- An entire week, a year, a life… to sense, reflect & write my way to 50.
- The gift of my body… to love, to dance, to birth, to nurse, to move through space.
- The community of Marlboro, Vermont.
- Marlboro Elementary School.
- Southern Vermont–where so many find so many ways to celebrate art, voice and humanity.
- The state of Vermont which I’ve been proud to call home for 20 years.
- SOUTH POND.
- NERINGA POND.
- The Whetstone Brook.
- MacArthur Road.
- Dan’s emerging rock sculptures up MacArthur Rd.
- Whetstone Ledges Farm Stand
- The music makers. Local. Worldwide.
- Libraries, everywhere.
- Cafes, everywhere. But especially our Amy’s.
- Cities. Kyoto. Paris. New York.
- The United Nations.
- Men, men, men.
- New life… plants, babies, animals.
- The splendor of frost.
- The sun on the water at day’s end.
- That time of day when water becomes glass.
- 7 Sisters.
- ONE BROTHER.
- Two sons.
- One AMAZING man who has loved me and taken care of me and celebrated me for almost 30 years.
- Childhood friends. Highschool friends. College friends. Traveling friends. International friends. Local friends. New friends. Friends to come.
- Mentors. Colleagues. Leaders. Teachers.
- The SUN.
- The male mind.
- Male confidence.
- Male competence.
- The men who have been my friends. Who have fed my mind. Who have complimented me in ways that have nourished me through time.
- WATER. Drinking, bathing, showering, playing, watching, gliding, skating. Wine with.
- The women who have shaped my life. Who have paved the way.
- The sacred.
- Loving Me.
- Being 49.
- (Shit, how did I get to 50 already!)
To Be Continued…
The past decade has been… tumultuous… inside. With flamboyant expressions of anger, despair, sadness and depression. I’ve retreated more and more into myself until I spend most of my days alone, in silence. It’s been delicious.
Thank you mid-life hormones for paving the way.
Now, as I approach 50 (in 74 hours & 5 minutes), I find myself settling. Placid. Flat.
There are still rises in my emotional temperature, but they are more subtle, contained, measured.
Is this maturity? Evolution? Or just another chemistry experiment inside my hormone-ridden body?
It’s not actually pleasant. I’m not accustomed to a life without highs. But I question the source of the highs that I relied upon most of my life. Did they come from inside or from my mind? I suspect the latter, and thus doubt their sincerity.
Perhaps this shift in chemistry is paving the way for yet another treasure. Equanimity. A life without sharp edges and brittle peaks. (Or perhaps the time has come for me to consider medication?)
Despite this flatness, my life continues to unfold. My learning continues to blossom. My world continues to open. My work continues to expand.
If I am careful. If I align myself from the inside out. Say with meditation and yoga and right diet (all dull choices), then I find myself slipping into effortless ease. Effortless ease. Imagine that… Things just fall into place. Details. Objects. Solutions.
Without the distraction of the dramatic highs and lows which have colored the past decade, I sense the way with greater clarity. I get out of the way more often. I learn, again and again, that the way begins… in me.
More on the path to 50:
She was delivered by the sea, to the Sisters of Mercy, on the Immaculate Conception of Mary–December 8, 1963–her due date; conceived out of wedlock to a woman who had given her first born to adoption only 10 months before.
She would be a perfectly average child, reaching each of her milestones as expected, but never ahead of schedule. By the age of 2, however, she was 30. These are the things her mother told her.
As the first of a fourth generation, her days were spent with adults–with aunts and uncles, grandparents and great parents, all giving orders, which she mirrored back. She even bossed the Sisters of Mercy at the hospital where her grandfather practiced.
Her first home was the castle; to her it was a castle. A stately brick home with white columns and green ivy; set on the avenue between the ocean and the bay, just across from the white steepled church where she would go to Sunday School and return home to her Nana and her Poppop.
Her next home was the trailer park where she lived with her mother while her father finished school. She talked incessantly. Her mother gave birth to a younger sister.
When she was 4, they moved to Philadelphia, to the highrise built for the married medical students. Her mother walked her to school each morning, 4 city blocks and back again. When she was in the first grade, she surprised her mother one afternoon by coming home for lunch. Only her mother wasn’t pleased. “How did you get here!?” she said. (She never came home by herself again. Or cut her bangs.)
Second grade was spent in New Port News, Virginia, where her father did his internship. This is where she began to fall behind. She couldn’t ride a two-wheeler; and when she tried, she split her knee open and her father sewed it up in the kitchen. She was still adventurous though. She would walk to the railroad tracks and lie down upon them. She would even lie down in the middle of road; but to be fair they lived on a quiet cul-de-sac, and what she was really after was the smell of the rain on the hot tar.
At 7, she returned to the castle for an entire summer, and her life was… heaven. No parents, no sisters (she had two now), only her grandparents, and her–as the princess. She spent her days at the beach or around town or at the yacht club, and was able to walk just about anywhere she wanted, on her own, as fast or as slow as she wanted to go. The world was hers. The castle was hers. Her grandparents were hers. Her life was hers.
Approaching 8, she was turned back into a child, exiled from the castle, by 2,000 miles. The flight attendant had to rip her out of her grandparents arms, and later resorted to slapping her across the face so that the plane could take off without her sobs. They gave her golden wings when they landed.
Her family met her in Colorado, but they were no longer familiar and her place among them had vanished. A dog had been chosen. A house. Bedrooms. A garden dug.
She created a club. They held fundraisers, community service projects, field trips, variety shows and fairs. She got tape across her mouth from her third grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell, who was very pretty.
Her best friend lived next door, but they went to different schools because Trisha was “mentally retarded.” Years later, when they moved to New York, Trisha would fly to see her, and years after that, when they were both grownups, Trisha would call and tell her about her boyfriend and her two small children.
Just before she turned 10, the family bunny was decapitated by Trisha’s dog, who couldn’t be blamed because of the puppies.
She would gather her club mates around the dead bunny to bring it back to life. They would hold hands and pray. Praying hard had worked when she desperately wanted to keep the black kitten they found in the sewer; and she had won a stuffed frog each week on the bus to Sunday School until they gave her a huge frog and asked her not to memorize any more verses.
She read the Bible every night. It was her own. It had a green leather cover. She still has it. But the thing was, there was only one book with a girl’s name; so as she came of age, she read about Ruth again and again and again, admiring her dutifulness, but always hoping for more adventure.
more from the FU 50′s:
It would not be fair to say that I hated my teenage years; but when I look back at that decade it is shrouded in pain.
I imagine that I’ll have to clear that fog before I arrive at anything true.
Where to start? At the beginning? At the greatest pain? At the simplest?
It occurs to me that I never realized this about myself before. That my years from 10-20 held so much agony.
Once I wrote a piece cataloging my life’s losses, but I never zeroed into this particular decade as holding such grief.
At 10, my mother began drinking, and I don’t need to tell you the pain of that trajectory for a child. Shortly after, I lost my best friend, my cat, Licorice, and I went a bit mad, crawling into people’s backyards trying to find her, bringing home strays in my arms even though they scratched and howled. A child from my classroom lost his entire family that year, to a fire, only he and his grandmother survived. He was thrown from the window by his brother who returned to rescue his sisters and his parents. Just the thought of it again and I can’t breathe.
At 11, we left our home and our friends and our life in Colorado for New York. We cried as we drove out of our neighborhood for the last time. I cried outside my neighbor’s window that night before, moaning her name. My mother left when we arrived at West Point, taking the youngest two with her. When she returned she was sober and I turned 12. My heart still burns with her absence and the uncertainty of what would unfold.
At 13 and a half, to the day, I got my first period. Alone. In the tiny bathroom off of the kitchen. I stuck toilet paper in my underwear, even at summer camp, even when swimming, because I didn’t know what to do.
At 14, the woman I loved most in the world, who I adored, was killed in a fiery car accident that took her 2 best friends too, just a week before I was to move home, to live near here again. I never trusted life again after that. I turned my back on God. I snuck beer at summer camp. I had no idea how to reach out of my pain. I didn’t cry again for the remainder of my teenage years.
At 15, I fell in love. Or maybe I fell in love with being loved again. But his love was confusing. Consuming. Jealous. Demanding. At times humiliating, and I didn’t know how to find myself within it.
At 16, I was pregnant, twice. Shame spread throughout my cells and took residence there.
At 17, I graduated highschool and left for college and returned home to my family falling apart.
By 18, I had an ulcer.
Approaching 19, on the day our family dog was hit by a car, in the summer my parents’ marriage disintegrated, I began writing. And perhaps, that, was the greatest gift of an entire decade of loss.
“A brand new baby was born yesterday, just in time.”
(J. Johnson, If I Could)
A brand new baby was born yesterday, just in time… Her name is Louisa, and that is a perfect name, particularly if you have an affinity for L’s, and your first child was to be Lila, but instead was Lloyd.
Louisa’s surname is that of our road because 4 generations of her family live along it, and now I will always remember her coming–in the week that I turned 50; and I will always remember her age, 50 years younger than I.
That is a sobering thought.
A half century separates us. And no doubt before she reaches my age, I will be gone.
She is a newborn and I am a half of a century old. (I realize I am repeating myself.)
Timelines come to mind. The one’s on your desk at school; the ones you practice skip counting with… by 5′s or 10′s or…
But I’m not thinking about that today.
Today my focus is on being 49, and on looking back at the half-century before.
I’ve written a tribute to my 40′s,
and now I turn my attention to my 20′s, where no doubt time will challenge the recounting…
Some moments stand out however, without needing much dusting: The climax of that decade for me would be–25–the year I came to realize that I wasn’t immortal.
I’ve thought about that year often because as I approach 50, I’ve realized the other side of that coin: mortality.
(I wonder what 75 might bring…)
I hardly remember my 21st birthday because it wasn’t the big deal that it is now since you were old enough to go to bars at 18.
I do however remember receiving 21 white roses from my father; but I’m certain that it was my stepmother who arranged for those; before she was my stepmother. (She also sent me a spa day when I turned 40 so I’m waiting with baited breath…)
I remember 29, clearly, because I lost my first baby at that age. I was about 3 months pregnant, and that impact reeled into my 30s.
At 26, I got married. At 22, I fell radically in love, but first I had my heart broken, crushed and pulverized. At 23, I shacked up as a ski bum in Colorado. At 24, I ended a career in restaurant management that began before 20.
At 25, not only did I realize that I wasn’t immortal, but I was also blindsided by something bigger: baby hunger. Completely unexpected. Unplanned. And Uninvited.
At 20, I lost everything. My family as I knew it. Our family home. My parents. (They didn’t die. They just evacuated what had been “ours.”)
The year after that I traveled abroad for the first time, exponentially expanding my world while it continued to collapse beneath me. I went abroad two more times in my twenties and never got enough of foreign culture and new experiences. (Though it would be another two decades before I would have the opportunity to travel abroad again.)
I reluctantly became a teacher in my twenties, and found myself giddily happy at it, until a decade later when I fell into a cliche– “burn out.”
I spoke at my grandfather’s funeral at 27, in the year after he danced at my wedding. I stood up in a huge church and took my place behind a podium and looked grief straight in the eye, and said, “WAIT. First, I must speak about this man.” And to my surprise, grief waited.
I found God again that week, not in the obvious places, but in the music. What is fascinating about that timing is that it was my grandmother’s untimely death a decade earlier that took God from me, while my grandfather’s more timely passing returned God.
I buried my great-grandmother at 28. I rode the ferry across the Delaware Bay to see her as much as I could that summer, and I rubbed her legs underneath the hospital blankets, and told her how much I loved her.
At the funeral, in a tiny country church, I sat beside a seventy year-old woman who whispered me that she had been a third-grader in my Nana’s classroom. “We had so much fun,” she said. “But she was strict. I once got a detention for looking out the window.” (In my memory that chapel becomes the classroom, and I do my best not to look out the window.)
Nana had been the one to introduce me to the world through her atlas, in which she had circled each place she traveled, and which now sits on my desk. She also lent me her bold voice, sending me off to college with these words written in a letter: “With the temptations so great for the young these days, I hope your husband will not find you second hand.”
Nana’s warning was too late, but her spirit was not wasted. She continued talking to me throughout my twenties… of her own coming of age, of vocation, of sex, of marriage, of raising children, of travel, of facing loss and of facing her own death as she entered her nineties.
I remember her lying down on her back every day because she had fallen off a train at 50.
At the time, 50 seemed impossibly far away–for both of us.
And now, we meet there…
“Only in looking back do you find those crumbs you dropped that marked your way forward.”
-from A Year in the World, by Frances Mayes
I’m probably about to loose my Two Owls Readership given that I’ve already posted a tribute to my 40′s and to being 49 in the past 48 hours, but doesn’t a half-century mark warrant taking a good look back?
(But do we have to do it with you, you might ask?
YES! pretty please? I promise not to do another list.)
~At the cusp of 30, I left my hometown by the sea (and the embrace of extended family and the pain of miscarriage) for a new and unfamiliar life in VERMONT.
The following year, I abandoned my career as a classroom teacher; and was introduced (in a part-time educational role) to the community of Marlboro, which would become our home years later.
Around this time, I took my first yoga class which set me on a path of exploring the body/mind–incredibly alien to one who grew up in a medical family. That fall, I had my first experience of the “energy body.” which turned my world view on its head. Two weeks later (after a second miscarriage and a year of “trying again”), I was pregnant with my first child.
Just before 32, I gave birth.
I can’t remember much after that… but those early years as a mother involved softening, letting go, reclaiming my non-doing self, rediscovering my dream self, and more along those lines, best illustrated by my post: Lobotomy, written years later.
It was during this time that I stumbled into my life’s work as a writer; though I didn’t know it at the time. I had taken a directorship with a non-profit, and my first assignment was to get coverage on an upcoming project. The editor of the local magazine said that it was too close to deadline, so I was forced to write it myself. (It would be more than a decade before I would actually call myself “a writer.”)
Around the age of 35, I remember reaching a plateau; perhaps the first of my life. Where nothing happened. No crisis. No events. No departures or arrivals. No new careers or new homes.
I remember asking the Universe for “something.”
I remember later regretting that request.
Around this time I participated in my first “women’s council,” which was a mysterious and odd invitation that I surprisingly leapt toward.
Within that circle of women, I began to appreciate and honor the feminine. I spoke my truth. I listened. I took the weaving of our voices home. I began to feel the stirring of a second child. I signed up for an art class, my first since college. Things began to move…
At work, a male colleague gave me a cassette tape of some music that he borrowed from his son. The artist’s name was Lauryn Hill, and her voice stirred something deep inside me.
I experienced an awakening…
I borrowed a basket of scarves from my son’s preschool (where I was now working) and brought this music to the next women’s council, so that when it was my turn with the talking piece, I pushed “play” and invited the women to grab a scarf and move with me.
(In the next decade, I would look at back at this moment as the seed of my incarnation as a YogaDance Instructor.)
That year, I (finally) conceived that second child who had been stirring for so long. It was late Autumn, the 3rd of December, in fact, when I discovered that I was pregnant. An unseasonably warm day brought me outside to my lawn, where I danced to a song (from a cd) which had just arrived in the mail from a highschool friend, honoring my 36th birthday:
9 months later, that same song would be sung at my mother’s funeral. (She was 57.)
Two weeks after she died, we were forced to move out of the sweet home where we had lived for 7 years (the longest I’d ever lived anywhere.) In the following weeks, I would experience and surrender to… an outpouring of support. Our family, with a new baby, was fed and packed and unpacked and loved on like no other time.
I learned about community.
Marlboro became our new home.
I experienced a dark winter of depression. I thought about suicide. I began writing about my life. I began letting go of the care-taking role I had played with my family of origin. I found a therapist (who continues to be one of my life’s champions.) I met with a channeler. I created a women’s singing group.
The following year, at 37, I returned to the sea to gather with family on the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. While there, the Twin Towers were hit. When I finally made it back home, we received news that the baby’s lead test came back high. I came down with pneumonia. Countless friends moved us once again.
At 38, we lived in community with another family, as our apartment was attached to their home. Our children moved between us without boundaries. Hers would join me in bed or in the bathroom, mine would be found in the bathtub with hers. I deepened further into the feminine. I expanded further into realms beyond the physical.
At 39, I was presented with two unimaginable opportunities: unexpected immersions with two significant men from my past: my father and my first love. Unfathomable healing took place inside me as a result of what truly was miraculous.
As I approached 40, my need for increasing solitude became fierce. It was at this time that we began walking a piece of land that we hoped to call our own. The property belonged to a family in my home state with the same surname as my first love, and it bordered a beautiful pond and summer camp, owned by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Mary–an occasion which is celebrated on December 8th, the day my mother gave birth to me at a hospital run by the Sisters of Mercy…
It wasn’t until this last month that I realized that I completely missed being 49 because I have been so pre-occupied with the big 5-0. So in our last week together, I’m taking pause to turn all my attention on:
Being 49 (or signs of):
- Wearing one earring. Not because I lost one. But because I got distracted and didn’t put the other one in. (Either that or I took one out the night before and got distracted…)
- Marveling at the reappearance of pimples. Feeling youthful.
- Grabbing a pair of scissors, instead of a comb, when knots reappear in my hair after a 40 year absence.
- Wearing my underwear inside out with the tag sticking out of my pants. (Not on purpose.)
- Rooting through the trash for something that is still in my hand.
- Worrying about 3 things at once, but unable to think about one thing long enough to produce a coherent sentence.
- Words as elusive as fireflies, flickering in and out of my awareness before I can claim them. Mainly nouns. Speaking without them. Hoping my family can guess. Lots of charades and pointing. And frustration.
- Amazed that I can’t figure out what day of the week it is.
- Ditto on the above; but about the season. (Seriously.)
- Why is everything so dark and blurry and quiet?
- Reading requires lighting and eye glasses and patience and context clues.
- More and more of my friends lean in to hear me.
- More and more, I have to ask mumbling people to repeat themselves.
- Sometimes there is a little man in my ear sending Morse Code.
- I consider learning Morse Code to find out what he is saying.
- Pandora suggests pharmaceutical cream for my aging, itchy vagina.
- My vagina starts talking to me.
- Comfort trumps appearance. Minimizers and lifters are abandoned, then bras altogether, at least at home, and more and more, in public. My younger self would be appalled.
- Suddenly wanting to wear dresses and skirts, not to be feminine, but to be free. (And, alright, feminine.)
- Letting my belly go. Letting it release into itself. Getting to know it instead of hiding it. Instead of scolding it. Instead of hating it.
- Living the body I have. Letting go of thoughts of something else.
- Living the life I have. Letting go of thoughts of something else.
- Living the issues I have.
- Noticing depression. Without trying to chase it away.
- Recognizing despair and how it forces greater alignment and attunement to self/soul/spirit.
- New insight into my mother’s sedentary years.
- Finding myself sitting more than moving.
- Growing appreciation of benches in public places.
- Napping, even after caffeine.
- Inability to sleep even when I’m exhausted.
- I have to get up to pee.
- I have to get up to pee.
- I have to get up to pee.
- Less urgency. Time stretched further. No longer now or never. Some things can happen another time. Or other lives.
- Living withing paradox.
- Time suddenly cut short.
- Feeling both incredibly generative and acutely despairing.
- Loving the world more and more while infuriated with its same antics.
- Wanting to be alone and with people.
- Wanting excitement and contentment.
- Wanting to feel balanced and loose.
- My knees suddenly have a lot to say when I go from standing to the floor or from the floor to standing. I’m ignoring this in the hope it will go away.
- More and more of my desires are shifting from the external to the internal.
- I’m my favorite person. Sometimes.
- My mind turns me on and turns on me.
- I’m beginning to doubt reality.
- My dreams bleed into my days.
- My insurance company is the first to send me 50th birthday greetings, suggesting greater coverage.
- I realize that everything passes. The bad. The good.