Tag Archives: aging

In The Gray.

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I decided on Christmas eve as I was dousing my hair with chemicals that it would be the last time; I am over coloring my hair every 3 weeks just to have it fade in a week and not match the rest of it for two more.

I can do without the time suck, the expense and the occasional professional tune-up to correct the banding that I created for myself in my efforts to Feel Like A Natural Woman.

Tomorrow will bring me to the end of the third month of my journey.

I posted on Facebook about this and I referred to this situation in a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago in an attempt to bring both of you up to speed on the higher-level events in my life.

There’s a movie called “The Grey.” Remember back in lit class when we would discuss: Man vs. Man, or Man. vs. God, or Man vs. Machine…? Which type of struggle encompasses this film? Yes.

It’s about a group of maybe nine rank and file (i.e., necessary) men from a petroleum company who survive a plane crash somewhere in a tundra. We don’t know where, exactly, but we can guess it’s very cold and very remote. The group of men are a typical motley crew: one is a new father, another is a great guy, one is an ex-con whose vulnerability dressed in hubris would be his downfall, one has a kidney disorder, another is a kind of MacGyver / dog whisperer / shaman / former Seal, one is a recovering alcoholic who’s divorced or in reconciliation with his wife, one is devoted to his family, another is just a standard prick. I think that’s eight. Let’s go with that. Bottom line: they all have their gifts and their flaws. It’s like Lord of the Flies but grown-up style. We start to get to know them on the night before or of the flight back to the “Main 48” as part of their leave from their jobs in that isolated place. The plane crashes somewhere in the Northwest territories of the U.S. and then we begin.

From the beginning, you sense tension and that’s how movies work.

What lives in the tundra and can do quite well thank you? Grey wolves. And then the drama begins, because you KNOW shit’s about to hit the fan, but who’s going to get it first? And how will he die? Will it be an embolism or a knife fight with another survivor? Before you run to Netflix and start to watch it, I must tell you that Liam Neeson is in the film. So now you really have to decide if you can take it.

It doesn’t matter who dies. Or how or if you’re psyched or sad when he finally he got his because he was so sweet or such a jerk to everyone or he lost his glasses or he has a fear of heights or he softened his granitic heart just before.

What matters and what any of this has to do with me is that this is how it feels for me right now as I have decided to grow out my gray hair.

When I was 39 I tried this. Maybe it was the cut, maybe it was because I was still “young” or maybe it was because it just didn’t look “right” in terms of balance, but I threw in the towel and started coloring again.

Then five years later, I started adding highlights. And “warmth” to my colorings and let me tell you: I am not a “warm” tone person. I am more Snow White. So anytime you add “heat” to my hair… it doesn’t work. (I tried to come up with an analogy that had to do with a croissant and it wasn’t working, so I let it go — some battles are not worthy of the energy.)

I joined a Facebook group, “Gray and Proud” which is a fun place for people like me — trying to figure it out, in the process of no more processing, and the people are generally super supportive.

I feel like the wolf is out there… just waiting to wrestle me to the ground and say, in her “all the more to eat you with” voice, “Stop. Just stop with the coloring… you know how frustrated you get when you see the end result and you feel it’s not you. You are going to be 50 in SIX MONTHS; that doesn’t mean you’re half dead, it just means you’re 50 — so stop trying to make your hair look like you’re 30 … I’ve got grays… so what if they’re tipped in black … but I’m a wolf. You know that’s not where you are right now… so be cool, man… or i’ll bite your head off.”

And then I’ll say, “But you’re a wolf. You were made that way.”

And she will turn around, snarl and say, “So were you. Get over yourself.”

And I’ll snarl back, “yeah, ok…” but in a really weak way because she’s a wolf and I am NOT a wolf and she could just… yknow, END IT right there (IT COULD HAPPEN!) and so here I am.

Before I share pics, some things I’ve noticed:

  1. Less hair is falling out in the shower.
  2. The bluing shampoo I use (to keep the silver from yellowing and to help keep my chemical low-lights from getting brassy) is sort of harsh… my hair feels NOT soft after I use it; that was a surprise.
  3. Even on this Facebook group, there are Nellys from Little House on the Prairie. Someone asked about conditioners, and everyone was giving input and then some person said (insert nasal and uppity tone): “You know blah conditioners are just blah wax and your blah hair is not alive, so you’re just blah putting wax on your blah hair follicle blah like you would on a wooden blah floor…” and I stopped myself from typing: “Stop being a JAN BRADY. Let the woman ask about conditioners, you hag.” (That must’ve been one of my PMS days.)
  4. Combining points 1 and 3: when I posted on this group about less hair falling out, many people commented and agreed and in retrospect commented that they’d noticed it as well and a person much like the person in point 3 said, “Probably not… Hair blah goes through a blah natural shedding blah stages like all cellular blah  – can you get me a Tab? processes….” and I couldn’t help myself so I said “I appreciate that. But this is a profound difference, AND I’m seeing baby hairs coming in unlike another time in my life….” she didn’t comment. Maybe the wolf got her.
  5. People are looking at my hair now. I’m past the stage of “maybe she’s going to get her roots done soon” and have entered the “no, this is intentional, she means to let her hair look like this.” Hmm. 
  6. The amount of gray coming in is going to rock my world when this is all done. I would say that I am about 75% gray from the tips of my ears forward to my face. I still have a nice (getting slimmer) black streak in the front, but shit’s about to get real… So I need my stylist to help lighten more of the artificially darker hair a bit more.
  7. I spend more time finding a good pink lipstick and putting on mascara. Will it all add up to the amount of time I spent in a chair in a salon? No.
  8. I am more hair aware. That bugs me a bit because I’m not a terribly vain person. I have always tried to look like I didn’t just roll out of bed, but this experience does make me feel as though I need to walk around with a sign that explains point 5.
  9. I’ve lost 5 pounds. That has nothing to do with the hair, just thought I’d mention it.

Without further ado, the photos… (that’s really why you’re here):

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.26.20 PM

Ooops. How did that get here? (snort, MC)

countryclub

This is the country club look; or the way my hair looks just before I wash my face. I generally don’t wear a headband because it’s 2017. 

harshlighting

I love this one. It captures my ___ perfectly.

lottery_pch

When I win the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes — which would be really great seeing as how I never participate. I feel like I resemble Wynona Rider here… (which explains why I don’t like her.) 

natural_light

This is natural light inside. Things are coming along and I am trying not to hate it. Intentionally messy. 

sunlight_letsgetreal

Ooof. Outside. Hair is a mess. On purpose because I’m TRYING to show the randomness of it all.

yogateacher_bangs

This is how I generally look when I teach yoga to kids. The bangs soften my face.

yogateacher_sane

This is how I look when I teach yoga to adults if my bangs simply don’t cooperate.

So will the wolf come and get me? I don’t think so. I’ve told my kids they can only say two things about my hair, because I’m really in this to win it … I’m really done with the coloring and I’ve been blessed with dark eyebrows, big green eyes and a fairly happy skin tone and complexion to pull this off for years before I start to worry people.

They can only say, “This is really cool,” or “It’s good you’re doing this for yourself.”  The  minute they tell me I look old, is the minute the wolf comes out.

Thank you.

Keep Being Amazed

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We just returned from a weeklong family vacation to New England. We haven’t been to the ocean, when it was warm enough to swim in, in a year. The last time we were on the coast, was in January, when we visited Hilton Head Island, SC. 

I inadvertantly published a poem today on this blog. It has been at least a month since I’d written anything. Summer is a difficult time to write, these days. My children are growing faster than I’m liking. Time waits for no one. I remember reading last week something by someone brilliant like Maya Angelou, about being on the lookout for when we cease being amazed. When that happens, we’ve started to die. 

We must be dilgent in our protection of our naïveté; to disallow jadedness and to actively fight feelings of blasé.   

I recall the days when I first started writing publicly, calling the boys Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3, to do what I could to protect their identity. That was 2011. They are 17, 14, and 11 now. Their advancements alternating between the feeling of sand sifting through my hands, and the feeling of walking through cold porridge. 

The oldest has taken his time learning how to drive, carving his independence, and venturing into the world. Getting his first ride home from school in May with a friend, something that seemed as natural as walking, was spent by me here at home pacing the house awaiting his safe arrival. I am betting I stepped as many paces as he could have to come home by foot. When he entered the doorway, I was all casual, “Hey! Have a good day?” as though I narrowly escaped being  busted rifling through HR files. He turned to drop off his backpack and get a glass of chocolate milk as I raced to the window to make sure his driver wasn’t some drug-addled ne’er do well driving a rusty van with blackened windows and satanic bumperstickers piecing it together. Do people still say ‘ne’er do well’? He wasn’t. It was one of his best friends, a classmate who is a French horn virtuoso and who will likely attend the US Naval Academy next fall. He was driving a tidy little Jetta.

Inside, I felt exhaltation, like when Kristen Wiig’s Target Lady character fist-pumps and shouts, “Approved!” when a customer’s charge goes through. That I’d instilled in my son a sense of ambition, a sense of seeking a tribal identity with growth and progress. The feeling of his belonging to a “good” group. 

Then I recall the myriad articles in the New York Times about student suicides, kids being drugged at parties, date rape, and I have to sit myself down and remember: those are the ones that stand out; those are the ones that sell newspapers; those are the ones that are cautionary tales; those are the outliers… he will be alright. It is out of my hands. 

Just like when Dr. Tchabo, my obstetrician very intentionally reminded me when my sons were in my womb… He held up his stubby index finger from that gifted hand and looked at me between his reading glasses and his eyebrows, smiling in kindness and wisdom. He said to me, in his thick Ghana accent, as we listened to my son’s heartbeat at 13 weeks, that watery wha-wha-wha-wha-wha coming through the doppler,  “D’ya hear that, Mommy? He tellin’ you, RIGHT NOW, he is his own guy. He is not you. He will have his likes. He will have his days. You are together, but he his own guy. Always he is his own guy.”            

He is. It is a bittersweet conclusion: he is smart, sensitive to energies, quiet and observant. Not much gets past him. 

He also forgets to look right one last time before slowly turning into traffic. That. “I just died. We’re in an ambulance now. The other car is up in those bushes, near the ditch. I loved you. I will watch you from heaven always. Go to law school…” I’ve said that a few times, half joking. I think it’s sinking in. I don’t care if he goes to law school. 

I am glad we are in our Sequoia. He prefers it because he can see everything. Its engine, a very powerful V8, is quite responsive and that takes some getting used to. “You’re commanding a 2-ton death machine.” I say, like a member of Darth Vader’s imperial guard. “Stay in your lane on those turns and don’t change lanes in the middle of an intersection. Idiots cross lanes like that.” 

We bought a new classical guitar for him a couple weeks ago. A model made by Córdoba. He was playing numerous models in the guitar store classical studio. Searching for his One. He was plucking around on the most expensive one — a $2400 model — and I looked around, thinking, Which one hasn’t he played? And this will sound crazy, but The One drew my eyes to her and whispered, “me. me. he hasn’t played me yet…” So I picked her up and patiently waited for him to end and I said, “How about this one?” 

The moment he started to check its tune, I felt electricity in my body. Like how it feels when a Spirit passes through a room. After about 60 seconds of playing a bit of “Blackbird” he calmly said, “I really like this one.” He continued, in his studious and exacting ways, about five more songs, some Bach, Cassini, and Clapton.  I was amazed. I didn’t want to leave. I did all I could to keep frm crying like a sappy mother right there. So I pretended to look at other guitars. It was no use. He sensed it. “You ok?” he asked, lightly self-conscious (one of the few times I’ve embarrased him in public, even though we were totally alone) and I said, “Yeah. Just feeling the feelings. I’m really proud of you.” 

Buck up, soldier, I said to myself. 

An hour later, we were out the door — the guitar in an upcharge-free, upgraded plush-lined travel case because someone in the shop (THANK YOU!!) sold the proper accompanying case to another customer who bought a lesser guitar. It brought me back to the days when my parents bought me my first violin with its own fur-lined case that was like all the other cases of the kids at school. I didn’t feel like a poor kid anymore with the tattered case. Image is everything when you’re a teenager.      

I asked my dad if he remembers teaching us, my brothers and myself, to drive. He does. I officially learned on a silver 1981 5-speed Honda Civic hatchback. That was the first car I’d been in with air conditioning. In Buffalo, you just didn’t need it. I started actually “learning” during the daytime in our driveway, however, at late 15 I think, by “parking” our family station wagon a silver 1977 Chevy Impala (later called “The Bentley,” due to an accident my mother caused) in different positions in the driveway or in front of our house. I recall those experiences as being adrenalized, probably because it was secret and completely verboten. It happened almost daily, and over time, I was driving around our street, a suburban cul-de-sac (that was a word I’d never heard until I left Buffalo) lined by little trees, newish unimaginative houses and pristine poured concrete sidewalks. I accomplished this “driving school” by two feats: my mother a) ignored me due to my insouciance or b) just gave up and was ripping out her hair, likewise due to my insouciance. The bottom line is that kids will pull shit on their parents. 

I was NOT an easy child, and having my second son, also a middle child like I am, has absolutely confirmed for me that karma exists. My middle son is ALIVE in every sense. He feels everything largely and without hesitation. He is a mirror of all my flaws and I love him for it. Intuitively, I absolutely love him for it. Practically, I want to run and hide from all he reveals to me, but I know there’s no payoff in that. This guy “goes there” with me. It can be a moment of utter mirth and hilarity, sincerely experienced by both of is in a dear and safe place, or it can be a red-eyed duel of two dragons, willing to maim and be emotionally maimed for their cause. We are intense. Or, as my therapist said, “avoid the empirical, use the conditional: We ‘can be’ intense.” And that’s about right: we can be intense. 

He sings. His voice is grainy, smoky and breathy. I used to think it was an a lá mode affect, but it’s not. He likes to sing ballands, and he does them well, but I called them dirges. I’ve since stopped because it’s not nice. That’s what I mean about his being my mirror — he just lays the cards on the table, and I have two ways of responding: by being a jerk or being nice. I’m learning. He’s an excellent teacher. He has two vocal coaches now. He argued about getting the second one, whom his father and I secured because he needs a much stronger foundation, something we sensed he wasn’t getting with his first coach. He likes it now though, this second one pushes him, makes him sing opera, and he can already hear its influence, and the ballads continue.  And he puts that stuff up on the Internet! 

He amazes me. He has big dreams, this one, and all of them achievable with a shit ton of dedication. He has the focus and the chops, but he’s young, very green, so we will see. His father and I will support him as long as he pushes himself. He had what I guess is a typical middle school experience socially: horrid, so we are hoping he’s learned enough to hit the books and ask for help. We also think that dragging him along to big brother’s college tours is a good idea, as his older brother said himself that he’d wished he’d looked at these schools sooner (oops).      

The youngest is cherubic still. His 11-year-old face, belly and arms rounding in preparation for a growth spurt. He rides his bike, super fast, without any awareness at all up and down our street, selecting the steepest driveways in which to turn around his 10-speed. He moans about having to wear a helmet, “I’m right here! You can SEE ME RIDE!” and I insist. He knows the drill, and he complies, but not without an icy glare and volcanic sigh. He’s a scorpio. Go figure. We have allowed him and his best friend to ride their bikes to the pool, they are both “red dots” which means they don’t need adults to accompany them as they have performed the water tests required by the life guards. 

Two weeks ago, he and his friend rode to he pool. When he was ready, he called me using out family’s floater phone to let me know he was on his way home. About a minute later, he called me again. Through the phone’s tiny hi-fi speakers, I heard screams and crashing sounds. My heart fell through my body and landed on the floor in front of me. “Your brother … Who’s screaming?!” I screamed, shouting his name, more screaming…  “OMIGAAAD!” I cried, and his older brother, the one who gives him the hardest time of all, took off and ran to the pool, a mile away, barefoot. He beat his father to the pool who drove. Everything was fine. The screams were peals of laughter, and delight from happy pool-goers. I watch too much “Dateline,” apparently. “I was fine, Mom. I butt-dialed you.” 

He dreams about programming, space and Jupiter. Standard academics bore him tearless. We worry about him getting lost in the cavernous middle school halls next year and having to use a locker with a combination. It’s a massive place, one of the largest schools in Virginia, and despite the school administration’s traditional insistence of “keeping things small feeling” for the youngest students, I know my little man will just get washed around. He already has been, somewhat at his elementary school. “He’s very bright, he tests strong, but he gets overwhelmed… So that’s why we don’t place him in the advanced classes…” Here’s me: you keep coloring inside those lines and cite your standardized algorithms, you savvy 21st Century educators. My son and I will be lying on our bellies on the floor looking at NASA videos and astronomy books. 

If we’re not looking at space from inside our house, we are lying on our backs, looking at apps in the nighttime, holding up an iPad to the sky.  We did that a lot in New England, where the light pollution was absent. Getting to our destination at night meant we had to cross this:

 

Those voids flanking the road is 6′-10′ of water, depending on the tide. “So you drive real slowly, with both hands on the wheel, but slightly loose, so the wheel can play a little and the car can correct itself,”  I hear myself say to my eldest, who is barely listening from the backseat.  

It’s been a great summer. I have judiciously used my phone to chronicle it, being mindful to not confuse the chronicling –that one step removed– from actually experiencing it. I’ve purposefully left the phone in the glove box or on the dresser, asking myself and reminding myself of the phone’s actual use: Do I need to communicate with from anyone right now? No. 

I’ve been rowing a few times, and it’s been glorious. I’m off from teaching yoga now until after Labor Day, which is really nice. The dogs are doing great and my husband is nursing a cold today. In May I did something to my left knee, my MCL, which is a bit frustrating because I can’t run terribly long on it. I’ve promised myself I’ll look into PT tomorrow, because I’m not getting any younger and I’m competitive as hell. 

Being away from this blog has been good and bad — I’ve been able to slow down and enjoy things instead of thinking about ways to share them on the blog; but it’s also made me lazy, I haven’t practiced much, and I do find myself censoring myself about things I’d like to share. There’s a lot of strange self-consciousness that permeates through a writer: we think you want to know everything about us, or what we have to say, yet we have a hard time actually believing that anything we have to say is the remotest bit interesting to you.  

I’m about to start a new book, reading one, that I read about in the NYT on vacation. “A Manual For Cleaning Women” is a collection of short stories by a now-dead writer named Lucia Berlin. She’s widely hailed as a “writer’s writer” and I’m enjoying the introductions so far. Reading her, and Anne Tyler, and Dorothy Parker has made me start thinking that the short story is where it’s at for me. I really like to write, but I know myself well enough  to know that I will get lost in my own verbal morass if I don’t keep things tight and fluid. I overpacked so much for the vacation (I wore MAYBE 12% of what I packed and bought a couple other things) that I know if I started a book, I’d just get lost. Like my youngest… in the Milky Way, but mine is made up of words. 

My father asked me recently if I edit myself. I said no. I don’t have a space requirement, no copy editors. I suppose I could consider it editing. I do know this, when I know exactly who will be reading what I write, say a person for whom English is not native, I will break down my content and be very precise in how I say things. Invariably, I’m reminded of my days in college when I worked at a bank, and I would speak louder and slower to a non-English speaking customer, because I thought that would help him better understand me. 

Well, I’m out… I want to thank you, as always, for reading. It’s an uncommonly beautiful day in August here, and we have a few more weeks before school starts, so I’ll go now. Remember to keep being amazed. Write it down, that which amazes you. 

Thank you. 

Clean Eating, Detoxes, Chicos and Dying Anyway

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Today is my 47th birthday. Tonight I am going to see “The Black Keys” and “Cage the Elephant” with my husband of 20 years and two of my three children. My youngest wouldn’t have any of that standing in a dark room with 8,000 other people to dance to a very loud band. None of that shit.

I haven’t been writing because I’ve been figuring out some stuff and I also have a terrible secret.

The figuring out thing? I thought I had it all resolved until I’d finished Prince of Tides and read Pat Conroy’s brief biography at the end of it. I thought I’d decided last week with my pal Lillian over at It’s a Dome Life  that I would hold off on the memoir for a few years because I still have a 10-year-old to screw up raise. Then I finished PoT and realized I’d sort of done what Conroy did (although not nearly as well) when I wrote my fictionalized memoir / novel two years ago over a summer. I haven’t read it in two years. I need to read it and see if it makes any sense anymore.

No one cares about that. You want to know about the secret.

The terrible secret: I’ve begun a clean-eating detox. A couple friends who know me very well asked me with great confusion on their faces, “YOU? You eat very well!” And it’s true, I do. I smooth (make killer healthy smoothies), eat quinoa, chia, agave, spelt, chikimea (I made that one up). So I’ve stopped drinking coffee and eating other stuff (bread, yogurt, milk, BRIE…. ) going on 11 days now. Aside from that Brie thing, I eat well.

Well, judging from the freakin’ headache I’ve nursed for the past three five days, my metabolism would say otherwise. It’s brutal. I won’t go into details, ok, I’m shitting like a goose, but other than that it’s great. I am sleeping better. And I am waking better, so that’s huge. But the headaches… Criminy. What the WHAT with the headaches?

I have never really been a big sugar eater — I don’t add sugar to my cereal and I dilute the juices I drink and I’m not big on pasta and cakes and stuff, but apparently, even wiping out the artisan breads and eggs and coffee (of which I drank only one mug a day) is having a profound effect on me.

I also wonder if there’s any point to this — I had my blood drawn last week before starting any of this for my biennial well check and my vitals are great: BP is 106/60; triglycerides are 57, total cholesterol is 157 (LDL 91 / HDL 47); I row, practice yoga, jog a few times a week, walk the dogs, eat well and so … why? Why am I doing this?

“Because I’ll try anything once.” That’s what I said. I had no idea I would be this miserable.

On the first conference call, the leader said that this is a good time to take care of ourselves and calm things down in the exercise department. “If you’re someone who goes to a bootcamp every day, or runs a lot, this is a good time to dial back on that and slow things down. Practice yoga, go to a sauna or a steam bath… ” and I was wondering, “Why? I mean, this is a good way to increase our health.” And then the headaches came and I realized why we would be encouraged to calm everything down. Because I CAN’T FUNCTION ANYWAY. Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln. I said the other day that I’ll gladly go back to running hard every day than do this.

To address the headaches, “Take vitamin C,” the health leader said to us on yesterday’s conference call that I had to set on mute/speaker whilst I sat in the bathroom. “About 1,000-2,000mg a day is fine…” then someone asked a further question about it and the health maven (whom I happen to respect a lot) continued, “there’s no limit you can take on Vitamin C, just take it until you start to get diarrhea…” and I thought… “Do you know where I am right now?”

So I’ve got headache and the bathroom. That’s going to be the name of my memoir: “Headaches and The Bathroom; How to Detox Your Past in 21 Days.”

The health commandant also mentioned that we could take something called Chlorella to help with the headaches. No. I know what I’m going to take for this headache. It starts with Gin and ends with Tonic and if you have just one, the headache will be a distant memory.

But I’m a trouper. I don’t give up easily and I still have a couple weeks to go. Will I make it? I really have no clue. Part of my headaches I think are coming from all the mental bandwidth I’m dedicating to this thing: “Is that safe? Should I eat that?” and “I miss my gelato…” (even though I ate 1/4 cup whenever I had it). I’m really constantly obsessing about when and what I can eat. I also really hate being told what to do. So there’s that too. But the headaches… I don’t normally get them, so this experience is as close to a nightmare as it comes for me. “Don’t go and reach for the tylenol… or the quick fix,” she said. “You’re just going to have to suck it up… ha ha >insert my sneer< …” was the response about the need for an Advil.

I did NOT speak on that call. I didn’t because I know myself too well. Once I get started on this stuff, I am not easy to talk down; I also know that I signed up for this. I foolishly, stupidly, arrogantly signed up for this. I wasn’t feeling lousy to start with, I was feeling sluggish and foggy-headed. So I thought this might be a good idea. Eleven days in, I’m feeling like I WANT TO DIE and I can’t keep my head up to save my life. My office is overwhelmed by Lara bar wrappers. I have to start reframing all this for my own sake, that food is not the enemy. I would be willing to bet that the fear-based and white-knuckled detox industry stands to become incredibly lucrative if we keep thinking unmoderately, that food is the enemy.

This morning, my husband let me sleep in because it’s my birthday. He took care of the boys and got them all off to school. When he entered our room to and leaned in to give me a kiss, I could smell the coffee on his breath and when he kissed me, I could taste it.

“You had a raspberry mocha this morning, didn’t you?” I hissed. I felt like a succubus, a harpy. I wanted to bite his lip to get the remnants and then drain him of all his pizza he enjoyed last night.

On the detox call yesterday, people were GUSHING, absolutely freakin’ OVER THE MOON about this program. They must’ve had to stop eating grass and added quinoa instead.

I am convinced my canines will be ground down to resemble cow’s teeth. No more need for incisors.

I asked on the super-secret Facebook page if anyone had a recipe for a carrot cake alternative and all I know is that it was viewed by 41 people. Not even the leader could reply. No one even said, “take a carrot and roll it up with almonds and a Lara Bar and sprinkle it with cinnamon, then close your eyes and plug your nose and eat it.” I think my question made them all run from their computers and shove their faces in their kale, eggplant, brussel, coconut flake, mung bean sprout salads.

I was talking to some friends earlier this week about mid-life crises and shopping for clothes. One of the women was wearing these fantastic pants. “Banana Republic!” said one of the girls I was with. I said, “OOOOOooooWooooo! I love Banana Republic!” (Along with JCrew, prAna, Eddie Bauer and Anne Taylor.)

We started talking about where we shop now, that we’re all “of a certain age” and one of them blurted out, “Chicos. I like it there.” And I thought: “No, honey, you’re still too young for Chicos.”

Instead I said, “I hate the name of that store… CHEEEEEE-KOS … Nah. I can’t do it. It’s like, for me, that store name is just not cool. It’s all but resignation. It says, ‘I don’t have grandchildren, but I could.'”

“Same thing with ‘Coldwater Creek,’ ” another friend said.

And we started laughing. “I think my great grandmother shopped there…” someone said.

That was just before the tears flowed. We knew “Forever XXI” was never going to be in our futures for ourselves. That ship had sailed.

“How about a store named, ‘It’ll Be OK, Honey.‘ That is at least telling the truth,” I said. “Or, mingling mid-life crises with shopping how about, ‘You’re Just Going to Die Anyway…’ that would be another good one. I can see it now, at a fashion show … ‘Here we have Giselle in a tasteful surplice frock in a simple sand dollar and sea star pattern accompanied by her LifeTime walker and Dr. Andrew Weil Earth Shoes in cordovan… the slacks have a clever little pocket which conceals any catheter or medical alert device needed…”

I told a Joan Rivers joke, it was a sight gag, but I’ll tell it here anyway. She was walking across stage in one of her fantastic sparkly gowns and was lifting her knees high and curving them to the outer sides of her body. She said, “Excuse me, I need to move my breasts out of the way of my path…” And we started laughing so hard we were going to pee.

Today I am 47. Which means I’ve ended my 47th year and tomorrow will be the first day of my 48th.

This just popped into my email inbox:

Irony?

Irony?

And the answer to this question in the TED Talk email is, Yes. We are dying. We all are. Once we hit the peak of hormonal balance and health, and begin that decades-long descent, yes, we are dying. We’ve hit our point of metabolic and procreative usefulness on this planet and all bets are off. But our liver regenerates every 28 days, so that’s all good too.

Speaking of liver regeneration, the four of us are going to a rock concert tonight while I wonder beforehand if there’s such a thing as gluten-free beer. If the headache is still here tomorrow, I’m done with this madness. I’m heading over to Chicos and I’m going to buy a real nice pair of pants with lots of pockets.

An epiphany (along with the secret): life is about living. If I were hit by a bus today, I’d be pissed that I was in the midst of a headache.

Thank you.

Grief: Boom and Bangles

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I had all these intentions on Monday to sort of dial back on the grief stuff; I was feeling settled. My emotions were showing me that it was ready to regroup and that we could start to be more uplifting here on the blog.

Then about ten minutes ago, Boom: I started to bawl my fool head off.

Music. I blame the music. It had words. English words. And it was probably performed in a minor key, which hits all of us emotionally, but it wasn’t Adele. I can’t do Adele generally and right now: no effing way.

Since Mom died, I’ve not listened to any music with words, or with words that I can understand anyway. In fact, other than the music at her Mass, I’d not listened to any music at all. Monday, I decided to play some intentionally, to reintegrate myself back into my world so I was playing a lot of classical or instrumental or some of my yoga music that brought me great peace on the retreat.

The language in the retreat yoga music is mostly Gurmuhki so “sa” and “ra ma da sa” have no utility other than meditative nor do they remind me of my relationships (failed or thriving) with persons living or dead.

Dead. My mother has died.

This shit just pours out of me, guys, so trust me: I’m trying to keep things moving along here. But sometimes the best way to move is to sit still.

I mean no disrespect to my father, but I have to process this.

When we returned that night from the hospital, without Mom (woah), I was driving. He was sitting shotgun and my younger brother was in the rear row.

We all process this stuff differently so I give anyone their zone when we amble about this crazy freaking world.

We were humming along, weary, together, but totally blown away.

Dad said this: “Wow. Jesus. What a blow. This is tough. I mean, I know you all lost your mother, and that’s horrible and tragic, but I lost my life partner, my wife. What am I going to do now? What the hell am I going to do now?”

I continued driving, but clearly, I heard every word.

The upcoming light turned from green, to yellow to red. I slowed my land yacht well before reaching the light. We were all alone on the road: not a soul (other than my mother’s perhaps) was around. We sat in silence. Or I did anyway. If I said anything, I said, “This isn’t a competition.”

I honestly don’t think I replied. I think I’ve told people I did reply because I desperately wanted to, but I don’t believe I did because we needed to get off the road and I wanted to not go to jail that night. I wanted to say all of this:

“I get it. This is hard for you, Dad. I hear you. But here’s my reality: my relationship with Mom totally trumps yours, and this isn’t a competition.  You might’ve had her for 59 years and I only had her for 45 and you might’ve shared secrets with her that I’ll never touch and that’s great. I get it. You were mates, you have a relationship I can’t and don’t ever want to touch. I however am the product of your union. And unlike my relationship with you where it’s all external, my relationship with her was totally internal for nine months and then another 10 as she breastfed me. And then she raised me to the best of her ability, no matter how excellent or flawed, I am a product of her and you. You might’ve exchanged DNA with her to create me and my brothers, but we share DNA with her and that creates a bond that that you will never be able to touch.”

But I didn’t say it. I wanted to, maaaaaaaan oh maaaan… but I didn’t. This is how my father deals with stuff, or at least with how it went down that moment. I will say no more.

Every day, I am reminded of her. I wear her bangles and her rings and the rings of her mother and grandmother. Sometimes I smell her. (I’m sure I’ve said that before online, my apologies… it’s gonna be a part of the process.)

The shiny silver cuff is hers; we share the same initials and so I asked for it. The bangle with the heraldic stars on it has long fascinated me, ever since I was a child and the far right is a gift she gave me on my 10-year anniversary, a cuff fashioned after our shared silver pattern, "Repousse" which I believe has been retired. These are all unique pieces and the sound of them jangling into one another is a sound I grew up with; it is her sound and whenever I hear it, even when she was alive, I thought of her. The first two are also gifts, the front one from her when I had my first son, and the second one my father gave me when I turned 18. Wearing these pieces helps me stay connected to her...

The shiny silver cuff is hers; we share the same initials and so I asked for it. The bangle with the heraldic stars on it has long fascinated me, ever since I was a child; and the far right is a gift she gave me on my 10-year wedding anniversary, a cuff fashioned after our shared silver pattern, “Repoussé.” These are all unique pieces and the sound of them jangling into one another is a sound I grew up with; it is her sound and whenever I’ve heard it, even when she was alive, I thought of her. The first two are also gifts, the front one from her when I had my first son, and the second one my father gave me when I turned 18. Wearing these pieces helps me stay connected to her…

When I was in my own recovery from chaos because of the world I grew up in, I used to consider the bangles as chains, weights that held me down and kept me back. Now since I’m in a better place and have established myself more independently from my parents, I see them as graceful reminders of my mother’s spirit.

I am the only daughter of the only daughter. It’s the end of the line… I want so much to have a daughter right now (but that’s not happening) because of the bangles I wear of hers and the rings I’ve inherited. I want them to stay in the line, and I suspect that even if my sons have fantastic wives, they will never meet my mom, so I have a strong interested in keeping them in the lines, prospective daughters-in-law notwithstanding.

I want my brothers around me so much right now, all I can do is express the words to convey that need. My heart aches for their voices and their embraces and their energy. I didn’t think I’d feel much different when my brothers arrived the day after she died, but I did. We have an electrical plasma thing going on, like everyone does with people they’re immediately related to. (re that last sentence: all complicated grammar rules are out the window right now.)

My mother was incredibly flawed and gorgeous and compelling and interesting and brilliant and she created three of the coolest people I know. The fruit of her brothers’ loins share a shorthand with us that no one can touch. All I have to do is drop a line and they are there calling, texting, emailing, tweeting, responding.

My mother’s big personality means she leaves a big hole. This is not to suggest that persons with modest personalities will leave smaller holes; I am a big believer that everyone leaves a hole, so I’m not going to bother defending what I’m rambling about. The point is: even in her declining months (which brings me to another point which I won’t belabor here: the kindnesses of people who suggest that my mom didn’t have a chronic condition to deal with or a terminal illness and that the cardiac arrest while violent, was yes: merciful … no. It’s a long story, it’s her story and so I will do my best to honor her truth: she battled long time with plenty of chronic conditions which took a sweeping toll on her body), she was rather softly present, and required a good amount of attention, so when I’m looking at that leather chair she used to love to sit in, or a photo, or the bangles, or my cheekbones, I can’t help but feel her giant absence.

So more posts about her and my processing are sure to come. I have a writer friend who is avoiding these posts due to her own aging parents and even though she’s not reading this one, I want her to know I love and support her. I also have another blog friend who is awash in her losses and the losses of her friends and so I want her to know I hear her too. I also know no one expects anything of me, least of all me, in terms of what I should write about next… I want to write about other things, like dental floss and the seasons turning, but none of it resonates at the moment; nothing compares to Mom.

Thank you.