LESSON THIRTEEN-SHOW A LITTLE APPRECIATION

LESSON THIRTEEN-SHOW A LITTLE APPRECIATION

 


 

Thank you very much!thank-you

 

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Most of us will never get on the Forbes list by making a killing in the stock market or by filling our coffers to overflowing from the strategic buying and flipping of foreclosed real estate, —no matter how many DVD’s we buy from the huckster on the infomercial. We will also not be oscarHalle or Lena or Angelina beautiful. We will not win the Nobel,
the Pulitzer or the Oscar—in any category—and most probably neither will anyone we know. Our closets are not stocked with zalesArmani, Prada, Louboutins or Birkin bags. The good jewelry we wear on
special occasions most likely came from Zales or Jared, not Harry Winston or Cartier.

 

A great dinner out at our favorite steak house consists of USDA prime, not Kobe, beef.  And kobe beefwe are now old enough and clever enough to know that whether or not you clean your plate has absolutely nothing to do with easing the misery of the millions of starving feed the childrenchildren in China or Ethiopia or wherever it was our parents filled us full of angst and guilt about when we didn’t want to eat our Brussels sprouts or liver or kumquats.

Our garages do not provide temperature and humidity controlled shelter for our Bentleys and Maseratis—they garage-sale-artare jam packed with lawnmowers, snow blowers and the other junk we can’t fit in the house and haven’t yet moved to the self-storage place.  It’s a pretty safe bet that, although it is possible, very few of our children will become the President of Harvard or the research_lab_shutterstock_88062886United States, launch the next Microsoft, or discover a cure for the common cold. More likely than not, they will grow up, get fairly decent jobs or start a small accounting/house-painting/hairdressing/etc. business and generally get on with their lives, which in a world where every year, ten or so million children die before their fifth birthday, is pretty excellent.supermarket

The shelves of our local supermarket are laden enough food to feed entire villages in Haiti  or Cambodia or Somalia—for months, but we complain indignantly about long lines and the lack of enough check out registers and only begrudgingly accept a rain check for the sale item now out of stock.

Some of us can barely afford health insurance-even with the Affordable Care Act, some of us surely are affected by illness– our own or that of someone near and dear, some of us haiti hospital 2010have been misdiagnosed or even mistreated by a health care professional, but we cannot imagine, no matter how hard we try, what it is like to live in a place where there are NO doctors or hospitals.

We are up in arms when our power fails for a few hours after an overtaxing summer of overwhelming electricity_accessheat, (Caused in no small part by global warming from our being such terrible stewards of the planet we call home.)  but the notion of living in a place where electricity is available (to rich and
poor alike) only five or six hours a day is inconceivable to us.

Once a year on a chilly November day, after The thanksgiving parade1Big Parade and before and during The Big Game, we give collective, unembarrassed obeisance and lip-service to our gratitude for our abundant blessings over a well roasted turkey.jpg(often too well-roasted) fowl—because even the government, knowing how good we had it here, mandated a national Thank You Day (to which Supreme Being you give thanks has not yet been mandated). And yet before the wish bone is snapped and we’ve had a chance to get bored with the leftovers— hell, before the good dishes have been put back in

the china cabinet, we have joined the unruly mob of “black Friday” thugs coming to blows over the last $49 TV at the SuperCheapoMart Early Bird Sale. The ad said only 50 at each store. And you’re number 51. Oh well. Did you really needed another television set anyway?

Where did all that thankfulness we so humbly heralded the day before go?

We live in a time, AND in a country possessed of untold bounty. But the whine has become our hue and cry. We bitch and moan so much that I’m not sure we’re even remotely cognizant of how good we have it. As the First Lady so eloquently stated “…this, right now, is the greatest country on Earth.”

Here, there is much.  And, truth be told, deep down, we know it.

country wealth

Yet we are so busy complaining about what we’re lacking that we have no understanding that to most of the world, EVERYONE in America is rich. And relatively speaking, we are. Even the poorest and most disenfranchised among us are several centuries better off than the majority of the known world.

So—now that we have reached the age of true maturity—which brings with it wisdom, understanding and acceptance (or at least it’s supposed to if you’re doing it right) it is time half full glassto realize that for more of us than would readily admit it, the glass has been half full (at least) most of our lives. And if your glass is among the underfilled, more than likely, it’s because you either spilled it—it’s kinda hard to keep everything in there when you’re running too fast and not paying attention or that you were once again not paying attention when they told you which line you should get in for your half glass worth.

A few years ago, I believe that Oprah, the undisputed people’s choice for guardian of our national conscience, inveigled us to keep a Gratitude Journal.  I’m not really sure how I feel about the whole grateful1journaling thing—and there’s likely to be a later LESSON on that, but my personal “to journal or not to journal” indecision aside, the call to be mindful and grateful for what we have is one we all can and  SHOULD heed—often and repeatedly, without the designation of a special day.

Homework:

Each and every day that you open your eyes, before you haul your butt out of bed. Think of just one thing you’re grateful for. I don’t care if you write it down or not, but you do have to call to mind at least one of your good fortunes every day—even on weekends. (On really really bad days, you have permission to repeat or to only be grateful.)look harder for gratitude

LESSON TWELVE – THE INSTANT FACE LIFT

LESSON TWELVE – THE INSTANT FACE LIFT

YES…There really is a no risk, no obligation, no scalpel, no recovery time way to a youthful face!

Remember when plastic surgery was strictly the province of movie stars and heiresses?

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Phyllis Diller After-left|Before right

Sure you do. In the 1960’s Phyllis Diller talked about hers openly and as often as anyone would let her. Joan

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Joan Rivers Before|After

Rivers didn’t talk about hers, but we talked about it for her. And yes, we were all justifiably confused by facial choices made by the likes of Michael Jackson, Lisa Rinna, Li’l Kim and Kenny Rogers.

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Li’l Kim

 

 

 

 

 

The facelift used to be a statement, an all out, no-expense-spared attempt at age avoidance—a vain effort to swim against the swift, strong current of that infamous river—Look-As-Young-As-You-Feel-Visit-Baltimore-Maryland-Plastic-Surgeon-Dr-Jeffrey-SchreiberDenial. A facelift said in no uncertain terms, that you had reached the point where it was no longer enough to lie about your age, you also had concluded that you must “look the lie,” as well as speak it.

Most of those early facelifts were scary—women4b566ca5c3fe1e1d4d8308a347634968 looked as if their faces had been dipped in starch and pinned to a curtain stretcher. (Which, if you’re under fifty, you may have to look up.) And sadly, after one of those hush-
hush, top-secret procedures, the rich and famous denied
having had, they didn’t even look like real human beings anymore, much less like themselves.

Warp ahead to the Twenty First Century and thanks to our national addiction to as_seen_on_tvubiquitous makeover shows and infomercials, words like collagen, Juvéderm, Botox, Restylane, LifeStyleLift and Thermage are part of our daily vocabulary.  We can be sucked, tucked, tightened, lifted, planed, lasered, peeled, and abraded to our hearts’ content. A full slate of “reality” medical programs available on our 9999 facelift_dia3cable/satellite channels, means that we can actually watch procedures like Rhytidectomy (face lift), Malar augmentation (cheek implant) Mentoplasty (chin augmentation), blepharoplasty (eyelid lift) and Cervicoplasty (neck lift) being performed — in glorious hi-def no less, from the bbl-sciencecomfort of our own homes, while we snack on low-fat, sugar free bonbons. Since this lesson is about lifting your FACE, we will not cover all the other things you can have lifted— the bootylicious Brazilian butt lift, tantalizing tit tighten up or…Vaginoplasty—that name is self-explanatory and is definitely NOT part of your face.

lunchtimeprocedures There are now even quickie procedures (feather/thread lift) as short as thirty minutes that you can have performed on your lunch hour and be back at your desk in time for your afternoon staff meeting.  How can you beat the promise of
a new, more youthful you in the same amount of time it takes to eat a salad with dressing on the side?

And to make it extra easy, any and all of these youthifications can be yours with a plastic-surgery-financingconvenient financing plan from your very own plastic surgeon, a no money down easy-breezy cosmetic surgery finance center (yes there are loan businesses specifically for plastic surgery) or with a credit card you haven’t maxed out—you can even put your plastic on plastic! So what if you’re still making payments on that eye and neck lift when it’s time for you to collect Social Security—that is if Social Security hasn’t disappeared like your wrinkles by then.

Now before you call me a hater, let me be clear. I am not. Nor am I against plastic surgery in either a theoretical or practical way. I have a couple of good friends who are plastic surgeons. Heck. Who knows…one day I may even have some fallen part of my very own face and or body lifted, tucked or tightened. So I am not against the miracles that modern medicine have made possible in today’s world, quite the contrary.

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            However, I do believe, unequivocally, that there is an easier, cheaper, pain free, all natural, do-it-yourself facial rejuvenator that is available to one and all.

It is called a smile. smile

Despite the fact that human behaviorists and those who specialize in smile analysis (yes, for real) will say there are many sub-categories of smiles—lazy, sneaky, flirty, etc., in my book, there are really only two kinds of lip curling that count. There’s the polite, pleasant but disengaged smile that only requires the “zygomaticus major” muscle near your mouth to do its thing. And there’s the real, genuine smile that also brings the “orbicularis oculi” muscle near your eyes into play as well.  I know—this is way too anatomical, so think of it like the difference between turning on just your parking lights and hitting the high beams.

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Left – Fake | Right – Real

It is that second smile, the real one, which provides an instant facelift.  A full, heartfelt smile lifts your mouth, your cheeks, your forehead and your eyes. A real smile lights you up from inside and gives you a glow that ultimately makes you look brighter and more youthful. Once upon a time in a life long ago, I used to be a model, so believe me I know what the right lighting can do to erase sags, lumps, lines and shadows!

IMG_9330I have, in fact, been posting THEN/NOW photos from my modeling days and the present on my Instagram (http://instagram.com/virginiadeberry or http://instagram.com/cutestillcounts). In many of the professional pics from back in the 80’s I am featured with a pouty mouth (that’s POUTY, not POTTY though that can also be true!) and a haughty, far IMG_1459away gaze. That look worked when I was 30 years younger. Now if I pout it’s just my RBF (Resting Bitch Face) and I look mean and tired. So in almost all of the NOW pics, I am smiling…because I KNOW what a smile does to project the appearance of youth and vitality! 😉

I am convinced that smiling plays a huge part of the reason people think I am a dozen or so years younger than my birth certificate states.  Mind you, my smile is all natural—homemade by John and Juanita DeBerry back in 1949. It was not my smilemanufactured at a “smile center” by a board certified cosmetic dentist— my teeth don’t have veneers—they are a bit too big and slightly crooked and I’m in a constant battle with a black head that refuses to leave my lower lip line no matter how often I squeeze the life out of it. But even with its imperfections, my smile is now and has always been, the attribute I get the most compliments about.

It is also my most natural and most frequently occurring expression.

No matter what the song says, I don’t know if a smile can actually be your umbrella. Or if you can really smile when your heart is breaking. And while I’m not convinced that as an economic principle, a rising tide lifts all boats, I am absolutely certain that a smile lifts both your face, your spirit and the spirit of others who are the beneficiaries of its magical power. I smile so regularly and have done so for so long, that it’s unconscious at this point. And whaddaya know—it makes other people smile at me—be they babies in line at the supermarket (good) or the strange man filling up his gas tank on the other side of the pump (maybe good, but probably not.)

free trial offer

            So…why don’t you consider this a free trial offer? I guarantee that it’s safe and has no risk, no obligation and no shipping and handling charges. If you don’t return it before the trial period expires, your credit card will not be charged automatically. This facelift requires no anesthesia, no releases to sign, no black and blue recovery time or stitches to remove. It truly is a worry free trial and you have nothing to lose but years off your face.

Homework:

Smile at yourself in the mirror.

Smile at 10 people you know.smile shortest distance

Smile at 5 people you don’t know.

Repeat daily.

Remember—practice makes perfect!

smile

LESSON 11: You Just Have to Come Home

LESSON 11: You Just Have to Come Home

homeWhen I saw this image posted on the Facebook page Fly, Hip & Ageless the other day, it reminded me of how many of us have lost our way “home;” the way back to the essence of who we are…or were.  We’ve been whoever we needed to be, for whomever needed us to be whatever that is (daughter/wife/sister/boss/mother/employee/grandmother/etc.) for so long that we no longer remember who we used to be. Back before the world crept into our sense of self, our dreams and our belief in possibilities and re-shaped who we were…who we might have been.

I realized this about myself about 25 years ago and began my journey “home,” my journey to finding the girl I had left behind. When I came across these childhood photos of me as a toddler. I was struck by how completely self possesed I was. I decided to have the picture enlarged, matted and framed. I hung them on my bedroom wall as a daily reminder not to forget “HER”–that little girl who so seemed to know exactly who she was. The Virginia who took life just seriously enough. The Virginia who felt and expressed more joy in a laugh than words could ever communicate. The Virginia who believed that a pretty dress could always make her feel pretty.

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Contemplating the complexities of life in the tall grass while wearing pjs!
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HAPPY!
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The right dress can make you feel like a princess…

These grainy old snapshots helped me find my way home…my way back to me and I haven’t lost my way since!

you had the power

HOMEWORK:

Look for whatever it is that will be YOUR trail of breadcrumbs, your Glinda,  your GPS. It might be a song, a book, a photo, a memory…it doesn’t matter what the trigger is, as long as it leads you back to YOU. When you find your way back home, LOVE the YOU you find there, invite her back into your world and LISTEN to her when she speaks to you in the midst of all the noise you are surrounded by. You will soon realize that because she has no guile, that girl will always tell you the truth–and I’m sure you will find that being in your own skin, the skin that was made just for you as opposed to the skin you’ve been trying to fit in, is pretty gosh darn comfortable! Because…there really is no place like home!

LESSON TEN- BEING A CLASSIC

LESSON TEN-     BEING A CLASSIC

 

Question:

What’s the difference between a classic car and a junker?

(You will get the answer at the end!)

antique benzjunker carEver notice how carefully collectors of old stuff— cars, antiques, books, works of art, treat classic car garagetheir treasures? Vintage autos are sheltered in temperature controlled environments, their finishes, interior and exterior, are regularly polished and buffed until they gleam. When they do venture out of their protected luxury garages and onto the road, there are special license plates designating them as exceptional and unique, and these classic vehicles are exempted collector platefrom the compliance standards and regulations that apply to newer models. And whether it’s a stately sedan or a racy roadster, these classic cars get noticed. People slow down, take a second or third look and toot their horn or wave as an expression of their admiration—or envy. Sometimes the driver acknowledges the admiring glances with a nod or a casually tossed hand in the air. Other times they continue on their merry way oblivious to everything but their own enjoyment.

Collectors of these rare and beautiful automobiles have their own societies and they gather regularly for the express purpose of displaying, comparing and discussing their four classic car showwheeled treasures. Owners stand around proclaiming the virtues of chamois, sea sponge, sheepskin and wicking towels as the care tools of choice. But whatever they use to clean, dry and polish, they are full of nothing but praise for each other’s gorgeous classic wheels. And between these public displays of affection, the owners of these gems can peruse magazines and websites devoted to these treasured autos.

The same type of behavior applies to antiques and those who collect them. Antique stores antique store1are jewel boxes—purposefully designed and lighted to display their venerable contents to best advantage. No sunlight fades or damages fine woods or upholstery. Lamps cast perfect shadows and highlights to make an item appear imposing, delicate—and most importantly, precious.

Ever notice on the Antiques Roadshow how antiques roadshowthose clever Keno brothers carefully examine the craftsmanship and handiwork of a piece of period furniture? They don special white cotton gloves so as to protect the precious satinwood or walnut finish from even the most imperceptible trace of oil from human skin. The Keno boys Glove_Heavyweight_Men_Hand_LVsalivate as they oooh! and aaah! while smoothing their gloved hands over inlay, scrollwork, curved legs and of course those amazing claw feet. They exude an almost sexual excitement and tension as they examine the console table or settee, and you can feel it. You’re in your living room, hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the Oklahoma Convention Center or the Peoria-Dome, but your excitement grows right along with theirs. Their saliva setteevery nearly turns too drool as they turn the table or chest upside down and find original dove tail joints or look at the inside of a drawer and find wood older than the surface, indicating even more specifically a period and style in furniture history. We’re at home holding our breath. Hoping for a huge climax— (a financial one of course) we’ve been teased and toyed with long enough. Then at last, they give us all what we want. The Kenos are gleeful as they tell the now drop-jawed possessor of this mighty treasure the value of the commode/desk/highboy that has been languishing untended and undusted in an attic corner, ever since Great Aunt Gertie (who got the piece from her mother who got it from a neighbor who got it from…) went on to glory.

old used furnitureBut back in the real world most of us live in, old sofas and tables are moved to the basement or storage room until-well until they end up donated to charity, left on the curb for the trash collector or carted away by the kindly New Furniture Company that is delivering their shiny replacements.

And as for cars? The clunkers and wrecks are traded in, abandoned in a junkyard or stashed car with treebehind the garage. They are left at the mercy of the elements, are subjected to the games of neighborhood children, fall prey to vandals who shatter windows, scratch obscenities on their once lustrous finishes, or become unlikely planters for anything wild enough to take root in the inhospitable old steel. Then they finally rust their way to oblivion.

So it seems the appropriate determination of worth for “old stuff” has something to do with the intrinsic value it was originally assigned. An object is deemed special because it is well crafted, beautiful to the beholder, and therefore desired. But the assignment of value and desirability also has a great deal to do with the perception of worth and importance.

Beyond the basics of food, clothing and shelter, we live in a society where most of us want what we are told we want. Really. I will repeat that sentence. We want what we are TOLD tocell phone purse want. We are all consumers. And we are being marketed to every single minute of every single day. I mean who knew that one day I’d actually WANT a phone in my purse? If someone had told me that twenty years ago, I would have thought the notion absurd. Why on earth would anyone want to carry a telephone around with them? Ludicrous! But now, nearly everyone has a mobile phone in their handbag, pocket, wirelessly hooked up to their car—or worse, their ear—all the time!

So we’re back to the original premise. Making something valuable enough to want, is either a result of the object’s value because it is rare and finely wrought of the best materials. Or it is worth something because someone has told us it is worth something by desiring it?

1948 fordThink about this…a 1948 Ford that has been well cared for can be worth much more than a 1998 Mercedes Benz. The fifty years the Ford has on the Benz is not a problem, but rather the thing that makes it worthy. And if you can mbzauthenticate provenance—who owned it when, and for how long—the value of that Ford can go up even more.

So here’s the good news—you are the original owner of you. You may have done some long term leasing of yourself—to build a marriage, raise children, develop a career—but there’s never been another owner. You are it. How have you treated yourself?  How much of your intrinsic value have you retained?  How much of it do you want to reclaim?

Answer:

The difference between a classic car and a junker has nothing to do with age. It’s all in the way it’s cared for.

Whether you want to be a Classy Classic or a Walking Wreck is up to you.

Homework:

pop-ink-csa-images-woman-looking-in-full-length-mirror

Get up now and go stand in front of your full length mirror. (You can keep your clothes on—this time.) If you don’t have a full length mirror, shame on you, but find the closest substitute. Take a long look. What do you see—a valuable collectible or a junker? Right now, DECIDE that you will follow the example of the collectible car enthusiasts and antique aficionados—who know something special when they see it. You are a treasure, so treat yourself like the special, classic babe you are—starting now!

If you haven’t shined yourself up and taken yourself out to be admired lately—put that on your calendar right now.

If you have shined yourself up and taken yourself out to be admired lately—do it again!

LESSON NINE: PLAY DATE

LESSON NINE: PLAY DATE

 

           I am, therefore I play!

  PLAY-home

Playing is fun.

Fun is important.Fun1

These are things I learned early in life. And like most things we pick up early, I learned them at home. Which I know may seem like a pretty unusual place to learn about the importance of having fun.

When my father was a boy, he and his brothers coaxed a cow from the pasture into cow stairsthe house—and up the stairs to the second floor, just to see if they could do it. AND because they thought it would be fun. At least that’s how the story went every time Daddy told it, and believe me, he told it dozens of times.  Many years later in a house of his own, and with no livestock of the bovine kind readily available, he enticed a semi-willing, fairly gullible squirrel into our back hall and up the stairs, for what must have been the exact same reasons. Why else would he do it? And to the delight of my brother, sister and I, that little fluffy tailed rodent stoppedsquirrel-give-that-peanut_zjxqd_r by often for a visit and a treat (peanuts in the shell). We named him Tony. And sometimes he brought a friend along. Tony (and his descendants) became a regular visitors to our home and when my mom sold the house after my dad passed, she adopted a new squirrel family at her new digs…because it was fun.

My mother, somewhere in her mid seventies at the time, was caught red handed, in a grapescontest with my nephew who was then seven or eight, to see who could stuff the most grapes in their mouth. My sister found them sitting on the sofa, cheeks bulging with grapes they weren’t allowed to chew—how else could you keep count and determine the winner?

And these comical, entertaining parents of mine had the nerve, the temerity, to call me their “silly” child!!! Duh?! I say “takes one to know one!”

In one of the novels Donna and I wrote, one character admonishes another saying “the surest way to end up with nowhere to go, is to forget where you came from.” And although it still feels odd, even after all these years to quote our own work, I think the words Loretta spoke to Pat in Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made are a wise warning we should all heed and a sentiment that is perfectly applicable to aging.forgetful

The surest way to get old, is to forget what it was like to be young.

I’ll repeat that just in case you missed it the first time.

 The surest way to get old, is to forget what it was like to be young.  

I don’t know how much of our forgetting is truly a failure to recall – goodness knows crsmost of us, at this stage of life, have more than a touch of “CRS” (Can’t Remember Shit), and how much is a deliberate choice not to recall. This is choice results in a peculiar form of amnesia we can all be found guilty of. You watched your parents come down with it, promised yourself it would never happen to you, and yet, here you are—so far long life’s rocky climb to wherever it is you think you’re supposed to be going, that you can’t even remember that fun used to be important—hell, it was everything.  In your full speed ahead quest to reach adulthood—and you really were in a hurry weren’t you? You deemed certain behavior childish and unsuitable.  And since we have been taught that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun, in the name of being a grown up, one of the first things to be declared out of season and cast aside, is play.

Play means doing something simply because it brings you pleasure. No other reason is needed—just plain old fun. There may be some tangential value that comes from gymplaying, but it’s a by-product and should be considered gravy. So while your workout at the gym may leave you invigorated (or exhausted) and the hour you spent in spinning class makes you feel strong and smug, these activities do NOT equal play. Yes, they are healthful, helpful and undoubtedly important, but they are not to be confused with playing.

Just in case you can’t even conjure up a picture of what having fun really looks like, take a gander at any four year old seriously engaged in her most important task—playing. She can be lost in an imaginary scenario involving an ersatz family of dolls for whom she has created specific relationships, and will tell you so in no uncertain terms. “No!! That’s the Mommy not the Big Sister!” She may be moving sand from one pile to another, watching with delight as the grains spill kids-playing-in-sandboxttwirling_dress3hrough her hands, repeating the process over and over again. Or she may be running in circles until she’s dizzy with glee and vertigo. It doesn’t matter to her—as long as she gets joy from the experience—and she will.
And because, as a general rule, children play every day, she will wake up the next day anxious to seek and find joy in play once again.  Of necessity, as we get older, the amount of time we spend playing diminishes proportionately until we’ve reached the age of presumed maturity— at which point we proudly kick play to the curb permanently, declaring fun a “waste of time.”

no fun

            This is a BIG MISTAKE. One you are now in a position to correct.

The honest truth is that men are way better at keeping play as a part of their day to sportsday life than women, and we give them grief for it. Whether it’s golf, poker, fishing or a pick-up game of hoops, we are more likely than not

senior male cleaning out gutter outside house

to harp on the amount of time they waste being childish– playing silly games or complain about the hours they spend glued to the tube, playing vicariously. How dare they goof-off when there are errands to garage-sale-artbe run, gutters to be cleaned, garages (attics, basements, spare rooms) to be cleared, lawns to be mowed? Their “Honey Do” list of chores is relentlessly endless. What immature, childish oafs they are! And what conscientious, hardworking, mature adults we are by comparison.lucy

But what if, instead of being indignant at their irresponsible, juvenile behavior, or flexing our passive-agressive (“It’s ok. Go on…play games with your friends. “) muscles, we considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is a little something we could learn from them?

YIKES!

I know, it may sound like sacrilege. I’m probably even in violation of some secret female code of conduct known only, and instinctively, I might add, to the membeXX Chromosome gold cardrs of the XX Chromosome Club. And I will probably be hunted down like a traitor and forced to cut
up my XXCC membership card for uttering this. Don’t you think it pains me to admit that areas might even exist where women are not equal or superior to the XY Guys?! But I willingly make this sacrifice because I call ‘em like I see ‘em. OldManLongboardingWhen it comes to honoring play- and the spirit of play, the boys win– hands down.

When is the last time you exhausted yourself having fun instead of worn yourself out with duty or obligation? Can’t remember can you? So what’s a woman to do? Well in the case of the play- challenged chick, the answer is: definitely not what she’s always done. You must accept first that play is not ageist—

OK, I grant you my knees don’t hold up as well during a jackskitchen floor game of jacks as they once did. But like with everything else about this getting older business, I’m smart enough to compensate–I don’t play jacks often, a pillow is helpful, I only play for a short time and I’ve even played standing at a table. The point is that I still enjoy jacks so why not play? Of course, there are sex funother, more mature things I have fun doing as well— going dancing, cooking for friends and sex (Yep!), but I thought my love of jacks, precisely because it’s silly, would offer a better illustration.street lights

The street lights haven’t come on yet, the day isn’t over and your Mom is not waiting at the door for you to come inside (or maybe she is, but that’s an issue for another book.)

There’s still time…but the clock is ticking. It REALLY IS OK to have fun—for no reason and have no guilt about it. You don’t need excuses, or apologies, or to make it look like work in case you get caught. Keep in mind—YOU are the only one who can define what fun is for you.

 

Homework:

Think back. Way back. No. No. Longer ago than that. Keep going—-until you can child-on-a-swingremember what it felt like to be on a swing. Flying and free. You had waited and waited until it was finally your turn. Your braids and the laces of your sneakers were both coming undone. You didn’t care. And when the swing slowed, didn’t you pump as hard as you could to keep aloft?

Now take that feeling, not the image, the feeling of pure delight, and tuck it somewhere easily accessible (your heart, your brain, your purse—whatever you’re likely to open fastest.)

Done? Are you sure you can grab it at a moment’s notice?

Now each and every week, you must make a play date with yourself, or someone else—as long as it takes you to experience that feeling of delight. So whether it’s a kite, a karaoke machine, a kiln or a kayak, unearth your inner little girl and carpe play!

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LESSON SEVEN – GETTING OVER—YOURSELF

LESSON SEVEN – GETTING OVER—YOURSELF

“Not much is as important as you once thought it was.”

official rulesBy the time we are on the approach to midlife we have accumulated quite an extensive collection of rules—most of which we don’t even stop to question. Through repetition and indoctrination we have learned to take many these rules as gospel. Some of these edicts are legitimate, necessary and actually protect us from behavior that can be harmful to ourselves or to others. Following the Ten Commandments yield yellowand Rule of Law, washing your hands after you use the bathroom (or ride the subway), understanding the rules of the road—including speed limits, “yield,” “pass on the left” and “right” of way are all decrees that keep us safe, healthy and enable us to live with each other in a relatively civilized society. All in all, this is a good thing.

However, on the other hand, there are the arbitrary societal rules that don’t necessarily make any sense, but we follow them anyway—mostly because we haven’t thought about fashion rules xthe logic behind them. Rules like the recently done away with, but hard to get out of our heads, “You can’t wear white after Labor Day.”wedding etiquette And I won’t even go into the zealous dogma of wedding etiquette—who pays for what and who sits on which side of the church—what if you’re friends with the bride AND the groom?!

There are the rules that become obsolete because life changes and progress happens. Rules like “When walking with a lady, the gentleman walks on the outside near the curb, the lady on the etiquette051613inside.” This was to protect the woman’s voluminous dresses and petticoats from dust and muddy splashes sprayed up on the sidewalk from horse drawn carriages passing in the street.  Now many urban pedestrians have experienced an unwanted and unpleasant shower from a speeding taxi or car while waiting for the light to change. But sidewalks are much wider than they used to be, we don’t have horses hooves tossing divots into our path and our dresses are, under most normal daily activities, hardly dragging along the sidewalk, but the “rule” still exists. I find myself, if I’m not on my guard, looking at a young couple strolling down the street and wondering “Doesn’t “he” know he’s etiquette_history“supposed” to walk on the outside?”  Duh…

And we have … “Ladies do not shake hands either with gentlemen, or as a general rule, with each other.” (Emily Post 1922) This little antiquated dictum was clearly established during a time when there was not a clue about how society might evolve and shifts in the norm might affect what constitutes decorum and acceptability— before there were women in the

handshake

workplace holding meetings and making deals where the shaking of hands is standard business practice. And now of course, women shake pretty much anything they want in public, including their booties while admonishing that “if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…”

Then there are the rules that are not rules at all; they only indicate toilet paper over underpreference. The over/under toilet paper roll debate is a good example—the 160,000+ Google entries on the subject notwithstanding. There is no rule or right or wrong here, only what you like, and of course, habit.

We also have traditions, usually holiday and family related, which are passed on to us either directly or indirectly, with a complete set of rules—many of which are unspoken. At least until they come into conflict with a differing tradition—Jack-o-lantern plasticlike when a Christmas Eve gift opener marries a Christmas morning opener, or the jack-o-Jack-o-lantern reallantern  pumpkin carver decides to take up with the plastic pumpkin picker. Sorting out the “when and if” of breaking our long-held rules and flying in the face of sacred and inviolate family policies is a subjective undertaking and, I have concluded, best left to be negotiated (or duked out) by those who are involved. So you’ll get no advice (or judgment) from me about whether the dressing goes inside or outside the turkey—or for that matter, the semantics of calling it dressing or stuffing.

No…those rules are the easy stuff.

The rules I want to talk about here are the ones we impose on ourselves and on our my rules rightfamilies with steely will and determination— the rules about things we want done in a particular way.  This includes everything from declarative statements that start with “We always…” or “I never…” to the way towels are folded, the place we keep our plastic bags and our hair-dos and don’ts. (Which will be addressed in a future Lesson – Hair Story).  We don’t even see it happening, but slowly and surely our own rules lead usshrew husband wife to trade “cute” – not as in “pretty and perky” but as in delightful, adorable (read loveable) and savvy, for being “right.” By then, we are well on our way to shrewdom—a frame of mind that is so totally non-cute.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against order, logic and convenience. And certainly I have nothing against being right, after all, this entire book is an ode to my notion that “I am right.” But what we have to ask ourselves is how much does being right really matter in the long run? So what I do have a problem with, is when we no longer have any idea why we follow the rules we do—when we just continue doing what we’ve always done without even considering whether or not our behavior or attitude is useful, helpful, or even necessary.

“Set in their ways.” Is what used to be said about, and even by “old folks” as kind of a catchall dismissal of a resistance to things that were new or might require some kind of change of mind, attitude or behavior—however slight. There is some validity to that as a description of what happens to us when we get older and “new” starts to mean the same as “bad.” Years of repetition breeds—well, more repetition and we do get awfully comfortable with the familiar.

My sister Valerie, a veteran HR executive who daily fights the uphill battle to institute change and encourage flexible attitudes, customs and mores in the workplace, tells a story she calls “Ham in the Pan.”honey-glaze-baked-ham-6

Once upon a time at a job long, long ago, there was a staffer, who for the sake of this story we’ll call Mary, who always made a ham for office parties and potluck gatherings and the ham was always a delicious, resounding hit. Valerie asked for the recipe, which Mary was happy to deliver (this was pre-email) to my sister’s office the next day. Val read the
recipeingredients for the sauce for basting the ham (clearly the secret to such a successful hunk of pig) and then the instructions, which said, “Cut the sides off the ham…” More than a little curious, Val asked Mary the reason for cutting the sides off the ham. Would this somehow allow the hulking haunch to absorb more of the fabulous basting nectar? Was that the secret?  “I don’t know, this is the way my Mom made ham,” Mary said. My sister didn’t probe any deeper, and decided she would just use the removed sides to season some green beans or dice and add to a quiche.

A few days later, Mary saw my sister in the hall and said, “You know…I asked my mom why she cut the sides off the ham…” My sister smiled, still eager to learn about the magic kitchen wisdom that lurked behind performing the hamectomy. She wanted, and was fully expecting an “Ah ha!” moment when it would all become clear, make perfect sense and roasting panshe’d end up wondering why no one else had discovered this seemingly simple step before. Mary continued. “Mom said when she started making the big holiday ham, she didn’t have a pan large enough so that’s how she made the ham fit. I guess I watched her do it, so that’s the way I’ve done it in my house ever since— even though my pan is plenty big.”

My sister uses “The Ham in the Pan” as an example to shake people out of their set in ways on the job—her own “Who Moved My Cheese” story, but “The Ham in the Pan” is a parable we can all learn from. We need to take a look at the things we “always do” a certain way and ask ourselves if it’s possible that just maybe, there is another, equally effective approach— like a bigger pan.

We women in particular, can be rigid and unyielding about the how we want things done, and complain when someone else (husband, significant other, child, parent or even a right man womanneighbor—in their OWN house) chooses to do the thing differently (read incorrectly). Sometimes we are forced to hold our tongues like with our boss at work or with our neighbors, and we find ourselves secretly stewing in the bubbling juices of our rightness—a decidedly bitter brew. But lucky for us, in our own homes and families, we not only are free to let the wrongdoers know, in no uncertain terms, they have done the thing, whatever it is, incorrectly, we then set about to redo it—“the right way.” Feeling enormous justification and more than a small degree of self-righteousness, we next convince ourselves that it’s really just easier to do it ourselves in Right-Sign-SMART-V1the first place, or we berate the other person for not “getting it.” “How many times do I have to tell you…?”

And with every silent, resentful “do it ourselves” initiative, or incompetency rant, we grow just a little more bitter and a little more “set in our ways.”

The question you have to ask as you prepare to “get over yourself” and the need to be right, is — does it really matter if the light bulbs are put on the third shelf instead of the fourth? Is there a life hanging in the balance (yours or anyone else’s) if the flat sheet is not i-love-being-right-being-in-love-quotefolded around the fitted sheet and the pillow cases? Obviously, the answer is “No.”  Try giving yourself a break from your own rules. Ease up on the need to be RIGHT. You just might like it—and realize that the world didn’t stop spinning on its axis.

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

  • If you have no little, intractable “rules” in any part of your world, (think carefully) you may skip this homework! Congratulations!
  • On the other hand if you do have a few teeny tiny laws in that secret little Rule Book fishbowlof yours, write down five of them on separate pieces of paper. Fold each piece so they are the same size (in quarters, then in half usually works well) and place in a bowl, basket, hat—any container of your choosing.
  • Once every week (until you empty the container) remove one of your rules, read it, then throw it away—literally and figuratively.
  • You will go an entire week without adhering to that rule. You will in fact, deliberately break that rule. (Fold your towels in half instead of thirds, eat takeout on the “good” china, part your hair on the other side…you get the picture.)
  • If you make it through the week without breaking into the shakes or a cold sweat because you left an unwashed glass in the kitchen sink overnight, ran the vacuum on Tuesday evening instead of Saturday morning, or returned phone calls before you do your email at work, instead of the other way around—which is the way you’ve always done it (or vice versa), you’re well on your way to getting over…yourself.Break-the-Rules

If you find yourself backsliding, (recidivism is not unusual) repeat the above steps as necessary.

LESSON TWO – YOU ARE ENTITLED

LESSON TWO –  YOU ARE ENTITLED

 

“You’ve earned the right to do what you damn well please—so enjoy it.”

 

             At this point in your life, it’s “me” time. You’ve earned it and you are entitled to invest_defenjoy it! Just thinkyou’ve been investing in your very own personal 501K (50 for FIFTY of course, the 1 is for YOU) for a few decades and it’s now time to start enjoying some dividends!

If you’re like the majority of us women, you’ve spent most of your life taking care of the needs of others. The “you first”/“me last” frame of reference begins quite innocently—it’s just being polite after all.

More often than not, we started in girlhood, quite unconsciously observing behavior old fashioned girlwe saw exhibited by women around us—it’s the way we learned “how to be.”   We barrel into our teens and twenties having acquired, mostly by osmosis, a very particular (and peculiar) skill set perfectly suited to managing relationships and keeping the peace.  Women are nurturers right? And we are worthy apprentices. Years worth of subtle and not so subtle repetition have made us strong and capable, but at the same time resilient and malleable, kind of like Gumby. (I clay-gumby-twistedonce called a friend Gumbyiesha because of the contortions she went through for a man.) We can twist into all kinds of misshapen versions of ourselves, ignoring the pain and discomfort, without becoming nonfunctional to the point where we are unable to respond quickly and efficiently to the needs of others— “Mom did you _______? Honey will you______? Where’s the ______?”  We re-mold ourselves to fit the needs of back-ache-those around us and keep going without even seeing how bent out of shape we’ve become. Does your back hurt? Your knees? Your shoulder? What part of yourself have you contorted for others? Sound familiar? Of course it does.

By the time we’re in the throes of our thirties we’re ready to earn our journeywoman status and once we’ve reached our forties, we are masters at the art of pleasing others—spouse or significant other, children, boss, friends, parents, siblings, church members, sorority sisters, neighbors. This talent of ours has been honed, fine-tuned and polished to a fare-thee-well.  We can mind readerintuit what those around us want and need. We anticipate these desires and fulfill them—often before those around us even know what they need, we’ve taken care of it.  And triumphantly, we arrive at fifty as sensei—teachers, masters, and in the long honored tradition, have been passing on what we know to the younger women in our lives. And so it goes.

I can already hear indignant huffing and the chorus sputtering “But—but—”. no way not me

And I know this sounds like a total indictment—maybe even like the trial and conviction too, but rest assured, it isn’t. Believe me I know there are those in all of our lives who require our steadfast attention and personal sacrifice for their very survival—to some extent. At the early stages of life children sit at the top of this list. But sadly, too many of us not only don’t know when to stop, we don’t even know we sacrificeshould. This ritual, habitual, sacrifice of tossing oneself off the cliff to assure another spring or diving headfirst into the volcano in the misguided hope of preventing another eruption now feels completely “normal.”

And so here we are at 40+/50/60 still taking care of everyone but ourselves. This long delayed gratification has caused a form of amnesia and we don’t remember what we once wanted or needed. But while we were blithely unaware of what we were doing to ourselves, the frustration, and most unfortunately, hostility (deny it if you must) have been building and building—creating a pressure greater than we could have imagined.  Then one day our fire breathing womananima rears her pretty little dissatisfied head and explodes all over the poor and unsuspecting. And while the near and dear to us stand there, stunned and dripping with our fallout, we (who can’t believe they are really that clueless) explain our sudden eruption of self-expression to the heretofore oblivious of “what we have done for them.”  That’s why you hear so many women referring to their F (40 or 50) decade by another “F”.  “I turned 50 and I said FUCKit/him/them!”

But it’s not their fault. People treat you the way you’ve shown them to. They will notwomen doing too much change until you do. And now presents a perfect opportunity re-think some of those lifelong pleasing behaviors. Apologize to your spouse/partner for years of treating them like the village idiot who was incapable of doing laundry or loading the dishwasher correctly and promise from now on things will be different.  Let your grown and nearly grown children fend for themselves and work their way out of their own messes. They’ll figure it outyou did. (This will be addressed in a future lesson entitled: “NO KIDDING”)

You done good girl! gold star 1You did the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Now it’s your turn. You are empowered, authorized, entitled to seek self-satisfaction. So go ahead—I know it won’t be easy, but you have to start somewhere. . . or you might end up with a really bad case of the screaming meemies.airplane-oxygen-masks

The oxygen mask has dropped and you have to cover your own nose and mouth and begin breathing normally before you can help anyone else.

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

Write down at least 50 illegal, immoral, horrible, loathsome, utterly despicable things you have done in your life—hint: speeding tickets and overdue library books don’t count. ListCome on—THINK. How many do you have? Guess what? If you have not murdered anyone, tripped an old lady who was crossing the street, pillaged a village, stolen candy from a baby OR you cannot come up with 50 things—congratulationsyou have earned the right to give martyrdom a rest and enjoy your life!

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Remember: These lessons are “little” intentionally. I’m not preaching a sermon, trying to stress you out, or give you a beat down—although if some of the lessons feel like that—well then you just may have earned one! Read the lessons carefully. Read them again. Make them a part of your regular routine, like brushing your teeth, saying your prayers, taking your vitamins. Let each message sink in—into your head, into your heart, into your spirit. Do your homework—seriously, before moving on to the next lesson.