Tag Archives: aging

Enough is Enough

Someone asked me yesterday how a person ever knows when they are enough.  I thought I would use this post to try and tease out a more thorough answer.

This much I think I know.  I know that for a long period of my earlier life I did not think I was enough.  I thought I wasn’t smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough, thin enough, and probably a whole host of other things, had I thought about them for very long.  How did I know this?  Because there was always someone around me who appeared to be enough and I was different than them.

Today I’m still different than people around me in a variety of ways.  That much hasn’t changed.  But what has changed, is both how I interpret and measure others and myself.  In fact, the gap itself is no longer the measure of anything except difference.

When a person is pretty, they simply are pretty.  It doesn’t make them better or more, it just means they are pretty.  Being more pretty is not a measure of their enoughness, or mine.  Even if they are extremely pretty.

But to disassemble a system of measurement, something else has to take its place.  I think the new system is based on truth, acceptance and having a much wider lens than I previously used.  Let me try and take these one at a time.

Truth:  So often I deluded myself into thinking that acquiring something, be it a physical item like clothing, or less tangible like an achievement would afford me a sense of completion and grant me permission to whatever status group I wanted membership.  Of course every acquisition only left me more depleted and feeling still more illegitimate.  So truth means to see symbols for what they are and to not chase them at the cost of authentic self- development.  Truth also means to search inward to determine whether or not I have truly put forth an honest effort with pure motives.  If I have, it is enough.

A wider lens:  Maturity is largely responsible for adding this tool into my toolbox.  Like many people I too was prone to what I call snap shot thinking.  I only saw life in small snippets, a moment in time.  When I see a beautiful person and think their life is beautiful based on that moment in time, I am severely limiting my view point.  I don’t know if that same individual has financial, emotional, spiritual, physical or relationship challenges.  I don’t know how much effort went in to achieving that beauty and at what cost.  In fact I know nothing about the person.  But if I give them a winning score and compare myself to that winning score, I am not enough.

To widen the lens does not mean to find fault with the other person.  It means to find humanness within both that, other individual (or circumstance) and my own.  Otherwise, it’s like measuring two things, one with English and the other with metric.  They won’t match.  Widening the lens also means for me, to include faith in something much greater than the constraints of this world and my own humanness.  The dilemma with relying only on this world is that it is all so fragile and fleeting.  It’s truly like building a castle in the sand knowing the tide’s arrival is but a few short hours away. It is easier to see one as enough when you strip away the layers of triviality and build on something wider.

Finally there is acceptance.   To accept that I am enough is an active act of willingness.  It is a willingness to ACT.  It means to live with that knowledge and to make choices accordingly.  If I am enough, then it means to live as if that is true.  It means to no longer invest all of my energy into the pursuit of what I think will make me more.  It means to speak more kindly of myself and to not withhold rewards until I reach some higher earned level of wholeness.  And it means to not hold back my efforts with the excuse that they are not important or won’t matter.  They matter. 

This is personal and based on my path.  And please let me be clear that I have no illusion that this is a static and fixed level, but is rather, a work in progress that I need to frequently remind myself about.  I hope there is something useful for you to take while developing your own sense of enoughness. 

 

Shhh I can hear you

Shhhh I can hear you.

My mother wore hearing aids. She got them when she was about 80. Her hair didn’t turn gray until about age 50. My hair started streaking at about 28. And my hearing started to slip a couple of years ago.

I was in good company. My sister doesn’t hear well,  nor does one of my brothers. But they are older than I am. A couple of years ago one of my nieces had to have surgery on an ear that she was having trouble hearing out of. And did I mention that I had an aunt and an uncle who were born deaf? There was no blasting of the jambox. I come by hearing problems honestly.

I was becoming painfully aware over the past year that I was often asking people to people to repeat themselves. “Darn mumblers”, I would tell myself. The TV had to be up extra loud to accommodate me. “Too much noise in the house”, I would say. I started to notice people who wore hearing aids. I wondered what it was like, trying to get used to the idea for some day when I would need them. You know, when I got older.

At Easter I sat with a group of women and noticed that I was really not hearing the conversation. I kind of checked out and smiled as if I was hearing, but just didn’t think what they were saying was important enough to chime in. Perhaps it might have been, if I had heard them.

And a few weeks ago, I realized in a session that not only had I not heard something someone had said, but I had just gone on as if I had. And an alarm bell started ringing in my head. I heard that: Loud and clear.

I went for a hearing test and came home wearing hearing aids the same day. The first thing I noticed is that I could hear. I could actually hear things I didn’t even realize I had missed. I had become so used to not hearing things, that I no longer knew they were there. The squeak of my shoe against the break pedal of the car. The rustling of a wrapper coming off of a piece of gum. The sound of my own chewing. Life is not incomplete if one can’t hear their own chewing, but there are other experiences of the same sound level that are awfully nice to be able to hear and I wasn’t aware of them until I got the aids.

The second thing I noticed as that… no one seemed to notice. No one began looking at me like I was either a Martian or in need of a handicap sticker for my car. I suspect if anyone who knows me was looking at me, it was only because they noticed for the first time in a long time that I wasn’t asking them to repeat themselves.

My husband is happy about the hearing aids because he no longer has to yell to me from upstairs, when I’m one room away from the kitchen that, the oven timer has been going off for 5 minutes. My kids are a little less thrilled because I’m now asking THEM to turn their electronics down a notch or 6. My youngest son asked me if I feel like an old person now. I told him I feel “older”, but I’m not quite ready to claim the title of old person. He said old people where hearing aids and glasses. I reminded him that sometimes young people do as well.

The only negative feeling I have at this point, is the regret that I didn’t do it sooner. I’ve been missing out on a lot of sound because my vanity got in the way. And the real irony is that once I put them on, the vanity piece disappeared as quickly as the speed of sound. It just didn’t matter.

Most people know the story of the boiling frog. It’s of course, the metaphor of how we often get injured by situations gradually because we fail either to notice changes as they occur, or fail to respond to them if we do notice. The latter is what I did with my need to hear better because I tried to compensate for my decreased ability to hear.

Are there any situations in your life where the water is getting hotter, or the sound is getting lower and you are not responding with the appropriate actions?   What are you willing to lose and what holds you back from taking care of what you need?

 

 

 

 

Bad Hair

 

 

 

For an audio version click on the link below- If you are listening on a smart phone scroll to the end of the message and click on the sound icon.

 

I’m having a bad hair day. I pretty much have bad hair days through most of April and August because these are the months it rains a lot in St. Louis and the humidity makes my hair fat. And occasionally I have bad hair days at other times,  but I also have some really good hair days. Today isn’t one of them,  but I do know the difference.

I didn’t always though. When I was a kid I had this wild mound of super curly black hair. Actually it’s pretty much the same as I have now, just with no gray mixed in. I also didn’t have some of the great hair products I use now to keep my locks from oozing into the personal space of a person standing next to me.

Just about everyone I knew while I was growing up had silky straight blonde or light brown hair. But not me. So I felt like an odd duck. Okay I felt like an ugly duck. An ugly duck with bad untamable hair that had a mind of its own.

My mom, bless her heart, tried to do everything she could. I would lay my head on the ironing board while she tried to flatten it out. Not my head, just my hair. I can pick up the scent of singed hair a mile away. Over the years I tried every imaginable straightener on my own and professionally. I’ve spent a fortune on brushes, hair dryers, curling irons and OMG my retirement fund went entirely for creams, shampoos, conditioners, hot oil treatments and I can’t remember what else.

When I was about 4 my severely mentally retarded brother ran a wind up car through my hair. Cutting it out did not leave pretty results. Try picturing RoseAnn Rosannadanna with chopped out sections.

Along the way of my life, people would say “is it natural?” My answer was always “Who would pay to do this to themselves?” Others, (including my mother with baby fine poker straight hair) would say “oh you are so lucky”. I didn’t feel lucky.

But a few years ago,   I did what the popular movie Frozen says.   I “let it go”.   I let my curls be whatever they wanted to be for the most part plus or minus a little anti frizz stuff.

Ironically, or not so, it’s not that unusual when a stranger says to me, an adult, “I love your hair”.   And now I realize in fact that I AM lucky. My sister told me recently had left the house a couple times recently and realized once she was out and about haven forgotten to comb her hair. I can’t remember the last time I combed my hair. I don’t even own a hairbrush. I used to spend an hour a day blow drying my hair out. Now, my morning routine is pretty much limited to a 3 second glance in the mirror just to make sure no wild animals burrowed in during the night. We live on wooded acreage. It could happen.

Am I really writing an entire post about my hair? Nope. Stay tuned.

Recently, I received contact from a friend from about 30 years ago. Although we’re still trying to catch up on each other’s lives, one thing has become oddly apparent. Who she knew back then and who I knew her to be were two people that clearly did not exist. We both credited the other with possessing skills and strengths that were far from grounded in reality.

Perhaps we are simply blind or too inexperienced in our youth to see things of value properly. Maybe I will learn in 20 years that the things I think I see today are just as misguided. But what I now know is that my hair hasn’t changed much. I just have learned to see it from a very different lens. And similarly, the girl I was, back when my friend knew me, desperately wanted to live a life in which she could feel legitimate. The problem was that she took cues from everyone else to determine what that might/should be. It was only once I began to listen to my own voice somewhere along the way I created a life I recognized. I know today there are still people who see me as something they think I am, rather than who I really am. The difference is that i now understand it is their vision that is off, rather than whatever mask I have put forward.

I stopped wearing masks a long time ago. I found they messed up my hair.

Are there parts of yourself that you could appreciate in someone else, but fail to embrace within yourself?

Do people know you? Or do you let them know who you want them to see? Are you hiding your best attributes in fear that they won’t be good enough?

Do you try to mold parts of yourself into someone else or society’s criteria?

Are you judging yourself by a standard that is far more harsh than you would extend to another?

Is it okay to not be the same as everyone else? Or even the same as everyone expects you to be?

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I’d love to hear your comments. If you found this helpful, I hope you’ll pass it on to someone else.   Until next time, take good care.

Run to Nebraska

I used to love watching movies, but since having my kids, I haven’t seen many that aren’t animated.  It’s hard for me to justify in my mind the time to just sit still for two hours when there are a million other things I could be doing.  But this weekend I indulged in the movie Nebraska.  When I saw the academy award lists, the description intrigued me.  I had not spoken with anyone who saw the movie, so I had no recommendation to watch.

Let me start by saying I LOVED this movie.  I watched it by myself (while making cards).  I fully intend to watch it again and get my husband to watch it with me.   But this post is less about a movie review and more about why I loved it and who I think would also enjoy watching the film if you haven’t seen it already.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but it’s basically about a man who decides to take his father on a long road trip to claim a sweepstakes prize.  Along the way they stop in the town where they used to live, and where relatives still live.  Everyone in the town has some sort of reaction to the man and son.  The father is also suffering from some dementia and is an alcoholic.    But the real essence of the movie for me is the relationship between the son and the father.  While dad is looking for his sweepstakes earnings, the son is looking for a way to love his father and in the end is clearly successful.

At the start of the movie the son seems to be operating from a scared child part of himself.  He wants to do the right thing, but he really doesn’t know what the right thing is.  He is lost, and reactive.  But he works towards finding his courage by taking a leap of faith, even when others tell him that, doing so is a stupid idea.  His character develops throughout the film, and clearly by the end he has become a man.  He responds to his father actively out of a sense of love and generosity.  There was for me, such a confident sense of him operating out of pure and selfless love.  Love for his father, love for himself of knowing he was doing the right thing at the right time.  And in so many ways, I suspect it was the first time the father ever truly experienced it, but its highly unlikely his father really absorbed the effort.  The best part is, that didn’t matter- the son still did it.   He ended the story with being able to see his father as a dignified man, rather than a pitiful drunk.  Talk about the power to create our own reality.

While the circumstances are not remotely the same, watching the film reminded me of my last day with my own mother.  I knew she was days if not hours (as it turned out to be) away from death.  That morning when I went to be with her she had not eaten any of her breakfast.  I pulled out some chocolate and said in a singsong voice like one does with a child “I have chocolate”.  I remember still how her face lit up like someone had just given her a magnificent gift.   In truth, she could only nibble on a little bite.  But for a brief moment, she and I were able to bond in a sense that the world was exactly as it should be and all was well.  Sometimes, that is the most magnificent gift we can give to another person.

Don’t underestimate the power that you just being where you are at any particular moment might provide for another person walking the earth.  You might think you just held the door open while the person walking through sees that someone finally noticed they needed help.  You might think you’re just chatting about the weather, and the other person felt invisible until that moment.  I realize this probably sounds trivial.  But remember, I have the experience of listening to the person who describes to me feeling unseen, unheard, undervalued.  I hear the stories of people who tell me what it is like when they receive a kindness, even from a stranger and how it impacts their world.  So my observations are not merely a Pollyanna wish of what I think could happen in the world.  They are informed by years of sitting in the same chair.  And if just a random act has power, think of how much more powerful you are by actively reaching out.

 

“We are treasure chests with more jewels inside than we can imagine.”
? Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

 

 

Never can say goodbye

for an audio version of this post, click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

 

 

Put on a little Michael Jackson background music for this one

 

Never can say goodbye-

Today my neighbors moved away.  They are an elderly couple who are moving to Portland in order to be near their children and grandchildren.  In addition to having been really sweet neighbors, Ron and Orlanda were also my landlords for the building where my office is located.

They had a little going away party last weekend and I attended with bittersweet feelings.  On the one hand, I’m sad to see them go.  On the other, I feel confident that it is the right thing for them and their happiness and comfort level.  I saw Orlanda on the road yesterday and gave her a hug.  I had to fight back my tears.  Today I saw Ron while I was on my way to take my son to school.  I thought for a moment of just waving, but I stopped the car and gave him a big hug instead.  And I sobbed.

A short while later I talked to another neighbor Sarah, who lives across the street from Ron and Orlanda.  Sarah and her family have been a surrogate family for Ron and Orlanda since they’ve lived here.  In fact, Sarah offered her home to the Keuther’s last night since their house was empty.  I knew it was going to be a really hard day for Sarah.  We met on the road and cried together for a few more minutes.

 

In addition to missing the company of the Keuther’s who are really lovely people, Sarah and I have something else in common.  We are both orphans.  That was an attempt at a little twisted humor rather than self-pity.  Sarah lost her mom when she was 18.  I lost my dad at 15.  She lost her father about 5 years ago, and my mom will be gone 3 years this July.

Orlanda taught me how to make the most amazing caramel apple pie.  Ron is an incredible word worker and made beautiful hand crafted items including ornaments he gave us at Christmas.   Part of what made today’s saying goodbye for me is more than simply knowing that I won’t see my neighbors again.    It’s also knowing that I no longer have a kind of naiveté about life transitions like these.  The other reality is that Ron and Orlanda are becoming a bit frail, less independent and while I don’t mean to suggest they have one foot in the grave, the reality is they are in the later season of their life.

Maybe it’s my age and colored by the experience of having lost both parents, but I know when I was younger, I didn’t think about these things much.  I hate to be a spoiler in case you haven’t read the book, but in the early part of the “Giver” by Lois Lowry, there is a discussion about how the elderly woman is all excited about her “getting released” party that is about to occur.  It’s a celebration of one’s life and then you are released from the utopian community.  Of course, you learn later in the book that,  being released really means being given a lethal injection because you are no longer needed in the community and you’ve lived out your usefulness.

Ron and Orlanda are pretty vibrant for their age.  In addition to making a great pie, Orlanda is an artist.  Ron get’s up early every morning and walks.  It’s easy to forget sometimes.  Except that Orlanda had a stroke a couple of years ago, and she gets pretty forgetful when she gets tired.  Ron had a bad accident on his tractor a year or so ago and his back and hands haven’t really healed as well as he had hoped.  They are getting older.  They are getting less dependent.

And of course, as I look for these features in them, I am keenly aware that in the big picture, I’m not that far behind them.  On the one hand they have a good 30 years on me.  But my “baby” turning 11 yesterday reminds me how quickly time does pass.

I’m not planning on any self (or other) lethal injections any time soon- I promise!  Nor would I tell anyone that I’m afraid of dying, because I’m truly not.  I have a faith that allows me a comfort that whatever is on the other side will be of comfort.   But that said, I am still a human being, with a human life to manage through every day.  I have children to care for, a house to clean, a job to do and so on.  And many days if not all of them feel like there is more on my to do list than there is time in a day… or in a lifetime to get them done.  And I suspect that although I know that most of the tasks really aren’t that important- I’m keeping the list long enough to try and bet against time.  Because in the end… it really is true…. I never can say goodbye.