X is for X

“No” is a bad word. I like to be jovial, accommodating, thoughtful, needed.
Plus, I don’t want to be the grumpy aging lady, and “No” denotes grumpiness, my young eyes having heard it waft often from my grandmother. (I later learned she had bunions, and upon reflection, those will make anyone grumpy.)
It’s a delicate dance: “No, and I mean that sincerely, but I am in no way exuding a  ‘grumpy’ vibe. Do not take my rejection as anything but an act of love, certainly more for myself than for you, as you see it, and now as I see it, which means your tears are changing my mind, and of course yes, yes, is what I mean.”
I try to couch the “No” amidst apology and hand waves and moving feet. Don’t stop. Halting in place allows for coercion and waves of disappointment across my accoster/accuser/neighbor child until “No” has flipped into a Yes and then where am I? “Yes” is suddenly out there, on the table, and I’m committed to whatever I’ve agreed, and now I’m mad at myself, running my play: where did I go wrong, what could I have done differently, is there an escape clause to whatever I agreed to?
Sigh.
Aging is hard, exhausting, and mentally stimulating to the negative. It keeps me young, all this bickering amongst my selves.
Plus, it has the benefit of hindsight: I know now why I avoided my grandmother after her grumpiness: I was giving her the gift of solitude. Her plan worked. And Grandma, you are welcome.
X means No. The big red X, or hash line in a red circle, but the meaning is the same: Keep out, Danger, No smoking, No dogs, you know the signs I mean.
I’ve simplified to the one letter: X. X means no. And I mean it this time, at least on occasion.
I refuse to believe I’ve become my grandmother, because I will say Yes on occasion.
So there.

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W is for Weight…Loss, Gain, and Reality Check

Weird blobs show up when you age. I’m giving you a heads-up that you’ll forget, until one day your belly button disappears and bathing is more like spelunking. Then, and only then, will the gravity of my warning reach your ears.
Enjoy your slim days, that’s what I’m begging.
Now, “weight” is a funny word. Literally, it makes me laugh. Weight. Ha! Whatever.
Lose it? Gain it? Who cares, at this point? It’s a number and I’ve never done well with math. Therefore, I chucked the scale and measuring tape and guilt over not exercising six days a week because I don’t care about those things any more.
Is this healthy? No. No, it’s not.
I’m not vegan, or all-organic, or even-a-little-interested in liquid breakfasts.
Occasionally I check my choices: unsweet tea or Dr Pepper? On an Atta Girl day, I go with the sugar-free…but who am I kidding? Tea makes me thirsty. And what do I reach for then? You see my struggle.
I could be healthier, I could Yoga more, and I truly enjoy it when I do.
But most days, I’m more proud of the fact that I didn’t need a nap at 3pm, in the middle of my work shift, and that I stood from my chair and walked the stacks to wake up. Boom. Eighth of a mile in the books.
That’s a good day.
PS This is not advice, and if it is, then it’s bad.
PPS I’m going to try to YouTube a ten-minute workout today, in the spirit of guilt and thighs that bark when I walk. Followed by a smoothie, whatever that is.

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V is for Vein Vanity

I stopped wearing shorts after my son was born. No real reason, other than shorts felt icky. That’s really all I have, because my legs were fine, if I remember properly. Aside from being loath to shave, they weren’t unsightly.
My point is, because my skin doesn’t see the light except that of the shower, I don’t know what it looks like.
Recently, though, I found my winter tights. And my body found out that the summer was not the diet fest it might should have been. Those two constants were suddenly in play: tights are tight and when the body is tight, pants are tight, or not fitting at all, or “shrunk in the wash.”
I had to shave my legs. Eek! No winter coat?? But in order to wear my comfy winter tights, the leg tresses had to go.
I shaved, with a new razor — because I couldn’t find the old one — and a shaving cream, because a girl likes a little pampering on occasion instead of the bar of Ivory scraping over her delicate skin.
Lo, and behold, beneath the follicles: veins! What the…
Aging brings about road maps, blue highways — plump and healthy — gleaming so delicately from beneath the dermis. Topography is next, I’m sure, making future shaving deadly. Sliding a razor across fresh moguls around my already weirdly shaped knees? Blood loss with the flick of a Bic. Or Atra. GIllette? I don’t know. Whatever brand is embedded within the plastic handle of my throwaway razor. The logical solution: give up on this shaving thing from now on. I’m devastated by the loss.
Back to the natural, more-on-my-legs-than-my-head winter coat, buy bigger tights, find elastic waistband slacks.
All is well.

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U is for Unique

drawing of pug puppy with a hornmEvery life is different; there are no two alike. No matter the effort, no one can live exactly the same path as another.
This applies to all life, isn’t that fascinating? I can squash three spiders, and they’ve all lived a different path. They may have the same mother, same clutch of eggs, and hopefully I’ve killed them all with spray, but no two paths to death were the same.
I may have just encountered my arachnophobia, thus it’s prevalent in my mind.
So as I age, I’ve noticed all my stupid mistakes, mis-steps, weird choices, wins or losses, were uniquely mine.
Plus, I’ve been in a unicorn mood. A friend needed illustrations for a card game he’s creating and I found myself within a world I had no knowledge of: fantasy gaming. This week the subject is unicorns and surprisingly, it isn’t easy to make `12 unique ‘corns.
I should Google it, but the words Unique and Unicorn are derivatives. Sure “uni” means one — “uni” means one! — which validates my point that we are all here on separate paths, whether they merge or don’t. We’re all walking together..
What a gift! An ambulatory way all our own!
Plus, unicorns found! Each of us is one, all unto ourselves, and we can share our lightness as we wish, as we hopefully will, as it is our gift to do so.
That’s pretty cool.

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T is for Touch

I don’t know if the internet is to blame, yet it is what I blame.
People have forgotten how to interact except by way of invisible carrier pigeons entwined within the ethernet.
Could this be true, and how sad if it is.
But it certainly feels accurate.
And thus, human touch is lost. All day I sit at a keyboard, typing away, feeling little, saying much, until the work bell rings, I head to the house, and hop on social media.
Really? That’s my life?
No, I refuse.
There’s no communication there, no true feeling, no sincere interaction, because on the society pages of today, I’m a rock star. We all are, aren’t we? How much of that stream is life,. or fact, or in the ballpark?
Aside from baby sloth videos, what is the benefit to the internet?
Who needs it? We still have the good old USPS — and in ten short days, I’ll have answers to my burning questions, whatever they be, from whatever sage I’ve entrusted with my inquiries.
Yeah, okay, I get it, the need for immediate feedback. I have a pen pal, so that I may write letters and see handwriting, but if I have a time-sensitive knowledge-need, I text. Yeah. It’s cheating, but she doesn’t share my need for almost immediate response, barely leaving the proximity of the mailbox before responding.
So okay, I get the lack of interface as the new intra-face, but it still stinks.
That’s my point: while immediate, tech lacks the true stuff I need, especially as I age: Humanity.
A handshake, a hug — oh, I know the best huggers in my life; I relish hugs from them (you know you have favorites, too, admit it) — a quick touch on the arm, whatever. I’m not choosy. I simply enjoy favorable moments with people.
It sounds so simple but like the Yeti, it is seldom seen. Note I’m not saying it doesn’t exist out of hand, it’s just elusive.
I might get a reputation for being the creepy old lady that runs her index finger across the back of people’s hands for seemingly no reason. If asked, I hope I’m still clear thinking enough to come up with a palpable lie. “You need lotion, I have some in my handbag.” (Because I’ll have a giant purse in my lap, just where nutty old broads keep their life’s accumulation.” I’m optimistic that I won’t be batty enough to grab someone’s hand and slap Jergen’s across it without permission…because it wouldn’t be weird if I had permission…
All I know is, even my Kindle Fire feels cold in my hands, no matter who I’m typing toward.

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S is for Seeing-Through

new york times book award advertisement

NY Times book section

It took a long time to stop stopping myself. I’ve been my worst friend, holding Fear close and letting it call the shots.
Fortunately, aging has added Wisdom to my bag o’ tricks and pushed Fear down. Not that it’s gone, but it’s sequestered, pushed down a bit under a cuddly blanket of Not So Much, No Time for That, and Let’s Do This.
It’s a big bag o’ bravery and insouciance.
Recently I encountered a heroine, a lady I’d met previously who since then has toured with her award-winning novel of such depth and thoughtfulness that I literally take breaks between chapters to recover, to ingest, to mull.
I’m a muller.
Also, her novel has broken my cardinal rule: if an animal is on the cover, I insist on flipping to the last page to check that the animal is upright and breathing. That’s right, my heart can’t handle a deceased creature within the  pages of a book.
What was that Cameron movie with the dog, the one that died, like, 5 times?? Inanity! Who would want to see it? Heart-warming? Whatever. More like heart-stomping, emotional trauma my delicate eyes and swooning nature need none of. Look! Emotion has made my trembling, weak fingers end a sentence with a preposition.
I tell you, death to critters is a no-no.
And this book? This literary work my heroine regurgitated upon her ether screen and put into the world toward great acclaim and a subsequent uptick in Kleenex sales?
Cow. Cow on the front. Red hide and sweet, dewy, trusting bovine eyes.
But I persevered and read it! Most of it! (I’m on a rest; mulling.)
And last week I met her again. Bless her. She took the onslaught like a champ. I was manic, a bit crazy, and certainly star-struck.
And I accidentally stalked her three more times in two short days.
Short for me; long for her. She had no escape.
Fortunately, her generous spirit forgave my fan-swooning and all is well. Or she’s a great actor and the warrant for my retrieval is still pending.
My point in this extrapolated tale is this: Screw it! I had nothing to lose but to See Through on my semi-neurotic adulation, though well-meaning and big-hearted; it was still a lot weird, I recognized that. And I would have never let it get to the point of handcuffs or Miranda.
The Point: see–it-through, whatever you want. Whether you’re youthful or my age, just see it through. The universe loves the weird because we shake things up, whether they’re boundaries or nerves. Things need shaking occasionally.
(If anyone is still with me here, the book is called One Good Mama Bone, and the brilliant author is Bren McClain.
2017 Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction.
Read it.
All the way through.)

 

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R is for Reality

Aging brings reality.
For instance, nowadays, pants must have pockets. I didn’t see it before, when I was young and unpocketed. I’d put my keys in a friend’s pocket, or I’d hide the keys under the car floormat, to uncover later, or I’d walk.
Just kidding. I didn’t walk.
But now, I can not rely on friends with pockets. Mostly because I’m unsocial and friendless.
No, not really.
But I’m alone a lot, or I’m with my son, who may have pockets but manages to lose things anyway.
And I refuse to carry a wristlet; I’m not Girl enough for a “wristlet.” It’s a wallet on a strap that Girls who don’t have pants-witti-pockets or friends-with-pockets use for their keys. And probably a lipstick; that’s a Girl thing, too.
But my new Aged Reality recognizes that Lipsticks are cakey, gloppy, weird bits of Girldom when Chap Stick will do. Chap Stick rocks. The lip color — which is transparents, of course — goes with anything; it doesn’t glop. It’s a tiny tube; unobtrusive. And if I lose one, because of the no-pocket issue, well…it’s a buck, while true lip sticks are expensive.
Like a Twinkie, my middle layer of squooshy-ness is here to stay.
Oh, and Budgets are a good thing. They seemed confining in the Ago. Now, though, in the new Reality, budgets are helpful…and reliable…and I don’t need as much stuff as I seemed to in my youth, so money stretches further.
Because, hello, the new Reality is less-stuff-y. Who needs acquisition? I feel claustrophobic in department stores; I certainly can’t handle Stuff in my living space. I watch “Hoarders” and immediately toss things out, so Stuff is not my friend.
Now that I’m again, I allow my clothes to wear out, because I don’t feel compelled to buy the latest and cutest thing. (Also, it helps that I’ve never had a fashion sense. I wouldn’t know what’s latest or cutest; I might already own the latest and cutest…though I doubt it…) And shoes! If I ever found shoes I liked — I don’t think that’s the Aging element; finding shoes I like has always been a problem, but if I did find some, I would let them wear out. My couch is ancient and I like it; my sheets are incredibly soft, because I just wash them instead of insisting on buying new ones.
Towels, however…well…I always like new fluffy towels. It’s a weakness.
New to my Aged self: I never get carded.
I can’t use a short skirt to get out of speeding tickets.
I can’t rebound from yardwork like I once could.
“Weight lifting” in this new Reality equates to getting up from a chair.
All these new revelations, they’re all new stuff that’s been attached to me, tagging along, settling in unnoticed for years, I simply hadn’t acknowledged their existence.
Now, here they are, the new elements of the new Now.
I’d best write them down. I need to write everything down anymore, which is also my new Reality. I find notes all over the place that I swear I didn’t write, but doggone it, I recognize my handwriting, so it must be mine. The notes are like a little treasure hunt, leading me from one thought to another. And THAT is how stuff gets done nowadays: I follow the trail of To Do’s I leave myself.
I’m weird.
I’m going to write that down.

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Q is for Quiet

drawing of shushing womanSomewhere in the past, I lost the beauty of Silence.
School, work, relationships, pets, money money money, all drowned out an appreciation of Peace.
Then I started working at a library and found it again.
And though I work in the loudest library known to man, the threat of Silence exists around every stack of books.
It’s a library.
And as such, the need for Quiet, which has been drilled into us all since our first encounter with story hour and the idea of “check out,” is housed within, looming large even amid the chaos.
Aging has brought the Quiet, which descends at night.
As much as I love it during daylight hours, I loathe it’s existence in the deep dark sky.
It’s not Peace. It’s a virtual presence of a Something Frightening I can’t quite pinpoint.
Now I have panic attacks and wars within myself to meditate, find my breath, all that.
I say a little prayer and fall asleep to reluctantly greet the dawn.
(I’m not a morning person and too particular about a certain hour-span of daylight. I’m a mess.)
Every year it worsens, this fear within unsettled air.
Aside from lamps blazing all night, and prayer, I have no tools for combat.
I feel like I’m in the middle of youthful rest and elder forgetfulness, so that fear is only a companion; a constant, whether it’s feared or not.
A conundrum for which I have no solution.
So if you’re driving by and see the light on in my window, it’s just me, combating an unseen villain, probably scrolling the Netflix queue and waiting for dawn.

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P is for Perspective

When I was 8 years old, I graduated from a Brownie to a Girl Scout.
In order to do that, I had to cross a bridge. A literal bridge. It was about four foot long, fresh from the scout leader’s garden — dirt collected around its feet, staining them a reddish brown.
And I was asked to cross the bridge.
Repeatedly.
Asked repeatedly; they only wanted me to cross the bridge the one time.
And why must their pleas be unanswered? Because I didn’t want to cross wearing galoshes.
I had galoshes. I don’t believe they are created anymore. And if they are, they’re called Wellies, or something cute, because 8-year-old girls know that galoshes are not cool.
Especially when they’re bright red.
With Big Bird’s visage stamped across the top.
Alongside the L and R, etched across the appropriate boot; L for Left, R for Right.
I shudder still when I think of those boots.
And how I could not get them off.
Nope. Practically glued to my shoes, those galoshes, and oh, oh, oh, how I was mortified.
Especially since one of my fellow Scout’s Big Sister was going to watch the ceremony…and she was 21! Gasp! That’s SO OLD! How can I allow someone SO OLD and SO COOL to watch me tromp across a questionably formed garden accoutrements in bright stinkin’ red Big Bird Left/Right galoshes! She’ll think I don’t know what boot goes where! And worse yet, What If I Had Them On the Wrong Foot??!!
(I double-checked, triple-checked, even as I valiantly failed repeatedly to somehow wriggle out of the world’s tightest-fitting footwear, that indeed I had at least attached them to the appropriate foot!)
And why did I wear them to the ceremony? Because I forgot. About the Girl Scouts, about the ceremony, about everything except getting out of there and getting home to my dog Muffin and the biggest bowl of ice cream I could scoop.
That was my goal: ice cream. Not Scouts. Not graduating. None of that.
I wanted home and a dog and sweets.
Now, I’ve aged a bit.
I no longer have those galoshes, nor do I know what happened to them except that they were not in my life for long after that fateful day.
I probably hid them in a bush somewhere along the trail home. I may have done that with another article or two. Sorry, Mom.
My point is: things look different on this side of the bridge. I’m not eight any more, and I’m cool with that. And there have been a lot of other things to cross, to endure, to swim or sink when floating wasn’t an option.
A lot.
And 21-year-olds don’t look quite so old. In fact, they look 12. They just do.
Part of me thinks, don’t you wish you had those galoshes?
And the other part of me sighs, shakes her head, and says, “Uh uh. No way. They were hideous.”
Not one for sentimentality, I guess.
I would tell my little self that it’s okay on the other side. It’s different, and that’s okay, too, and on this side, I can buy whatever boots I want, which is kind of nice, though gifts are great, too…all so confusing, isn’t it? We want one thing, then another, then the first thing again and maybe didn’t save the receipt for the second thing.
PS. I didn’t go across that Girl Scout bridge. The leader just gave me my patch or sash or whatever and a firm pat on the shoulder with a regretful, “Sorry you can’t get your boots off. Maybe your mom can help?”
Then she turned away, on to the next Scout.
I’d crossed metaphorically.
I’m okay with that.

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O is for Onus

Aging stinks, it’s no fun, it seems to be a changing river every day, such as, “Gee, yesterday (insert any body part) was fine; today it hurts.”
So I take an Aleve and keep going. I don’t have time for hypochondria today.
Or do I?
Because I’ve noticed that lately, the Onus of everyday is, ironically, to say Yes.
For a couple of decades, my mantra was “No” because good heavens, I only had so many hours in the day/I don’t have the energy for one more thing/is there really no one else on the planet who can do that?
Now, seemingly the next day, I feel the burden to say Yes to just about everything: to see, to do, to go, to share, to visit, to plumb the depths, to examine the sparkle, to make that wish. There’s only so much time — a thing I’ve known always — and now when I’m closer to the end than to the start, I’m striving to make the most of the proverbial ticking clock.
(Digital doesn’t tick, but I’ll bet there’s an app that would make it do so.)
As far as going/seeing/doing, I draw the line at airplanes, either getting aboard or jumping from. Airplanes are creepy. And the pilot won’t let me take the wheel — probably for good reason — but I have control issues when it comes to travel.
(Oh, and spelunking. Because, ew. Small spaces, small rodents, whiffs of guano; no thank you.)
Now back to my regularly scheduled rant…
Irony! Only so much time passed and I couldn’t cram it all in when I was full of vim and vigor, but now that I’m rattling from too much Aleve and cranky to boot, I notice that yes! I can cram one more thing into the day!
Irony is a cruel mistress.

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