What Keeps You Together?

I will have more to say on the subject of love and loss soon, but in the mean time I wanted to re-share one of my husbands favorite stories on Random and Rhyme.

Random & Rhyme

Carmen-de-Lavallade-and-Geoffrey-Holder Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade (Picture from http://discoverblackheritage.com)

I was filled with both sadness and happiness while listening to the story of Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade with Elizabeth Blair on NPR this week and hearing about their 59 years of love, partnership and marriage. You might remember him from the Roger Moore, James Bond days playing the villain in “Live and Let Die” or 80’s 7UP commercials and she has been a dancer for most of her life, dancing with Alvin Ailey, the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway.

Mr. Holder passed away earlier this month on October 5th. He was 84 years old. Ms. de Lavallade spoke to Ms. Blair about going on with the show, she has a one-woman event at the Kennedy Center called “As I Remember It” where she is dancing and reminiscing about her life and a little bit about…

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Too Much S#%T!

A past poem I wrote contains the line: “my possessions own me” and that is feeling more true than ever this week. I am being drug down by all my stuff. Why do I need 12 plates when I rarely feed more than my husband and me? Why do I have 4 sets of salt and pepper shakers, why do I have 4 containers of kitchen utensils on my counter, why do I have all this space for two of us and two dogs? It’s just more time spent cleaning than having fun and enjoying life. I don’t enjoy housework, why have such a big house? (and my place really isn’t that big) And these are just the things I see from my kitchen, let’s not even look in my bathroom or my closet.

Several New York Times articles on money, retirement and family life touch on the nature of “stuff” and “possessions”. In this one, “The Way We Live: Downing in Stuff” by Penelope Green she interviews a researcher on a UCLA study of 32 typical middle class families and all their stuff. One quote really got me thinking…..

Finally, there was a direct relationship between the amount of magnets on refrigerators and the amount of stuff in a household.”    uh oh!

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That is a lot of magnets on my fridge!

This article on retirement and happiness, “For Some, Tis a Gift to be Simple” by Ron Lieber talks about a study by two researchers that are looking into the field of happiness;

“….they were trying to help answer one of the next big questions in the emerging field of happiness studies. Already, scholars in the field have established that experiences tend to make people happier than possessions. What we do, it seems, has more potential for lasting satisfaction and memory-making than what we have.”

Experiences tend to make people happier than possessions” and I am sure they are not taking about the experience of acquiring those possessions. Vacations, time spent with family, time spent in pursuit of learning something new or time spent with friends are the things that make people happy. Shit, no wonder I feel weighed down.

And this piece from the same article also intrigued me because shopping and acquiring has become a solitary, computer driven endeavor for me; focused on finding the best deal, using that coupon code and getting cash back for stuff, if I am truly honest, I know I don’t need.

“Once upon a time, with roots that go back to medieval marketplaces featuring stalls that functioned as stores, shopping offered a way to connect socially, as Ms. Liebmann and others have pointed out. But over the last decade, retailing came to be about one thing: unbridled acquisition, epitomized by big-box stores where the mantra was “stack ’em high and let ’em fly” and online transactions that required no social interaction at all — you didn’t even have to leave your home.

And this recent New York Times article by David Wallis looks at retirees that dump their possessions and hit the road;

SOME call themselves “senior gypsies.” Others prefer “international nomad.” David Law, 74, a retired executive recruiter who has primarily slept in tents in several countries in the last two years, likes the ring of “American Bedouin.”

They are American retirees who have downsized to the extreme, choosing a life of travel over a life of tending to possessions. And their numbers are rising.

A life of travel over a life of tending to possessions” there it is again possessions and what it does to weigh down and anchor your life. Shedding a bunch of my possessions and removing that burden from my life seems like it is just the answer I am looking for to feel better, worry less and live a happier life.

Now I don’t think I could ever go to the extreme simplicity route and pick a number of items, most articles seem to pick 100 and live with only those. But being much more mindful of the need, verse want, verse acquiring for entertainment would, I think, be a big step in the right direction.

What about you – do you have more possessions than you really need? Do you ever feel weighed down by all of it?

Back on the Wagon

Writing Books  I have not written much nor published anything new in the last couple of weeks. I have been consumed by work and worry. I should instead be happy, enjoying my life and of course writing. I have “fallen off the wagon” of writing daily. How do I get back on that wagon?

A writer friend of mine, that I also work with, stopped by my office the other day and gave me a nudge. Thank you Todd!!

My dad called the other day and also gave me a poke! Thank you Dad!

I have gotten some of my favorite writers advise books out and am getting inspired.

I am swinging my leg back up on that wagon tonight, look for something new this weekend!

How do you reignite your passion when the flame has flickered?

 

 

 

Self Criticism and Some Instructions on Life

I recently started reading Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and coincidentally one of my favorite blogs, BrainPickings posted an article, The Definitive Manifesto for Handling Haters: Anne Lamott on Priorities and How We Keep Ourselves Small by People-Pleasing. The article calls out items from the book and some commentary from Ms. Lamott’s Facebook page.

What makes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (public library) so timelessly rewarding and one of the greatest books on writing of all time is that besides her wisdom on the craft, Lamott extends enormous sensitivity to and consolation for the general pathologies of the human condition — our insecurities, our social anxieties, our inner turmoils. Among her most powerful and memorable meditations in the book is that on how our perfectionism kills the creative spirit — something she revisited recently in a short essay on her Facebook page, spurred by a surge in negative comments and vicious troll attacks.

I just finished reading the chapter on “Perfectionism” and I certainly recognized my self as I read those pages. My perfectionism has kept me from doing and trying so many things in my life; if I don’t think I can do something well or know how it works ahead of time I just don’t attempt it. I hate that about myself and want to jump in and try things that I never have and experience things that I have been too driven by the perfectionist tendencies; worrying about making mistakes, failing, looking foolish and so on, to get out there and just do them.

And another quote the article pulled from Ms. Lamott’s Facebook Page really struck this people pleaser.

 “Do you mind even a little that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and laundry and career ahead of your creative, spiritual life? Giving all your life force away, to “help” and impress. Well, your help is not helpful, and falls short.

People pleasing and perfectionism go hand-in-hand and I know began at an early age for me. As the first-born your every moment is watched, recorded, critiqued, praised or scorned and corrected.  There is a little note in my baby book (see below) written by my mother that I came across awhile ago and this illustrates nicely how early my perfectionism and self criticisms started.

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Self criticism started early.

Since my mother’s last entry in the book was around age three or just when I turned 4 after my brother was born; this “amusing saying” likely occurred around age 3. I spilled my coffee and milk (more on why my mother was giving a three-year old coffee in another post) and said to my self; “Christ sakes Shari” (more salty language). And I have certainly improved over the last 40 years, never really giving myself a break on anything.

I am going to get that “shitty first draft written“, keep writing and posting here and not let those voices in my head that are telling me I’m not good enough win.

I plan on releasing my copy of “Bird by Bird” on BookCrossing when I am finished, because I’m sure there is another aspiring writer or perfectionist that could use the help.

Do you suffer from perfectionist tendencies?

 

 

Are You Afflicted With Smart-Ass? I am!

IMG_0672  Hello. My Name is Shari and I’m a Smart-ass!

Do you ever beat yourself up for things you have said or done? I do, all of the time. It’s usually because of a smart ass comment I’ve made in a meeting that I meant to be funny and people did laugh. But then, afterward, I worry, was someone offended? When the joke isn’t at my own expense, I hope I picked a target with a sense of humor and a willingness to play along. But still, sometimes it nags at me and I feel like I should track the person down and apologize.

I am a smart-ass from way back. I think, quite possibly, I came out of the womb with a raised eyebrow at my mother asking what took her so long. When I came out of my shell, in junior highschool, I might have been considered one of the class clowns; always popping off with something to get a laugh or reaction.

I also constantly use humor, self-depreciation or a silly comment to try to deflect from a difficult situation or when conflict arises between other people or when god-forbid someone gives me a compliment. I think it stems from spending my formative years in a house with a lot of conflict, with parents that spelled swear words at each other. I’m not sure if their thinking was that it would protect my vocabulary because they spelled out F-U-C-K-E-R at each other rather than said the word. But, fucker is actually one of the first words I learned to spell. I spelled it out for my grandpa’s neighbor, Mr. Fox, he was not impressed. I was immediately marched home and exposed. My grandmother laughed when he told her what I was spelling and I was told to go outside and play.

An environmental impact from my youth that continues to afflict me today!

Are you afflicted with anything?

 

 

 

I Am Afflicted With Wanderlust

Venice 1  As my world has begun to shrink, my wanderlust has begun to expand.

I keep reading books and blogs about travel and this desire continues to build up in me like the water behind a damn that is about to break. I was window shopping vacation rentals in Paris yesterday; imagining renting one for about six months and getting to write, walk the streets of Paris, learn some proper French and sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.

A Stephanie Rosenbloom article “Solo in Paris” in the May 2nd New York Times nicely sums up how I would love to spend my time.

“Indeed, the city has a centuries-old tradition of solo exploration, personified by the flâneur, or stroller. Flânerie is, in its purest form, a goal-less pursuit, though for some it evolved into a purposeful art: Walking and observing became a method of understanding a city, an age. Baudelaire described the flâneur as a passionate spectator, one who was fond of “botanizing on the asphalt,” as the essayist Walter Benjamin would later put it. Typically, it was a man. No longer.”

With observation and people watching being favorite pastimes this excerpt from the Ms. Rosenbloom’s article encapsulates the idea perfectly;

“To refuel, I stopped by a favorite among my friends, Le Comptoir du Relais, a cozy maroon bistro where English is hardly spoken. I walked in around 4:30, which meant I had no trouble getting lunch. Tall panes of glass were flung open, letting in the sidewalk, the better for gawking at passers-by, which I did shamelessly while eating salmon with wasabi and turnips. Places like this, where one looks out as others look in, are ideal for solo travelers. I had that exquisite feeling described by Baudelaire in “The Painter of Modern Life,” in which you “see the world,” are “at the center of the world,” and yet “remain hidden from the world.””

I also found this wonderful blog post yesterday on Medium by Keegan Jones, Lessons From A Year of Solo Travel. He has some great observations and interesting tips and information about seeing the world. The first one was that he planned to spent less than $33/ day on accommodations but after a year on the road he spent less;

“Travel can be affordable.
Long term travel is different than a luxury vacation. The point is to see the world, not stay in a 5-star hotel. During the trip, I stayed on a strict budget. The goal was to spend no more than $33 per day on accommodations. After a year, I was able to spend only $26.15 per day by booking through HostelWorld and Airbnb. When I wanted to meet people, I’d stay in a shared room at a hostel. When I wanted to be alone, I’d book a private room with Airbnb.”

He also posted a picture of the limited possessions and clothes that he traveled with over his year of travel. Maybe 30 items.

“I have lived with a few things in a backpack for a year. I have been perfectly content. It’s a fantastic feeling to walk off an airplane with a single carry-on backpack. I didn’t buy a single souvenir because I had no extra space in my backpack. I have become more conscious about things I want versus things that I need. The less you own, the better. Otherwise, your possessions will own you. Living this way is a privilege. It affords the flexibility to easily move, live in less space, worry less, and spend less to buy bigger and better things.”

This was the most appealing part of the story to me, shedding all the possessions that are weighing me down and getting down to the basic necessities of life with maybe a few luxuries in there for fun.

And this quote, from the author Jon Krakauer, that he included also got me thinking.

““Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” ― Jon Krakauer”

I have always been the responsible planner that makes sure the trip is planned, the bills are paid, the next job is lined up, the birthday cards are mailed and on and on. I would like to escape the “monotonous security” for a while. I know my opportunity will come, I am working on being ready for it when the time is right!

How about you any secret travel lust?

 

Will I Be Alone?

IMG_0018  Recently, I sat inside a restaurant by a window looking out on to the patio eating area outside. An old woman with an oxygen tank sat out there alone eating her lunch and reading the “Trader Joe’s” “Fearless Flyer”.  Her grey hair was cut in a stylish short bob, she wore a colorful sweater and cute sneakers. The cord for her oxygen tank was tucked discreetly under her shirt and dangling to the ground with the tank itself in the seat next to her in a black bag.

She made me wonder about my life at that age (I do hope I make it that long in good health). Will I be alone? Chances are, yes I will be alone. I don’t have biological children, my step-daughters are older than I am, the grandkids are in far off places and I haven’t gotten to know the great-grandchildren as well as I would have liked. They grow up and get busy and we get less mobile.

Finding a second love of my life seems doubtful in my 50’s or my 60’s if I’m lucky enough to keep my husband healthy for that long. So a grey haired single life will be in my future. I guess for some the grey haired single life is swinging, a New York Times Op-Ed article I read, Sex and the Single Senior by Ezekiel J. Emanuel talked about the huge uptick in STD’s in those ages 65 and older;

“Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show rapid increases in S.T.D.’s among older people. Between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over increased by 31 percent, and syphilis by 52 percent. Those numbers are similar to S.T.D. trends in the 20- to 24-year-old age group, where chlamydia increased by 35 percent and syphilis by 64 percent. Experts suggest there are four main factors contributing to the rise in S.T.D.’s among older Americans.”

The article also pointed out the similarities of retirement living to college campus living with lots of similarly aged people living in close proximity to one and other which was leading to the inevitable interaction of the sexes. This statistic about condom use was also interesting;

“But while they are having a lot of sex, seniors didn’t seem to get the safe sex memo, or when it came through they ignored it because they did not think it applied to them. They obviously don’t have to worry about pregnancy. And they grew up before the safe sex era. So seniors might think they have no reason to use condoms. According to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, among college-age Americans, condoms are used in about 40 percent of sexual encounters, but only in about 6 percent of sexual encounters among those 61 and older. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that older men who use Viagra and similar drugs are six times less likely to use condoms compared with men in their 20s.”

Apparently they need to begin handing out safe sex pamphlets with those Viagra prescriptions. Mr. Emanuel suggested Social Security begin sending out safe sex messages with the retirement checks.

All of this rings true, I know not long after (I mean in a matter of weeks) my grandmother passed away there were at least three women vying for my grandfathers affections. And it wasn’t long before he had a girlfriend he was traveling with and spending time time together cooking and golfing. He said he wasn’t in love, but he liked the company.

Maybe there won’t be a second love of my life, but chances are I could get laid in my old age, if trends hold true. But, “No Glove, No Love” will be the rule.

Do you worry about any particular part of growing older?