Month: April 2016

Getting Old: It Is Not for the Faint of Heart

older sign

As the saying goes, getting older is not for the weak.  I am finding that statement to be one of the most truthful statements I have ever heard.  As I look through the postings on social media, I see people who are ill, depressed, lost, depleted and grieving.  That names just a few of the human conditions being dealt with on a daily basis.  My heart breaks for my friends who are suffering.

I am sitting here right now contemplating the latest of many losses already this year.  Prince.  I was a huge fan back in the day and his loss is weighing heavy.  But it is not just him, it is all of the loses I have endeared in this life.  There are days I wake up and my first thought is that I am going to call my mother today.  Well, I cannot do that because she went to heaven several years ago along with my father and my sister.  But I would do anything to hear her voice and get her advice one more time.

I am blessed that I do believe in Heaven and believe that I will see them again, but for those days when the heaviness of loss is almost unbearable, that time cannot come soon enough.  I took my loved ones for granted.  I never dreamed that they would ever be gone.  Yet, they are and the loss is epic all these years later.

That is not to say that one cannot experience loss at a young age. There are so many young people hurting from their loss suffered in childhood or young adulthood.  Loss is not, by any means, gifted only to the older.  I realize that, but I am personally getting older and that is where my particular viewpoint focuses.

So add the new aches and pains of older age, the possibility for accidents and disease, the questionable future of retirement and the uncertainty (which again crosses all age lines) of this political  future we are all looking at and getting older stings a little more.  Yes, it is better than the alternative, but it still hurts.

Getting older has some advantages.  I enjoy the wisdom I have now that was completely nonexistent in my younger years.  The filters now work on my mouth much better than before.  I have deeper understanding and empathy for others now.  Those are just a few of the blessings that come with age.  Most days, you can see those positives and put the negatives out of the picture for a day or however long.  But the losses never really go away, do they?  You never quite stop missing the parent, sibling, family member or friend.  You even miss the celebrities you never met.  I see a picture of Princess Diana and I feel remorse to this day.  I hear Stevie Ray Vaughn and my heart skips a little beat.  That is all part of being human.

I am happy that as I age, I do not feel the overwhelming need to rush at everything I do or to do every single request that comes my way.  I have learned to say “No” as a complete sentence.  That was unheard of as a young person.  My back hurts now and I have a garden variety of other ailments that come with getting older.  The once broken heart has mended a bit and appears to still be working, and that is a good thing.  To add insult to injury, I now pee a little when I cough, laugh or sneeze, I pass more gas, my favorite foods give me heartburn and the reflection in my mirror is unrecognizable at times.  As my mother used to say sarcastically, “More fun.”

The reason, in my mind, why aging is not for the faint of heart is because burying pain and angst is no longer an option as when you were younger.  When I was younger I could make myself so busy those thoughts never entered my mind.  Now in the dark silence of the many sleepless nights I encounter, the reality comes to the forefront and stays there.  There is no dismissing it or moving on.  Age seems to make you deal with it, sometimes once and for all and sometimes over and over.

We all will deal with things that make us wonder about that alternative that is so much worse than this, but in the end we should all be glad for each new sunrise we see and each day we get to say “I love you” to those important people who are left.  I think for today I will stand in the Purple Rain and let it wash my tears of sadness away.

Tomorrow is another day I hope to see.  If I do, it will have its share of pain and sorrow, but lets hope yours and mine are gifted with some peace and lots of love.  That is all we can ask for.

Bad Company Till The Day I Die

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I tend to be a little obsessive at times.  My obsession with Dean Winchester is now going on almost nine years (if you have to ask….). But long, long before that character was even born I became an avid Bad Company fan. I had all their records, yes vinyl, knew all the words to all the songs and read the liner notes forward and backwards.
During the time before music videos and all access passes, I loved this band without ever really seeing them. They may have appeared on television but not on any of the three channels we got at our house.  There was no magic lighting, no auto-tune and no stylized outfits…just great music and great lyrics played by talented individuals.  

Then the 1980s came and I fell under the spell of the magic world of videos and over-saturation of musicians.  For a time I forgot my real first loves, which included Bad Co., Foghat and the like. Beautiful videos by George Michael and Whitney Houston swayed me away.  We all know what happened after that, in my opinion, a musical dry spell. 

This where Dean Winchester appears.  It turns out that Dean’s favorite musical genre is classic rock as in music from the 1970s.  Hearing those songs on the show took me back to a time i had forgotten. I slowly started to reintroduce myself to songs that kept me company during my turbulent teen years. Songs I danced to, dreamt to and even cried to.  It felt like going home after a long absence. It just fit. 

One day I am listening to an audio-only recording of Paul Rodgers singing “Gone Gone Gone” live at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. He proceeds to sing a few babies and darlings into the lyrics. My face flushed a little in embarrassment. Let’s face it, he cannot be a young man and he is still using those words in songs. I thought maybe looking back would become a little bit hard to take.  A few weeks later I saw that same concert was on television, so I decided to watch it with every intent on feeling uneasy about the old guy on stage.

I could not have been more wrong. Paul came on the stage healthy, vibrant and ready to rock.  He literally owned the stage. The babies and darlings now fit in context and added to his allure. No old man vibe here. And a voice that sounded better than back in the day.

Last year, my husband surprised me with VIP tickets to see the band live. They hit the stage and the only word I could use to describe the performance was perfection. I am still in awe today.

So what does this have to do with my epic journey?  I have started to really look at people I admire and see how they act. Paul did not once appear on stage looking like an apology.  He commanded the stage and every one of us in the audience with a quiet confidence. He did not have to tell anyone how good he is, we already knew.  That confidence was like pure sex appeal. You could not look away.  It was magical.

Princess Diana had that same confidence as she aged and her beauty blossomed. There are many people I admire now later in life and I have begun to notice they all have that same quiet but constant confidence. I know you are not supposed to use, in writing, the same word over and over, but the magic it factor for me is confidence.  Something I have lacked much of my life. Now I see that being confident is more beautifying then clothes, makeup or gems. It is that hard-to-pin-down quality that makes someone stand out. They done wring their hands, fretting about things. They just go out and do. That is a promise I am making to myself…to be more like that, quietly confident. I now have an experience or two under my belt and feel that it is my time to own who I am and not apologize for it. 

I do not suppose it will be easy but I want to try it and see where it leads me.  

No More Wringing of the Hands

wringing of hands

I worry about everything.  Things that are possible, things that are impossible and all that is in between.  Basically I wring my hands a lot.  I have known for a long time that worrying is a waste of precious time, but I cannot seem to drop the habit.  I feel as if I do not worry about something, that thing is going to happen.  It is a vicious circle.

This is not a new behavior for me.  As a child, I worried that my parents would die, that I would get sick or that some catastrophe (like nuclear attack) would happen.  It was the groundwork for my OCD in later years.  OCD that hampered my life for so long.

So here I am on a quest, and I have something holding me back.  I knew it was fear but the fear is based in my worry.  Now is the time I need to break the chain of both fear and worry.

No more rethinking every conversation, no more coming up with scenarios that are not  ever going to happen and no more wringing of hands.  I cannot even imagine how freeing it would be to step out the front door in the morning and not have that dark rain cloud over my head telling me to stay in and hide.

I have found it is actually easier to be fearful than to be brave.  Which makes sense; going out on a limb, so to speak, is scary no matter who you are.  After talking with many people who have done exciting things, I have found out that brave people are not necessarily unafraid, but the fear does not stop them.  Some say that the fear actually encourages them to keep going and pushes them further.

I am going to take baby steps.  Firstly, stop wringing of my hands.  Secondly, I need to accept the fear I feel as motivation to walk over it and start experiencing all those things I have been looking for.  Modern life is always trying to cramp the bold style; scary news broadcasts, all kinds of media that exploit the horrendous nature of some humans, and just a general fear of those things we do not understand.  Life seems to have become full of random, unexplainable violence. That will do a lot to keep you behind closed doors.

For today, I will let the sun shine on my face.  I will feel the breeze blowing through my hair. I want to smell the outdoors and hear the sounds of nature.  I am excited to finally be taking steps to actually go outside my comfort zone, not just words.

Here is to being brave, even if it is a small step.  It is, at least, a forward step.

praying hands

Here is from going from wringing hands to praying hands.

Summer Riding the Rails

  
Try as I might I have not been successful in finding a way to live without money.  To date, I still like to eat and buy necessities.  As my bank account balance started to run like water down a drain, I decided to spend the summer working with the hopes of saving enough money to do some more traveling this winter.

I tried looking for office work, waitress positions, and the old stand-by of retail work.  I sent out resumes and got very little response.  It could be because of my lack of permanent address or because I dropped off the work grid for a while. I’m not sure.  But I have been blessed with a really awesome opportunity for the summer.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has offered me a seasonal position working on a train.  How cool is that!  Basically I am a stewardess but on a train.  I got to meet lot of people; older people, younger people and families. We are in the same train car together for several hours. Although I have not been doing it long, I have already meet some great people.  

Every day I work I have the privilege of riding a train.  I get to hear the rhythmic clanking of the train over the rails, I get to try to walk straight in a moving train car and I enjoy hearing the whistles as we pass railway crossings.  I feel so lucky and blessed.

When I was young, my dad took me on a steam train through Pennsylvania.  When the trip was done, we were both covered in soot.  Note to self: close train windows  when traveling through a tunnel.  Covered in soot and smiles that lasted for days, that was us.  My train is a diesel so there is no soot, but the excitement is the same.  

One reason I think I like it so much is because it feels like I am traveling.  The scenery in western North Carolina is breathtaking and always changing.  Each excursion is like a new adventure. So even though I am staying in one place this summer, I am still moving and seeing new things. 

This was a curve in the road I never saw coming but it is a good turn. I hope to make enough money at the end of the summer to take another small trip, one I feel I am ready for.  The first journey was all about learning how to enjoy the journey.  I hope the next journey is less about my fears and more about enjoying the adventures.  Until then I am going to enjoy my train adventures and meet as many new people I can. It is those amazing people that enrich the days.

Here is to an amazing summer. 

“Naked and Afraid” – A Human Condition?

  
 As of late, I have been binge-watching “Naked and Afraid” on the Discovery Channel.  From the title alone, I assumed that I would never watch this show.  It just sounds like a bit of a downer.  Yet one day I turned it on and a binge began.

The premise of the show is that two total strangers meet in a remote and usually dangerous location.  Both parties are stripped of any clothing and belongings (they are allowed a canvas bag with one item of their choosing) .  They are not given food, water, shelter or anything like that.  They must survive 21 days finding necessities from their surroundings.  There is an emergency crew but they are at a different location.  The two participants are basically on their own. 

Why naked you may ask?  Because we, as humans, can “hide” behind clothes, we can use possessions to guard us from real interactions and we can stand behind “things” in order to hide our real selves.  I found this concept, not only completely terrifying, but extremely interesting.  For most of my life I have hidden behind things.  Closed doors allowed me to justify not leaving the house.  Closed curtains allowed me to never see outside myself.  Clothes and make up made becoming someone else much easier; someone who was not me because I was afraid to let the real me show.  I wore my fears like a suit, forever holding me back from trying new things or from trying to connect with a world that I was unsure of.  

This adventure I am on is my own version of “Naked and Afraid”.  I no longer have those things I used to hide behind.  I may not be physically naked but I feel spiritually naked.  Hiding from life is no longer an option.  Being afraid is my constant companion.  Not that my life is necessarily in danger, but everyday presents new things for me to try and to learn.  Resting on laurels is a thing of the past.  I realize now that I have been paralyzed by that fear.

I have previously outlined past failures but I do not think I understood how much that particular fear has ruled my life.  Now I can see it clearly.  It is so much easier to do nothing or only those things you are good at then to step outside the circle of comfort and either fall on your face or climb to the top of the mountain.  The participants of the show are asked why they took on this challenge, especially since there is no big cash prize.  They all say, something to this effect, that they needed to challenge themselves and to find out what they are made of.  Each person was being held back by some fear and this group of people felt the need to challenge those fears.  Most came out of the experience stronger and more sure of themselves.

Fire does that; it purifies and strengthens. We are all experiencing our own fire scenarios.  Seems to me the human condition is a fearful one.  Yet some of us stand up to the fears and some of us hide from them.  Honestly, I would rather hide from them but something inside me has changed and no longer will accept that as an option.  Now when I meet strangers I try to be naked, vulnerable if you will.  Sometimes I am opened up to a wonderful connection with someone I may never have known and sometimes they look at me like what the heck.  You can learn from both experiences for sure but when you get that unexpected hug or the single tear in your eye you realize that you will never be the same.  When you step out and try something new, makes no difference if you succeed or fail, you are changed.  

I prayed for change for years, now I have it.  My thought process is so different now.  It is not all about me, it is about all of us as one community.  Not everyone likes who I am, but that is okay.  Life is not about making sure everyone likes you but it is about being true and authentic even through the fear.   Here is to being naked and afraid, the fires in life that make us all better, stronger people.  I now choose to face my fears instead of cowering in a corner.