Road Map

mirth

Real Wrinkles

First, of course, there are the real ones.  Wrinkles on my face, wrinkles on my elbows, wrinkly skin on the backs of my hands, and wrinkles in numerous other bodily areas that I am too polite and lady-like to discuss in detail.  (You may discover this to be a blatant lie if you are kind enough to read further, so fair warning….)

dog-1721499_640.jpgPerhaps about 20 years ago, I naively thought that getting wrinkles on my face would mean crows feet around my eyes and maybe a few tiny lines here and there that would lend a certain dignity to my looks and convince people to treat me as a revered elder with  lots of sage advice to share.

I have always felt a great deal of pride (okay, a bit of snarky smugness) in not being overly concerned about looks, fashion, styles, driving an impressive automobile, or belonging to a prestigious country club.  So I was a bit surprised to find that looking into the mirror now requires me to engage in a pep talk to myself about how “wrinkles mean you laughed” and all that other touchy-feely, hippie philosophy that I used to subscribe to without reservation (or real-life experience).

But many wrinkles that aren’t physical arise during these golden years.

The Naming Wrinkle

What do I call myself?  What adjectives placed before “woman” characterize me now?  Old?  Sorry, don’t like that one.  Older? Not much of an improvement, and kind of vague.  Older than whom or what?  Senior?  That’s a little better, but sounds as if I’m about to graduate, and quite frankly, I’m not in a hurry to “graduate” from this time in my life because my next stop is probably the end of the line.  Elder? I do like the image gathered from cultures that hold older people in a more positive light, but it doesn’t really seem to fit here.  So this is still an unanswered question for me.  Maybe I’ll try Impatient older woman, left with only one nerve, upon which you are standing, so step lightly.  That would work most days!

The Time Wrinkle

phone-booth-295795_640Some days I do feel much like I stepped into a phone booth, made a short call, and then stepped out into a world where phone booths are seriously out of date.  Perhaps this phenomenon would be better described as a time warp.  Wikipedia defines time warp as “… an imaginary spatial distortion that allows time travel in fiction, or a hypothetical form of time dilation or contraction.”

The time distortions experienced during these years do seem to have some relationship to dilation, as any woman who has undergone a D&C can tell you.  (I warned you we might get back to bodily images!)  It may be temporary or, as one (male) doctor said to me once prior to doing the procedure:  “You may feel a little pinch!”  All I can say to that is “Pinch, my ass!”  These time warps and distortions are confusing, troubling, scary and they often hurt.  “Wasn’t it only yesterday ……?”  “Will  I live long enough to ……?”

The Communication Wrinkle

I am referring to the interesting phenomenon that happens with internal communication among the parts of the human body. One of the first posts I wrote about the physical changes of the older years explained how the different parts of my body no longer seemed to communicate effectively and now were like a dysfunctional family full of self-centered kids all clamoring for attention from a stressed out parent. It was a cute little fluff piece, written as I was getting my feet wet as a new writer.  Two years later, I can only say it is no longer cute and funny.

Take putting on socks, for example.  For those lucky enough to live in a nice warm climate, this may not seem like a big deal, but during a typical New England winter, let me assure you that several pairs of socks are often necessary (in the house).  Putting on socks is a simple task, is it not?  A toddler could do it.  True enough, but the toddler does not have to factor in a hip that refuses to assist the leg in lifting up the foot high enough so the hands can reach the toes.  Ignore this situation at your peril.  Straining to complete the task may eventually get socks onto your foot, but now your hip has alerted the muscles in your thigh that they are under attack and they better spasm up and man the barricades!  Staving off impending muscle cramps usually requires instantaneous change of position and to that I say, “Yeah, right, how does that work out for you?”

The Attitude Wrinkle

Although I am someone who generally sees the world from a positive perspective and tries hard to lighten the mood and laugh at difficulties and troubles, I find myself tempted frequently to slide into self-pity, irritation and sadness.  This time of life requires a great deal of fortitude and spiritual strength, even in the best of times.

In June of 2016, Huffington Post photographer Damon Dahlen took portraits of 14 women aged between 50 and 90 and in the accompanying article Shelley Emling said these women “roll their eyes at ageist (and sexist) standards of beauty. Rather than fight the inevitable effects of aging, they see the lines on their faces as a road map of their lives. They are the etchings of many years fully lived — and each and every one of them has been earned.”  To that I say “Amen!”

 

©Martha Hurwitz
3/16/2018

 

Promises, Promises

 

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Usually I start thinking about possible New Year’s resolutions right after Thanksgiving so I’ll be prepared, but I don’t have to take them seriously because any promises made right after a major holiday are null and void.  This applies to resolutions made before a major holiday, too, so between Halloween and New Year’s Day, I’m good.

Changes in behavior have to start on a Monday that falls on the first of the month, but only if the weather is nice and the moon is full.  That’s a known fact!  Otherwise, it’s okay to wait until the following month (or year, or holiday, or whenever).  January 1, 2018 would have been an awesome day to start those serious changes that I want to make.  It was not only a Monday, but the beginning of a month, the beginning of a brand new year, the weather was reasonably nice for New England this time of year, and the moon was full.

My motivation for not making  any specific resolutions was based on the fact that for most of my adult life I have listened to the fake newsreel in my head convincing me that “next Monday,” “next month,” “on my birthday,” “after the holiday,” definitely will change, and “this time it will really work.”  In the meantime, of course, it’s okay to continue the same behaviors, because changing any old time is just not possible!

As Dr. Phil always asks:  “How’s that working for you?”  Not so well would have to be my honest answer.  Barely a week into the New Year, and evidence is mounting that my decision not to make resolutions hasn’t worked any better than making them.  Clearly, I needed to reconsider and make at least a few serious resolutions.  But “which ones? how many? when do I start?  My head aches, I’ll think about that tomorrow.”  So imagine my excitement when I opened my news feed this morning to a New York Times article titled:  “9 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2018.”

“Here’s what we’ve learned about living your best life in 2018, using lessons from some of our most-read Styles stories of 2017.  We encourage you to be a better prepared, less anxious and more showered person in the new year. ”                                                                                                       Anya Strzemien, 12/28/17

Jackpot!!

  •  Make your bed.  I can do that.  Heck, I already do.  Check!
  • Wear weather appropriate shoes.  I do that, too.  What do I look SOREL Women's Caribou Boot Size 11 - Bufflike?  A high school student waiting for the bus in a snowstorm wearing flip flops?  Laugh at my big clunky Sorrel boots if you want to, but my feet are warm and dry.  Check!
  • Wash Your Hair.  Pretty sure I learned this one at an early age, but I guess it’s never a bad thing to include on a better person list.  Check!
  • Schedule Sex.  I know we are a nation of over-scheduled, multi-tasking, device-dependent maniacs.  But maybe a better idea than adding a sex appointment to your iPhone would be to let intimacy grow from the experience of being together sharing a quiet evening, and actually talking face-to-face.  Besides, SIRI does not want to know that you plan to do the deed on Saturday night.
  • Accept the things you cannot control.  As a philosophy this is a good idea.  However, I believe there are some things that should never be accepted, even if they are clearly not under my control.  Taking this one seriously involves self-understanding and discipline.  I am generally able to do this, but will keep working on it.  Check!
  • Distract yourself with a fairy tale.  I’ve done this too much in my life, so no check here.  It’s fine to indulge in some royal-watching or brief fantasies of winning the lottery, but I think I have to pass on this one as a way to become a better person.
  • grandma-2234070_640Embrace your age.  Absolutely, without a doubt.  I have earned every grey hair, every wrinkle.   Not too crazy about the arthritis, weakening eyes and ears, and other common problems of aging.  But it’s good to be here, no matter what shape I’m in.  Check, check and double check!
  • Pack condoms.  Seriously?  Doesn’t this belong in the scheduling section?  I was forced to go back and read the whole article to figure out the purpose of this one (beyond the obvious, that is).  Turns out it was one small item in a long article about survivalists preparing for an apocalypse.  Apparently condoms can be used (beyond the obvious) as “makeshift canteens, a fire starter, elastic bands for an improvised slingshot to hunt small game,…inflated they can also be used as fishing bobbers or signaling devices for semaphore,….”  Give me a break here.  Wouldn’t balloons do the trick?  Sorry, but this one sounds like that old excuse about buying Playboy to read the articles.  Yeah, right.
  • If you suffer a setback, just keep going–and going out.  This article was about Hillary Clinton and how she responded after her loss of the election in 2016.  Overall it’s a good philosophy, but needs to be put into context.  Some setbacks are serious and the old stiff-upper-lip response is not a healthy one.  Still, I’ll put a check here to keep myself from over-dramatizing small setbacks or using them as an excuse to postpone doing what needs to be done.

While commenting on this list was fun, I don’t believe that most of these items would make me, or anyone else, a better person. Perhaps more organized, or less anxious, or prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse!

Becoming a better person has much more to do with how we treat people (particularly those who are weak and dependent on the kindness of others), about the choices we make that affect the health and welfare of this planet and all the creatures who call it home, and in the way we engage with those whose backgrounds and beliefs differ from our own.

Instead of making the same recurring resolutions that I mostly don’t keep, I think I will just make a greater effort to live by those important values that make the world a better and safer place for everyone.

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©Martha Hurwitz, 1/6/18
Pictures from Pixabay

 

 

 

Speak Your Truth

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אדוני said, "Let there be...."
And there was...
Even אדוני grew tired of speaking and rested.

Keep speaking your truth
Your words create worlds
Nourished with understanding.

Speak when you are able
Be silent when you must.
Rest when you are weary.

Souls are fragile.
Words are not.
They are not lost.
They travel in the wind
Take root in distant lands
And blossom there.

©Martha Hurwitz, 12/27/17
Inspired by I've Told You so Much Already

Signs and Portents

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Shortly after my mother died, I was taking a walk in the early evening around the fields in back of my home.  I am fortunate to live in a beautiful location, with expansive Eastern views and uninterrupted skies.  On this particular night it was clear, the moon was in its first quarter and the light it shed did not obscure the Milky Way, spread like a ribbon across the sky.

I was sad and grieving–of course I was.  Despite the fact that my mother had lived 92 years and was, in the end, at peace with dying.  She suffered no pain or final illness.  There was nothing to put on her death certificate other than “old age.”  She had chosen several weeks before to stop eating.  It was her time.  She was ready.  We got to say our goodbyes and hold her hand.  That was surely her greatest gift to us–her quiet ability to know when it was time.  She had often said she did not want to give up driving, but when her reflexes and sight began to dwindle, she put the keys down and did not drive again.  She had said many times she hoped she would not have to go into a nursing home.  After several months of increasing illness and inability to live alone, it became inevitable.  There was never a word of recrimination, a hint of disappointment with her children who had made that decision for her.  She looked around, saw others who were worse off than she, graced them with her smile and kind words.  She was grateful for any visit, phone call, a drive in the countryside.

The weeks since her death had been consumed with the practical things that are necessary, the phone calls, the service at home, the decisions about her possessions.  I had written a eulogy, planned a memorial service with my brothers, tried to provide comfort to my family.  But I did not know how to exist in this world now empty of her physical presence.

Walking in that calm nighttime, digging into the depths of my shaky spiritual core, I admitted that even though I knew in some vague way she would always be with me, I surely could use some kind of sign.  Just at that moment, a shooting star flew across the sky. I have looked up into this night sky for 30 years and have seen numerous shooting stars. But on many nights I would stand outside in the dark, neck muscles aching in their support of my tilted head, hoping to be looking in the right direction at the right time, without any luck. On this particular night, I was not looking for them at all.

So was that a sign?  Or a coincidence?  Or just the random operation of the unfathomable universe?  The part of me that is rational and scientific says it was just the random operation of the universe and a coincidence that I was facing in the right direction at the right time.  But the part of me that has roots in the ancient ties to the natural world says something different.  It says that there are signs that we cannot read and places beyond our ability to imagine.  That there are many things so far beyond our comprehension that we can only gasp in wonder and acknowledge them with joy.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 9/27/17
Inspired by Daily Prompt:  coincidence

My Life in Water

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I began immersed in fluid, floating freely, encased in the universe of beginning.  Nothing was required of me there, no consciousness, no choice, no understanding.  Slowly my universe contracted and I grew beyond its borders.  Without understanding, I knew narrowness was coming and I would be thrust into a cold, bright dryness, a perilous hero’s journey to a land I did not know.

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At 10, I rejoiced in water.  I ran into the waves, waded into deep streams, floated in muddy ponds with no fear of leeches or rusty metal. Perhaps I still remembered the sensation of endless waters, the universe of beginnings, the promise of lands yet to be seen.

At 20, I began to underestimate the depth of the streams. I was caught in undertow, slammed into the sand.  I struggled against the current, swimming furiously toward goals that were not mine.

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At 30 I gave up struggling and floated, driftwood in someone else’s sea, waiting and hoping the waves would drop me on the shore.  I prayed for an anchor, a purpose, a sign that I had reached that land I did not know.

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At 40 there were children.  I had crossed into a land I did not know, but not the land I had been searching for.  I learned to swim furiously again, but now I needed to save others and still did not know how to save myself.

At 60 I watched my children drift away in their own ships, and prayed that the seas would be calm and the winds always at their backs.

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At 70 my life is again encased in the fluid universe of beginning.  But now there is consciousness, choice, and understanding.  Slowly my universe is contracting and I am growing beyond its borders.  The stream is shallow, flowing gently and singing promises of peace.  I know that narrowness is coming again and I will end my hero’s journey in a land that I will finally know.