After unclenching my teeth over the grammatical error in the title (the correct wording is “wiser than I”), I tuned in to the first two sessions with Jane Fonda and Isabel Allende. The secret to having a successful “old age”, according to those octogenarians, has to do with good health and enough money. Duh. Aren’t those things at the basis of every comfortable life, no matter what your age?
What has enabled these two women to truly enjoy this final chapter of their lives is their passion for what they love to do. For Fonda, it’s activism and acting; for Allende it’s writing and her recent remarriage.
Fonda has opted to live alone, deciding that she would rather not have to be nude in front of anyone at this point in her life. She has let her hair go gray and wishes that she had not opted to go the plastic surgery route. Her friendship with women is most important to her at this stage of her life, as is her activism on behalf of saving the planet from fossil fuels and other pollutants.
Allende, on the other hand, is still comfortable with her sexuality (she remarried three years ago) and spends most of her time writing, which is her passion and purpose. She says that she writes because she has to and loves the process.
Both consider themselves feminists and live their creative lives with that as an underlying philosophy.
Listening to these two women talk about their lives, past and current, I envy their passion and purpose. Somewhere during the pandemic, I lost touch with mine, and I’m still floundering around, trying to recreate myself. Maybe I can get inspired by continuing to listen to these podcasting women, who are so much wiser than I am.
As a child, my tribe was my extended Polish family. In high school, my tribe was my group of close friends. In college, my tribe was my sorority. In the job I held for more than 20 years, my tribe was comprised of the women in my office. Also, as an adult, I was a part of two socially active tribes: a group of five women kindred spirits, and a larger ballroom dance community. In each case, creativity was valued and nurtured.
According to Psychology Today, joining a group and finding our “tribe” can improve our happiness and emotional resilience.
1. Belonging to a group and feeling identified with those in that group is an important aspect of our identity and sense of self. In fact, having a strong sense of group identity can actually help buffer us when we feel wronged or attacked…..
2. Our group identity often gives us a sense of common purpose around the pursuit of common goals…..
3. We are not only more likely to get support from people within our “tribe,” but we are likely to experience their support as more valuable and more meaningful. This happens because we believe fellow “tribe members” are more likely to truly “get” how we feel so their support and validation resonates on a deeper level than support offered by those who are not members of our “tribe.”
For various reasons, I have been unable to find my tribe, mostly because: I am not a morning person, I don’t drive at night, I do not subscribe to any specific political party, I am limited physically by the effects of arthritis, and I moved to a town that has limited creative opportunities.
What I really miss is being in the company of women who are kindred spirits.
For a time pre-Covid, when I organized an afternoon writing group of elders, I was able to generate a sense of community for myself. After six years, the pandemic and other circumstances brought an end to that tribe. I do not have the energy to try to start another writing group.
I have tried some activities at the senior center that were not scheduled for the early morning, but I just didn’t “click” with the offerings or the people. I could not get over the feeling of being an outsider.
I fear that it’s just too late in my life to find the wherewithall to create another tribe, and I can’t seem to find an existing one that matches my values, interests, and needs.
Mostly, I really miss being part of a group of female kindred spirits.
A Love Story for the Aged (and the ages): two divorced and discouraged octogenarians find each other through an unusual internet glitsch. A true story.
Free-spirited and agnostic, she had been divorced and actively single since her forties. A buddhist and divorced four times, he is just getting over a bankruptcy. He occupies a room in the home of his daughter, who is a naturalist specializing in wild edibles; she has two rooms in the home of her family (daughter, son-in-law, grandson, two cats, and golden retriever).
Each had subscribed to internet dating sites, she out of curiosity and boredom, he in search of a Pisces soul mate, no farther away than 25 miles. Each had given up and canceled their subscriptions.
Then, one day she gets an email from Match.com saying that they have found a match for her in the next town. When she clicks on the link, unbeknownst to her, it takes her to some other website profile. Still thinking he is a neighbor, she is intrigued by how he describes himself. And he says he plays the djembe, which she does as well. So, she sends him a Match.com response, citing things they have in common and telling him a little about herself.
The next day, she receives an email from him sent to her personal email address (something Match.com doesn’t provide). Intrigued by her response and wanting to confirm that she was an actual person and was really born in March, he used his search skills to track her down.
A few emails later, they discover that they are both Pisces, born 32 hours and 150 miles apart, she one day before him. Now they live a driveable 50 miles apart. Their likes and dislikes mirror their Pisces designation, so five days and 120 emails back and forth (escalating to bordering on lasciviousness), they decide to meet in person at a state park near where he lives. Delighted with their mutual honesty, he saves all of their emails.
How two elders, who live with their families an hour’s ride apart, and who no longer drive at night, manage to escalate their relationship into a committed one is a story for the aged (and the ages), with afternoon meetings at a mall, intimate conversations on the front seat of his old Subaru Forester, and, finally, navigating cheap motels and experimenting with her medical marijuana.
It is a story full of humor and heart as these two elders create ways to overcome the obstacles of circumstance and physical limitation to embark on the last intimate and romantic adventure of their lives.
Like Lazarus, this personal blog periodically comes back to life. This time in the midst of major world crises — war and death, planetary destruction, political insanity.
I am feeling lost in the middle of all of this — tired, unconnected, useless. The tiredness is overwhelming. Nothing inspires me. So I sit down to write to try to tap into that place deep within me where there must still be signs of life. It takes an effort just to do that much.
I continue to struggle with the inability to fall asleep. A combination of Abilify and Melatonin seems to have begun working. Time will tell. The Abilify was prescribed (added to my depressive meds) because last year I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2, which means, while I don’t get manic, I do have periods of significant mood swings that affect my life.
But I am still tired during the day, and nothing seems to pique my interest — no crafts, no projects… I only occasionally leave the house. It doesn’t help that the magnificent maple tree outside my window is intently shedding dry brown leaves instead of turning its usual Autumn color palette. The brittle leaves are piling up in inches-thick mounds.
Notice that none of my neighbors have leaves in their yards. It must annoy them to have the breezes send some of ours onto their well-manicured lawns. My son-in-law usually mows the fallen leaves into mulch as the season progresses, but this pile-up is overwhelming. When he has time, he will figure out what to do with them.
I have plenty of time, but I can’t seem to figure out what I want to do. I check the calendar my senior center and circle programs to consider. But all I do is consider.
The one thing that keeps me going is my relationship with the man to whom Match.com accidentally sent me, even though I canceled my subscription years ago. The same age as I am, and a fellow Pisces, he amazes me with his perseverance and positive attitude. We both struggle with health issues (I had my right knee replaced last June), and we live an hour’s drive apart. So getting together can be a challenge, but we manage. And having lunch every other Friday with him and his sister is also an incentive.
I saw something on the senior center page that I am considering. They are looking for town residents to help “build an age-friendly community….help shape the future of an Age and Dementia Friendly East Longmeadow”. Well, I sure know about age and dementia, and I sure would like to become part of some community.
Meanwhile, the poor Palistinian people are being annihilated. Where is there justice in all of this? Gaza is about the size of Philadelphia; Israel in a little smaller than Massachusetts, but has a strong military. Although Israel is fighting Hamas, it is killing ordinary Palistinians who have nothing to do with Hamas. Looks like David and Goliath, and Goliath is going to win. Why isn’t neighboring Egypt offering to take Palistinian refugees, who are caught in a cage with no way out? Gaza and the innocent people in it are fodder. And America is backing Goliath. At least, why aren’t we working with Egypt to rescue the women and children of Gaza?
As a personal blogger back in the early blogging days, Dooce inspired and pushed the envelope for many of us trying to establish our own authentic voices on the internet. As she succeeded in writing herself into existence, she paved the way for personal bloggers, like me, to use that public format as a way to navigate our ways through tumultuous personal times because we did not have to feel isolated and unheard.
Like Dooce, I suffered from depression, but unlike her, I have been able to control mine, and, in association with that, to finally fix my sleep problem. For years, I tried to convince doctors that my inability to fall asleep was a matter of inefficient brain chemistry. While my depression meds triggered certain neurotransmitters that produce the chemicals that supported mood, they did not deal with dopamine. After doing extensive reading on the subject, I was convinced that my brain’s inability to trigger dopamine was behind both my mood swings and my sleep deprivation. A psychiatrist finally prescribed Abilify (which triggers dopamine) and my problems were solved.
She finally committed suicide. What if her struggle could have been lessened if she just were given the blend of meds that would have balanced her brain chemistry? Why isn’t there more research being done to produce the pharmaceuticals that will help brain neurotransmitters produce and maintain the necessary balance of the chemicals necessary for mood balance: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins? One big motherfucker happy pill that balances imbalanced brain chemistry.
Dooce committed suicide because life’s pain was more than she could handle.
Last night on the series “911: Lone Star”, a character with the last stages of Huntington’s Disease commits suicide, using what looks like helium inhalation. I happen to believe in the right of an individual in terminal stages of an illness to choose to end their life on their own terms.
I also believe that folks should be more comfortable talking about death and dying. , Back in 2010, there was a movement to set up “Death Cafes”.
I, for one, would love to have access to a Death Cafe, and even suggested that a local senior center hold one. The idea was never even considered.
At age 83, I think about dying, since it could happen any day, now. I also think about living, and doing what I can to make what life I have left continue to be a hoot. But I would love to meet with kindred folks who, like me, want to be emotionally ready when the time comes, not matter how it comes.
Dooce is dead, too young, too fraught with pain. There had to have been a better way for her. There has to be a better way for all of us.
The one possible side-effect of taking Abilify that I have developed is having disturbing dreams. I dream every night, and, except for occasional nights when I dream of still-living people — like work colleagues and former friends — my dreams have been filled with people in my life who are dead: my parents, my ex-husband, my cousin Lorraine, one of my former boyfriends, my former boss, and even a guy I dated my freshman year in college who, I heard, died years later on an operating table. I was surprised that I even remembered him, as well as his name.
My dreams are fraught with frustration, as I navigate Escher-like landscapes in which I rarely find a way to get where I want to go. The landscapes, based vaguely on places I have worked, lived, and danced, and are dark and distorted. The people I encounter (not just the dead ones) make me feel uneasy, as though I know they don’t really like me.
I am always trying to get someplace, and I always can’t find where I parked my car. My efforts are thwarted by people and circumstances over which I have no control.
When I first started taking Abililfy, I had actual nightmares in which I was afraid for my life. I would wind up forcing myself to wake up, and then I would lie there trying to figure out from where it was all coming.
There was a time, before I developed (and solved) a Circadian Rhythm problem, that I always had vivid dreams filled with color and sound and engaging adventures. I still dream in color, and often hear sounds, including conversations, the actual words I can’t remember after I awake. It feels like I’m living in some alternate dystopian reality. It is all too real and unnerving.
I hope other dreams will come — sweet dreams the realities of which are comforting rather than disturbing. For now, I will continue to try to figure out why I am always lost and searching and why there there are all of these dead people complicating my dream life.
This is a Ballerina Tulip, one of the stunning blooms at the Botanic Garden at Mt. Holyoke Collage, where David and I spend Sunday afternoon. (Upside down, it looks like a ballerina’s skirt.)
I was hoping that there would be some calla lilies, but there was only one lone white one stuck in the corner of the Medicinal Plant section. Apparently, The underground stem of the calla lily was used as a medical treatment for dressing wounds in South Africa.
But other blooms abounded, with all kinds of tulips, daffodils. hyacinths, and myriad other plants labeled with their scientific names. I wished that they had also included their common names so that I could actually identify them.
Two of the medicinal plants that were included were Ayahauasca and Peyote. The exhibit featured a large Ayahauasca plant, but the Peyote was nowhere to be found. We wondered if someone stole it.
I noticed that there were no cannabis plants and I wondered why. I never thought to ask, unless it’s not considered medicinal?
Spring is a time to celebrate new beginnings, so on our birthdays (March11 and March 12; we we born exactly 36 hours apart), David and I exchanged commitment rings. I have not worn a gold band for more than 40 years, so it was a major decision for me.
At age 83, we are both at the same stage of our lives, and while we have different histories, we have arrived at the same place — physically, psychologically, emotionally. It’s all good.
Today, at 5:24 pm is the Spring Equinox. We are all eager for Spring to arrive in full force, especially after the most recent Nor’easter, which dumped about 18 inches of snow up in the hill towns where David lives. He is trying to find a place to live closer to me, but it’s a challenge, for all kinds of reasons. But we will figure it out, together.
Most of my recent posts have been about my struggle with a Circadian Rhythm Disorder wherein I could not fall asleep — usually not until 3 or 4 am, and sometimes not at all for 24 or more hours. This went on for years, despite my suggesting to my doctors (after much reading and research) that my problem is probably a matter of brain chemistry — the lessening of the functions of the neurotransmitters responsible for the hormones that regulate mood and sleep (and many other psychological responses as well).
I tried taking amino acid supplements, which are the precursors to the production of those “happy” hormones. I also tried various herbal supplements that supposedly help with bringing on sleepiness. All to no avail.
All it took was one psychiatrist and a prescription for Abilify (added to my current anti-depressive) to solve the problem. Within a week, I was back to a “normal” sleep pattern, no longer depressed, and full of creative energy. The answer was dopamine; that’s what my neurotransmitters were failing to transmit.
While am not a big supporter of Big Pharma, and while I hate the ads on tv for depression medication, the hard truth is that Abilify is working for me. It’s almost miraculous.
It makes me angry to know that my problem could have been solved years ago, had any of my doctors thought beyond the typical environmental suggestions for fixing sleep problems.
Finding a psychiatrist was depressingly unsuccessful until I stumbled upon Talkiatry. I used Linkedin and a Google search to check out the psychiatrist to whom they assigned me and found that he had impressive credentials. He spent more than on hour with me on on a telehealth visit and discussed with me all I had been through.
I agreed to try Abilify. And, now, here I am. I continue to have follow-up telehealth visits with him as he checks in on how I am doing. So far I have no side effects, although I am having frequent very disturbing dreams. I will discuss that with him during our next virtual visit.
At age 83, I want to enjoy this last phase of my life, despite the typical aches and pains of aging. Now I can. Drugs. Sometimes you just have to.
The body parts of the ancient female figure are exaggerated, and many scholars believe that figures such as this one were considered fertility goddesses.
Abundance, luxuriousness, and productiveness are all considered synonyms for “fertility”, all of which relate to the attributes applied to both icons. The gifts that these symbols represent are very similar: the comfort, security, and stability of having more than “enough.”
It is what we all want, yet millions of humans around the world have barely enough. Five years ago, a study reported that 40% of Americans do not have enough resources for the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. Researchers state that, although economic growth and low unemployment are “critical to reducing material hardship,” they “alone do not ensure everyone can meet their basic needs.”
An article on the Santa Clara website by Joseph Westfall, a research assistant at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, offers a cogent argument for Social Welfare. He begins with this:
When Congress and the president negotiated over welfare reform in 1996, a key element of the debate was whether government aid should continue to be an entitlement, a grant the poor receive solely by virtue of being poor.
Ultimately, the bill that passed last August changed welfare from an entitlement to a block-grant program for states; states are now free to set their own eligibility criteria and may limit access to welfare in various ways, including limits on the length of time a family may receive assistance.
Still, the basic ethical issues behind the debate persist. Is society responsible for the well-being of the poor? If so, at what cost to the rest of the community? Are the poor to be held in any way responsible for themselves? How far must poverty go before society is morally bound to act?
He cites philosopher Peter Singer, who writes, “[I]f it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.” For Singer, social welfare is not only a “good thing to do,” it is a moral imperative.
Beef up your argument for Social Welfare by reading Westfall’s article.
And take a look at my son, Bix’s blog post responding to Biden’s statement where the President refers to the necessity and dignity of having a “job”: “It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK,’ and mean it.”
You know what else would let people look their kid in the eye and say this? Universal basic income. Medicare For All. Orienting our society around social welfare rather than the scarcity lie of extractive capital.
My dignity is inherent. I’m born with it. So are you. Biden, as I said, would scoff at a suggestion that he doesn’t believe this; no doubt he’d call the charge “malarkey”.
But there’s only one way to read a statement like “a job is about your dignity”, and if it isn’t what he means, then he should say what he means and mean what he says, because saying what he did serves only to lessen the lives of those who can’t work.
The other night I dreamed of my best friend and roommate in college (from 1959-61). The last time I spoke to her on the phone, probably 7 or 8 years ago, she was living in an Assisted Living place while her husband, afflicted with Parkinson’s, was in the Memory Loss Unit. She was furious because her children had taken away her car and license.
When I “googled” her today, I found her obituary. She died in 2021, “peacefully”, it said, and suggested contributions to the Alzheimer Association.
In our Junior year, we shared a room in the sorority house with two other girls. This is three of us in 1959.
Shirley, Carole, and me.
I (on the right) am the only one of us three who is still alive.
Here are the four of us at our reunion in 2004. Shirley and Carole, in the middle, are both gone. Cathy married a guy with whom I loved to dance. He had great style and knew how to lead. Cathy has been a widow for the past 4 years.
Cathy, Carole, Shirley, and me.
Shirley and I shared our clothes and countless adventures during our college years. We wore the same size clothing, and I was more than happy to wear her comfortable, casual outfits, while she wore many of the dresses and skirt-sweater sets with which my family saddled me each year. Another difference between us was that I wore lots of makeup and she wore none. And while she was a Business major with a very linear and logical mind, I was an English major who fantasized about moving to San Francisco to write poetry and live in a garret. We also had different taste in boyfriends, so we were never in competition with each other. I don’t think we ever had an argument, unless you count the time my roommates got fed up with my messiness and took all of my stuff that was lying around, wrapped it all in my blanket, and threw it in the closet.
Shirley taught me to drive while she was taking the college class to get certified to teach Drivers’ Ed. She had a car, and I was 19 years old and had never learned.
Shirley’s and my greatest adventure was heading out to Daytona Beach during the spring of ‘59 for Spring Break. We drove straight through from Albany, NY to Daytona in a little blue coupe with three guys we knew. I think it was Chuck Recesso’s car, and he did most of the driving. One of the other guys was Frank Fallace, but I can’t remember the name of the third, although I can picture his face and could probably find him in the yearbook. I remember the drive through the South and the signs in the places we stopped for both ingesting and eliminating food that boasted signs of “coloreds not allowed.” We were liberal Northerners, and were taken aback by the reality.
While the guys were probably assuming that we would hang out with them, Shirley and I had other plans, since she had male friends from Cortland State College who were also planning to be there.
I don’t remember much of our time in Daytona, but I remember that the water was filled with Portuguese Man-of-War fish, and that we partied hard (still vehemently protecting our virginities, of course) and finally wound up booking flights to come home, avoiding the stifling car ride back– 17 hrs (1,157.2 mi).
We each married in June of 1961, but our lives went in totally different directions. Shirley married the handsome and sweet Owen Davis, teaching business subjects at a community college, and boasting three children and, finally, several grandchildren.
The last time I saw her and her husband was about 15 years ago, when I met them one Fall, down in the Catskills, for an apple festival. Owen was already showing signs of the Parkinson’s disease that finally ended his life; but he was still handsome and sweet. I wish that I had kept in better touch with her, but, you know…..LIFE!
And this is the way it will go from now on. Because, you know….LIFE!