Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 20 Things to Love About Yourself.

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At the end of November my beautiful daughter-in-law (DIL) sent an interesting Facebook message to my two daughters and me. This message was actually a challenge. It was something she herself had been challenged to do in her fitness class that week, and one that she found extremely difficult. When I read that, my first thought was that “if this incredible young women finds a “fitness” challenge difficult,” then I’m dead meat. No way Jose. Not going to happen for this Old Broad (OB). Then when I read “the challenge” I was even more convinced that this was something I could not do.

What was so challenging about “the challenge”?

Everything. Why? Because it requires that you take a long hard, uncompromising, honest, candid, truthful and LOVING look at yourself. Both physically and non-physically. And come up with ten things for each that you like about yourself. I’m not even talking love here. Just, like. A little nod to one of your more redeeming attributes, a mere mention of some cute little trait or charming characteristic. You know the thing I’m talking about. That endearing eccentricity that your family mutters under their collective-breath at family gatherings, “There it is.” We all have those, right. But as my DIL said in her note, “It’s amazing how in 2 seconds you can name a million things about family, friends and even people you’ve just met, but to name 20 things about yourself is HARD!”

She’s right. It’s easy-peasy to find 20 things about someone else that are admirable and praiseworthy, both physically and non-physically. But try pointing the lens back at yourself and it is damn near impossible. At least for me.

But this is a new year. And I’ve decided that this is the year that I will challenge myself more. Go out on that fragile limb and do things. Face uncertainty head-on. Take some risks. Do things a little, or a lot, differently than I have in the past. Some of these things I know are going to scare the shit right out of me. And at my age this could seriously happen.

Other things, I’m going to do because they’ll be good for me. Like eating more vegetables and less meat, especially the stuff that causes the unnecessary death of cute animals. This is a dilemma for me because I think all animals, and many plants, are cute. And if you think I’m being facetious, check out Marimos. They are freakin’ adorable. So are Baby Lichens. Then there’s Venus Flytraps. Not all that cute but extremely interesting. Like the dark-haired girl wearing uncool glasses in a roomful of Barbie’s with big boobs. I can relate to the V-Flies.

And then there are those things I’ve been putting off for years, decades even. You know the things, the “I’ll do that someday” stuff. All the stuff you make excuses for, that possibly involve some kind of weird time and space continuum. I have no idea what that is but it sounds like it may apply here, and very likely every aspect of my life to date. But I do plan to make a heroic attempt, and at the very least, confront some of these things that I’ve been putting off and maybe quite conceivably, should all the stars line up just right, get around to it. Perhaps.

As for the 10 physical things and the 10 non-physical things I like about myself? I haven’t a clue. I only know that it will require me to be as kind and loving with myself as I am with others. I will need to be as gentle and gracious, understanding and big-hearted, caring and compassionate, forgiving and magnanimous to me as I am to you and you and you, and the person I’ve just met. For this is all the great big important stuff that is at the very heart of “the challenge.” Maybe, just maybe, that’s why it’s so difficult.

And as my wise, witty and wonderful DIL said, it’s easier to come up with these things about someone else then it is about yourself. So I thought I’d do it for her.

10 Physical things that I LOVE about my DIL (in no particular order and just for starters):

  1. Big beautiful smile
  2. Gorgeous hair
  3. Killer abs
  4. Cute freckles
  5. Dazzling blue eyes
  6. Tiny waist
  7. Artistic hands
  8. Infectious laugh
  9. Melodic voice
  10. Magnificent fit figure

10 Non-Physical things that I LOVE about my DIL (in no particular order and just for starters):

  1. Loving-kindness
  2. Generosity
  3. Compassion
  4. Thoughtfulness
  5. Gentleness
  6. Intelligence
  7. Creativity
  8. Humor
  9. Courage
  10. Warmth and wonder

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Wearing the Cloak of Invisibility.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

I’m over the hill. Shocking news I know. Truth is, I’ve been here for a while. It’s a hard one to come to terms with. So I’ve been breaking it to myself gently.

But it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. Bust myself. I’m coming clean and this is my confession.

Little back story.  I’ve been feeling invisible since I turned 50. You may think this is crazy talk, and it may be. But it’s how I feel. And I’m not alone. Other women my age have expressed the same thing. It’s a profound conversation. My jaw dropped when I discovered I had far too many “sisters” out there who felt the same way. Either we’re all suffering from menopausal madness. Or there’s something to this.

I turned 50 and it was like I put on Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility. Suddenly no one could see me.

This was disturbing at first.

I am shy to the core. An introvert by nature. And an occupational extravert by necessity. I act out all day, come home exhausted from all that outgoing role-playing, and flop in front of Netflix to recover.  I tell you this because I’ve never had the spotlight on me. But I never felt invisible either. I always believed that my presence was felt, and seen, in the room. My voice, no matter how quiet, was heard. Nothing had prepared me for this.

There was no prior narrative.

One day, shortly after my 50th birthday, it hit. Like a lead balloon. I had this painful epiphany. ‘It’s like I’m not here. I don’t matter. I’m irrelevant. Insignificant. Inconsequential. Unseen.’  Not just by men.  But by everyone who was under the age of 50. Especially all the cool people. And those hipsters.

So that felt lousy.

But not for long.  I realized quite quickly, the powers of wearing the magical Cloak of Invisibility.  If no one saw me, then that meant I could do whatever I wanted. As long as it didn’t cause harm to any other living creature, human or otherwise, nor to the environment and the earth we all share.

That’s when the fun began.

The world was my oyster. I was set free. Liberated. Emancipated.  Let loose. Oh the marvelous things I’ve done while flying under the radar. I’m a free bird. Untethered. Unshackled. Unfettered. I no longer care what people think of me. That’s their business. Not mine.

If you’re a woman over 50, I want you to know that this is just the beginning. We’re the same gutsy girls who changed history in the sixties and seventies. We burned our bras. Carried placards. Marched in unison. Saw the possibilities and ran bravely towards the future. We rewrote the definition of being a woman. For ourselves. Our mothers. Sisters. Nieces. Girlfriends. Daughters. Grand daughters. And for all the men in our lives.

We are those powerful strong beautiful agents of transformation. It only makes sense, that at this time in our lives, we’ll reconstruct and revolutionize. Reshape and rebuild. Renew and redefine what it means to be a women over 50. We will not go quietly into the dark night. Not us.

Wearing the Cloak of Invisibility has been awesome in so many ways. Part of me, doesn’t want to take it off.  EVER.

I don’t know what your personal journey has been like so far, but if you’re reading this and nodding your head in agreement, then keep on reading because we’re just getting started. Fasten your seat belt because you’re in for a fabulous ride.

Here are 20 DO’S & DON’TS for you to consider while wearing the magical cloak:

1. Be creative.  This is your time to escalate. Skyrocket. Shoot right through the roof. Create things that delight you. Whether it’s a blueberry pie, a dress, a song, guitar lick, a squeaky scale on a clarinet, a blog or a book. Make it all you. All authentic. Take an ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude with this.  See what happens.

2. Go where you want.  Don’t ask permission. Just go. Don’t be afraid to go it alone either. Some trips are meant to be solo adventures. If others want to join you, and that feels right, then the more the merrier. But don’t miss the boat because you’re the only one who wants to get on board.

3. Seek out the company of people you enjoy.  And steer clear of those you don’t. Surround yourself with people who matter to you.  These are your tribe members. You’ll know them at first sight. Open your arms and your heart wide and let them in.

4. Welcome solitude and time alone.  Still your mind. Quiet your thoughts. Get to know them. Love your own company.  Be your own best friend first.

5. Stop distracting yourself with busyness.  Instead listen to the small quiet voice of wisdom inside your head. It may tell you to go for a vigorous walk. Or that this is a day to laze around on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns. Let go of all things frantic, frenetic and feverish. Stop dancing on peanut butter. In the end you go nowhere.

6. Wear what you want.  Take pleasure in clothes that feel like you. Express yourself from the inside out. But first, you must be comfortable in your own skin. Your earth suit. Nothing you wear will feel good if you hate your body. So don’t.

7. Don’t cut your hair. Unless wearing your hair short has always been your style. But if you like long hair, and that feels authentically you, then keep it that way. Don’t cut it off because some crazy person said you were too old for long hair. Don’t listen to them. Show them the door. Long hair. Short hair. No hair. All beautiful. Make it your choice. Not someone else’s.

8. Eat and drink what you want. You’re all grown up now. You can make your own decisions about what you consume. Things that fuel your body are important. At any age. But the things that satisfy your spirit are also essential. For example, I love orange foods. Mandarins, peppers, carrots, and Hawkins Cheezies. I’ve also discovered that a Starbucks full-fat Chai Latte makes Friday night grocery shopping almost bearable.

9. Learn new tricks.  Every day. It doesn’t have to be an entire course of study. One word will do. Learn a new instrument. Or a new language. Read. Write. Explore. Investigate. Examine. Bone up. Grow your brain. And blow your mind wide open with the art of the possible.

10. Open your eyes to wonder.  Take a look at the world around you. It’s beautiful. Breathtaking. Awesome in every way. So look under rocks. Gaze up at the evening sky. Stare into the eyes of someone you adore. Spend time with a person who hasn’t been to school yet. They have much to teach.

11. Stay in the moment.  That’s all we really have. Don’t waste the preciousness of the present with worry and regret. Give fear a kick in the ass. What’s done is done. What will be will be. Que Sera Sera. Only ‘now’ matters.

12. Keep moving and bending.  Be pliable. Your body will thank you for it. It’s designed and perfectly engineered to get you around with ease. All the days of your life. But you have to honor its changing stages. Adapt. Alter. Adjust. Do whatever is necessary to keep going. Your days of running a marathon may be over. So walk. You’ll still get there.

13. Hang out with people.  All kinds. All ages. Your tribe isn’t defined by your age. It’s about who you like to be with. Who turns your crank. The faces you like to see across the table, a crowded room, in the gym, at the movies or the book club. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t be afraid to get out there. Call someone. Reach out.

14. Love.  It’s our heart’s desire. No one is ever too old. Everyone needs it. We crave it. We pine. We yearn. We covet. We’ll do just about anything to possess it. But now, more than ever, you are free to open your heart to love. Let it in. And spread it around. Make it go viral. It may be romantic and lovely. It may be with someone new. Or with the one you’ve always been with. Regardless, just love.

15. Don’t run from your emotions.  Love them all. Be fragile and strong. Vulnerable and powerful. Courageous and terrified. Ballsy and meek. Embrace the contradictions. Hug the enigma. Clutch all the paradoxes of the female spirit.

16. Give up on being perfect.  No longer necessary. Because the truth is, you already are. Divine just the way you are. Warts and all. Beautiful. Beyond compare. Know that.

17. Give up the need to be in control.  Relax. Ease up. Unclench your fist. Let someone else steer the ship. Lead the parade. Now’s the time to share the ride. It’s so much easier. You’ll wonder why you didn’t surrender sooner.

18. Be grateful.  Now more than ever take stock of all the amazing people, places and things in your life. Then give thanks. It’s that simple.

19. Embrace the messiness of life. With arms open wide. Jump into mud puddles. Roll around in the muck. Get egg on your face. Dirty your hands. Cover yourself in grime. Caress the earth. Most importantly, don’t concern yourself with cleaning it up. Just let it be.

20. Remember that you are needed.  Always have been. Always will be. That doesn’t stop because your kids have flown the coop. Or you got divorced. Or widowed. Your parents have died. Or whatever the “winds of change” are for you. No matter what your age. You matter. The world needs what you, and only you, have to give.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

IMG_3857Over the past year I have been asked if E’s cancer changed anything.  What a preposterous question.  Of course it changed things.  It changed everything. But that’s not the question really being asked is it?  You’re all too polite and kind to ask the big messy Q. Fear of intruding. Or opening wounds.  Being considered nosey.  But this is me you’re asking. I’ve been an open book since I started this blog in 2011.  Poured my heart out. Spilled my guts. Let the cat out of the bag.  Shared my deep dark dreary thoughts in this diary.  So it’s perfectly okay to ask the real question on your mind. 

HOW has cancer changed things?

If you were to peek into our house this Christmas, you’d probably smile, possibly sigh with relief, that everything appears the same.  Sa-sa-sa-sa-same.  Same family gathering. Same festivities. Same decorations and ornaments hung on the tree.  It all looks very much like it did last year.  And the year before.  And the one before that.  Right back to when E and I shared our first Christmas together.  There have been a few different houses.  We’ve all grown older.  The kids are all now adults. There’s a grand daughter.  A daughter-in-law.  But the mood in the room is unchanged. Family jokes. Teasing. Cheerful banter.  Laughter.  Misty eyes.  Magnanimous grateful hearts.  Goodwill, and all that jolly ho-ho-ho.

Because of this ostensible normality it’s difficult at times to imagine that E is a cancer survivor.  Sometimes I can’t even believe he had cancer at all.  I think, did we really go through that?  His 23 days in the hospital, now a distant memory slowly fading to black.  I have to look at the photos that documented his stay there to bring clarity to my recollections.  Fill in the gap between fact and fiction.  Did this really happen?  And sadly, have I diminished this life-altering experience to just another story that I tell?

Yet it was real.  It did happen.  Truth is, it changed everything.

There’s the obvious things.  The loftier higher-self transformative stuff.  Gratitude for a life being spared, given a second chance.  Awareness of the fragility of our earth walk.  Delight in the small precious things.  Refined appreciation for all those we hold dear.  Joy in the everyday and the mundane.  Concern for all living creatures.  Reverence for the fleeting passage of time.  Appreciation of all that is good, for I am steadfast in my belief that there is more good than not.  Awe and wonder at the sheer miracle of being here at all.

I thank God for this metamorphosis of the spirit. For giving my caterpillar heart butterfly wings.

But there’s more to this story.  There’s the underbelly.  The ugly shit that is difficult to admit.  Even to myself.  There’s the stuff I think I’ve kicked out the door and sent slithering down the road, only to turn around to find the ugliness standing in front of my kitchen sink doing dishes.  Oh the shameful cowardly resentful thoughts I’ve had there.  The devil’s face reflected in the white porcelain dinner plate.  The monster in the bottom of the silver pot.  The creep in the cast iron frying pan. All me.

There’s the fear that grips my gut and tears at my bowels. The anger that erupts and gasps and flares out of nowhere. The sudden and unforeseen tears that sting my cheeks.  The frustration with a life interrupted.  The impatience with everything, including E.

A foul tenacious undercurrent of dread flows through my nervous system. Silently terrified that cancer will return. It’s the uninvited guest in the room. The one that has outstayed its welcome.  Can’t take a hint and leave. It’s the disturbing uneasiness beneath my flesh. The choking, suffocating, stifling vice grip. And at the heart of all this maelstrom, one thought prevails.  Will this sinister beast return and snatch E in it’s Godzilla grip forever?

At times, often when I least expect it, I’m angry. Pissed off that a year later E is still in recovery. My impatient unkind inside-voice says, ‘get over this already.’  I want things to move according to my agenda, spoiled child that I am. Not E’s natural healing process.  At the risk of sounding like Gilda Radner, ‘there’s always something.’  Rogue aches and pains throughout his body that seem to have nothing to do with cancer.  Yet in some way they do.  The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, after all.

I cry. Like a baby some days. These crying jags are erratic. Out of the blue. Unpredictable. Indiscriminate and downright impolite. They take me by surprise. But then so did the diagnosis of cancer a year ago.

E’s personal mantra is that he “comes from good stock.”  Hardy.  Resilient. Tough as nails. It’s his Grizzly Adams fortitude and true grit that gets me through the hour of the wolf.  It’s the call in the wilderness that keeps me going. One baby-step at a time.

Fuck cancer anyway.  We don’t give up. That much hasn’t changed.