Summer in the Rear View

 

Mikki in a Mirror

 

Another summer has passed and I’m not sure I’ve anything to show for it. It wasn’t wasted, mind you, but I can’t claim to have bettered myself. Honestly – if I weren’t writing this post, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. But when you take an assessment, details – or the lack thereof – become apparent.

 

Happy Birthday, Gwendlyn!

 

On one fine summer day, my friend Gwendelyn persuaded me to go register voters with her, south of L.A. She does this on a regular basis, because she’s a giver. But me? Not so much. It takes a lot of energy for me to interact with strangers and as I’ve been dealing with a fair level of anxiety for the past few years, I’m reluctant to engage with people I don’t know. But Gwendelyn is persistent. And she’s one of my very favorite souls, so I agreed to accompany her. In a very red part of the state. (I’m a proud liberal, don’t you know.) So there we were, trying to get people to give a damn, and Gwendelyn was dealing with more than her share of push-back from people who didn’t seem too thrilled with her Obama t-shirt. I was wearing one, too, but for some reason, the flack seemed reserved for my friend. And then it was my turn. I asked some passersby if they were registered to vote and a lady looked my way and said, “You’re on the wrong team!” I don’t know what possessed me, but without skipping a beat I responded, “Oh – as Americans, I thought we were all on the same team.” The lady stopped walking, looked at me, stammered a bit, and when she was unable to come up with a reply, she turned and walked away. That was the worst of it. Otherwise, it was a fine way to spend a Wednesday. And you’ll never catch me complaining about being with my friend. She really is that awesome.

 

Gwendelyn Cake Topper

 

Speaking of Gwendelyn, that girl went and got hitched to a swell guy this summer. As she’s an amazingly creative person, she wanted something a little different for her wedding cake. So she and her fella got themselves duplicated and then she and I built a mighty fine cake topper. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to make. And I think she and her Mister really liked it.

 

Pool Rules

 

There were more pool days than I can remember. A lot of them ran together, though, as Mister and I took it upon ourselves to scrape the tiles surrounding the top of the pool. All 1500+ of them. I don’t know how many years of mineral build-up there was, but we addressed all of it – by hand. We finished the task just as the summer was ending and the water temperature was dropping to an unsavory level, making it too cold to swim. It was a lot of work, but I’m glad it’s done.

 

You're Never Too Old...

 

Physical Therapy was a constant for me all summer, due to some tearing in my shoulder. My range of motion has definitely improved, and that’s a very good thing. The cringe-worthy pain has finally gone – thank all the gods. A little remains, however, and I still can’t move my shoulder as fully as I’d like, but I’m working on it. This particular injury has forced me to acknowledge my age in a way I hadn’t previously. Healing is so much slower now. And that sucks, friends. No doubt about it. But I’ll tell ya – I’ve seen some folks in PT that aren’t doing so well, so I’ll take what I can get. Really.

 

London Concert Day - Happy Anniversary - Photo by Mister

 

Mister and I had a big, fat anniversary along the way and we celebrated in London and Edinburgh. I’ll work on sharing some of that in a later post, as some of the sights, sounds and experiences seem worthy. But for now, you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it was an awesome trip.

 

Mikki Dancing

 

This is definitely an abridged version of my summer. Some of that’s because I don’t keep a damn calendar for all of damned time, like a damned freak (ahem, dammit). Some of it’s due to my knowing that most of my summer was of interest to exactly one person – me. And even then, sometimes, not so much. But you know what? I still had fun here and there. I can honestly say that there were a few times I laughed so much, I cried. It’s been a while, y’all. Joy has been a bit of a stranger in my little world. To have her visit, and to assert herself, well, it was a gift. I’m hoping for more of that. Always hoping, at least…

 

Dancers Hearts

It’s Not a Perfect System

 

Actual Quote From George W. Bush

 

So many people have reached out, asking about my goings-on, my well-being, that I feel a response is due on my part. And that’s not easy for me. On the one hand, absolutely nothing is going on. On the other hand…

 

Mikki and an Art Show

 

While trying to create new art, I was also recently one of the featured artists in a local show. It was good for me to participate in the event, to interact with friends and strangers alike. It’s also good for me to tackle new works. I’m elbow-deep in a painting now that is so Mikki. It requires hours of taping, layers of planning and is a logistical quagmire. For some reason, that appeals to me and brings me contentment.

 

Art Show

 

I’ve also figured out how to build floating frames for my work and that has been incredibly fulfilling. I learned quite a bit at a framing class, but the logistics of floating frames wasn’t covered, so I had to rely on my own ingenuity and mechanical mind to suss the sitch. I don’t mind telling you – I nailed it.

 

Physical Therapy

 

While trying to wrap my head around my body’s aging, I’m also undergoing physical therapy for an injury. I’d love to tell you I hurt myself playing footie (World Cup fever abounds in our home), or while throwing down in a late-night dance battle on the streets of Los Angeles, but the truth is much more boring: I hurt my shoulder while shoveling rocks. It’s true. Rocks. The repetition and the weight were more than my body could bear. And so now I’m dealing with a humerus that doesn’t seat itself correctly in its joint, which is anything but humorous. The pain is sometimes enough to make me cry. And for now, I just have to ride it out. I’m not on pain meds, but I am on ice packs. And booze. Those things help a bit. I’ll take what help I can get.

 

Vonnegut

 

When not wringing my hands over how terrifying “The Handmaid’s Tale” is in relation to our fucked-up world, I’m re-reading an old Kurt Vonnegut book, Cat’s Cradle. I saw it on the shelf and was drawn to it. I don’t often re-read books, but I think following my gut on this one is a good choice.

 

Mikki and a Blurry Tony Bourdain

 

Depression is heavily at play for me these days. The injury, the sorry state of my country… Some days are almost too much to handle. When the world adds another log to the desperate fire of my soul, I struggle more than I can say. The recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain was one such weight. I didn’t know the man or anything, but I did appreciate the hell out of him. Watching the final two episodes of “Parts Unknown” was heartbreaking. I don’t know why, but I believe I’ve not yet shed my last tear for Mr. Bourdain. I can’t explain why his death has hit me so hard. It just has.

 

Panda Cake

 

Sometimes I’m able to avoid the news. Sometimes. I was able to distract myself with a young cousin’s first birthday party. And that was a gift. Watching the little guy eat his panda cake was a reminder that not everything is bad. Remembering that simple fact can lead to noticing other good things in the world.

 

Mikki in Pretty Shoes

 

Like wearing pretty shoes.

 

Mikki At JPL

 

Or spending an afternoon with science-loving geeks at JPL.

 

Strawberry Moon

 

Or gazing up at a Strawberry moon, with Saturn’s glow nearby.

 

Families Belong Together Rally

 

And yesterday I attended a local “Families Belong Together” rally. The crowd had full hearts and positive energy. Even though I was quietly crying through most of it, I was reminded of hope.

 

Families Belong Together Rally - Migration is Beautiful

 

There is good in the world. The hate-filled, ignorant, fearful masses can’t do a damn thing to change that. They can’t eliminate beauty. Or hope. Or love. On good days, I simply feel sorry for them, the haters. (They really are a pitiful group of pathetic souls.) On other days…

 

I struggle. I’m trying, but I don’t always prevail in my attempts. Truth is, I’m upside down right now. The shadows and weight can be downright awful. If I had no inkling of how sublime life can be, I might not know how far down I’ve gotten. But I have walked in the light. I do know the pleasure of joy. And this ain’t it.

 

These are some of the reasons I’m out of touch. Why I’m in mostly silent mode. Trying to practice self-care is taking more from me than I can sometimes spare. And so I pull back from the world. I try to preserve precious energy. To protect my fragile heart. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best I can do right now. And for the record, I am doing. I know me. I’ll keep doing, keep going. Not for you or for anyone else, but for me. Yes.

 

Highgate Cemetery - Fallen Angel copy

Old

 

 

 

Some days, for no apparent reason, I feel young and sprightly. Of course, there probably are reasons, such as exercising and drinking enough water. But on other days…

 

Leave it to the young to make a gal feel old. Just last week, I heard from a friend whose partner gave birth to their first child. I don’t want to name names or give specifics, but said friend is a sexagenarian! He mentioned how he’s feeling old, but I’m guessing a lot of that has to do with sleepless nights with a newborn. Photos of his gorgeous daughter brought joy to my eyes. And then I had to squint a bit to fully appreciate the pics. I didn’t know where my glasses were, because I haven’t yet resorted to wearing the bejeweled chain around my neck to keep my specs close at hand. So squint, I did. That, friends, felt old.

 

And now my calendar tells me that the son of another friend is about to turn 17. When did that happen? I lovingly refer to the kid as my name-sake, even though the spellings of our names are different and I’m quite sure our names have nothing to do with one another, but still. I call him that and he doesn’t know about it so I figure no harm is done. And now he’s a year away from voting. Wow. Just yesterday he was knee-high to a grasshopper. (If that phrase isn’t the territory of old folks, I don’t know what is.)

 

I’m okay with aging. Mostly. As long as I’m healthy and am getting around the way I want, I’m good. And because I see myself every day, I’m accustomed to my face. It’s those danged kids, though. I don’t see them every day. I only see them every once in a while. And when I do, they have grown. And they’ve matured and they’ve become more of themselves. I’m glad they get to do that and all, I just wish they’d slow the hell down.

 

Ah, well. No turning back. Forward only. If we’re lucky. If we’re very, very lucky.

 

13 Years Ago: Someone Else’s Thursday Memories

 

 

This Thursday Memory isn’t my own. It’s a photo of our young friends Taylor and Kyli, from 13 years ago.

 

The reason I dug up this old pic is that I just saw these chicks last week and they’re practically grown. Which I don’t understand. I mean, how do the kids keep aging and yet I and my contemporaries stay the same? Is it going to take 40 years passing for me to look at my friends (and myself) and see a change? I wonder. Or maybe my failing eyesight is doing me a large by keeping a nice, friendly blur going wherever I look. Hmm.

 

It really is amazing to see kids grow up. Thank goodness – a whole lot of them are turning out to be awesome people. Taylor and Kyli certainly are.

Friends

 

 

As I progress along life’s twisty-turny road, I appreciate my friends more and more. And while I don’t count their number the way I likely did when I was a kid, I am aware of having more friends than I probably deserve. This comes as somewhat of a surprise to me. You see – I’ve always been a gal who separated my friends from acquaintances. Naturally – acquaintances outnumber friends. But aging is helping me to see that I have far more friends than I once thought. Real friends. People I’d take calls from at 3 in the morning. People I could call if I needed.

 

When we were kids, making friends was easy (for most of us). We were bound by our school schedules, or our extracurricular activities. Unpopular? No problem. We’d just buddy-up to other dorks on the math team or in the a/v club. As long as we were reasonably competent in our childish social skills, we could usually find a friend or two. It just sort of worked out.

 

Getting older, however, seems to stifle the friend-making process. Maybe it’s because we spend more of our time in cubicles than in clubs. And at the end of a work day, or on the weekend, we often want nothing more than to be at home. We seek calm and quiet, not fun and frivolity. It happens.

 

But once in a while something comes up in life that requires us to break free of our comfortable cocoons and actually interact with other human beings. For me, one such opportunity has been Rock & Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles. The volunteers within this organization are stellar souls. Of course I want to be friends with them! This has meant battling my self-doubt and stepping outside my comfort zone, but I’ve done it. And you know what’s happened? I’ve made new friends. New, wonderful friends. When I think about this, I am genuinely surprised. Grateful, yes, and also surprised.

 

I guess I’ve gone down this particular rabbit-hole of thought because of the above photo. One of my Rock Camp buddies has returned to Los Angeles after living in London for a while. Betro (Rock Camp buddy extraordinaire) came up with the brilliant idea of jazzing up the home of our returning friend, to welcome her back. So we made a banner (shown above) and got her some tacos for her fridge, so that she could come home, eat and crash. All because we care. All because we appreciate our friend.

 

In all likelihood, I will never be a gal with more friends than I can count. My reclusive tendencies will see to that. But I am blessed to have beautiful, dear friends in my life. Friends who care. Friends who laugh. Friends who check in on me when I’m not feeling my best. Friends who invite me for coffee. Friends who invite me to game night. Friends who will watch a documentary and cry with me after. Friends who are good just hanging out and doing nothing at all. Honestly – I don’t know how I got so lucky.

“May I Be Alive When I Die”

 

 

Donald Woods Winnicott (1896 – 1971) said, “May I be alive when I die.” A rather prolific writer (pediatrician, psychoanalyst, sociologist, psychiatrist), he said a lot of things. This one, though, has struck me today.

 

We are all of us growing older. We don’t have to like it, but it’s true. And short of some tragic accident or dread disease, nothing can stop the process. Most of the time I don’t think about this. I just get on with the business of living. Sometimes that business means climbing the 463 steps of the Duomo in Firenze. Most of the time it means there’s no milk in the fridge or bananas in the bowl. It almost always means there’s something to be cleaned or maintained. Am I the only one whose quick trips to get milk end up taking a couple of hours? Didn’t think so. This is why I don’t usually think about my own aging process. I’m a little busy!

 

I’ve been reading a bit about Dr. Winnicott’s work and his ideas on the True Self and the False Self are striking a chord with me. I think that’s because I’ve been a little sluggish lately and have been feeling my age as a result. Only I haven’t really been feeling my age. I’ve been feeling my sorry-for-myself age. And those are two entirely different things. I mean, when I’m in the flow and grooving on life without fretting over age, I’m as joyful as sunshine. On the other hand, feeling down about my age leads to feeling hollow and empty. I may be a lot of things y’all, but hollow and empty are not on the list.

 

So after finding Dr. Winnicott’s quote “May I Be Alive When I Die,” it occurred to me that sluggishness aside, there’s no reason not to revel in being alive right now. It’s certainly grander than being down and it feels so much better. Much truer to who I actually am. My True Self.

Walking in L.A.

 

 

Yesterday morning I hit the sidewalk before 8. As it was early on a Saturday – in Los Angeles – I passed very few people. But the ones I did pass were smiley and friendly. One guy even commented about how happy I looked. I responded, “Why not? Life is awesome!”

 

I said it without thinking. And as I powered down the street, it occurred to me that I had just experienced my natural self. Blurting out those words was a clear representation of me.

 

I face challenges, just like every other soul. My body doesn’t always feel great. My mind is aging. Life is sometimes harder than I ever thought it could be. And still – I love this being alive thing.

 

At some point during yesterday’s walk, I caught sight of my shadow on a green lawn. I had forgotten I was wearing my monkey hat, replete with face and ears. No wonder folks were so smiley. Glad to have been of good cheer.

Grown-Ups

 

 

Recently I was exposed to some rather unseemly behavior. It wasn’t directed anywhere in my direction. I was merely a witness.

 

The scene involved a parent speaking to a child in an abusive manner that made me extremely uncomfortable. That exchange continued for several minutes, and when another adult confronted the child’s parent, saying the child was a good kid and deserved better, the parent responded by saying that yes, that child was a good kid and the parent then proceeded to blame other adults in the vicinity for the entire episode. (I cannot give more specific details. These are very real people, and I do not wish to publicly disrespect any of them.)

 

When all was said and done, I thought about the scene and felt sorry for the kid, naturally. The kid was just trying to cope with life. I watched that child try to explain the parent’s behavior to other adults. I also watched that kid try to laugh off the whole event.

 

I don’t judge parents for doing the best they can. I have no idea how it must feel to walk in anyone else’s shoes. So please don’t think otherwise. But a kid is a kid. And when an adult uses her or his age to belittle and verbally (or otherwise) abuse a child, well, that’s something I do judge. No child should have to defend a parent who bullies. No child should have to laugh off abuse, using laughter as a coping mechanism. Seeing that broke my heart.

 

You know what else pissed me off? Seeing a grown adult blame others for mistakes. I do not like it when we blame everyone on the planet – except ourselves – for our errors. If I screw up, it is my fault. If I make a mistake, it’s mine to make right. Each and every time. No exceptions.

 

When I was a child, somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16 (I honestly don’t remember my precise age), my kid sister and I were in the middle of a full-on name-calling battle. This all took place in my Grandmama’s kitchen on a weekend afternoon. Grandmama stood at the stove, with her daughter – my mother – beside her. Anyhoo, my sister and I were really on a roll. Our exchange of friendly fire went something like this:

 

My Sister: Oh, yeah? Well you’re a dork!

Me: Well you’re a nerd!

My Sister: Well you’re a booby-head!

Me: Oh, yeah? Well you’re a dildo!

 

Before my sister could respond with another brilliant kid-salvo, my mother hit me so hard across the face – I nearly saw stars. I immediately grabbed the side of my head and cried, “What was that for?” She screamed at me, “You know what you did! Now shut up!”

 

Only I didn’t know what I’d done. I was only a kid, and a naive, mostly innocent kid at that. It would be years before I learned that “dildo” wasn’t just a funny sounding word, and that the entire experience really wasn’t my fault. By the time I did learn those things, I had turned the whole memory into a knee-slapper of a story, replete with sound effects (“you could hear [my mother's] arm flying through the wind as she spun around to hit me”) and raucous laughter. I had to turn it into comedy. How else could I make sense of insanity?

 

Our present selves are formed by our pasts. I don’t deny that. And I know that my funny bone was developed in part because of the craziness of my upbringing. Now, I could go through my days, behaving poorly and pointing a finger at my childhood. But at some stage, as adults, we can no longer blame our pasts. We must take responsibility for our behavior and choices. Blaming others is lazy and childish. And it’s just plain wrong.

 

One of the beautiful things about aging is the ability to say, “I’m over X-years-old, so I don’t have to take that crap anymore.” I make that statement all the time. But there’s a flip-side to that coin, friends: I don’t get to dole out crap anymore, either, because when I do, I have to own it. That’s what being an adult means. And you know what? The responsibility of being an adult is a beautiful gift.

 

So when I overheard that child making light of the parent’s crazy explosion, I understood. That kid’s aim was at one goal: survival.

 

I don’t know if that kid will grow up to repeat the cycle of insane abuse or not. I don’t know if that sense of humor will be developed and honed. Honestly, I don’t know if that kid will even make it. But I pray for the child. And I pray for the parent. It’s not easy being a kid. It’s not easy being a grown-up either. But if we’re lucky – really lucky – we get to try.

 

God bless us, some of us are actually trying our best.