Tag Archives: Aging

Have Garden Will Share

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Summer will reach its pinnacle shortly. In my perfect life, I would have this high summer weather every day—windows open, breeze blowing the curtains, occasional rainy days (or nights) to keep things green and growing.

But here it is, with summer near half gone, and I haven’t kept up the pace with all that needs doing. Until about five years ago, I had beautiful and meticulously tended gardens  of herbs, flowers, and vegetables happily commingling in my potager’s plot. Good medicine, from hands in the soil digging and planting, through tending the growth, to fragrant bouquets, healthy meals and medicinal tinctures and essences bottled and labeled. My gardens have been physical and spiritual sustenance.

Sadly, my gardens are now overgrown and choked with weeds. I feel more and more each day that I’m falling hopelessly behind. This year I’ve accepted, with much sorrow, that having offered me daily retreat for so long my once lovely gardens are now lost to me—I can’t keep up with the work of them.

I’m feeling my age.

Truth be told, many days I feel years beyond my age, mostly because of thyroid disease and chronic pain from spinal stenosis. I’m engaged in a daily struggle to keep these maladies from diminishing my life. This tale of infirmity isn’t my story, not the one I want to define me, at least.

Accepting the limitations that age or conditions put on living isn’t easy. Coming to terms with the fact that I will not be forever young and vital feels like defeat. Admitting that today is the best I will ever be and each tomorrow is a diminishing progression, even though in unnoticeable increments, is not an easy surrender.

Gone are the days when I could clean my house from top to bottom before noon, then run errands and still have the energy for dinner with friends or to attend an event. Now I’m lucky to clean two rooms at a time. When I’ve cycled through all of them by week’s end, it’s time to start at the beginning again.

The little acre yard carved out of the northern forest that I share with my better half and Gypsy Cat is getting harder to keep mowed and manicured. Shrubs are overgrown, dead tree limbs threaten to come crashing down, and the only grass we have is the crabby kind (a lot like me these days). Summer now stretches out as days stacked upon days of trying to make it all look good again (also a lot like me).

The garage, potting shed, and equipment barn have become our proverbial closets of shame, stuffed with our stuff—from things that would be useful to somebody but just not us, like bicycles and sports equipment, to life’s accumulation of cast offs that need to be sorted, donated or trashed.

When finally having all the things you worked so hard for becomes too much work, could owning less be the way to experience more? And is age really just a number only if you can pull off being younger than your years? Why does it feel so shameful to feel older than my number?

More importantly, would off-loading the unnecessary ballast accumulated over years of building a material life, add up to more years of living in the end?

Unless somebody willing to exchange work for a garden share comes knocking on my door, I’m about to find out.


When Good Is Good Enough

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I have been the MAD Goddess for so long now I have to dust off my math skills to figure out that this alter ego, the Middle Aged Mouthpiece in me, has been around for almost half my life.

At early 30-something I was, maybe, inching my toes into the stream of midlife. Never-the-less, the MAD Goddess voice was strong and she had a lot to say about aging while female in our American society. She still does at 60.

I may have been young in years then, but I felt old emotionally, if not physically. I had aging parents, three children and a husband. I worked part-time and honed my writing skills in whatever minutes were left over. I was always in the middle of something and being pulled in more directions than I cared to follow.

I came of age during the first wave of women told we could have it all. I’ve often said women were not having it all, so much as we were doing it all; and most of the time we were doing it all by ourselves, despite spouses and extended family.

For women in two career households, there might have been extra money for living the good life, whatever that might be. But more often than not, it ended up being spent on childcare and hired help to do the domestic chores—formerly housework, still largely women’s work.

Even now we continue struggling to figure out the pros and cons of all this upward mobility, and don’t even get me started on how the prevalent middle class dream paints a pretty picture of white-privilege America, while brushing over the class subjugation of people of color.

But there is something else on my mind today. Prompted by a social media post, it’s something I’ve been noodling over for a while now. I call it the ugly duckling syndrome, the idea that we have to undergo personal transformation to be shiny, happy, better people than we are.

As with much in our society, there is a money trail to follow. The pursuit of perfection is big business in America. We’re told daily that we must have perfect, white smiles, fit bodies, eat super-foods, wear dazzlingly laundered clothes, live in Pinterest-perfect homes and shit in sparking toilet bowls.

If it isn’t bigger, better, new or improved, it isn’t good enoughAnd that includes us. So, not surprisingly, with the arrival of middle age for the women who’d been doing it all, came a new industry—personal reinvention. Now that he kids were at least old enough to be somewhat self-reliant, possibly even old enough to leave home, middle class women had a sliver of time on their hands and money in their designer bags.

Instead of forking out their hard-earned cash for child care, they could hand it over for courses of self reflection and personal development that encouraged them to re-imagine their life, presumably one that was better than their current situation. There was a lot of misdirected belly button gazing going on, a lot of faux spiritual connection and self-care than translated to spa services. We were all supposed to come out virtually glowing with the outward perfection of inner enlightenment.

As the MAD Goddess, I was on that bandwagon for a while. I became a certified personal coach, a midlife midwife. I developed a four step process for achieving desired, measurable outcomes, whether a client wanted something as straightforward as finding a better job, or as esoteric and finding deeper purpose.

Being the rebel that I am, or that the MAD Goddess in me is, I focused my coaching on finding the right fit, not changing to fit in. I didn’t work with clients to reinvent or reimagine themselves, as if they were somehow inherently flawed or a broken thing that needed to be repaired. Instead, I encouraged them to rediscover who they’d always been,  to remember what gave them joy—or at least satisfaction if joy wasn’t in their emotional took kit. I led them in returning to their core values and embracing good enough.

Self improvement is not a bad thing. I think we all secretly desire to be better in some aspects. I’d like to be a better artist, I want to play an instrument, I want to write a best-selling novel, I’d like to eat healthier, be more physically active, and dress better. I think I should be a more patient wife, a less demanding mother and a more involved grandmother.

Some of those desires are to please me, and some are to please others.  The motivation behind both is the desire to meet some standard of my own design that is a combination of gut feeling and what I’ve been spoon fed to believe. Bottom line? I believe I should make changes that would presumably make me a more likable and lovable person to others. Pressure!

One thing about moving from middle age into Crone, is that I’ve stopped obsessing over what others think of me, if they like/love me or not. My circle of loved ones is growing smaller all the time, because I no longer have the inclination for wearing many masks or doing the exhausting work of pleasing everybody.

Because I love my husband and kind of want him to stick around and keep loving me, becoming more patient and understanding is worth the effort it takes. Same with going a little softer on my daughters and being a more hands on grandma. And as much as I like being all hermity, writing, painting, gardening, foraging and wildcrafting with plants and herbs (basically being village witch), I nudge myself to make time for my friends, because they are an important part of my life that I don’t want to lose.

And here’s the thing, these people who I love and who love me, they know my house is a mess most times, they know I’m a sort of absent-minded professor too focused on my projects, they know I’m mostly low energy and would much rather sit on the deck and share a bottle of wine these days, than go out to make a show of having fun.

These people don’t care that I’ll never play an instrument, that my art is mediocre or that my novel didn’t make any lists, let alone best seller. I’m good enough for them just the way I am.

More and more, I’m finding I’m good enough for me.

 


Grounding

I spent a few very pleasant hours this sunny autumn afternoon grounding myself in nature. It’s something I don’t do as often as I’d like, or should. If only I would remember how good it is for me to get away from my work/the tech screens and out of my head.

Being outside, whether rain or shine, working or playing, draws my energy back down into my body, to my lower chakras. It reminds me that I am a spiritual being very much captive in a limited human form. The limitations mean I need rest, I need reconnection with my source energy. I need to ground.

Today I spent my time outdoors harvesting herbs from my garden gone wild—mint, culinary sage and native prairie sage, gently cleaning them, stripping any browned or spotted leaves and layering the best of my crop into my drying basket.

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My back porch makes the perfect drying room, facing the south and west it gets toasty warm in the late afternoon. The two exterior walls are brick, so it holds the heat for hours after dusk. With only one window out of range of any direct sunlight, the herbs can dry naturally on top of the high wardrobe without any discoloration caused by oxidation.

My back porch smells sooooo good, spicy and savory scents filling the 10×10 space. Dried Bee Balm and Mint

There was a previous crop of mint and bee balm in the basket all dried and waiting to be bottled. I can’t explain why I derive so much joy from seeing these natural, organically grown herbs filling up baskets, coffee filters and jars, but I suspect it comes from active connection to the web of life.

It’s magical, when you think about it. Shoots poking up through the dirt from scattered seeds or roots that laid dormant through a frigid northern winter. Coming to life, reaching for the light, budding, flowering and, eventually, dying back again. There is comfort in knowing they will return and live again next year.

The cycle of life, the manifestation of energy transformed through seasons.

Connecting with nature helps me internalize and accept the Five Remembrances:

am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill-health.
There is no way to escape having ill-health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.

 – Buddha

At face value, I suppose those words can be quite depressing, but their truth is inevitable. I am like the herbs I harvest and forage, here for a time, vital when conditions are favorable, but time passes and so it behooves me to stay present and enjoy the now.

A dear friend passed away earlier this week after first beating cancer several years ago, but then being stricken by Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. It was a long but valiant leaving; I don’t believe I ever saw him without a smile on his face and a cheerful disposition at the ready. I’m sure he had difficult moments and moments when he was being difficult, but in the loving care of his wife he continued to enjoy social engagement to the last. I’m guessing he didn’t waste time worrying about what was to come, but endeavored to stay grounded in the present.

He is now transformed; his spirit is free of the body that progressively limited his final years. He lives on in the memory of his wife and sons, his grandchildren, father and brother and his many friends.

Rest in Peace Mikey. May your spirit soar and your memory be eternal.

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