Category Archives: Acting My Age

Acting My Age

How to Overcome Your Work Ethic in Retirement

My husband suggested this blog topic, which made me smile. We both struggle with this affliction, though I suspect I have a worse case.

I’ve always been an efficient multi-tasker—well, a multi-tasker, anyway. Like a juggler on a unicycle, for years I’ve kept multiple balls in the air as I lurched from crisis to near-disaster and back again. It helps to think of it that way, to visualize my former self peddling frantically while wearing a sparkly tutu and giant clown shoes, an exaggerated look of panic on my painted face. Makes it easier to set down the balls and step out of the center ring in search of a new role.

But now that I’m retired-ish, who’s checking to make sure I’m achieving adequate yearly progress? (Sorry—having worked in the public school system, certain odious phrases just come naturally to me. Add that to my to-do list: banish the buzzwords.) Bereft of job assignments from without, I’ve become my own worst boss.

Even though it’s going on three years since I left full-time paid employment, I have a full-time to-do list. I want to exercise for an hour each day, keep the house and garden clean, practice Spanish daily, write at least a thousand words of fiction each day, plus a weekly blog post, read and comment on the work of my critique partners, read fiction for fun, stay informed about current events (talk about your juggling clowns), travel, sew, cook healthy and creative meals, make new friends, keep the old, visit family, explore new places…

Holy cow, this is worse that before! And then, god help me, I took on a part-time job. Two, actually.

Enough! I retired with two goals in mind:   #1: write, and #2: enjoy myself.

So what if I waste an hour or two reading interesting stuff online? All my life, I’ve relaxed by reading magazines—and what is the internet but one big magazine?

So what if I don’t hold myself to a strict workout schedule? I move around pretty well most days and get to the gym often enough to justify the cost of membership.

So what if I still haven’t yet published a book? A quick glance at Amazon reminds me I could self-publish anytime. I prefer to plug away at my manuscripts in hopes of eventually achieving traditionally published status. If I don’t, readers await elsewhere.

Henceforth—a momentous-sounding word, right?—henceforth I shall remind myself that my number one obligation in retirement is to enjoy myself. I’ve earned a break for all this frenetic busy-bee-ness.

Besides, those clown shoes gave me blisters, the greasepaint gave me pimples, and that unicycle seat chafed. Time to relax.

54 Marvelous Things

Fragrant mystery bush

Today's Ethnic Fest in Tacoma's Wright Park

Today’s Ethnic Fest in Tacoma’s Wright Park

I love the concept of a birthday week, because birthdays often fall on a day when it’s inconvenient or even impossible to celebrate properly, and a birthday always merits celebration. I’m a firm believer in celebrating milestones, big and small, and I know in my heart that birthday cake provides a shot of good juju.

This year my birthday fell on a Monday, and I had to drive my mother to the airport that day, so we celebrated on Sunday. I’ve been searching my brain for a 54-themed blog topic to celebrate my 54th birthday, and scribbled the flowing list yesterday at a meeting while someone was repeating, yet again, stories and recommendations that I’ve heard oh so many times. (May the gods save me from ever becoming such a person.)

To celebrate the end of my birthday week, here’s a list of fifty-four marvelous things that bring me joy. I’d love it if you’d add to the list, in case I’ve overlooked a potential source of joy. Since it’s summer, many of these are seasonal joys.

  1. Drinking my morning coffee outdoors while writing in my journal and listening to birdsong.
  2. Nature’s perfume. I don’t know what this flowering shrub is (above); it was planted by some previous owner of our house, and its scent is intoxicating.
  3. Kombucha! My sister-in-law turned me on to this stuff, and it’s so tangy and refreshing. It helps calm my belly, too.
  4. New friends. It’s funny how one new connection leads to another, and another, and another.
  5. Outdoor concerts. The little park in Old Town Tacoma offers a free concert every Wednesday—how marvelous! Gig Harbor offers free concerts on Tuesday, and Puyallup on Thursdays.
  6. Little children dancing at the above concerts. Wee ones are so utterly un-self-conscious, responding as the music moves them.
  7. Recipes on the internet. I love the ease of comparison, the helpful comment strings. It’s so easy now to come up with a tasty dish made of whatever odd ingredients I have on hand.
  8. Podcasts! I’m a late bloomer when it comes to tech. Lately I’m enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, along with the Dead Robots’ Society, a fun program by and for writers. Listening to these lively conversations while walking or cleaning makes the time merrily, swiftly by.
  9. NPR while driving.
  10. Zumba!
  11. Cool, freshly-washed sheets.
  12. Our favorite walking path along Commencement Bay.
  13. Summer festivals: music fests, ethnic fests, food fests, beer fests…
  14. Thank you to the city leaders and philanthropists who set aside this land for our pleasure.
  15. A cucumber-mint mojito on the deck of Duke’s, overlooking Puget Sound.
  16. Trader Joe’s, especially their pot stickers.
  17. Sincere smiles
  18. The water-playground up the street. Children + water = fun.
  19. Happy dogs.
  20. The public library
  21. Taking time for a really good stretch after a workout.
  22. The fragrance of peaches, nectarines, berries—it nearly knocks me down when I enter the grocery store.
  23. Really fresh sweet corn.
  24. Sweet, mild onions in a salad.
  25. Growing tomatoes in my back yard.
  26. Laughing at my daughter’s jokes. Whether on Facebook, on the phone or in person, she has the most delightful talent for silliness.
  27. Nature shows on TV. Nothing holds my attention like that amazing photography, those soaring vistas, those startling close-ups, those life and death chase scenes.
  28. Blasting Latin music while cooking or cleaning. Sabor!
  29. Birthday greetings. I never get too old to be tickled by these.
  30. A new pen.
  31. A starry, starry night, especially when it’s warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the view.
  32. Iced coffee in the afternoon.
  33. Those little moments of shared humanity with a stranger, fleeting conversations and connections that remind us we’re all in this together.
  34. Watching the bees in the flowers.
  35. Watching the ducks do their bottoms-up dance in the pond. That’s always funny.
  36. A cold beer after a hot walk.
  37. A boat ride. I’m looking forward to riding the ferry to Seattle.
  38. A visit to an art museum or gallery.
  39. Reading outdoors.
  40. The feel of a summer breeze lifting my skirt.
  41. That wonderful scent of dry, warm pine needles as I walk through the forest.
  42. Grill time! There’s something so satisfying to our primitive nature when we cook food outdoors over fire.
  43. Playing guitars (uke, for me) around a fire pit.
  44. Late light evenings, when I can take a walk after dinner. Again and again, throughout the summer, I look outside and exclaim, “Look, it’s still light out!”
  45. A hot dog with all the fixings at the ball park.
  46. An afternoon nap outdoors, stretched out on a lounge chair.
  47. Surprise visits by hummingbirds.
  48. Gleaming, jewel-colored dragonflies. Everyone has their totem animal; these are mine.
  49. Huge, puffy clouds drifting by. Summer clouds have the most interesting architecture.
  50. A summer storm that makes the trees dance.
  51. Sitting out on the front stoop, watching the neighborhood roll/stroll by.
  52. Everyone looks cooler in a big straw hat.
  53. The scent of wild roses and linden trees.
  54. Only in summer and at Christmastime to we see so much of our friends and relatives. It’s good to catch up and laugh together.

Happy birthday to all you summer babies!

 

 

Book Review: This Chair Rocks, by Ashton Applewhite

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against AgeismThis Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I’ll read again and again in order to counter the stupid things people (both youngers and olders, Applewhite’s terms) say to justify mistreatment and disregard of people who are no longer young. This is basically a sociological/psychological study of our fear of aging and of the ageism that results. Don’t worry, though–it’s not a dry tome; Applewhite provides plenty of interesting anecdotes to personalize the issues she examines.

As an old person in training (also her term), I’m determined not to allow others’ ideas of what an older person should be/do/think limit my possibilities, and I’m becoming more and more aware of what a battle that will be. Just as we women sometimes try to keep other women down in order to avoid examining our own choices and assumptions, so do olders sometimes try to keep their fellow olders down in order to justify their own inertia. Reading this book was truly a consciousness-raising experience.

View all my reviews

W is for Why Not?

Wquestion mark

W is for Why Not?

Ah, the Why Not. It was a grubby club where my army friends and I used to dance in Hinesville, Georgia, just outside of Fort Stewart. A cinderblock hulk with cement floors, it was the hottest non-country & western dance club in town, and we loved it. Every Friday night we’d shed our uniforms, get dressed up, parade in like the fine young things we knew we were, and dance until we literally couldn’t dance any more—until our muscles would no longer respond to our brain’s commands. All that dancing burned off the alcohol we drank like brandy in a flambéed dessert—sizzle, hiss, pouf! Although many came to the Why Not looking for a mate, my friends and I went in a big group, and that’s how we danced, just a blob of happy, bobbing humanity. Good times.

And why not? We were young, carefree, strong, and could bounce back from a night of carousing with minimal pain. Why not spend our money dancing and drinking and whooping it up? Come to think of it, why not do that now?

OK, I’m a lot older now. I was twenty-one when I danced at the Why Not. My alcohol consumption was limited by my skinny wallet, and also by my skinny body—too many drinks made me too dizzy to dance. Today both my wallet and body are thicker, but I don’t burn off the booze like used to. More than a few drinks and I go to sleep. And my creaky knees don’t like dancing as much as they used to. And my husband doesn’t dance so well on his new knee. Oh dear.

Well, if I can’t dance the night away, why not…

  • Sing the night away. I sing better than I used to, and I’m learning to play the ukulele! It’s great fun to get together with guitar-playing friends and sing for hours.
  • Clap the night away. There are so many venues in Tacoma where we can hear excellent live music of all sorts, and even dance a bit. Tonight we’re going out to hear some excellent jazz.
  • Play the night away. Cards Against Humanity, Catch Phrase, Blitz (a card game)—it’s so much fun to get really silly and profane around a table with friends. I doubt any group of youngsters gets sillier than we do.
  • Throw the night away. Hubs has installed a dart board out back in his Man Cave (a big shed), and my aim is getting better and better. Soon we’ll be ready for a dart league.
  • Read the night away. Now that I’m retired, I’m burning through books like a fire in the library. I love staying up late to finish a book, knowing that I don’t have to get up early in the morning.
  • Well, yes. There is that. It doesn’t take all night, but it’s still fun.

What about you? Do you still dance the night away? If not, what fun activities have taken the place of those wild nights on the dance floor?

O is for Open

Ohappy dog

One of my goals for retirement is to stay open-minded, open-hearted, and open to new experiences. In a previous post, I mentioned that tightly-guarded look I’ve seen in many mature women. With clenched jaw, tense shoulders and narrowed eyes, they seem perpetually on guard, lest someone take away something from them, like yappy little dogs snapping at anyone who comes to close to their stash of chew-toys. You know the type. No one wants to pet these pests, for fear of being bitten.

Me, I’m more of a galumphing doofus type: say, a golden retriever. At least, that’s how I am on my best days. That’s not to say that I’ll want to play with every ball or Frisbee that comes my way, but I’ll try to at least give them a sniff. The older people I like the best, and strive to emulate, are those who cheerfully, playfully try new things. These are the active older people I see playing pickle ball or dancing at the gym, wearing silly hats at the Daffodil Parade (it’s a Tacoma thing), dancing to blues music at Jazzbones (one of our favorite live music venues), dressing up with a glamorous sense of humor at the theater, playing pool and darts at the neighborhood tavern, and chatting up strangers and neighbors.

Now, I don’t mean those aggressive types who loudly insist that they’re just as cool, hip, and trendy as the young dogs—like that annoying neighbor dog who never stops barking. “Hey, hey, hey—I’m not old! See my cool phone? My Lululemon pants? My hip-hop playlist? My thong?”

OK—getting a little silly with the doggie metaphors here. What I’m trying to wrap my words around is that open, engaged-with-the-world quality that I find so attractive in older people. And something I need to be open to is a different way of being in the world, now that my knees, my back, and my stamina will no longer allow me to boogie all night long. That’s cool—this old dog will stretch out for a snooze on the couch. I’ll be ready to chase the Frisbee again in just a bit. Life is good.

N is for “No, Thanks”

Nneedle

“Anti-aging” products are a huge industry, and many women my age spend a great deal of money on expensive goop and treatments that promise to stop the hands of time, or at least erase the evidence of time’s passing. Me, I’m more interested in fighting ageism than in fighting wrinkles. I’m not trying to fool anyone into thinking I’m younger than I am; I just want to look like an attractive, interesting, well-groomed woman of my age—53 at the moment. And so, I say “No, thank you” to these:

  • burning my face with acid or lasers
  • injecting my face with poison, plastic, or my own butt fat
  • underwear that squishes my guts
  • punishing diets. God didn’t give us delicious, nourishing food so we could subsist on protein shakes.
  • fake tan. My little spider veins are still visible under the yellow dye.
  • expensive creams. I’d rather spend a hundred dollars on a concert than on a tiny pot of anti-wrinkle cream. A good concert makes me smile, and smiling lights up my face better than any cosmetic product can.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a fascinating group of women in their sixties. Among them was my favorite Zumba teacher, who’s sixty-six and has been teaching exercise classes for decades. Also with us was an actress, age sixty-seven, who still works in films and on stage. Both ladies ate their Mexican restaurant lunch, by the way, including carbs, and both have the look I aspire to: that glow that comes with good health, good humor, and a purpose in life.

So, what anti-aging products really work? I say “Yes, please” to exercise, fresh air, sex, naps, bright colors, music, art, and conversations with fascinating people. And I know that, at my age, it’s best to avoid certain things that my body just doesn’t handle as well as it used to—thing like

  • worry about what other people think, which leads to worry lines on the face. Very aging.
  • keeping up with things that don’t interest me just so younger people will think I’m “relevant.” That cuts into my nap time. Plus, all that clenching my jaw to bit back a smirk—very aging.
  • uncomfortable clothing and shoes—very aging, because grimacing in pain emphasizes frown lines.

Have you noticed how even the oldest woman can look positively radiant with a sincere smile? I think the older we get, the more transformative a smile becomes. So—doing what you love is the best anti-aging beauty treatment there is.

 

K is for Kansas

Krock concert

…and Journey, and Foreigner, and Boston, and Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, and the Eagles, and Queen, and Don McLean, and The Who, and Fleetwood Mac, and Aerosmith, and the Police, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Blondie, and James Taylor, and Carole King, and The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seeger, and the Pretenders, and Elton John, and Carly Simon, and Yes, and The B-52s, and CCR, and Meat Loaf, and AC/DC, and Bob Marley, and Santana, and Van Morrison, and The Allman Brothers, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Rod Stewart, and Earth Wind and Fire, and the Jackson 5, and Smokey Robinson, and The Steve Miller Band, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Marvin Gaye, and the Doobie Brothers, and Abba, and Van Halen, and The Grateful Dead, and Barry White, and David Bowie, and Jethro Tull, and ZZ Top…

My formative years were the 1970s, music-wise. I was born in 1962, but the only music I remember from early childhood was my parents’ Peter Paul and Mary albums, plus the songs from Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The seventies, though, was a very rich musical era. Of course, every generation is especially fond of the music of its youth, but it seems to me that music, especially the various flavors of rock, was more—well, musical in the 1970s. There were rich layers of harmony that I hear less of in modern stuff. Lyrics had less to do with getting drunk and getting laid than today’s popular music. More rainbows, mystic visions, unicorns, May queens bustling in the hedgerows. And more funk, too. Now, I’m not going to discuss disco music except to say that at its best it was great fun—like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

It’s hard for me to wrap words around this, since I’m no music critic. It seems to me that there was a mystic, dreamy, even philosophical quality about 1970s rock that is much less prevalent today. Sure, there are some wonderful young musicians from this decade: Adele is certainly a torch singer for the ages. But compare Katie Perry with, say, Stevie Nicks, or Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart—there’s a whole different mentality and flavor. Both sing about love and desire, but there’s a cruder, more in-your-face-with-my-lust flavor to many of today’s lyrics.

I had to giggle the other day when two relatives, one in her 40s and the other in her 30s, were reminiscing about their favorite boy bands, and how dreamy they were. I guess we all have a special fondness for the music of our teens. After a challenging, stressful day—say, a day in which repairmen are burrowing into the walls and floors of my house (See “H is for House Surgery”), a glass of wine and some seventies music relaxes and energizes me. Rock on!

 

J is for Junior Senior

J

Warning

WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

by Jenny Joseph

I admit it: I signed up for AARP as soon as I turned fifty. While some of my peers do everything possible to deny/hold back their entry into the “golden years,” I dove in enthusiastically. Heck, I made a splashy cannonball. Kasploosh!

No one can hold back time’s progress, so we might as well embrace the life phase we’re in. Fifty-somethings aren’t quite senior citizens, but many of us become grandparents during this decade. I figure I’m a senior citizen in training. If fate doesn’t swoop down on me with a nasty illness or accident, I can probably count on another twenty-five or so years of active life, maybe more. I’m feeling optimistic about this post career/second career phase, and looking forward to becoming a fascinating, feisty old lady. Might as well start training now.

I’m actually getting a kick out of hanging out with older people and trying some typical “old folks’” activities. It turns out I enjoy golf, though I have a long way to go before I become proficient. Those white-haired ladies with a killer golf game are pretty impressive, you must admit. And I love my mid-day Zumba class, which is mostly full of older ladies—say, sixty and up. Molly, our sixty-something instructor, is a paragon of fitness and good cheer. I want to be like her when I reach that age.

Have you heard of Ashton Applewhite? She’s the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and host of the funny, thought-provoking blog Yo, is this ageist? How about Dr. Bill Thomas and his The Age of Disruption Tour? Here’s a link: https://drbillthomas.org/?mc_cid=8f0cc3f0cc&mc_eid=d2e30cd7d3

These two consciousness-raisers are making great strides in changing the way we think about ageing, and are excellent role models for junior seniors like me. I have no intention of dying my hair gray—what is up with that weird trend?—but perhaps I’ll start looking for the perfect red hat, just so I’ll be ready.

 

I is for Impressive

Iskotan-Thumbs-up-smiley

I had a hard time deciding on an “I” word to write about today. So many tempting “I” words have a negative connotation: idiot, impolite, ill-conceived idea, illiterate. I don’t want to turn this blog into rant central (Get off my lawn, you dang kids!), so I try to maintain a positive focus—well, most of the time.

This phase of my life (fifties, retirement) is a time of constructing a new identity. I now have the necessary stillness and space to figure out how I’ll spend this precious time. It helps me to look at others who seem to be doing this age well.

I’m impressed by

  • People who make art–all kinds of art, from illustrations to sculptures to choreography to music. There’s an electric energy at any kind of live performance, and that same energy vibrates in hand-made objects of beauty. Very impressive.
  • People who cross barriers, push envelopes, brush aside impediments. Determination and persistence are so important in reaching our goals, and I’m impressed by people who set goals and don’t give up.
  • People who are comfortable in their own skin. Now, I’m all in favor of adornment and personal self-expression, be it clothing, jewelry, tattoos, hair style, what have you. But smugly or desperately clinging to a false front (fake tan, fake boobs, fake nails, Botox-frozen brow, Spanx-squished guts) is not impressive; it’s just sad. I’m impressed with people who accept and enjoy their own beauty and style.
  • People who are active. It’s so easy today to just sit and absorb: information, entertainment, food. I’m impressed by people who are out there in the world, creating something instead of just consuming.
  • People who are connected and engaged. Introverts like me are tempted to stay home more often than is good for us. I’m impressed by people who get involved in community improvement projects.
  • People who think. This is the most important quality, in my estimation. “Just because” is not a good reason for doing anything. Well, perhaps for plopping down on the grass and gazing up at the deep blue sky… I’m impressed by people who think through life’s questions, big and small.
  • People who have a sense of whimsy, of fun. I’m impressed by people who know how to have a good time, and how to make their own good times.
  • People who are kind. Kindness is contagious; so is crankiness. I’m impressed by people who can keep their cool and their compassion when faced with daily irritations and rudeness.
  • People who are open. This is perhaps the hardest quality to wrap words around, but it’s an easy quality to feel. Some people’s faces are just closed up tight. I’ve met many older women who suffer from this tight-faced syndrome, always on guard, as if they expect to be taken advantage of. I’m impressed by people who are relaxed, open to meeting new people, new situations. I guess it’s optimism that I see in their eyes, the expectation that they’ll be fine. That’s a sign of strength.
  • People who don’t use age as an excuse. This quality is dear to my heart. No one is too young or too old to do sports, dance, make art, invent something, contribute. Basta!

 

E is for Elegance

E

As sociolinguist Deborah Tannen writes, “There is no unmarked woman.” In her essay of the same name, she explains that there is no neutral, unremarkable choice for a woman’s attire and personal adornment. Whatever a woman chooses to wear, she’s making a declaration about who she is: serious academic, corporate striver, mall rat, soccer mom, hipster chick, Wal-Martian, what have you. Men have it a bit easier, according to Tannen; they can choose an unremarkable pair of khakis, leather shoes, a polo shirt, and we can’t tell at first glance what sort of fellow we’re dealing with. But women are always “marked” by their sartorial choices, so we must choose wisely.

Casual elegance is the look I’m aiming for in my fifties. This look is easy to achieve if you have pots of money, but it’s not a look that’s encouraged by the more affordable stores, which skew more toward cute, sexy, frivolous, flouncy, spangled, sparkly, and/or hoochie-mama.

I feel elegant when wearing slacks, dressy flats, classic cardigans, sleek pullovers, blouses (especially silky ones), slim skirts. Yes, these garments can look old-fashioned, even dowdy, but if the fit is right the look is ageless, classic, and classy.

OK, in actuality I wear jeans most of the time, but on the rare occasion when I leave my home office, I try to add elegant touches—a flowing scarf, an artistic jacket, a crisp blouse, pearl earrings. Elegance is a good choice for women my age. It’s not the only choice, of course, but too much “cute” at our age risks looking a bit pathetic. Some mature ladies pull off a marvelous bohemian look, or cool biker mama, or hippie artist.

Some of my current style icons:

Katharine Hepburn Katharine Hepburn

Jacqueline Onassis Jacqueline Onassis

Catherine Deneuve Catherine Deneuve

Ines de la Fressange Ines de La Fressange

Michelle Obama Michelle Obama

Of course, there’s more to elegance than clothing. Good posture and graceful movement are elegant. Slouching is not. Courtesy is elegant. A carefully prepared lunch brought from home can be elegant. Gobbling fast food in your car is not. Strolling through the shops and galleries downtown is elegant. Slogging through the mall is easier, but not elegant.

Treating everyone you meet with kindness is elegant. Looking down your nose at others is not. When I encounter a tacky person, I straighten my spine and try hard not to sneer. High standards are elegant, but snootiness is not. It’s elegant to think before you speak. I’m still working on that one.

What about you? Do you aim for a particular look when you get dressed? Whose style would you like to emulate?