Tag: Me

Old Dog, New Trick

So, six months shy of my 50th birthday, i will embark on a totally new path that has me both excited and terrified.

Every career i have ever had has been one of interpersonal service. Face to face interaction with people who need my help. “Professions”, yes, but with that line-walking professionalism that one can only have when usual social barriers have been broken from the onset. You know, like nakedness and blood. And the people i have worked with share a kind of camaraderie that is only present when there are matters of utmost importance, like human lives, on the line. The uniforms i wear, not sharp and tailored, but chintzy and laundered in chemicals that are made to kill everything but the fabric. Terribly exciting, but also terribly taxing. Irregular hours and daily surprises. But i’m about to become a regular Joe. And i am scared.

Working in a hospital, especially in an area that performs invasive procedures, is rewarding. People come to you in pain, frightened, and sometimes one step shy from death. You get to comfort them. To fix them. To bring them back from death’s edge. It’s a powerful feeling in a multitude of ways. There is a physical power in knowing you have the ability to help save a human body.  There is an emotional power on the occasions where someone is literally brought back to life. There is a spiritual power in knowing you are an important tool for God/Goddess/Universe. But that power comes at a cost.

For every case that doesn’t go as planned. For every patient who gets the bad news that they are too much for us and require major surgery. For every person who we feel we have fixed, only to be proved wrong by GGU the very next day. For each one that we lose the race against the clock. For each time we know in our heart of hearts that the patient isn’t as invested in their health as we are, that they won’t make any changes in their lifestyle, and we know we will be seeing them again and again until there is no more to be done. These things take their toll. I work in invasive cardiology, but i promise you, these same things are true for my brothers and sisters in the emergency room, the operating room, the intensive care units, the paramedic force, and still others. Take a poll. The percentage of us with stress-induced disorders, hypertension, auto-immune issues… I promise you, it’s higher than national average.

But on the bright side, what it takes to do this, day in and day out, is a strength that also exceeds the average. Mentally strong, we have the ability to put our own issues aside when the shit hits the fan. Tho from the entire spectrum of faiths, we are spiritually strong individuals who know that GGU holds the winning cards. Emotionally strong, we can keep on working even when we know we have probably lost. And physically strong – Have you ever seen a size 6 woman do truly effective CPR on a man three times her size? THAT is strength!

All this, i leave behind. And, oh, how i will miss it!

But i am running out of reserve to pay the toll. My health, my life, is starting to wear thin in spots. Perhaps it is because, as i get older, i shed more and more tears as a woman, as a mother, as a human; and these, compounded with the tears that come from my work, are more tears than i have reservoir to produce.  Perhaps it is because each person only has a finite amount of strength, and mine is less than a lifetime’s worth at this pace. Or perhaps it is GGU telling me that it is time i helped humanity in another way.

One of the things that this new work endeavor will give me is the ability to see healthcare from a wider perspective. It will also give me an opportunity to use that insight in areas outside my work and maybe get involved in the issues that i have watched plague our hospitals over the years. I’m not Einstein, but i’ve got a good brain, excellent communication skills, and the anger and determination that is the hallmark of a peri-menopausal woman in the 21st century. I could be a force to be reckoned with, even without my terribly-unflattering scrubs!

But first i must adapt to desk life. To computer life. To Joe life. Hell, it’s been forever since i had a job where i could wear clothes! No more bodies. No more blood. No more fluids and drugs and devices. Just me and a screen and a bunch of tasks to sort. Well, that is, once i learn the language of medical life outside the lab. (Figuratively, i have 4 months to learn Klingon.) Eventually, i will have a baby composed of menus that i can be proud of. And with that baby comes a less zapped me to be momma to my actual babies (Who are no longer babies, but still…) It also comes with a future of unlimited opportunity. A chance to spend my Silver Years (You know, the last couple decades before my Golden Years) continuing to learn and grow and expand my passions in ways i never imagined. A chance to give a different part of myself. And a chance to refill my reservoir.

But this life is something i’ve never had before. I’ve never been a regular Joe. I’ve never been a regular anything. And this is what scares me. Moving my gypsy soul out of a caravan and into a building. Turning the stray cat into a house pet. Editing the R-rated movie for network television. I can’t help but wonder if i am able, you know? Can i do it? My weedlings think i can. My (awesome) coworkers think i can. My friends and family think i can. Obviously GGU thinks i can. I guess that means i should quit my whining and get on with it! Wish me luck! Not yap wa’ Hol !*

 

*(Klingon for “One language is not enough”)

Sex, Sundries, and Saturday Night

Being single is definitely fun when you’re 20. But when you’re essentially 50, it’s kind of a mixed lot. Most of us at this age are single for a reason, and it usually isn’t a meaningless reason. It is hard to meet people. It’s never a good idea to date coworkers, dating website profiles bear as much truth as your average supermaket tabloid, and the meat market bars… Well, no one wants to buy old meat. The rules have changed from when we first learned to date. Passing flirtatious notes rarely works when they are passed with your license and registration; and it’s hard to pass them under any other circumstance. You run out of places to meet people. Unless you are a flitting socialite, you are reduced to church or affiliations, mass transit, or the grocery. (Incidentally, i once asked advice on how to approach my handsome butcher… You can imagine the suggestions…) It just isn’t the chick-flick or comedy that Hollywood makes it out to be. It’s more like a lame cover of Eleanor Rigby.

I had always hoped that when i got “older” (In quotation marks because the meaning has been somewhat fluid over the years) , i would find a balance. Maybe even find a way to have the best of both worlds. But the older i get, the less i am sure of what the best of both worlds would be. I mean, obviously there are potential partners who don’t care what brand of toothpaste i buy, or get put off if i eat an entire head of roasted garlic while watching a movie. But it is physically impossible to bask in the glow of waking up next to someone without sharing the bed. To be honest, i’m so unused to sharing a bed now, that i can’t do it without staying awake to make sure that i didn’t hog covers, or sprawl, or snore my way to being single again. And how many nights can i stay awake to keep such things in check before i give in to my own fatigue?

For the most part, i accept the fact that i will likely be single from now on. I don’t really miss pulling a man’s tighty-whiteys out of his jeans so i could separate them for the wash. I don’t miss cleaning beard hair out of the sink. I don’t miss having to pow-wow before deciding on dinner. But i DO miss having someone to walk / play cards / watch tv  with after supper. I miss curling up together on the sofa. I miss long, thoughtful, late night discussions. And i miss regular sex (And before you say that you don’t have to be in a couple to have sex, i will point out that for most single people, finding empty sex is easy – especially close to closing time. But finding good and meaningful sex is harder than finding someone who folds the towels the same way you do.)

What would be perfect would be to have someone who only lived with you when you wanted them to, and vice versa. Solidarity when you needed it, and solitude when you needed that. Well, i suppose, really perfect would be to find someone who was exactly everything you liked and lived exactly how you wanted, but i am old enough and wise enough to know that what i like and want isn’t always consistent and would be an impossible role to fill. In any case, both of those things are very selfish.

Yes, i admit it. I am selfish. And my acceptance of this fact is why i have resigned myself to spinsterhood.

Mind you, i have no intention of becoming a dried up old prune who warns younger women of the dangers and evils of men. On the contrary, i intend to be the garishly stylish old broad who flirts indiscriminately and squashes her ducks against the salsa instructor at the Senior Center. I will travel alone to exotic places and have Roman Candle affairs with intriguing gentlemen who admire my chutzpah. I will show my legs and my cleavage until i have to search to find them. I will keep my own hours and sensibilities and habits. And i will throw my head back and laugh at the fact that i worried about being single at 50.

But until then, i will work my way thru this muddle; slightly disappointed at not having found, or been perfection to, someone in the second half of life, and yet slightly proud that i have found comfort in my own skin and with my own self. I will still keep an eye out for someone who makes me swoon, but i won’t lose any sleep when i don’t find them. I will feel pathetic sometimes, and then i will remember what i have had before, and what i have now, with others and with myself, and i will be thankful. I will wake myself snoring, and then remember that no one is complaining. (Thank God/Goddess/Universe that my dog doesn’t speak!) And if i visit the meat market (I will lie and tell myself that it’s just to people-watch), i will not buy anything unless it is well worth the price.

That last paragraph is a whole lot of wishful thinking.

But like most of life, it’s a “fake it til you make it” kind of thing. I will make these affirmations to myself over and over again until i am imbued with them and they become truth. Because realistically, having had both good marriages and bad, i know without a doubt that the one thing worse than being alone and lonely, is being a spouse and being lonely. And my selfish, spinster, sex-i-fied and sex-deprived self says screw that! I can have fun all by myself.

Take that any way you wish.

“These marks were made by a 1966 Pontiac Tempest”

I can’t believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. This year has flown by. It’s been a year of learning for me. Of adjusting. Big, honking life lessons, and smaller just-as-important ones. This is some of what I have discovered:

Your weedlings will never cease to amaze you. When my middle child left to start at West Point, I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage without her. She was a teenager and certainly had her share of fun, but she also helped me around the house, played chauffeur for her brother, cheered me up when I was down, encouraged me when I was exhausted, got me moving when I was depressed, and could cook up a mean meal when it was her turn. Losing her from the household was hard, even outside of the emotional upheaval that comes when one of your brood leaves the nest. Even as I was full of pride for her accomplishments, I was worried about managing. I knew my oldest, who has always had more than a bit of caretaker in her, would be there to help me if need be. And she hasn’t let me down. What surprised me was the fact that my barely-teenage son has also stepped up. Getting his chores done without much complaining, sometimes even without asking. Doing for himself and taking meal duty if I am working late. Being as empathetic as a 13 year old boy can. Yes, he still leaves his smelly socks under the coffee table sometimes. But I have been pleasantly surprised at what he has taken on to help without cajoling from me.

You can enjoy things you never thought you could. This is a recent discovery. Coworkers asked me to join them at a haunted house. I can say honestly that I’d have rather rubbed a cheese grater on my face than pay good money to have rubber masked clowns jump out and grab me, but they were so excited, and I didn’t wish to be a party pooper, so I went. And it was fun. Yes, I screamed myself to near-laryngitis. Yes, my jaw is still feeling the sting from being clenched so forcefully. Yes, I’m sure I horrified some people with my repertoire of vulgarities and curse words. Yes, my abs (or what passes for them) are still sore a day and a half later. Yes, I wet my pants. More than once. Stupid animatronic dinosaurs. And no, I doubt I will go again. But I’m glad I went. If for no other reason than to prove to myself I could.

Punting is a viable option. I’ve been in this apartment a year now. In all that time, in spite of dozens of tricks and tries, I haven’t been able to keep my dog from peeing on the landing. Anger, frustration, disgust… These things are not good for one’s blood pressure and peace of mind. Finally, last week, I decided to stop running plays. I punted. Scrubbed the carpet for all of its worth and laid down plastic carpet protector. The first few days, she wouldn’t step on it – she jumped over it to the first stair. Then she tried peeing on it. Apparently that was unsatisfying because now, a week later, she is sticking to her weewee pads like a good little doggie. I’m not a big fan of plastic on the floor, but at least my budget for rug shampoo can be cut.

Letting go of worries gets easier as you go along. This time last year, there were people and things I allowed to consume my thoughts. Finances, exes (OK, really just one of the exes), the pets, the weedlings, the job, aging, change and OH-MY-GOD-THE-FUTURE… My blood pressure escalated, my depression worsened, and I alternated between sticking my head in the sand and letting my head explode like a dead possum in the sun (Yes, that visceral image in your head is exactly what it felt like). I’m not sure what happened. My emotional IQ reached its peak. My therapist started hypnotizing me during sessions. Bath and Bodyworks started replacing my wallflower scents with perfumed Haldol. God/Goddess/Universe intervened. Something. But one day, not too long ago over a cup of afternoon tea, I realized I wasn’t nearly as worried. All the things that normally kept me as tense as a cat hanging from the curtains were starting to lessen. Things slowly but surely were starting to even out. Not that I don’t still get concerned over my bank account or the future of my weedlings, etc., but somehow, in my heart and gut, I know it is going to work out. I know it is getting better, or at least coming to an end. My blood pressure is on the wane. And I feel hopeful. Really hopeful. What a gift!

Don’t get out of the habit of reading and writing. I already knew to keep up my good habits of eating well and exercising. But I had forgotten to keep up the habit of reading. Books provide escape, intellectual stimulation, focus, and a break from technology (At least for me, as I prefer paper books). I may never learn to effectively meditate, but I will always be able to bury myself in a book and turn off the outside world. It really does help. And I often learn something in the process. Not a bad result for a habit that shouldn’t be hard to cultivate. As for the writing, that is a little harder habit to maintain. It requires both intellect and imagination, and stress has a tendency to turn off both in me. But doing it is like leaking a pressure valve. Tension and thoughts that have built up exit my fingers and end up here. Far more effective and beneficial than them staying retained in my jaw. And, hey, someone might get a laugh out of it.

I can’t stomach commercial meat in my house. It’s been coming on for a while, but I have finally gotten to the point where I can’t stomach the thought of something that lives its entire life in terrible conditions and then gets killed for my benefit. I have taken to buying free range eggs, local and/or free range meat, and far less of both than I have before (Which is somewhat a function of economics). I suppose there will come a time when I can’t even stomach that and will give up meat entirely. But for now, I still crave it sometimes. I just eat less of it. Maybe it’s a justification on my part to say that the lamb had a happy life romping around the pasture before slaughter. Maybe it isn’t true that the local farmer doesn’t slam his pigs to death like the videos I have seen posted about large scale farm corporations. If so, don’t tell me. I will work my way there. At least I am making progress in my attempts to be less of a selfish human. I don’t have to be a super human.

Tho not there yet, I am getting closer to being comfortable with my appearance. A little while back, I took an offer for a free consultation with a plastic surgeon here in town. My sagging face really bothers me, and I was curious what it would take to fix it. Apparently the answer to that question is $18,000. Either I am far worse off than I thought, or I am unreasonable in wanting to have my jowls cut off. I mean, I know I am looking my age, and I know my age is getting older. But $18,000 older? That’s at least 3 kick-ass vacations (more, if I go alone) – and I’m thinking the vacations might make me just as happy. Really, it’s all a moot point since I don’t have $18,000 lying around anyway. But still. Time to make peace with my face. I am 49 years old. Obviously, so is my face. New England winters, southern summers, beaches, coffee, a short smoking career, various other ingested chemicals, kids, hormones, a life as fully lived as I could tolerate… These things have left their mark. And tho I spackle and Bond-O and paint and detail every day, it’s still a Tempest and not a Mustang. And that’s ok. No one will be clamoring to restore me to my former glory, but at least I’m forever memorialized by Marissa Tomei.

There is no reason to be afraid. I may not have Underdog, but I still won’t fear. With all I have done, even in cases where my actions and hopes didn’t pan out, I survived. Even if it left me a step or two behind, I was still upright and walking. GGU has blessed me with resilience and resourcefulness. And I am grateful. So why have I kept worrying about the future? Changes in family, in physicality, in work, in life…. BRING IT ON! I may not win the game, but I’ll keep playing til the end. And if it becomes evident that even my best skills aren’t going to win this quarter, well then, I’ll channel the Harlem Globetrotters and play for style and fun. But I will play. I will keep playing. No more bench time for me, and no more forfeited games. I’ll be the most tenacious team in the league, even if I don’t make the playoffs. So bring it, world! BRING IT!

And on that happy note, I wish you all a wonderful day, and I encourage you to look back and see what you’ve learned this year. You just might surprise yourself.

I Do Declare!

I, the Mab. In order to form a more perfect soul, establish self-justice, ensure sane tranquility, provide for self-defense, promote my family’s welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for myself and my weedlings, do ordain and establish this constitution of, for, and by myself.

So I was given a writing prompt to try. I’m supposed to write a declaration of independence. Yes, I realize that I stole from the preamble to The Constitution, but lets just excuse the mixed metaphor for now, ok?

My last year before 50. I’ve done a lot in my life, but before I turn my personal clock past half a century, there are things I want to change. I’m not much of one for miracle cures. Rather, I would just try and fail and accept it as fate, or proof that I was incapable. Screw that. Other people do it. Why can’t I? And this year, I will. I will plan and undertake and adjust. I will make my life closer to what I want.

I will adjust my career to get me on the right path towards my eventual goal. I have passed by many opportunities, afraid of being turned down, or believing that I wasn’t worthy. There were some that I passed by because I knew they would require a lot of work. And there were some that I passed on because the logistics seemed impossible. I have opportunities coming my way soon, and I will seize them with both hands and make the move toward a better future. (But I really do wish schools would just accept my 25 year old GRE scores.)

I will take better care of my health. I will eat regularly and healthy. I will walk daily. I will drink water. I will listen to my body and do as it requires: Sleep, Meditation, Exercise, Brainwork. By doing this, I will keep my body and my brain in better condition. Laziness for me becomes an instigator of depression, and I’ve had too much of that already. I may not be able to slay the beast, but I’ll keep him in his cage. And if I’m lucky, he won’t howl too loudly.

I will indulge my spirituality. I will stoke the embers of my faith with books and conversations. I will listen with open mind and open heart. I will accept the wisdom of others. I will let it fill me to the brim so that my self-defeating nonsense has nowhere to reside.

I will cut myself loose of unsolvable worries and excess “stuff”. I will use less and buy less and invest more in time and people. Or time with people. Relationships. Experiences. I have plenty of clothes, movies, coffee cups, gewgaws. (Note: Yarn and books are excluded from the list on purpose. I may be resolved, but I am also realistic.) This is the year to bring out the Buddhist in myself, and I’m not talking about the belly.

I will write more. I will listen more. I will learn more. I will read more.

I will talk less. I will waste less. I will complain less. I will yell less.

I will stop worrying about my possible pending crazy-cat-lady-dom. Lets face it, I’ve already been there and done that, so why fear it? I know I can rock it if I need to. Besides, it will lend some marketing legitimacy to my tarot reading skills.

I will find my long-lost belief in love. I had it once, but it was so long ago that it is probably lying mildewed and moth-eaten in some figurative trunk in the part of my brain that houses the Periodic Table and the rules of backgammon. I just need to find it. And air it out. Darn a hole or two. Repair a seam or three. And bleach the shit out of it. Lots and lots of bleach.

There you have it. I’ve spent too much time as of late playing defense. Time to get offensive! (No, in the other way… I’ve already got that way covered.) Blaze a path toward my quinquagenarian years. (Yes, that is a real word. But I had to look it up.) I cannot guarantee success for myself. All I can do is promise that I will make the effort. God/Goddess/Universe willing, there will be payoff. Regardless, it’s hard to go backward when walking forward. Unless you’re moonwalking. But I can’t think of another pithy phrase to use, so forget about moonwalking. Just believe me when I say that I will put one foot in front of the other and make my way down the path. And I hope you will join me. After all, journeys are much more fun with companions.

The Thirteenth Side

Sometimes there’s a big difference between perception and reality. When you get a text from a friend saying, “Where are you?” and you instantly panic because you think you’ve forgotten something important…. But the reality is, they are hoping you’re at Walmart because they are out of toothpaste and have a hot date in an hour. Or when, at dinner in Naples, you think you are impressing everyone with your foreign language skills by asking for the check in Italian, only to be quietly and politely told by the server that you actually asked for freight charges. (To be fair, we did eat a lot .) We’ve all had moments like this. I personally find them amusing. In fact, I often entertain myself by considering reality versus perception. Since I am both relaxed and chatty this evening, let me show you what I mean…

I’m on my patio sipping a glass of wine while I type. I’m frequently out here this time of day. Usually with a glass of wine (or a toddy in the cooler months). Last night I was crocheting. The time before, I was reading a book. I like to think the passersby are musing to themselves, “Oh look! That lovely cosmopolitan woman is at her café table again. What is she up to this evening? Typing. I wonder what she types? Maybe she is a writer of mysteries or fantasies. Maybe she has a pen name! She looks so chic with her wine glass, sitting in the middle of her little herb garden. One of these days, i’m go to introduce myself to her and her cute little dog.”

But I think there’s a good chance the reality is more like this: “Oh Lord. The wino is outside again. Why does she keep her planters full of weeds? Maybe it is weed. Good grief! And what is it with all the typing??? I’ll bet she’s tattling on all the neighbors. Last night she was out there with her yappy dog and this hideous blanket she is making for some poor bastard. Maybe it’s for the yappy dog. Oh my God, she’s looking this way… Just keep your head down and keep walking.”

Or maybe they are thinking something more like, “There’s the gypsy woman again. Patio covered in herbs and fairy lights. I sometimes see her out there later at night in long, flowy nightgowns. I’ll bet her apartment smells like incense. I wonder what she’s typing? Magic spells? Notes for her next Wiccan gathering? A thesis on Stonehenge? She seems harmless enough. I mean, she caters to that little dog like it’s a child. It’s not like she’s harboring black cats or anything. She could be kind of cool. Maybe we should go say hi.”

Maybe they find me patient and zen. “There’s the woman who lives next to the Moroccans. You know, the noisy ones that hate everybody and stay up all night fighting with each other. I don’t know how she can deal with the caterwauling. She and her dog sit out on the porch in the evening. She sips wine and listens to modern classical music while typing or knitting or whatever. She just seems to ignore the chaos caused by the neighbors. Her dog hates it tho… Always yapping at the kids when they come close to the fence. I see she has a pretty little herb garden. And fairy lights. I love it when she turns the fairy lights on. Makes her patio look so pretty. If it weren’t for her blasted neighbors, i’d go have a glass of wine with her.”

Maybe they enjoy a good story like myself. “There is that crazy dog lady again. Out with her wine and her laptop. I wonder what she’s doing? Probably just cruising Facebook, but wouldn’t it be funny if she were writing porn or something? Like maybe she writes those salacious vampire romance novels. Or gory horror stories. Or violent comic books. She has that great smelling little herb garden and those Christmas lights up, listening to film scores… Kind of reminds me of those eccentric women from Oprah novels. I wonder what she’s doing here? I mean, how did she get here? Do you think she moved here for work? Or maybe she’s on the run from the law. One of these days, we should ask her.”

Or maybe they are caught up in their own lives and the thoughts are far more simple: “There is a woman drinking wine with her dog. I wonder if I have any wine at home?”

They say there are three sides to every story: His side, her side, and the truth. But with enough imagination, there are infinite sides. Some more true than others. Some more entertaining than others. The best stories are the ones that are both true and entertaining. You know what I mean… The kind of story where you have to preface it with, “You can’t make this stuff up…” Except you can. You can make it up. In this stressed out world, very often we need entertainment more than truth. We need imagination more than fact.

So if you pass by my apartment and see me on the patio, wine glass in hand, dog on my lap, the scent of herbs and the sound of The Lord of the Rings surrounding, make up any story you’d like. Make me a spy. Make me a cult fiction writer. Make me a fashion model. (OK, the last one’s a biiiiiiiiiigg stretch.) Make me anything you’d like. Then hop over the fence, grab a chair, and tell me the story. If I like your story better than my reality, maybe I will keep it 😉

I’m Cool Like That

There are some things in life that are inherently uncool: Taking advantage of people who trust you. Farting at the dinner table. Bad tipping. Posting pics of people on facebook without asking them first. But there are other things in life that are only uncool for some people. For those who can work it, well, they MAKE it cool. Think Debbie Harry and her dark roots, Andre 3000 in a bowtie, Steve Martin playing the banjo. They work it like Hilary at a fund raising rally. It takes real chutzpah to make the uncool cool. And i LOVE it when i see someone do it!

But today… Today i am thinking about those things that i either wish were cool or wish i could rock hard enough to make cool. Things i do without thinking, they are so much a part of me, that embarrass my children and become the subject of funny family stories. So here they are: Momma Hol’s list of Stuff That Should Be Cool…

1. Dancing in the supermarket. I can’t help it. The background music gets inside me and my legs start to bounce. Before i know it, i’m standing in the pasta aisle practicing the electric slide as i push my cart. Sometimes i just channel Bert and do the Pigeon. I have seen and heard people giggle. Rather than feeling stupid, i choose to view my contribution to their laughter as adding sunshine to their day. And that is cool. FLASH MOB AT THE PIGGLY WIGGLY! EVERYONE DO THE HUSTLE!

2. Moderate hoarding. I wish people came to my house, saw the obscene number of books, yarns and tea (my top weaknesses) and said, “Man, she is AWESOME! It’s like Granny’s attic in here! How cool is that?!” I realize that is unlikely to happen, but a girl can hope.

3. Penny loafers. They were cool once. How hard can it be to bring them back? I love my Bass loafers. They are comfy. They look very New England prep (which my weedlings seem to think is synonymous with “dorky”). I won’t give up wearing them. Even if they never come back. Blame it on New England of the 70s and 80s. Or blame it on my dubious fashion sense. But i still wish they were cool.

4. Wrinkles. Even if i had Madonna’s plastic surgeon, i’d still have lines. I have spent more money than i care to admit trying to erase them, but like rumors of Tom Cruise’s sanity, they refuse to go away. Now, i admit, there are wrinkled people who are cool: Sean Connery, Judi Dench, Morgan Freeman… But they are cool in spite of their wrinkles, not because of them. (Ok, i admit, i’d settle for in spite of too). But wouldn’t it be fantastic if aging was just, well, cool? Something to strive for…

5. Random singing. Especially Christmas songs. Yes, i do this. My “go-to” song is, Let It Snow, but i have also been known to break into Born Free or the theme from The Love Boat. Song taste aside, singing makes me happy. I’m not Streisand, but i’m not tone deaf either, so it’s not like i’m gonna hurt anyone’s ears doing it. Usually, people laugh and roll their eyes. Unless they know me, and then they ignore it. Or they are my weedlings, and then they join in. It would be so cool if everyone joined in. Like that old coke commercial at Christmas (You know the one i mean…. And now it is stuck in your head. Ha!)

6. Bum-less-ness. I have tried working out: squats and lunges and bikes. I’ve danced my whole life. I walk. I flex. All to no avail. I’ve got a tiny butt. Ugh. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find jeans that look good if you have no bum? Might as well try to find a self-frying chicken. Pants are made to make butts look smaller or perkier. Make mine look smaller, and from the back, i look like i need a penny collection box on Halloween. But that is only because the world reveres a Beyoncé bum. What if the desirable thing were a rag doll bum? Wouldn’t that be a great change for those of us gluteally bereft? TOOKIS DEPRIVED WOMEN UNITE! Let’s make scrawny butts cool! (And once we accomplish that, lets go for saggy boobs and bunions!)

7. Snoring. I’ve been sitting here for ages and i can’t think of anything that makes snoring sound remotely cool. Maybe i should just beg my kids not to make fun of me for it and hope they take pity.

8. Being a morning person. Some people live for the nightlife, but as i read on an e-card the other day, “I am the life of party… As long as the party ends before 9 O’clock.” I prefer mornings, all fresh and crisp and full of promise. I am one of those who generally wakes up in the morning with a smile on my face. And yes, i usually do it before sun-up. That’s when i’m at my creative and energetic best. Once the sun goes over the yardarm, however, i’m about as peppy as a roadkill possum. It’s unfortunate, since all the good parties and movies start after dark. The morning people of the world, all 23 of us, are unable to give our full enthusiasm. It would be nice, for a change, if all the cool stuff happened in the morning. Liam Neeson is throwing a Charity bash at 9 am on Saturday! And you’re invited! Man, i’d be at all the cool events. Might even get my picture in the social column of the paper. Give the city a chance to see my cool wrinkles in print.

None of these things is ever likely to be cool. But i am. Kinda. Well, a little, anyway. To someone. Somewhere. I mean, everyone is cool to someone, right? But it’s not like it matters. All these uncool things are a part of me. And just like that nasty fish sauce they use in Thai cuisine, the final dish isn’t quite as flavorful without it. A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but a sprinkling of sea salt makes the caramel more sublime. If i were a wiser person, i’d say that i wouldn’t change any of the things on this list… They help make me who i am. But i’d also have to be a more deceitful person, since i honestly would love to wake up one morning and have a spectacular ass. I can live without it, tho. I have other traits that make up for it. I can’t make the rest of the world suddenly love mornings, but i can pull up next to you at the stoplight and start belting out the songs from Rent, and that might make you smile. Or laugh. At me. But go right ahead. Laugh at me. I can take it. I’m cool like that.

Forever Searching For The Queen. 

Have you ever glanced in the mirror and wondered who the person in the reflection was? And how the hell did they get in your mirror?
Every woman has her imaginary persona. Wonder Woman, Gangster Moll, Angie Dickenson. In my fantasy eye, i fancy myself walking the line between elfish sprite and wise crone. I am a woman of mystery, indeterminate age, aura of magic. Sparkle in my eye, scent of allure, element of mischief. Queen Mab. The subject of epic poems and masterful legend. When i close my eyes and drift to sleep, this is who i become.
In the morning, when i awake, some of the act lingers. (Maybe this is why i love mornings so much?) I am confident. I am taller, prettier, stronger. I am masterful.
And then i glance in the mirror.
The best of mornings, i can see some of the Queen behind the facade of reality. I can see that spark. That fairy. The worst of mornings, only the crone stares back at me. And her wisdom is lacking. I look and her and ask, “Where is Queen Mab?” And she responds, “Hell if i know, ” as if the question is both unreasonable and daft. Those mornings plague me. But most mornings, it is a barely fruitful search for the faintest sign of the Queen.
Behind the waning skin that is starting to fold, sometimes Mab, or at least Puck, shines thru. The eyes, tho squinting and soft, still remain clear like a pond in early morning. The smile, tho lined and pale, is still full and warm. The hair… Well, that’s just an exercise in frustration on any day, so lets just ignore the hair. The point is that most mornings, i can at least pick out a peek of the Queen in the way one finds their child in a group graduation picture. “There she is! See that bit of red hair? And the corner of the eye glasses? That’s my daughter! I can tell!”
That is all it takes. Just that little glimpse, and i feel better. Like i haven’t lost it. I haven’t lost that fire. That spark. That Queen. She still resides in me, buried underneath this foreign body that is like an undesirable Halloween costume with a broken zipper. The mask, stuck on my face. Jim Carey, where are you? Take it off! Somebody take it off!
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be 20 again. I was stupid then. Clueless about life and love and everything important. No amount of beauty is worth that kind of impairment. But i would take 40. When the lines were still fine and the sags could be disguised with a tilt of the head. I had some wisdom then, so life was far less frustrating. That would be nice. (Never in my youth did i ever imagine that i’d be wishing to be 40. Never.) But short of a Tardis or Bill and Ted’s phone booth, i don’t think it’s possible.
Yes, i can get a facelift. The doctors can nip and tuck and give me the outward appearance of a woman 10 years younger. They can stretch and staple my appearance to the past. But will it bring back the Queen? Or will it be just another mask? Will i be staring at another group picture, unable to find who i’m looking for because she doesn’t look like i expect? Will the new appearance be more of a real me? Can i fake the Queen like a spray-on tan? Does a picture of a fire still make one feel warm?
Who knows? Like everyone else in this chaotic world, i have more questions than answers. Thank God for the Maya Angelous, Eleanor Roosevelts, and Emmersons of the world or i’d have no wisdom to steal and impart to others. There isn’t much that i can honestly say i’ve figured out on my own. Those insights are about as rare as a “good face day” before the spackle and Bond-O application at my dressing table. But that, THAT, is the mask that i REALLY need. The one of me on my best day. Where do i buy THAT mask? If i could keep that mask in a jar on my dressing table, that would be just perfect. Then, on the days when i can’t find the Queen, i could slap it on and pretend. I’d spend my day on life’s stage playing the part i was born to play. No surgery. No recovery. No costume.  Just me at my best, stolen from another time.
Yah, it’s still fakery. But i’m stealing from myself, and i’m ok with that.
Looking at my reflection right now, i can see the Queen. I usually can when i’m writing. She is the keeper of that part of me and comes with the flow of words. Her wisdom shines thru my crystal eyes, and her lines are both artisticly painted and beautiful. Her fire shows thru my cheeks, and my freckles are making happy constellations. I like it. I hope she stays a while.
I don’t know if there really is a fountain of youth. Neither literal nor figurative. But i suspect that if there is one, it hides somewhere along the river of happiness. Do what we love with ones that we love, the river starts to flow, and the fountain sprays forth. Good breeds more good. Beauty begets beauty. That’s what i think, anyway. All i know for sure is that Mother Nature makes nothing simple, and Father Time is kind of a jerk.

It’s Mine, And You Can’t Have It

I was talking to a friend about my new tattoo this morning. And he asked me a question that i really had to think about:

“Why?”

I’ve heard other people answer that question. “It’s artistic expression.” “I wanted to honor an event/person important to me.” “I like them.” “Why not?” … But none of these things is my reason. And i think there is a good chance it isn’t their real reason either. After all, tattoos are expensive, painful, and not always socially acceptable. Seems to me that it would take more than “But i really like Dumbledore. He inspires me!” to get his portrait tattooed on your boob (The one on your body, not the one you dated for 3 years.)

Given that i am about to dedicate most of a day to being needled, i started giving the answer to this question some hard thought. Why AM i doing it? For the fourth time, no less.

The answer, when i dig deep, is both selfish and therapeutic. I get tattoos because it is essentially inscribing my body with a serial number, marking this body as MINE. Just MINE. Not yours. Not his. Or his. Or his. MINE. I have claimed it, decorated it to suit me, placed my mark upon it so no one can ever again take it from me. I OWN IT. ME. GET IT????? ME!!! MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry. I got carried away.

But this is important stuff. From the literal perspective of being molested or abused, to the more foggy vision of a society that dichotomously imposes both chastity and sexualization; as a woman, it takes bravery to take a stand, make a choice, reclaim what is ours. Whether flappers showing their knees or Kate Hepburn wearing pants, history is resplendant with women making choices about their appearance that disquiet others. I suppose you could argue that, in a sense, you are marking it so no one else will want it. And i do believe there are some who are so injured and broken that they do. But most of us still have vanity and pride. We don’t want to be ugly. We want to be special. Unique. OURS. And when someone comes along that is worthy, they will think it as beautiful as we do. But they will always know that our body is OUR home, OUR posession, OUR self. And if they get a piece of it, it is by OUR choice. And the ink is proof.

I will never be a woman totally covered in ink. I’ve spent a lifetime learning to love my body as it is, and that would defeat the purpose. And it’s not my style. Even when i paint pictures, i like to leave a lot of white space. That being said, each tattoo does change the way i look at my body. It becomes more MINE. My thoughts are broadcast outwards so anyone astute enough to my wavelength can see how my mind works. But even if they “get it”, my body doesn’t become any more “theirs” than any other work of art. They are just able to appreciate it on a deeper level.

Each of my tats has special meaning to me. My first one was designed by my daughter as a gift. One is a rendering by a girl who was working hard to draw instead of cut. One is a sweet reminder of the softer parts of my childhood. Today? Today is a reminder of my force within. Strength, beauty, magic. My artist “gets it”. She has brought it to life. Now there can be no dispute as to who i am and what i am worth. It is displayed in a mural on my back. A blood and flesh and ink declaration of content and ownership. The manifest of my bodily ship. A delineation of the soul inside the skin. My soul.

Maybe to some, a tattoo is just a tattoo, and a cigar is just a cigar. But i like to think that i am not alone in my “why”. I like the idea of a sister- and brotherhood using the art form as a way to break a chain. To stake a claim. To draw our line in the sand. This body is no longer a generic Honda Civic. It is a custom car, built of God/Goddess/Universe’s love and painted with flair and personal style. It isn’t for sale or rent. I have the only key. And you have no say in which roads it travels. This body, this unique and wonderful work of art, this is mine. All mine. And now the world knows.

Judgement Day

I have been described as “non-judgemental” by people who know me. I have always strived to be that way, never wanting to make another feel bad for their preferences or choices or for who they are. I know what it’s like to be under such scrutiny and i would never choose to do it to another. That being said, i found myself horrified last night. Waiting at a stop light, i watched a woman come out of a local burger joint. Close to me in age with the build of a typical southern Little League mom. She had on twill shorts and a Tshirt… Nothing to attract attention. And she was obviously out with her husband and weedlings for a fun Friday evening. But what thoughts ran through my head as i took that quick glance?

I wondered if she knew her rolls and muffin-top were accentuated by that tight Tshirt. I visualized handing her a hair brush. I said a hopeful prayer that someone would send her for a proper bra fitting.

And why? She didn’t appear miserable. In the half-second that i saw her, she appeared to be having a good evening. Her husband and boys didn’t seem to take any notice of those things. So who the hell am i to pass judgement? When it hit me that i was criticizing a woman i don’t know for not meeting some arbitrary standard of mine, as i said, i was horrified. I had become the judgemental person i reprimand.

Thinking over it later, i realized that i do it more often than i would have thought. The rotund girl in the daisy dukes. The insanely busty woman who goes braless. The gal in the Sponge Bob pajama pants at the grocery store. The one who wears the fluorescent orange eye shadow. The sandal-clad broad with hobbit feet. The stranger at the beach who appears to be smuggling a rabbi in her swimsuit. I have shaken my head at every single one of them. How dare i.

It’s not like i haven’t gone out in public, seen pictures later, and wished i could take it back. I have. And there have been times when i didn’t care. I didn’t feel well. I was in a hurry. Or i was in such a good mood that i didn’t notice. I wonder how many people shook their heads at me at those times? I have pictures of me in cutoffs where i think i look happy and beautiful, and pictures of me in elaborate gowns where i look defeated and dumpy. So who is to say which outfit was the better choice?

We say that we should be allowed to dress up or not according to our own taste and comfort. That clothes do not make the woman. That our style should be a reflection of who we are, not what others expect us to be. That we should dress to make ourselves feel good. But we also say that we women should take pride in ourselves. That we should make the most of what we have. That we should dress to impress and to project our best selves. To do all of those things seems like an inherently impossible task. Some of those things are mutually exclusive for most of us. And most of us don’t have just one “self” to project.

There are two women whose style and carriage i admire, but whose approach to appearance is diametrically opposed to each other. One is a very regal black woman. She favors flowing skirts, long jackets, precise makeup, and heels. Her fingers and ears twinkle with baubles and gems. When she enters a room it is impossible not to notice her confidence. She is kind and gracious and all those things that a lady is supposed to be, and you can tell it from the way she clothes herself. I’m not sure i’d recognize her in pajama pants.

The other woman is equally arresting, but for a totally different reason. Generally found in jeans and a casual Tshirt or flannel, devoid of makeup, straight hair sparkling clean but free of adornment. Her only jewelry, the wedding band to her beautiful wife. Her wardrobe is distinct in its non-descriptness. When you meet her, you are struck by her confidence, her comfort in her own skin, and the blue of her eyes that rings clear like the perfect spring sky. If i saw her in a classic shift, i think it would stop my function cold.

Is the former too involved in her appearance? Does she deserve to be criticized for refusing to answer the door without lipstick? Does the latter deserve any disdain for preferring a well-tailored suit and brogues to a chiffon sundress and sling-backs? Of course not. They are both stunningly beautiful, and their choices are perfect reflections of who they are. So why is it when i see a woman with children in hand and a smile on her face, i can’t think the same of her attire? If i took longer than a second to look at her, really LOOK at her, would i accept her choices more readily? Am i criticizing her, in effect, because i don’t know her? Because i can’t justify her choice based on my knowledge of her? How condescending of me.

I may never get to the point where i can accept leggings and a sports bra as clothing for anyone who isn’t immediately pre- or post- run. I may never be able to overlook ripped and filthy clothing on anyone who isn’t involved in laborious work. I think those things are too entwined in my beliefs on self-worth. But i can most certainly train myself not to dog another woman for committing some fake crime of fashion. I can teach myself not to assume that, just because i am not aware of them, there aren’t reasons for her choices. And i can learn to accept the fact that i have no right to pick-apart a woman’s wardrobe like some over-zealous editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Not only can i, but i must. As hard as it is to kill an old habit, it is even harder still to allow myself to be something i revile.

I’m An Expert

Twice today i was asked for advice. One was on a topic i am well-versed in. The other was about something that, well, i had to ask myself if they sent the text to me by accident. Surely no one who knows me would use my take on the subject as anything but humor. In any case, it got me to thinking… In my life, i have seen a lot, been thru a lot. I guess that makes me a decent source of advice for quite a few things. But i’m not the Highlander, so there are still many life experiences i have yet to deal with. Shall we rummage thru a general list, in case you should ever need my advice?

– I have traveled quite a bit outside the country. If you need advice on compact packing, surviving layovers, approaching locals, or how to carry your money safely, i’m your gal. But my sense of style is based on practicality, comfort, and looking classier than i am… So if you want advice on how to fit 4 pair of slut shoes into your carryon, you’ve got the wrong broad.

– Given my line of work, i can give you a decent explanation of tests and conditions relating to Cardiology, Radiology and women’s health. And as a mother of three with long term MDD, i have a reasonable grasp of childhood ailments and mental health. I am happy to impart what knowledge i can. But please don’t ask me if your neurologist is taking proper care of your brain tumor or if you should see a dermatologist about that boil on your bum. I have no flipping idea. (And i REALLY don’t want to see that boil!)

– I spent a generous part of my childhood in a home where alcohol, drugs and various types of abuse were routine. I will help anyone i can to deal with those circumstances or the scars they leave, as my sister and i are living proof that you don’t have to succumb to statistics. But after all we went thru, please don’t ask me to help you put another person thru it. That just makes me want to hurt you.

– I have been married and divorced three times. Two of those, with the fathers of my children, remain amicable. So if you want advice on how to keep a civil relationship after divorce or how to co-parent with an ex, i can give you some ideas that will hopefully get you started on a good path. I can also tell you what i know about divorce law. But if you want my advice on marriage, you might want to request my advice on mental health instead. Just sayin’.

– I have studied and taken extensive college courses in comparative religion. I love good discourse on faith and spirituality, and i am blessed to know people of various religions who are good walking examples of their faiths. If you need a sounding board for your evolving faith or need someone to accompany you to a new religious service, just ask. But if you want me to condone your defamation of a religion that you don’t like, just go ahead and kiss my arse. That’s what it will come to.

– Since i minored in cultural geography in college, see the last bullet for other cultures as well.

– I am a Star Trek fan. If you want a good old-fashioned debate on Kirk vs. Picard, the evolution of the Klingon Empire, or why i think Jadzia Dax was the sexiest ST character EVER, i will be more than happy to do so. Especially after a glass of wine. But ask me about Star Wars, and i’ll start quoting Space Balls on you.

– I can quilt, crochet, sew, and tat lace… But i don’t have the attention span to do large or intricate projects in spite of the fact that i keep my closet stocked for them. So if you are in need for chartreuse yarn and the store has already closed, give me a call. If you want to learn to make a granny square or how to do Irish Chain, invite me over for coffee. If you ask how long it would take me to alter and re-line your brother-in-law’s authentic Civil War reenactment uniform… The very real answer is, “Longer than it takes to read Crime and Punishment.”

– I am a 48 year old woman with kids, curves, and scars. If you want some brand names of large-cup bras that do their job, i’ll let you rifle thru my bureau. If you slip your 22 year old size 2 body into a pair of see-thru jeggings and ask me if they make your ass look fat, my only advice will be some authentic Italian hand gestures.

– I am a tea whore. Seriously. I love the taste, smell and tradition of tea. I buy from a Master Blender, and i can identify the teas “notes” like others deconstruct wine. Tea is my both my caffeine and my valium. The making of it is therapeutic to me. If you are looking for a perfect blend or want to put together a tea gift basket, i am full of ideas! If you want to know how many lipton bags to put in your windowsill iced tea jug, you are out of luck.

– I am a writer. I love words. Especially ones that make you laugh or think. If you received a thoughtful gift and want to word a special thank you, if you are doing the crossword and need an eight letter word for “unreal” , if you got a snarky email and need a witty retort… Honey, i’m all about it. But if you ask me to proofread a message that is essentially a string of texting vernacular, expect to get a raised eyebrow and a witty retort.

– Lastly, what i write on here is who i am. For better or for worse, this is me. If you are having to host a dinner party that includes a rabbi, a Croatian fish farmer, and a transvestite, i’d be happy to attend and keep everyone involved in the conversation. Hopefully, i will also keep them all laughing and help them realize that we all have a lot in common. But if you need someone to speak on the tragedy of orphan beatings at a general assembly of the Papal council, for the love of God, don’t ask me!

We all have our areas of expertise. Every single human on this Earth has a gift that is meant to be shared and wisdom that is meant to be imparted. Most of us have a fair idea of what we can speak intelligently about in times of crisis. To identify the ones who have no idea? Ask them what they can’t tell you about.