S is for Seeing-Through

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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.)

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

N is for New, and Namaste

Aging brought boredom, a bit.
Routine, a general glum feeling, a hatred of the night.
It’s fun being me.
So I switched it up, changed the ol’ mind set, decided to try new things.
Woot! New! It’s the way to the future!
“New” led me to an art project that scared the poo out of me but has turned into a thing I kind of love.
And “New” led me to take exercise classes I would have given a hard “No” not long ago. I like the exercise; it’s the “class” part — the inclusion of other people and not just a workout video streaming through my tv — that I eschewed. Turns out: I like people! They motivate, they peer-pressure, they accidentally guilt me into staying and actually exercising. (Funny, because the tv never frowned when I turned off the videos after three minutes.)
“New” made me write…a lot…and though none of the projects are actually complete, they exist. So there’s that: a whole lot of words, sitting in a document, waiting around for me to re-visit them.
I feel a bit like sliding back into routine, though. A year or two of New, that’s enough, I thought. So I’m fighting the sliding and riding it out, writing and gliding into righting myself, upright back into New.
New is good. New is necessary.
Namaste.

 

M is for Middling…and Maternity Pants…and They Aren’t the Same Thing

Mid-life, middle-of-the-road, mid-journey, middle-age…so much interior-ness, with shoulders on both sides. Room for growth. Room for error.
Just room, on all sides, while I’m here in the middle.
Wishing for maternity pants.
I loved being pregnant, and a lot of why leads to the pants. You could get the wide banded kind that slides up and over, creating a sack for your burgeoning belly, or you could get the wide banded kind that stuck like scaffolding, directly under and around the bottom rim of the belly, supportive yet non-intrusive.
Delightful either way.
And now, in my mid-years, my Middle Earth, my stuck-in-the-middle-with-me days, I want those pants.
Because everything upon my person seems to have suffered during travel. Banged up, moved around, seemingly viscous…yup, things are just…lower…
(Except my boobs! Yay me for having the chest of a pre-adolescent my whole life!)
And because my abundant weight, my new inability to eat junk food — because it just doesn’t go away (burgers on my thighs from ten years ago, I’d swear) — and my increasing possessive spirit towards chocolate all bely my youthful interior, I crave the pants.
They comforted; they supported; they indulged my self-pity. I appreciated their efforts.
They were good pants, which, sadly-for-me but with gratitude and good riddance because I was “gonna lose the baby weight,” have gone to Goodwill to assist future new mothers of the planet.
My overalls, however, might have survived the postpartum cut…
Wait…would it look weird, at my age, to stroll into Target and buy a brand new pair of maternity pants? I’d have to lie to anyone gawking and say I was going to be grand-ternal.
And I assure you the new pair would get much more use…years and years of it…like, “Nope, can’t donate those when I’m gone from this orb” kind of use…

L is for Lag Time

You know my favorite household accessory is the fire pit, but my very most favoritest household appliance is…the gas-powered lawn trimmer.
It slices, it dices, it can cut your meat. It’s fabulous.
It’s really a stick with a motor. Literally, a motor-on-a-stick. There’s just no other phrase for it. Then, you add whatever business end item you need.
Got some high weeds? Add the brush hog head thing.
Need some alignment to your driveway? Take off the brush hod head thing and snap in the dealie that has metal blades that spin super fast and spark when they hit concrete. (I really love that one.)
It’s so versatile!
But here’s the rub: at however many RMP that head/blade/spinny thing rotates, whatever that actual number may be, it’s stupid fast. And it vibrates. And it makes my whole body tense up just trying to keep the thing in control because I do love a neat line to my driveway.
Truly, only a few years ago, I was not as aware of this shaking/controlling/using-all-my-strength thing as I was just yesterday when I pulled the cord and let ‘er rip to edge the back acres.
Oh my stars.
Two Aleve, eleven hours of sleep, and I still hesitate to even consider joining the yard for anything more than a hearty hello.
Grow, grass, grow. Do your worst. This chick needs to rest.
That’s the thing about aging: the Lag Time. I don’t remember needing to rest between acres before, or stopping for things like water breaks and catch-my-breath moments. Who needed breath? Who needed water? I had a whirligig on a stick and I was vanquishing hidden corners and I was happy doing that for hours!
Today? Not so much with the vanquishing and a whole lot more with the resting.
Sigh.
This aging thing is really eroding my love of high powered lawn accoutrements And that’s must mean.

A to Z of Aging: K is for Keeping it Real

Not too long ago, Michelle Pfeiffer said, “The older you get, the less you can cheat.”
My takeaway message was: Michelle Pfeiffer cheats? Awesome!
And continued to inhale whatever horribly over-caloric item was in my greedy hands.
Today, I lost a third pair of work pants to a Mystery Something. The something? I don’t know. Because those pants fit not three months ago. (Maybe six…)
And yet, last week, boom, I lost two pairs of perfectly wonderful, summer-worthy, pocketed pants.
(Casual note to non-female-attire wearers: pocketed pants are like appropriately fitted jeans: RARE! Thus, we ladies hold onto those like they’re made from unicorn hide; I exaggerate not, pockets are that important.)
Both of my favorite buttoned-at-the-fly, zipper-holding-its-own-thank-heavens trousers were down! (Literally. I threw them to the floor like they bit me, which they did, ravenously rending apart my especially fragile ego; the Great Pant Duplicity proved too much that day, though I blamed hot water in the washing machine for shrinkage…because, duh, of course. The second pair? Yeah…a tiny bit of mental reckoning was due because I’m not that bad in the laundry room…)
Today? A third pair, relegated to the floor for trampling, just like my questionable hold on youth and glee.
I wore a pair of lounge pants and an oversized tee to work, unapologetically and sneering, daring anyone to question whether or not I realized I needed to do some laundry.
Remarkably, my morning was great. I was happy, cheerful and able to breathe! (Because lounge pants are the best.)
Then I realized, hey! I faced my middle aged-ness, at least for a couple of hours, and I lived to now tell the tale.
Hold your horses with the kudos for self-actualization…because after work I went straight to the ice cream store, unabashedly begging for just a touch more chocolate sauce and oh, hey, is that an Oreo? Yeah, toss that bad boy on there, too. Sundaes for everybody!
Yep, this morning, I Kept it Real, a sign of maturity, a sign of growth, a sign of colossal dismissal of youth and fitting into a bathing suit, which, all things considered, is a plus.
Also: for the remainder of the day I’m eschewing carbs.
So take that, larger-than-last-year thighs. No bread for you! No more padding for you until dawn, when waffles sound just too tempting…
Yes! Waffles at daybreak! With coffee, and eggs, and a dose of reality, because after breakfast, I must go buy new pants…

J is for Jumping…as in…”Don’t do the jumping.”

I went to an exercise class the other day, because my work sponsored the existence of the class. We had a grant, we paid the instructor, we invited the people, et cetera. That’s the kind of thing we do.
Which obligates us to participate because…that’s the kind of thing we ought to do.
Okay.
Weights, yoga mat, upbeat music playing at about 140 beats per minute — exercise was on, and on high, and we start sweating.
“No problem,” I tell myself. “This is in the books…then I do the things I need to do, like laundry, dishes, spot clean the living room…”
My mental list seemed endless. My body ignored my mental list, because it was listening to the instructor, who has apparently told my body to do jumping jacks.
Somewhere in the teens, my body snapped my brain to attention with screams of, “She’s making us do jumping jacks!”
No amount of Timberlake can make me do this, I thought.
And then I leaked a little. (Thank heaven for black exercise pants.)
Nope, can’t lie about this stuff. Middle-aged ladies and the jumping, we don’t go well together. We are not a good match, a poor blend, a bad idea, thus we avoid all instances of the feet leaving the floor, only to land upon it once more; repeat.
No jumping. An unwritten rule.
Even after visiting the restroom moments before the jumping begins.
Even while sporting a Depends.
No jumping.
Yet!
There in the front of the overly populated, poorly ventilated, popcorn-ceiling’ed, no acoustics, needing-new-carpet facility, bounced a woman exuberantly yelling, “Gimme ten more!”
Finally — FINALLY — my brain stopped running the to-do’s to focus on this one singularity: the To-Don’t. Ever.
And we stopped jumping — “we” being my brain and body and ego and memories of joy.
Because who doesn’t love a trampoline?
But, nope. No jumping. It’s to be avoided.
As is the next exercise class. I’ll be really sick that day.