Me and Motley REALLY Ain’t Old!

I was flipping through old posts today and came across this oldie but goodie from a couple of years ago. Just think — I’m two years older than when I wrote this. And I think I need this more than ever. Happy Thursday!

Motley Crue Then

Motley and Me Ain’t Old

There has been a lot of angst going around the blog world lately. Problems, thoughts, ponderings.  It seems to be hitting the 50+ group, although I’ve read quite a few -50 uncertainties as well.  It is like we all are jugging the self-esteem balls, and we keep dropping one or two on our foot. The foot doesn’t break, but it sure as hell hurts.

Motley Crue Now

I myself was going to write a blog about feeling like I’ve really aged in the past year. You know those movie stars and rock stars that come out of mothballs for one reason or another, and you find yourself saying, “Man, have they aged!”  You know — the ones you loved in your teens or 20’s or 30’s.  You cut them no slack for having lived — whether it be through raising a family or doing drugs or surviving tragedies. You want to see them fresh and perky and full of energy. Not wrinkled or bloated. For that reminds us of … us.

I find that at 60 I’m caught between making excuses and living them. The wrinkles and extra pounds and the inability to fall asleep at night and achy legs and feet are from meds, stress, drinking caffeine, sitting at a desk all day, walking the dog, and a hundred other things.  It can’t be that I’m getting old. I mean, Keith Richards looks old. Chevy Chase looks old. Surely ~I~ can’t be looking old like that.

Can I?

This goes beyond our sound reasoning, beyond the I-loved-raising-my-family and the I’ve-been-through-a-lot-of-stuff stuff. It’s the accumulation of all those years of self criticism and/or questionable choices that’s winds up as lines on our faces and girth around our middles. It’s all those rock-and-roll concerts, college parties, and lonely nights.  It’s the sleepless nights staying up with children, hard physical jobs, and watching all those soccer games in the rain.  All these things play with our skin, our circulatory system, our psyche. We do all kinds of good things for ourselves and others. Still the legs ache at night, the circles under our eyes remain, and our hair still turns gray.

The good news is that we can always steer ourselves in a positive direction. We can become pro-active, getting involved in projects and people that keep us too busy to be counting years. We can — and do — make a difference in the world, in other people’s lives.

But still, there are tinges of regret in the eyes of the woman who looks back at me in the mirror. To be honest, there will always be a tiny flicker of sadness that I will never be as beautiful as Angelina or as smart as Einstein or as successful as Steve Jobs.  Now and then there will be a faint whisper of shoulda, coulda, woulda. Looking backwards is a natural action; regret (in some form) a natural reaction. I don’t like the idea that the road is longer behind me than in front of me. Nor do I care for the fact that there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

But then I turn on the stereo or put my ear buds in and listen to my IPod, and my youth comes rushing back to me. And I realize it’s never been gone. And will never leave me.

Come on — I know you’ve got it in you. Put on your favorite music — country song, disco song, hairband song. Turn it on and TURN IT UP. You’ll see you’re not an age — you’re a legend.

When we started this band

All we needed, needed was a laugh

Years gone by

I’d say we kicked some ass

When I’m enraged

Or hittin’ the stage

Adrenalin rushing

Through my veins

And I’d say

We’re still kickin’ ass

Kick Start my Heart, Motley Crue

Home on the Farm

034I have always enjoyed the feel of this blog…I try to make it light, witty, and, if I’m lucky, life-affirming. This is one side of me. Like all of you, there are many facets to my diamond. I read a very warm, articulate piece by my fellow blogger ittymac (http://ittymac.wordpress.com/) which made me think about all my other writing facets.

I’m going out on a limb this evening and posting one of my favorite stories. It’s about 1,036 words long, so it shouldn’t take you too long to read it. It is a tribute (in a way) to my father. I hope it touches you like it touched me.

Home on the Farm

He woke up before the crowing of the rooster, something he hadn’t done in a long time.  There was only one rooster left now, a strutting white leghorn with tan wings and black spots on his chest.  The old man stretched carefully,  surprised to find the shooting pains in his legs gone.  Remarkable. Last night the pain had been so bad he had to double his medication just to make it to his bed.  Now — now his legs felt sturdy and strong.

Sitting up in bed, his watery eyes looked out the window towards the coming sunrise.  The light sparkled like a million crystal chips shimmering at the edge of his vision, stretching the morning clouds into ribbons of pink and gold.  Someone once told him that the sunrises were brighter these days because of all the pollution in the air, but he didn’t agree.  John had witnessed many a sunrise on his farm, many a sunrise and sunset since his father plowed the land when he was a boy.  Maybe they all didn’t sparkle like this one, but they were all unique, all beautiful.

Climbing out of bed and into the bathroom, John savored  the fact that his bodily functions were once again running smoothly.  What an enjoyable respite from the dribbling and splashing he had been going through lately!  Looking into the mirror, his large blue eyes were the clearest he had seen them in a while, the age splotches on his face nearly non-existent.  His hands didn’t tremble as he shaved, nor did he need his glasses to comb his hair. It was about time.

Donning his flannel and overalls, John called his hound to come join him on a morning walk.  The 84-year-old had not wandered through his farmland in ages, and his legs felt so great, so strong, he couldn’t resist the urge to revisit fields that had seen better days.  Bouncer didn’t come running, though, but merely slept in the puddle of sunlight that fell in front of the living room sofa.  Fine, John thought.  Sleep the morning away.

Opening the back door, the chill of the morning air danced around him, invigorating his senses.  The scent of hay and grass filled his nostrils, along with the earthy sweat of horses and cows.  John looked down at his legs and for a moment worried they wouldn’t carry him across the porch and down the stairs to the old barn.  He hadn’t been able to make that trek in quite some time, his body having grown more useless as the years passed.  But this morning — this morning was different.  There wasn’t a cloud hanging over his thoughts anymore.  No depression, no drugs to slow him down. He could do it.

He cautiously moved down the stairs and followed the dirt path that led to the empty red barn. Vivid memories of his father and mother and brothers bombarded him as he neared the dilapidated structure. His parents had moved to Wisconsin from Poland, hoping to find freedom and a new life in the rural countryside that looked so much like their native land. His father tended 25 cows in his day; John almost 40 during his middle years. Adding chickens and a couple of bulls to the mix, he made a decent living, enough to support a wife and three children in the heyday of the 50’s.

But the kids grew up and moved to the big city, and his wife took on a bout of cancer about ten years back and never recovered, leaving the farm and livestock to run wild with abandonment.  John finally allowed the neighbor to plant corn in his empty fields, providing a small but decent return that, combined with his small pension, afforded him a comfortable retirement.

The past was the past, and now all John could visualize was the barn full of cows and the chickens raising a ruckus in their pen somewhere behind the milk cans and the  ’52 Ford pickup that was down a quart of oil.  His footsteps were lighter than air, quick and sure, walking the path they had carved into the earth for the past 80 years. He saw horses in the pasture and hay bales stacked up in the loft and barrels full of cracked corn.

It was incredible how good it felt to be alive, to feel the earth and the farm under his feet, the sunshine on his weathered face, to hear his children laugh and scream and chase the dogs around the front yard.  John fleetingly wondered about his newfound energy, the firmness of his limbs, the accuracy of his eyesight. There were no hints of arthritis or pneumonia; there were no more regrets about the past or thoughts of suicide. It was as if he had always been this way.

Past the farm equipment, through the barn and out the double doors on the other side, John spotted his wife sitting on the picnic table under the huge oak tree at the bottom of the hill, laughing and talking to his mother and father. Margaret took on a subtle glow as she beckoned him to join her under the overgrown tree.  His father sat in the wooden chair that used to sit by the fireplace, and his mother stretched out on a blanket at the base of the tree.  The kids squealed in the background, the dogs barked and the crows threatened from their perches atop the trees.

The sun crested above the distant pines and the rooster crowed, cracking the morning with its triumphant sound.  At that moment John heard a jumbling of sounds:  a phone ringing, a dog howling, voices and noises and the shattering of glass.  But it must have been the wind playing tricks, carrying nonsense through the open fields from the farms down the way.  He hesitated as a thought, a rationalization, tried to take form in his mind.  But it was gone as quickly as it appeared. The world was full of enchanting sounds and scents, and it all belonged to him.  He turned, and smiling, went into the arms of his beautiful wife.

The reunion had begun.   John was home. Home on the farm.

 

What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

Sharpening the Tool

I hate it when people say that many middle-aged people “aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.” It’s condescending, insulting, naive and just plain wrong. What I hate even more, though, is being one of those dull tools. Alas, there are times when I feel I’m struggling to stay in the shed, period. 

This morning was a fine example of the three strikes towards the dull tool rule. This morning (really last night), I failed to barricade our kitchen, and our very naughty lab got in and scattered what she couldn’t eat down the hallway. I erased the new grocery list on the marker board, thinking it was last week’s, and left paperwork that was supposed to be turned in today on the kitchen table. I’m not stupid – it’s just that I don’t pay attention the way I should. 

How many times have things happened around you that only later you find important? Except for local jaunts, I get lost driving without written directions, even though I’ve been to these places dozens of times. I am terrible at relaying verbal messages from doctors, bankers and insurance agents, and although many things make sense to me, I have a hard time explaining them to others. Like I have crossed wires in my head. 

Is this the same woman who was commended for the creative language in her novels? The same who proofreads and enters information into a computer every day?  What happens to our ability to pay attention? Do we all become a little A-D-D as we get older? Is it just a case of not paying attention? Or something more sinister? 

I am not talking about dementia here; this is not one of those not-enough-blood-to-the-brain things. There are many people from their 20’s through their 80’s who bounce from cloud to cloud, half connected to the responsibilities of this world, half to another. Some are considered geniuses, others rebels. Some are trendsetters, others ne’re-do-wells. I’m sure at least one of them comes to your mind even now. But that doesn’t mean they are slower or duller than others. Everybody forgets things ― everybody does things now and then in a skewered way. The important thing to do in times like these is to learn from your idiosyncrasies. If you can’t change them, join them! 

Start with slowing down. “I don’t go fast!” you reiterate. Perhaps not. But in some circles even full speed ahead isn’t fast enough. We see others around us moving faster, driving faster, coming to conclusions faster, and that makes us feel inferior. Our brain tells us we are not, yet try telling that to our ego. We are so busy trying to keep one step ahead of the game, thinking about the next play, the next set of consequences, that we fail to finish the game we are currently playing. When I take the grocery list with me and not the checkbook, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. It just means I didn’t take time to complete the circle, i.e., grocery list = buying groceries = no cash on hand = pay with a check.

I think it’s the simple things that trip us up the most. I don’t do well remembering driving directions because, I admit, I don’t focus on taking this road to that highway to that street. As a passenger, I’m too busy chatting or looking out the windows at the cows and the clouds or reading a book or talking to my car mates. This highway and that street aren’t important to me at that moment. That doesn’t mean they are not important at all ― just not at that particular moment of remembering. 

Same thing with worrying if I turned off the curling iron or picked up the stack of bills on the table to drop in the mailbox. Both situations are important; it’s just that I’m more worried about punching in on time than casing the table one more time or dipping one more time into the bathroom. I can handle the main control for the TV/DVD player/satellite box, but if someone comes along and changes things in order to play a video game, I’m done for the night. 

So when I say I/we need to slow down, all I mean is that we need to pay attention to each task as we perform it. There is nothing wrong with being interested or excited about our next move, but sometimes we need to exaggerate our involvement in the current one. To assure I complete each circle, I do things like talk out loud to myself (stove is OFF. Curling iron is BACK UNDER THE SINK).  I know it sounds ridiculous (the dogs think I’m talking to them), but I would feel a lot more ridiculous should my house catch on fire. 

 We are all given one deck of cards to play with, and it’s how we play with the cards we’re dealt that matters. I exceed in places where others fall short. It’s all a balancing act. It is in your life, too. So don’t let it be a big deal. Make your list, sing as you recite your steps, and stay on course. After all, the most important thing in life is continually sharpening that tool. 

You’ll never know when you’ll need it to dig yourself out of a hole.