Go to the Beach!

It’s Labor Day weekend, and I haven’t been to the beach all summer.

This is very sad, because I love the beach. The hypnotic music of waves rolling in, tang of salty spray on my face, warm sand caressing my feet – the sights, sounds and smells are like a healing balm. I live near the Georgia coast, about 30 miles from the beach at Tybee Island. My husband Ret and I were married on North Beach seven years ago, beneath the historic lighthouse that witnessed our first date. And yet we haven’t visited Tybee at all this year.

If the suit fits

Honestly, we’ve had a busy summer. Ret’s started a new job with his company and we have a never-ending home renovation underway. We rarely have the same day off. And…I’m not sure I can fit into last year’s swimsuit.

Okay, I’m pretty sure it won’t fit.

But still, is that a good excuse? Because seriously, the only person who will be worried about what I look like in my black and purple tankini is me. And that’s just one giant waste of my mental energy.

How many times have I squandered a beautiful day mired in unimportant concerns over what others think of me?

Overcoming insecurity

In my youth, I was painfully insecure. I was shy and awkward around just about everyone. My curly hair frizzed wildly out of control in the New Orleans humidity, while all the girls I admired were blessed with long, sleek, flowing tresses. I wasn’t interested in fashion, but I was keenly aware that my clothes were all wrong, wrong, wrong. Hopelessly klutzy, with zero athletic ability, the thought of going to a dance left me terror-stricken.

Somehow I managed to overcome this gnawing fear and make peace with myself, but it took eons. Discovering yoga helped immensely with my coordination and body confidence, even though I can’t do a handstand and probably never will.  I’m still a work in progress, but I knew I was on the right track when, at age 49, I threw away my flatiron!

Every so often, I’ll come across a little reminder to enjoy today: to go forth boldly wearing my nice clothes and using the fine china instead of saving these things for some elusive future date when everything is perfect. Well, I don’t have fine china, but that’s not what’s important. What matters most is that life won’t wait for me. And the ocean thinks I look great just the way I am.

Ocean
from Swimsuits for All, on Instagram

This wild, wonderful world is meant to be experienced, and there are no rules that determine who’s eligible to partake of its majesty. You don’t have to wear a certain size or have a PhD to hike a mountain, picnic in the park or gaze in awe at the watercolor sky. And no matter who you are, if you visit the ocean, it will rush right up to the shore to meet you there.

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Has Anybody Seen My Muse?

The sole purpose of this sentence is to transform this blank page into one with words on it.

Whew! Now the page is not blank and I can move forward. Because, you see, I am alone at the keyboard today. My muse is missing.

At first I didn’t realize she was gone. My corporate day job involves lots of writing and somehow I’ve managed to keep producing it. But when I get home and open my laptop – nothing. Possibly my work writing has overtaxed my muse. Maybe she got bored by the content. All I know is that fun little essays that used to write themselves have been eluding me.

Guitar music

As I struggle through these paragraphs, my husband Ret is softly playing guitar, spontaneous notes he’s never played before, weaving themselves into a beautiful song. He calls upon his muse anywhere, anytime, and she delivers. His talent is as enormous as his spirit, and his music perfumes the background of our life together.

Confession: The guitar he is playing is mine. Good thing, too, because my guitar would die of loneliness without his touch.

Another confession: Sometimes I am jealous.

When I was 12, someone gave me my first guitar, a beat-up acoustic with a bolted-on headstock and the name Pete! proudly painted across the body. I loved that instrument and diligently learned to play chords. I was never very good, but I enjoyed making music – until my parents bought new guitars for Christmas: one for me, and one for my younger sister Lori.

Lori is actually pretty naturally talented. We had great times playing together until her abilities began to surpass mine. Suddenly it wasn’t as much fun. As I entered my teenaged years and the agonies of high school, I wasn’t secure enough as a person to be less than great at something, especially when my kid sister was better. My guitar playing languished and I turned to other creative pursuits.

Starving artist

I’ve always had a modest ability to draw. In high school, a whimsicMuse 2 (1)al art muse swept into my life. I sketched faces to my heart’s content and dreamed of becoming an artist. That hope lasted until I took a commercial art class in college. Surrounded by people with stunning talent, reality dawned: If I expected to make a living as an artist, I’d be a starving one. And I like to eat.

Just like that, my sweet little art muse flapped her gossamer wings and disappeared. Every so often, she flits back into my awareness, and at those times, my charcoal pencils come out again. But it never lasts. I think I must be this muse’s moonlighting job.

Or maybe my muse doesn’t like to be compared unfavorably to other people’s muses. Who could blame her? Muses are delightful, happy creatures, playfully bestowing their gifts on grateful recipients. Insecurity, fear and perfectionism probably scare them away.

There’s a passage in the Bhagavad Gita that exhorts the purity of performing an action for its own sake, and not getting attached to the outcome. Lord Shiva says to Arjuna,

“Self-possessed, resolute, act without any thought of results, open to success or failure… This equanimity is yoga.”

In the case at hand, I think this means the joy should come from the writing, drawing and playing itself, not whether it’s good enough, whatever that is.

Thank you, muse

Many years ago, my mother taught me to be gracious and say thank you when someone gave me a gift. Once again, Mom’s right. Gratitude is always the right response.

Because the truth is, my muse is wonderful. She gives me inspiration at work every day. When I’m teaching yoga, she grants me the intuition to somehow know just what my students need. She whispers her approval when I get fun ideas with my home decor, like putting the leopard footstool in front of the little red floral chair, and she gives me great, off-the-wall cooking ideas. And when I am relaxed, receptive and not taking myself so darned seriously, words fly from my fingertips over the keyboard, sketches appear on my tablet and my clunky musical efforts don’t  sound half bad.

Ret, honey, I think I need my guitar now. I want to play.

Guitar under tree (1)

 

 

Silver is Golden

“Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”  Max Ehrmann, Desiderata.

There’s an age spot on the back of my left hand.

I find it amusing, really. It’s a pale, tiny thing, as if it knows it’s new and is afraid to assert itself. This little speck reminds me of a hand stamp at a festival – you may now enter middle age.

Time changes things

Ever since my 50th birthday a few years ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about this phenomenon called aging, taking note of the changes that come with the package. For example, gravity is somehow much more powerful now as everything seems to be sliding downward. I can still hear a pin drop next door but I can’t read a darned thing without my glasses anymore. Body parts that were once maintenance-free are sometimes stiff and cranky for no good reason.

I recently had to see a specialist to evaluate a mysterious pain in my right wrist. At random intervals it literally locks up on me, sending a stream of fire down to my fingers and rendering my wrist immobile. It is unbelievably painful. The first time this happened I thought it was dislocated. My primary care physician thought it was a nerve disorder. After an EMG performed by Dr. Frankenstein, I learned it is not a nerve problem.

It’s arthritis.

At first I was really happy to get a diagnosis. After all, I’d been struggling with this malady for years and had no idea what caused it. And then it hit me: OMG! I have arthritis. Old people get arthritis. How could this happen to me?

Yoga over 50

When I’m on my yoga mat in the privacy of my home, I feel strong, flexible and balanced. My body sings. I stretch and breathe, feeling vital and alive. This is how I always want to feel, completely at home in my body.

However, when I am on this very same mat in a sea of other people in a yoga class, I feel differently. While I’m not normally the oldest student in the class, I’m never the youngest, and it’s hard not to make comparisons. My back doesn’t bend as much as it once did. Women two decades my junior are dressed in tiny yoga pants and skimpy tanks that I’d love to wear if they could contain my, um, femininity. There was a time when I jumped around in a vinyasa class, but I just don’t have that energy level anymore, and besides, it’s hard on my joints.

It took some time for me to understand this new reality and find a sense of acceptance, and even appreciation. Because I really don’t want to sweat my way through a vigorous yoga class anymore. I want to allow stretches to unfold gently. I want to hold challenging poses a little longer and notice how my body and mind react. I want to slow down and savor every pose.

I want to slow down and savor my life.

Celebrate every birthday

Some people say they dread having birthdays. I’ve never understood that. No birthdays means you’re dead! I’m grateful for every single birthday I get and I plan to celebrate them all with candles that set off the smoke alarms. I’m happy to be 54. I’d never trade the wisdom I’ve gained for the 25-year-old body I’ve lost.

My dark brown hair is sprinkled with silvery strands, and as weird as this sounds, I kind of like them. Each is hard-won. The laugh lines around my eyes and mouth stay there when I stop laughing, and I don’t really mind. They mean I’ve laughed a lot over the years.

Life leaves its marks on all of us. The most important ones can’t be seen. My mind has opened as I’ve come to understand how very much I still don’t know. My heart is softer and more expansive with every dear one I gather into it. It’s been broken many times, but miraculously hasn’t lost its capacity to love again.

My soul is free. And it never grows old.