Tuesday, May 30, 2017

'The Lovers'-- a film

I love going to movies by myself.
                                                      Tyler Hoechlin (young actor)


Given I had a new cleaning woman start today, I wanted to be away from home so she could do her work without my hovering around. I went to see The Lovers which opened this past weekend. It is a long overdo comeback for Debra Winger. Briefly, it is the story of a long term marriage that has lost its spark. Each of the partners is having an affair outside of the marriage and each of their affair partners are wanting them to leave the marriage. It's billed as a comedy but I found nothing funny about the film. In fact, the most intense scene reflected what could only be called a damaged family.

At any rate, what I did value about the film was seeing older adults with sexual energy being ignited in their lives. The relationships were complicated. It could have been a great film but it missed the mark in my eyes. I doubt it will do well at the box office (even with its 87% http://rottentomatoes.com rating) so it's unlikely more films about realistic sensual relationships with older adults will be flooding the market any time soon.

I don't know what Debra Winger has been doing all these years. But my sense is she is a person of character and depth as reflected in her wearing her history proudly.  How validating to see another naturally aging woman on the screen.   Again, hats off to the Debra Wingers, Charlotte Ramplings and Annette Benings of the world.
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Friday, May 26, 2017

In the Hallway

When one door closes, another opens;
but the hallway is hell...

An aspect of aging is that people and things fall away – some by choice and some not by choice. Three close friends of mine have each moved out of state. My massage therapist of 20 years moved to New Mexico. My cleaning woman of 12 years retired. My exterminator who I had interesting conversations with retired after servicing our home for 17 years. Improv classes (my current passion) are now coming to an end. And I am now winding down with my therapist of six years...

While this is not a full-throttle Job experience – it is an experience of doors closing that puts me in the 'hallway.' Sadness and loss accompany me in the hallway as well as anticipation for what may unfold.

New activities are emerging. Recently connected with a local group, ARCHES, which is about supporting open conversations and practices around death and dying. A death doula training will be given this fall which I'm considering attending.

Another percolating activity in the hallway is “Mind the Gap” program sponsored by the New York Theatre Workshop. They select seven elders and seven teens that work 1:1 together for a month sharing their stories and each writes a play about the other that is performed to an invited audience. I read about this on the last day of applications and immediately applied.

'Nature Abhors A Vacuum' – so remembering to bathe myself in kindness and compassion, I patiently, and impatiently, wait to see what the Universe brings to fruition...

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

No Regrets...

As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery,
fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no
longer be the means for writing one note.
                                                         Georges Bizet*


I didn't set out to have an affair two years after my partner died. S. and I were friends. He knew my partner. After my partner's death, S. helped me with legal matters. He made an unbearable time bearable with his kindness and attentiveness. We spent time together and I found myself becoming attracted to him. And, lo and behold sexual feelings arose – something I thought I would never experience again.

I remember sharing this with him and asking “Don't you have sexual feelings?” His reply, “Yes, but I can control them.” They weren't controlled for long, for shortly thereafter we were involved in a full-fledged extramarital affair. And it was glorious; until it wasn't.

Close friends were happy for me because they saw how I glowed, how I felt loved again and how I was able to love again. The affair lasted 4 years. Do I regret the affair – absolutely not. It was a godsend at a time I was unfathomably lonely.

I'm grateful I had the courage and strength to end it. I sometimes wonder if I'll ever kiss someone passionately again – and that thought brings sadness.

Yet, it was a huge blessing at a particularly dark time of my life. I miss not feeling sexual or sensual and fear never feeling that way again. I suppose if there is one regret I have about lost youth – it is that I was not more sexual in my youth when the hormones were flowing freely.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Kindness & Compassion

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.
                                               Plato


During the past 8 years I have grown accustomed to living alone, traveling alone, eating alone and simply embracing my aloneness. Overall, it has been good.

Though, of course, there are times of doubts and loneliness when the mind, the belief system takes over and comes back up to gnaw at me that “You're alone and blah, blah, blah...” Remember your mother's words of wisdom “You're nothing without a man; and nobody without money.” Do the early beliefs formed in our family of origin ever totally leave us. My experience is “absolutely not.” They come back to haunt us at moments of vulnerability. When this happens, I find myself falling into the sludge of darkness.

I used to do all I could to get out of it. Now I ride the wave with kindness and compassion toward myself. Telling myself “It doesn't feel good and that's okay. This, too, will pass.” And, it does until the next time.

Age has brought increased kindness and compassion toward myself allowing me to be wherever I am knowing that I, like each of us, is doing the best we can given our circumstances and our state of mind. Kindness and compassion toward myself and others is my measure of where I'm at. And, the truth is I don't always measure up. Yet, when I don't – it is a blatant reminder that more self-kindness and more self-compassion is needed.

So, until next time, may you be bathed in kindness and compassion...


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

To Die or Not to Die?

To fear death, gentlemen, is no other than to think oneself wise
when one is not, to think one knows what one does not know. No 
one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings
for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.
                                                                              Socrates  

Spain and Israel have produced two excellent films dramatizing the acceptance of death...

The Spanish film, Truman (2017), received a rare 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating.  It is the story of middle-aged Julian who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. He has gone through treatment only to have the cancer return. He makes the decision to undergo no further treatment and to allow his body to take its natural course. The film is a beautiful dramatization of the steps Julian takes to prepare for his own death. The big one being – finding a home for his dog, Truman.

The Israeli film, The Farewell Party (2015), has an impressive 95% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
Unlike TrumanThe Farewell Party presents all olders living in an assistant living situation. This is a film that addresses head-on the subject of facilitating the deaths of those who are in pain and going through a dragged-out painful dying process. It does it tastefully and with plenty of humor. The film opens with a woman's dying husband begging her to facilitate his death. The film reflects what a hard decision this is but she along with three cronies follow through on his desire. And the group goes on to help others as well. 

The anti-aging youth-obsessed culture we reside in continues to put death and dying in a locked closet. So refreshing that Spain and Israel have each made a film that honestly presents this topic and gives us the opportunity to explore our own relationship and beliefs around death and dying. 

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Reverse Ageism

Today is the oldest you've ever been and
the youngest you'll ever be again.
                                                                                                Pinterest.com


I attended a presentation: “The best three months of your life.” Present were recently trained coaches in this process who needed volunteers with whom to practice. As an older woman shared her experience about her training, I volunteered to be her 'recruit.' She didn't respond to my offer. Shortly thereafter the meeting ended.

As I was leaving, a young women approached me indicating she was a recent trainee and would be open to working with me. Rather than censoring myself, I responded with: “I'm dealing with my own aging and I don't know how I feel working with someone so young.” Ouch....

She left before I fully took in what I had so inappropriately said. As I drove home, I realized how unkind my words were. In fact, it was 100% ageist! Ageism does not only impacts us olders but impacts young people as well.

Recently, while enrolled in an acting class my scene partner was a millennial. We rehearsed first at my home. We then decided we would next meet at his home. Knowing I still had a flip phone with no GPS, he asked: “How will you find my place without a GPS?” I responded: “Well, gee, Richard, you're going to give me directions.”

When next we met, he reminded me of this and said: “You probably thought I was just one of those entitled, techno-narcissistic millennials.” Ageism -- once again...

New awarenesses to embrace: 1. In addition to my internalized ageism; I have ageist attitudes toward the young with which to deal; 2. While I admire my directness, developing the muscle of self-censorship might serve me well...

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Power of Language

Language exerts hidden power,
 like a moon on the tides.
                                            Rita Mae Brown  

While attending a theater usher-training today, the trainer indicated that should there be a cardiac emergency there is a defibrillator in the lobby. I indicated: “I'm not comfortable doing anything with a defibrillator.” The young woman next to me offered: “I have no problem with that I work with seniors.”

“A ha” I thought. This is one of the problems with the word senior or any other word used to reference older adults – we have no word to differentiate a healthy senior from a frail, ill senior.
While added years do impact our physical well being -- they do not necessarily lead us into frailness.

Language is powerful... And as an older, I take issue with the subtle language of ageism. One common way our language reflects this ageism is with references like: The 90 year 'young' man who runs a marathon;  the teacher of yoga (or whatever) who is 90 years young; or the infamous compliment a 60-plus woman is paid by referring to her as a “young woman.”

While each of these people, as well as ourselves, may hear this as flattery, in truth it reflects our culture's ageism and, more insidiously, our own internalized ageism. As always, the media is not going to change its language or anti-aging propaganda – after all it sells products. We need to make the change within ourselves. None of those mentioned above are young people. Rather they, like ourselves, are olders living full lives as best we can. Let's proudly claim our old status. To once again  paraphrase Ram Das, let's: Be Old Now.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

The Breath....

Recently I attended an event where parking was at a premium. Uniformed monitors were directing cars. We were asked if we were sponsors, “no,” we replied. The monitor looked at three olders in the car and asked if we were able to walk. Yes, we all could. But from my backseat, I said “no” and he directed us to the closer parking lot. As olders we're subject to many stereotypes and I took full advantage of this one...

Later that day, while looking for a lipstick, I was directed to a 10x magnification mirror to try it on. Details of the aging face, aging neck, aging eye area – were not a pleasant site to behold. Then I heard the voice of internalized ageism ask:: “Would you now consider plastic surgery if you had an extra $20,000.” My answer: “I don't know.”

What I do know and what this experience has shouted at me is how much I am a prisoner of the propaganda perpetuated upon us olders, especially women, about what makes us valuable. Self-worth and self-love come from a deeper place than how we are valued by the world.

When challenges arise, the place I go to is the silence and stillness within. The Breath usually leads the way. The Breath that has been with us from day one. While it is unlikely I'll imbibe in this inner peace permanently; I am rest assured the world will bring many more opportunities for me to return to the awareness of my Breath. And so it is...

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Seeing with Fresh Eyes


It will be twenty years that my partner and I relocated to Asheville from Santa Barbara. At that time, Asheville was an affordable town for working professionals. When talking with friends in Santa Barbara, we reported: “We love Asheville. We're not tempted to shop or eat out.” This is no longer true.

Asheville is now considered a 'foodie' town, a beer capital, we have million-dollar condos downtown and a plethora of new hotels with more to come. The town is hopping. Weekends and weeknights the streets, clubs and eateries are buzzing with visitors. Many of us who have been here for years bitch and moan about the changes.

So this weekend, having made the decision to indulge myself, I decided to indulge as a tourist and experience Asheville with fresh eyes. As I explored Asheville, I noticed beautiful greenery, colorful palettes of flowers, glorious mountains, cobblestone streets, quaint buildings, hustling and bustling of crowds enjoying themselves and I thought “This would be a great town to live in!”

Asheville has changed and I am one of the bitchers and moaners about those changes. Yet, the exercise of seeing Asheville with fresh eyes helped me reacquaint and reestablish my relationship with Asheville. Truth be known, I am a foodie and now get to imbibe in that passion – which was dormant for years upon our arrival in Asheville. Perhaps my relationship with Asheville, like any long-term relationship, needed a boost by being seen with fresh eyes.

What aspect of your life might experience a boost by seeing it with fresh eyes?

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