Thursday, October 24, 2019

Welcoming Worry

Am I going a little crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. As a lifelong worrier, I’ve fought hard to avoid worrying. And I’ve tried many anti-worry methods: aerobics, meditation, jazzercise, yoga, chocolate and binge watching on Netflix.

Many of the methods were healthful and helpful. And what’s not to like about chocolate and binge watching, “Bones”.  But none of them made the worry go away for good. 

Maybe it’s in my genes or jeans?

As a child my great Aunt Mae told me, “Susan, don’t worry about worrying. You come from a long line of worriers.” I didn’t understand her then but I do now. 

First off, worrying about worrying is definitely not helpful. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. And while the spinning might give you a little exercise, it also keeps the worry circuit fully charged. That said, I’ve spent quite a few hours chasing my worries anyway, perhaps hoping the exercise would help my jeans fit better. 

What’s there to worry about anyway? Really?

The world ending tomorrow? Trump getting re-elected? A plane crashing into my house? Falling meteors? A chocolate shortage? Ok, I know some of these are silly. 

But we all have worries that are very real to us. From birth to death, we work to survive. And with all that work comes success and failure. And the worry follows. I worried I wouldn’t graduate. Or find a job. Or an apartment. Or a boyfriend. Or a home. Or have healthy babies. 

Remembering my worries now about my sweet, small babies, I smile. Both of my babies were considered ‘small’. I fed them and changed them and rocked them all the while worrying constantly. Were they eating enough. Would they gain enough weight. Would the grow up and be good, strong people. 

Now 30 years later, I see my ‘small’ babies are strong, healthy, beautiful adults. They are fine. They are talented. They are working. Now they have babies of their own. And, you guessed it, they worry. 

They worry their babies are too small. That they aren’t growing and learning and eating well enough. That they’ll never learn to sleep through the night. Will they grow up to be good, strong people?

Worry was not what I really wanted to pass on to them  But then, I remember my great Aunt Mae and I say to them, “Don’t worry about being a worrier. You come from a long line of worriers.” 

Maybe the best we can do is welcome worry. 

Maybe welcoming worry won’t make it go away, but it will perhaps, make it a bit lighter. Shining a light on it as a guide to tell us what we truly love and care about. Helping us understand what we need in our life that may be missing. Maybe it’s a part of ourselves that thinks survival depends on being prepared for catastrophe and the only way to do that is worry. 

I’m not sure. And I worry about that. 

But one thing I do see clearly: my worst worries never came true. So now, I’m going to work on welcoming my worries as part of life because I come from a long line of worriers. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Living a Gutsy Life

Gutsy is a word making the media rounds right now because of a new book, “The Book of Gutsy Women” by a famous mother-daughter duo, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. I can’t even imagine what Hilary and her daughter went through during their days in the White House and on the road during the 2016 presidential election. I admire both of them. 

What they did and do and who they continue to be takes real guts. And they see the ability to be gutsy in other women. I don’t see it in myself but I can see it clearly in other women around me.

Meet my favorite gutsy woman. 

She is my daughter, Caitlin. From a young age, she loved to sing and act. Her first role at the age of 12, was the lead in “Trial by Jury”, a Gilbert & Sullivan play. Her naturally beautiful voice took everyone by surprise. But as her mother, I saw one very gutsy girl up there on stage as a 6th grader in front of the entire junior high school. 

Now, she has a Master’s in Vocal Performance. A list of vocal scholarships, degrees, awards and performances as well as work conducting and teaching music at academic levels. 

Three years ago, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband and found new jobs and performance opportunities. 

Beginning a new life takes guts. 

Now, Caitlin is a new mom. And as any mom knows bringing a baby into the world is a gutsy act. Birth itself is scary and many times, traumatic. Recovery from surgery takes time and sleep which almost don’t exist as a mother of a newborn. Add the responsibility of being the sole manufacturer of food for another human being, right? Nursing your baby is natural and wonderful. And very overwhelming. 

Now add to all of that trying to make a living in an insecure world as a vocalist and musician and teacher. Well, it all takes a lot of guts. 

Women are gutsy. 

Many people are gutsy including men, of course. My husband and son and son-in-law come to mind first. They have each worked hard, suffered losses and still continue to accomplish more. 

Women many times start out in the background just by being born female. I grew up in a man’s world surrounded by brothers. I was taught early to do woman’s work. But in spite of or maybe even because of that, I was very determined to do more with my life than dishes. 

And I did. Writing. Awards. Art classes. Gallery shows. 

Yet, even though I’ve done a lot more than dishes and diapers, I’ve relished that too. Nothing can compare to holding and feeding and teaching my babies. And as those babies grow, it’s a growing challenge to follow their fearlessness into this fearful and uncertain world. 

But, let’s face it, living a real life takes guts.  

So maybe, I am a gutsy woman. 
And yes, you are too. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Time Marches On

My daughter just had a baby. She was my first baby. My daughter has a son. My son has a daughter. They’re delightful, healthy and wonderful and I’m a delighted and grateful. 

I see my two babies grown up and having babies. They are older and, therefore, so am I. Oh, I’ve spent a long time in denial but time can not be denied. Nor should it. But in our society, especially for women, age is seen as something to hide. 

Cosmetics, procedures, diets, books, fitness programs are all sold to reverse or stop aging. But, we all know the truth, time marches on whether we like it or not. 

I’ve decided to like it. 

“Yup”, I said to my granddaughter, “I do have some white hair.” When she asked why, I said that my hair has changed during my life just like I’ve changed. When I was her age, my hair was almost the same color as hers, strawberry blonde. But as I got older, my hair got darker. And now, it’s getting lighter again. And I think the new lighter highlights will make my fair skin and blue eyes look even better. 

Nope, I don’t weigh 100 pounds anymore. But now I have muscles that can lift my granddaughter up high, throw clay, handle a 60 pound dog, prune trees, haul heavy grocery bags and do planks. And because I walk a mile or more everyday and do yoga, I can bend and stretch and climb stairs without pain. 

Ok, my knee may creak a bit, sometimes I get stiff. And that’s an important message from my body to take time to breathe and stretch. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to waste my time or anyone else’s complaining about it. Age does not give me cart blanc to whine. 

We live in a very ageist society. Women and men are expected to work until a certain ‘age’ and retire. Well, guess what? We don’t have to. I have had several women come up to me recently and ‘assume’ I am retired. When I say I am a working artist, they respond with, “Oh, you’re retired with a hobby.” Seriously? 

I’ve also decided to change how I see me. 

For years, I’ve been in denial of my wrinkles. I’ve refused to see my glasses as a sign of age. But they are there, right before my eyes. So it’s time to see them, and maybe give them some love, instead of hate. They do make it easy and far more comfortable to put all those details that I love into my art. 

Maybe it’s also time to see myself through a new lenses of experience as not just a survivor but someone who thrives. Someone who went through pain and heartache and fearful times and lives a good, creative, healthy, loving life.  

I’ve also decided instead of waiting for others to like me, I’m going to like myself for a change. 

I am still a woman. Smart. Creative. Loving. Capable. 
Yes, I’m older. 
Yes, I am a working artist NOT a ‘retired’ woman with a ‘hobby’. Seriously?
Yes, I’ve changed. 

Now I’ve decided as time marches on, to march with it.