   And I realized, after her awkward laughter, this is another good reason why I just shouldn’t talk at the salon.  I had referenced an era as foreign to her as Motown is to me.  She knows of it, in a sort of vague, my-parents-get-nostalgic sort of way.

When I was growing up, my neighbor Mrs. Duffy would go and get her hair “done” every week.  A wash and set.  I remember that she went to a beauty “parlor.”  It was old fashioned, even back then, and I imagined that all of the hairdressers at the parlor were older ladies.  But now I’m wondering if she did that because they were her people.  They understood her pop-culture references.  They shared the same era, experientially speaking.

Now that I’m <ahem> a woman of a certain age, perhaps I need to find the 80’s and early 90’s version of a beauty parlor.  Someplace where they wear sparkly spandex, head bands and leg warmers.  Where everyone gets a perm, along with mousse and toxic levels of hair spray.  Where I can make a Magnum PI reference and they won’t think it’s a big bottle of merlot.

To Wrinkle Or Not to Wrinkle

heart-401499_1280The lines on my forehead are becoming more pronounced, and a few crow’s feet dance at the corners of my eyes.  I have sun damage “discoloration” on my cheeks.  I’ve noticed more blue veins in my legs than I used to see.  More than any other area, my hands don’t look like mine any more.  They are all crinkly.  It’s really dry here, and yes, what They say is right, the sun does do a number on exposed skin.

So, I ask myself, do I attempt to whip back these signs of the inevitable, lion tamer-esque,  or do I let them carry me on down the river of aging?  I admit to coloring the greys for quite a few years now.  But somehow, it hasn’t occurred to me to do something about the other stuff until recently.

I don’t have to have soooo many wrinkles in my forehead quite yet.  I could Botox them into motionless submission.  I could zap the veins in my legs, laser my cheeks, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I don’t see a problem with any of it in any sort of philosophical way.  We do things all the time to look different, why not nip and tuck a bit?

What has prevented me from taking any affirmative action in this direction is not a moralistic high ground, but a lack of energy.  It takes time to make the appointments (not to mention cash), and I just haven’t gotten around to it, much like my mammogram that I should have gotten a few months ago.  I know, I know, I’ll do it next week.  I do manage to get to the dentist every 6 months, I think because the necessity of that particular time frame was drilled (ha!) into me from a very young age.

And so, when the topic of wrinkles came up a while back with my son, his reaction to my possibly injecting something into my skin was a bit of a shock.  He wasn’t just opposed to it.  He was close to apoplectic.  “How could you even think of doing that, Mom?  I will disown you. (HA!)”  As far as I can tell, he views this as some sort of fraud, that I’ll be pretending to be something I’m not.

I began to wonder about this.  Why do I care?  Like Popeye, I yam what I yam.  I guess vanity gets the better of me?  But why not look “my best” from here until the end?  My grandma wore a wig.  My entire life I never saw her without it.  She was highly concerned that she have it on when she died, lest anyone would see her exposed, so to speak.  What’s wrong with that?  She lived well into her 80’s, stood at least 8 inches shorter due to osteoporosis, and wore old lady sandals and polyester dresses, but, bless her, she had her wig on when she died.

Where Is the Other Side of This Crossroad?

italy-634155_1280I’m interrupting a half-written draft of an article containing musings about business’s lack of focus on their customers due to short-sighted financial reporting.  Sounds fascinating, right?  It’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s not holding my attention this afternoon.  So, here I am writing about me instead.

I recently decided it was time to shut down my little law practice.  I’ve been at it all by my lonesome for close to four years.  It’s been a good, flexible arrangement that allowed me to work from home, bring in a (little) income and recover from some emotional scars I picked up in a prior life. It has been a good touchstone for my lawyerly career roots, but it’s not what I do best.  And, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago in a thinly veiled blog post, my heart isn’t in it.

Our family’s situation is a little odd.  We live in a resort community.   My husband works two hours away in Denver during the week and my son is living his high school years on the race hill.  Through circumstance more than a conscious choice, I am the mostly at-home parent.  When I left my big, hefty grown-up job in 2011, I didn’t know what would be next.  It soon became clear that I needed a break from high-pressuredness and my husband was fairly terrific about supporting whatever direction life sent me in.   And then I was fairly fortunate to gather a handful of clients and keep my fingers in the pie, so to speak.

Nevertheless, it feels like I have been at a crossroad for going on four years.  It hasn’t been stagnant and I regret none of it.  I’ve settled somewhat, my son is growing in all ways and generally in good directions.  I’ve had the luxury of being here almost every day, of thinking, of writing, of spending time with friends and family and traveling with my husband and the Kid. My law practice, for all of its benefits, is also preventing me from looking ahead.  It is my little safe place but I don’t belong there.  It is time to put one foot in front of the other and trek forward on my own life journey.

Part of me, way in the back recesses, wonders what the next phase will be when I’m not needed here, when the Kid embarks on his grand life adventure outside of our family, when I’m ready to jump back into the soup of everything else.  I’m ready to follow my heart instead of my head, to do the thing that best fits me and my gifts.   I don’t know where the other side of this crossroad is or when it will get here, but each day and each decision, including this one to stop lawyering, brings it closer.

Lifetimes of Learning, and Then *Poof*

Well, this may be a little morbid.  Or a lot.  Please accept my apologies in advance for writing about our inevitable demise.

At the post office yesterday, I noticed a woman maybe fifteen or twenty years older than I preparing an express mail cardboard envelope.  She had a label, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper that looked to have been printed from her computer.  It appeared that she was returning something to some on-line retailer.  As my imagination went a little wild considering what she was sending back in that little envelope, I noticed her carefully measuring and folding, with great precision and the back of her thumbnail, the paper label so that it fit the envelope, just so.  She had a roll of packing tape neatly next to her.

I moved past her in line, got the package I was waiting for, and left.  I didn’t have a chance to see her tape the label onto the envelope and send it on its way, but the entire rest of my errand running (and apparently still this afternoon, as I write this), I thought about everything we learn throughout our lives and how one day, poof, all that learning and ability will be gone from this earth.  Somewhere during her life, that woman had mastered the skills necessary to measure and fold that paper and attach it and get the parcel wherever it needed to get to.

I know that seems like a small thing, but think about it in the context of all the other things we do in our lives.  Over our lifetime, we learn to do great things and small things; to comfort a crying baby; to catch a ball; to swim; to write technical papers; to sell software; to banter, sing and sharpen and knife. And for all of that to disappear when we take our last breath, well, I don’t know what to think.  I’m not saddened, as I know that part of living is doing, learning and experiencing.  I think I feel a little sense of responsibility to the people who may live longer than I.  You should know what I know, feel what I feel …. But then again, why?  They will have their own knowings, their own feelings.

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Generations from now, no one will think twice about my lifetime of learning and my little accomplishments.  I will be remembered, perhaps, with a headstone that lists born-on and died-on dates.  It won’t say, “Sarah knew how to draft a damn good disclosure document.” It won’t explain what it takes to learn, at 46 years, how to stay up on a slalom water ski.  There will be no mention or care that I had a weird, sick sense of humor,  or these bizarre thoughts on living and not living while standing in line at the post office.

 

When Did Phones Cross the Line from Useful to Overwhelming?

When watching ski races, conversations with other racer parents, known or unknown, often go in fits and starts.  We are all checking the start lists, refreshing Live-Timing on our phones for the last finish time, making sure we haven’t lost a glove, shivering and saying hello to people walking by.  At Winter Park this weekend, another racer parent sat hunched over his phone, grumbling about the lack of internet service.  “I’ve had good coverage here all season,” he says to me or to no one in particular.  “I guess the crowds are eating up all the bandwidth.”

I looked over at the excessively long lift line of President’s Day weekend skiers and shrugged.  He was probably right.  That or the clouds were in the way.  He was trying to get the results of the first run of the men’s World Championship slalom race.  He finally got some coverage and expressed frustration that the page, slow loading as it was, didn’t have what he was looking for.  “I’m sort of over my phone,” I said.  A wry smile crossed his lips.  “Yeah.  It’s almost too much to keep up with.  And it’s so annoying when I can’t get a signal.  When it works, there is always something to check on or download or whatever.  I get a little overwhelmed with it sometimes.”

And there it is.  Maybe it’s generational and just us middle-agers feel this way.  I mean, most people who are a decade or two older never really plugged into the constant-on of technology.  I think it’s still the norm for my mom to leave her (non-smart) cell phone off unless she is going to make a call.  I’m not sure she’s ever sent a text.  Dad doesn’t have a cell phone.  But it’s all good for them.  They use what they want how they want and who gives a crap if they never learned how to turn on a cell phone.  The younger generations, X, Y, millenials, whatever-they-are-called-past-that, they grew up with this constant information availability.  The expectation to be checking in all the time is just normal rather than overwhelming.

I’m also over the tangled or too-short power cords, ear buds that go missing, quickly depleting battery, and the messages from AT&T that my data usage is about to exceed the plan that I was assured would be more than sufficient for our family of three.  Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out what the best “deals” are, or that my phone, which is less than two years old, is already decrepit in its technology, or that the power cord from my even older iPad no longer works to charge my iPhone.

I don’t have the job of a senior manager any more.  I’m not expected (not that this should be the expectation for our professionals, even though it is) to check email or voice mail or whatever 24×7.  But I still do.  It’s a weird obsession that has me a little concerned, frankly.

There are those who take technology vacations.  They turn off their phone and unplug their computer for a day, a week or a month, and “find themselves” again.  They become the free, unconnected people we were born to be.  I haven’t been able to do this.  I think I have some sort of subconscious fear that when I find myself, I will be irrelevant and boring.  Not that anyone will notice; they are all too busy checking their phones.

Whatever.  I’m certainly not alone, as evidenced by Mr. Grumbly Pants next to me on Sunday.  Maybe I’ll create an I’m Over My Phone support group app.  Download and it’ll drain your battery like nobody’s business and message you several times a day to remind you that your obnoxious phone is taking over your life.

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Do-Over?

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Remember in elementary school, when you messed up in a game at recess and you could call out “do-over” and you’d get to try again?  Do you have any moments, decisions, or experiences in life for which you want to scream “do-over”?  Have you looked back on, say, college, and thought, “Man, I wish I could go back and do that again, knowing what I know now”?  Having reached this place of mid-40’s, the prospect of a life do-over comes up from time to time, either in conversations with friends or in my own little thought world.

Some things I never, ever want to do over.  Junior high, for one.  Horrible.  Awkward, confused, looking out from under a mess of permed hair.  No.  Even knowing what I know now, I couldn’t do it.

There are some things, though, that I do think about.  In fifth grade, we got to join the concert band.  We were given the choice of which instrument to play.  I wanted to play the drums.  They were SO COOL and I wanted to bang away on them.  But when it came time for me to choose, my mouth said, “flute.”  Girls didn’t play the drums.  Seriously, I remember that thought going through this head.  I played the flute for five years.  The piccolo, too.  I was pretty good.  But … I would have rocked those drums.

In high school, I could have joined more, done more, lived more.  And maybe taken a few more risks with my teachers, exploring thoughts and ideas more than I did.  I could have been a better friend.  I could have taken more ownership of my future, rather than letting it happen.  I could have taken up the guitar, to complement my prowess on drums, and formed a rock band. Joan Jett, eat your heart out.

I do knock myself upside the head with some of the choices that I made in college.  What was I thinking, choosing to major in “Business Administration.”  Is that even something?  I loved Economics and couldn’t major in it because I swore off math, specifically Calculus, in my Freshman year.  What?  My grown-up self would shake that little 17 year-old body and say, SUCK IT UP.  Other things in college, like never taking advantage of the fabulous arts the campus had to offer, not joining a sorority, not joining much of anything really, I also regret.  If I’d only opened my eyes a little more.  And I’m not even going to start on that decision to go to law school.

Some parts, I did right and I’m happy that I did.  Like living in France for a summer.  Check.  Mark.  I lived, I experienced, I explored. I survived emergency surgery when I was all by myself in Munich, followed by the trains and planes trip back to the U.S. on crutches  … a story for another day.

I married the right guy, for sure, but I would take a wedding do-over.  It was gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, and I couldn’t have asked for more of a fairy tale day.  But I was worn out.  The Big Day was a week after I finished and graduated law school. My do-over would have us tying that knot quite a while later.  Maybe without the bridesmaids who I haven’t seen more than twice since.  And I would have dancing.  And, somehow, a beach.

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My career path could have a lot of do-overs.  But I don’t dwell on those much, other than to wish that I could tell my hard working younger self to take a breath.  To walk away sometimes.  To look around.  To recognize when I was really good, not just when I didn’t think I was good enough.

Mostly, I reflect upon the risks I didn’t take.  The times I played it safe rather than rolling the dice.  Those are the do-overs I’d like.  The heart-in-your throat times and the why-nots, those are the did-it-good moments, even if the outcomes were not the best.

I remember when I was young, I told my dad that I had never made a major decision in life where I didn’t feel at peace afterward.  I didn’t yet understand that afterward is a very long time.  I’m not suggesting that I regret the life I’ve lived so far.  To the contrary, it’s been quite a ride.  But for some things, especially those drums, I’d still like to call out, “DO-OVER”!

The Golden Technology Age Has Turned My Finger Green

gears-179861_1280Password memory hell.  Online prescription refill drama.  Mobile check deposit rejections.  Compromised credit card that handles all the recurring payments.  Cell phone battery from 35% to dead in 10 minutes.

Remember the first time you had to come up with an online password and it was your birthday so you could always remember it?  Remember when your password didn’t expire?  Remember when you only had one?

Remember when cell phones didn’t exist?  Or when they were so expensive to use you didn’t dare, so they sat there dead and no one cared?  Now it goes dead, almost as soon as it’s unplugged, and you’re completely cut off from . . . something really important I’m sure.

Remember when you just went to the bank to do anything that had to do with money?  When men were men and checks were checks?

Remember when you could call customer service and talk to someone who lived in your hemisphere?  Who you could ask to speak to a supervisor and they didn’t hang up on you?

Remember when you could just go to the pharmacy and refill the prescription that you take every day and will take for the rest of your life?  Now you get your drugs through the mail in 90 day chunks.  A challenge when the on-line pharmacy doesn’t list you with the rest of your family, even though you’re the only one who has ever gotten a prescription filled since the insurance coverage started.

Sometimes I spend all morning working very hard at accomplishing absolutely nothing.

15 Minutes, Twice a Week

Over the last month or more, I’ve been going to physical therapy a couple of times a week to try to get my shoulder to behave.  You may recall my whiny post about getting the cortisone shot, and these visits are all part of the Grand Plan to get rid of the pain and avoid surgery.  Even though I’ve begun to lose faith in the Plan, I still regularly go to see Neil, the PT.

Neil is a nice guy and all, but I’m beginning to question why I go back.  Am I one of “those people” who craves the one-on-one attention he has to give me because I pay him to?  Maybe, but it seems like this would have manifested earlier or in some other way in my life, perhaps by being a therapy junky or something.  I hated counseling specifically because it was all about me, so I’m pretty sure that’s not why I’m going to PT.

Is it the way the shoulder feels following PT?  I don’t think so because it never feels all that great, even when I leave.   The “massages” often bring tears to my eyes and not in a good way.  Neil makes me do little range of motion and strengthening exercises with stretchy bands and very light hand weights, all of which are much harder than one would expect they should be.

And then, at the end of every session, I lay under a fleecy blanket on a table with a giant icepack across my shoulder, often hooked up to a shock-stimulation thing.  Fifteen minutes.  He sets a timer and everything.

I’m starting to think it’s the 15 minutes that keeps me coming back.  I have to just lay there.  I can’t really look at my phone because it’s awkward and cold to hold it up in front of my face.  No one sits and talks to me because everyone is either working or being worked on.  It’s just me and my thoughts, and snippets of other people’s PT exchanges:  “It hurts really bad when I . . .” “Look, I can touch my toes now!” “How long until I can ski again?” “What did you do for New Year’s?”

For 15 minutes I begin the process of letting my mind do what it wants.  I say begin, because I think it would take a lot longer than a quarter of an hour for that process to really happen.  As an apparent member of the ADD club, in normal life I’m constantly filling my head with something to think about.  More likely, it’s so that I don’t think.  Scrolling through the interwebs, listening to music, TV on in the background, I find constant stimulation so that my racing brain doesn’t drive me crazy.

I’m finding that I look forward to Neil’s walk back to the freezer to get the ice.  I take a few conscious breathes, try to let my muscles settle into the table, close my eyes and absorb, reflect, release. I don’t pray.  I don’t try to be rooted with the me who is on this adventure. << Gross Pointe Blank reference.  Great movie if you haven’t seen it. >>  I don’t think deep thoughts.  I just let go.

Years ago, I tried yoga, perhaps with the same sort of goal in mind.  But I found that I hated it when someone told me what I’m supposed to do to find inner peace.  My entire body rebelled.  It was counter-productive.

Meditation hasn’t found me yet either.  I don’t have the whatever-it-is-one-needs to meditate.  At least I don’t think I do.  Maybe I’ll consider it more the next time I’m laying on the therapy table with a frozen shoulder.

Cheers!

Looking Up, Sequoia 2014

Looking Up, Sequoia 2014

Wish I’d Known Then

That everyone feels weird in junior high.

That high school years go by ridiculously fast, even though it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

That youth is the time to try everything (well, almost).

That the one in the corner may have been the most interesting of the bunch if only I’d gotten to know her.

That college is such a unique time — sharing every aspect of life with people from all sorts of backgrounds.

That complaining and bitterness are gigantic wastes of time and energy.

That what you do is less important than how you do it and who you do it with.

That it’s ok to give yourself a break. Your expectations for yourself often exceed everyone else’s.

That recognizing your weaknesses is a strength.

That your baby’s babyhood is but a blink.

That everyone has a story.  Everyone.  And it could explain a lot.

That when someone gives a compliment, time should stop for a second to let it soak in.

That giving a compliment can make all the difference in someone’s day.


Glad I know these things now.  Wonder what I’m going to wish I knew now later …


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Top 10 Things about Being a Middle-Aged Woman

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I am approaching my late 40’s.  I remember a time when anyone over 30 was old, so I guess it’s time for me to accept myself for what I am:  a white, married, semi-pro mom right smack in the middle of life.  I’m glad to be here, thank you, and hope to continue on this journey for quite some time to come.  So here, in no particular order, are the top 10 things about inhabiting this spot on the spectrum (well, maybe they aren’t the “top” 10, but it sounds like I’m on late night TV):

1.  I can stay up as late as I want.  Sometimes even past 10:00 . . . .

2.  Hormones are even more erratic now than they were when I was 14.  Thanks to these little buggers, I am often wide awake in the middle of the night, giving my thoughts the freedom to run willy-nilly.

3.  With age comes acceptance.  My big, thick curly hair now may be its true self.  That straightener rarely comes out of the drawer these days.

4.  My opinions are just that — mine.  Take them or leave them.

5.  My opinions may change at any time.  Deal with it.

6.  I can choose not to waste time with idiots and mean people.   As my once-toddler learned in Montessori, sometimes it’s best to “walk away.”  I know, I know, sometimes these folks are unavoidable, but I have no guilt walking away at the first opportunity.

7.  My reading list is not determined based on what someone tells me I should read.  Brain candy is a good thing.  However, if I choose to read something heavy or meaningful, it is my prerogative to tell you that you should read it.

8.  I’ve lived long enough to stop and appreciate when someone is really good at what they do.  Craftsman or artist, musician or athlete, orator or writer.  Hip hop or Spanish guitar.  Soak it in.

9. I’ve been kicked in the teeth by life enough times that I can hug a friend who has just lost a few proverbial molars and tell her with sincerity that I feel her pain.

10.  I’ve learned that life’s little things are the leaves on the big trees of marriage and babies and jobs.  They blur together at a distance, but are intricately beautiful up close.  Just let me find my reading glasses so I can see them better . . . .