Tag Archives: wisdom

Superwoman Bites the Dust, Part 2

You know how people say, “Listen to your body,”? It occurred to me this morning that I rarely do that. Instead I say, “Listen, body, do what I want.”

Since I had pneumonia, I must have had fifty people say, “Listen to your body.” I jokingly reply that the doctor should never have diagnosed walking pneumonia because I just kept walking around. Instead, she should have said, “Cindy, you have ‘going to bed and resting pneumonia.” I’d end up in bed only because I couldn’t do anything else, and I’d feel guilty about it.

Although I’m much better (I’ve turned the corner!), I’m still a work in progress. I may start off well when I get up, but I can hit the wall at about 11:00 A.M. Then I might be done for the day. So I’ve been trying to short circuit the fatigue by resting before I’m overcome by exhaustion. I make plans for what I can do—things that I never counted before like going to the market or dropping stuff at the cleaners.

When I walked this morning, I got quiet and went inward. I tried to listen? What was my body saying? It was hard to perceive any instructive advice because I’d turned that voice off years ago.

“How the hell should I know?” were the only words that came out—and those were from my mind. Which continued: “You can walk a little farther. You should be able to! You were walking five miles some days before. You need the exercise—you gained weight on your vacation! No pain, no gain! Don’t be a sissy!”

All of a sudden Dr. Phil was there in my head too. “And how’s that been working for ya?” he asked.

When the pulmonary specialist had said, “Don’t push yourself. Don’t walk too far so you’re too tired to walk back,” the words floated to my memory bank but not my conscious decision making center.

But Dr. Phil’s a big guy. His booming voice stood out in the crowd of bullies in my brain who urged me on. So I listened to him and turned towards home.

There’s more to this never-ending story, which I’ll share later. It includes chest X-rays, CAT scans, blood tests, pulmonary tests, inhalers, netty pots and a “No cancer,” diagnosis. It also includes me needing to make an attitude adjustment, which I’m working on. It’s hard to give up the feeling that you’re invincible. I don’t like it.

 

 

 

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Just Saying

I’m a head case, always have been and unless I get dementia, always will be. My mind is continuously busy with thoughts and questions so it’s not unusual for me to walk into a room and not know why I’ve come there. People say that’s a sign of senility but I’ve been doing that since I was ten. I didn’t realize until this morning that my mind is also crowded with adages, song lyrics and literary allusions.

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As I did the breakfast dishes, I was thinking about George Washington. He cut down the cherry tree but he would not tell a lie. That story from first grade has had a lasting effect on me. I rarely tell even a white lie—I’d never lie about something big. And my word is my bond.

Thoughts about George led to a flood of others. Growing up, my brother, sister and I were taught to never judge anyone until we’d walked in his or her shoes. We drank in the concepts of compassion and respect for others with our Gerber formula. We knew that there but for the grace of God, we’d have gone into the ovens of Auschwitz.

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Taught to be responsible for each other and be grateful for what we had, we knew we needed to share our bounty. I took this to heart and have literally given people the shirt off my back.

My brother gave away the money for his birthday party to help a family in need.

My brother gave away the money for his birthday party to help a family in need.

The work ethic and saving for a rainy day were strong themes in my childhood. Our parents were children of immigrants fleeing religious persecution.

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They married during the Depression and had no money. But when the going got tough, the tough got going. They worked like dogs to become successful and to make sure we all went to college.

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We were admonished that the early bird gets the worm and that practice makes perfect.

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“Waste not, want not,” they said if we left the lights on. If we didn’t finish our vegetables, we were reminded about the starving children in China. Along with this, we were taught that a penny saved was a penny earned, but also that all that glitters is not gold. There was also a sneaky suspicion that money was the root of all evil.

My parents weren’t the speak when spoken to kind. We were encouraged to have our own opinions as long as we honored our mother and father, and thought before we spoke. However, we were cautioned about opening a Pandora’s box and that it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

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Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I taught these same values to my own children.

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They have taught them to theirs. Which makes me proud as punch, even though I know that pride goes before a fall. We all believe immigrants like our families have made this country strong.

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I think who we are is a combination of our nature and how we’ve been nurtured. I’ve been told many times not to be so nice because nice guys finish last, but it’s just the way I’m wired. Besides, I’m the tortoise to many others’ hare. Slow and steady wins my race.

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Which reminds me, I think there’s a place for everything and everything has a place. That’s why I go crazy when I need my scissors and they aren’t where I put them. The Borrowers have moved them.

Even though I’m an old dog, I’m trying to learn new tricks. An inveterate multi-tasker, I can rush around like a chicken with my head cut off, but I’m getting better. I don’t rob Peter so much to pay Paul. I’m more into the moment, into the Now. I’ve always been slow to anger, and believed you can catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. I have a long fuse but when lit, watch out. Then I’d be happy to cut off my nose to spite my face. I’m willing to share all this because I’m an open book. The truth is, you can’t tell a book by its cover.

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Besides all these sayings, song lyrics play in my head. They come up from my subconscious, unbidden. Last fall while my husband was going through Proton radiation, the constant theme song playing was, “Put on a Happy Face.”

Lately, it’s “Wake Me Up When It’s All Over,” because I’m as frightened as a rabbit about the present political climate, as well as just climate in general. Hope springs eternal so I’m hoping the Emperor has someone around who tells him he has no clothes on. I’m hoping they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when reforming affordable health care.

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I’ve given up watching television. I’m sick of the pundits earning fame and fortune while crying, “The sky is falling.” And I can’t handle the bloggers, who obviously never went to Journalism School where we learned to be clear, concise and accurate.

Right now the lyric in my head is Bob Marley’s, “every little thing’s gonna be all right.” I know there’s no fool like an old fool, but I still believe good triumphs over evil. I’m still looking for the silver lining.

 

 

 

New Year, Not so New Resolutions

This is my new year’s resolution blog. You might think it’s too late for it but it’s only January 15. 2017 is just two weeks old. Still a baby!

Anyway, one of my resolutions is to stop rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off. (You might think this is a cliché but my husband actually got to see the phenomenon. In the old days of his Ancestors.com, a newly built home was blessed by cutting the head off a chicken. The vision of the chicken running around their yard featured in my husband’s nightmares for years.)

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As for my resolutions:

I have resolved to stop multi-tasking and to slow down. We had dinner with friends last night and she asked me what I’ve doing. “Since we’re in Hawaii, are you sitting around and relaxing?” she added.

I shook my head. “You know me. That just doesn’t happen. But, I’m trying. As soon as I get caught up with everything, I’m going to put relaxing into my day. It’s one of my new year’s resolutions.” It’s that I so rarely get caught up. Then something happens, either good or bad, and I’m behind again. I didn’t think I’d have this problem in my 70’s. Still.

I find that every year I resolve pretty much the same thing. Writing that, it reminded me that two years ago I printed out my 2015 resolutions and taped them to my computer. I was supposed to look at them every day but then I forgot they were there until just now. Oh well, one of my resolutions this year is to give up trying to do everything right. That leads to perfectionism, which means you’re polishing things at midnight, be it silver or words. It also means there’s constant judgment being aimed at my endeavors. Mother has been dead twenty years but she still is holding up the signs and there’s never been a 10. So time to get over it!

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Now, I’m looking at my list on the computer, and I like it. I haven’t accomplished any of the items, but they still seem like worthy goals. They aren’t global but more about me taking care of me. As a Grandiose Co-Dependent, I’m good at taking care of others, especially in the way I see fit. Taking care of me can go sideways.

No more procrastinating: here goes:

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  1. Be happy with myself at my age.
  2. Stretch after my walk.
  3. Eat Healthy.
  4. Do one thing at a time. Finish it.
  5. Think the thought that makes me feel good. Work on reducing anxiety.
  1. Write a blog every two weeks. Write every day.

 

All of this should keep me busy. I told myself just the other day, “You better learn to be happy with your age, or you’re going to be constantly depressed. Stop looking at your arm and wanting it to be firmly muscled. Ain’t happening. Be happy if it is has a muscle at all.”

Which reminds me—this getting older is not so much fun sometimes. Keeping healthy is more than a full time job. Cancer knocks on your door and comes in uninvited. Strokes and heart attacks and dementia are only a Plavix away. Friends and relatives are getting really sick or dying. I finally get it when people say, “This is not a dress rehearsal.”

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So, I guess my main resolution is that I’m going to do less and enjoy it more. (Okay, friends and relatives, stop snorting.)

 

 

 

 

Facing Terrorism

When I opened my computer today I saw the following headline:

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-10-36-33-am“Oh, boy,” I said aloud. “The Muslim community must be going crazy.”

I hadn’t read the article yet. Didn’t know that Ahmad Khan Rahami had been radicalized. Didn’t know he was 28 and that his family lived in New Jersey. I just saw the name and guessed he was Muslim.

It reminded me of when I first read about Madoff. “That’s not a Jewish name, is it?” I asked my husband.

I was hoping that uber-scoundrel was not Jewish—not of my tribe. I knew that if one of us does something wrong, the rest of us gets painted by the same guilty brush. Even if we are completely innocent.

I was afraid of a backlash and that was before the recent resurgence of anti Semitism that is plaguing our country and our world.

I can only imagine what the law abiding Muslims across America are thinking right now. Gone was their hope that their names wouldn’t be linked with the identity of this terrorist. But the truth is that Ahmad Khan Rahami did this. Not a whole group.

When I opened the article I learned that Ahmad Khan Rahami shot the first officer who approached him in the stomach. He injured another. His intent was to injure and kill as many innocent citizens of New Jersey and New York as he could. He was going after civilians enjoying the last days of summer, just as all of us are in our own hometowns. The bombs were loaded to inflict huge damage to flesh and bone. No wonder he is called a terrorist. His actions are terrifying.

So what do we do? What is our course of action? Do we stay indoors and hide? Do we say that all Muslims are terrifying? Do we give into the terrorists’ acts?
I say no. Let’s stay on a steady course. Let’s not be afraid to live our lives. Let’s not forget the acts of bravery by the police and fire departments. Let’s use reason and rational judgment before we act. Let’s be intelligent about how we analyze what has happened and how we should react. Let’s be guided by wisdom and actual facts.

 

Turning Seventy is Sublime

 

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I am in the middle of writing an essay about how wonderful it is to be 70. I started it in January, but got caught up in other things and in writing a memoir piece. So now I’m almost half way to being 71. With luck and time, I will finish the essay before that birthday.

Meanwhile, I’m going to share some thoughts. On my 70th, I was determined to not look or feel my age. It was a lot of work! Now I’m purposefully slowing down—as a matter of fact, I took myself out of the race. I’m not so touchy about people holding a door open for me or asking to help me with my grocery bags. I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to be the responsible one. I don’t have to try proving that I’m as strong and capable as I once was. I can surrender to the aging. I can admit that I get tired. I can admit that I can’t lift my suitcase. I can admit that a swimsuit is not my best look, but I’ll wear one anyway.

One of the great benefits of aging is that I like being who I am. I say to myself when I’m doing something, “You know, that’s who you are. You’ve always been that way.” And I feel good rather than thinking I should change to conform to somebody else’s ideas. It’s true, for instance, that I rather write than play golf.

 

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I still think of myself as young. For instance, if I’m on a bus or train, I’ll stand up to give my seat to an older person. Only… what’s happening is that sometimes there is no older person. The first time this occurred was last summer when I went to DC to look after my grandson who was interning there. To begin with, that was a joke. Garrett, in reality, looked after me. He set me up with a Metro pass and with Uber. He made sure I was fine when he went to work. He’d call to check on me. He made the dinner reservations and showed me where the washer/dryer was in the building. The day we took the Metro to Capitol Hill, he made sure I got on the train without any trouble. I was standing next to him when a man asked me if I’d like his seat. I smiled and looked around for an older person to take advantage of his offer. Then I realized I was the oldest by at least twenty years. That was a “Yikes” moment!

I’m not denying that aging comes with a lot of loss. We have lost so many dear friends and family to cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Or they are suffering with the effects of their disease. There is a sadness now that really has no time to go away. Then there is the loss of taut skin, height and strong muscles, eyesight and hearing—but let’s not go there right now.

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I want to age gracefully, but I want to have fun too. Cindy Joseph’s make up tips for older woman have been widely distributed on Facebook. Here’s some of her advice around the eyes: “Women older than 50 tend to lose definition in their eyebrows. Just go with that. Don’t recreate the brows you had in your 20s.”

Really? I liked my eyebrows in my twenties, and if I don’t use eyebrow pencil now, I have no definition at all. I also tint whatever eyebrow hairs I have left. True, I don’t want to get to the stage where I’m drawing them on and entirely missing the eyebrow line. That is not attractive. But I figured out the solution to that: getting a stronger magnifying mirror for now and a trusted helper in my nineties.

Joseph also says: “Do not wear any eye shadow at all. …A little bit of mascara is OK.” Sorry, Cindy, but I plan to be wearing eye shadow in my coffin when I’m a 110. I love eye shadow. I’ve loved it since I was 13 and my mother wouldn’t let me wear it. So I’m not giving it up now or ever. I had a friend who got false eyelashes when she was 84. She loved them and they were cute on her! So there!

 

 

 

 

 

Quest, Part Two

I haven’t written for awhile–the reason I’ll go into on another day. Let’s just say for now, I passed my written Driver’s License test and I can finally go forward in life.

The other day when I looked up from studying the DMV manual, I was astonished to see a world transformed by nature’s paintbrush. Here I’d been traveling coast-to-coast to see the autumn leaves, and what do you know–the trees in all their glory are right in my backyard.

 

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I have to admit that even in the grip of anxiety about the test, I had seen one crimsoned tree, which took my breath away.

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But I had no idea of the treat I had in store. Where ever I go, there is more beauty to see.IMG_7425

I’m always searching for wisdom and I love when the world presents a metaphor for what is true in life. The truth is that you don’t need to go far from home to find your heart’s desire. With patience and the ability to see what’s right in front of your eyes, you’ll find all that is most meaningful is at your fingertips. We need to slow down enough to see it. We need to be grateful enough for what we have instead of seeking far and wide for what we think we want.

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Nature’s beauty is also a balm to our hearts as we watch the horrible deeds of terrorists worldwide. My heart is filled with sadness and fear, but observing the cycles of the earth, I get some balance. I can believe that evil will not triumph–that the murders of innocent people will not go unanswered.

This Thanksgiving, we will gather our family close–we will rejoice in being together, but we won’t forget those whose lives have been torn apart.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

 

In Yoga Class

I arrived at yoga class feeling edgy. I’d walked there along the path, which bordered the ocean. The waters were usually calm, but yesterday the waves churned blackened seawater. I’d passed a bulldozer moving sand as it built up a berm on the beach. Clearly there were preparations underway to protect the shoreline.

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But the approaching storm was only a parallel to my internal turmoil. I’d been talking on my phone as I walked. I should have been a better listener, but instead my own feelings about the situation we were discussing had leaked out. Instead of being a help, I’d piled onto the agitation.

I couldn’t settle to the class. Usually I can attune myself rapidly but not yesterday. I went through the motions but I wasn’t really there. When one of the women pointed out a rainbow on the horizon, I couldn’t even see it. As the minutes passed, I played the conversation over and over in my head, wishing I’d not spoken off the top of my head.

Finally, I began to calm and my senses took over. At about the same time, the rainbow became more visible, and began to spread across the ocean. Usually I get a sensory Ping with these marvels of nature. I searched my mind for a meaning behind the vibrant arc of colors, but I felt nothing. Then I saw a whale breach, its body totally out of the water.

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The awesome sight of the huge mammal doing what it’s natural for it to do gave me insight into my own heart. I didn’t have to delve too far into the metaphor file to gain some understanding that I’m but a grain of sand on this planet. My perspective returned as I witnessed the on-going and powerful forces of Nature. And I saw being played out in front of me, the reminder that no matter how much we humans think we control what is around us, we’re mistaken. We can prepare ourselves, yet the best laid plans often go awry.

As I walked back home, the skies opened and I was drenched before I reached my walkway. With my perspective still in tact, I didn’t fret. I knew that this is what can happen even in a well ordered life. And I knew shelter was close— I’d be dry and warm before too long.

Today dawned sunny and calm, but the aftermath of the storm lingers. Huge waves are pounding the shore. More preparations have been made to limit the possible destructive force. Sandbags are stored on the walkway, ready to use if necessary. That is what we human beings do. We get ready and we do our best.

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Resolutions? Not such a Good Idea.

My nephew recently asked on Facebook if people had any New Year resolutions. I wrote back that for one, I wanted to lose five pounds. I also said that’s always been one of my resolutions for the past 40 years. No matter what my weight is, I always want to lose five pounds. This says many things about me, none of which interest me at all. It was a joke anyway.

When I taught middle schoolers, I’d have them write five goals at the beginning of the school year and at the beginning of the new semester. I had my own kids do it too. The list wasn’t buried—it was accessible so you could glance at it every now and then. It was amazing how stating your intentions could make them come about.

I think goals shouldn’t be too lofty and they should be attainable. For example, “I will eliminate the problem of garbage” just doesn’t work for me. “I will have a recycle can in my kitchen and will recycle bottIes, cans, and paper,”—now that’s what I’m talking about. It’s a practical plan. It’s what I can do to help change the world, one person at a time. “I will lose five pounds” obviously doesn’t work for me, either. And at my age when you lose weight, your skin sags like crepe paper decorations kept up too long. Instead my goal is to eat healthily. “I will eliminate as many processed foods from my diet as possible, including Oreos, Starbucks coffee cake and Hagen Das ice cream bars” is specific and should help me healthwise. (You notice nothing was stated about wine and Martinis.)

I’m thinking of adopting or adapting Chef Angela’s idea of a yearly bucket list. She already posted her 2014 Bucket List on Facebook. (Now, that’s really putting yourself on the line—other people will know if you don’t attain an item. I don’t have that courage.) A Bucket List sounds so much more positive than a New Year’s Resolutions list. It’s a looking forward instead of back, and it can include dreams too.

One thing I have on my list I will share: “Every day, name five things I am grateful for.” I have been doing this for many years now and it’s a life changer. Every night when I lay down my sleepy head, I name five things I’m grateful for on that day. One night, the list included “I’m grateful that the toilet only overflowed once.”—it was that kind of day. But slowly, my attitude towards life changed. I stopped looking for what I didn’t have and became grateful for what I did. I’m a much happier person.

One of the things I’m grateful for is you—the people I connect with through the blog and through Facebook. You make me a much happier person too! Happy and Healthy New Year to each and everyone.

A Christmas Gift

Only three of us showed up to my yoga class today so we downward-dogged and chatted a bit, too. Pat, the instructor was talking about a great new consignment store. “I have these Dooney and Burke purses that were my mom’s. They’re really nice, but I don’t think I’ll ever use them. I’m thinking of taking them into the store,” she said. “I hate to give them up because they were my mom’s, but you know, we need to clean out our stuff.”

“ I have John’s things all over the house,” a woman who had lost her son a little over a year ago said. “I’m not giving them up.”

“I can understand that,” Pat said. “You don’t have to.”

“I even have a whole area that’s kind of a memorial to him, “ the woman said. She might have even said, “shrine,” I can’t remember now. “I have pictures of him and candles.”

There was a small silence. “That’s nice,” Pat said. “It must make you feel good to see him everyday.”

“I’m not sure if it makes it harder,” the woman said.

Because we were inverted, I couldn’t see anyone’s faces to see their expression. Little emotion was coming through the voices.

“And we have his ashes, of course,” the woman said.

“Are they in an urn?” Pat asked.

“Oh, a big beautiful urn,” the woman said.

I morphed the image in my head of a small urn to a large one.

“That’s great,” Pat said, her tone now ultra cheery. “You can say hello to him every day.”

There was another silence, then the woman said, “Well, I just moved the altar near the urn downstairs.”

“Oh? Why?” Pat asked.

“Well, it’s almost Christmas and I need to have room for the decorations. My grandchildren will want the decorations,” the woman said.

Later as I drove home, I replayed the conversation in my head. As I said, all this was being discussed in such bland tones, but underneath we’d all felt the profound sense of loss. Hard to lose your mother—horrible to lose your son.

I’d been worried about this kind, upstanding woman—how she was going to withstand her son’s death. How she was going to keeping going?

But now I could see that Christmas and the grandchildren were going to be the saving graces. She was ready to move on for the next generation. And she could begin to heal.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. Happy New Year to all.

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Wading In

                                               

 

I did something today I haven’t done since I was a little girl.

My parents both worked when I was little so we had to have someone take care of us during the summer. We lived near Volunteer Park in Seattle so Allie Mae would walk us there around noon every day. The Park had to be at least a mile away and we had to climb steep steps up to 15th, but we never complained. Even my little sister who was six at the most.

 We’d spread out a blanket and have lunch (tuna sandwiches and potato chips) in the park on a great green lawn in front of the Art Museum. Sometimes Allie Mae would take us to the playground. Someone Mother knew had gotten polio in a public pool so we were forbidden to go into the wading pool. One very hot day, Allie Mae relented and allowed us to put our feet in. We were content for 5 minutes, but then we looked at all the kids splashing and kicking and screaming with glee. So we waded in a little deeper…and then a little deeper. Soon our pedal pushers were wet to the thighs. Allie Mae scolded us all the way home.

There was no one to scold me today as I walked along the beach. I didn’t really intend to get my feet wet. The sand clings to your skin and it seems a lot of effort to get it off. Then a wave rolled in right over my toes. Then I found a piece of coral that was magenta and green so I had to go a little deeper to see if there were any more treasures. Then a big wave came in and once more, I was wet to my thighs.

I’m sitting here writing this with sand between my toes and a grin on my face.

 

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