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Life Lessons

Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

How I See Beauty in My Aging Body

“This is a difficult country to look too different in -the United States of Advertising, as Paul Krasser puts it-and if you are too skinny or too tall or dark or weird or short or frizzy or homely or poor or nearsighted, you get crucified.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.

So! There I was at my local YWCA signing up for the Silver Sneakers Water Aerobics class and I admit I felt a slight intimidation.

I had been given the choice by my doctor to either begin exercising and lose a few pounds, or start medication to lower my blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It was not an easy choice.

The word exercise, in my mind, equels the four letter word, YUCK, (not too fond of sweat) and losing a few pounds means omitting delights like ice cream and cookies. But the thought of beginning medication doesn’t appeal either. I mostly don’t like to spend money on something that isn’t fun or beautiful, and don’t like to feel tied to a daily have-to (weird little personality quirks, I know, but I’m just being honest).

It was a nice-enough locker room but didn’t afford much privacy. I quickly found a corner where no one else was and where I felt I could undress unobtrusively. So I began. I had just figured out how to pull my swimsuit on without exposing my whole naked body at one time, when I turned my head just enough to catch a woman not far from me looking straight at me, her body stark naked, smiling broadly, saying, “Hi! Aren’t you new?”

I didn’t really want to look at her nakedness, but felt obligated to be cordial, so looked sideways while answering, “Yes, I am.”

She continued while she began pulling her suit up over her very white, plump and sagging body, “My name’s Carol (Not really Carol, but want to protect her innocence!) whats yours?”

“I’m Norah-with-an-H” I said smiling but looking away. I used a pseudonym to protect MY innocence!

“Glad you’re here. You’ll love it. It’s a great class!” she said and hurried off towards the pool.

Well, Carol was right. It was a great class. I did love it. And after the class, we all filed out towards the locker room. It was Carol who came alongside me and told me about the jacuzzi that some of the women take advantage of after the class. I decided to join them, just to warm up before dressing, and also to get to know a few of the women. There were five of us sitting in a semi circle in this jacuzzi that was in a nook that faced the changing area.

We hadn’t been seated long, when one woman began stripping her suit off while in the jacuzzi…no shyness, no hesitation. “Its easier to get off in the water than when my body’s dry,” she explained as I tried not to stare!

Then a couple of women appeared out of the shower area with towels, rubbing their wet hair while talking and walking towards the lockers…completely naked, completely at ease.

In fact, there was somewhat of a “Merry Month of May” exhibition going on right before my eyes: 70+ year old feminine bodies on parade.

I saw about a dozen different shapes and sizes. Floppy boobs, saggy butts, Buddha-bellies, scars and blemishes. There were no apologies. No shy attempts at cover-up. I saw only confidence and acceptance. The locker room was filled with an air of comradery, fun and exuberance. It was beautiful. It was comfortable. It made my heart smile!

I saw a new kind of beauty that day.

  • It was the beauty that comes from acceptance and the confidence that differences are valuable and comparisons and conformity unnecessary.
  • It was the beauty that comes from accepting life as it is with a sense of humor and enjoyment rather than judgement and condemnation.
  • It was the beauty that comes from the understanding that physical beauty is subjective and needs to be measured within the context of a life well-lived.

I’m still learning to see this new kind of beauty in myself. I often revert back to feeling insecure about my aging body, as if I should somehow be able to defy Nature and rise above wrinkles and age marks. But the group of Senior Sneakers, those Vibrant Old Women, opened the door for me to realize if we have lived 70+ years, we have a beauty all our own!

What I see when I see my aging body is a life-time of living a fully human existence:

  • I see a little girl who had polio, who fell from the cherry tree and broke her arm, who got her nose broken playing volleyball, who lived through measles, mumps and chicken pox.
  • I see a young lady who wore a perfect size 6 prom dress and wedding gown, could walk somewhat gracefully in 6″ spike heels, and who could eat ice cream everyday without gaining an ounce.
  • I see a  young woman who gave birth to 4 babies, breastfed 3 of them and nurtured all of them into adulthood.
  • I see a woman who moved more than 20 times and lived on two different continents and 4 different States.
  • I see a woman who has lived 70 full years,(that’s  25,550 days), been a baby, a child, a teenager, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an employee, a retiree.

My body has changed. My body is changing. It’s beautiful when I look at it with humor, make no comparisons to how I once looked or to anyone else, and remember that the lines, wrinkles, sags and blemishes are all signs of a life well-lived.

What do you see when you see your aging body?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

How to Make a Positive Contribution to the World Without Missing Your Nap

“A Real Go-Getter! A BusyBee! She burns the candle at both ends! Give her a job and you KNOW it will get done well!”

Cliches, yes, but labels and comments that have been a real part of the self image of most of us Baby Boomers. We work hard, take on big assignments and live as large as possible.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” was the USA President’s challenging edict that we bought into wholeheartedly…back in the day.

We were part of the Feminist Movement, the Freedom Movement, the Jesus Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Student Exchange Program or the Peace Corps. We wanted to change the world and still do!

But today, right now, as these lofty thoughts present themselves in my sleepy head, I close my eyes, snuggle in a little deeper into my comfy arm chair and nap.

When Did I Start Needing a Nap Everyday?

I have a vibrant old friend in Oregon who has reminded me at times that much of what we do, we do because we can.

If I have a kitchen drawer filled with chocolate bars, I eat chocolate bars. If I have a car and a valid drivers license, I drive to the shops instead of walk.  If I have free time after lunch everyday and the house is quiet, the comfy chair is empty and the afghan nearby, I nap.

When I took the bold step of leaving my career and the daily routine of my job, I suddenly had free time after lunch, the house was quiet, the comfy chair was empty, the afghan nearby, and I became a daily napper!

And probably so did you. We nap because we can…and it is very delicious…though just a little guilt-producing.

Let it go or Protect it?

Apparently an afternoon nap is healthy for us. Health professionals, like the National Sleep Foundation, recommend a regular afternoon nap to restore energy and aid heart health.

Many successful people, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, who made great contributions to their communities and to the world at large were nappers. Perhaps there’s a relationship between success and rest.

What does it take to have my nap everyday yet still feel useful?

When we were younger and probably not napping everyday, we were led by our passion. We heard the call of our president or our personal hero or shero, and we followed…with all our hearts. Some of us left everything to follow. We defied the wisdom of our mothers. We left school or our home town.  We bought one-way bus tickets. We didn’t ask for a lot of questions to be answered. We expected good results and never counted the cost.

Today, we are older, but we can still be led by our passion…we just have to work around our afternoon nap time.

Physically, age slows us down a bit. We probably can’t DO as much as we once did. Now we must choose more carefully and focus on our strongest passion. Contribute smarter!

Daily commitment to being our real, authentic selves, nap and all, adds  honesty to the world. We acknowledge our limits and honor them. We contribute by being kind to ourselves and this gives others permission to do likewise.

Remember when we thought being busy equaled being important, being significant? Remember how we proved that wrong!?! Eventually busyness breeds contempt, or at least, burnout.

Positive contribution isn’t about how much we DO. Positive contribution is about BEING the unique person you are. You  contribute by being alive, learning and giving.

Each of us has a lifetime of experiences that have gone into making us who we are. As we continue to honor the unique understandings and talents we gained from our own experiences, we find ways to pass them on to those around us, just by being who we are and doing what sparks our passion.

Four Tips for the Napper Who Still Wants to Make a Contribution to the World:

  1. Lean into your passion. Whatever brings you the most joy, give yourself to it, even if its a minimum amount of time compared to earlier years.
  2. Live at your own pace. Changing the beat of each day is one of the perks of this stage of life. No one is measuring your production, or keeping a time-card on you!
  3. Redefine napping as a positive. An afternoon nap is good self-care and helps revitalize our energy level. It helps you BE your best.
  4. Embrace this ‘retirement’ stage of life as the Being-stage and live out these years as the unique You that you are.

Enjoy that nap! It will only make you better!

“Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution.” ―Deepak Chopra

How do you see your contribution at this stage of life?

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Connecting the Past to the Now Without Going Backwards

Buzz words! Just name a few that you have experienced in the last couple of years, never mind in your lifetime! Where do they come from and who starts them? I’m never sure, but I suspect a lot of them come from pop-culture, like lines or themes from movies or TV programs, phrases from songs or raps, or maybe catchy captions from newspapers, books or quotes from celebrities.

Being the rebellious middle-child that I am, I tend to shun the current buzz word, trend or fad, sometimes to my peril, sometimes to my credit! Occasionally, though,  a current buzz will ring true with me and I embrace it wholeheartedly… until it feels common. Then I usually dump it and replace it with my own version. The last thing I want to be or appear to be is cliche!

The current trend towards “living in the NOW”, “Being Present”, even “mindfulness” has grabbed my buy-in for quite a while.  I continue to be very much aware that it is beneficial on many levels to practice this trendy wisdom. (Actually it’s ancient wisdom that has become trendy.)

I try to meditate regularly in order to “be IN the moment”. I try to discipline my thoughts to stay focused on the time and place I’m in and not think about later now. I use a very helpful tool called 5-4-3-2-1 where I routinely name 5 things I can see at any one moment, then 4 things I can hear, then 3 things I can feel, then 2 things I can smell and finally 1 thing I can taste…all meant to ground me IN the moment. I certainly don’t want to miss anything that is going on in my life!

Good stuff, right? Good practices. Good discipline.

All good…BUT! There seems to always be a flip side!

At this stage in my life, when each day can easily look and feel like the previous one as well as the next one, “being present” can feel a little boring. There’s just not a lot going on sometimes.

Taking a step out of the present and remembering the past or taking a step out of the present and dreaming about the future, either one, can be a welcome adventure!

The caution, from experts on aging, seems to be that we don’t get stuck in the past or the future and thus miss the learning and opportunity of the moment. But surely, a little excursion in either direction occasionally, is good!

Like today. Memorial Day in the USA. A time set aside to remember. A time to honor the past, the history, and those in particular who gave their lives and their talents to make today livable for me.

I remember my past today. I remember my dad, that he was in the Philippines when I was born, that I didn’t see him until I was almost 2 years old, that he missed a couple of years of my early teens serving in Korea during the conflict there, that he was gone for several months at a time throughout my life serving in various capacities with the US Army. I remember him. I remember how I called him “sarge” behind his back because he was so authoritative.  I remember how he required everything to have a place and be in order.  I remember and connect the experience of him being my father to who I am today.

An old psychologist friend of mine used to tell me that, in part, personality was the continuity of life experiences. The past is not done. The past is flowing into the present, giving texture and depth and meaning to the present.

Being fully “in the Now”, today at least, means remembering the past, allowing it to help define the present.

As Vibrant Old Women, we have the advantage of seeing almost the whole story of our lives, from where we’ve come, who we’ve been and who we are now…a panorama view. I love the flow of connection from one event, one happening, one era into the next.

I think from now on, as I practice living in the moment, I might add a bit of the past by “habit stacking”* onto 5-4-3-2-1 and add a memory that something in the present reminds me.

What do you remember? How do you see the impact of the past on your Now? What feelings does this awareness bring?

 

*See Habit Stacking,http://vibrantoldwoman.com/?p=999

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

4 Ways to Choose a Pair of Shoes (or make other important decisions)

Remember Imelda Marcos from the Philippines and the international commotion she stirred up because of the thousands of pairs of shoes she owned? At the time,I was much younger (!), it was more than a little interesting to me as I contemplated the choice of that many shoes and a closet big enough to hold them. But at this stage of my life, I find I react to the abundance aspect of this incidence with aversion rather than envy or even curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate a cute pair of shoes, in fact I always notice the shoes people are wearing. And I certainly don’t begrudge anyone having a choice.

For instance, recently enjoying a wonderful Mozart concert at Symphony Hall in row 10, I found myself scanning all the feet of the orchestra members. All black shoes, of course, but there was a multitude of different styles from comfy walking-shoes to 6-inch stiletto, pointed-toed patent leather with red undersoles! My mind wandered to why the specific styles might have been chosen and musing over the possibility of connection between shoe choice and personality style…all to the rhythm of Mozart!

My recent purchase of a summer sandal has been the surprise contact point of several conversations lately. I knew I was in need of replacing my favorite sandals this season so began noticing other women’s sandals and planning for my new pair. I ended up choosing a Wolky® shoe …VERY comfy and good for walking, but cute and red! Everyone needs a red pair of shoes, right!?

Well, more than a few times lately these shoes have solicited comments, “Oh, I like your shoes? Where did you get them?” “Nice shoes! What brand are they?” And then a short conversation follows about how important comfortable shoes are, especially for Vibrant Old Women.

One of these conversations ended by my inquiring friend saying, “I used to choose my shoes by style and color, but now they have to be comfortable. My values have changed I guess…it’s all about comfort and all I need is one really good pair!”

One pair? Hmmm…maybe two, or three…I”ve been thinking about this: I have so many choices today, in almost every aspect of my life. What are the values that drive my decisions at this stage of life?

  1. Comfort and Health (Will this enhance my well being or hinder it?)
  2. Cost and Fitting my Budget (Will this cause financial stress?)
  3. Necessity rather than pure desire (Do I need it? Do I have room for it? Am I just filling up space?)
  4. Delight or Pleasure (to me or someone else)

Less seems to be my new abundance…”less is more” sort of thing. My beloved deceased mother-in-law saw it differently though. In her final stage of life, she saw her choices as her last chance to have and went “all out” in a rather delightful way. On her 80th birthday, she asked for a diamond and sapphire bracelet even though she had many beautiful pieces of fine jewelry. She knew what she liked and wanted more of it! (Shoes were about comfort for her, btw.)

Values are personal. They define who we are and how we live. What are your values at this stage of life?

How do you choose a pair of shoes?

 

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