Posted in A Day In the Life

Does Aging Really Suck?

I was talking to a woman the other day who told me that she and all of her friends think that getting older sucks. Her mind set was the opposite of my own. We all deal with this phase of life differently.  Some people go into it with a smile on their face and a heart full of gratitude and others dig in their heels, incensed that they are losing their physical beauty as well as flexibility and strength in their bodies.  They may be taking care of an older parent, whose physical and mental changes seem daunting and frightening to them, and that can certainly color the way that we view getting older.

My close friends and I are all still planning hikes and trips, bike rides and book groups.  But I don’t want to sugar coat it.  Even though we are living full and robust lives, aging is set against a backdrop of loss. Connective tissue grows brittle. Physical beauty wanes.  Friends, siblings and parents pass away. People we know and love get sick and succumb to a greater vulnerability.  Loss takes up a home, right next to the love in our hearts.

Still, this is the best time in history to grow old:  In our parent’s generation, if you broke your hip, you were consigned to a wheel chair.  Today we can replace body parts like car parts.  Seniors are living active, vibrant lives due to new knees or new hips.  My neighbor across the street had a stroke a couple of months ago.  Within 40 minutes of that stroke, the emergency room gave her a drug that reversed most of the stroke’s effects and prevented worse damage.  The outcome?  She had six weeks of physical therapy and some exhaustion to deal with from the trauma. Now, it’s like she never had a stroke.  Medical advancements contribute greatly to the quality of an older life.

What you think and how you talk to yourself determines how you feel:  We know that what we eat determines how our body feels.  Food creates certain chemicals in our body.  You won’t feel very good if you’re drinking sodas all day and eating sugar and carbs with nary a vegetable in site. 

Similarly, what we feed our minds also creates chemicals in our body. Self-talk that berates age and the aging process, will not help us to feel good about life.  Attitude counts.

Physical Activity:  My husband’s favorite advice about aging is to “keep moving.”  Walking everyday, yoga, Pilates, biking, dancing, anything that gets us out into our community to move helps us to feel good.  Exercise increases blood flow, gets our heart rate up and strengthens our lungs.  We benefit from the endorphins released during exercise that helps to stave off depression.

Meditation and Prayer:  As I grow older, I notice that my prayers tend to be more about “thank you,” than asking for things. Maybe I’ve finally learned that God is not a cosmic bellhop. Whether it’s prayer, meditation or conscious breathing practices, some form of deep stillness everyday contributes to an overall sense of well-being.

Letting go: Letting go is the antidote to the sense of loss that youth has abandon us. And, letting go is the encouragement we give to a younger generation with whom the hope of the future rests. The shedding of thoughts and attitudes that don’t nourish our heads and hearts can unburden our creativity and our sense of wonder.

Curiosity and Engagement:  The world is an interesting place, but we need to be involved. Women’s and men’s groups, book groups, film groups, church groups and classes are readily available. We can learn a foreign language if we want to.  The library provides any book on any topic and also has an array of free classes.  We can knit or garden or walk the dog. Aging with a positive outlook depends upon the lens through which we see the world, and curiosity offers a beautiful overview.

We cannot change the events in our life.  Things happen. We might get sick or injured in older age. But sickness and injury can happen when you’re younger too.  Regardless of how we face the years, we have control over our attitudes.  We can make gratitude and kindness a daily practice. We can engage with our real and digital communities and our families in ways that inspire us to keep trying to be better people.

Life is so precious in this third chapter precisely because we are vulnerable; because of the expiration date stamped upon our souls.  But I find comfort in the fact that I can can change and grow spiritually and psychologically until the day I die.

Knowing that we are in the last chapter, shouldn’t we come to peace with our selves and the world by nourishing gratitude, kindness and love in our lives? Shouldn’t we go out like shooting stars, having lived as fully as we could, until we’ve wrung every last bit of joy from our lives? That’s one choice. The other is, that getting older sucks.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A 6-Step Roadmap With Title Change

“When you get to the highest point on the roller coaster you can either scream in fear or squeal with delight.”

 

iStock_000007892199_Small“How To Stay Youthful In Your 60s: A 6-Step Roadmap.” From the moment I wrote that title, something felt off to me. Did I really think that it was important for a woman to hang on to her youthfulness in her sixties? Wasn’t that like telling them, “look, you’re friggen’ old and there is no value in that, so here’s how to stay youthful. Youth: is it the be-all end-all of a woman’s life?

The truth about youthfulness is that it is a tiny, little spot in the rearview mirror of my life. Sagging has set into places that I didn’t know could sag. The skin under my arms has become a veritable sail. My graying hair, has for some reason, taken on a texture and life of it’s own, causing it to sproing. You know exactly what sproing means if you have even one gray hair. And don’t get me started on the sudden need for digestive enzymes! All of these things are the outward manifestations of aging. Is making them go away really what I need to make important in my life? Certainly the people on Madison Avenue would like to tell me that it is. Maybe the title I was searching for and wanted to write was “How to Stay Truthful in Your Sixties: A 6-Step Roadmap.” What would that look like? Here’s my 6-step roadmap suggestions for staying truthful in your sixties (and beyond):

1. PURPOSE: My neighbor, Austin is in her eighties. She’s a little wobbly at times, but she still climbs the hills around where I live several times a week. When Austin isn’t pumping up the inclines, she is making art. Recently she built a small studio on her land, replete with a garage door that allows her to open up her studio to the garden when she is working.

Austin has purpose in her life. Her hair is white, her hands, bony and veined. She has beautiful hands, hands that know the wisdom and wonder of making art. We all need a purpose. Something that makes us feel excited to get up for each day.

2. RELEVANCE: My husband and I have old Nordic skis. I remember the Christmas that we got them. All new and shiny. Couldn’t wait to get them out on the snow.

As the years went by, we found ourselves skiing with people half our age, who wore little skate-skis and blew past us as we did the Nordic trudge. I laughed and said to hubby, “Look at us honey, we’re getting old.” He replied, “You gotta keep moving to be relevant.”

That statement is not only true in exercise, but it’s true in things that develop around us. For instance, I did not grow up with a computer. I was the last person in my state to actually get email, but I have learned to keep up on what is relevant. Thirty years ago, I would have sent a copy of my article to a magazine or newspaper and now, I simply email it. Relevance. Stay up on what’s changing in your world.

3. INSPIRATION:  If you are in your sixties, seventies or eighties, you get some automatic cred for living this long. I did more than a few things right and more than a few things wrong. Now I get to stand in the light of my truth and share my lessons with the world around me.

At the same time, I never want to be too old to be inspired. I have a writing coach who is half may age. She is my mentor and in addition to teaching me a lot about story structure, she has taught me that it is equally important to be mentored as it is to mentor.

Allowing myself to be curious, teachable and inspired by someone else nurtures vitality. I also have a relationship with young woman (she’s 16) that I mentor in writing. I like the inspirational balance of both.

4. EAT THIS IT WILL MAKE YOU BEAUTIFUL:  I came of age in my kitchen, reading Jethro Kloss and Adelle Davis and though I have explored many diets over the years, I always return to the simple diets of these two health food pioneers that make sense in terms of staying balanced. It goes like this: eat a lot of fresh, raw and also lightly cooked vegetables. Eat lean protein. Avoid processed carbs, like crackers, breads and chips. Eat minimal fruit and stay away from sugar. Drink lots of water.

This is a good diet at any age, but is especially relevant (there’s that word again) as your body gets older.

Here is what I know: the biggest chemical reaction that happens in the body in the course of the day is the food that you put into your mouth for energy. Foods will either create inflammatory chemicals or anti-inflammatory chemicals, and those chemicals in turn can and will create pain. An alkaline diet that contains a lot of fresh veggies is going to be less inflammatory than a carbohydrate and sugar based diet.

Throw in some good fats too, like coconut oil and avocado.

I pretty much live off of soups and salads and I enjoy my time in the kitchen, creating my kind of art.

5. SAY NO TO AGEISM: We live in unprecedented times that afford us the luxury or the curse of living 30 years beyond our retirement. Not everyone wants to hang out and garden for 30 years. Our Boomer generation was built on the back of social change and activism. This is the perfect time in your life to be an activist. Educate those around you to the truth of aging, which is and should be, that we are human beings first, with the capacity to be well versed in traversing the terrain of the human condition. Our relevance, our significance is not dictated by an out-of-touch Madison Avenue, but rather by the sense of conscious aging that our generation is uniquely embracing.

6. GRATITUDE: Every single day that I am alive, I light a candle and I pray a list. I pray thank you. It’s a big list. I breathe it in and I breathe it out. I’m sixty-four, and each year I get this sense of how fast it all goes and how you have to make the most of every moment regardless of your years.

The body breaks down. Smooth, youthful beauty is replaced by deep and interesting lines, a map that shows where you have been. Pain is a humbling reality, both physically and psychically. Still the heart does not know age. Go for what the heart tells you because the essence of you, the soul of you is what never changes.

“The youth stands outside of life and wonders about it,” says The Sage’s Tao Te Ching. “ The sage, with arms open wide, lets life flow through them.” Be grateful unto your last breath.
~~~

We are meaning seeking creatures. Our paths change with each decade and significance slips away from us only if we do not embrace purpose, inspiration and relevance. One day I will hopefully be in my eighties and still be making art, like my friend Austin. I hope you will too.

In the meantime I’ll try to live by this bit of wisdom: seize the day, fill your heart, move your body and give thanks. Life is so much shorter than we think it is.

How do you find ways to stay truthful as you age? Share in the comments.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Is Age Just A Number?

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The impervious feeling of youth is a delicious drunk of newness and firsts: first apartment, first true love, first heartbreak; the delight of garage sales and thrift shops, that furnish the backdrop upon which one begins to build a life, blissfully unaware of the baggage of childhood that follows them into independence and self-sufficiency. In my twenties, I surfed in the mornings with Bernie, napped in the afternoons and then waited cocktails at night to pay for a life style that was both joyous and fraught with uncertainty as well as longing and idealism. All that created its own kind of pain and regret. No one escapes the wrong turns, but instead we seem to spend our lifetime burrowing into the core of what ails us before we find the gifts within the inevitable ruin.

At twenty something, I swung my long, gangly legs over the precipice of the 1970’s, watching Viet Nam unwind. The grainy television images of so much human destruction were soon to be replaced by Nixon and the exposure of con and corruption that would define the word “sensational” for decades to come. And as twenty marched ahead into thirty, I realized one day how difficult it was to pay the rent, and repair the car and I had new empathy and understanding for my mother, who worked at a time when the cartoon character of a wolf chasing a nubile secretary around the desk wasn’t that far off the mark.

While the twenties, for many of us underscored a time of adventure and ideals, the thirties was of time of finding a comfortable position within the grip of unrelenting responsibility. Overtime at my work place became a way of life, a badge of proof that I was committed and in the game for the long haul. I bought my first “new” couch and read T.S. Eliot, Yeats and May Sarton for leisure. I wrote in dozens of spiral bound notebooks– an attempt to discover who I was and who I was becoming, and whether or not I had just put on the costume of adulthood without really checking out what I was wearing. Thirty gnawed the bones of idealism and free-spiritedness, replacing the hunger for those things with “want.” Want is a thorn in the foot of human condition, a lusting and longing for those things or people just out of our reach; a strange coming to grips with a shadow of greed, that if we are honest, dogs us until we wrestle it to the ground and learn to balance it with a generous heart.

When I turned 40, I had a realization that life was just a series of stories and somehow we were all connected by those stories. By then I was married, with a choice to remain childless, but with a passion for creating business and a raw and reckless spirit, still wild from my surfing days that allowed me to take the risks necessary to be an entrepreneur. And having a partner with which to play that out remains one of the great satisfactions of my journey. The time of work and creation was marked by this decade and the joke of “over the hill” was really more about the pinnacle of the hill and the overview provided from the vantage point of focus and determination.

Fifty saw the departure of my mother and though I felt beyond independent and accomplished when she left, her absence was piercing in a way I could not have anticipated. She lingers still, her hands seeming like they are mine, veined with age. I catch glimpses of her in the mirror, a face layered over my own as I brush my hair. Life is shorter than you think.

So in my sixties now, the question of age as a number and whether that means anything or not? It means everything. Age is a marker, the signs that dot the highway that tell you how far you have come. Age is a container for the experiences that push us forward and challenge us to unfold. Age is a reminder that physical strength lessens with the years and beauty fades. Whether or not we like it or want it, age is what pulls us to our knees while it knights us with the sword of humility and hard-won wisdom. What lies beyond? In my twenties, I could not sit still in the morning hours, knowing that the surf was up. Forty years later finds me on my deck, holding a cup of tea and easing into the day as I marvel at how the apples on the tree in my yard have gone from green to red and are becoming larger in the summer sun. The cycle of beginnings and endings are everywhere around me in nature. In my heart I let go of memories that are stitched with pain and discomfort. They drop like apples from the tree. I like to recall instead the touchstones of surfing and careers and a life education that was beyond divine. I revel in the partnership of a marriage, now tender and softened with grey.

I embrace the years, each decade a lamp unto the soul, lighting the way into becoming human. The striving for some sense of self-honesty and awareness, for a sensuous breeze in which to throw back my head and close my eyes as life takes me; this has made the journey purposeful. To paraphrase Mr. Yeats: “I am an old woman with a dry mouth, waiting for the rain.”

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Young At Heart

iStock_000015399063XSmallThe days and weeks bleed into each other, speed nourished by long “to do” lists. Meditation practice is sporadic during these times, writing almost non-existent. Instead, life is a packing box, punctuated by the purge of things that will not make the journey to our new home.

Today “The Daily Writing Prompt” arrived in the email. Like a siren of the sea, I was seduced to put down the packing tape and pick up the lap top. Scaling a blank screen, my energies having been elsewhere is scary. The theme for today’s prompt “How do you stay young at heart?”

Here’s the thing, you get to be to a certain age and you realize that the life you have already lived is longer than what is in front of you. While that may seem bleak, it does provide an immediate opportunity. If you know that you are only going to be alive for another 20 years or so, the question becomes, “how then, shall I live my life?” For me, living with the consciousness that everything eventually ends, is what has made my life more alive. The luxury of believing that there are years in front of you is gone.  But to live consciously, savoring the days,  becomes immediate.

A young heart is really a heart that is awake to the world. I walk every day with my dog and my husband. Being out doors is a great love for us. Feasting our eyes on the sky and watching the season’s change as we trompe through snow, mud, rain and more mud until we get to the hard ground of warm summer days. Keep moving. That keeps you young. I have left behind a life of running and tennis, skiing and weight training–none of which serves me these days, but walking…I feel that I can walk forever– that there are trails and paths yet to be discovered, waiting for my feet to cross them.

Then there is the contemplative part of life so necessary when one is standing at the threshold of old age. I call this decade of my life “reclamation.” It means that I reclaim those things that have angered me, wounded me, betrayed and stung. And I strip from them the pain, seeing where they emptied me and softend my edges. The acid speech is then removed from my tongue and any regret is tempered with a compassion for the frailty of all human beings as they create their story.

Story, that’s a big one too. If you are going to be old and young at the same time, you must know your own story. You need to know it with all its glory and all of it jagged, ragged edges. I embrace my story. I don’t turn away from the dark or the mistakes that were made. Instead I string together the events and processes that formed this person over decades of living. It’s so nice to no longer feel that I need to be fixed. Over time I have slowly learned and still slowly learn to love every step that I took upon the journey to becoming fully human.

Isn’t that what we want when we grown old–to become fully human? To love with a heart that has been broken and yet is open wide, receiving life with enthusiasm?“I grow old, I grow old…I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Do I dare eat a peach? I have hear the mermaids singing each to each…” I didn’t look up the poem, it is in me now and I have probably bastardized it somewhat with my memory. Apologies to T.S. Eliot.  But I love the affirmation of “I grow old and I shall wear the bottoms of my tourers rolled.”  It reminds me of the slower walking that escorts us to the inevitable edge.

I walk and I read and I write. I so need to get back to writing every day and I hope that after this move is done, I will sit at my desk each morning and record the world that I see; the realizations that grace me; the humor that keeps each of us going in the tougher times. But for now, as I pack up and end this piece about what it takes to be young at heart, I conclude and repeat that I read. I walk and I write. And each day I find a way to breath deeply the cool air around me and say thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/prompt-young/

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

The Last Chapter

iStock_000017329893XSmallFor me, turning sixty marked the threshold of old age. I will be 62 this year, so now I am really in the thick of it! It does not mean that I have gone gently into that good night, but it does mean that the physical, psychological and spiritual changes of this particular passage are no less exciting or daunting than the changes of my twenties. I recall the young woman who I once was– full of edge and humor, pathos and pain standing on the precipice of life and daring herself to fly.

These past months have brought about a whirlwind of change and resolve and there are days that I marvel at how life continues to build upon itself regardless of years and days that I feel I should just lay down and take a nap until it all passes. My husband and I retired from our business late last summer–thirty-seven years worth of work that came down to some boxes for storage and a few tearful goodbyes. Then we started a consulting business that allowed us to work from home with less hours and far less stress. It provides some purpose, a context into which we build daily hikes with the dog and meals that are now served with leisurely conversation.

And at this strange new threshold that leads into the last chapter we dreamed a new dream. We recently bought a home in a small town in the northwest that will undoubtedly provide a greener moister climate, a larger garden, and a deck from which to watch the world.

I have friends that rail against this age and approach it with fear and even a little anger. You can fight it all you want, but we all march toward death everyday. Since that’s what is true, why not live and embrace every event to the fullest? I like being in my sixties. I will probably like being in my seventies. For once I have some real perspective from which to view a life richly textured–a life that knows the joy of celebration and a life that also knows how to suffer so that suffering can teach and even inspire.

These next months will be more packing and unpacking, a stream of logistical tasks that moves us from Colorado to the great northwest. I picture myself sitting on the deck of my new home, wrapping my hands around a mug of hot tea, watching with wonder as the early morning light creeps across the yard. I see myself sitting at my desk tapping away on the computer recalling or creating stories. And time and time again I see myself holding onto the hand of my husband, my friend, my partner as we look up into the dark sky on a summer night, counting stars and knowing that at the end of this chapter, we will return to the star dust from which we were born.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Ode To A Desk

Opened notebook, pen, books and glasses
The massive roll-top was a beast of a desk. Purchased his first year in practice, it represented what he was becoming: a teacher, a doctor, a man with vision and a heart full of idealism. It had stood out at The Antique Guild, the place where a generation of us longed for things worn and aged from a different time, history and story that could be traced in the grain of old oak and an imagining of where it had come from.

When the top was rolled up, twelve small drawers outlined the top of the desk, dropping down into other small compartments and shelving, but leaving a large surface for writing, for books, for charts and manuals that became part of his life. File drawers were stuffed with notes and articles about nutrition and biochemistry. The whole thing was chaotic and scattered, but he knew where everything was and I knew better than to ever touch anything or try to move things around. In the evening he rolled down the top and covered the whole mess as if tucking in a child for sleep. And on the workday mornings, he opened and awakened it, shuffled the papers and articles, sat with his patients, one elbow resting upon a surface that bore witness to his work and its unfolding.

It came to life before anyone had a personal computer that required space for a tower or a printer or a screen; before desks would contain those carefully placed holes for cords and phone lines. All of that came later, as the desk grew impractical for keeping up with a technology that had no respect or reverence for it’s fine lines or history. Still, the desk moved with us from office to office, the largest piece of furniture in his room,  the marking and symbol of a man who created life on his terms in his unique way, without worry or concern for pleasing those around him, but instead exercised a fidelity to raw authenticity. Like the desk, larger than anything in the room, my husband, the “him” of this ode is in many ways larger than life when it comes to how he did his 37-year career.

Somewhere in August we made the decision that it was time to move on to the next chapter of our lives. Consulting work came easily to him. He had become the grey beard in the room who had something to teach those youngsters about bio-chemically based nutrition. Life now offered work from an office at home that has a different desk, one built for computer screens and printers. The tailored attire of his career would bend to a pair of sweat pants and a soft, cotton t-shirt.  Here came the gentle ending to a long story, a good story. . .and the ending to the good desk, a glorious beast of a desk that dominated his office for 37 years.  As the new chapter began to reveal itself,  the desk was let go.

I sat in the hallway of what was once our office building when they came to get it. We had tried to sell it, only to realize that the young people in this brave new world needed and wanted the strategically placed holes for cords; the place for screens and printers; a surface that was sleek and modern. They craved Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn not the story or history as told in old oak grains in what was becoming an antique and a relic of a dated past.  Significance changes with each generation, and the desk had served its purpose well.  We donated it to the Hospice Thrift Store.

Two men came in on a Wednesday morning and unscrewed the top and the sides and wheeled it past me in three different pieces to what I hoped would be a new and fitting home. I wished that it would wind up with someone who would appreciate it and who would run their hands across the grain and wonder what stories the massive beast held in its still beating heart.

We grow old. Our precious things lose meaning but our purpose remains: a place to study, a place to write or to read, some corner we create to carry out these small actions of our life that grow us and hold the potential to become big when talents are shared. The old desk went down the elevator and into the truck in three pieces and I could not hold back the tenderness of a few tears for what is the closing of the curtain on a chapter well lived for both the glorious beast of a desk and a man who continues to courageously do life on his own unique terms.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

To Retire

RainSomewhere, lost in the obligations and responsibilities of day-to-day life, buried under the rubble of forgotten things, a bright orb of thought shines in the darkness. It is here that I begin again, picking up the pen to tell a story:

A lifetime of work behind me, for the moment—I find myself “retired,” not even sure that I have any infinity at all with that word. To retire is to go to one’s room, shut the door and lie down. I am not ready for that. At the same time, I am not ready to take on the world with some great expertise and experience, but rather find a gentler middle ground that affords me mornings of tea and reading, hours of writing practice, walks among cottonwoods and a sense of gentle purpose that still allows for a contribution to the world in which I live.

Like a high school girl biting her nails in the guidance counselor’s office, I do not know what I want to do. All the while, I receive offers to consult on this or that, to plan and produce and to create a little something that flows into a checking account. I do not think that I am ready to give that up and yet there is a satisfied weariness in me that compels me to a greater quiet.

I have spent the last several weeks unwinding a clinical practice for my husband who doctored patients for 37 years. I worked with him for 24 of those years. The goodbyes were emotional and I ran around feeling like I had to take care of everyone. It left me tired and numb. A whirlwind of activity including a yearly retreat that I organized for 250 people topped it off and now, for the first time in the span of things, I am at my keyboard, my symbolic pen, trying to put my thoughts in an order that makes sense and brings me comfort.

It all seemed to go by so fast, schooling, friendships, marriage, work, the things that define you until you can get to the core of something else, something greater that doesn’t need a label.  I imagine my life a film, and what I desire now is a slow and interesting fade and not a sudden stop.

This morning I sat on the deck with my tea, as I often do, gazing at the fading stars and a bright half-moon. Hoping for a deep stillness, I was interrupted by a Labrador retriever who lives to have the tennis ball thrown. In his persistent and unrelenting manner, there was no peace, only the sound of the ball being dropped, panting and a blond dog jumping up and down as I acquiesced to the inevitable. Similarly with the state of things in my life now, a hope for quiet and a joyful disturbance that keeps saying “not quite yet.”   I suppose I should say “stay tuned. . .”

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A Hallway Full of Doors

iStock_000023278171XSmallA shrill whistle from the teakettle pierces the morning fog. Boiling water into a cup, measured teaspoons of honey and Earl Grey, a jolt of caffeine providing passage into the day. A laptop and resolve to practice writing complete the ritual that plays out for its own sake, sunrise after sunrise. I have grown comfortable with the unrelenting boundaries that I construct around my life to give some semblance of making it work.

Aldous Huxley, “The Doors of Perception”—I read it when I was seventeen– stories of a consciousness expanded with a psychedelic –the possibilities of a higher self that spoke to the longing of a generation. Those ideal years seem far away now, an experience of becoming great that slipped through our fingers as our generation, like every generation is worn down by life. Still, passage through that doorway defined me. It stripped away something polite and exposed edges that were painful, but interesting. The desire to conform became disdainful and my life would forever be passionate and overly emotional. I am a pair of animated hands diving deeply into the rich red and black earth of creativity hoping for gold.

Riding in a car on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1969, I was always headed toward the beach. That was when I heard “Riders on the Storm,” a sing-song kind of chant that allowed the listener to get lost in a trance of the rock n’ roll experience. It wasn’t just about the music. It was about the attitude, the recklessness and abandon that gave the finger to conformity with its ache to explode the norms.

We were so young and so arrogant as not to see how our parents had sacrificed pieces of their bodies and their heart to fight in a World War that was the battle for the soul of man. It left fathers sitting alone in over stuffed chairs, relegated to corners of dark garages, lit only by the tip of a glowing cigarette; and housewives who knew better than to ask “what” or “why” and instead honored the space needed by warriors to lick wounds that constantly broke open. Conformity for them was the band-aide and my generation could not possibly understand. Our fathers passed through the doors of hell at Normandy and Iomega, a wretched memory now past, but constantly present, while The Doors blared from small radios in their children’s rooms and copies of Aldous Huxley were read late into the night, all a kind of Holden Caulfield story unfolding in millions of homes across America.

When my mother died, I began to struggle with a sense of relevance. Sixty is the threshold of old age. You can dress it up. Tighten your face with surgery, but eventually everything sags and puddles at your feet as life slips from your grasp and the music of your youth has no meaning for twenty-something’s who look at you with the same imperviousness with which you once viewed your elders. I eye the door cautiously, heartened by nieces and nephews who discover Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts and want to discuss them late into the night. The desire to get bigger in your heart and mind may be eternal, whereas the music of your youth is just a temporary soundtrack for the experience.

My mother sat at the doorway of death and waited, numbed by drugs that pulled her toward the entrance. The good daughter said the rosary and I just watched. You always knew that it would happen, but somehow you are never prepared. “Riders on the Storm.” Something sing-song to rock back and forth to. Close my eyes and understand that the doorways and the passages are what make it exciting. What’s on the other side? I don’t want anyone to say a rosary for me. It’s too conforming. Instead scatter my ashes on the beach and dance on them, pounding them into the sand, then pour a cup of Earl Grey over the whole mess and read from the last passages of Prufrock—“I grow old. I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

It’s all just a long hallway of doors. I grow old, I grow old. . .a non-conforming wordsmith who writes her way into  each day with a cup of black tea and hopes to write her way out, telling as many stories as possible until the last breath when the last door slams shut.