Yes, we can

I am adding a new category to my writing. It’s called “Yes we can.”

President Obama talked about the presence of fear in these times and how dangerous fear is for our country.  IT IS; not only for our country, but for our own lives. We must be vigilant and not afraid, he went on to say.

The presence of fear is a sure sign that we are trusting in our own individual strength, or that we are feeling what we fear is too powerful to fight.

I know I base my opinions on evidence. First, there is a baseline of facts. Let’s all look for them. We must search the facts, the reasons and the sources. There is common ground when you separate the chaff from the wheat. Consider the facts of climate change. Yes, there are lots of opinions, but there are hard scientific facts to support the overwhelming evidence supplied by scientists, as opposed to the way greed mongers make their statements. But the best approach is to look for answers together. Our efforts may be imperfect, but together, we can.

Let’s all lace up our shoes. Yes, we can!

I understand that some of the people that voted for Trump were in dire straits. I am very sympathetic with them, as with all people living on a very low income.

On Donald Trump’s website, he promises a 15% cut in taxes for the wealthy and a 2% cut for the middle class. Single-parent taxes double. Has there been much mention of minimum wage?

Nothing promised for seniors, so we’d better be nice to our kids; we might be moving in with them.

Yes, we can, by using reliable sources and standing up!

Pain 2, or A Truckload of Dung

Digging WomanMy friend gave me a book of inspiring short stories written by a monk named Ajahn Brahm, Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? It spoke to me.

My most recent difficulty has been severe back pain and an inability to walk that curtails every one of my activities. Through his words, I have realized that fear is a major ingredient of pain.

Yesterday was my second injection. Because I already knew how much it hurt, I worried about it for days beforehand. I had a great fear that the needle would go into the wrong place if I moved. I asked the nurses to tie me down. But they assured me that wouldn’t happen.

The pain of the injection only lasted for a minute or two. It was the fear that had really hurt. The feeling that is attached to fear makes the pain more intense. I have tried many things in my ageless life, such as breath work, mindful walking, sitting meditation, and so forth, but nothing has helped as much as letting go of the fear of whatever is happening.

Some pain is still present, but the injection is supposed to kick in within three days. However, the wisdom of “Let go” will remain, as I sift through the truckload of dung that we all know shows up in every lifetime.

Pain

BuddhaIt is a part of life; no one escapes it. Buddha said a zillion years ago, once you accept this one immutable fact, the rest is easy.

Due to a very serious challenge to my back, my doctor told me to write about my pain. I am surprised at the form this has taken. Because I can’t walk without a great deal of difficulty, every step I take has meaning. Never before, have my steps prompted so much thought. They all have more purpose and cause me to consider what matters most right now.

There are humiliating parts of all illnesses. Pain meds bind you, Metamucil makes you feel like you have to be attentive to the signals or risk having an accident. It can take your thinking to sad places or to happy places where there once were no tears. It feels like a warrior’s spiritual journey, if you allow it to be. This morning I practiced forgiving myself, and everyone and everything. Not forgiving is like drinking poison, and is the polar opposite of the healing I am seeking.

I dream of moving my body as I did before. I set aside time to visualize and feel. To pray. Never have I appreciated or thanked my body as I am now.  Appreciation is in order, because I sense my spine trying to heal and, as I do this, the pain recedes ever so slightly. I have a foothold on this steep climb. My body arranges itself and compensates for what it cannot bear.  Medical tests have proven that this kind of work does improve pain rather miraculously.

Writers have accomplished some of their greatest works from a place attached to pain. So, this day I resolve to realize that no matter what gets done or what is left undone, pain or not, I will live wholeheartedly and embrace this pain. The Buddha said the rest will be easy. I think I would like to believe that.

Playing it Forward

No matter where you are in your ageless life, you are playing it forward.

JoaniI know that some of you who read my blog are grandparents, mothers,   aunts, and so forth. All of us influence the little people in our lives, and somehow we teach them at an important juncture.

You are passing on a part of yourself. The children will see you as their true heritage. They will remember the gifts you gave them and hopefully pass them on.

It’s amazing what you didn’t think they really got. My youngest son, now a dad himself, reminded me that how people treat you is their Karma; how you react is your own. He got that from me and reminded me when I forgot.

My granddaughter Madeline, now a college student, told me that unforgiveness is a poison someone takes themselves, hoping the other person will die. “Where did you learn that?” I asked. “You,” she said coyly.

Actually, I have had some great teachers that played it forward to me.

I remember my own grandmother only dimly. She died when I was very young. She was born in Poland and spoke very little English. She worked hard and had little. We communicated through hugs and kisses.

As a little girl, I slept with her when I visited. My grandfather had his own room. The bedroom always smelled like liniment, and we slept under a big, white feather quilt. She cuddled me and said prayers in Polish. I felt loved and safe with her. In the morning she stood me on the big old drain board in the kitchen, filled the sink with soapy water and proceeded to wash me tenderly and brush my hair, making soothing sounds while I complained noisily.

She rarely scolded me and almost always took my side, much to my Auntie Helen’s chagrin. My aunt was still living at home at that time — a beautiful young woman, she was engaged to be married. She often showed me her ring, and one day I tiptoed into her room and took it. I buried it in the front yard. I’d like to think I didn’t want her to get married and leave the house and me. Honestly, I really don’t know why I took it.

She suspected I was the villain, but I wouldn’t tell her where it was. Auntie chased me all around the house, and I ran and clung to my Busia (“grandmother” in Polish). She covered me with her apron, drew me into her large, soft stomach and shouted angrily at my aunt. I couldn’t understand anything, but I knew she was protecting me. She always did, even when I was bad.  She took me aside and somehow managed to communicate that I wasn’t bad… but the thing I had done was.  I learned that even if I did bad things, I had worth.

When my grandmother died — much too soon — I saw my own mother grieve and weep as I had never witnessed before. My own sadness was multiplied seeing my mom so heartbroken. My mother was a reflection of her mother. Her heritage was one of true strength. They both believed that in life you do what you have to do. In hard times, they both inherently knew “things” were not important. They knew not to cry over things that cannot cry over you.

I now have seven grandchildren, and it is so important to me to pass on the good things in life to them — like the gift of positive thinking and what is really REAL in life.  I would like them to have memories of being protected and loved unconditionally and to play it forward themselves.

We are all playing it forward, whether or not we recognize it. It is what we do that defines us. That is the real deal.

Gracefully growing old?

Joani - CopyI am not going to grow old gracefully. And neither should you. I will remain ageless.  This blog is about that distinction. It is not my intention to make war against aging, but rather to re-define it. It is a mistake to make war against anything, even aging. When people ask how old I am, I rarely answer with more than, “Why do you want to know?” It’s not their business; only Social Security needs to know the truth.

It’s been my experience that often you are being put in a box and then labeled accordingly to that person’s belief about what you should be at that specific age. Doctors do it to their patients often. Example:  At a certain time pain is to be expected, because the belief is your warranty is about to run out. In this country, aging is about declining. Who wouldn’t rather recline than decline? Who wants to be reminded that you are running out of time?  Beliefs and expectations, those of other people and your own, have an impact on your very physiology.

Sometimes when someone finds out how old you are, the response is, “You look so great!“ Is that as opposed to looking close to death? Words have an impact on our bodies as much as beliefs and expectations do.

Ever caught yourself slapping your forehead saying “I am having a senior moment.”? Guess what, young people have them too. The difference is they don’t call them senior moments. In this age of overwhelming information and the speed at which technology is moving, it is not surprising. Stop calling them senior moments; they are not. Do not participate in flogging yourself.

I have read much of Dr. Christiane Northrup’s work.  She has enlightening information for all of us. Recently, she referenced a very interesting study.  There were two groups of men between the ages of 70 and 85in this 30-day study. The men in Group #1 were told to reminisce about their prime younger years by playing music and watching movies and so forth.  Those in Group #2 were instructed to ”act as if.” They were told to do all of the same things but to feel as though they were back living in their prime. When the time was up, the men were examined. All in Group #2 had improved both physically and mentally. Group #1 had no significant changes.

It impacts our bodies and minds to change our beliefs, our thoughts and our words. Most importantly, change the way you feel. Know that this is your prime. Every moment you have is.

“Growing old gracefully” smacks of being resigned.  Personally, I would like to be late to my own funeral because the party was just too much fun to leave!

 

The Joy Bubble

Joani - CopyRecently, I lost my joy bubble. Now my bubble isn’t always there, but I look forward to feeling its presence on a fairly consistent basis. It comes up sort of like this:  a little feeling of joy erupts in the bottom of my belly and sort of rises up to fill my heart area. The reason it’s so special to me is just because it feels so good. Some people might call it contentment, joy, fulfillment, or happiness. I call it my joy bubble.  I am now on a quest to bring it back.

My life changed rather dramatically a few weeks ago when I lost a job that I loved. I was hired to work as a yoga therapist in four assisted living homes. Later on, other things I didn’t love so much were added. However, working with the people was gratifying and sustaining for almost ten years. It’s inevitable that at some point on this journey we call life, we will experience a life changing event. This was one of many, and I was plunged into it without choice or warning. Blindsided.

I have gone through many changes in my lifetime, and though I was sometimes in pain over changes I didn’t want to make, I did eventually find the “gift”. If all the doors were closed, I would wrap myself into a ball of fear for awhile, but would eventually notice an open window and crawl through. Every change brought something better, but in the interim it was hard. I am beginning to accept and embrace this change; now looking to find lessons in some of it, and determined to get my bubble back.

I am moving out of Funk Town, and have decided to become the goddess of my own day, every day. I will do the things that I have not done before, because I had a “job.” Stop the bullshit excuse of not having enough time and finish my book, my room, and write. I am going to press the PLAY button for my new future, and trust that my bubble will return.

Keeping in mind this quote by one of my favorite teachers:

“Because you are alive, everything is possible.”

Thích Nhất HạnhLiving Buddha, Living Christ

 

Stay Inspired!

JoaniOne of the best vehicles to take you down the road to “Being Ageless” is passion.  Find that passion, your creative juices will flow, and you will be on your way to Agelessness.  And, along the way, never stop learning.

Just recently, I traveled another leg of that journey together with a group of journalists, who over the past several years have become my peeps. We are the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and every year we learn together and play together in a new city. Not the least of my joys every time we gather is meeting new and exciting writing friends.

This year, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Convention was held in Indianapolis.  I had the time of my life. We stayed at the Alexander Hotel. It was as though we were all living in a museum for the weekend. On every floor there were interesting and fabulously varied pieces of art, done in many different mediums. Even tIndy 2015he parking garage had murals on every floor. You can take a peek at the hotel and see some of the highlights in Suzette Martinez Standring’s great piece. Suzette is NSNC’s past president and a very talented writer.

Columnists in Indiana – What Suzette the Tourist Saw

 

In order to encourage the bonding that is so important to kindred souls (which is what we are), we meet every night in the hospitality suite. This year the suite had a deck overlooking the city. An added benefit:  You never had to drive home. All you had to do was remember the picture on your floor and someone could get you there.

The commonality between all of us provides a chance to hone our skills and stay inspired. All of the presenters offered us an opportunity to do that, often hilariously. I always come back with something new, something I didn’t possess before.  We are all together in a big think tank. It’s like a brain explosion.

Our keynote speaker on Friday was Mary Schmich, Pulitzer Prize winner (2012), from the Chicago Tribune. Dinner was served and we ate right there in the Indiana State Museum, soaking in its ambiance. Mary was fun and interesting and gave us “25 Writing Rules.” I don’t remember any of them clearly; the wine may have affected my recall. We are promised a copy of them later. You might remember one of her most famous essays that had been given as a commencement speech. Her first instruction to the graduating class was, “Wear sunscreen.” Mary claims to have written that essay while high on M&M’S and black coffee.

A pleasant surprise was Miss Manners, a syndicated columnist and author of eleven books. “Born a perfect lady in an imperfect society,” as she has been described. Miss Manners’ presentation revealed a great gal. Not at all stuffy or perfectionistic. I knew that if I had food on my face (which I sometimes do), she would let me know about it in a very gentle way. And she drank white wine.

A highlight of the event was Bill Foley, photo journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner.  We all toured his exhibit, with Bill Foley himself telling us about the intimacies of his work. You may have seen his work and been touched by his portrayal of the complexities of war, politics, and the human spirit. He captured the last living portrait of Anwar Sadat. He is the first person I have ever asked for an autograph; his work has touched me so.

And, of course we experienced the thrill of the must-see Indianapolis Motor Speedway! All of this has been just a tidbit of an event that was so much more.

Remember, do something for yourself to “stay inspired.”  And, if you write, join us next year in Los Angeles.  The hospitality suite will be open.

My Secret Garden

JoaniBelieving that IF I started each day with a meditation, my day would be better, I plugged myself into a guided one. I needed to focus, really focus. I had to find an important file and work on it. I knew I was having a bad day when my favorite guided meditation went off track in the very beginning.

First, in my imagination, I donned my white robe. The instructions were that I was to be naked underneath. I felt a little conspicuous about that. Cheerfully I remembered that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a bra on. We are imagining high peaks.

We are still imagining as I walk carefully through the soft grass and step on something gooey. Never mind, no one has been walking a dog out here in my special place. And… if they were, where was their plastic bag?

The water from the fountain caused an interruption due to my morning coffee. I paused my meditation, but was soon was back to business. I walked to the described hammock and my robe kept coming untied just like in real life. A very sweet voice said, “See the fountain and hear the water and smell the flowers while climbing in.”

I fell out due to too much sequencing. I tried to picture myself climbing back in gracefully. (I couldn’t find a reference memory for that scene. You know… the graceful part. I climbed back in anyway.) I was really getting into it now.

The water from the beautiful stone fountain began to sputter and sputter…

I gave up and assured myself that all that really mattered was intention.

I decided to find the file I needed to work on.

2 hours later…

I am still searching.

I am going to eat.

I put it somewhere SAFE.

GOD, can you help me find it?

I have started my day with a garden meditation. I fell out of the hammock I was instructed to lay down in. Was that a SIGN from You? I will try until 12:00 to find that file.  And then I WILL eat.

I will call the government; they know more about me than I do. Maybe they know where it is.

Becoming

inchwormWhy I have recently decided to become an inchworm:

Being a person of lists, I jumped at the chance to create a new one with my buttkicker friends. They are my dear sweet writer companions with whom I have formed an unholy relationship, aspiring to reach the goals of many lifetimes crammed into one. Previously I had attempted to make lists every day to fit everything in. Now it became one list, with only one purpose…   we were reaching our personal goals.

We all agreed to a deadline for sharing our lists and the commitment to follow through. I wrote down things like…   I will leave the house tidy before bed and write an hour and a half every morning BEFORE work.   My list covered 24 hours and ten minutes.

It was at the very least…unrealistic.  Not realizing I really needed to sleep as well, I failed the first day. What followed was remorse, guilt, and a feeling of worthlessness. Shame was interwoven through all of it. Ever been there?

I wanted to do all of the things on the list, but life stepped in the way. I tripped over the have-to’s. I failed to realize when you do first things first, you sometimes don’t do the second things at all.

For instance, the plants had to be planted. They were dying. (They never made the list in the first place.) The “exercise daily” sometimes caved in to washing my clothes so I could go to work clean. The dishes and mail piled up while…

I meditated daily.

I wrote and never ate gluten.

I dreamt of a purposeful and meaningful life accomplishing all of my goals, but I woke up to remorse for not accomplishing enough the day before.

I was so tired, and truly missed Gossip Girls.

My buttkicker friend Rosanne said, “Your list is somewhat unrealistic. “

I replied, “This is my last Tango. I have to publish, get thin, and do all the other things I wrote down.”

“Do you?” she said.

My other buttkicker friend Corinna said, “Every day I will take one action in the direction of my goals.”

Strangely enough, that made me think about the inchworm my son recently put in a dish for his 3 year-old to observe as I looked on…

Inchworms aren’t worms at all, but caterpillars that have legs at both ends of their bodies and none in the middle. This makes them look odd when they move, shifting first one end and then the other, which has the effect of making them arch their bodies as they go. Some people think that they look a lot like a measuring tape and that’s how they got the nickname inchworm.

They are very specific about what they feed on, and they help control the population of plants. Various animals feed on inchworms in all of their various stages of life:  bats, other insects, birds, etc. In other words, while they do move forward with a degree of clumsiness, they are still purposeful.

I decided to be an inchworm and clumsily move forward in the direction of my dreams, one inch at a time, with purpose, not judgment.

I will not just be in the moment; I intend to become the moment.

That is a good one, don’t you think?

Earth Day

I am sitting at the Public Library writing, because I am electronically ‘down’ at home and my piece is locked in My Documents there.

So, I will just shoot from the hip and put something out to honor our earth. Tomorrow is my birthday, as well as Earth Day. I cannot let this week slip by without writing.

Earth Day is more important to me than my own appearance here.

She has wounds that are man-made, and they are deep.  She is crying. We have abused her lakes, rivers, oceans and so very, very much more for so many years.

I pray we will leave less of a carbon footprint in the future.  We can.  We have the tools now.  If we use them, She will survive to support all of our children and those who will come after them.  But only if we wake up now.

We have been given this precious gift.  It is our sacred duty to care for her.

It will take dedication, which is the title of this piece by Dorothy Day:

Dedication

“People say, what is the sense of our small effort?

They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.

A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions.

Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that.

No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless.

There is too much work to do.”

This was written many years ago.

It is an urgent message today.