Tag Archives: Aging

What I cast away in 2016

Americans, I think, tend to think about things — everything — in terms of gain. Bigger means better. More is good. The best houses are mansions. Personal income and the stock market should always go up. Value meals are valuable because they offer more calories for the buck. The Grand Canyon is worth seeing because it’s, well, grand.

I look at my accomplishments like this. A job worth doing is even better when I can multi-task. Any day is a better day when I can look back on a long list of things to do that got done. A year is always better when it was full.

But 2016 was not of year of making gains for me, it was a year of losing things. Mostly, I lost clutter, an untidy collection of people, places and things no one wants.

A big thing I lost was a court case. I wrote about this court case last January, when we were in the midst of trial. To summarize a seven-year ordeal as succinctly as I can, I was among four named plaintiffs suing on behalf of 400 fellow employees to recoup our retirement fund. I was hopeful a year ago that we would prevail, but we didn’t. The judge issued his ruling in September and I learned, much to my dismay, that losers have to pay the winners’ court fees. Yeah, first I lost my retirement, then I lost the court case and then I was on the hook to pay literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in court fees. That would explain why I never blogged about the judgment; I struggled to find a bright spot.

But after much back and forth, we were forgiven the court fees and legally put the whole drama to bed. So even though I lost the case, I gained peace of mind and the gift of putting all the stress and sorrow behind me.

My Beloved and I also observed the end of an era when my stepson (the younger of my two stepchildren) graduated from college and got a job. He’s still our child, but he’s no longer a child. He’s a self-supporting adult. What we lose in terms of a dependent, we gain in the form of a new approach to parenting. Less control, more equality.

I also helped my stepdaughter scrape a barnacle off the hull of her ship. Without getting into the details, I relished in the opportunity to live in the same house with her for a while, a chance I didn’t get when she was a teenager. Living together with anyone breeds familiarity and in this case, affection.

I effectively and definitively kicked my 40s to the curb in 2016. On Dec. 23, I officially became a member of the AARP crowd. Honestly, I hate aging and I’m not thrilled to be 50, but let’s just say, I discovered some elixirs to dull the effects. Thank you, modern pharmaceuticals.

abundance

An image of abundance, captured at an outdoor market in Barcelona, Spain. I didn’t need to buy pounds of dried fruits or nuts to appreciate their beauty.

Other losses in 2016: The Cubs ended a long drought of World Series wins. That was fun. The Dems lost the White House. No matter what you think of the result, a poli-sci major like me found the whole messy process fascinating. I gave up my post-a-day blogging habit, having written something on this blog only 81 times this year, the fewest since 2008 when I posted three times (I’m hoping to turn this bad habit around in 2017).  And I lost 17 glorious June days on a European vacation. In fact, I traveled 161 days in 2016, and the only thing I missed about home was the bills stacking up.

Most significantly and triumphantly, I lost an ugly pantry, some disgusting bathroom flooring and a literal ton of household ephemera. When we decided to list our house on the market (the house itself was the reason for the aforementioned bills), we knew we had to remodel the pantry (did you miss the before-and-after shots? Not to worry — click here) and replace the carpeting in the master bath. Yes, carpeting. Can’t believe I lived with it for nine years. My Beloved and I learned how to tile, and now I can see each individual stray strand of hair I leave behind after a shampoo. After sorting through every last closet and drawer in the house, we shredded 14 boxes of paperwork, filled the trash can innumerable times and dropped off 15 carloads (or at least trunks full) of stuff at Goodwill. I won’t miss a single one of those things, and I’ve learned how to curb my propensity to accumulate.

To fair, not all that I cast away had an upside. I also lost a few treasures.

Like my uncle, who succumbed to a brain tumor in September at age 65. I got one last visit with him in August that feels like a gift.

And my youth, which died quietly of an overdose in April in an elevator in Paisley Park. Of all the shocking celebrity deaths in 2016, Prince’s was personal for anyone who considers Minnesota home.

These sorts of losses serve as reminders that time is short and should be spent carefully, with people and in places we love. So here’s to 2017: May we all spend our time well.

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Coping with bangxiety

Today is a bad hair day.

Yesterday I wore an ugly headband and today I’m wearing a hat even though it makes my head sweat in the near 90-degree temps.

Shaggy DA

The Shaggy D.A. on Day 48 with bangs.

It’s because I have bangxiety.

 

I forgot yesterday was Travel Tuesday and I was supposed to blog about the Yuma Territorial Prison.

My absent-mindedness is because I have bangxiety.

I can’t wait until tomorrow when I have a haircut scheduled.

My impatience is because I have bangxiety.

Thanks to Fab Over Forty, I learned a great new word (bangxiety!) and confirmed my recent decision to adopt forehead fringe. Kari Schultz over at Fab Over Forty blogs that bangs are not frumpy but fabulous for those of us nearing middle age.

Yes, for the first time in 25 years, I got bangs 48 days ago. They were awesome for the first six weeks. I looked decades younger, I’m positive. But now they’re driving me wild with bangxiety! This is always the problem with bangs, I remember ruefully. Time passes, hair grows. And I. Can’t. See!

Now I know why the Shaggy D.A. had a nose for mystery. He sure didn’t have the eyesight for it!

I found my mojo at the used bookstore

After turning Suzanne Somers’ book Ageless over in my hands (and my mind), I toted it inside from the rack on the sidewalk, ready to hand over 50 cents for it. I pay 50 cents for a newspaper. Even a book by Suzanne Somers is worth that.

Come and knock on our door …

I hear you, theme from “Three’s Company.”

The oldish guy seated behind the counter in the used bookstore had longish gray hair. A oldish cigarette with a longish ash hung from his fingertips.

“I’ll take this one,” I said, setting Somers’ missive on the cluttered counter. “Do you have a memoir section?”

He eyed me briefly and pointed me down a longish aisle to a hand-lettered sign that said “Biography Room.” Off I went to explore the used treasures therein.

Surrounded by old book smell, I was just happy to be upright this afternoon as I browsed through various political and celebrity memoirs (I found memoirs by Loni Anderson and Rob Lowe I couldn’t live without — because one used book by a washed-up celebrity isn’t enough). I took a shower this morning for the first time since Tuesday, when I was tanked by a virulent strain of the coughing-aching-stuffy-head flu, delivered with a generous helping of exhaustion (for those of you who are counting, this was my second bout of flu this winter). For four days, it was all I could do to change my underwear and brush my teeth.

This morning, I could breathe again, glorious breathing in and out through my nose. I showered. Shaved. Washed my hair. Exfoliated my face. Body lotion. Antiperspirant. Wrinkle creams of every weight and brand.

I even blow-dried my hair and applied mascara.

So my Beloved and I ran an errand that I had been putting off, and the errand brought us near enough to the bookstore that Suzanne Somers’ tome caught my eye (oh, to feel ageless again, when I was just happy to feel human).

A minute or two after I disappeared into the Biography Room (which was more like a Biography Closet, but who’s complaining), my Beloved entered the store, having satisfied his curiosity at the antique shop next door.

“Is my wife here?”

“There’s a lot of wives here,” the smoking clerk said. He paused, eyeing my Beloved and putting two and two together. “Oh, you mean the tall looker? She’s back there, in the Biography Room.”

Did you hear that? He called me a tall looker. Me. The woman who, only hours before, looked like death warmed over. I was no longer the woman of greasy hair and bloodshot eyes and sneezing attacks.

I am a tall looker.

A tip to the clerk wasn’t appropriate, but he certainly earned one.

Believe deeply

The veteran actor with the bushy eyebrows and the glum visage — who seemed ancient 40 years ago when he was playing a tired police detective on “Barney Miller” — died yesterday.

Abe Vigoda is dead. For reals.

If “enjoy” is the right verb, I enjoyed his obituary in the newspaper this morning, which imparted this little bit of wisdom for those among us who are grasping for meaning as we age:

Vigoda quote

It’s about time

I finally saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

I say “finally” because the movie had grossed in excess of $700 million before I plunked down my $9.50 (plus the cost of a buttery popcorn and a Perrier — yeah, it was that kind of theater).

And then I read a couple chapters from Donald Trump’s Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again before I went to bed (I’ll have a lot more to say about the book when I finish it).

And then I dreamed all night of Donald Trump in the desert (he was winning, I’ll tell ya!) Which was better than the dream the night before that I was drowning under a house, but not much.

I liked the movie though the plot was a bit, well, workmanlike. It hit all the right notes, but I can’t say I was surprised. What surprised me most was the conversation I heard in the ladies bathroom after the movie.

A crowd of four senior couples filed into the theater seats behind us after was sat down for the movie, and by “senior” I don’t mean “senior in high school.” The female members of the group gathered in the ladies restroom post flick and discussed it through the stall doors. Three out of four of them had never seen a “Star Wars” movie.

This shocked me. Never seen a “Star Wars” movie? How can that be? I’m a science fiction fan, I guess. “Star Wars” is de riguer viewing.

“Did the first one come out in the ’70s?” one asked.

“My boys saw it, but I didn’t have time,” said another.

Ah. That’s the real difference between me and those women. They were mothers. Mothers who were juggling 100 different priorities while raising their children in the ’70s. Seeing a movie when there’s ironing to be done, homework to help with, dinner to make? Unthinkable. It was probably a luxury of time they didn’t have.

Which explains why these 70-somethings had spent three hours of their evening in a movie theater watching the seventh installment of a movie series they’d never bothered to see before.

It wasn’t because they had the interest necessarily.

It’s because they had the time.

How to fake being an old lady at exercise class

So I joined a new gym recently and I love participating in the exercise classes. Like Full-Body Toning and BodyPump and Step Like You Mean It.

Just kidding about that last one. That’s not the real name. It’s a step class just like I used to do in the ’80s.

Oh my god. Has it been that long?

Yes. Back then, I had my own step, I inserted a videotape into my VCR and Jane Fonda barked me into exercise submission while I sweated away in the middle of my living room.

The instructors at the my classes nowadays probably don’t even know who Jane Fonda is.

And they certainly don’t know what a VCR is.

But there are some benefits to being one of the oldest women in these classes filled with young suburban mothers. Let’s call it Red Hat Syndrome.

Surely you’ve heard the poem that begins “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.” An entire sorority of women has been formed around the ethos of that poem: When I get old, I won’t care what other people think.

It’s an especially useful attitude in exercise class.

For example, I don’t care if you can see the cellulite on my butt through my tight spandex capris. And I don’t care if I’m using baby 5-pound weights during the biceps routine, and I really don’t care when I give up doing sit-ups half-way through so I can catch my breath or if people have to walk around me after class because I’m still in the way stretching my Achilles tendon.

If anyone is judging me during exercise class, I don’t care. Because I know I’m better than 90 percent of the rest of the population who are still in bed or sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through.

So when I show up to claim my 6-by-6-foot spot on the exercise floor, I take the one up front and by the mirror.

Because I don’t care!

A bonus benefit of being the old lady up front is I think people actually feel a little sorry for me. The teacher loudly mentions, “It’s OK not to use weights for this one — you can use your body weight.” And the girl behind me isn’t looking at my measly weights and even measlier biceps — she’s thinking, “Oh, good for her! I hope I’m still doing exercise classes at her age!”

And because I don’t care if I wear my hair in a ponytail and I don’t have any makeup on, I might even invest in a red baseball cap to wear to class.

Because that’s how old ladies roll.

Or step.

What it means when a centenarian goes shoe shopping

As I’ve sorted through my grandmother’s journals this week, I found a funny photocopied essay she squirreled away in the back of one of the books.

Now, to find it amusing, you have to know Grandma. She’s 100, and she lived on her own until two weeks before her last birthday, so she’s pretty healthy (for 100), clear-headed, tough (she has, after all, lived in Minnesota for a century) and she’s got a great sense of humor (I wouldn’t be surprised if she told someone April Fools Day is her favorite holiday — that reminds me, I need to look up April 1st in her journals over the decades).

She’s also just a little bit vain. Not in a bad way — I admire this about her. Her earrings always match her outfit, for instance, and she colored her hair into her 80s. It must be working for her — she’s never been overweight and she’s 100 years old. In fact, I dedicated my last book to her because “she proves vanity is a virtue.” When I last visited her a few weeks ago, I accompanied her and my dad to an appointment with her eye doctor. On the way home, she wanted to stop at a nearby shoe store because she was looking for a particular type of sandal — my 100-year-old grandmother was shoe shopping! How great is that?! (I found it amusing when we couldn’t find quite the right style of sandal and the sales lady helpfully suggested the sandal selection would be more vast in the spring. I hope my 100-year-old fashion-conscious grandma will shopping for new sandals next spring!)

So I find this little essay tucked into one of her journals, which she began keeping when she was 70. It’s titled “The Stranger” (a quick internet search reveals the author to be Rose Madeline Mula). It starts like this:

A very weird thing has happened. A strange old lady has moved into my house. I have no idea who she is, where she came from, or how she got in. …

She is a clever old lady, and manages to keep out of sight for the most part, but whenever I pass a mirror, I catch a glimpse of her. And whenever I look in the mirror to check my appearance, there she is, hogging the whole thing, completely obliterating my gorgeous face and body. This is very rude. I have tried screaming at her, but she just screams back.

It continues for several paragraphs describing how the Stranger “plays nasty games …altering my clothes” and doing “something really sinister to the volume controls on my TV, radio and telephone. Now, all I hear are mumbles and whispers” and other mean tricks.

I find this amusing, as I stand on the precipice of 50 (14 months, 7 days away, not that I’m counting or anything). There’s a strange middle-aged lady in my house with a flabby butt and crow’s feet who leaves marbles in my shoes and makes it difficult for me to recall exactly the right word without a thesaurus.

I find a little comfort knowing Grandma felt this way at 70something and yet, she’s still going strong, getting her hair done, painting her nails and shopping for shoes.

That’s the old lady I want to be. One who, despite being unable to unscrew a jar of spaghetti sauce, maintains a firm grip on her vanity and her sense of humor.