Tuesday, October 17, 2017

#MeToo

Those two words hugging the hashtag kept me awake last night.  It isn’t so much the idea of coming out of the shadows and being open about my life.  That has been evolving for the past 8-9 years when a beloved therapist encouraged me to start a blog and begin to write again. My new voice - often opinionated, occasionally melancholy and lately tinged with rage, I’m blaming (thanking) him for.  His reasoning to me was:

1) I was good at it, and, I thought he knew what “good” looked like because his wife was a writer, and I had no self-esteem of my own, which, was in part, why I was there.  

2) He felt it would be healing for me; and it turns out he was right. My “go to  therapy” to try to make sense of things, has always been words; poured out on paper giving me relief and way to look at my thinking at that moment.  That has made me as transparent (and vulnerable) as living in a glass house with no window treatments. 

3) He said, it could help others to see they weren’t alone and give them permission to be brave and know that someone else had not only traveled a path of pain, but ultimately, thrived in spite of. 

Write I have; about growing up in a crazy dysfunctional household, toxic relationships, addiction, and character defects of my own that have made life difficult- often because of my own poor choices. Yet, choices made out of a survival instinct instilled  many years ago, based on old false information about who I was and what I thought I deserved, I am learning, doesn’t define my life.  I also wrote about the love and the joy and the gratitude that is a daily part of my life, mostly because I did the work, made myself vulnerable, got honest, and began to live authentically.  And, it sure didn’t hurt to discover a Creator that I’ve grown to know and continue to develop a personal relationship with.  It is the first time in my life I have EVER felt unconditional love.  Under that umbrella, it feels safe to be honest and tell my story.  There are no repercussions coming from that kind of love. 

Amazingly,  I did hear from others, predominately women, but also some men who felt safe to share their own struggles and secrets.  It has been worth it for that reason alone.  I wrote despite the fact I could tell, it made some of my circle uncomfortable, I recognize those feelings are not their fault.  They quite simply were either raised in an age where you kept your feelings to yourself, handled any and all affairs privately, and kept the family secrets at ANY cost even if a member of that family commits illegal or damaging acts that harm others.  

Growing up, I was taught kids are seen, not heard.  As a teen I was told, if you dress a certain way or put yourself into precarious positions, you deserve what you get.  As a young adult I was told men are powerful, don’t get a reputation as a troublemaker or jeopardize your future and career. Go with the flow, even if that flow felt uncomfortable.  I was told, by both men AND women, as a single mother raising a child, and later a  young widow trying to financially take care of my needs as well as grieve the loss of the best man I’d ever met, just don’t rock the boat.  

So, here's a truth I haven’t come clean in this one very sensitive area of my life. 

#MeToo. #MeToo. #MeToo.  

One of the biggest reasons I haven’t, is because of other women.  In my experience that has been worse than the harassment and abuse of  men, in the long run.  For whatever reason, women judge other women quite harshly.  Is it jealousy?  Competition?  Fear?  I don’t know. But, I believe it has been one of the biggest detriments in eliminating this scourge and ending the abuse of women. We may have moved forward a few inches in breaking the glass ceiling, but the caveman is still dragging us around by the hair like property. And, other women are saying, we deserved it.  Woman are still standing by their man, even when they know said man is an abuser.  That is their choice, and I am not judging their decision.  I don't know what it is based on.  Insecurity.  Threats. Fears, for sure.  What I am saying is, it's not cool to disparage the women these perpetrators have victimized. It's not cool to say, it was consensual, when it may not have been.   

Most recently, I witnessed a row of abused women, front row, at a debate between two presidential candidates- one female, one male.  These poor women were paid to protest (by the male candidate's campaign)  their documented abuse at the hands of the female candidate's  husband. This was after the other candidate, the male,  was caught on tape laughing about his history of abusing women!  I felt like these women sitting there, were just abused again!  By both candidates, but even worse the woman, who refused to acknowledge their shame and suffering. I think about the number of times I’ve heard, the words, “Boys will be boys. That was just locker room talk.  Well, she put herself in that position.” OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF OTHER WOMEN!  I think about the number of times I’ve witnessed the villainization of a family member while the tribe continues protecting the predator within the victim’s own family! 

Some examples of real life stories that just may give you some insight into the "Mean Girl" syndrome...

She’s referred to as the slutty girl in high school. Bouncing from guy to guy.  Maybe she’s been raped in a household that turns their heads and do not have the capacity to show her what real love looks like.  Defend her.  Don’t demonize her.  

She’s the lady who keeps moving up the corporate ladder. Rumors swirl predominately from female co-workers and she is judged as probably  “sleeping with the boss.”  Maybe she isn’t. But, maybe she tolerates the "man talk", because her biggest dream is to provide her child with a good future and education and she needs her insurance for an ill spouse.  There is always a back story.

I was married to a man with the most empathy I have ever seen in a human being.  He kept me honest.  Whenever gossip swirled and that part of me that wanted to feel superior reared its ugly head, he said, "You just don't know the rest of their story." 

Ladies...Open your heart to the rest of the story. 


It has to stop. #MeToo might be a beginning in understanding the MAGNITUDE of the problem, but if we really want to take our power back and empower our daughters, grand-daughters, nieces and other young women to break free from what seems to have become a social norm, this practice of accepting and trying to justify the behavior of powerful  men; intimidating, harassing, threatening, touching, violating us,  then we as women have got do more than just come out of the closet and say #MeTo.  We have to stop judging and start being champions and defending each other - in our homes, in our relationships, in our jobs.  

I’d like to see the new hashtag read, #MeToo #SheIsMySister.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Looking Good-Part Two - Rejuvenate My What ?


I think how we deal with the aesthetics  of aging depends on  a number of things,  mostly,whether you are at the younger end of the baby boomer timeline.   In my 50's a panicked me grabbed at every beauty and anti-aging invention known to man; at least the ones that wouldn't send me to the poor house like plastic surgery or imported embryo placenta.  Do  poor houses even exist these days?  I think they are now called "the streets".   I had been a young widow, already alone for half a decade then and I was convinced if I didn't stay ahead of the flab, age spots, and wrinkles, I would never attract a charming, like minded, 50 something widower to walk hand in hand into new beginnings with.   I kept my mind sharp too staying abreast of current events and culture, joined Lumosity, took College courses and picked up some foreign language CD's. Clearly  my attempts at being a desirable old broad - mind, body and soul  didn't matter to that widower pool - I noticed most of them weren't all that fussy, they were either racing into a commitment with some still fertile, nubile chunk of arm candy.  Or, there were the ones, that within three months without their spouse, hooked up with the first woman that sent them a wink on a dating sight, or engaged in a little cha-cha-cha at the singles clubs.  In my experience widowers seemed to race through the grief process much faster than widows.  They just couldn't stand to be alone. There is a marked difference in the grief process of the male and female sexes but that's a discussion for another day. 

The mirror ruled my day in my 50's. If the reflection looked good, I was good.  If it didn't, well, it was a shopping trip, a new beauty ritual, or an extra few laps around the neighborhood in my state of the art and the newest craze, THE ROCKER BOTTOM TENNIS SHOES, guaranteed to burn twice as many calories and tone your legs.   With humility I must say, I would have been the perfect walking (yes, cheesy pun intended)advertisement for their shoes with my 50 something killer legs. They  certainly looked far better than the chicken legs I pranced around on in my 20's.  Now in my 60's,  I want to send that company my bill for a left hip replacement.  Power walking on shoes that teetered from side to side seems a high price to pay for calves of steel.  Although the ego then, would have said it was totally worth the string of compliments that came from even total strangers back then.  Aging does something to the ego - like sucker punches it out of you. 

I really was moderately (ok - wildly) vain. You would not catch me going to Spin Class, or Zumba without a hint of lip color and maybe a sweep of eyeliner.  Without it I felt like a refuge who lost her lips and eyes in the war against aging. A generous amount of illuminating powder backed up the claim, girls don't sweat, they glow.   In my 50's my gym trips were  going to battle- against the bulge, but I had to look good doing it.  

 I get a little alarmed at my lackadaisical  attitude to maintaining the illusion of youth these days.    Now, I  slink in the front door at the gym,  slither along the wall and park my yoga mat in the far corner.  If they'd stay on my face during downward dog,  I'd probably wear sunglasses. Incognito me, except some smart aleck would likely recognize me from a decade ago, and say, "Hey I knew that lady before she lost her battle, and lips, in the war. What a shame." 

Sometimes it  can be depressing but I like to think one of my strong suits is the ability to pull out relatively harmless coping mechanisms and those hard earned tools I've accumulated,  to screw my head back into a place of right thinking.  When I am feeling bedraggled and defeated by the siren song of youth and it threatens to smash me up against the rocks, I watch the Real Housewives of Orange County.  I can't even hardly write that out loud.  I feel the earth shake and my Dad, who was a bitter enemy of television, let alone stupid, shallow television, rising up like the ghost of Christmas past to scare me into a good book. Relax Papa - Real Housewives is good medicine for my occasional regretful aging soul.  A  therapeutic marathon viewing reminds me of how ridiculous it looks to chase youth at any cost.   These ladies aren't your typical working class gals and have at their disposal all those things I was talking about earlier that I cannot afford; plastic surgery, botox, high end cosmetics and even make-up artists are as common as a pedicure.   They've lifted faces, bobbed noses, traded up for bigger boobs, frozen fat,  and lasered their skin into painful looking sunburned blobs.  All that work and expense and they are constantly screaming at each other about kindergarten mentality playground slights, drunken brawls, and gossip.  I think if I had that kind of money, I'd invest it into spiritual cruises with Deepak Chopra, or a summer at Chautauqua Institute, or sessions at Omega improving my mind and expanding my soul. 

The latest attempt at maintaining youth from these middle age gals was when Kelly decided to upgrade her vagina. Yep, you heard me, it's called Vaginal Rejuvenation and this procedure was broadcast for all the world to see.  Now, I have heard after birthing children and/or as we age, the bladder can need a little face-lift of its own to help with leakage.  That sounds medically necessary.  But a vagina upgrade so you can have the vagina of a virgin? Yikes! Some things are just better left in the past.  I laughed so hard I thought my next surgery would be bladder reconstruction.  

Why do we put so much time and value into a body that's destiny is to disintegrate and turn to dust instead of investing in the eternal soul that does survive that body's demise.   

I turned the television off and vowed tomorrow I would hold my head high at the gym,  place my yoga mat right out in front, and maybe I would leave the lips and face bare.  Nah. I'm still a proud purple heart recipient just a little nicked up and wounded in my battles against the aging process, but I am not dead yet.




Thursday, August 24, 2017

Looking Good- A matter of perspective - Part One

I always take a summer sabbatical from Facebook.  It does my sensitive little soul good to detach from comparing my (perceived) boring little boomer life with its lack of funds, occasional loneliness, new pains, surgeries, and disabilities  to the fairy tale world of my friends. They all seem to be whopping it pretty nicely; hiking the hills, savoring the cuisine, frolicking with the family.  I am actually happy for them. Truly. I  know it's just a point in time, and not everything is as it appears. I've done it all and had it all and my life has been immeasurably blessed.   I also understand people are proud of their kids, grandkids, accomplishments and want to share and show off a bit. I do too.

 This past year, was the year I least enjoyed Facebook and had no problem signing over and out pre-summer.  Politics, differences, fake news, real news,  just seemed to permeate my news feed and I had a hard time practicing my Zen space and spent more time expressing my first amendment rights.  In other words, I could not keep my big, fat, opinionated mouth shut.  It was time to accept sometimes ignorance is bliss. Deactivate!  Deactivate! 

 I've pursued these sabbaticals for a number of years now and have discovered when I log off social media for a few months, it opens up a huge chunk of time and forces my lazy little addicted brain, to find pleasure in ways that are healthier for me. I read more books in 3-4 months than I read the rest of the year.  I get creative with my time and try new recipes, projects, find free community events, and most of all, enjoy the kind of face-time done in the flesh rather than cyber connecting. The sound of a voice, a laugh, sharing and/or wiping a tear, and the feel of a long bear hug is far more nurturing to me and has become precious. Special moments sometimes need to be held close-  not necessarily shared with the world.  That can dilute its magic.   The break from social media also forces me to be present in a world that surely does have its lumps and bumps, but teases and tickles my curiosity to explore and change up my navigational tools.  What I used to perceive as boredom has become quality time between me and God if I take the time to just sit with it and let the creativity wash over me. 

I am, however, always glad to get back.  For awhile.  It's good to know that I'm missed and that I have a voice that some actually enjoy hearing. And, being a long-time Facebooker (2007) I have learned to respect the rights (and not get hurt or offended) of those who think I have nothing of value to offer in my posts, and scroll on by.   The upside of Facebook is every now and again, we get a little boost - a positive jab to our ego, a reminder that we can often be our worst critic.  Others can see us differently at times when we most need to still the voice of our own criticism.   I  must confess I enjoyed the strokes to my ego when I logged back onto Facebook a day or so ago.  

Posting a new, realistic profile picture, current and casual, I was overwhelmed by sweet comments, especially the ones that spoke about my "agelessness".  What baby boomer on the older edges of boomer-hood wouldn't enjoy hearing that!? It was a nice thing to say and I privately felt so grateful for such kind words written about my 63 year old visage posted under my profile pic.  The younger baby boomer in me (50 something) would have been highly critical and seen myself through a set of harsh eyes. Boring, dull hair, fading eyes, thinner lips accentuated by the vertical lines above the upper, collapsing neck, which makes the grand-kids laugh when I dance and it "shakes that thang" underneath.  This is the true definition of the Chicken Dance. 

But, this time, I squinted really hard, like I was gazing at the solar eclipse through my cheap cereal box projector and saw the view was still pretty cool.  Not quite as spectacular or showy as seeing it through special eclipse glasses and no one would likely say it was a phenomenal sight.  It was however, a serene face with eyes that were so deep, you  could spend a lifetime unveiling the stories.  There was a sense of peace and acceptance in that face. The few lines around the mouth spoke volumes of how often it was stretched into contented smiles with just a whiff of smokers lips; a reminder that there was a past there just in case the brains that went with that face ever got a little cocky and needed reminded to be grateful for new beginnings.

It was true, in comparison to many of my retirement age buddies, I did appear to have smoother skin, fewer wrinkles, which I immediately attributed to the 40 pounds of additional fluffiness. But, I've even learned not to be so stressed about that either.  There is an upside to those extra pounds. Clearly they've plumped up those facial wrinkles without the use of fillers.   As my new family doctor tells me (he is about my age- that's why I picked him) in many cultures my body would be greatly desired. Plump is a sign of wealth and prosperity. Gotta love an optimist.  While honestly,  I haven't been 100% thrilled with the extra pounds,  I am comfortable with me and my relatively laid back attitude towards them.  I no longer want to blame, multiple surgeries, long recoveries and the inability to exercise for my weight gain, because the important thing is, my dear body survived all of that and is recovering from that trauma.  Amazing.  It seems almost ungrateful to be so incredibly critical and derogatory and put my focus on appearances rather than health. So, I don't anymore.   At this age, I want to be able to eat pasta, full-fat yogurt, and my Lindor truffles - some of the time.  I am moving slower, but I like to think of it as intentionally treating my body in gentler, more tender ways that serve this old broad better - yoga, stationary bike riding in front of a good Netflix show, losing the ego and looking for the blessings - my body will shrink, in time.  Or not.  

I can't thank those Facebook buddies that took the time to comment enough for the wonderful words. I may not always like the things that have been happening to my boomer bod, but I sure do love what's happening to my optimism and perspective.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Birth of Boom Baby


When my middle grand-daughter was a little girl her favorite exclamation was- BOOM BABY.  She was an ornery child with big blue eyes  that twinkled like  mischievous stars going rogue in the night sky.   Her tiny voice would lower into a toddler Mae West impersonation body language and all. “BOOM BABY” she would announce to anyone within ear shot.   It was her way of letting you know someone or some thing, rocked.  That might mean you looked exceptionally hot- in my case, for an old broad;  or, you zapped someone  with a razor sharp sarcastic zinger; or, you might have even ventured into something daring like the time I jumped out of an airplane in my mid 50’s.   I got a  big BOOM BABY for that one.  It was quite the compliment doled out to this elder and to those grand-kiddos anyone over the age of 12 fit that description.  

 I am not so sure my middle grand-daughter thought of me as an older person when she was 3 though.   A little help from Miss Clairol and new tennis shoes designed to outrun the advancing fleshy fat cells of age, helped maintain the illusion of a grandma rock star.  I kept up with the current music, movies, trends, the latest toys and could carry on a lively conversation with the youngest generation, toddler to tween. To my own grandkids I was a partner in adventure and crime.  But, was it really criminal to let them eat copious amounts of junk food and candy and discharge them back into the arms of  mom and dad with queasy tummies?  So what if I sent them home energized and ready for a little home-based wall climbing fueled by a sugar high!  The adoration in their sweet faces as I kissed their salty-sugary lips tinged with potato chips and chocolate and herded them out the door, set me apart from the routine and discipline of home life. Their parents, naturally weren’t overjoyed, but I wasn’t  vying for their adulation. They would need babysitting services sooner or later.  I wanted to remain perched on my grandparent  pedestal tossing treats and special privileges their way. 

I was a young grandmother too and while I was excited at the privilege of becoming one I did not like the name. GRANDMA.  This conjured up images of my own from many years ago.  I adored her, but back then white hair, a house dress, and very sensible big black shoes was the preferred fashion for grannies everywhere.  I wanted the job, but my resume read: Blonde Bombshell in stylish dresses sporting the strappiest stilettos eager to obtain part-time employment as a BOOM BABY grandmother.  So, from the earliest weeks of my first grand-daughter’s birth, I performed my very own ritual mantra, whispering the name “Grammie” over and over again into her teeny baby ears.  It was futile. I wasn’t going to pick my name.  She did.  When she started to to talk,  “Mimi”,  so naturally rolled off of her tiny tongue, catching me by surprise;  like discovering a waterfall in the middle of a forest, even though you knew God had perfectly placed it there all along.  I was destined  to be  Mimi just waiting for this little angel to breathe life into my new role.  I loved it. It fit.  It suited this Boomer Baby who wanted the best of both worlds -  old enough to experience the joy of Mimihood yet young enough to have many BOOM BABY moments left in me.   

I rarely say things like, “back when I was a kid” or “those were the good old days” especially to them although secretly I think being a part of the Boomers has allowed me to witness and savor the best bits of generations, past and present. I’ve been raised by the Greatest Generation inheriting their love of family and country and an appreciation for good values and hard work. I’ve been an activist (sort of) although I think at the time it was more about rebellion than the cause itself.  I’ve seen the best in fashion - from go-go boots and mini-skirts to bell bottoms and padded shoulders (ugh).  The bra got burned and we preached, “love the one you’re with” although that too, thank heavens, was just a verbal rebellion on my part rather than really changing my moral code.  Additionally, burning the bra in my tender teen years was hardly a defiant act. There was nothing symbolic about setting my AA chest free.  What was the use? No one noticed and why burn a perfectly good and heavily padded bra?

Black and white televisions sporting rabbit ears gave us the choice of two or three channels when poised just right and the wind was in our favor.  My frivolous uncle was first in his neighborhood to realize the dream of “in living color” on his expensive new television and we gathered around it in awe as Lawrence Welk made tangerine skin stylish decades before Donald Trump. Living color in the 60's was a bit surreal and phony too. 

My first car was a Volkswagen Beetle that took $3.00 to fill the gas tank and made a statement about ecology and sustainability before it was even a cause.  Mostly all I  cared about was that it was cute.  And bright red. The engine was in the trunk making it a death trap on four wheels should I ever get into a head on collision. It didn’t matter.  At 16 I knew I was indestructible. 

Our chunky black phone, party lines and long-distance charges only the wealthy could afford, eventually morphed into a slim line and the mobile was a sack phone that plugged into your car cigarette lighter, a car accessory before smoking was virtually banned.  I was incredibly cool and oh, so, important, conducting business on my phone in a bag to and from work. 

I was introduced to Tooey back in the 80’s.  It took half a school year for me to find out Tooey wasn’t a whiz kid classmate of my young daughter’s but a computer.  Tooey has long since passed on to be reborn into many new lives, evolving with every rebirth. PC, laptop, tablet, smart phone.

I’ve danced under a disco ball and exercised with Jane Fonda, and yes, copied her feathered hair and leg warmers. Picture a room full of "Janes" jazzersizing our way across the YMCA gym floor. Good times.

Removing an appendix involved a five day hospital stay and having a baby was a four day spa experience complete with nursery staff that only brought you the little one at feeding time because you needed your rest!  And rest we did. Nurses brought in Good Housekeeping and Redbook magazines for us to peruse as we healed our girl parts under a sheet tent propped up by our bent legs with a heat lamp directed at baby's first home. Ahhh... It was lovely! Now, an overnight hospital stay, at best, is standard. 

(SIGH) Not all changes are necessarily progress. 

I guess I  really can’t brag about how evolved I am in waving goodbye to the past and embracing the future unlike some of my boomer tribe who still live there in their heads  and talk about the "good old days" incessantly, unable to appreciate anything new or innovative. However,  “back in the day" some things just were better; not as frantic or fearful. Time was more luxurious and living was not necessarily simpler, like the generation that raised me,  but easier.  While my generation has experienced more advances in just a few decades than any other, the growth seemed to serve us rather than us being enslaved by it.  We are now so dependent on things that were designed to give us more time and make our lives easier; smart phones, fast food, online shopping, and social media.  It’s marketing overload bombarding our brains and superficial connections cultivated in 140 characters or less, or worse yet, an emoji. My criticism of this new world order reinforces I am indeed a GOLDEN GIRL BOOM BABY. When I hear myself being critical I try to step back and find the positives in this phase of my life, keeping my mind, which admittedly fires a little slower, both curious and open.  

Still there are too many positives to being an elder boomer baby to get trapped in those glory days of yore. For instance, my compulsive power walking, and extreme aerobics (which did a destructive number on my spine and hips) has forced me to consider gentler Yoga which in turn has tuned me into what my mind and body needs rather than just fluffing up the window dressing.  And, I no longer have any desire to tolerate anything that feels cruel, disingenuous, or is not aligned with my values, no matter how well it pays, how much I need to be supported or accepted, or how lonely I think I am.  The rule of heart (my own) reigns. If my soul is tossing up red flags, I trust it now. I may not turn a head anymore, but I am occasionally called on to help another human being straighten theirs out because of my years of trial and error wisdom.  

I continue to navigate my "older age" with humor and a hopeful expectation that someday I just might hear  my now teenage middle grand-daughter exclaim - BOOM BABY when in the company of her Mimi. At least a few more times before I die.