Sunday, April 30, 2006

Weighing In

For the past 25 years or so, I’ve been a nice comfortable weight in my 5’2” frame. It hasn’t been terribly hard to maintain my 110-115 pounds either – I could eat or drink pretty much whatever I wanted, and my weight hovered right where I liked it. I think most of my friends secretly hated this about me, and I was quite proud of whatever metabolic angels were keeping my bathroom scale tipping in the proper place.

Then, the boom was lowered – the midlife, middle-aged, menopausal boom. Suddenly, I have little rolls of fat developing around my waist, my inner thighs, and even my back! My middle thickens daily, and my hips seem to spread like a wad of playdough that some demon keeps mashing into a wider and wider shape.

Worst of all, I can’t seem to do anything about it. I’ve been bike riding, walking, lifting weights, and screaming in frustration – those extra pounds just won’t budge. While becoming increasingly angry at this lack of control over my body, I recognize that it may mask a deeper pain - the anger and helplessness I feel about growing older. The inexorable passage of time is likely to take its toll on more than just my waistline – could my mind be the next thing swept up in its destructive path?

I have friends who tell me that once a woman passes 50, she develops a real “thumb your nose” attitude toward the conventions of society. She won’t care about her looks, or whether people like her, or if she’s good at what she does. But I still feel like I’m 25 and have worlds to conquer, and I can’t conquer them if my pants are too tight! If I give up on my appearance, maybe I’ll no longer care about the other things that are important to me, like relationships, music, and writing.

I remember my mother once talking about a friend of hers who had gained some weight, stopped coloring her hair, and taken up smoking. “She certainly let herself go,” my mom remarked sadly. So apparently it is possible to rein in the effects of the aging process, by making a concerted effort to hang onto those things that make us the best that we can be, whatever our chronological age. Certainly that’s a lot more than appearance – it’s remaining passionate and involved with people, being willing to try new things, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and staying committed to the activities and interests that we’ve enjoyed so far. But oftentimes, looking good is the first step in feeling energized and excited about yourself and your life.

So, I’m resolving to work out harder, cut out snacks, and drink more water and less wine. Maybe I’ll sign up for class in conversational Japanese, or finally take up photography, and exercise my mental muscles as well as my physical ones. Because, you know what? I’m not done with feeling good about my mind or my body!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sunday Scribblings #5-Why I Live Where I Live

What an ironic topic for my first foray into Sunday Scribblings, because it's a question I've been asking myself quite frequently for the past five years, as in "Why in God's name do I live where I live?" The answers for me, as I suspect for most of us, are varied and complex.

I started out asking this question seven years ago when my son moved to Florida. I was born and raised in the midwest, specifically, southeastern Michigan, so my realm of living experience is confined to a geographic radius of about 25 miles and the extremes of weather we experience here - everything from chillingly damp autumns, to bitterly cold winters which seem to seguae into warm, humid summers. The deep snows of that first winter my son was gone just intensifed the emptiness of my nest, and I clomped through the icy drifts muttering angrily to myself, "Why in the world am I living here?"

I continued to ask myself that question with increasing frequency, particularly after we purchased our own "second home" in southern Florida, just a short drive away from my son and his wife. But I've noticed that every time we visit there for a few days, I find myself both dreading and wishing to return home. Dreading it, because my house here is old and grungy, while my house there is new, posh, and clean. My neighborhood here pretty much matches my house, and suffice it to say, my life here just trails right along in those same decrepit lines.

But in spite of all that, my life here still seems to call out "home" to me. This old house and neighborhood have sheltered me from my first days as a young wife and mother, through raising my child and watching him fly far away into his own life. My friends are all here, the things I do that enrich my life are here - in other words, everything that is real resides in this weatherbeaten, slightly run down place. In Florida, life is almost too good to be true. As beautiful as that is for a while, it leaves something to be desired, somthing gritty and unpolished, something that you can work to clean up and rejuvenate. Something that makes life worth a little more in the end.

As much as I talk about my dream of "starting over" in the sunny south, I'm not sure I really want to jettison everything I've built in this place I've called home for the past 30 years. I live here not because it's paradise, but because it contains so much that I hold dear and couldn't bear to live without. Here is the little dent on the wall where I threw one of the ironstone dishes from our wedding china in a fit of anger at my new husband as he walked out the door, and here is the gorgeous red maple tree we planted on our first anniversary and daringly made love underneath on our 25th. There are the little scratch marks on the pantry made by our first cocker spaniel puppy when she was trying to get at her dog food, and the rhododendron bush outside her favorite window where I buried her ashes fifteen years later. Here's where I find the remnants of those stickers my son plastered on all the closet doors, as well as the cherry tree he used to climb into and read poetry. These are more than memories, these are artifacts of my life. They remind me of all the things I have experienced and survived.

I live where I live because it's home.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Get Away - Gotten!

The not so weary traveler has returned from a (very) short respite trip "up north," as it's known to natives of our fair state. City weary senses were lulled by the shores of the Great Lake, gentle waves lapping the shore in perfect time with the rhythm of our own hearts. The weather gods smiled on us the day of our arrival, the April sun flexing it's muscles just a little bit, and causing us to regret the slightly heavy sweaters we'd worn in expectation of an early spring chill. We found a perfect restaurant for dinner, one brave enough to have opened it's summer patio so we could enjoy our perfectly prepared whitefish straight from the lake, along with the fresh breeze and the setting sun.

Alas, today was a different story. The view of sparkling turquoise water I had so enjoyed outside my bedroom window was completely obscured by a think blanket of fog. The warm sunshine on my face was replaced with the sting of misty rain, and heavy plastic drapes were drawn round the edges of our outdoor cafe. How quickly things had changed in this idyllic place! And how much like life it was, to go so easiliy from serene to stormy.

I had high expectations for this little trip, expectations of renewing love and excitement while celebrating a relationship that has certainly withstood the test of time. But time has weathered this pair of lovers, and the stormy excitement of the early years may be gone for good. I could get very sad about this, and if I thought about it long enough I might be tempted to go looking somwehere else for that ecstasy of new love. Wouldn't it be exciting to be with someone who didn't already know my life story, who didn't take for granted that I would make the coffee every morning, or know for certain that I would leave the last lukewarm swallow in the bottom of my cup?

But then I think how really comforting it is, to have someome know all those things about me, and still care enough to always unload the dishwaher for me because he knows how it aggravates my bad back. Our relationship seems more like the lake on that lovely day of our arrival - placid and calm, but still sparkling in the sunshine with the rhythm of eternity, and blessed with a deep undercurrent of knowledge and trust. Perhaps, for the long run, those are the highest expectations one can have of a relationship.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Spring in My Step

"For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come." Song of Solomon 2:11-12

It's definitely here now. Last night while I was sleeping it arrived ever so surreptitiously, waving a magic wand over the hawthorne and magnolia so their voluptuous rosy blossoms proudly greeted me this morning when I arose. Coffee cup in hand, I was left speechless to gaze in wonder, serendaded by symphony's of robins and cardinals.

On Sunday, our minister talked about being "Easter people," believing in the power of new life and rebirth. I admit to having difficulty finding shreds of hope in the midst of my winter. But each year about this time, my soul takes a deep breath and I am instantly calmed and comforted. And on mornings like these I am reborn along with the buds on our ancient trees. If they can perpetuate such beauty year after year, despite the months of freeze they endure, shouldn't I be able to do the same?

Monday, April 10, 2006

On My List

I'm in the process of enjoying a few days of relative normalcy after a very hectic couple of weeks. So I thought I'd take a few minutes and review what's currently "on my list" - such as...

1. On My Bedside Table: The Doctor's Daughter, by Hilma Wolitzer, for literary edification; Somehow Form A Family, by Tony Early, for my memoir writing class; and A Continual Feast, by Jan Karon, for spiritual enrichment.

2. On My Music Stand: Mozart Sonata #12 in D Major, K. 284.

3. In My Car CD Player: The Circle of Grace, a "woman's novel" about four friends who reunite after being apart for 30 years.

4. In My Home Stereo: Schubert's Trout Quintet, for feeding my chamber music dreams;

5. On My TiVo: America Idol, a very guilty pleasure, and Dancing with the Stars finale, which I watch occasionally when I feel the need to "get pumped."

6. In My Netflix Queue: Six Feet Under, the final season, disc one; and Mad Hot Ballroom (more dancing!)

7. In My Refrigerator: Pork chops for tonight's dinner; Cesar salad with grilled chicken for tomorrow's lunch; and Red Diamond Chardonnay (2002), a smooth new (to me) label from Washington state;

8. On My Agenda: A quiet weekend getaway, just the two of us, to the Bayshore Resort in Traverse City. Three nights of peace and quiet, with the big lake right outside the window, and a jacuzzi for two right inside the room. Can't wait...

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Time's A Wastin'

I have become extremely proficient at wasting time. Tomorrow's impending loss of an hour with the advent of daylight savings time led me to examine the major culprits in my collection of ways to "fritter away" minutes. So, without further ado (for a change), here are some of the ways it happens:

The dogs: Number one way to lose time. Can't resist stopping to cuddle, stroke, talk to, throw a ball, get a biscuit, brush their hair, etc. etc.;

The computer: Have to check the email at least four times a day to see if I might have a new message from one of the many online sites that regularly send me can't miss offers or notices of sales. While I'm there, take a quick glance at my bank balance, my credit card statement (it can't be that much already!), and my favoirite gallery of web sites;

The kitchen: A cup of coffee or carton of yogurt often beckons as I pass through through on the way to the computer. While I'm in the refrigerator, can't help noticing all the scraps of leftovers and the slimy lettuce languising there. I really need to clean out the fridge. Decide to do it after the coffee;

The piano: Suddenly just have to whip off a few bars of that Haydn sonata I've been re-working. After that, some Debussy might be nice. Since I'm sitting here, should probably run through a few of the solos for festival;

My book: Ah, the worst culprit of all. My number one indulgence in the morning is to lie in bed and read, sipping my coffee, the puppies curled up on each side of me (this way I can waste time in three categories at once! how efficient I am after all!) I originally allowed myself half an hour for this pasttime. Often, to my combined delight and dismay, it stretches into an hour.

And while I'm busily wasting precious minutes in all of these vitally important pastimes, the real work piles higher and higher. Ah well, it's only time...