I’m So Much Younger Now

I’ve always said that age is a matter of the mind. That means I’m only as old as I feel. Or it’s an excuse to act any way I want. There are a multitude of sayings, phrases and quotes that try to explain the phenomenon of aging and what it all means.

From aging is not for the faint hearted to the hundreds of quips on the Maxine greeting cards, it’s a topic of much philosophizing. I thought I’d heard them all until Jane Fonda surprised me twice while being interviewed on a recent late night talk show.

First, she said she was almost seventy eight years old. I gasped because she looked no older than 50’s or 60’s. And while I knew she was older than me, I was still shocked by the number because she looked so good. The second surprise was what she said next. I’m so much younger now, she chirped as she glanced around with a gentle smile and look of contentment.

Then she went on to reminisce in a stream of consciousness way that when she was in her 20’s she was stressed and when in her thirties she was depressed. She continued on through the decades until she finished by saying that she has never felt younger or been happier.

I said out loud to the TV screen, that’s me too! At least on the happiness part. Then I went through the decades myself. No more stresses of the job. Sunday night is now a pleasure because I don’t have to start thinking about what’s waiting for me at the office tomorrow.

No pressure to make a marriage work. No more worry that what I say may hurt someone’s feelings or cause disappointment. I can just be myself. Not make the bed or do dishes if I don’t feel like it. Get up in the middle of the night to read when my chronic insomnia hits. Change my mind on a whim and not worry that I’m inconveniencing someone.  I hadn’t planned to be alone at this stage of my life, but I’m managing quite well.

No worries about paying bills. My hard work contributing as much as I could to that mutual fund throughout my working life has paid off. Though it’s been happening for a long time, every month I still marvel at the miracle of regular paychecks that appear in my bank account without me doing a thing to make it happen.

Not having to wonder what’s in my future as far as work or where and with whom to live. I’ve tried all those things with varying degrees of success and failure along the way. I’ve been living in my new place for two years and retired for a little more than that. I’ve been able to reconnect with nearly every friend I’d hoped to when I moved back here.

Each time I look ahead to the next week in my appointment book, it’s empty. But then as the days approach, it fills up. I can’t remember the last time I had a week with more than one day of nothing to do. Sweet.

And nothing of consequence. By that I mean, nothing that demands lots of time preparing or planning. I just wake up each morning and wonder what I’ll do today and then do it. Lunch with a friend. Errands or shopping. Visit a museum. Take in a play. Go to a movie by myself. Each day gets filled up just enough.

But feeling like I’m younger was a new idea. Then I realized in some ways I did feel like a kid, like a teenager. Only without the teenage angst. Without worrying too much whether I’m liked or not. Or understood or not.

Back then even small things seemed life shatteringly important. I now know it will all pass from everyone’s else’s memory, and mine. Quicker than the falling of a presidential candidate’s pole numbers after an “oops” moment. And the world will go on. I’m wiser, happier and feeling younger.

The only time I have to face the truth is when I look in the mirror. Then I see the matron I’ve become. There’s also lots of philosophizing going on about how wrinkles and greying hair are signs of wisdom. But for me, I’d rather see the world peering out from the inside, through my younger eyes. So looking in the mirror is something I don’t do too often.

Sitcom Drama

I confess. I’m a sitcom junkie.  Any day, give me a half hour of light comedy rather than the high tech intrigue of the forensic dramas. Exclude me from the escapades of sleazy politicians or crooked business tycoons scratching their way to wherever. Instead, I purposely watch situation comedies to escape for thirty minutes, have a few laughs and not have to think too hard.

And, yes, I admit there’s lots of junk to be found in sitcoms. As each new season begins, I fall prey to the trailers and give some of the new shows a try. Most get boring after one or two episodes and are quickly deleted from my DVR recorder list.

But my treasured half hour of escape was jolted back to real life recently when two of my sitcom gems, Mom and the Big Bang Theory,  made me, not cry, but feel emotional, teary, touched.  What’s going on here! Do I need to think and feel after all?

First on Mom, we have the recovery foibles of a mother/daughter druggie/alchie tag team; then on The Big Bang Theory there’s the struggles of the nerdy, genius physicists trying to fit in. I’ve been known to laugh out loud and re-watch saved episodes whenever I need some comic relief.

On Mom, Bonnie got an unexpected call from her long lost mother who had given her up to foster care at age four. On the Big Bang Theory, Sheldon had to face his obsessively denied emotional feelings since his girlfriend, Amy, dumped him.

Surprisingly, both stories backed away from the Hollywood happy ending all wrapped up in thirty minutes. Bonnie didn’t quickly forgive and welcome her abandoning mother back into her life. Instead she made friends with the kind, older woman she kept running into in the coffee shop. The lesson here is that we find what we need in the most unlikely places when we least expect it.

And Sheldon, after seeing that Amy was dating, accepted reality and began to plan the rest of his life. For the first time, Sheldon had to accept that there were things he wouldn’t be able to control or change to his liking.

Up to that episode, Bonnie had been your classic recovering narcissist, talking the talk but not walking the walk. And Sheldon had operated in his “on the spectrum” style with no regard for how he affected others. In a flash, both were suddenly fully formed, three dimensional characters and I had empathy for both that I’d never had before.

Who’d have thought that a sitcom could provide a valuable and realistic example of solving life’s problems without a totally happy ending?  Chuck Lorre is the creator and producer of both of these programs. What kind of a life has he had that he can portray this human angst with such clarity? I googled him and saw that he’d also created Dharma and Greg, another of my long ago favorites. Add to his credits Grace Under Fire, Mike and Molly and Cybil.

I’ve watched every one of those shows, with differing levels of enjoyment. I also noticed that he’d created Two and a Half Men which for me was a miss, filled with sexual innuendo and crude jokes. Let’s just say that Chuck Lorre has quite a range.

Further research revealed he began his career writing for the Roseann show. He’s twice divorced, played in a rock band,  favored LSD, changed his name and wrote the book What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Bitter. 

So, I see that he’s as human and flawed as his characters. And in the creative writing mantras of “write what you know” and “show don’t tell,” Lorre is a star. It takes real courage to show your humanity and he does this to a world-wide TV audience every week. Comparatively, my hesitance to post an especially personal personal essay on my web page seems diminutive.

This added a whole new level to my TV viewing and a reminder that just because something is funny doesn’t  mean it lacks substance. Thank you Chuck Lorre, for adding such depth to life’s real and difficult glitches and doing it with such humor.

 

New York City Traffic Jam

I was clearly in a place where the expectations were set but I didn’t know what they were; I’d face transportation trials and epiphanies I couldn’t have anticipated throughout my four days in New York City. Let’s begin with pedestrian traffic.

It should have been simple, crossing the intersection of 8th Avenue and 44th Street in midtown Manhattan or a simple task walking from my hotel’s front door to the curb. But both presented challenges I’d not foreseen. Facing the human gauntlet, shoulder to shoulder sporting intent stares and grim determination, was daunting.

As the crowds advanced upon me in Kentucky Derby fashion, I looked straight ahead, eyes lowered, walking slowly, very slowly. I expected that I’ll be ruffled and tousled in the melee; instead this wave of humanity seemed to ripple as it moved in almost a musical cadence, swaying from one side to another without a push or a shove.

After learning how to negotiate the sidewalks, next came public transportation. The all-day excursion to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was my next test. We’d decided to try out the subway which was unexpectantly clean and airy feeling even though it’s underground. I was surprised to see shops in these tunnels and no sighting of the famous subway rat.

We walked, raced actually, for what seemed like miles to finally get to the subway car and settled in as the crowd exited and entered all around us. The sign saying the poles were not for pole dancing drew a mental picture in my head that made me smile.

Sitting across from me was a young boy, perhaps all of eight years old, traveling alone, impeccably dressed in his black pin-striped suit and bright red tie with a briefcase on his lap. I wasn’t sure if he was worried, scared or extremely curious since his little eyes bulged as his glaring eyes darted from the people and activities going on around him. Where could he be going on this Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I wondered.

My belief that we’d arrive at Battery Park in a short while was dashed when a heavily accented woman wearing a babushka interrupted our chatter; she advised us we’d have to get off the subway at Chambers Station and board a shuttle bus for the last leg of the journey. Liberty Island suddenly seemed so far away.

Soon we were back up to street level, walking a block or two and standing in line for a shuttle bus. On the crowded bus, an elderly woman, wearing a babushka, sitting next to me, hardly speaking English, was as worried, as I was that we’d actually arrive at our destination. It was puzzling that she kept turning to and questioning me when her young English speaking son sat right beside her. I did the best I could.

Scan0011Once arriving at Battery Park we stood in line to twice go through an airport style security check before entering the ramp to stand in line with several hundred people waiting for the next boat. Once on the island the lines both to enter the Statue of Liberty and to just get a hamburger discouraged us at every turn. Instead we viewed the Statue from outside and settled for an ice cream.

We opted for Ellis Island. More lines and another boat ride. Once there, the lack of crowds made me wonder if so much history held less interest for most tourists. The exhibits, though many were still in storage due to Hurricane Sandy damage, were well worth the time we spent there.

oct 31 006Then there were the taxis. Knowing the trip back to the hotel would entail, buses, subway, walking, I was adamant that I wouldn’t be able to repeat the trip due to my physical limitations. From then on, I opted for taxis every change I got and grew to love the sight of those little yellow cars that seemed to be everywhere. But there’s a skill involved in getting a taxi.

We asked one of the carriage drivers on Central Park South and he directed us to walk to the next block, cross two intersections to just the right corner and hail a taxi from there. Due to traffic patterns and visibility its best to find just the right spot. A helpful lesson, resulting in us getting a taxi within minutes every time. Of course we were three middle aged white women and knew that probably had something to do with it.

And that was just the first of many taxi rides. From Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, from the Cloisters with a view of the George Washington Bridge, the result was I got to see most of Manhattan as we whizzed past one sight after another. A glimpse of various neighborhoods with their shops and coffee cafes was refreshing. There’s much more to New York City than the frenetic energy of Times Square and Broadway.

Scan0013So many transportation options, so little time. Hop on Hop Off was something we never found time to do. The three wheeled bicycles lined up outside the Broadway theater was another we passed on. But our ride through Central Park was easy to arrange by just walking up to the carriages lined up on Central Park South; we made a deal with Dimitri and his horse, Luther and off we went.

Scan0014Dimitri said he’d take us everywhere we were allowed to go. Seems there are now some restrictions on where carriages are allowed and there’s even a move to actually do away with these rides citing traffic congestion and that the animals are being mistreated. Our driver and horse were pleasant and calm. Central Park was host to many activities that day: a concert, a play, a homeless person sleeping on the hill, families picnicking and three-wheeled bicycles for hire.

New York City is very walkable and a tourist should be prepared for hiking marathons. I traversed Time Square, to 30 Rock, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall and the Guggenheim. New Yorkers were friendly and helpful. All one had to do was look puzzled or confused and a stranger would ask what you’re looking for and then give accurate directions. Visiting New York City was invigorating and the memories still swirl around in my head of time spent in the hurried and harried maelstrom of traffic and people.

But it was also wonderful to get back home where I can get into my car and be wherever I want to be in ten minutes with minimal traffic and very few lines. The night I returned home and sat in the dark in my totally quiet apartment I felt both relieved and oddly abnormal. It took me two weeks, once home, to recover and finally feel rested. I think that means I had a great time!

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