“Senior” Middle Age?

Is there a zone between middle age and “senior?” I’m different than I was when I first came up with my “middle aged woman rules.” I look at those now and I think they’re kind of juvenile and stupid. I find myself at a point in my life where I just don’t give a crap anymore about styling myself to please others.

This is actually the second time in my life I discovered (and it was a discovery, not a decision) that I was just being who I am, without worrying about whether who I am pleases others.

That last time I settled into my own skin so comfortably, Mike showed up.

Hmm.

I’ve back to level of self-acceptance that allows me to just “be,” where in years past I would have doubted, criticized or or been disappointed in almost everything I did or said. I’ve calmed down. I’ve become a better listener. Weird shit that seems to be related to aging is happening to my body, but I shrug and think, “whatever.”

It doesn’t feel quite right to refer to myself as “middle-aged” anymore, but hell if I’m going to say I’m “old.” Is there such a thing as senior middle age? Advanced middle age? Not thinking about age?

Angelic daughter and I went through a low patch last year, but we’ve pulled out of it admirably I think, and now things are rolling along nicely (knock wood, cross fingers, whatever you do to ward off a reversal when you say something like that.) The great-creator-power-that-is has bestowed upon me the gift of work I love, at a place populated with genuine, and genuinely kind, people. I honestly didn’t believe such a workplace existed, as I have never experienced it before. Every job I’ve ever had was at an organization fraught with egos, anxiety, competition, backstabbing, stress, resentment, rumor-mongering, and a constant, threatening undercurrent that something bad would happen to someone, any minute. (HA!, reminds me of a certain House in the news lately, but I digress.)

But now, at this stage of my life, I have been welcomed into a workplace where there’s none of that negative stuff, and I get paid to spend the day doing something I love. I’m stunned, and stupid happy. I look forward to going to work. I don’t mind getting up at 4:45 a.m. to get there by 6:30 so I can pick Angelic Daughter up from her new, fabulous, welcoming, caring place by 3:20.

At that place, Angelic daughter has reconnected with a friend she hasn’t seen in years, gets to choose among many activities and decide how she wants to spend her day, and hops into the car smiling and chattering about singing to her friend when I pick her up.

I remember when my favorite film actor, Russell Crowe, won the Oscar for Gladiator. He said, “for anyone who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.” (If you want to skip the intro, start at about 34 seconds in):

There were times, from the moment Mike was diagnosed, through these past three and a half years without him, when I felt hopeless, or ready to give up. I don’t think I can say that I relied on courage – I guess I relied on my version of faith. But I did make a conscious decision to make conscious decisions about how I’d spend my time. I started writing, and I don’t intend to stop, for as long as I still “have my marbles,” as my Dad used to say. I feel wired – a little manic – in the good way I used to feel when I was directing my high school talent show, or improvising with some very talented people in clubs in Chicago, giving packed houses big laughs.

I’ve been blogging since October 2017, a little more than a year after Mike died, and since then, I have cried and despaired vicariously with other bloggers going through their own tough times and tragedies – and I’ve stuck with them long enough to read their stories of getting through it, getting better, finding what they needed and finding themselves exhilarated, reinvigorated, even triumphant.

If you’re in a dark place, going through a tough time, having trouble seeing a way out, hang in there. Things can get better. It’s possible.

Yours with prayers for Australia, Puerto Rico, the people of China and everyplace else on our hurting, pissed-off, melting, diseased, once-beautiful-and-still-could-be-beautiful- again-if-we-get-our-collective-shit-together-and-do-something-about-it planet, I remain,

Your loving, grateful, hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

P.S. Have fun watching the Oscars this weekend, even if, like me, you haven’t seen any of the films (I’m working, OK?) And here’s another list, related to this post, up on my 27 Things page.

Sleeves. Please.

In celebration of opening my new store, I am reminded to post my latest addendum to the Middle Aged Woman rules, to wit:

  • Always wear sleeves!

I don’t care how “toned” your arms are – I don’t care if you look like Linda Hamilton in Terminator, if you are a woman of a certain age, sleeves are required.

Even Linda wears them, short though they are, on the set of the new Terminator movie. 

I will never forget the first time I saw her doing pull-ups, sleevelessly, in the first movie of that franchise. (I could link you a YouTube of it, but the clip gets violent and who needs that on a beautiful spring day. You remember the arms, I know you do).

It was a searing moment of self-realization.

I realized that I will never have Linda Hamilton arms.

On the Presidential Fitness Award test, an exercise in public humiliation all fat kids of my era were forced to endure in elementary school gym class, my time on the “flexed arm hang” (basically holding your chin above a bar as if you had just completed a pull up – the girls’ version of chin-ups on the test) was never more than .001 second.

That glorious time of space-era inspired panic-patriotism (also known as oh-shit-the-Russians-are-way-ahead-of-us-on-satellites-and-sending-living-beings-into-space-so-we-better-get-our-asses-in-gear-and-get-fit-and-build-a-Saturn-5-and-send-some-guys-to-the-moon-like-Kennedy-said-we-would-not-because-it-is-easy-but-because-it-is-hard) included the joy of public weigh-ins (again, in gym class, in front of everyone, with the number announced aloud) and some moronic exercise called the “standing broad jump” where you were supposed to jump forward as far as you could with no run-up. Just stand there, and jump forward. As a dancer, I was actually pretty good at that one.

The year I actually completed the half-mile run without stopping, the program managed to turn that accomplishment into yet another form of crushing public humiliation when I was awarded the mortifying “most improved” certificate, given as a half-assed consolation prize to the fat kids who couldn’t keep up with the sporty kids on any of it.

As God is my witness, I didn’t let it lick me (but read “humiliated” where Scarlett says she never be”hungry” again and take out the lying, cheating and killing part – you get the idea.) Made the cheerleading squad in junior high, and directed the talent show in high school, which caused all the pretty, popular, sporty jockettes to suddenly become my best friends around tryout time. I’d include them in whatever Big Musical Number I was planning, choreographing and featuring myself in, surrounded by a bevy of said jockettes dancing the simple moves I had taught them, invariably earning epic applause.

But, sigh, there is no amount of applause or encouragement or coaching or weightlifting that will ever get me those Linda Hamilton arms.

At least I admit it. Hurrah for self-awareness. I live in a town where one of many guilty pleasures is to ridicule publicly (while devouring privately, dish, dish, dish) the local glossy rag that is filled with pictures of rich ladies in deep denial about their arms wearing sleeveless gowns at society fundraisers.

Sleeves, ladies. For the love of God, SLEEVES!

The first item I am featuring in my new store is a baseball-style shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and a message related to the (aspirational) theme of this blog. Some of my designs (if you can call them that – I come up with words and choose the fonts – but I did create the image for and design the logo, and I made the banners and drew the heart by teaching myself enough Illustrator to do at least those things, with a great deal of expletive-flavored trial and error) are blatant “branded items” designed to promote this blog, while others are just for fun, just because.

Some of them even allow you to customize a bit of text on the back (to de-brand it and put your name, or your church’s name, or something on the back instead of the website of this blog) or the type of item (style of shirt.) I hope I haven’t allowed any options for full-on sleeveless display. (We used to call that kind of shirt, pardon the slur, that’s what it was called, a “dago-T” or, eeww, aaaaak, a “wife-beater.” Yes, people used to casually use that phrase to describe a style of t-shirt. AAAK!)

So, anyway, even if the option is available to go sleeveless, don’t.

Just don’t. Please?

Even if they are short, you must choose sleeves.

Waiting for the next awards show to dish on who is sleeveless who really, really should not be, I remain,

Your three-quarter-length-sleeve wearing, vainly-hoping, barbell-using

Ridiculouswoman

Middle-aged Woman Rules, Part Three

Dinah Shore was twenty years older than Burt Reynolds, and they had a hot romance.

Made me hopeful.

Until I looked in the mirror right after a shower.

Which caused me to formulate a new middle-aged woman rule to add to the original and as-amended rules:

  • Even if you have a magic mirror, NEVER, EVER LOOK IN THE MIRROR WHEN YOUR HAIR IS WET. Trust me, just don’t.

Corollary:

  • Do your face before you put the stuff that makes your curly hair curlier all over your hands, to work in to your wet hair. See original rules, “manage hair wherever it occurs. (emphasis added.”) Just sayin’.

Pleased that cooler weather has arrived, permitting the use of a hair dryer in an un-airconditioned environment, I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, disheveled,

Ridiculouswoman

Trading Fear for Flow, or, Middle-Aged Woman Rules, Part Two

“It’s my life
It’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive….”

Richard Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, Max Martin

Bon Jovi? Seriously? I’m quoting Bon Jovi?

Well, the thing is, for the purpose of this post, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Allow me to explain:

For most of my adult life, I’ve been on the brink of a panic attack.

I remember the exact moment my mind cracked, my OCD kicked in, and nearly every minute of my life became fraught with usually low-grade, but sometimes extreme, stress and anxiety.

I was waiting at a stoplight to cross Michigan Avenue and head back toward the law school. I was holding a fast food diet soda in a flimsy paper cup, with one of those plastic tops with the straw through it.

I remember tossing the remains of that diet soda into a municipal garbage basket (basket, not can or bin – this is significant) right before the light changed and I crossed the street.

In those days, the garbage receptacles on the streets in Chicago were like big steel baskets – a kind of steel crosshatch mesh, which would contain paper and boxes and bottles, but not the liquids within them. Needless to say, that’s not the design anymore.

But that day, decades ago, I tossed that drink, and it burst open in the basket – the plastic top popped off  and a lot of the liquid and ice burst through the not very fine wire mesh and splashed onto the sidewalk.

And because law school had already warped my mind, sapped all my youthful bold courage (the courage that allowed me to drive cross country, alone, from Illinois to California and back twice a year, starting at 18) and turned me into a quivering, spineless blob of little-miss-worst-case-scenario, the first thing I thought of was, “what if someone slips on that ice cube, and injures themselves on this sidewalk?”

And I ran across the street, pursued by the terrors of the inevitable lawsuit that would result. Never did result, but still. The fear and anxiety were real.

I became a classic OCD “checker.” Is the iron off? Is the door locked? Did I turn off the oven? Did I remember the tickets?

Now, securing the domicile and remembering the tickets and making all the arrangements was always my job in our marriage anyway, but I took it to ridiculous extremes.

To the point where Mike and I came up with a ritual for it – when I was doing something I knew I’d feel compelled to check on, I’d say aloud, “THE IRON IS OFF- THE IRON IS UNPLUGGED!”  Ditto the stove, the lights, etc. “THE DOOR IS LOCKED!” You get the idea.

It worked – I allow myself one “check” on things and that’s it. After one check, I require my circular mind to find closure and let the chips fall where they may.

But this didn’t work at work. Every “real” job I’ve ever had has been accessorized with  consuming anxiety – usually just the usual constant, low grade anxiety I’ve felt ever since that soft drink blew open. But often enough, a withering, crippling stress about whether the right thing was in the envelope I was about to send out, or if I copied the wrong person on the confidential email, or if the file cabinets were locked. Geez, I’m getting heart palpitations right now, just writing about that.

The only times I didn’t, and still don’t, feel that constant current of near-panic are when I’m singing, when I’m on stage speaking for an audience (which gives most people the heebie-jeebies – but man, that’s home to me) and when I’m writing.

So, DUH, do that!

Doing it, though,  involves a leap of faith that abandoning something (like a job) that is killing you but providing conventionally defined “security” (financial, usually) won’t result in ruin and disaster.

But, you’ll never know unless you try, right?

Life is short. Only God knows the number of our days.

So I’m going for “flow,” that feeling of absolute contentment, total engagement and pleasure in what you are doing. Do that, the self-help gurus say, and all will be well.

In my previous post, “Fatherless Days,” I referred to a plan, to help me and our daughter get all the way to the other side of the fear, grief and anger, to the acceptance of Mike’s death and the start of our new lives.

So I’ll go for the flow.

That’s the plan.

Helluva plan, right?

I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too. This is probably the latest in a series of potentially disastrous financial decisions.

But hey, it’s my life, it’s now or never, right? I just wanna live before I die.

So I’m hangin’ up my warehouse boots, trading them in for high heels (well, kitten heels usually, about the most I can handle anymore, but don’t count those glittery gold numbers pictured up there out just yet) probably for good. Driving a forklift was, um, interesting, but too damn dangerous, which made me anxious, and I’m not going there again.

I’m expanding the middle-aged woman rules to include:

  • Sing (and get paid for it, if you can)
  • Write (and get paid for it, if you can)
  • Speak (and get paid for it, if you can)
  • Hire someone to clean your house (if you can afford it – see “sing,” “speak” and “write,” above)
  • Do that “intermittent fasting” thing, because it works
  • Wear whatever makes you feel pretty, vibrant and alive even if it’s kind of, or really, costume-y and probably too “young” (see, “dress like you’re expecting someone,” in the original “middle aged woman rules,” and gold glitter heels, pictured above.) Making a spectacle of yourself this way might even get you some gigs as a professional party guest – why not?
  • Find someone to love

Dammit I’m going to do it. Ridiculousness will ensue, no doubt. Finding the new man will be tough – the online dating thing didn’t work our so well, first round.

And I’ll have to clean the house for the cleaners before I can ask them to maintain it. Divestiture of mass amounts of accumulated crap will be necessary. That’s going to take a while, but I’ll keep you posted. Deja vu – I think I said that last year, when I started this blog. So I call do-over.

Once I finish shoveling out closets, washing floors, vacuuming, dusting and divesting (and blogging in between) I’ll be looking for love, for singing and speaking gigs and someday maybe even for publication of my book.

Until then,  I remain, your most devoted, humble, grateful

Ridiculouswoman

 

Middle-aged Woman Rules

There is nothing like widowhood to make you feel your age.

But I am determined to “defy it,” as that make-up ad with Melanie Griffith from a few decades ago – “don’t lie about your age, DEFY IT!”

I noticed that ad a few DECADES ago. So much for lying about my age!

But the “defying” thing suddenly became important to me when Mike got sick.

I wanted him to see me at my best, or at least the best I could be, before he went. So I started the “defying” thing. And it amused him, and we laughed about it before he died, and I like to think that he did see in me again the younger woman he had pursued years before, when all he had to do was hug me and I would glow – “I’m all shiny!” I would say – and though he didn’t have the strength to hug me anymore, I wanted him to see he could still make me shine.

After he died, after all the widow duties were done, after the stone was finally laid and the cold empty absence of him became so present all the time, I panicked, and then I got mad, and then I got determined.

I don’t have very many good woman years left, I thought, and dammit I refuse to believe that they are all already gone. Mike wouldn’t want me to mope around alone, I’m sure. (Although when one of the last two of our wedding-present stemware broke, flew out of the cupboard as if someone had grabbed it and flung it down, he did observe, “that means there’s only one left now,” as if he thought that was right – there will be only you to use those glasses now. But I still don’t think he’d want me to be alone. He fell in love with me, he said, partly because he could see how badly I needed to be loved, and how easily my heart could sing, or cry.)

So I am going to make the most what I have left. Life is short. Love matters.

And so does lipstick.

Allow me to explain.

The Middle Aged Woman Rules began before Mike died, but intensified after. I took a good look in the mirror, began the heavy use of skin products, and established these Rules, which are as follows, in reverse order of importance (and I reserve the right to add to this list, ad infinitum if necessary!:

  • dress like you are expecting someone and waft perfume lightly
  • manage hair wherever it occurs
  • floss
  • smile, and
  • NEVER BE SEEN WITHOUT LIPSTICK

Because the first thing I noticed when I looked in that mirror was how washed out and ghastly I look without lipstick.

So I wear lipstick even when the only person who is going to see me is me. (See, “dress like you’re expecting someone, etc., above.)

Now, on the “dress like you’re expecting someone” rule?

Did I buy nice middle-aged lady clothes, with high shawl collars to cover my neck? And below-the-knee middle-aged librarian looking wool skirts?

Um, no.

The first thing I did (ridiculous woman, remember?) was buy a black peignoir set. Yep, sexy nightie. As if I was expecting someone. Ha!

Then I bought tight jeans, v-neck t-shirts and sweaters and five or six really cute 1950’s style dresses with tight bodices and flared skirts that you wear a crinoline under.

And related infrastructure of naughty underwear.

And I started going out, on a sort of “memory tour” of things Mike and I would have done together if he was still here.

And the first time I wore one of those crinoline dresses out? Several burly, very short-haired women remarked on how attractive it was, that I wore it well.

Oh well. Sorry, ladies, I play for the other team, but I appreciate the compliment, I really do!

And when I took adult child downtown for our annual holiday excursion, I didn’t notice until I headed to the ladies’ that the lipstick I required myself to wear had formed two little “Chuckie” lines (you know, Chuckie? That creepy horror movie doll?) on either side of my mouth, probably as a result of residue on a glass from a too-hasty pre-game snootful of something because I had splurged on a limo and wouldn’t be driving. Uncharacteristically I didn’t check my look in the car, so I was “Chuckie” all the way to the table in the restaurant.

But the kicker was when I went out to an event, smiling!! really trying to smile! and noticed a very tall, nice looking man staring at me, near the bar. I mean staring.

So I’m thinking, this pencil skirt and silk blouse are really working for me! OK!

And he kept staring so I just said, hello, I’m Anne. And he told me his name but I forgot. If adult child was with me I would never forget names, or birthdays, for that matter.

So I went and sat next to someone I knew and tall guy comes and sits on the other side of the someone I knew, and I hear him saying to his wife, “Doesn’t she remind you of Jill?”

And I’m curious so I say, “is Jill a good thing to be reminded of?”

And he turns to me and says, “Oh, yes! Jill was…Jill was brilliant! She was my best friend from high school’s mother! She passed away….”

So after all the skin products, hair management and the accurate application of lipstick, I end up being compared to a middle-aged man’s best friend’s dead mother.

So much for defying my age.

But I still do not intend to act it. My age, I mean. Not until I have squeezed everything out of what’s left of this life that I can and have done my best to put as much love as I can back into it.

Ha! Just call me Mame. Or Vera Simpson.

Or defiantly ridiculous woman.