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.
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.
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!
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.
How bad do I have to get, mentally, to get help? Now I am bouncing off the walls in some kind of manic episode.(Not the first one, as of late.) My daughter thinks that I am getting to be bi-polar — or maybe I have been all of this time but have been able to manage it. But now it is all out of control. We are still looking, but I am getting very discouraged. I need to find someone who will both do therapy with me and help me manage my meds.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that I’ve really been crazy for all of these years.
If you read this and have any knowledge of available psychologists or psychiatric nurse practitioners who are still accepting new patients, please let me know.
I want to go to sleep and never wake up. (Don’t worry, I won’t do anything about that; it’s just how I’m feeling).
Of course, I’m late again. Of course I’m still trying to get my crazy sleep schedule under control. Of course I’m eating too much chocolate. Of course I’m still experimenting with medical marijuana, which is the only thing that can get me to fall asleep. Last night, I put some alcohol tincture in a glass with V8 juice. It tastes like a Bloody Mary.
It still took at least an hour for me to fall asleep, so while I was lying there, I listened to one of my playlists on Spotify. It includes most of the songs I liked over the past 50 years. As I listened, I realized that I could put the songs in an order that reflected where I was in my life at the time each song was popular. I might try to do that at some point.
Listening to each song brought back very specific feelings, some of which I wish I could choose to forget. I have always tended to make choices based on what I wanted or needed. It’s not that I didn’t consider the wants and needs of others involved; but, ultimately I did what I wanted.
When I lie in bed at night, waiting for the THC to kick in, I let each song take me back, like the images in a photo album, to past places. When my mind reviews what my life was like each time, I feel regret. Regret about how little I understood myself and what little wisdom I had. Regret that I never learned how to “plan” — financially, physically, inter-personally. Regret that many of my choices negatively affected other people. Regret that I must have been very emotionally immature.
Throughout these 80 years I never set long-term goals, but rather I took advantage of opportunities (which worked out fine as far as my various careers, but not so fine in terms of my various relationships.)
It’s obvious to me, now, that the men with whom I chose to have a relationship were chosen because I knew they would not be around long. (The exception was my late ex-husband, but that’s a whole other story.) I knew, instinctively, how to get them to leave when I was ready to move on. In the meanwhile, each contributed, in his own way, to something I wanted or needed in my life. (Perhaps I also knew, instinctively, that there was no one man who could give me all I thought I needed; and now I see that I didn’t particularly care what they needed as well.)
From the perspective of decades, I am finally realizing several things: I am a bit of a narcissist; I am good at manipulating situations and people; I need people more than they need me; I like beginnings and endings and don’t do well keeping things going in the middle; I never knew who I really was. I’m not sure I even do now.
Here I am, already having missed a day venting my madness. This being late seems to be a trait I developed in my very late years. I used to arrive at my destinations at least 10 minutes early. None of that matters much any more anyway — and not because of the Coronovirus Pandemic, which has caused a lock-down and which gives folks too much time on their hands.
Today I’m mad about “Time.” It really seem to go faster as you get older. It takes me longer to do everything, including figuring out new things on this blog platform. You might have to bear with me for a while as I continue to climb the learning curve.
When I moved in here with my family, my grandson was 5 years old. Now, at age 17, he has completed his high school education as a home schooler. Twelve years, in the blink of an eye.
Today, I’m mad at Time, which can take me at any time. And I can’t turn it back to fix what I screwed up.
I crave the cosmic and the common,
refusing to sever half my soul.
I choose to grow in all directions:
to grow both fruit and edible root;
to glory in the ground and desire the sky;
to stretch roots across acres
and reach for the bedrock;
to rejoice in the changing shapes of the seasons.
I eschew the single minded vision.
I am all Eye.
I wrote this when I was in my mid-thirties, when life was an adventure. At almost 80, my life now is a different kind of adventure.
And it’s more than the eyes. The WordPress I used more than a decade ago is a different animal. I’m on a very slow learning curve. But they say that learning new things is good for the brain. Maybe so, but it’s not always good for the stress..
As I get older, I need things to be more simple. Only nothing is simple these days. Even though the “Ayes” had it in Washington and voted to impeach the Big Orange Turd, it’s still complicated, and it’s not going to be easy.
“It was fun while it lasted.” I guess I could say that about many periods of my life, especially when it comes to relationships with men.
I am thinking about that as I read Jack’s obituary. Our relationship lasted about three years, back in the 80s, and it was fun while it lasted. One of the legacies of that relationship, oddly enough, is friendships I formed with a couple of the women whom he dated after me. He had a knack for seeking out smart, creative women.
I kept in touch with Jack on and off over the decades. When, after he moved to Portland OR and my pedestrian son needed a ride from the oral surgeon’s office, I called Jack and he took care of it all. He was a good, imperfect guy. I am glad that I knew him and sad that he is gone.
More than ever, these days, I am painfully aware of the relentlessness of time – which really does seem to accelerate as one ages. And, here I am, at age 78, still trying to figure myself out as those relentless sands continue to carry me along.
It is all about the journey. Slogging through the sands of time. It’s all about the metaphors. Baba Bogina. The Raven. The knight with the swan helmet crest.
My Jungian therapist often uses “sand play” to stir and spur our conversations. I find that I intuitively pick out figures for the sand play without consciously knowing why. And then we work on the why.
I am still pondering why I chose the warrior with the swan helmet crest. It is the only figure I chose that was not obviously either male or female. Its face and body are covered with armor. Its stance can be interpreted as aggressive, defensive, or protective. It is blocking my path. Welcoming? Warning? And then there’s that anomalous spread-winged swan sitting on the top of its head.
My therapist did some searching before I had a chance to, and she send me a link that explained: a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat to defend a damsel, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name.
Does that help or not. I don’t know. I will need to ponder this a lot more as I wait for some synchronicity to spark an epiphany.
Is there someone on my path waiting? To lead me to the authentic “me”? To accompany me for a while on my journey? Or is it me in there, under the armor, my wings wanting to escape the hold of the protective helmet.
This is what my “journey” looked like in sand play.
There are about 2.5 million women in America whose challenges of aging makes it difficult for us to participate physically in many of the RESISTANCE activities. As a 77 year old who doesn’t drive after dark (and so can’t attend any evening meetings), has bad knees and can’t march, I am limited in how I can contribute. We send letters and faxes and postcards. We make pink pussy hats for marchers to wear. And we agonize on Facebook and among ourselves about how we will be able to survive this last quarter of our lives in a nation with an administration made up of individuals who have no empathy for anyone who is not rich and powerful? How can we make our collective elder voices heard?
I believe that we need to get angry. Very very mad. Nasty. Irreverent. We need to embrace our nature as wise, experienced, intelligent elder women. CRONES. It’s not a bad word. It’s a powerful word because there’s both mystery, and fear, and respect, and — even — awe, historically associated with the image of a sword-wielding, gray-haired woman, with a crow companion. They once called us witches, but we know better. CRONE. WITCH. WISE WOMAN. We need to figure out how to make ourselves visible and heard — because, indeed, elder women are virtually invisible out in society. (Unless they are rich and powerful, and even then, they cannot expect to be treated with respect and admiration.)
I invite all progressively-minded elder women, all Crones tired of being ignored and marginalized, to come here and rant with me. We care. We care about fighting for the rights of people, of animals, of our endangered planet. We care about adding our issues and voices to those of all of the other marginalized folks in our American communities. What can we do to add our strengths to further the Resistance?
Use the comment option to suggest topics to rant over (your lazy doctor, the disrespectful bus driver, the impatience of store clerks…) I do not delete expletives because I use them myself. And also suggest ways we can join our significant talents and creativity to fight the powers that are destroying all we have worked for all of our lives.
I moderate comments, so trolls will be ignored.
Spread the word among the Crones you know and love. This is one place where you can let your power growl and rant. A place to gather and share what we know, what we hope, what we demand.