Category Archives: transition

Slip-sliding along

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All the preparation in the world will do nothing to lessen the silent explosion that descends upon us the only way time knows how to travel. Defying lasers, cat gut and high end facial abrasion, gravity descends in subtle waves and full-on attack, claiming new territory by the minute.

I began mental preparation when I was 59; a lot of good that did.  By 62, I was in a quiet state of panic.  By 65, denial had become impossible to sustain, even on good days.

I would like to say I made the transition from bud to fading blossom gracefully, but I cannot.  I never judge another woman’s choice for surgical intervention; it simply wasn’t for me.  I’m an old nurse; saving things is what I am trained to do.

Also I am a collector and admirer of junk and antiques, finding comfort in well-worn patinas boasting generous use.  I love chipped paint and rust, and admire the simplicity of unsophisticated lines and primitive art.

I patch, re-purpose and restore, but never refinish.

So treating myself differently than I would an old crate made no sense no matter how much time I spent standing in profile in front of the mirror pulling a cascading chin back to a more flattering pre-menopausal position.

I wrung my hands for years fearing the great evolution would morph my lovely pear into an awkward apple, feeling as if that day would strike like a bolt of lightning, or like a tragedy at sea, the captain of a sinking ship lost to sharks in uncharted sea.

But if anything, passage was silent and endearing as I fell in love with the soft, loose texture of my own skin, and the pinkness of my scalp shining like new planet in an unexplored galaxy of snowy hair. And I was oddly amused by the sound of my voice, the way it creaked like sore knees around words spoken more slowly and with less certainty than before.

Like a memory of the chair I rocked my babies in, I can see our history in my hands.  And I like that.  A lot.  So now I am between a walker and heels.  I never hold my stomach in.  Hate Spanx and the likes.  Wouldn’t wear one even if it was a gift.

In my sewing studio I have a photo gallery of women who inspired me in life.  They have all passed away now, but I see them in my face every day, with my glasses on, of course.  And I want to be like them.  Graceful, full of joy and palpable peace,

a mischievous spark shining in my eyes as I creep toward 70.

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After some pretty significant health problems the past few years, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to find a good balance between what I want to do and what I can.  I’m more Fall Chicken than Spring Chicken as an aging Baby Boomer, but my bucket list is still pretty long.  And while I won’t see the Aurora Borealis in person, there are many other goals I’ve made throughout life then set aside for whatever reason seemed pertinent at the time.

There are promises I’ve made myself and then dismissed as too grandiose.  Even worse, from time to time I find I’ve limited myself using the excuses that some of the dreams I dream are selfish or silly.  Just thinking that makes me nauseous because I’m not one who buys into the Selfish Guilt Trip Philosophy society sometimes uses to restrain us from reaching for the stars, rather than keeping our noses to the grindstone, asking no questions.  Also to say a goal is silly is to diminish personal potential and only shows I have more work to do in regards to self-esteem.

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Maybe no one out there knows I’m a somewhat of philosophical rebel; if not, that’s because I haven’t spoken up.  What I have done is share one aspect of my life, keeping the rest under wraps because it’s easier that way.  That’s a back track on my behalf.  In 2000, I quit approaching life from a non-adversarial vantage point, deciding direct attack was a more effective choice.

It was during that particular revolt I changed my perception of the word selfish, exchanging the word with the more gentle term: self-is.

Things got a lot easier for me after shifting that perspective.  By ditching an overused word and altering its definition, I removed the negative implication.  Although a rather simple concept, it was necessary for me to overcome my overwhelming tendency to make choices dependent on pleasing others, rather than considering my own needs and wishes.

Like any habit, practice is involved.

I recently received notice from WordPress it’s time to decide whether or not I want to renew this account.  I’ve given the question a lot of thought and decided, Yes, I do want to continue Aunt Bea Me, but I want to come at it from a different point of view.

It’s almost as drastic as Betty Crocker saying she’s decided to produce shoes.

I have another WordPress site, ittymac, it presents a different side of me; but without realizing it, I seem to have been sharing a tamer side of myself there too.  I think I slipped into such a good place after marrying Richard and experiencing unconditional love, I got a little lazy.

No one likes conflict.  Well, maybe some people do, but I’m not one of them. And as I mentioned before, I waver a bit when it comes to issues of self-esteem.  Even so, I’m stepping out of line and drawing a bit of attention to myself.  I’m not trying to save anyone.  I’m not trying to steal the spotlight either; I’m not trying to do anything.  I’m just opening my mouth and letting all the stuff inside come out.

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Home

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It’s so easy to get lost.  You don’t have to be running errands or traveling for it to happen.  Actually, you don’t even have to “know” for certain you really “are” lost to “be” lost.  Mostly it’s a suspicion you have that something’s not quite the way it’s supposed to be, that things, or you, seem sort of unsettled.

lost sign images

Being lost is different from being confused.  You know that feeling you get when you walk into a room, or open a drawer and can’t remember ‘why’ you did it?  Well, being lost isn’t like that.  It’s more subtle, not as obvious.

Sometimes being lost is so imperceptible you don’t even know that you are.

Being lost is a sentence without a period.  It’s morning without coffee.  It’s incomplete.  Rationalization is an excuse we use not to have to look at something too closely for fear looking means you’ll end up having to deal with unpleasant things.  Often we rationalize the sense of being lost with explanations like “I didn’t sleep well last night”, or “anyone would feel like this if they lived here”,  or “I’m just stressed out like everyone else is.”

Trying to figure out why we feel the way we do isn’t easy. Sometimes looking past the surface requires full-on-excavation.  Reaching the bottom of anything can mean a lot of work. But what if it didn’t?  What if we could resolve most of our feelings and fears without making ourselves miserable during the process?

All anyone has to do is to be a little observant to see the world is pretty much in chaos on one level or another.  And all we have to do is practice a little empathy to understand the grief and misery of others.  Unfortunately, we can’t heal the wounds of the world easily, nor can any of us do it alone.  But maybe we can change the way we respond when bad things happen.

Like charity, most everything begins at home, inside of us.  Our hearts and souls and minds are the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.  Our egos and inflated, self-important opinions are garbage, just more junk in an already overwhelming pile of useless stuff.

When we focus too much on the details of all the “bad” things we can’t change, or we compulsively “react” to them with anger or profound sadness, we throw away our power and common sense.  That’s never good.

lost in woods.download

I got lost for a while.  It took time to figure out that was what was going on.  When I finally “got” it, I was too tired to dig for solutions.  I’m old.  I savor my energy for things that hold purpose in my heart, for things that make me smile on the inside.  Going through another inner journey was too much to undertake.

I had to be smarter this time; I had to be careful with my time, I had to respect the realities of my health and abide by stamina restraints while still looking for a way back to the innermost sanctuary of my heart.

Every day I worked to maintain emotional strength and positive energy, especially when I heard bad news.  Every day I asked God to help me find an “opening” in the resistance that disguised the entrance to the way “home”.

I practiced patience, which isn’t my strong point.

I waited.

I asked again and again.

I waited some more.

I was observant, watching everything around me, listening to everything everyone said, and even those things intentionally or unintentionally left unsaid.

I watched for signs, striving to connect what happened day-to-day with a bigger, more comprehensive, more compassionate vision.

The first reward I received was an amazing sort of peace that settled on me as I worked making a Christmas gift for my sister.

That sensation proceeded other incredible instances of grace on ensuing days.

On Christmas Eve, riding in a car, on the way to visit family, suddenly I felt as if a cloud moved from the inside of my head passing into the landscape outside. Although foggy and gray, the sky unexpectedly shone with phenomenal clarity; and without warning, I understood that through some sort of inexplicable mercy, I had found my way back home.

I was at peace on a level that had been missing for far too long.  Memories of battles I’d fought that seemed to have depleted me faded away and I felt strong and capable again.  I felt light and full of hope.  I was a helium balloon free-floating through clear, fresh air.  I felt safe and sure of my place in the world.  I felt needed and valued.  I was in love with life again.

Maybe someday I’ll lose my way again, I hope not; but if I do, I won’t pretend nothing is wrong.  I won’t waste precious time again.  How I see the world and what I hold in my heart is up to me.  And then, of course, there is grace.  And God.

sweet innocence

Under my Skin

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The face staring back from the mirror looks as perplexed as the one peering in; both convey a deer caught in headlights expression.  Confusion verses the well-oiled gears of an efficient woman, hesitation challenging certainty, and a few lingering questions that can unnerve even the most self-assured person.

another kitchen failure

While it’s difficult to accept the premise that I remain as self-assured today as I was twenty years ago, it is impossible to pretend I feel incompetent in any way in spite of the aftereffects of time.  While the burden of physicality has required a definite down-shift in energy and stamina, the resulting changes have done nothing to deter my positive senses of self-perception and attitude.

In all honesty, I must admit that when Rome first began to crumble and fall, the tendency was to bemoan my losses; however, because I have spent a great deal of time developing a healthy level of self-esteem and self-love, I weather the storm and resist any urge to wallow in self-pity.

crumbling with time

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up: that’s a load of dirty laundry!  I may need a helping hand from time to time but I can still manage.

What lies beneath the skin is the essence of the soul and the soul is circuitously wired to the brain whether or not that brain functions at preferred levels of activity.

Gratefully my brain appears to be in sync with expected norms for my age, but that hasn’t always been the case.  When my brain fell far short of scientific/medical neurological projections and measurements of expected activity, my soul persevered, and its presence and influence perfectly reflected the embodiment of my true and unique identity.

So here I am, still, and always, Aunt Bea in my heart of hearts.  And while I may have had to exchange those cute little granny shoes with the 2 ½  inch heels for a pair of supportive flats, I can still move forward.  No one can be a better me than me.  No one can hold a candle to the intention of my heart and the determination of my hands.

sensible shoes

I know I came into this room for something…what could it be?  Oh, now I remember!  I wanted to look in the mirror and thank myself for being the best I can be today, under the circumstances, knowing what I know and being who I am.

Thanks old chick!

Now I can lose the goofy deer in the headlights look and get back to doing whatever it was I was doing before I decided to drop by my beloved blogging site and do a bit of light housework.

Maintenance, you know, and timing.  And pearls and a nice jersey dress.  And clean underwear.  Always.

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Sitting with myself….

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Sitting with myself….

OK, so it seemed like a good idea at first…I saw it on Pinterest.  It had worked for the pinner.  How yucky could it really be?

So I sent Rich to Walmart to buy duct tape.  He came back with two rolls…that should be enough, but it was glow-in-the-dark YELLOW!  What-ever.

yellow duct tape

So I dig through my drawers and find the perfect skin tight sleeveless tee shirt…it’s black.  I put it on.  Rich is taking his part in this little project quite seriously; I knew he would, it’s the meticulously compulsive part of his personality.

So now he’s in charge of everything… What-ever.

I’m glad I’m wearing my old lady orthopedic shoes since I have to stand in the same place for a good hour.

“Can you breathe?”

“Of course I can breathe!”  Okay, maybe I snapped a little when he asked, but in my defense, I was trying to stave off this creepy claustrophobic feeling that was building.

When Rich leaves to find a pair of scissors, I inch my way across the room to a mirror.   OMG! I look like the Oscar Meyer Hot Dog Truck.  I’m wrapped chest to hips in glow-in-the-dark YELLOW duct tape, I look ridiculous but how else would I look?

hot dogs

He’s back.  “Okay,” he says, “now comes the tricky part.  Stand still while I cut this down your spine.”

“OH MY LORD! WHAT are you using to cut me out of this electric mummy wrap?”

“A utility knife”, he says, as if it’s EVER okay to cut your wife out of glow-in-the-dark YELLOW duct tape sausage skin with a utility knife.

He looks serious but he’s laughing.  I can’t imagine anything remotely funny at the moment, but I bite none-the-less. “What’s so funny Vincent?”

“Huh?”

“Vincent, Vincent Price.”

vincent

“Oh,  I get it.  Well, it’s just with those black shoulder straps sticking out you sort of look like a bumble bee.”

“Ha. Ha” I say, knowing  it’s true.

“Couldn’t you find the scissors?”

“Yeah, but they’re not gonna cut through three layers of duct tape, honey.  You’ll be okay; I promise.”

The next five minutes were excruciating and twice I felt the tip of that torturous utility knife touch the surface of my skin.  And you’d better believe I made a real show of it!

“All done”, he said, relieved to be leaving the room.

So here’s the story; this is how it began, and why.  I wanted an exact replica of my body to put over a dress form that in no way resembles my body any more.  How can I expect to make clothes that actually fit without a non-subjective method of perceiving the raw truth?

This project wasn’t a decision I made blithely; no, actually I was quite terrified.  Through the years I’ve grown comfy with looking at myself from the chin up…all the other parts seem woefully unimportant to me these days.  But sewing patterns aren’t what they used to be.  They never match actual dress sizes, so I had to find a way to start.

I can sew accurately for anyone but myself. Everything I make to wear is either pixie tiny or circus- big-top.  Repeatedly I fail self-perception, miserably. I think I need a precision aid to help find my way across my bountiful ego into the brutally difficult realm of reality.

So now I’m sitting with myself, literally, in the sewing room.  I shift uncomfortably in the chair.  Headless mannequin stares straight ahead wearing a long sleeve tee.  When I find the courage, I’ll stuff one of her arms till it matches the scary dimensions of one of my own.  (I’ll have to involve Rich in that measurement process, because I tend to cheat.)

blobby dress form

I breathe in deeply through my nose, exhale purposefully from my mouth.  Silence fills my brain until my head feels stuffy and light at the same time, like a cranium crammed full of popcorn.

“Far out”, I whisper.

“That’s an old lady in front of me.  Whoo-eeeeeeeee.”  Slowly the sound of my voice disappears in the void the sewing room has become.

I can’t say how much time passed, but I found myself smiling at the nonmistable me across the room.  And feeling a real kinship.

“Can you remember”, I asked, “climbing those trees with Sue and Dale when we were a little kid?  Their legs were longer than we were tall”….Then I remembered dancing with a nice variety of young men, my hair trailing in the air as I swirled in ever widening circles.

girl climbing tree

In time I was walking down the aisle in the church chapel, Father at my side, my heart pounding so loudly I could barely hear the organ playing.

And now I’m having one baby and then another, and there is so much love I can barely breathe.

I can see myself playing in the park with my daughters, experience the radiance of their bright, beautiful shining faces; and remember how I knew from the inside out that nothing would ever be more important to me than they were, and that the cycles and patterns of all my life would shift around their own, and that in the end, after having had children of their own, they would share the same amazing feelings as me.

mom and daughters

Even the darkness, as it came, was surreally beautiful, divorce and tragedy, death and endings, because the silver lining was quick on its tail, whisking tears away, replacing them with understanding and peace.

Then Rich was before the two of us, and all the joy he brought to our lives burst in brilliant colors, and when I laughed aloud, I wondered if mannequin me had laughed too.  Then each of the grandchildren, my siblings and parents all walked into the room, but before I could say anything I was tubing down the river with my children.

There was fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and bursts of wonder at the fourth of July fireworks over Clear Lake.  There were friends and amazing relationships.  And the paunchy body across the room had shared all of this with me, each perfect step juxtaposed serious gravity while time took its toll on human flesh.

What a beautiful evolution my life has been, and how many more miles I plan on walking, or skipping.  How many days I plan to hug my grown daughters and marvel at the good work they’ve done.  How many more times will I hear a grandchild ask for Nonnie?

Oh, this was an excellent project.  It healed scrapes and scratches I acquired along the journe, although that wasn’t the reason I’d done it.

profile dress form

All I wanted was a decent fitting blouse,

and yet, I got so much more.