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: The Escape Artists.

A and E grinning from ear to ear at her high school graduation.

A and E grinning from ear to ear at her high school graduation.

Sometimes I just want to escape.  Get away from it all.  Take off. Break out.  I have fantasies about this.  They usually go something like this.

I’m in the truck, or some other vehicle with an automatic transmission, heading towards work or some other obligatory destination.  I come to a traffic light. It’s red. I stop.  That’s when it happens.  Instead of waiting for the light to turn green so I can follow the prescribed relentless path.  Otherwise known as my daily routine.  I hang a right on the red and keep on going.  To where, I don’t know.  My only thought is, I’ll know when I get there.  I briefly consider my family, and those I love.  The ones who clutch and cling and cleave to my hungry heart.  I shake those distracting binding thoughts from my head. Toss the rattling chains to the curb.  I hammer on the gas pedal.  Accelerate.  Take a deep breath.  Off I go.  A free bird.  Untethered.

Of course, I’ve never done that. Like John Donne once said, it’s “a nothing, a fancy, a chimera in my brain.”

This daydream of breaking free had exponentially grown since E received his diagnosis back in December.  Like everything else that had happened since then, I wasn’t the only one looking for some escape hatch.  A magical rabbit hole to dive into. E too was looking for a way out.  Even if just for a little while.  A small respite away from the all-consuming Big C was all we both needed.

So in the middle of February, E and I left town. Split. Vamoosed. Set sail.

The truth is, we didn’t go far and our little escapade had an underlying medical purpose.  But for two full days we were in a cancer-free zone.

It was divine.

On Monday, February 18 E was booked into the Cancer Agency in Vancouver for a PET scan.  This is one big mother of a test.  Head to toe 3D color imaging.  Nothing can hide from its radiating nuclear eyes.  If cancer is there, the PET will reveal it.

That was Monday.  Before that we had two glorious days of fun and play in Vancouver.

Our oldest daughter A lives there so accommodations were taken care of.  What we didn’t expect was the pampering she provided.  We were eternally grateful.  She gave us exactly what the medical profession couldn’t.  Love.  In massive doses.

Saturday night was a “date night” orchestrated by this wonderful girl of ours.  We hadn’t had one of those in ages.  If ever.  E and I didn’t really date. Everything we did was kind of topsy turvy, upside down and backwards.  We met in a country bar, fell in love, found our groove, had our youngest daughter and got on with day-to-day life.

Everywhere we went that weekend, we were enveloped by such grace and love.

We had many close encounters of the angelic kind. Starting with The Fish Shack.  Being both popular and trendy, it was crowded. Filled to the rafters.  No room at the shack for us.  Despite the generous gift certificate from our daughter, we weren’t up to standing in line and waiting to have dinner, no matter how good the food.  But before we could even consider hightailing it out of there, the young restaurant host had a table set up just for us.   Once settled into our cozy table for two, we were greeted by our waiter who was gracious, witty and downright entertaining.  The food was great, but he made the experience extraordinary.  We felt like royalty.

After dinner we strolled arm-in-arm up the street to the Vogue Theatre, where our daughter was working.  She had seats for the early show waiting for us.  It was improv night with Colin Mochrie and TheatreSports.  This was a new experience for both of us.  We’ve been to scads of music concerts and festivals over the years but we were Live Improv Comedy virgins.

They say laughter is the best medicine.  On that particular Saturday night in Vancouver, this cliche proved to be true.  We laughed ourselves well that night.  Not physically.  E still had cancer.  It wasn’t a night for those kinds of miracles.  Seas didn’t part.  Water didn’t become wine.  Yet supernatural things occurred.  Spiritual healing took place.  It was a night of joy.  Merriment.  Glee.  Our spirits were uplifted.  Our hearts lightened.  Worries held at bay.  We were just us.  Not the guy with cancer and his wife.

On Sunday we hung out with our daughter.  She cooked homey comforting food for us.  It was like being back at 204 in Ma’s kitchen.  Brunch and Sunday night dinner.  Sandwiched in between was a trip to Ikea.  We returned to the apartment with shelving, a hanging lamp and other Ikea accoutrements. I languished on the sofa like the Queen of Denial while E and A assembled everything with the infamous Ikea allen key.

I treasure the memory of that evening.  Just the three of us.

It’s funny how you can shut things out when you need to.  For those 48 hours, E and I were free.  Unencumbered.  Immune.  Safe.  The untouchables.   Monday would come soon enough.

As I breathed in the delicious aroma of beef stew simmering on the stove, I thought how wonderful it was that we were here in this place, at this time, with each other.  This made me happy.

It was the perfect gift.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Liberty Will Set You Free.

Liberty will set you free.

I started writing letters to God about twenty years ago.  At the time, I desperately needed to talk to someone and there wasn’t anyone in close proximity that I could tell this stuff to.  I could have gone to a shrink I suppose, but I’m not sure I thought this was all that shrink-worthy at the time.  In retrospect, it probably was.  It was just private, intimate, inside your head kind of material that you can’t really share with anyone human, no matter how much you love them and they love you.  So who do you turn to?  I remembered from those years at Christ Lutheran that Pastor M said you could always talk to God and he would listen – even to the worst of the worst.  Well that was me.  I was a long-time renegade from organized religion by this point, and the mere thought of getting down on my knees and praying out-loud, or even silently, was painful.  So I did what came naturally to me.  I wrote.

Little back story.  My first letters weren’t actually letters at all.  And they weren’t written in a Plain Jane Hilroy notebook either.  The first compilation of “prayers, petitions and pleas to God” were contained in a genuine bona fide journal. I can’t remember who gave it to me but I’m guessing it was my best friend B because we gave each other gifts like that.  It is one of those cloth covered dealios with sweet little flowers in pink and periwinkle and many many many daunting blank pages to fill. The word “LIBERTY” is engraved in gold leaf front and back, along with the words “Hand Made in England”, also engraved in gold leaf.

All this gold leaf and English pedigree seemed to not only endow this chronicle of my early interior life with virtues I surely didn’t possess but with magical powers as well.  And I have to say I still love the notion that by the mere act of writing in this supernatural diary I would be set free, just as all that gold leaf LIBERTY promised.  If there was a theme, some common thread woven throughout this first flowery treatise, it was the need for freedom and the desire to hit the road Jack. And of course, I needed God’s help to achieve this.  Really.

It is also filled with all kinds of “New Age” postulations, which looking back, make the older me both smile affectionately and cringe with horror.  A bit like looking at prehistoric photos of myself in bell bottoms.  What was I thinking?  Here’s the thing.  I’m not sure I was.  Thinking that is, at least not clearly.  But somewhere between the inside front cover inscription of “My Book of Gratitude, Love & Appreciation” and the last sentence “Thank you Father” some sense of clarity was achieved.  Not a lot.  But enough to begin this journey, to first get me the hell out of Dodge and then to begin having these daily conversations with God.

Dear God.  It’s me.