Friday, November 18, 2011

It's the Turkey Talking

What I am offering here tonight is hardly original. In fact, I thought twice about this topic, since it seems we are always looking for the unique, the one that stands out.  But there is much to be said for the ordinary and these days I find myself much more interested in our commonality than in what sets us apart. Sure, I love unique art and beautiful writing that opens our eyes and inspires.  But, I also love that feeling of belonging, of being a part of a collective gathering of minds or hearts, like a major happening such as the Presidential election or maybe the Olympics, or big holidays. Which is why I am thinking turkey (even though I am a vegetarian) and about what I have to be thankful for. I think all of us have been assigned an essay like this at least 13 times in the course of growing up. I know I have and I am sure I have given thanks  more than once for my flower-power, banana seat sting-ray bike in fifth grade, or for LBJ -my childhood canary, or given thanks in the seventies, that my brother-in-law had made it back from Vietnam. And I have sent many a prayer of thanks heavenward in the time since then, but it has been a long, long time since I have actually written it down.

But this is an exercise that I need to do right about now, to keep the blues at bay. Not just because it is another holiday and any holiday post- divorce is difficult.  I need to do this because there are major worries presenting, big worries, like finding a home and employment, that are interfering with my gratitude and I just can't let that happen.

So with the inspiration of canned pumpkin, marshmallows and yams in full view, let's see how the worries hold up under the weight of these Thank-Yous.
  • Today, right this minute I am thankful that my family is warm and fed and that we are together.
  • I am thankful for my granddaughter who has shown me the redeeming qualities of Elmo; I am sorry I misjudged him.
  • I am thankful for the mess that my daughters leave all over the house, shoes here- there-everywhere, make-up all over the sink and Pepsi cans on every table. Ordinarily, I am not thankful for this, but then I try to picture my life without this clutter, and it is orderly, but oh, it is no where near as colorful! So I ask that every time from now on, when I bend to pick up a wet towel, or gum wrapper or lonely sock, that I am reminded how my heart soars in the company of these radiant, funny beings and how gathering up bras and magazines and Chapstick is a small price to pay for this. This is truly soulful work, I mean this, I do, and I thank God for the privilege.  
  • I am ever so thankful that at 54, I am still someone's little girl. My parents are 86 and 87 and my mom still likes to bring me a cup of tea and needs to know that I get home safely.  My dad, worries that I don't sleep. He loses sleep over my not sleeping, my daddy does. And sometimes he says the cutest things, which is always surprising because he is an old Marine, and cute isn't in his vocabulary. But cute he can be, like when he tries to fit himself in a slender, straight-back dining chair.  Evaluating the tight squeeze, he says softly, " There's too much Albert and not enough chair." How I will miss hearing him say things like this.
  • I am also thankful for the tiny porcelain heart- shaped box that sits on my dresser. In it is a snippet of fur from both my 16 year old sweet dachshund, Sally and loyal 17 year old cock-a -poo, Chloe. Both dogs died less than 2 months ago. When my husband first left, and the world as I knew it was forever altered, there were nights when I thought I would surely die of loneliness, my daughters all out living their lives on those moments, and me alone in the house I shared with my him for almost three decades. That home echoed with the cruelty of recent times; it haunted me with happier moments. The dogs themselves were baffled and missed him too. Together we huddled on the couch, sometimes curled in a ball on the bathroom floor, and they tried as best they could to comfort - their presence all they could offer.  They would look at me, not the wallpaper, not the floor, but at me, as if to reassure that someone saw me, and that I was not forgotten. Their ears were often wet from my tears. They were two of the best friends I have ever had, and I am thankful for the time I had with them.
  • Now might be a good time to talk about fun things to be thankful for and the list is really never-ending isn't it? Flip- top cans, and PAM, soft, fuzzy blankets, microwaveable neck wraps and incense and the convenience of shredded cheese. I am thankful for candles and the flicker of hope that they give, and Tootsie Pops because I like to chomp through them in 2 minutes flat. I am thankful for the moon and for the few kisses I've had under its watchful eye and when dreams allow, the kisses I might have one day again.   I'm thankful for YouTube and the company it keeps me when worries cause me to forget my gratitude and have me up at 3:00 AM. What would I do if I couldn't summon up Carol King and James Taylor and Jackson Browne looking just like they did back in '73?
But there will be no YouTubing tonight, even though it is late, because tonight, I am going to sleep and I am going to count my endless blessings to get there. Tonight I might even have sweet dreams, because gratitude is a heavy trip that can lighten any load, and tonight I am thankful that I remembered.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Gumballs, Divorce, Hair Dye and Resilience - the Complexity of Being a Wrinkled Girl

I am the one nobody notices, strolling along water's edge at the Jersey Shore in July.  I am a  body of energy at the mall on Black Friday, walked passed and bumped into, but never seen. I am the woman the Verizon guy can absolutely see straight through. I am invisible. I am that fifty- something lady.  

But here is a secret the beach-goers, the shoppers and the cable man will never know: There among them is a woman who is every age that she ever was. For I am the six year old who loves the bright color and clank of gumballs.  I'm the teen who dances, alone in her room. I'm the twenty- two year old who works at being mysterious and the thirty year old longing for a man's hands to hold her "like a bunch of flowers".*  I am the forty-eight year old who dyes away fear with a box of  Loreal hair color. I am the fifty- four year old still standing after the cataclysmic collapse of a 29 year marriage. I am invincible (my spirit at least).  I am a wrinkled girl.

 I am not speaking multiple personality here - nothing that scary. But who I was, once- upon- a- time, is still right here with me, filtering life through all those precious perspectives. Some women are not so lucky, and lose touch with "their girl", the separation making them brittle and stiff -lipped, and well,  just old. How wonderful if each one of us could, at will, summon up that girl again, and twirl with her on a summer's night, squealing over sparklers and lightening bugs alike.

I am so grateful that "the girl " who started my journey, has stayed by my side all these many years. And oh how the years have added up! I have tried again and again to savor it all, to make the great stages of life last. But no matter how closely I paid attention, no matter how hard I tried to hold onto time, it has melted away like cotton candy in a clenched fist.  I have only recently come to accept that there is not one thing I can do about it.  So, I'm loosening my grasp, and in sweet surrender,  I open up my hands - the very hands that played jax with my sister, and embroidered my "dungarees", the same hands that accepted the promise of forever in a wedding band, the same hands that tenderly tickled my babies, the hands that have now gone spotty, taking on an odd, reptilian quality.
But it is with these hands, these blessed reptilian hands, that I intend to blog my fifty-something heart out. We women of  "a certain age" are so much more complex than any  outward appearance reveals. I want to shine some light on this in a personal way, illuminating the everyday, reflecting on the bittersweet wonder of it all.
For someone who has never been talkative by nature, I am beginning to realize that there is much to say. So, for all the wrinkled girls and the wrinkled girls yet to be, that happen upon this space,  I'm sharing some insight, and eagerly awaiting yours - because we are never too old to learn or be inspired by one another.  And for any man who loves a wrinkled girl, or someday might, I hope that by offering a glimpse of my heart,  you will be inclined to hold hers, all the more gently.  


* Carly Simon -The Right Thing To Do