Yesterday, I participated in a small craft fair at a Jewish Center near my mom’s house. I was invited by someone who had seen my work at a big fair in November. My mom and I grumbled about it…disorganized, no advertising, no one is going to be there, and when they did come we judged them, overweight, frumpy, what’s with all the yarmulkes? Well, guess what? I had the best single day in sales I’ve had yet. Not one of the people who showed up looked like my work would appeal to them. But it did. Is there a lesson here? Of course. We look at ourselves and others so critically, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough, no taste, too old, too old. Too old. My mom loves her watercolor class at the Y and wants to take more classes. I suggested she check out the Art League. Her response? “But it’s in Smithtown!” Like I had suggested she sign up for the shuttle to Mars. My mom is talented and youthful and vibrant and more than capable of driving to Smithtown. But she probably won’t, because it’s just a little outside her comfort zone. But the next time you see someone older, maybe a little frail and out of date, and they don’t seem to do much, and you think their life is pretty much over, think again. They may look like they’re napping but in reality, they’re dreaming of Smithtown.
Getting older is all about Goodbyes. To parents who pass on, to children who move on, to spouses that carry on. To jobs, and homes, and friends, and lovers. To hairstyles, and clothing and TV shows and waistlines. To youth. To dreams. To OLD dreams. See that’s the cool thing about dreams. There are so many things we can’t ever get back. But while dreams may evolve or change or disappear all together, there’s always another one to take it’s place. And somehow, that makes the ache of all those goodbyes not quite so sharp. Hello.
I have recently discovered this strange and consuming obsession with the tv show, “Glee”. Now for those if you who are not teenage girls, “Glee” is a show about a high school show choir who experience the angst and dreams and first loves that we all do. But they get to do it with a soundtrack. And an audience. And perfect teeth. It’s manipulative and completely unrealistic and I can’t stop watching it. What’s up with that? Maybe it’s just my love for a good show tune. Maybe it’s the regret that comes as we grow older and realize we dropped a lot of dreams on the side of the road. Maybe it’s immersing myself in a world where even the underdog is young and beautiful and finds love and gets a standing ovation just for opening their mouth.
The consensus seems to be among those of a certain age, especially women, that there is a great liberation in getting older; that we are less likely to care what other people think and more likely to do what we want because it makes us happy and fulfilled. While I believe that can be true, my experience sometimes proves otherwise. Certainly, I’m finding new ventures that are making me happy and taking chances that I may not have when I was younger, but have I stopped worrying about what other people think? Hell, no! In fact, as I face menopause, I think I’m even more concerned with the opinions of others. When I was younger, there was always the gift of time. I would get thin, find the perfect haircut, become a great actress, or singer, be beautiful and desirable. Whatever I wanted was going to happen, someday, with apparently no help or effort from me. The years flew by and I got heavier, gave up acting, sing only for pleasure, still search for the perfect haircut, and while my husband finds me beautiful and desirable, I think he’s crazy. But, I started my own business, and started writing this blog. I’ve been zip-lining, and rode a bike in the ruins of Coba in the pouring rain. I take more risks and feel more joy. And yet…I can no longer pretend that the cute 30 something guy in the subway is looking me over, or watching me walk. And why does that matter? Why did it ever matter? As I sit on the fence, balancing between what was and what will be, desire for that elusive, skin-deep attractiveness is lodged stubbornly in my throat, leaving little room for what’s really beautiful.
On the Fence carynjune
I never really wanted kids. I always knew I didn’t want to have children with my first husband, which should have been a clue that something wasn’t right, and the timing was never right with my second. Or so I told myself. When I was living in California, I had a Labrador puppy for two days and returned him, realizing “I couldn’t take care of a dog.” In NY, I had a sweet little kitten that I gave back because “he was always looking at me.” The truth is, being responsible for another living thing terrifies me. I remember watching my nieces years ago and Addie was sick. I followed her around with a bucket praying that if she was gonna throw up, she’d be considerate enough to do so in the bucket. The thing is, you can’t return children. I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding things that scare me silly, I’ve missed out on a lot. No one’s ever called me “Mom”, and as I’ve never brought a person into the world, it’s entirely possible that there won’t be anyone to see me out. So this morning , as I contemplate the fact that my period is 8 days late, I think, well it’s either menopause or I’m pregnant at 56. And after I stop Iaughing, I wonder, which is more terrifying.
A couple of weeks ago, I fell off several wagons. It’s not important which ones; there are so many to choose from. Pick one…or three. My go to place when this happens is shame. I spend hours, days even, reliving moments, conversations, what-ifs. I’m so stupid, why did I do that, why didn’t I do this. &$;:%#^y $:)^#^ing stupid, stupid me. Like I’m the only one who ever threw away a week’s worth of weight loss on a bag of m & m’s, or had no idea where our tax refund actually went. The thing about making mistakes, or embarrassing yourself or saying something without thinking is you have a choice. You can wallow in the head-banging “why, why, why am I so stupid?!” Or you can admit you did something that clearly wasn’t the best choice and learn something. Make it right and move on. Fall…or Fly.
Fall or Fly carynjune