Actually, I think all of this current writing is musings; nonetheless, today’s prompt says that this is musings Monday and I am to pick a quote and write about it, see where it goes.
Another of those madly open ended ideas I jotted to “help” me blog more regularly.
A trip to the bookcase – much pared down these days but still full of goodies I can visit and revisit – left me with David Whyte and Brene Brown in hand. Brene won this round. In The Gifts of Imperfection she says:
If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.
Some of the best writing I read on the web is the writing of women who are being open and vulnerable. Their “real” rings true and calls each of us to follow.
Interestingly enough, a friend, a bit younger than me, has started a secret page on FB (invite only) to talk about how we women of a certain age see ourselves. Want to talk about a place of shame, fear and vulnerability? Talk to a 60 something woman about what is going on in her head every time she looks in the mirror. (For reference, I am 66).
There’s something about going on vacation and seeing yourself in strange mirrors that seems to make things come into view that your safe home mirror doesn’t call attention to. Maybe it’s lighting, or that most of my mirrors stop at the waist, or the one that shows me waist down so I can check my pants or skirt – no head attached (no denial there, right?).
Hubby and I went on a magnificent vacation in July and I had an opportunity to seriously check myself out in some full length mirrors (gasp), naked (double gasp) and
remember why I don’t shop for clothes in department stores anymore. It isn’t just because shopping on line is easy and painless and I can send things back if they don’t fit. It’s those 3 way mirrors in the dressing rooms!
We also took a bunch of pictures and I will tell you that I had to steel myself against looking at pictures of me. None of these photos is the one I carry of myself in my head. That vision is about 45 years old, weighs approximately 60 lbs less, is still wearing her hair shoulder length and has her own eyebrows and a fuller mouth. Did you know that your nose keeps growing throughout your life and your lips get thinner? Things I think of as I look in strange mirrors and at photographs of myself. Including the full length one of me in front of a giant redwood where I fail to look tiny.
Shame: how the hell did I let my body go like this? Well, honey, let’s face it. Back in your skinny days you were on a cocktail of 3 hours of go-go-dancing every day for a living, and as much speed as you could buy, beg, or borrow. If you don’t anything about speed, let me tell you that it keeps you from eating, and also helps keep a very clean house because you don’t sleep either. So, by the standards of the world I looked great but I wasn’t doing any favors for my body. I apologize to my body all the time these days and thank it for continuing to take care of me despite my lack of care in earlier days. Still, I want to look like that. My body may be
paying me back, but when I hit menopause at 52 my ability to easily shed pounds stopped dead in the water, and the weight began to creep on. I ignored it until I couldn’t. Now I don’t quite know what to do with it. So I eat organically about 75% of the time (when I’m note eating out), and make sure I use the elliptical or the garden or cleaning house to move more than I sit, and make peace with no longer being 45. Or even 55. Never mind 25. And I make peace with myself as I am every single time I look in the mirror. Because the 60 something women that are on tv and in magazines and everywhere else that bombard us daily certainly don’t look like me!
Fear: I spent way too many years feeling like I was already too old to do whatever it was I wanted to do at the time because I wouldn’t have time (starting in my 20s no less!). I have always been afraid that there isn’t enough time. In the last year I have let go of that, recognizing that if I keep worrying about not having time, I will stop living my life and I’m even more afraid of laying on my death bed saying: I wish I had gone ahead and done that/spent that money/taken that trip/allowed that bigger scary idea to have a chance to come to fruition. Being an artist helped with all this. I was afraid I started too late but then realized that the art I was making now is way different than what I would have made in my younger version simply because of experiences I now bring to creating. Everything blooms in its own time and if you rush it, the cracks are going to show, the plant is going to die or the clay is going to explode in the kiln. Nothing like clay to teach you how to live your life! (I”ve written more about this here: What is the Fear that Will Stop You?)
Vulnerability: Sometimes gifts don’t seem like gifts when we first encounter them. From 17 – 34 I was in an abusive relationship. I divorced him and remarried him and had 2 kids with him and finally untangled myself. That untangling taught me some good things and some bad things. The best thing I learned was the difference between empowering and enabling. That understanding led me into the 2nd (middle) part of my life doing community-based organizing around issues of social justice. It also held me in good stead when my son went into 10 years of drugs and alcohol addiction (he is clean and sober and just celebrated 6 years that way). To be a good organizer, you have to be permeable. You have to listen between the lines. You have to feel what isn’t being said. That kind of opening always left me vulnerable to whatever energy was flying around and needed a place to roost. Learning that it wasn’t my energy to keep and learning to bless it and send it on its way, took another 25 years or so. I’m still practicing how to be open an vulnerable without being available to random energy.
Anger. Not mentioned in Brene’s quote, but my underlying friend forever. I have spent way too much time being angry because the world doesn’t work like I was told it did as a child. Do your best, get married, have kids, live happily ever after. Obviously my own experience as been “a tad” different. I think making peace with things happening as and when they happen, whether or not I’m ready for whatever that is, has been one of my hardest lessons. And stubborn person that I am, it has taken me the longest to make peace with. You’d think that seeing the amazing things that grew out of that abusive situation would have given me a clue that there’s always a pony buried in the shit, but no. It has taken age and even more experience to realize that I may not be seeing the whole picture, and to trust that whatever I am in the middle of, if I am being true to my heart and myself, will work out well for everyone, self included.
Love. Also not mentioned but definitely within the scope of “musings” and where this quote takes me. My greatest accomplishment is to remember that when I feel empathy, I must feel it for myself first. When I am moved to care for, I must be moved to care for myself first. When I am moved to love, I must love myself first. And I must feel that kind of love fully as I feel it for my husband and children and best friends, for myself. I’ve heard it on and off all my life, but I haven’t truly understood it and remembered it regularly until very recently.
In the end, I am ready to make peace with everything, even not being younger and beautiful anymore, because I have attained some wisdom. Wisdom being the process that it is, I am still acquiring. But none of the earlier stuff (skinny, pretty, able to run longer and jump higher (as son was wont to say of new shoes)), none of it, it worth giving up what I’ve won through life experience and reflection on it.
Here’s to the opportunity to grow older and wiser and to the wisdom it brings. May I learn to share it with the world.