Category Archives: aging
There was a time when I had no interest in watching a tennis match. It was just so boring to me and the scoring made no sense with some points being worth 15 and others 10 and what the hell was advantage and deuce? No, thank you.
But, then I learned how to keep score and began to understand the rules, and there was Andre Agassi, and I was hooked. I no longer minded when big matches were on television and even attended the U.S. Open a number of times and just loved it. What a great game.
During most of my time appreciating tennis, the Williams sisters have been on the scene. I’ve seen both of them play a number of times and even met their Dad, Richard, one year at a match and found him to be approachable and pleasant. While Venus was always the more appealing player to me because of her quiet demeanor, Serena awed me. Her strength is remarkable and she plays, like all my favorite players, with her heart pinned to her
catsuit sleeve. She can be confrontational and combative, but damn it, she is a warrior.
There’s been a lot of talk about the number (23) of Grand Slams which Serena has won and the record (24) being within her reach. I personally don’t know if it is Serena’s goal to match or beat Margaret Court’s achievement, but if it is and she’s feeling disappointed or frustrated after losing in last night’s final to a woman half her age, I’d like to offer her some advice.
Goals can be motivating and provide focus. It can certainly be positive to have a target for which to aim. Training and practice can be grueling and keeping an eye on the prize can provide the inspiration necessary to keep one going.
Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to run 1,000 miles this year, a feat I accomplished a couple of years ago. I also declared that I’d like to run 25 half marathons before I turn 55 in 2021, feasible with a dozen under my belt already. Both of these goals were achievable, I thought.
But, then my body started to complain. My feet hurt and the first few days of my vacation were remarkable for the limp I had related to discomfort in my hips. It was painful to walk, which made running impossible, and I essentially took the entire summer off running a total of 8 miles in two months. I watched my goals get away and was left feeling badly about my perceived failure.
I’ve gained a little perspective, though and have come to appreciate that not every goal is meant to be achieved. Life, babies and physical limitations can get in the way and demand our attention at times. Honoring our bodies and treating them with respect is essential for our long term health and wellness and that’s the most important end result to me. When it comes to goals, sometimes, you’ve just got to let that shit go.
Twenty-five years ago today I got married. It was a beautiful day filled with special moments and memories I will never forget. The photographer complained that the skies were too blue and lacking clouds, yet he still managed to capture images that illustrate what a great day it truly was.
I was 27, nearly 28, on that Labor Day weekend Sunday. I thought of myself as an “older bride.” Friends and family came from miles and miles away to join my groom and me in Washington Park where it seemed that the flower beds had conspired to fit our color scheme, It was everything I had ever imagined my wedding day to be.
The reception was held in a historic Shaker meeting house where guests enjoyed a delicious meal catered by the only restaurant to say “We’re caterers. Tell us what you want and if it’s possible, we’ll do it” instead of “You must have three hot h’or d’oeuvres and three cold h’or d’oeuvres and 2 salads and…” People talked about the food for years. We had so much fun.
But, as you know, a wedding day does not make a marriage. A marriage is hard work under skies that are not always blindingly blue. Learning and growing together takes effort and sacrifice and communication and maybe I wasn’t really as old as I thought I was on that gorgeous summer day.
Somewhere along the way we got lost. Our marriage ended and, while I take no joy in that, I am so very proud of how we’ve together parented the children our love created. We have always been able to put our children and their well being first and avoid the ugliness I’ve seen in far too many divorces.
While I may no longer be in love with the father of my children, I’ll always love the years we shared and that part of my life. It was a really good chapter.
As of mid morning on Monday my hair still smelled like woodsmoke from Saturday night’s bonfire on Herring Cove beach. I washed it later in the day, but delaying the shampooing allowed the odor to linger in a lame attempt to cling to the week I had just spent at the Cape. It ended too soon.
After my adventures in Greece earlier this summer, I came to the realization that 2 weeks in Greece was essentially the same cost as the house I rent in Wellfleet. Hmmm. That was striking. Maybe it was time to let go of of this twenty year tradition for the sake of experiencing new destinations…
But, the magic of the Cape seems to get me every time, even when getting there is a clusterf*ck of traffic. Morning walks to the ocean, swimming with my dog in a pond that feels like our own and enjoying friends and low key entertaining…I just don’t know how to let it go.
Difficulty letting go has been a theme for me, it seems. This annual vacation, my Volvo wagon, lovers, specific articles of clothing…I hang on to things that have personal meaning that is sometimes irrational and beyond physical properties. I suspect it comes from unresolved childhood issues and a general lack of stability growing up. I mean, by the time I was in 6th grade I had attended three different school districts (and 5 separate buildings) and moved at least 8 times, which certainly didn’t lend much in terms of consistency to my life.
Perhaps all of that upheaval created a need for some constants in my life, beyond my brother and oldest of friends, and the annual trip to the Cape has simply grown into an event that is beyond a mere beach vacation. It’s a touchstone of my summer.
As I drove east and then south to Wellfleet, I did so with the mindset that this was it, end of an era, and I felt okay about it. Seven days later I knew that somehow I would find a way to continue this tradition, even with an anticipated return to Greece and a trip with my youngest son to Spain. At least for the next year. It’s just too important to my emotional and mental health, and my dog, to abandon.
What do you struggle to let go of?
This summer is flying by, don’t you think? I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since I got back from Greece. It some ways it feels like forever ago that we were there, however, I’m still successfully mentally resurrecting the sense of pleasure I felt being there just by closing my eyes. That country definitely is staying with me.
I’ve been to a fair number of European countries over the years, but there’s something about Greece that really rang a bell for me. It was effortlessly beautiful with blue skies, bright perennial flowers and white washed buildings. The hills were arid and reminded me of the mountain in Palm Springs, another favorite place for me. The ocean was everywhere. My eyes simply never grew tired of the sights before them.
The Greek people are wonderful, gracious with their use of English and seemingly always interested in providing hospitality that goes a little beyond the expectation. After nearly every Taverna dinner we were provided with some small treat – a scoop of ice cream, a shot glass of a local liqueur or hunks of watermelon. After a life changing* bowl of chick peas that had been slow cooked in a bath of olive oil, onions and salt, I was given a bowl of watermelon tasting ever so slightly of the garlic cut with the same knife. My satisfaction with the meal could not have been greater.
Returning to a particular island has occupied my thoughts since I got back home – Paros, the last of the three islands we visited. The reasons for the fondness I have for this place are purely emotional. I felt very comfortable there. The island isn’t too big, the towns are picturesque without being fussy and the food and drink both stellar. There were also two things that occurred that gave me a sign from the universe that I was in a good place, the right place even.
The first was when son and I travelled to a different town on the island, Naoussa, which was to the north of Parikia where we were staying. It was late morning when we arrived on the bus and walked through the village on our way to finding a beach. Imagine my surprise to hear someone seated at a sidewalk cafe calling my name. It was a group with whom we had enjoyed the previous evening’s Farm to Table feast down island and now here they were! How random is that?!
The second affirmation came on the bus. I had purchased tickets for my son and I for a particular destination from which we would take a hike. He decided prior to departure that he didn’t care to go, so I went solo. As the bus driver’s helper came down the aisle to collect tickets, it turned out the beauty rich, but euro poor, young woman seated behind me did not have the necessary fare for her ride. I was able to offer her my extra ticket which turned out to be exactly what she needed. The smiles exchanged between she, the bus employee and myself could have lit up a room. It was a simple, happy moment.
I’m going to figure out how to get to Paros again and create some more of those. We all need simple, happy moments, right?
*Only slightly hyperbolic
Wednesday evening when Stephen Marley sang that lyric I wanted to go there with him to a place where there are no worries. Releasing the weight of worry sounds amazing. All that energy previously occupied with fretting about things beyond one’s own control can be put to use so much more productively. Instead of creating scenarios of doom, our brains could be creating something beautiful. God, that would be such a nice change from beginning the morning with the latest
shit Twitter storm and then being consumed with the responses and breaking news for the remainder of the day.
The Right and the Left, along with the Socialists when they’re able to participate in the war of opinion overload, are producing so much information that it feels like an assault, a mental and emotional injury almost. It hurts.
Turn it off, you say? How does one do that? It feels to me like we’re living a reality that we’ve read about in history books, very pre-WWII. I stay connected to media because I don’t want my grandchildren to ever ask me what I did during these dark and divided days only for me to respond with “I ignored it.” Digesting, processing and trying to understand news and information these days is an excruciating job, but as invested humans we have to make an effort.
I looked around the Plaza and saw so many different and unique looking people, all together enjoying great music on a beautiful summer night. As you might imagine, “Every little thing is gonna be alright,”* is certainly a statement in which I’d like to believe. Maybe I’m focusing on the “wrong” things, universal health care, access to quality education, the acknowledgement of everyone’s equal civil rights, instead of the unemployment rate and the performance of my 403B.
Is it me or are you worried too?
*Confession: I inserted “once Trump and his ilk are gone” after every verse.
Traveling with my 20 year-old son made for an interesting trip. Because of the time he spent in Thailand last year, he has some experience with having to navigate his way from destination to destination. He may not have the same intuition as my oldest son when it comes to transportation, but he has grown to be helpful and developed some useful skills.
I’ve jokingly remarked a couple of times (maybe even to you, specifically) that the best part of our recent vacation to Greece was having someone with whom to day drink. With some
sobering up reflection, I now recognize that what’s going to remain with me, even longer than the 5lbs of feta and dolmas I brought home, are the moments we spent talking, sharing thoughts, making decisions together (rosé or white?) and spending hours and hours outside together, under cloudless blue skies.
Over the years I’ve witnessed too many friends lose a child, most frequently, a son. I grew up in a town where a number of my peers died being physically reckless in a way different than today’s young people. Usually it was a car + alcohol + speed situation, not exactly the same kinds of substances to which our country is experiencing an epidemic of abuse and addiction to currently. Narcotics have always been way too scary to mess around with to me, which initially made overdoses so incredibly shocking. Now, though, it is my presumed cause of death when anyone between the ages of 17 and 30 dies suddenly.
A few former colleagues of mine have lost children suddenly and at least one was directly related to substance abuse. That mom told me something that will always stay with me. In my whole life, I might have experienced two other instances in which words have had the same profound impact on my heart and thoughts. What she said was revelatory:
All you can do is enjoy them while you’ve got them.
During times of frustration with my sons, I’ve reached for that truism frequently. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t make my sons do, or not do, really much of anything. Whether it was attending classes at the High, writing a thank you note or washing their hair, it was on them. No amount of time spent arguing or in disagreement could force any of my children to do what I wanted them to do, if it wasn’t what they wanted to do. They are their own people.
After my friend’s loss and the lesson she gave to me, I remember thinking “if something really horrible happened to my kid, I wouldn’t want his last interaction with me to have been a heated exchange about why he hadn’t handed in a required assignment for school.” I’d much rather it be a quick “love you” at the end of a call or text. I learned I needed to let some things go.
On Naxos Island, my son and I rented bikes for the day and rode about 20 miles to the beach and an abandoned hotel project that had become a destination for graffiti artists. After we were fitted for bikes and provided with helmets, my son clipped the strap on his together and hung it on his handlebars. I said, “you’re not wearing that?” And he said “No.” I bit my tongue, clipped my helmet on and told him to leave his helmet behind if he wasn’t going to wear it. My helmet remained firmly in place on my head for the duration of the ride.
Over the course of the day, I suggested once or twice that my son might want to hit the sunscreen. He declined. I rubbed on my second or third application of the #30 spf I had purchased in Athens without comment. His decision. His eventual sunburn.
There comes a point in a parent’s life when they have to let go in ways that may be frightening, especially when their child’s approach is completely contrary to what they themselves had spent years teaching their offspring was the right or best or appropriate or safe way to conduct the life they had been given. It’s part of the process of separating from one another, isn’t it?
I returned to Albany last week to hear of the death of the child of a neighbor I had when I was in high school. Again, a son. My assumption about the cause of the young man’s death was, unfortunately, correct. My heart hurt for those left behind.
Finding one’s way through life isn’t easy, despite the maps with which we are provided. We hope that our children make good choices, but when they don’t, we can only wish for the consequences to be negligible – a sunburn at worst, certainly not the loss of their young life.
Love and enjoy them when you have them.