Saturday, November 23, 2013

As the journey continues.

How much easier would a journey be if we stopped along the way and asked for directions? Or took an inventory of what tools and supplies were needed? Or consult with our companions?

At the beginning of the journey we are confident and cocky. We hardly ever consult a manual when we attempt a new task. Even when we are confused and anxious, we fake it. We want to be perceived as people in charge and accomplished.

At the end of our journey, we are tired and grouchy. We consult everyone and everything daily, what food to eat, what exercises to perform. We say what we think; and we do what we like.

Yesterday, I told a good friend when she asked me to call her after a doctor's visit, that it was not going to happen. The call. No, I said. I'll not disappoint you. I can't promise to call until I feel like calling. Believe me, I added, I'll be so worried and anxious that the last thing I want to worry about is keeping this promise.

She nodded in agreement.

We know what it means to share news that is not good news, that will worry and make anxious the caller and the called. That certain news will just have to go through maceration.
Some things will not be shared.
Some will be shared for the first time.

Other stuff will be shared over and over again. You'll be tired of hearing about it; you'll be telling us you heard this already. And we will continue to share it because what our journey is about at this time in our lives is to make sense of all the stops and crevices, the small and big things we collected, received and gave, all things big and small that our memory can still contain.

Beware, we tell ourselves, this is what really happened when...

Whenever we appear grouchy, it's because we are processing the present in light of our past. Or, we are just anxious that this life is coming to an end.

When we don't call, it's because we hate to waste your time.
We don't resort to gimmicks when we tell you we can't accept your dinner invitation because we can't travel easily after dark.

Somehow, we have this sense of urgency to stay on the road.
Somehow, we see dead people walking among the living.

And we pray we can still be seen and heard.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I've been married to a thankful man, someone who is constantly expressing his gratitude, for being alive, for a good meal, for a bit of sunshine, and even for simple things like finding his glasses right there where he thought he left them.


I'm more demanding and critical; my pillow has to be this high; my food balanced in such a way...

Did I know this about him before I married him? No. I was just thankful I didn't have to impress this man. Yes, he fell in love with me in a casual way, before we had any dates, before we did anything more special than sit at the outdoor patio we shared at the apartment house where we both resided and talked about Bob Dylan's lyrics, Sartre's philosophy...

I did notice that he was not stylish, at a time when I was quite careful with my own image, allotting way more than I could afford to my attire. He wore heavy-framed glasses that made him look nerdy, and white socks that made him look like a hick.  You see, I grew up in a family that cared how we were perceived in public, that worked hard at the image we were presenting. My big brother was in the fashion business, ended up working in the great house of Valentino, and here I was talking to a man whose fashion sense was to grab whatever was clean for the day.

We married six months after we met.
Forty-seven years later, we are truly thankful for the gift of friendship and love that supported us through many storms.    

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Confronting your limitations

You can stand here and there, in museums and parks, wonder at the talent and power of inspiration in front of you, and can either get discouraged or be inspired. When you are young, and have your whole life in front of you, these encounters show you possibilities and new horizons.

When you are old, new encounters make you confront your limitations, allow you to consider the options you might have in front of you.

How long will it take to do this? Do I have the skills? Have I done this kind of work before? What will I create that is uniquely mine? What will it cost to produce? Do I have the physical skills to do this?

Most of us know a great deal about commitment and drive and ambition. Our entire lives have been spent at work and raising families, balancing all tasks and deadlines so one or the other did not suffer. All of our lives we confronted challenges and we stood up and faced them with grace.
All of our lives we were judged by how well we took up new tasks and grew with each step.

But growing old teaches us something else entirely.

We learn almost overnight that tomorrow will not bring more opportunities. People around us remind us just how difficult it will be to use our bodies the way we did. We can't walk as far; can't stand as long; can't drive much after dark.

We know that this moment might just be the best we'll have.

Tasks we did automatically, are now done reflectively. We count on our hands the things we need to have before we leave the house: keys, glasses, phone, snack, purse...
We use devices to remind us to turn off the stove, unplug the iron, take our meds...

When our children visit us we make extra efforts to get to clean the house the way we used to; that clutter has been removed, lest they think we are slipping away. (I do know that a cleaning service for Christmas would be the best present ever!)

We turn down invitations because we are afraid of driving at night; or, of not being able to digest the food they serve; or, falling asleep in the middle of a conversation; or....

And then there is the matter of finances.
That topic alone can keep us worrying most nights.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The life we forget to write about.

Calendars are everywhere, on google, phone, paper by the computer, paper in the kitchen, and one for each organization I belong to. A collated mess of dates and appointments are distinguished  in various colors and graphics.  Keeping track of time must have been a real necessity from the time we came down from the trees and roamed the savannas.

And yet, even with all the doctors and specialists' visits, writing and responding on blogs,  running organizations whose activities keep different calendars than my household's, I do not chronicle my life much. I seem to pretend that it is self evident, and who in their right mind wants to know that I skipped dinner last night?

Who indeed?

You just have to read Zadie Smith, and you will realize how these stupid details in your life can account for so much of its meaning, or lack of it.

I've been reading NW by Zadie Smith, and everything I know about writing is being challenged.

No wonder that the only thing my husband wanted to do during our visit in Boston was to eat at No Name Restaurant.