Christmas, 2013.

Another Christmas has come and gone and I think I’m doing okay.photo  It’s been seven years since D asked for a divorce.  This is the sixth Christmas I’ve spent as a woman alone.  Someone commented recently on my blogger friend’s post that there’s a great deal of difference between being alone and being lonely.  I’m a bit of an expert on the topic because I’ve been both.

I’m happy to report that this year, except for a couple of brief hours on Christmas Eve afternoon, I was merely alone, not lonely.  The lonely times are becoming shorter and shorter as I learn that being alone can be a blessing if I choose to make it so.

I think it’s all about acceptance of what is.  My mantra has become “It is what it is.”  I can often shrug off troubles by photo-4repeating this simple truism a time or two.  I admit it doesn’t work all the time but it helps.  I’ve learned to do when I start to feel lonely.

Paul Newman once said that he was able to deal with his son’s death only by doing for others.  His words gave me fresh perspective about how I was living my life.  I’ve become more conscious of others, especially around Christmas. I’ve finally figured out that it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as making toffee for friends and family.  (See photo above.)  Or taking a few seconds to text or email a friend who’s having a hard time.  Or a phone call. For me it’s taking a moment to think beyond myself and my concerns.

That’s easier said than done when you’re in the middle of the pain of rejection.photo-2 You can’t figure out who you are, let alone what you should or want to do.  I cried for months. I’m glad that’s over. I’m ever so slowly learning to trust other people again.  But I step cautiously.

As usual this post has taken a different direction than I expected.  Sometimes I think my fingers divorce my brain.  Or maybe my fingers tell my brain what to think.  I’m not sure what happens.

I started out expecting to tell you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza and Happy New Year.  The photo below shows Santa riding past my house on the Pineville fire engine.  You can see his arm.  The rest of him is blocked by a weird-looking little green elf.  Only in the American South.  Made my day.photo-3

Am I invisible?

shutterstock_10882816-1280x960Growing old is not all sweetness and light.  Old women especially are invisible. ~ Ruth Rendell

I have said a number of times to daughter # 1 that the older women become the more invisible they are.  The last time I said it I guess she was tired of hearing me whine so she said, “You’re always saying that, Mom.  I don’t get it.”

I started noticing this odd phenomenon when I was in my forties.  I often took my husband’s grandmother to the ophthalmologist after her cataract surgery.  She was alert and intelligent and tuned in.  She would sign her name on the sign-in sheet.  Then the young woman who came over to check her in would look straight at me and ask questions about the patient.  I was completely taken aback.  I remember looking at her with a puzzled look on my face and telling her, “You need to ask her,” nodding toward Grandmother, “because I don’t know.”  (I must insert here that this grandmother was never known by any of the traditional grandma titles.  We called her Ole Shoe–another story for another time.)  So…Ole Shoe would give me a smile and respond to all questions herself.

If I’m not mistaken, this scenario played out every time we went to that particular office.  I guess my not-so-subtle message didn’t infiltrate the mind of my intended subject.

I don’t imagine the office staff person realized she was being disrespectful.  She was a nice person as far as I could tell, and very efficient.  Efficient is the word that struck me first thing this morning as I was reading my cyber friend Uta’s current post. Uta lives in Australia and she was writing about a very efficient agent who completely ignored her and spoke only with her husband Peter.  I’m thinking Uta felt invisible.  She would have appreciated some acknowledgment of her existence.  She didn’t get it.

After reading Uta’s post I started to do a bit of online research about older women.  I discovered an article Tira Harpaz wrote and guest-posted on Salon. (Go to salon.com and  type in women over 50 are invisible in the red bar at the top of the page.)  Harpaz suggests that women who are in positions of authority are able to delay the onset of invisibility.  I think that’s true but it doesn’t include the majority of older women.

So what are we everyday older women to do?  Do we have any control over how others perceive us?

I think we do. It may be limited, but we have some control. For me it means staying active. Having a firm step when I walk (unless the arthritis in my right ankle kicks in :))  It means speaking clearly and with authority.  It means volunteering.  It means asserting myself when necessary, without being strident.  (Not being annoyed and strident is hard for me.) It means saying, “Excuse me, I believe I was next in line.”  It means standing tall with a smile on my face and determination in my demeanor.

If this is an issue for you, I would like to hear how you stay visible and relevant.

Note:  The image of the invisible woman above is from the Harpaz article.

Freshman orientation.

photo(25)Spending two days on a college campus will do one of two things for/to you when you’re my age.   Or maybe a little of both.  It will recall your own university days while reminding you how old you are now.  But if you’re lucky, it will also give you a jolt of youthful energy the likes of which you haven’t known in years.  Fortunately I got the good with the bad.

I spent Monday and Tuesday on the University of North Carolina – Wilmington campus.  It’s a part of the 17-campus UNC system.**  Wilmington is a port city, thus UNCW is our coastal university.  Many students matriculate there in order to study marine sciences.

My granddaughter H will be attending UNCW in the fall so I accompanied her and her mom, my youngest daughter S, to freshman orientation.  I pretended I was a parent and attended parent classes with S while H took placement tests, got acquainted with the campus and a good sampling of other freshmen students, and registered for fall semester classes.  The staff and upperclassmen who assisted with orientation were superb.  They worked together and ran their programs like a well-oiled machine.  Very impressive.

H is an artist and knows she wants to do something with her artistic talent, maybe graphic arts.  She’s  not entirely sure what her course of study will include.  Registration was an exercise in frustration for her.  She didn’t get any typical freshman courses because her AP exam scores are not available yet and she doesn’t know what courses she will not have to take.  In my opinion the courses she did get sounded more interesting than the typical freshman fare–Women’s Studies, for example.photo(23)

S and I were able to see much of the campus while we were waiting around for H.  At one point we were in the library when I saw a big blue glass sculpture in a display case. I went over to examine it more closely and learned it was done by one of my favorite artists, Dale Chihuly.  I think I have mentioned Chihuly in this space before.  Much of his work is displayed in Seattle where he lives.  The artist donated this piece to the UNCW library.  Thank you, Mr. Chihuly!  It’s beautiful.

In my opinion, universities are delightful places to spend time, especially with incoming first year students.  Everywhere I looked I saw beautiful faces beaming with hope, and energetic bodies in constant motion.  They don’t realize what a joy they are for the older generation to behold.  I have no desire to go back to that age, but I do have great confidence in their intelligence and good intentions.  They are our hope and I believe in them.photo(24)  Okay–enough schmaltz from me.

**For years the University of North Carolina System has been considered by many educators and other professionals to be one of the best state systems in the country.  Our history is long and impressive.  The University of NC at Chapel Hill was founded in 1789.  The Chapel Hill campus is the oldest public university in the United States and the only one that graduated students in the 18th Century.  As mentioned above, we have grown to 17 campuses.

Sadly, I (along with many other North Carolinians) have serious concerns about the future of higher education in our state.  We now have a Republican Governor AND a majority of Republicans in the General Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction.  Their first day on the job, they began a maniacal attack on education.  They are cutting funds and programs not only in the university system but in the K-12 public schools as well. It appears that our best years may be behind us.  Without adequate funds we will no longer be able to recruit the brightest and the best.  I’m demoralized by this turn of events.  But I’m also motivated to vote those destructive people out of office in the next election.

One step at a time.

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Yesterday I drove to Daughter # 1’s house to pick up my granddaughter.  We had a dinner date.  I got there a little early so I got out of the car and walked around the yard snapping photos while I waited for her to get home.  My daughter and her family have a most marvelous yard–a Garden of Eden, if you will.  Except there’s no apple tree as far as I know.  Of course that apple notion we’ve been fed all these years is probably wrong.  I read somewhere that it would more likely have been a pomegranate in that part of the world.  I tell you all this in order to say that the photos in this post were all taken in the aforementioned beautiful yard.  There are all manner of little treasures peeking through the leaves.


As I drove to get my granddaughter A, I passed a man walking up the sidewalk.  He walked at a snail’s pace because he required a walker with wheels.  Needless to say the going was slow.  I remember thinking how much I admired his grit–the busy street must have been a bit daunting.  As I was retracing my route and heading toward our favorite restaurant, I saw the same man still walking.  I said to A, “Holy cow!  Look at that guy!  He’s walked a couple of miles or more since I last saw him.”  Then we talked about what might have incapacitated him– a stroke, a heart attack ???–and how brave he was to keep going, determined to get strong again.

I have thought about that gentleman a great deal in the past twenty-four hours.  He reminds me of the many wounded people (including me) who are trying, one step at a time, to heal.  Some wounds are physical, some are emotional.  All are serious to the one who is suffering.  Some heal quickly, some not so much; all of us heal a step at a time, a day at a time.

Sometimes my little cell phone camera seems to have a mind of its own.  I inadvertently took this picture of my foot stepping firmly toward the next colorful exhibit that caught my eye.  I started to delete it and thought better of it.  I shall keep it to remind me to keep on stepping.  It also reminds me of how far I’ve come since D-Day.  (I read a  number of blogs by people, male and female, who are recovering from separation, divorce, infidelity, etc., and many of them refer to it as D-Day.  It’s appropriate, I guess.)  We’re all recovering at different rates, but the good news is that we’re all recovering.  Each day gets a little better.

All the wrong reasons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

All the Wrong Reasons                                                                                                       ~ Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne

Trouble blew in on a cold dark wind
It came without no warning
And that big ol’ house went up for sale
They were on the road by morning
Oh, the days went slow, into the changing season
Oh, out in the cold, for all the wrong reasons

Well she grew up hard and she grew up fast
In the age of television
And she made a vow to have it all
It became her new religion
Oh, down in her soul, it was an act of treason
Oh, down they go for all the wrong reasons

Where the sky begins the horizon ends
Despite the best intentions
And a big ol’ man goes up for sale
He becomes his own invention
Oh, the days go slow into the changing season
Oh, bought and sold, for all the wrong reasons
Oh, down they go for all the wrong reasons

This song has taken up residence in my brain.  Not just the tune, but the words as well.  Some singer/songwriter poems stand alone.  Bob Dylan’s and Leonard Cohen’s work, for example.  Those guys are true poets in my opinion.  This one by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne needs to be sung.  With the music, the Oh becomes Oh, oh, oh, oh.  But even when I quadruple the word, reading it doesn’t strike the same chord (no pun intended) as when TP sings it.  I want to share it with you to find out if others feel the same way.  Click here to listen.

I’ve tried for days to figure out what I’m supposed to learn here, if anything.  It has caused me to reflect in a way that I wouldn’t have, had my daughter not given me the CD for Christmas.  I wonder how much of what we do when we’re young do we do with intention and logic and an eye to the greater good.  It’s not that I think I had sinister motives ever; it’s just that I wasn’t mature/experienced enough to understand the far-reaching consequences of my decisions.  I think the same is true of most people; and in particular, I give that bit of grace to D, my ex-husband.

Star of wonder.

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.  ~  Gilbert K. Chesterton

I would like to write a post soon on the role of ego in my life, so this quote appeals to me.   I can’t get my mind around it right now because I’m very tired–it’s a good sort of tired.

I have a number of these stars on my Christmas tree.  In fact, I have them in a rainbow of colors.  I don’t know why I chose the purple for display on my blog except that I’m rather partial to that hue.  Always have been.  It’s the color of my birthstone, the amethyst.  It’s also, historically, considered a color for royalty, so maybe I’m feeling regal.  More likely I’m trying to feel like a patrician.  That’s also my name you know–Patricia.  I kinda like how all those things fell together for me.  Knowing what my parents were like, I can assure you it was not planned.  Just happenstance.  Or is it?

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a star-studded, sensational soiree in your patrician purple party pants.  Okay.  That was a stretch.  Hope you’re having fun. 🙂

“Salute her when her birthday comes.”

Bow down to her on Sunday                                                          Salute her when her birthday comes. ~ Bob Dylan

One year ago I wrote my first post for my spanking new blog.  I was so proud of myself that I wrote twice that day.  Writing journals in long hand no longer gave me what I needed.  I needed a voice.  From the moment D said he wanted a divorce and I had no hope of changing his mind, I had no voice, no choice.  My life was careening down hill, gaining speed and the brakes were stripped.  No matter how hard I pushed the pedal I couldn’t stop it.  And how I did push!

In acknowledging the conclusion of my first year here, I have been looking back at some of my earlier posts–a sort of retrospective introspection, I think.  When I started blogging I remember wishing and hoping to be totally honest about the facts and my emotions.  In other words I want to write for me, to help me first, and not for some unseen reader.   That last sentence isn’t meant to be harsh.  What I mean is that if I visualize some imagined audience or readership, then I might not be able to be honest.  I don’t want to address a post to anyone in particular.  (The post to A about the death of her mother is an exception.)  I want to write it out, whatever it is so that I can sort and prioritize and assimilate my own words and feelings.  If, in the process, my words can be helpful or amusing or occasionally interesting to a reader, then that’s a bonus and it makes me very happy.  Another bonus that I’ve discovered is receiving comments from many of you.  As a rookie, I had no idea how much I would look forward to your writing and your comments.  I now feel as if I have a whole world of blogger friends who support me and care about me as I do them.

I have averaged 2.5 posts a week and in the process have learned some things about myself.  I’m surprised at how often the same things keep coming up.  The alone/lonely debate arises fairly often.  I sometimes embrace my alone-ness and other times it doesn’t feel one bit embraceable.  I think that’s because I like people.  I get energy from interaction with others, especially in person.  Other times I like being alone.  I think that’s just life and not necessarily because I’m divorced.

I didn’t mean to make a ramble out of this post but I will add one thing that seems really significant.  I love and miss my NC mountains.  I am going to add this to the top of my priority list.  I need to be in the mountains in the summer.  My goal will be to arrange trips to the mountains more often in summers and autumns to come.  They are a vital part of me and I cannot, must not ignore this fact in the future.