A Day to Myself

I had a load of things I wanted to do (well, make that needed to do) yesterday; vacuuming, dusting and polishing the furniture, organizing my beading area, weeding the garden, and making up the bed with new sheets. I did get the bed made; which isn’t easy when all three cats want to sleep on it at the same time. After breakfast, they slouch into the bedroom, pour themselves out on the bed, have a bath and then settle in for their morning snooze. I had stripped the bed right down to its underwear and tossed everything into the wash. Then I decided to wash the summer blanket as well, since I couldn’t remember when I washed it last.

Once I got all that business started, I decided to take a walk down to the pond since it was a nice cool sunny morning. I did, and felt great. I finally got the bed made, blanket and all, but had to make it up while Pookie (my oldest male) was already sound asleep under the nightie I had tossed over the bedpost. Since he loves nothing more than warm sheets, he purred his little head off as I tucked them loosely around him. Nala, my one female, was lying at the head of the bed, looking out the window at the back yard. She didn’t mind me pulling the sheets and blanket up over her backside. So, that chore was done.

By then I didn’t much feel like vacuuming, dusting, polishing, organizing or weeding. I decided to play hooky, and here’s what I did:

  • I sat in my favorite chair and *read for two solid hours.
  • I went out to lunch with the Crankee Yankee and a dear friend of ours (also a trainiac and a fellow member of our model railroad club, the Bedford Boomers).
  • I got back into my chair and read some more.
  • Around 3:00pm, I made a pan of macaroni and cheese, using up the rest of the quinoa elbow macaroni I had in the ‘fridge.
  • I painted my toenails a bright and pretty coral.
  • I watched Dr. Phil and tut-tutted right along with him.
  • I read some more.

….and I don’t feel ONE. BIT. GUILTY. I took a play day yesterday “just because.” There is a vast and satisfying pleasure in taking a day off. It need not be a guilty pleasure, either. It’s one of those spur-of-the-moment, aw-to-hell-with-it-all things that give you a much-needed break. And there doesn’t even need to be a reason to do it, either. Some days you just need to ignore what you feel you should be doing; stop “shoulding” on yourself and just take a day off.

I guaran-dang-tee you will feel a whole lot better the next day.

*And it was a book I’ve already read about five times–I just wanted to read that book one more time.

 

 

Know When to Give Yourself a Break

It seems these days we face pressure on every side; all day, every day. There is always something that needs doing, someone you need to call, errands to run, a job to go to, attention to a significant other, kids, grandkids, pets, hobbies (if indeed you get to do them), and so on. There is the pressure to stay in shape, eat the right foods, drink more water (and stop using plastic bottles because we are polluting the planet with plastic), save the whales, the manatees, the tigers, the polar bears, the spotted owl; save the this, the that and the other thing.

There are the everyday tasks with which we saddle ourselves, too–don’t forget to floss and brush our teeth, get yearly checkups, take our vitamins, and mend those slacks that have been stuffed in the back of the closet since–when?? Oh, and then there’s maintaining the house, apartment, condo, townhouse, etc.–vacuuming, dusting, polishing, the laundry, the dishes, re-organizing the cupboards, filing the papers in the office, updating our computers, keeping up with emails, paying bills, getting the pets to their regular vet checkups, and the list just goes on and on and ON.

So–how do we get off that daily treadmill of duties, deadline, commitments, responsibilities, and just keeping our noses above water? When do we get to relax, have some fun, sit on the porch in the sunshine, paint our toenails, read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, and just breathe? How about we spend a bit of time saving our own sanity?

The great gift of getting older has a way of making us slow our pace and take stock of things. We realize we have more years behind than ahead, and we have learned that a hurry-hurry-hurry lifestyle can often do more harm than good. Oh, I’m not advocating giving up on everything and sitting around the house eating chips and watching “As the Stomach Turns” all day.

Look  at the humble battery. It has a definite lifetime, and when it starts to go, it goes fast. One day the batteries in our flashlight work, the next day, they don’t. Life is like that, only it doesn’t come with a manual or a guarantee.

So that said, how about we fit some time in each day if we can to just–BE? As for our homes—the dirt, like the poor, will always be with us. As for our lives, they are meant to be lived fully, happily, joyously, and WELL. There is no shame in taking a break to recharge our bodies, minds and souls. It is a scientific fact that you cannot pour water out of an empty cup; you must fill the cup first.

In our case, we need to make time to fill ourselves with joy, happiness, comfort and appreciation–even if we can only spare 60 seconds. Right now we are in mid-summer—the long cold and snowy winter is behind us, and the days are warm and soft. There is birdsong to hear, flowers to enjoy, deep green leaves on the trees to shade us from the heat of the day, and we can walk barefoot in the grass.

Here is my recipe for a good break: fix yourself a cup of whatever you prefer; coffee, tea, lemonade, a shot of tequila (hey–no judgement!), grab a book and go sit somewhere that is lovely and quiet. Listen to the birds, especially cardinals, who have an unearthly lovely range of songs. Slip off your sandals and wiggle your toes in the grass. If there is even one flower nearby, get up and take a sniff. Then sit down, enjoy and just BE.

However long you take, this will nourish your soul, body and mind. And no “shoulding!” Do NOT say to yourself, ‘oh, I should go in the house and do—‘ Stop right there. You are entitled to a break or two each day. Don’t let this incredibly beautiful summer go by without enjoying and appreciating it.

NOTE: I am saying this as much to myself as to you. ENJOY!

OMG–Do I Look Old Enough For You to Call Me “Dear?”

For the past few years, service people have increasingly called me “dear,” “sweetie,” “darling,” or “honey.” Sigh….have I really come to that anonymous place in my life where I no longer am known by my real name, but will forever be called some generic (and to me, geriatric) term of endearment? Is this where people my age end up? Have we become the detritus of the population?

Now, the Crankee Yankee always calls me “love,” which I like. He does not refer to me as “the wife” (the way you’d say, ‘my arm’) nor does he ever call me “baby,” “hon,” or “wifey.” Me, I call him “love,” too, or when I refer to him I call him by his name or “the hubs.”

I realize that this country, as wonderful as it is, deifies youth to a ridiculous extent. Which is ironic if nothing else–when I was young, unlined and all body parts worked perfectly, I was merely a pretty larva. That is, I didn’t know much of anything beyond what I learned in school, or what my parents taught me. I discovered the heady but dangerous pleasure of hiding behind my looks and letting them dictate how people treated me, and got myself into situations for which I wasn’t ready. Oh, I didn’t get pregnant or join a cult or get an embarrassing tattoo, but I did skate perilously close to disaster now and then. (These are some of the memories my mom would say ‘make you go red in the night” with a bad case of ‘oh, my gravy–how stupid could I be?’)

Years ago, when I waitressed to cover my college costs (and back then you really could pay for college without going into tremendous debt), I called my patrons either “folks,” “Sir or Ma’am,” or, if I knew them (and I often did), it was Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So.

So what’s next? Will people start talking to the person I’m with, assuming I can no longer hear, either? Or will they just start patting me on the head, smiling and walking away? Will I be consigned to the “sweet old dear” category and never be taken seriously again? Will they mistake my sharp wit for oncoming dementia and start dismissing me with comments like, “oh, she’s old–she doesn’t know what she’s saying,” and so on?

I remember that when I was a child I used to think that anyone over 50 was terribly, terribly old, and that surely I would never be or look as old as that…now that that age 50 is a good way behind me, I realize that it isn’t old at all. Age truly is what you make of it. I well remember the ignorance of being young, the arrogance, the gracelessness of it–it was a necessary time of life. Like any stage of life, I loved parts of it, and hated other parts of it. But each time of life brings its own gifts if you keep your eyes open.

Someone once told me that the secret to staying young at heart was to keep looking ahead and not behind. How right they were! And isn’t it wonderful to reach a time of life when you really start seeing things for what they really are?

And as for those young and well-meaning youngsters who call me “dear” and “sweetie” and “hon,” well–bless their hearts, perhaps that’s how they think they are showing respect to my evidently great age. At least, I’m going to take it that way and not get my knickers in a twist over it.

OMG, indeed!

 

If I Could Speak to My Teenage Self

If I could somehow go back in time and speak to my teenage self, I would say things like this:

“You are NOT ugly. You are a pretty young fawn getting used to her new long legs and the beautiful white dots on your back.”

“You are smart. You are a good reader, and that is not a common thing. It’s common to you, because you were born to read. But know that it is special, and so are you.”

“You will not always feel awkward. You are already on your way to grace.”

“Boys will tell you anything to try things with you that you may not be ready for. Don’t be afraid to say no. Loudly!”

“You are a writer, and a good one. Keep writing!”

“Believe it or not, your parents know what they’re doing. They have and are dedicating their lives to teaching you how to become a good adult.”

“Remember that one day you will be on your own, so pay attention right now.”

“If you feel something in your heart, believe in it. Your heart will not lie to you.”

“The years go by faster than you can believe. Enjoy all your moments.”

“Realize right now that popularity is a fleeting thing; it is not real (no matter how real it feels to you right now).”

“Be as kind as you can, as generous as you can, and as smart as you can.”

“Know that you are a wonderful work in progress. You will know when you’re ‘done.'”

“Keep your eyes open and be aware.”

“Choose your friends wisely. They will be with you for a long time.”

“Don’t worry–you’re going to be just fine.”

“This, too, shall pass.”

“Listen closely to your grandparents, aunts and uncles. You will not have them forever in your life, so enjoy the time with them now.”

“Make memories that will make you smile when you’re older.”

“Understand that everyone feels afraid, unsure and worried–not just you.”

“Treat your beautiful body well. You wouldn’t believe how soon bits and pieces are going to wear out!”

“Do what you love. Do it well.”

 

 

What Would You Do in 24 Hours?

Years ago, I read something that stuck with me–someone asked this question: “what would you do if you knew you only had 24 hours to live?”

I gave this a lot of thought and decided to conduct my own survey. Here’s what I found:

People I asked said things like this:

“I’d eat every single thing I’ve denied myself for years.”

“I’d take a flight to Las Vegas and gamble away every cent I have!

“I’d take a balloon ride–I’ve always wanted to!”

“I’d kiss that guy at work who keeps flirting with me!”

“I’d rent a Harley and ride all day.”

“I would dye my hair red–I never had the nerve to do it before!”

Some people were practical:

“I clean my house top to bottom!”

“I would get all my papers and affairs in order.”

“I’d finally throw out all my past tax returns.”

“I would pay all my bills.”

“I’d wash all my windows.” (That one surprised me)

Then the wistful ones said:

“I would jump up and down in mud puddles with my kids and not worry about laundry for once.”

“I would write love letters to everyone I care about.”

“I would give all my money to the animal shelter.”

“I would wear that embroidered silk shawl I was saving for ‘best.'”

“I would host a dinner for every person in my life who wanted to come. I’d cook every dish that everyone liked, and I would enjoy the sound of laughter and talk and togetherness one more time.”

“I’d call everyone in my life and tell them how much I love them.”

“I would apologize to my neighbors for being so stand-offish all the time.”

And me?

I would make amends to everyone I hurt or offended. I would call or meet with my loved ones and hug them. I’d give away all my treasures to anyone who wanted them. I would hug and kiss my cats until they got impatient with me and wriggled out of my arms. I would tell everyone that I’m not afraid and that I will see them again. And at the end of that day, I would want all my loved ones to pile up in bed with me and keep me company as I drift off.

So–how would you spend your last day?

The Art of Being in the “Right Now”

I’ve said this before, but for the sake of this post will say it again: I have more years behind me than ahead of me. For that reason alone, it is more important than ever to be in the “right now.” What I call the Right Now Zone means being present, being aware, being alive and responsive to the moment in time in which I’m living. When I was young, I squandered millions of precious minutes dreaming; dreaming of being older and doing whatever I wanted to, of making my own choices. Of course, back then, I had no concept of the consequences of my own choices. That would come later, and those consequences would become painfully clear. What I didn’t know then was that our choices make us who we are.

The Penn Dutch have a great saying: “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.” Ain’t that the truth? I realize now that all those day-dreamy moments may not have been squandered after all; often dreams become reality. One of things I used to dream about was to become a famous writer. I finally realized that it wasn’t fame I was after; it was the writing.

Back when I was doing all my day-dreaming in school, writers got published, and readers read the published works. The term “blog” wasn’t in any dictionary, nor was the technology there to support people like me who later became regular bloggers. It’s a fantastic vehicle for those of us who just can’t stop writing, and feel they have to share their writing with everyone. As a writer, I’m more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner.

The two main reasons I blog are these: 1) whenever I discover something that’s made a positive change in my own life, I want to share it. Maybe I can save someone else the time and trouble it took me to realize this or that positive thing, and 2) I write the way I speak and I just can’t seem to shut up!

So if you read this blog, thank you very much. If you comment on anything I’ve written, I’m thrilled to read it, and thank you again. I also appreciate checking out other folks’ blogs–they are all so interesting. Let’s face it–life is interesting. People are interesting. What people do is interesting.

This is part of the Right Now Zone for me, and one of my goals is to stay in it as much as I can in this brave new year of 2015. Good luck to us all!

You’re Never Too Old For a Little Vanity

I am ridiculous about going out in public. I don’t care if I just have to return a book at the library, or pick up cat food or poke my head outside to get the mail. I don’t feel right about going out unless I comb my hair, wash up, put on makeup, decent clothes and a minimum amount of jewelry. (Minimum amount of jewelry for me equals at least five pieces, maximum, 17.)

Really, who besides me cares? I believe that the Crankee Yankee (my husband) does, which is always a nice benefit. He always calls me gorgeous, even first thing in the morning when my hair sticks up in a turkey fan on one side of my head. I appreciate it, but I will say this: there’s a reason why couples our age think each other is beautiful: our eyesight isn’t what it used to be. He knows it, I know it, but it still works for us.

Back to the main point: I feel better when I take the time to “foo foo” up each day. It’s not as if Jeffrey Dean Morgan is going to show up on my doorstep any time soon; I just feel better about myself. When I was a lot younger, I’d look at an older woman dressed to the nines, hair just so, makeup perfect, and wearing nice jewelry. In my youth and ignorance I’d think, ‘why bother? She’s OLD!’ But I get it now. Looking good makes me feel good, and I have a better outlook on the day before me.

Does anyone remember their parents and grandparents talking about the Ziegfeld Follies? The Ziegfeld Follies were lavish revues, something between later Broadway shows and a more elaborate high class Vaudeville variety show. Many of the top entertainers of the era (including W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Josephine Baker, Fanny Brice, Ann Pennington, Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, Bob Hope, Will Rogers, Ruth Etting, Ray Bolger, Helen Morgan, Louise Brooks, Marilyn Miller, Ed Wynn, Gilda Gray, Nora Bayes, Sophie Tucker, and others) appeared in the shows. The Follies also were famous for many beautiful chorus girls commonly known as Ziegfeld girls, usually wearing elaborate costumes by designers such as Erté, Lady Duff Gordon or Ben Ali Haggin. The first Follies was produced in 1907 at the roof theatre Jardin de Paris.

What is not commonly known about the Ziegfeld girls is that Ziegfeld himself insisted on the very best quality in their costumes. This also included handmade underwear and petticoats, which were of course not seen when the Follies performed. When a friend of Zeigfeld’s pointed out how much money he would save if he let the girls wear their own underwear instead of the expensive handmade variety, he replied that the girls knew the difference. Just knowing that they were wearing exquisite clothing, right down to the underwear, made them perform like goddesses. They felt beautiful.

It’s the same thing with “foo-fooing” up each day for me. I walk out the door knowing that I look as good as I can (and age be damned!) each day. I do it to feel confident, and I enjoy the routine of getting ready for the day. I never kid myself that I look 20 again; that ship has sailed, but frankly, I don’t care. Today is today, and no matter what it brings, I’m going to look and feel as good as I can.

My routine may add a few extra minutes to my day, but trust me–the outcome is well worth it. Looking good makes you feel good. When you feel good, everything looks good. It makes it easier to smile at people, to talk, to reach out to others, to be engaged in the day.

I’m not saying that a little lipstick will change the world, but it might change your world.

 

 

 

Surviving the Schlump

What’s the “schlump,” you may ask? The schlump is comprised of many elements, the main ones being the following:

  • Feeling that you are teetering on the edge of the abyss
  • Extreme grouchiness
  • Declaratory statements (made to anyone foolish enough to listen) such as “I am NEVER going to trust anyone EVER AGAIN,” “I hate everyone,” “my entire life has turned to poo,” “why bother to do anything?” and so on
  • Overall feeling of ‘what’s the use?’
  • Feeling as if you will never smile or laugh again
  • All past hurts revisited big time
  • Weeping over nothing
  • Anger at everything (including the roll of plastic wrap that just won’t stick to anything but your fingers)
  • Assuming that the worst will happen (and probably soon)
  • Feeling as though no one cares about you (despite all the obvious love around you)
  • Punishing yourself for real or imagined crimes (yelling at the cat for clawing up the one good sofa, snapping at the husband who wants to take you out to dinner (but since you don’t feel worthy of that, you snap and say you are not hungry)
  • Feeling unloved and unappreciated
  • Looking only at the dark side
  • Being obtuse just for the hell of it
  • Feeling you don’t deserve any happiness
  • Self-punishment (take your pick)

That, my friends is the essence of the deadly schlump. Be warned–the schlump likes to show up just before holidays. I speak from very recent experience (last night).

My poor, dear, loving, kind and absolutely wonderful Crankee Yankee (my husband) tried his best to cheer me (and you fellow sufferers of the deadly schlump know that this only adds fuel to the fire) and I wouldn’t let him. All his attempts met with stony silence from me (how mature is that?).

The good news? For me personally, I got to the point where I could begin to forgive myself ( a little) and ask forgiveness from the Crankee Yankee who, bless his heart, just said, “Huh? What do you mean?”

The other good news is how to fight the schlump. Here’s what works for me:

  • Whatever it is that’s up your butt at the moment, LET IT GO. You can deal with it later.
  • Eat something. In fact, eat *something that you usually forbid yourself to eat (but you love).
  • Watch some good TV.
  • Read a good book.
  • Don’t force yourself to feel better. You’ll get there on your own at your own pace.
  • Take a hot bath (and DON’T criticize your body parts!)
  • If you have pets, apologize out loud. Same with people. Same with YOU.
  • Don’t even try to talk yourself down; your mind will do that for you (and without a self-righteous tone, either)
  • As Julian of Norwich once said so wisely, “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

..and very soon, all will be well. Don’t let that bad old schlump get you down!

*Bacon, chocolate, macaroni and cheese, a bagel with cream cheese and red pepper jelly, a really good cupcake, sweet potato fries, and so on. You get the idea.

“I Am So Beautiful”

I just read this on Jes Baker’s fabulous blog, The Militant Baker (if you haven’t heard of her, you should–check her out. She is easily one of the most fabulous women on the planet), this morning:

“I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose.” (Margaret Cho’s weblog, 03-23-06)

Hear, really HEAR, that phrase–“we are all what we choose.” Honestly, is this not the perfect way to lift ourselves up and out of all that soul-destroying self-hatred? It is just that simple to change, too, and here’s how in three easy steps:

  1. Look at yourself in the mirror–look right into your own eyes.
  2. Smile.
  3. Say any (or all!) of these phrases to your mirror image:
    • “Hello, Beautiful!”
    • “Hiya, Gorgeous!”
    • “I’m GOOD!”
    • “Everything about me is perfect!”
    • “I am fabulous just the way I am.”
    • “I am beautiful, wonderful, amazing and incredible.”
    • “I am the very best ME I can be.”
    • “I am a wonderful work in progress.”
    • “I am so beautiful!”

If you feel funny at first, that’s natural. We are so used to continually bashing ourselves and complaining about our flaws that we forget to celebrate who we are. Just as self-deprecation can become a habit, so can positive reinforcement become our next best habit.

Doing this does not mean we are vain; it means we are confident about ourselves. (And yes, you can fake it ’til you make it, too.) Saying positive things to yourself does not take anything away from anyone else; it just adds confidence, happiness, joy and acceptance to you and to your life.

Habits are created over time; it takes only 30 days for a habit to become a habit. Trust me, if you keep on doing this simple positive exercise each day, your outlook on yourself will change. You will see beauty where you couldn’t before, not only in yourself but in others.

So does this mean that we give up trying to be healthy, more fit, smarter, etc.? Certainly not. It only means that we start and end each day by being loving to ourselves. If we are full of love for ourselves, that love will spill over to others; those close to us, those we only see now and then, and all other humans. It makes life sooooooo much easier. Doing this positive exercise will, over time, make us realize that the person who just cut us off in traffic did not start their day by wanting to make us miserable. Often we cannot understand our own pain, much less another person’s pain. The rudeness and carelessness of others as a rule is truly not personal.

It took me a while to perform this exercise, but now I do it without thinking. I have come to love and appreciate all things about myself. (I’m not blind; I see all the wrinkles and female whiskerage around my mouth, all those squirrelly little white hairs in my formerly dark hair, but so what?) Please understand that I am not advocating that we do nothing to make ourselves look and feel better, only just to be more accepting of ourselves.

What do you have to lose? Try the exercise–give it a good 30 days. If you are like everyone else I know (including myself), it will be hard to meet your own eyes–at first. But keep on trying–don’t give up. You are worth the effort, and I don’t care if you have a purple unicorn horn sticking out three feet from your forehead–YOU ARE WORTH IT. Add that to the daily phrases and say it loud: “I AM WORTH IT!”

 

Let’s Stop the Self-Hatred

I have an idea. Just for today, let’s all stop hating on ourselves. C’mon, join me–it’ll be fun! Here’s what I’m going to do; you can do the same if you like (or make up your own self-talk):

  • Look in the mirror and smile at yourself. No judgement, no tsk-tsking over any flaws or droops or wrinkles or extra pounds or stray hairs–just smile at YOURSELF. Add a compliment if you like (my personal favorite is ‘Hiya, gorgeous!’).
  • Talk out loud to yourself as if you were comforting a dear friend who is sad or upset. You can say something like, ‘it’ll be all right,’ ‘this, too, will pass,’ ‘I love you just as you are,’ and so on.
  • Forgive yourself (again, out loud) for anything you still feel bad about. If you can make it right, do so. If that isn’t possible, forgive yourself–OUT LOUD.
  • If you did something as a child about which you still feel bad, let it go by saying to yourself (again, please–out loud) “I was a CHILD. I didn’t know then what I do now. It’s all over and I am letting this go for good.”
  • Go buy yourself something that’s just for you. I don’t care what it is; a new lipstick, a pair of snuggly socks, a new coat, those sparkly earrings you’ve been craving but keep telling yourself you have no place to wear them; a strawberry milkshake, a bouquet of flowers you love, some perfume; you pick. But be sure you LOVE it. As you pay for it, say to yourself “I deserve this!” (And don’t weenie out later on and take it back.)
  • Put on your favorite outfit and go somewhere. Even if it’s just to the library or grocery store, go with your head up, shoulders back and a smile on your face. Don’t scuttle, don’t hang your head, don’t avoid making eye contact, don’t act as though you want to hide yourself–walk right in there as if you’re the Queen of England…or Beyonce.
  • Be as kind to yourself as you would to a friend or loved one.
  • Understand that others around you may feel insecure, scared, worried, unsure of themselves; in short, anything you’re feeling, you can bet others feel it, too. Give yourself the break you’d give others.
  • Do your best to kick judgement to the curb. Please try not to judge others by how they look, what they are wearing, how they carry themselves, how they speak; if someone judged you by those things you would feel hurt and offended. You would think, ‘they don’t know me! They have no idea what I’ve suffered, what I’ve lived through and how I feel.’ Try your best to put yourself in their place.

BIG SERIOUS NOTE: Please know that everything I’ve outlined here–each and every thing–are all things I personally am working on each day. Sadly, I have not become as loving, wise and kind as the Dali Lama, as peaceful and serene as Gandhi, nor as elevated as the angels. But I am trying.

Just for today, let’s give ourselves the kind of break we would gladly give others. We are WORTH IT.