What to Remember When Waking

"...To be human
is to become visible
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others..."
Excerpt from ‘What to Remember When Waking’
From River Flow: New and Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press. ©David Whyte

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Where Weight Goes

I am writing this on the summer solstice, I am determined to stop time from marching all over my best intentions to post. My house is an absolute mess, the garden neglected; no less than three home maintenance projects have been started just this morning and abandoned mid task so I can sit here and write about my word of the year, courage, from the apex of the year.

What have I learned about courage? That is the question.  I read over my other entries on my word and I am feeling that my journey with this is not going to take me anywhere near what I expected. Originally, it escaped me that I would actually feel different six months into weight loss. I think I may have imagined that my ego would puff up with some kind of new self esteem like a balloon or something. I thought I would be able to leap tall buildings with a single bounce but it is not at all like that. Perhaps because of the intimacy of the task that I have undertaken in the process of losing the pounds by doing it step by step a few ounces at a time. It is not an inflated experience at all.  It is quite the opposite.  I feel more solid.  I feel strong and able bodied with the exercise and discipline.  My sense is that the unencumbered state of me, as I wrest myself from my cocoon of padding, is causing me to carry myself differently and it is influencing me from the inside out. I have definition and a new set of reactions to the world. I didn't expect that.

I am also remembering the joy of exercising and competing with myself.  I was athletic and a musician and singer before puberty when all the wretched bits were let loose in me.  I enjoyed sports in gym class and, later, dancing was my bailiwick.  I completely forgot how physical I was!  It seems funny now that I'm used to getting up every morning and walking and going to the pool regularly that I didn't even consider this as an option before. So I guess you could say I am recalling a self long buried and I think she is braver than I.

The courage of conviction.

One of the things that has happened since I last wrote is that I was seized by a small mention from a friend that a local department store that I frequent, Fred Meyer, was now selling hand guns and ammo in their sporting goods department. I sat in dumb silence as I tried to imagine pushing my grocery cart past a gun display.  There had recently been yet another shooting in a public place by someone who should not have been eligible to purchase a gun but could do so easily. These two incidences came together in me and culminated in my making a stand regarding the open display of handguns in high profile thoroughfares in the store where families push their children by in carts and strollers. Even though it was not MY store where the gun display was being installed (somehow I think they wouldn't dare try there, knowing better) but just north a few miles, it still seemed like an irresponsible thing to do and, frankly, I think the Kroeger Corporation should rethink their policies regarding the profile of these displays.  They can put electronics in a cordoned off area to protect their investments; why not an area for sporting goods so people can decide whether they want little Joey to slather over a semi-automatic pistol displayed proudly in a glass case two feet from the floor while pop looks over the tent options for the camping trip.  When does this corporate person-hood show some corporate cajones and step up and do something responsible and stop turning a blind eye to the reality that many of the people they are selling guns and ammo to are not responsible individuals equipped for the trip?

As stated in their response to me, they comply with all the laws regarding sales.  Well that is small comfort for those of us who know that the rules are made to support the NRA not the reality of what is happening in our neighborhoods.  No one is saying they cannot sell guns and ammunition but why can they not be proactive and treat them with the respect that arms designed and built specifically for human harm deserve? It is not the guns I find to be the problem but the romance of gun culture and the swaggering shoot from the hip problem solving that blossoms under this ideology.  This concept puts stores into a bit of a paradoxical mess with their marketing, their arms merchants and pleasing their demographic, no doubt. I did not get a straight answer from Kroeger. I got the form response saying, essentially, that they will run it up the flagpole at the next meeting. I dropped the issue and found the courage to change. I broke up with Fred.

This seems like the logical step for me beyond the gun issue. My dieting has revealed I'm buying too much food and my politics want me to buy more locally and utilize small business anyway.  I guess you could say corporate consumption handed me a gun and I opted out of playing and turned towards the sun; a more responsible consuming pattern for myself.  They may not believe that they have a choice but I do.

I attribute this new courage of conviction to my new physical strength and a clarity given to me by having more movement in my life.  It is more me than I'm used to handling of late, but I also think it is good; its time and I'm happy to meet my renewed self half way.



video credit Oono Daisuke 
photo credit Happy Healthy Vibrant

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Food Fight

Well, spring has sprung and I am still at the drawing board with my eating disorder and my word of the year, courage. I missed reporting at the Spring Equinox but I haven't been exactly idle.  It took awhile for me to get an actual purchase in this endeavor, however.  I ate my way through the existing food in the larder and replaced those things with more healthy foods.  I then began throwing the healthy foods in the garbage because I wasn't getting to them soon enough.  I discovered I was buying too much fresh food. I was buying too much food, period!  It doesn't take much to consume 1350 calories a day. Of note: organic food spoils. Who knew? I then got my Y Membership going and got back into the pool doing water fitness a couple times a week.  Then, to deal with the motivation, I hired a gun.  My insurance allows for a counselor and my doctor who eyed my 211.8 weight for February with an arched brow, gladly wrote a referral.  She noted 3 lbs a month would be a good goal.  That's 30lbs in 10 months! It sounded so "doable". Fifteen years I've been overweight (though not over 200 all that time).  I can hardly imagine loosing that much weight in 10 months! I became giddy over the prospect. I then got lucky and found someone fabulous to talk to and we've yet to talk about food BUT...then there was a twist...

The internets came to my rescue once again and I now have a new best friend named MyFitnessPal.com! One site linked to another when I was sitting at the computer brooding over the fact that I could not afford a pricey weight-loss program like Weight Watchers.  I read a review that said this web site was as good or better than what Weight Watchers offered and it was FREE! FREE! FREE! ...which just happens to be within the high end of my price range.

So now I have a counselor, a gym scholarship from the Y and a virtual best friend who reports to me saying, "Cile is on a 28 day streak of keeping her records!"  and "Cile has followed a fitness program today that burned up 658 calories!" and "Cile was under her calorie goal today!" It even says, "Cile has lost 8 lbs since May 1st and will weight 190.3 lbs in 5 weeks if she keeps up what she did today!" I now want nothing more in life than to please my new friend, Fit. We bill and coo as I enter the data and tally my calories daily.

Oddly enough it all turned out to be about calories.  I was making the eating thing way harder than it needed to be.  To my chagrin it is the same old thing I was told when I was a teenager.  CALORIES!  Watch them! Burn them!  Don't eat more to compensate for what you burn. Period. My healthy body is slowly reappearing and I feel happy because of the endorphins that I've come to enjoy on a regular basis...also, my knickers don't pinch me anymore.

So how is what I am doing courageous?  I think that taking on something - anything - that stands in the way of one's health and well being takes courage...especially when there is a fear at play keeping one from their quality of life. Certainly that is true with how I was doing food and my consequent my weight. Perhaps this journey with weight loss is just a dress rehearsal for new challenges that await me.  Who is to know? I aim to find out. I'm happy with my progress and I want to end this post with something that David Whyte posted on his Facebook Page:

IN MEMORIAM: MAYA ANGELOU 1928-2014

COURAGE

is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage; to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade, but to look at its linguistic origins is to look in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French, Coeur, or heart.

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future. To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go - to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

©2014 David Whyte
Excerpted from ‘COURAGE’ From the upcoming book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

Yes. That is what I want; I want to stay close to the way I was made.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

That Ol' Pie Hole Has Got Me in its Spell

  The lock fell soundly securing the door behind her massive presence...
        NOTE: Due to copyright issues I had to trace my own cartoon.  More about that here.  Picture inspired by Bernard KlibanWild Cat. Original can be seen here. You get the idea...

                                              *******************

I realized today that there was a reason that I passed on "courage" years before when choosing a word of the year. I suppose I was so caught up in the "intellectual" aspect of the word and how it applied to my new endeavors that I forgot the actual walk behind the talk that the word implied. After the shiny bits of imagining myself as a great advocate for end-of-life dignity by December 2014 began to fade, the reality of what it really takes to be courageous set in.  I am essentially a fraidy-cat by nature and nurture.  Courage involves a major paradigm shift in me and one that has to begin at home. Needless to say these realities were met with a grievous disappointment and lack of will within me and I was deeply depressed over it all last month. Who wants to clean up their own backyard and find personal dignity before they take on the world? No one. Who has to? I do...really, I must.

It seems obvious to me that what requires the most courage of all from me is finding the will to dignify my own life. I need to start by being honest about something: I need to admit I have an eating disorder. I suspect it started after I quit smoking in the 90's as that is when my metabolism and thyroid gave out.  Those incidents were unfortunate and I took on some strange eating habits but the eating disorder didn't REALLY set in until I moved to Bellingham in 2004.  I became attached to food in a new way.  Food no longer was a fuel stop; it became a nursing station. Then food got mixed up with money and spending as I would plan out grocery lists and budget around food availability. This clouded the issue even more with consumption in general being an additional confusion. The conversation was less and less about doing what is appropriate for my maintaining my body's energy level and more and more what is an affordable, immediately satisfying and a politically correct purchase.

Success stories of people my age and older getting their weight under control left me sad...and jealous, which is even sadder.  My knees and my shoulders and all my parts are giving into the stress of having to deal daily with my mass. I want to be inspired by these stories...and, of course, I am (because here I am, alas) but stories alone are not enough. I am succumbing to depression and not moving; a proven prescription for disaster.  What is too heavy?  Over 200 pounds is too big for my frame to handle. Over 200 pounds is idly waiting in line for the coronary according to my family medical history.

I was distracting myself into a mild coma at the computer the other day when I read that Neil Gaiman uses his fan base to motivate him into do the right thing with exercise. I thought that might be a key for me to to try on my lock. He said, "I'm missing Twitter, but mostly because I really want to use it to make me exercise. I love being able to tell nearly 2 million people I'm going to go and jog, and then I have to do it. It's not the same when I tell the walls."  So true...if my walls could talk they'd tell some tales of my empty promises; if they could walk they'd leave the premises in disgust! The walls of those who live alone bear witness to such sad, sad stories that sometimes only the weight bearing walls survive in testament.

Living alone supports a type of lifestyle that partnered people and those who live with others often do not "get". When you live alone with no one else to answer to, you live differently. You often have to monitor and discipline your self to get to anything. Just think what happens when your partner, child or roommate goes away for a week. After the fun of having some space wears off, are you aware of how much of the trajectory of your time spent is generated and regenerated by the interaction with your loved one or friend in your home?  I'd wager it is a lot.  There is an echo in the lives of single people that has to be dealt with somehow; an inertia. To deal with that, I am going to state to the internets that I have an eating disorder and I need to find the courage to deal with it. Of course, if I wait to garner two million fans, I will weigh a cubic ton.  The public statement on my blog will have to do...because it is a good idea. Not wanting to disappoint others until I have enough success to not want to disappoint myself, when done in the right spirit, is proven to be successful in keeping people motivated. It is an illusion, to be sure but we'll see if this key unlocks a healthier future for me. Ten laps around my cell block has not been enough when all roads lead to the fridge. We'll try this. It's a start, I guess...I can't honestly say I have much hope as it seems overwhelming to write this but then everything courageous requires an uncertain and improbable beginning. I must be brave.



Video credit: SaraBarillesVEVO

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's New Copycat?

I have some grousing to do. I'm being hounded by the images issue that surfaced in my last blog post. I made a new post yesterday and I went through my usual creative process in getting my thoughts down and I realized that I wanted an image. What happens when I want an image is I do a word search in Google images until the one I want finds me - the one that underscores and enhances my post in some way.  I did not put an image in my last post and I missed it.  I WANT the image. For me its a meditation of sorts...the FUN part of writing a post is swimming through a vast array of images and finding the one that wants to go with it.

Well, here's the rub.  I want to be responsible and credit the appropriate people, of course. So I find the image I want and laugh out loud because it is so funny to me (though I doubt anyone would "get it" in quite the same way I do - which made it somehow even MORE perfect).  I inserted the un-captioned  cartoon that I found and looked to where the original came from and it was from B. Kliban Cats a well known comic illustrator.  On the Kliban site I found an ENTIRE page devoted to lawyer-speak regarding the copyright of B. Kliban cat images and what-not.  Seriously.  I read it over and over and could not for the life of me understand how it pertained to my using an image on my blog.  Mostly it seemed to shout "NO! NO! NO!".  So I thought to myself, "Really?  I have, like, three people who read my blog. How is my posting this cartoon going to threaten this artist's livelihood?"  Of course, I know there are probably several reasons that I do not consider as I'm not trying to make my living as an artist.  I realize copyright is a huge issue. So there was a "contact" link and I thought, "I'll ask!". I filled out the message portion of the contact page explaining my dilemma and I requested a response.  I asked for the use of the image. I filled everything in, pressed enter and was immediately bounced to a page that stated: Thank you for becoming a fan of Kliban Cats! I was surprised. I sort of felt as though they should have bought me dinner first before we entered the fan stage of our relationship. Will anyone ever read my request? Meanwhile my blog post is mouldering in the queue...

Over coffee this morning, thinking about this images issue, I realized that I became spoiled by running madly through the interwebs when Whole Wheat Radio was young in 2004.  I took any and everything I wanted from what I found in Cyber Space.  Everything was up for grabs in those days.  It probably shouldn't have been but there you have it.  I was like a kid with her first box of 64 virtual Crayons allowing me a fantastic portal to anything I wanted in terms of creating things.  Because the WWR site was interactive, I had access to people who, including myself, shared things. I just used whatever I found as if it was all public domain. (Creative Commons was a term that was not even used back then.) We all had bucket loads of fun. I lived in a freebee world and I dug in and blossomed.  Now I'm having all kinds of fits because someone commandeered  my box of crayons and I have to go through a whole different process of creating things and ask for each color when I want it.  My first thought is to blow off my creative impulses and grow bitter (that will show them!).  Then I thought that I might just go ahead and post the cartoon anyway, devil take the hindmost.  It was then that I realized
that the picture actually depicted a cat behind bars. That does not portend well for me and it would make it even more embarrassing should something come of it. No. No forging ahead.

My final thought on the matter was this:  I will wait a few more days to hear from Kliban and if I don't hear back I will draw my own bloody cartoon that will be inspired by the one I found on Google done by Kliban.  I do, after all, have a box of REAL crayons and a scanner and I know how to use them! 



Thanks to fun2fantastic for the use of the video.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Images in the Land of The Other People

My creative process is this:
  1. I'm inspired.
  2. I choose.
  3. I follow through.
  4. Something unexpected happens.
  5. I'm confused.
  6. I get a "funny feeling".
Now all my l life I thought that disorientation and consequent "funny feeling" I felt stepping out of my comfort zone was some personality flaw of mine; some low self esteem issue.  I can remember this feeling vividly as a small child and as an adult I chalked it up to insecurity.  "Push through", I'd counsel myself.  "Other people do what they want? Do they not? Don't fall prey to restrictions on your personal freedom!! Express yourself! Put your big girl panties on; get your courage up..." etc. Other People.  I never really spent anytime considering who these "Other People" might be, what their situation is or how what I do relates to them.

So it unfolded when I posted a picture on Facebook  but a few minutes before I declared my word of the year to be courage.  The picture was one I had in a photo file of Solstice images. I was fond of it and I remembered it there. I used it and gave what I thought was credit to the photographer and tagged the people in the picture.  I then went merrily on my way not thinking much about it. 

A few days later I was cruising through my timeline when I noticed the picture was gone.  I thought it was a fluke of Facebook but after looking again a few days later I got that "funny feeling" that I did something wrong.  Did someone report it to be mean and have it deleted? Was there a hidden copyright on the photo that I overlooked? Did I - God forbid - offend the people involved by overstepping their rights? Of course, I feel mortified that I would hurt anyone by posting the picture but herein lies the rub. The list of what might have happened to that picture is endless because I, admittedly, do not know all the possible scenarios. I haven't read the rule book. Fixing it by going through each of my ideas of what might have happened to apologize seemed more like poking a stick into a beehive than screwing up my courage to do the responsible thing. I didn't know what to do. What would The Other People do?  Create a bru-ha-ha probably, involving more other people who didn't know or did know who didn't care and others yet who have nothing but their own ideas about the issue is usually what they would do. It did not seem like the right approach. 

It is sometimes difficult to figure out the source of the "funny feeling" resulting from the disorientation of new experiences.  This coming February marks my tenth year living in the town I am in.  I found a job and I moved here after falling in love with the place in 2001. It is not easy moving somewhere new where there is no familiarity when you are single and over fifty.  That is what I told myself when I could not seem to connect with people here. I was completely displaced. To amuse myself, I began to take movies with my camera of people performing music and I enjoyed it. I would edit them and learned to do a little titling on them. I also like to take candid pictures of people being their beautiful selves in public places. Evidently my definition of beautiful and the subjects of my camera lens saw it a bit differently. And here is the pathetic part: this awareness careened past me. No one said anything. Perhaps they thought I was smarter than I am or just a creep not worthy of mention. Over the years I began noticing that I was getting the stink eye from people - sometimes even in my films.  I passed it off, unfortunately, and continued on until the shunning became so extraordinary that I finally got the message I was not the slightest bit welcome. Clearly I had some sort of reputation that was not favorable. I stopped taking pictures and filming people performing. I refrained from going out except with people that I knew. My move has not gone well in terms of cultivating a social life.

I was at a stalemate after this last incident and really frustrated with myself.  I seem to go through my life like some kind of high functioning autistic with no understanding of boundaries...AND, I suspect, that I just did it yet AGAIN. And so it was that my neighbor stopped by and tossed a movie on the table that he had found at the library saying, "you might like this".  It was the understatement of the year.

It is frightening to realize how close I came to NOT watching this movie because I didn't know what it was about.  I thought it looked like a doc about advertising or something.  I shrugged and threw it in the DVD player to amuse me while my laptop powered up.  The name of the film is We Live in Public. I was mesmerized and I watched the entirety of it with a mortified fixation.  It goes without saying that I know the excitement involved in being part of an internet experiment involving community.  So seeing this perspective of what transparency for human beings can lead to in reality was heart stopping and released a flood of unpleasant memories and a shocking vision of myself as one of The Other People.

I could have used seeing this film three years ago when it came out. I felt like a fish just discovering water when it ended. The troubled and multifarious Mr. Harris through Ondi Timoner's film laid it all out there clearly enough for me to understand. This socializing and sharing on line is not what we are thinking it is; it is not what we are telling ourselves it is.  My videos and pictures of people were not what I thought they were....and it doesn't matter the joy it brought me or what my thought or intention is or was; it is still not that because with the internet there is only a collective existence....there are no individuals.  There are only The Other People of which we are a part of once you power up and step inside the screen and you don't get to choose who those other people are. The medium supplies an aspect of living unconditionally that we simultaneously yearn for and despise. My feeling currently is that it is designed for our undoing and revelation. 

I am still sitting with all of this in somewhat of a shock. Technology and the internet are a huge part of my daily life yet now I can't look at it them same way. I'm not at all clear about their role in my life now. 
I mourn my loss of being able to dive in and mash up whatever I want whenever I want for my own happiness. Dammit!  I loved that! All I know today is that I need to step into the realm of The Other People and share in my own words what I found and how I sincerely hope that I can keep from offending real individuals in the future. I cannot fix the damage I've done outside of closing all my accounts and that feels a bit extreme but there you have it. I will do my best to think twice and consider decorum before I post things into the giant pool of everybody. As a beginning there is no picture with this post as I simply could not figure out how to get permission to use anything I found that I wanted to use!  No visual; a first in this blog.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Plucked up - Word of the Year: Courage

For now I need your hidden love.
I'm cold as a new razor blade.
You left when I told you I was curious,
I never said that I was brave.
                                                        Leonard Cohen, So Long Marianne 
In working with the word of the year 'encouragement' in 2013 it was impossible to avoid it. Out of the heart of this arose my word for 2014: Courage.  It became a full time job  trying to maintain the perception of myself as a cowardly, unfortunate waif while allowing all the good fortune I received this last year in. I'm still pretty good at downsizing myself in my mind though.  Good enough to realize I had better stop wasting energy playing musical chairs and claim my seat of courage or suffer losing what I've worked so hard trying to gain. 

I have taken on tasks that require I maintain a certain focus and engender confidence within others to accomplish what I set out to do.  The quiet conversations with myself about how unfortunate and inconsequential I am are becoming pretty absurd at this point but I've a strong habit of them. It is my hope to alter my perception of myself and line it up more accurately with who I actually am with the strength that I've acquired. That is my hope anyway...brave is not an adjective I have ever used in describing myself seriously.  I prefer relating to the common deserter in heroic tales and to melt comfortably into cynicism and  the safety of self deprecating humor in the critical throws of commitment.  However, now I find myself pledged to do work that shoves me well outside my comfort zone and into a realm of needing to be secure enough with myself and my subject matter to instill confidence and to encourage an intimate conversation with strangers about their mortality.  

"Seriously? How did I get HERE? I obviously didn't think this thing through very well before I took it on. What happened to my resting on my laurels in my old age?  I have a hefty set of laurels going completely to waste!" 

This is the kind of dialogue I have to wade through every morning over coffee when I write in my journal.  It is like having a toothache or some sort of chronic pain or tinnitus - or all three.  It is disastrous thinking that I've no more time for but it sits there on the throne glaring at me as omnipresent gravity itself and yammering on as persistent as machinery hammering out iron nails for my breakfast. I'm not kidding.  Every morning. Fortune would be my being in a bad marriage and I'd at least have something to push against.  As it is, I have a habit... a very verbose addiction to cowardice made up of shadows and smoke. 

My experience with ending addictions, whether they be thought processes or physical obsessions has given me the understanding that I really need  to know the nature of the beast before I can face it down.  I think I have a pretty good grasp at this point of what making myself small and insignificant allowed me in my life.  It was a protection; a camouflage, if you will, from making the big mistakes (which I made anyway, by the way) but mostly it provided a way for my not having to take responsibility for them.  It is not enough to say, " Oh no no.  I'm not going to be that way anymore!" There has to be something of equal weight to replace the pressure that is regulating the need to guzzle from the little bottle labeled "drink me" allowing my release from culpability. 
There needs to be something to keep the alarms and catastrophic fears from being triggered and running away with the situation. In my case currently it is the burden of disappointment and going back on a promise...the promise being bringing the best of myself forward. Giving in is a failure I do not have the strength to endure. The thought of it is weight enough to quiet much of my inner chatter but there is still the journey to contend with; moving and growing with the work; making the occasional mistake.  The actual center shifting to something more akin to self respect rather than a flurry of fecklessness and doubt is required. Without a place within me for my experiences to nurture and grow, I witness their constant exposure to erosion by my incessant degradation and abasement.  At some point,  I need access to my personal Mercy Seat so whatever reclines there in my way currently must move. It has to be replaced with what should be there in the first place...perhaps faith in myself and my journey? I don't know.

It is my hope this year that I can find and keep a little courage so I can do the work I set out to do and lay the nagging bits to rest with respect and appreciation for a job well done but, now, very over. We shall see, as the earth makes another go at the sun, what is revealed.



Thank you to foofightersVEVO for access to this video

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Encouragement: The Harvest Surpise Birthday - 60 years


My life has been focused on the bounties of life since Summer Solstice. For all of the rattling of skeletons, the drama and bravado in my stories of the past this year, time marches on and I'm swept into the fray always making choices. In assessing my baggage, it became obvious in June that I needed to let go of some things if I was going to move forward.  I've been busy doing just that.  

I have enjoyed a great deal of control in my life. Commandeering my birthdays, for instance, and doing something quite fabulous at each decade year...until this year.  This year my anticipated plans for my life and my festive birthday fell flat. I had been quietly planning, since 2005, on going on a walk in Europe to celebrate my 60th birthday  I've never been abroad and in keeping with my tradition of doing something I've never done before or going somewhere exotic on my decade birthday, I wanted to do a walk in the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean.  A short walk - nothing too rigorous - but enough of a walk that I could rest on my laurels in pride of accomplishment for another ten years. My youngest son was willing to accompany me. How fabulous is THAT? Just knowing the fact that he wanted to go with me made it worth the attempt, in truth. I could not be further from making that trip had I actually died, however. 

This particular  year has reintroduced me to a poverty I have not experienced since my sons were small and Ronald Reagan declared war on the poor and infirm in the 70's when I lived in California. I feel as though I have been drawn into an enormous whirlpool of economic dysfunction along with many others of my vintage.  Even though I'm in good company and I am aware that I've had a good run, it is disappointing to loose the trajectory of 5 decades of outstanding birthday celebrations...but it is not the end of the world. The end of the world makes a much larger sucking sound than the echo of the disappointment in one birthday wish bouncing off the walls of an empty party pavilion.

My last decade has been clearly marked in my mind by losses. On my own terms as I faced each of my personal losses I've had to really slow down to appreciate just what each one represented and examine just what each vacancy required to heal properly. The thing about losses is that they compound and if one gets too many, too fast, it can take one out; it can become too much. A strong character can become fragile beyond belief in the stoppage of one too many heartbeats....or some quitting of the flow of love...or the exile of some vital component to one's happiness.  Never have I been so aware of this dichotomy of human strength and fragility as I have in the last few years.  Staying abreast of my own grief has been a full time job at times.  In the lonely depths of dark nights, I have wondered what if nothing fills these vacuous chambers left within one's tender, aging heart?

The thing about loss is the keen focus one must maintain in getting through. It is just this focus that can threaten the very healing that is present. One morning around Solstice, as I dutifully (habitually?) counted my losses, it occurred to me that I was completely forgetting what I had gained in the last decade. The most obvious blessings are my two Granddaughters who opened up a whole new vista to my world regarding love, time and aging and purpose.  Also the aging of my own children and being witness to their adult development and enjoying their successes; expressing myself; choosing not to be simply "tolerated" any longer; the rush of living smarter and not throwing money at everything that scares or woos me; developing a new and stronger personal investment in my time and the small amount of money that is available; being able to appreciate how I get through a day by my own wits and not just answering to others often vague expectations in exchange for a great deal of money; or having to belong to something or someone. These things have replaced some of what is gone now - some losses cannot be replaced and have become sanctuaries of memory within me...I am very much on my own now and, perhaps for the first time, truly independent from supports that have long lost their power, usefulness, magic or romance for me.  

I still miss many of  those people and places and ideals where I used to find comfort.  They are now transformed in some way that does not allow me to relate to them in the same way anymore...but my year of encouragement has been gracious and abundant in sharing the awareness that there is much to fill the vacancies in my heart, should I allow it in. The universe itself presses in and welcomes me everyday; the world wants me in a new way. It is something foreign to this older woman in her 60th year but something, I suspect, overdue and quite vital to the enjoyment of a full life that sits within this invitation.  

Long before any of these losses manifested, I was an advocate of independent living and I've long had an interest in aging in a culture centered around youth.  So when I began to experience my own aging, I cultivated these interests.  I affiliated myself with Hospice and focused on palliative care.  After years of sloshing around the fields available to me getting various on-the-job training to support myself and to learn new skills, I've settled down now as an Independent Provider for the State.  I'm a Certified  Home Care Aide. I work at keeping people out of assisted living facilities where they can have the opportunity to age in a more natural rhythm in their home. I'm proud of my accomplishments in that it was such an overwhelming prospect to start completely over at a new career at 58 years old. I've had a lot of help from friends, tutors and clients along the way. My journey, since the demise of my position as an academic library clerk three years ago, involved an original far-out idea of bringing my experiences and interests around and back to education with the intention towards the conversation of End-Of-Live-Navigation issues somehow. 

My focus has been on the actively dying (though my work currently is with people who are functional without an active expiry date).  Just recently I've had the opportunity to join an organization as a volunteer educator (WAHA).  This is a big step for me. The organization is committed to educating the public on their End of Life choices.  It is my firm belief that the advocacy and discussion about death and dying is just as an important a dialogue as the re-visitation of sexuality and birthing was in the 60's and 70's. When I tell young women about the birthing techniques used when I was born and before, they are appalled. So, I expect with my grandchildren, when they hear how people - the culture and the technologies - were employed on the dead and dying in my lifetime, they will possibly be equally in awe over the ignorance and lack of respect for life. 

We now bring a majority of people into the world with a certain reverence that was once unheard of and that is a direct result of the work of a few voices who began to question the torturous methods employed as standard procedures in the birthing process in this country. Women and families were subjugated to all kinds of unnecessary and harmful practices in the name of efficiency. So it is with the subject and substance of dying. Our bodies are not just refuse and so much trash to be disposed of as they are currently treated. Our body serviced a life that was important and should be respected in its release. Dying needs to be transparent and of benefit to the survivors. I'm of the belief that the fact that we find it so easy to discard a life - and the body that holds it -  reveals the back story on how easy it is for us to kill other human beings. We have been separated from our mortality and the life that leaves us and our loved ones at the point of departure.  It can be a celebration even in the most tragic of losses, if we are educated in the reality that everyone dies and within that everyone's life is valuable.

I begin this new training as a community educator on my 60th birthday week; the fall equinox of my encouragement year.  So, it is all happening...just as I wished it would when I opted out of a corporate livelihood.  It is not an exotic walk in the old world that I get for my birthday but a venture into a new important dialogue.  I get the gift of a rewarding pursuit down a road less traveled. I have the opportunity to help ease the suffering of those who need answers to questions, often when in the unfortunate throws of unfathomable grief.   And what's more, I surprised myself because I am, indeed, going somewhere that I have never been before: living a life of allowing my ideas and interests the importance they deserve - a new way of being in the world.



 Thanks to the amazing Amanda Palmer.