Wednesday, May 30, 2012

RESTING INTO AWAKENING

I have been crocheting for the past two hours, sitting on the sofa, in front of the TV, scrolling through my DVR recordings and getting caught up on shows I watch when I have nothing else going on.  Tonight I have nothing else going on, and I am content.  In fact, more often than not over the past year I've been damn near giddy to realize on many days I don't have anything going on in the evenings.  I planned it that way, having done a self-intervention awhile back about my over-scheduled life; still, it always surprises and delights me that I have actually stuck to it.  I feel happy about it.  And maybe a little concerned....

When I was a teenager, there were uncharitable times when I thought my parents were lazy and boring.  My dad worked 9 hours a day in a textile factory and my mom stood on her feet in her home beauty shop for about the same number of hours 4 days a week, while she also kept up with the housekeeping, cooking, laundry, we children, her own mother living with us, etc., etc.  So when they plopped in front of the TV every evening, my dad with the newspaper in front of his face and my mom knitting or crocheting, I could only think...."Wow! Why don't they do something fun and interesting??? How can they just sit there???"  I vowed that when I had my own children they would see me engaged in worldly pursuits and stimulating activities.  And they did.  I was on zillions of committees and belonged to a number of worthy cause type organizations and attended numerous personal growth groups.  I was out there!  I was making a difference! My life had meaning!  I was having a good time!  I was exhausted!!!

So, now, when I pine for and luxuriate in long quiet evenings of my own making, even when they consist of mindless pursuits like old episodes of Grey's Anatomy or The Office, I both love it and worry about it. I question whether I've succumbed to the dreaded "old person" scourge of hibernation and lack of motivation to engage in the world.  Am I lazy?  Is my brain atrophying?  Is my body weakening?  Do I still have any friends?  Does my family remember me?

I know these are unwarranted fears....not one of them is true, especially that I've somehow dropped out of engagement with life, but such is the tug of needing to feel I'm "active" that any vegging-out time I take, especially when I take lots of it, feels like the kind of dropping out that could easily lead down the slippery slope of "just killing time", a phrase my dad used often in his later years when I would inquire what he was up to.  He'd say, "Oh, not much.  Just killing time."  That seemed so sad to me, to be merely existing.  But who knows?  Maybe it was finally a time for him to think, feel, observe, and just be.  Time was passing for sure, but who am I to say it wasn't the quality time he needed after a long life of hardship and hard work?  Maybe, for him, this time of not keeping time, not being run ragged by responsibilities, obligations, and schedules was the ultimate luxury.

I notice now that evenings at home with Hub, my books, my writing, my crocheting, and my TV shows, feels like a slower life for sure, quieter, much less stressful, and also like a gift....a gift I would enjoy a lot more if I wasn't troubling myself all the time by questioning some deeper, nefarious meaning behind it.  Letting go of old tapes, old judgments, and old fears is another form of the ultimate letting go that is the work of these Eldering years.  I realize maybe I am not "asleep" after all, but awakening to a different way of being.

At least, that's the view from here...©

BLOOD PRESSURE? IS THAT THE PINK ONE?

Oh, how frustrated I used to be with my mother for not knowing what medications she was taking!  How could she be so out of touch with her own health care?  How could she just 'hand it over' to the doctor and not even know what medicine she was swallowing into her body on a daily basis?  How irresponsible!  She knew, of course, there was the "little yellow pill", "the one I cut in half", and "the light blue capsule".  And she had some idea of which body part or organ each pill was meant to medicate.  But the names of them?  Nah...not important.  Oh, how frustrating!

This morning I went to the dentist for my semi-annual teeth cleaning.  They always do a medication update and today was no exception.  Except....do you think I could recall the names of the four medications I take daily????  Now, in my defense, I have had a recent health issue which necessitated changing one of my medications a number of times to get the most effective one, eliminating one all together, and starting a new one.  So, really, who can keep up????

When asked what I was taking, all I could visualize was "the little round pink one, the big long white one, the oval green one, and the bright yellow one".  Oh, how humbling!

I rushed home, wrote down the names of each, and tucked the list into my wallet.  Just as I'd done for my mother.  I also asked, for the 1000th time, a silent plea of forgiveness from my mom for my many occasions of impatience and self-righteous youthful judgements over the years.  I get it now, Mom.

When we know better, we do better.  Too bad she's no longer here to be the beneficiary of my increasing wisdom.  But on some level, maybe she knew even then....she had a mother too, and was not as patient with her as she could have been either.  This is a lesson seemingly learned only from humbling experience.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Monday, May 21, 2012

IF I'M HERE...CAN I ALSO BE THERE?



Here's a question I never thought to ask myself:  "When you are traveling, is it OK to read for pleasure?"  Like, wow.  When I am traveling, it never occurs to me NOT to read, for pleasure or any other reason.  Like a tourist brochure, local newspaper, or menu.  Whatever.  But most especially a novel or memoir or the latest non-fiction "fix me" tome.

But I get what my friend meant when she posed this question to herself and struggled with the answer.  And decided to survey her friends.  Those of us who are avid readers never leave home without a book in our bag, our car, or clutched in our hand.  For me a book is a lifeline, a safety blanket, a friend.  I sort of panic when I don't have something to read at the ready.  But she wondered if we are truly present on our travels, truly taking in all that surrounds us, when we are simultaneously (or intermittently) transported elsewhere inside the pages of a book.  Are we cheating ourselves of the full experience of our trip when we mentally escape into other settings as we read?

So, I thought about this question on my recent trip to Hawai'i.  I read 9 books and a few magazines and the occasional newspaper.  I should point out, these are not difficult reads.  These are beach reads, right?  Easy, breezy, fun, interesting, perhaps thought-provoking or poignant, but not rocket science.  For quite some time I've been enamored of memoir.  I LOVE to read about real people and what happened to them, what they learned; to discover if they are funny or insightful; hear about where they went and what they did there....it's probably the voyeur in me.  Or the part of me who lives vicariously through the exploits of others doing those things I could never imagine (or want to do) in my own life.

I'm also really drawn to humor.  Clever, ironic humor.  I'm a sucker for dry wit, for shining a light on absurdity, for looking askew at those characters, places, and events that make us scratch our heads in wonder.  And then laugh.

So, here's the reading list from my recent trip:

Rebel Buddha -- Dzogchen Ponlop  (Tibet, US)
     Non-fiction exploration of Western Buddhism (great book!)
Unfamiliar Fishes -- Sarah Vowell  (Hawai'i)
     Fascinating history of Hawai'i plus Sarah Vowell is really funny!
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim -- David Sedaris  (North Carolina)
     One of my favorite humor writers; laugh out loud funny.
Among Flowers - Jamaica Kincaid  (Nepal)
     A trek through Nepal to find indigenous seeds for planting back home.  Did not like this book (the writing was uneven, the author's attitude smacked of colonialism), but the descriptions of the trek were sort of interesting, if sketchy.  I did learn she gets up to pee outside the tent nightly--a recurring scene.
The Wordy Shipmates -- Sarah Vowell  (Massachusetts)
     Loved Unfamiliar Fishes so much, I went back for more Sarah and this history of the Puritans in Massachusetts.  Very entertaining history.  More Sarah!  More Sarah!  Her history books should be read in high school classes!
Sh*t My Dad Says -- Justin Halpern (San Diego)
     A sweet homage to a gruff and loving father -- from his very funny son.
Kitchen Confidential -- Anthony Bourdain  (New York)
     The book that started Bad Boy Bourdain on the road to infamy on No Reservations.  He's a jerk and I love him.  Plus who can resist a 'behind the scenes' look at restaurants and the cooking life therein?  (Don't order fish on Mondays...or eat almost anything on a Sunday Brunch buffet table).
Wild -- Cheryl Strayed  (The Pacific Crest Trail wilderness)
     She's young, irresponsible, flirting with drug addiction and decides with no forethought at all to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Southern California to Washington.  She learns a lot.  I ended up liking her.
The Beginner's Goodbye -- Anne Tyler  (Baltimore)
     One of my favorite novelists takes on love, grief, and moving on in this story of a physically challenged man who lives fully in his heart ... and body.
The Wolf Gift -- Anne Rice  (a wolf den somewhere perhaps)
    I started this, but quit it.  I do like Anne Rice's crazy gothic/modern vampires and witches and this one I think is about werewolves, but the plane landed before I really cared about where she was going with the story.  Maybe some other time....

So.  Book reviews aside, it's obvious that while I was in Hawai'i I was also in Tibet, Nepal, Massachusetts, New York, San Diego, Raleigh, Baltimore.  Only one book I read was actually set in Hawai'i.  So, while I was on the beach of Kaua'i, I was also in all these other places.  Still, I relished the unhurried, lazy days of diving deeply into books I enjoyed -- letting the story, the setting, the author take me on a pleasure cruise while the palms swayed overhead and the waves lapped at the shoreline.

Is that OK?  Well, I think so.

At least, that's the view from here....©

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

IT'S ONLY ROCK 'N ROLL


I know it's only rock 'n roll, but I like it.  Gotta agree with Mick on that.  I had another big dose of big time rock 'n roll about 3 weeks ago.  Coldplay in concert.  It's the second time I've seen them and I'd follow them around and go to all their concerts if I could.  I love their music and the positive, joyful energy they bring to their work on stage.  Hub was with me, and Son-Two and the daughter of one of my best friends.  We are all absolutely CRAZY for Coldplay so the shared experience made it that much more fun.

I thought about the fact that Hub and I, in our early 60's, were there rockin' it with our son and friend, both in their early/mid 20's, and it felt perfectly normal ... more than normal ... "right".  I cannot imagine a world in which I would have shared an experience like that with my parents.  There was a 16 y/o girl in front of us with her mother too.  My niece and her daughters go to concerts together frequently.  It was so much fun to have Son-Two reach over and hug me numerous time, singing along together to our favorite songs, both joyful to be sharing something we'd been looking forward to for months.  The divide between parents and children is not as wide as once was.  That makes me happy.

But back to rock 'n roll....  I don't have what I consider to be sophisticated musical taste.  As a "grown up" I feel a big self-imposed "should" about this -- as in, I "should" like jazz; I "should" like the symphony; I "should" like acapella choirs.  (I know...I need to stop "shoulding" on myself!)  Actually I like all of those genres just fine...occasionally...in small doses.   But what really sends chills up my spine and fills me with excitement is rock, with a nice dose of blues.  Hub and I made a list one time of all the concerts we've seen (as best we could recall, given the times then and our ages now)....

The Doors
Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
Fleetwood Mac
Eagles (x2)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY)
Jefferson Starship
Dire Straits
Elvis Costello
George Thorogood & the Destroyers
Blondie
Tina Turner
Eurythmics
Bonnie Raitt (x2)
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (x3)
Prince
Steve Earle
Keb Mo (x2)
Shawn Colvin
BB King
Etta James
Susan Tedesci
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Santana
Motley Crew
Dave Matthews
Black Crows
Joe Cocker
Police
Rolling Stones (x4)
Jackson Browne (x5-10)
Johnny Lang (x5)
Michael Franti (x2)
Coldplay (X2)
Death Cab for Cutie
Paul Simon
U2

Hub
Eric Clapton
U2

Me
Annie Lennox                                                
Shawn Colvin
Sting                                                          
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Kiss
Bob Dylan
Aerosmith

We've had some fun, for sure!  But I am getting more choose-y about who I see and where.   Crowds, traffic, seating options, acoustics...all are taken into consideration now.   I think the famous concert venue at the regional winery nearby is about my style these days -- when we saw Jackson Browne there a couple summers ago, everyone,  and I mean EVERYONE, including Washington Governor Gregoire, was "of an age" close to mine.  We were all enjoying very yummy cheese, bread and fruit picnics and delightful bottles of wine...so much more civilized than other concerts we've attended over the decades.  Just look over the list...you can imagine there was no wine and cheese at some other of those.  Other delights, perhaps, but no Brie or Chardonnay. :)

There is no heartfelt or wise point to this post.  Just reminiscing on a warm, sunny, spring afternoon.  And deciding my musical taste actually is just fine, thank you.  At least, that's the view from here.



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

YOU'RE SO FULL OF SHOULD!


I know they are well-meaning.  I know they have my best interest at heart.  I know they are eager to share their experiences, insights, adventures, and hard-earned wisdom with me.  I know.  I've undoubtedly done it too.  (Sorry.)

But I have HAD it with people "shoulding" on me.  Really, really had it.  (I am a tad grouchy today).

So, here I am in Hawai'i.  I love it here.  The warm sun, gentle breezes, the sound of the waves crashing to shore, tastes of sweet tropical fruits, sounds of ukulele strummed by a Hawaiian boy under a coconut palm, shouts of encouragement to the canoe racers on the bay, the amazing color and variety of flora and fauna.  My senses are actively engaged.  My mind is both at ease and alert.

Yesterday I sat under the shade of an ironwood tree on a north shore beach as Hub (and about 50 other tourists) snorkeled the area called "Tunnels", famous for it's variety of fish on the coral reef there.  I was happy and content with my delight at enjoying a beautiful day on Kaua'i, staring dreamily out to the turquoise waters contemplating the history of this island state from passages I'd just read in Sarah Vowell's history of Hawai'i, "Unfamiliar Fishes".

Before long a couple arrived near to where I was sitting, dripping with sea water, goggles and snorkels in hand, breathing heavily with exertion and excitement.  Seeing me there, the woman said, "Are you going snorkeling?!?"  I started to reply, "No...my husband is, but I...."  She interrupted me with, "Well, you SHOULD!  It's so AMAZING! You would LOVE it!!!"

Really?  Do you KNOW me?  Do you KNOW I've tried it many times and the whole thing makes me hyperventilate, panic, and flail about in a wild frenzy of realization that putting my face in the water is maybe on the top ten list of  torture techniques that would cause me to spill national secrets?  Do you KNOW that when I was a kid and again in high school I had to be plucked, embarassingly, from the pool during swim lessons due to complete catatonic panic?  That's what I thought...you don't know me.  So, shut up.

Same goes for those who insist I SHOULD bundle up in several layers of clothing and specialized gear, strap slippery boards to my feet, and head for a snow-covered mountain, cuz tumbling down the side of an avalanche-prone peak is freakin' "fun"!

Also, biking long distances, jogging, and hiking -- particularly if steep hills are involved -- I just have to ask, "Why????"

Also, boating and flying since I am prone to violent motion sickness (you don't want to know the stories associated with those experiences).

Cruises too.  (I know some of my cruise fan friends read this...and you know I love you, right?  So don't be offended by what I am saying here.)   This activity involves a boat (see above), and lots of people in a confined space (claustrophobia and introversion), and constant man-made "entertainments" (noise and sensory overload).

I get that I sound like the world's hugest dud.  Really, I do.  Especially since I've lived my adult life in the Pacific Northwest where people flock to do the very things I don't do.  Don't even WANT to do.  Perhaps I should have stayed in Chicago, where hanging out at the coolest blues club was on everyone's "must" list.  I totally can do that!

Here are some of the things that thrill me:
     Facilitating personal growth groups where I see the light of an "ah-ha" appear in the eyes of a person who has just had a breakthrough;
     Facilitating an Ecstatic Dance group who have learned to trust and love each other while moving together in a joyful practice of bodies in motion;
     Facilitating a support group for women over 60 where a sense of Eldering with strength and power has overcome the dread of being an elderly person in our society;
     Performing my poetry at Open Mics and talent events;
     Practicing Yoga and meditation, with acceptance and awe;
     Reading and appreciating authors who knock me over with the ways they string words together in precise and breathtaking ways;
     Going to live rock 'n roll concerts by artists I love, most recently a kick-ass Coldplay concert.

I love these things.  They amaze me with their beauty and power.  I am a better person for doing them. But whether you feel the same or not is none of my business.  You may be suited to group facilitation, or not.  You may love to read, or not.  You may be able to sit with only your mind to keep you company in meditation, or not.  You may agree that Mick Jagger still rocks and is still sexy on stage at 60+, or not.  You get the idea.  I'll tell you what excites, delights, and motivates me, and I truly want to hear what excites, delights, and motivates you.  But I will do my best not to "should" on you about my interests.  And hope you won't "should" on me either.

At least, that's the view from here....

Friday, May 4, 2012

HIKING...FOR THE BIRDS



Let's review.  I said a couple of days ago that I "enjoy a shorter, less strenuous hike" with my adventuring husband.  I guess he thought "moderately strenuous" was the very definition of "shorter, less strenuous" when he ran across the Canyon Trail hike description in the Kaua'i Guidebook.

So yesterday we drove to Waimea Canyon to hit the trailhead (also in search of the drier, sunnier side of the island since the rain and clouds where we are staying have been a bit persistent of late).

I knew I was in trouble right away.  I am leery of trails that start out going downhill.  Common sense, and previous excruciating experience, has taught me that what goes down, must come up.  And down we went..down...down...down.  I was already dreading climbing my butt back out of that canyon.  Regardless of the promised twin waterfalls, our destination, I was already certain they would not be worth the trek up, up, up at the tailend of our day.

Plus going down also means staring vigilantly at my feet, to avoid tangles of roots reaching for the tips of my toes, rocks and boulders to navigate, and slippery loose gravel underfoot -- all leading to the dreaded butt-whack onto surprisingly hard Kaua'i red dirt jarring my tailbone, back, and neck into spasm -- often with legs and arms akimbo and stretched unnaturally in their opposite and incorrect position.  Again, experience is the teacher here.

But with Hub's urging, optimistic encouragement, a nice walking stick, and his arm to hold onto, I kept on, only completely balking at yet another steep decline on that damnable gravel slipway and announcing, "That's it!  I'm waiting here!"  He assured me we were "95% there".  (Hub gives a running commentary on our assumed progress throughout each hike we've taken; he means this to be encouraging.)  So I got pissed and decided "Screw it...he can just carry me and my broken hip out of here then -- 2 miles -- uphill!"  I kept going.

The waterfalls were there, as promised.  But unspectacular.  My PBJ sandwich was the trail's end highlight for me.  I tried not to think of the uphill slog back to the car.  Instead, I started to listen to the "quiet" -- the wind rustling the leaves, the sound of the water trickling down ancient lava rock, the songs of birds all around me.   I saw the blue sky, the myriad shades of green in foliage, the brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds of flowering bushes along the trail.

So, instead of my usual "game" of getting through a difficult hike by pretending I've been taken hostage in a militant Third World country where I am forced to march through thick jungle with a gun at my back, I decided to listen to the birds.  That's all.  No thoughts.  No feeling the blister forming on my big toe, or the thorny twigs scratching bloody trails on the backs of my legs.  No wondering how much farther.  No thinking my lungs will surely burst and my heart will pound straight out of my chest, Alien-like.  Just listen to birdsong.  Hiking meditation.

Turns out, going up hill was surprisingly easy.  Much easier than going down.  Hub kept me hydrated with frequent gulps from the Camelpack.  My sturdy walking stick helped propel me.  My footing was sure.  My breathing was deep and strong.  My healthy heart was pumping and the birds were singing everywhere, lifting me...up, up, up...arriving at the trailhead much sooner than I thought possible.  I felt a grudging sense of accomplishment -- and wonderment that my meditation practice, the practice of "letting go of suffering", seemed to hold the key to my surprisingly pleasant regard for Hub as he "high-fived" me when we emerged from the trees.  On other "adventure" occasions there have been more murderous thoughts.

The fact remains, however;  I still don't like hiking.  Hub needs to join the Mountaineers or something.

At least, that's the view from here...©


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

IF THIS IS THE PLAGUE....



Have I mentioned I'm currently in Hawai'i?  Kaua'i to be exact.  The Marriott Beach Club to be even more precise.  A place a (former) friend once exclaimed, "That's the kind of place I avoid like the plague!"  Well, I guess.  But as plagues go, this isn't so bad.

I do, however, "get" what she meant.  Most of my friends, then and now, are not into corporate-owned timeshare lodging. And I didn't think I was either.  But, damn, this place is beautiful and I feel great here!

We came on a family vacation a dozen or so (maybe 14 already???) years ago when our boys were in the throes of middle school (and puberty).  It was a time when I was depressed on some days and overwhelmed on most, my husband was deep into a career that had become more frustrating by the year, and our house was undergoing a major remodel.  You could say we were ripe for the picking when we showed up to the timeshare presentation on the 12th floor of the oceanfront condo complex, plied with macadamia nut cookies and icy glasses of guava juice.

Plus, they were pretty "low pressure".  The place sells itself.  You either fall in love or you don't, cuz the next person will.  We did.  We have NEVER bought anything without considerable research, pro and con lists, a lot of stewing and soul searching....and multiple readings of Consumer Reports.  But this time we signed on the dotted line within 24 hours.  And laughed about it!  And never regretted it.

This has become an annual respite from the rain and gray of the Pacific Northwest where we live.  I love that when we check in, the staff says, "Welcome Home!"  Ahhh.....  When the boys were younger it was a family time of adventures that they and my husband loved -- boogie boarding, surfing, strenuous hikes, helicopter rides, zip lines, snorkeling, scuba diving, even a round of golf now and then.  In high school we let them each bring friends along, and I hope they remember that fondly.  I felt quite generous about it, truth be told, because it did get a little crowded at times.  But fun too.

When they went off to college, Hub and I started coming alone.  At first we missed the boys terribly and spent considerable time reminiscing about our family vacations.  But eventually those memories were replaced by our own, as a twosome, here on a different kind of vacation.  And when Hub retired, we began to stay for two weeks instead of one.  Then we really started to feel like we were "home" here.  There was time to "see and do" and time to "be" all in the course of one long stay.

Last year we had the opportunity to stay for three weeks.  Son-Two joined us for the last 5 days.  At 24 he noted that the average age during that week was about 65 (I think he was exaggerating...what about those families with young children?), but it was apparent that this isn't the "party place" he might prefer at this stage of his life.  Still, for us it is perfect.  Beautiful setting, quiet, and well-appointed without being "stuffy";  I feel pampered and safe and relaxed.

And Hub has stopped trying to get me to "adventure" with him.  He's the outdoors type who is happiest when doing something "active".  So he tackles the waves on his boogie board, takes the stand-up paddle board out on the bay and surfs on the gentle break, goes snorkeling, goes for long walks (and a long, difficult hike with Son-Two last year), and makes lists of the "see and do's" for each trip, now taking my less than adventurous nature into consideration.  I enjoy a shorter, less strenuous hike, a kayak trip up the Hanalei River (and the aquamarine beauty of Hanalei Bay on a calm day), a float/walk around the largest pool in Hawai'i right here at our Marriott, and Yoga on the beach.  I mostly love to share the daily NYT crossword puzzle with Hub, read, write, take photos, watch people, and meditate on the beauty that is Kaua'i, and on my deep appreciation for the sweet opportunity to embrace this Aloha on a regular basis.

It's a plague of sensuous delight.


At least that's the view from here....©