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.
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 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!
Months and years have gone by as I unsuccessfully struggle to find something to help me fall asleep. I have blogged about it various times, the latest here: I never did the Ketamine Therapy for various reasons.
Over the years, Ihave undertaken several steep studies, the results of which say that I have apenea and need a CPAP. But, I say to them “Once I manage to get to sleep, I sleep. I just can’t FALL asleep. A CPAP will not do anything to help me fall asleep.”
Last night I did an at-home sleep test, which required that I wear a strap around my chest so that a sensor was where my heart is, a tube around my ears and into my nose so that my breathing could be tracked, and a sensor on my finger to gauge my oxygen levels. Even though I took some of the mariijuana gummies that often help get me sleepy, I was awake all night. Well, I might have dozed off now and again, but mostly I watched the hands of the clock move through the night. All of the paraphernelia I had to wear did not encourage sleep.
I know that we are advised not to get medical help off the internet, but the various doctors I have been to can only advise me to use a SAD light in the morning and go and sit before it. That’s the standard way to fix a Circadian Sleep Disorder. But I am so tired in the morning that I just can’t get myself out of bed until almost noon.
I have a theory that I can’t seem to get the doctors to consider, so I have been researching the way neurotransmitters have to work in order to support sleep and stave off depression. Severe, chronic stress, sleep deprivaion, and some drugs can cause neurotransmitter depletion. Some researchers believe that insufficient levels of neurotransmetters could lead to feels of sadness, depression, and sleep problems. One of the therapies that specialists use is Amino Acid Therapy, which provides the specific nutrients that the body needs to built its own neurotranmitters and rebalance the brain. I have been taking supplements, but apparently they are not enough.
Without an amino acid infusion for neurotransmitter balancing, it’s not unusual for patients to deal with an absence of dopamine or GABA, which means that they have difficult time resting, relaxing, and sleeping. Most importantly, neurotransmitter balancing reduces stress. With these natural chemicals, patients return to the point of equilibrium and feel more in control of themselves.
There are other theories that I am researching, including one that involves the brain producing an enzyme when under severe stress that diminishes the effectiveness of the “happy” hormones that the neurotransmitters send out.
My Circadian Sleep Disorder began during the five traumatic years I spent caregiving my mother while we lived with my brother in his house. I slept when she slept, forced myself to stay awake when she was, and had to survive abuse from my brother. When I finally moved out into my daughter’s house, I spent two years healing the best I good, but my sleep never went back to anything near normal.
I have always been a night person, but I still was able to fall asleep on a dime. Not any more.
My plan is to discuss all of this when my doctor calls me with the results of the sleep test. A Neuropsychiatrist is the specialist who can test for neurotransmitter functioning and prescribe a treatment. There is one locally, and my goal is to get an appointment with her.
More than 20 years ago, my son, Bix (who is autistic but didn’t know it back then) got me into blogging. The personal connections that I made back then helped to get me through some rough caregiving years. We all posted every day, whatever was on our minds at the moment — politics, culture, health, family, mutual support, cats. We commented on each other’s posts and kept conversations going. We were a real community; we got to know each other pretty well. Some of us even found a way to meet in person, but even those of us who never did, still developed real friendships.
But, times change, priorities change, culture changes. Life happens.
My last post pretty much explains why I have been otherwise occupied. I am on my last great adventure — the adult love affair of my life. At 82. It has it’s challenges, especially since we live an hour away and each of us lives with our daughters. But we are figuring it out, together.
Now that we are past the Solstice and into a new year, I’m going to make an effort to post more often. There are still things I care about, struggles I and others are going through. Maybe there will be a way to slowly build another blogging community, but even if not, I will again follow the example of my son and get my blogging hat back on and see where it goes.
One of the things that has gotten my brain interested in writing again was a request from my daughter to write my story for my grandson, Lex. The request actually came as a gift last Christmas from Storyworth.com, which provided a question every day that I could answer, with the idea that it would all be printed into a book at the end. I opted just to start telling my story (I just finally started), and I have until January 16 to finish it.
My circadian sleep disorder is still not under control. Medical marijuana usually helps. I manage it the best I can.