Would You Cheat?

This morning I read some pretty powerful words from Joni Mitchell. Words that resonated deeply with me. Words that obviously come from a long life, profoundly lived.

Everybody has a superficial side and a deep side, but this culture doesn’t place much value on depth — we don’t have shamans or soothsayers, and depth isn’t encouraged or understood.

Ya think? I see it on Facebook all the time. I can bare my soul in a heartfelt blog and get very little response. Then I ask people what’s on top of their fridge or what colour toilet seat I should choose and wham! Flooded. But that’s what this land of social media does. It inspires to hide all the deep and glorify the romance. Or the easy and mundane. But whether the actual romance or the romantic picture we choose to share of our lives, most of us are guilty as charged.

Joni continues:

Surrounded by this shallow, glossy society we develop a shallow side, too, and we become attracted to fluff. That’s reflected in the fact that this culture sets up an addiction to romance based on insecurity — the uncertainty of whether or not you’re truly united with the object of your obsession is the rush people get hooked on. I’ve seen this pattern so much in myself and my friends and some people never get off that line.

Oh pick me. Please. Again, guilty as charged. I’ve actually made a career out of getting hooked on that rush. I’m an addict if ever there was one. So now what, Joni?
But along with developing my superficial side, I always nurtured a deeper longing, so even when I was falling into the trap of that other kind of love, I was hip to what I was doing. I recently read an article in Esquire magazine called ‘The End of Sex,’ that said something that struck me as very true. It said: “If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.” What happens when you date is you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories — and in a way, that routine is a method for falling in love with yourself over and over.

Hip to what I was doing. I love that. Because I too am a fairly smart girl and even though hip to what I was doing, did it anyway. Kind of like that alcoholic who knows drinking will kill her but just keeps doing it. It’s all about that rush, remember? And damn but you don’t often get that rush with a long-time partner, do you? At least not daily.

And I love this theory that endless “new” begets endless “repetition” and that we all really just want to fall in love with ourselves over and over again. I mean it’s so ridiculously insane it’s brilliant. And true. And pretty fucking self-absorbed if we must get real here (and we must). Joni insists:
You can’t do that with a longtime mate because he knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love. It’s hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them or they look like an asshole to you — it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it you get closer and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.”

Oh, how I love those words. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.

Kind of like me.

But I’m pretty sure it’s true and I’m happy to say I personally know several couples who are a testament to this statement’s veracity. They’ve done the long haul and they are still in it to win it. Not because they said so, not because they made a commitment, not because they are too lazy to shake things up and not because they’re getting some gravy on the side and therefore sated. They are in it because they still totally dig their partner and with that partner is where they want to be. Hills and valleys. Ebbs and flows. No excuses.

That said, I’m also acquainted with couples who divorced after 40 years so what the hell do I know?

Well I do know this. From experience. In my last blog I wrote about my adventures with IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and even though the medium has changed, the whole flirting-via-internet thing has not. Whether it’s online dating, an old boyfriend you have reconnected with on Facebook or a seemingly innocuous email correspondence with a colleague, we all have opportunities to stretch the boundaries of propriety. And sometimes, all logic aside, we do. Not only do we do, but we do with great optimism. With huge rationalization. With the firm belief that we can handle it, take from it, enjoy it and not in any way diminish our other partnership.

Well – two points on that.

  1. Bullshit. You’re either a compartmentalization fucking genius or you’re heartless.
  2. You’re doing it because of that fairy tale Joni so succinctly describes.

You see, when we indulge in a clandestine flirtation we forget that we are only seeing a tiny aspect of our co-conspirator. The tiny aspect that he or she astutely chooses to share. So what do we then do? We fill in the blanks. We fill in the fucking blanks with whatever fantasy we choose to attach to that individual. Probably based on nothing more that our own wishes. Certainly not based on that person’s very real and possibly quite prosaic real life. We fill in the blanks with all the juicy chunks of early-stages-falling-in-love pablum that we’ve been missing. Or even falling-in-lust. Or falling-in-intellectual-stimulation. Call it what you will but my guess is we are diving head first into these shark-infested waters because as it turns out we are no longer in the early-stages-falling-in-love phase with our beloved. Nor is anyone, by the way, who has passed the two year mark (arbitrary number, chosen by me because this is my blog).

And so where does that leave the warm, padded love at home?

Weird how warm and padding have never been terribly sexy, have they? But then again, is anybody ever, always sexy?

Nope.

I know this. I have been ill these past few days. That dark knight Diverticulitis has yet again taken me down. Damn that bastard, but he shows up every few years and (literally) tries to kill me. And if his attempted annihilation isn’t bad enough, the horse pills required to ruin his fun are almost as dreadful. Almost.

So here I am, a shivering, septic mess, feverish, in aggressive pain and nauseated by gargantuan antibiotics. And my beloved is here with me, every step of the way. He checks in from work. He offers to do a drugstore run. He stops on his way home to buy me soup. He rubs my feet before bed just in case acupressure really does work (he even Googles ‘colon’ to find out where to press) and never once during any of this does he ever make me feel like the skanky wreck I truly am.

And therein is proof positive of Joni’s inspired words.

If we remain vital, curious, connected and open, there will always be opportunities to tell our best stories over again – to someone new – and fall in love with ourselves all over again too. And I will never suggest that ignoring that call is easy.

But the opportunity for rebirth, the chance to rekindle, the blessed shot at warmth and padding, these too should not be overlooked. Hard work? Yep. Worth it?

Joni seems to think so. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

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Nature Abhors A Vacuum … or … How Science Could Be Messing With Your Love Life

I’m pretty sure it was Aristotle who proposed that nature abhors a vacuum. I’m also pretty sure there is an explanation of that statement that is far more succinct (and scientific) than the one I am about to offer but … here goes:

IF there is a big empty hole, SOMETHING will fill it. It’s a universal law (or something like that).

When I look at my own life I constantly see this concept in action. Whenever my wine glass is empty it magically gets refilled. See what I mean? Science is wonderful.

But I have also seen this theory take down what appeared to be a strong relationship. Of the romantic kind. And how does that work? Well, if the party of the first part isn’t feeling particularly full (as in gaping holes) and the party of the second part does nothing to fill said holes, guess what? The party of the first part seeks replenishment elsewhere. And for the most part I might submit that this does not bode well for the future of that union.

That’s not to say that we can expect our partners to show up with everything. It’s pretty impossible and probably also not even desirable. I have male friends who bring all kinds of talent to my table, be it musical, historical (as in old friends and even ex lovers), peripheral or literary. These are holes my partner may not be able to fill and there is no shame in my village taking over to do the job.

But what about those other holes? And please children, minds out of the gutter now, puhlease. I’m talking about those holes that speak to romance, passion, emotional discourse, and yes … even sex. What happens when one party is perfectly content with the slide and the other is not? Or maybe not even the slide but the status quo, born of years together, children, even grandchildren, jobs and hobbies? Is it okay for the party of the first part to expand his or her personal village to include someone who can satisfy?

Back in the 90s, when computers became household and the internet an absolute wonder, there was this little thing called IRC. Internet Relay Chat. It was new, it was exciting and damn was it fun! You never knew what dark stranger might show up to help you wile away your pockmarked hours. Flirting. Laughing. Sharing. All from the safety generated by that delightful monitor. Yeah, I’ll tell you right now I got into some trouble with IRC. And I won’t blame it all on my darling ex because as it turns out I am … I mean WAS … a bit of a thrill seeker and damn if that internet thing wasn’t rife with possibilities. I will however tender that had a few more of my holes been filled at home, I may not have been starving for fulfillment in the land of delirious technology.

But here’s the thing – if you are starving at home it probably behooves you to define the menu. In detail. Often. That is, the menu you crave. If the chef doesn’t know what you’re lacking, or hankering for or even requiring (kinda like water) how can the chef possibly whip up that gourmet feast you desire?

The problem is ALL of the above demands a whole lot of effort, a whole lot of honestly and a whole lot of disappointment … a whole lot of not fun things that truth be told may or may not propel you to that place of everlasting, hole-fully-filled fulfillment. It may all be for naught, all that enterprise, because your partner’s wheelhouse might simply be unavailable for realization. No matter how much you beg, cajole or demand, it just might not happen.

And that’s when Nature shows up. Abhorring that vacuum.

Apparently Nature is a bit of a devil. He enjoys tossing wrenches into your (perceived) contentment. He delights in reminding you that you really are just a sieve, springing leaks at every turn. He laughs at the idea that your holes are tiny and in no need of attention. Or he laughs when you attempt to rationalize your divine right to fill those holes. Because that is what we do. We rationalize.

My friend B was another “victim” of IRC. She too developed an inappropriate correspondence with a man who was not her husband, many miles away. They actually even met. That’s how Nature goes with this vacuum thing. Nature sucks you across the country to meet a man you’ve only ever chatted with online (well of course you’ve seen his picture) because that vacuum is bellowing. You and hubby have slipped into complacency. You’ve become Mom and Dad, maybe even Grandma and Grandpa, and that’s all fine. Until your inner teenager starts bellowing even louder, And that is when Nature shows up with options.

Yep. Nature has a job to do.

My other pal E also answered the call. She tried for years to explain to her better half what was missing. What she wanted. What she needed. But M just couldn’t rally. Or maybe didn’t want to. Who knows? All I know is their marriage ended because someone else (who wasn’t Nature) did rally and she moved on. M was crushed and Nature just laughed and applauded. Because as you know …

As for me, well, if you scroll back a hundred blogs you already know my marriage didn’t last. And you already know that Nature’s call … that glorious, sensual, mysterious, siren’s call … reeled me in. Hook, line and sinker. Apparently I am a fish. And a pretty damn easy catch.

The difference between then-me and now-me is awareness. I now know all of Nature’s crafty little moves. He can’t fool me anymore. Well okay maybe he can but I also know how to at least try to circumvent his eventual triumph.

I talk to the chef. I tell my truth. Sometimes I tell it so many times I feel like I will explode. But I really do try to identify my holes and then share them with my partner. At least then he has a choice. He can fill them, he can try to fill them or he can ignore them.

Of course, filling is optimum. Trying to fill is admirable (and scores big points). Ignoring them?

Well when that happens you know who is going to show up. It is a law of the universe. It is a given. A scientific certainty. A truth so concrete it endures no argument.

Okay maybe that’s not true either. I suppose you could just become complacent and let life slide. You could kick Nature in the ass and say no. Nothing to see here, pal. No vacuums for you. Move on, pal.

Maybe you could do that.

I however, tend to side with Aristotle.

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How Do You Define Happiness?

Tomorrow is my special day and I am beyond fortunate that many people will wish me a “Happy Birthday.” I will relish every greeting. I love birthdays. Especially mine. I mostly love that I’m still here and in pretty good health.

But what exactly constitutes a happy birthday? Or a happy any-other-day for that matter? Who actually wakes up in the morning or checks in at lunchtime or nods off at night thinking “Golly, am I ever happy?”

My bet is not many of us. We are all too busy chasing the next thing that we think will bring us happiness or commiserating over all the things that do not bring us happiness. My guess is very few of us celebrate in full cognizance our daily gladness.

This is probably because we are all very similar to Dr. Faustus (based on the German legend Faust), a man so unsatisfied he makes a pact with the devil. He can have anything and everything his heart desires on this earth but the moment he is truly, undeniably, ridiculously happy … well, the devil wins his soul.

Guess what? It never happens. Because that is the nature of “man”. We always want more.

Which leads me to Hyman Judah Schactel (must be another German and what can I tell you, these are my people). He wrote: “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”

Pretty brilliant, right? Also virtually impossible to live.

When my son was young he always wanted something. There was always one big thing at the top of his list that he just had to have. A new skateboard. A Pokemon card. A new phone. A guitar. The thing is, once he got that prize, it brought him joy for mere moments before guess what? He wanted something else.

Thankfully he has outgrown this phase (except for guitars) but it illustrates my point perfectly. We are never content. We always want more.

When I was younger … you know those ‘misspent youth’ years … I was a bit of a thrill seeker. I don’t mean skydiving or swimming with sharks (although I did drive a Formula 2000 race-car at Cayuga once). More like emotional thrill seeking. Romantic risk-taking. I didn’t marry my son’s father until I was 34 so I had lots of time. Plus I was on the road in bands for most of my 20s so I’m sure you can imagine. Adventure and stimulation made me happy. Or so I thought.

And now? Well now I have come to the realization that contentment makes me happy. The roller coaster has lost its appeal. I’m more of a carousel girl these days. Where once I excitedly drove a Formula 2000 race-car, now I blissfully walk my dog in the ravine. Don’t get me wrong – given the opportunity to drive that race-car again, damn, yes I would! But I don’t need it. Nor do I crave it.

My son and I went to see John Mayer in concert this past summer. We are both huge JM fans and it truly was a mother-son musical bonding experience. We had excellent seats and the show was fantastic. And as we were leaving I said “Do you know what my next concert will be? Yours!” My son is a musician and I would gladly drive to Vancouver to see him perform. But geez, I hated being stuck there with all those people!

Yes, I’ve become a pussy. But a contented pussy, happy to purr in my kitchen or my trailer or the ravine or another country; wherever I go that contentment (with maybe a smidgen of excitement) is promised. And that is the funny thing. In my younger days contentment was to be avoided at all cost. Yet in these sweetly halcyon days of my (soon-to-be) twilight years, contentment is becoming the gold standard. Don’t get me wrong, Fireworks and Turbulence still at times jockey for position. But I know those dudes. Hell, I was best friends with those dudes for decades. They show up at the party, drink all your booze, kiss all the girls (and half the guys) and leave you passed out in the bathroom wondering what the hell happened.

No. I do not think they are my friends anymore. My new best friends are Serenity and Contentment.

This is a hard admission for me to publicize. I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve lost my edge, my romance or my inner rock star.

Who am I kidding? I could probably Keith-Richards it until my grave. At the very least Barry-Manilow it. I could continue my never-ending quest for thrills and spills and stimulation and frenzy.

I choose not to.

I choose to choose wanting what I have and therefore … having what I want.

Happy Birthday to me.

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And What Are Your Three Favourite Words?

Just a quickie little poll today asking women – what are your three favourite words? I would hazard a guess that for most that automatic go-to would be “I love you.” Now I reckon there are a few strays who might answer “here’s more wine” or “laundry is done” but I do believe that, for most of us, hearing “I love you” from the man we love (as opposed to, say, the deli manager or our husband’s boss) is pretty damn sweet. Especially when offered with no prompting.

And I’m not about to say I disagree. I too love the love phrase. I will offer though there is another phrase I love even more.

“You Are Beautiful.”

Not “you look good” or “that’s a pretty dress” or “nice job with the makeup, honey, you’ve really toned down your giant nose” … no, just those three exact words, uttered with quiet conviction, preferably whilst your face is being cupped in his hands and your eyes are being adoringly stared into.

There is just something so absolutely pure and loving about being told you are beautiful. I think it goes beyond physical attributes. It’s more like he is seeing into your soul, deep into your soul, and liking what is there. Kind of like in the movie “Avatar” where those blue people say “I see you.” To be truly seen and known and then called beautiful, that is an immense gift. A gift quite easily given. And one that no doubt keeps on giving and quite possibly returns to the giver much more than he might imagine.

So I’d like to offer up a little challenge. Take a moment tonight to cup the face of your beloved, stare into her eyes and say “You are beautiful.” If Joe Cocker is singing in the background, even better.

I’ll be expecting a full report tomorrow.

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It Goes Without Saying … Till It’s Gone.

I have a lovely old friend named Thomas Wade. Tom’s not really old but we do go back a long way and to this day I count him as one of the finest songwriters I have ever known. On one of his earlier albums he composed a song called “It Goes Without Saying” which resonated deeply with me back then. And still does today.

So many words are left unsaid. We are all cowards on some level. Afraid to get hurt, to be vulnerable, to put something out there that just might not get returned. We guard our words like precious jewels and often guard our feelings with even more vigilance. I find this somewhat amusing, given that we also live in a social media frenzy where friends toss out “love yous” (or “love ya”) with abandon. And yet when it comes to the sharing of very real (and possibly fragile) feelings, emotions and thoughts, we ration our verbal honesty like water in the Sahara.

I grew up in a household of champion ration-ers. I knew my parents loved me but they never, ever said it. I mean like ever. Sometimes I got a birthday card signed “Best wishes on your special day, Mommy and Daddy.” At first I thought this was normal. It wasn’t until my own son was born that I realized it wasn’t. It may have been a “different era” thing or a “northern European thing” (God bless those emotive Italians!) but for me it was actually a hurtful, sad thing. I am a word girl and I wanted those words.

Shortly before my father died I called them both out. “Why can’t you say ‘I love you’ to me?” I begged. “Why can’t you sign cards and sign off on phone calls and emails with those three beautiful words?”

Their answer was somewhere along the lines of “Oh Vickie, stop being so silly, of course we love you, you know we love you, you’re being ridiculous blah blah.” Well maybe, although my mother did tell me once she loved me but didn’t like me very much (a story for another blog). Still, I can go Pit-bull when required and I was relentless. I started blurting “I love yous” will nilly – in conversations, on cards, in emails and certainly every time I took my leave. I knew my opportunities at least with my father were numbered and I didn’t want to miss out. Mostly they just laughed in that “there goes our crazy daughter again” way.

After my dad died I kept at it with my mother. It was hard because the one person from whom she really wanted to hear those words was no longer around to say them. I know it frustrated her to no end when I stood in her doorway refusing to leave until she granted my wish. Like I said … Pit-bull.

And then it was Christmas. My mother lived in a beautiful assisted-living facility complete with its own gift shop. And it was an awesome gift shop! From clothing to jewellery to knickknacks to gourmet foods she always found us interesting presents. That Christmas it was glass cubes set on a batteried base. Each cube contained an etching and when you flicked the switch the entire thing lit up. My sister got a rose. My niece got a ballerina. My brother-in-law got Mickey Mouse. And I? Well … I, the crazy, relentless, irritating, Pit-bull daughter got … I Love You. Lit up in all its beauty for all the world to see. Pretty much the best gift ever.

So back to Toms’ song. It goes without saying … till it’s gone. I might gently suggest that you do not allow that to happen. I’m not sure that anyone has ever landed on their deathbed thinking “Damn, I’m glad I didn’t give in! Yeah, way to go ME, not sharing my feelings with actual words!”

Nope. I’d wager it’s quite the opposite.

Vulnerability is hard. Armour is easy. Truth is hard. Lying is easy (withholding truth is even easier). Words are hard. Silence is easy.

Go ahead. Say the words. Don’t worry if they don’t come back. Say them anyway. Say them if you mean them. Put them out there and let the universe take care of the rest.

Remember what those fabulous Bee Gee boys said –

It’s only words

And words are all I have

To take your heart away.

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Can I Help You?

Several years ago I decided to take a “coaching course” via a website called wellcoaches.com, affiliated with Harvard and I believe reputed to be the top training site in North America. And why did I do this you might ask? Well, mostly because after countless hours at my bar, pouring wine and sorting through problems (my own and other’s) I kept hearing the same phrase over and over again – “You should be a life coach.”

So why not, thought I? I’ve already been a waitress, a singer, an actor, a public relations professional, a radio DJ, an author, a playwright and a mom. Let’s see what this is all about.

The entire course was facilitated through a weekly conference call with an instructor (and my classmates), a small practice group and lots of reading and homework. It was a bit daunting for a few reasons. 1) There was a 30 year gap between my last schooling (university) and this and 2) I learned on our first day that I was in the company of doctors, nurses, dieticians, psychologists, fitness professionals and one yogi. When my turn came to announce my profession it took all the guts I could muster to say “radio DJ and jazz singer”. Yeah, there was a bit of a stunned silence in the room.

What I learned very quickly though was that I was born to do this. It all made perfect sense to me. It was a lot of logic and even though I am blonde I will say with the utmost confidence I have a very logical brain. I loved every minute – the reading, the studying, the classes. Even the live participation. We were probably about 8 classes in when that day’s instructor (we had a different one almost every week) informed us it was the “day of reckoning!” The day that one of us virgins was going to actually have to coach someone live … and then get adjudicated by our peers. He then said that this was the toughest class of the course and, even though he would ask for a volunteer, he knew he wouldn’t get one and would ultimately be forced to randomly choose a victim.

Nope. Before anyone else could prove him wrong I raised my hand. I mean, I did it vocally since we were on the phone after all. I blurted out with all my radio-voice bravado – “I’ll do it!”

Again, stunned silence. And then from the good professor – “Wow. In all my years teaching I have never had someone volunteer period, much less so quickly.”

Take that all you doctors!

He assigned the role of my client randomly, gave her a problem which I would coach her through and then also assigned one of my other classmates to be my adjudicator. When the mock session was complete she would be called upon to assess my skills based on certain predetermined criteria before he would throw me to the lions.

Off we went. I was scared shitless but also exhilarated. The mock session finished. More silence. And then our instructor asked the adjudicator to weigh in. She began with “Before I say anything …”

Fuck. I thought that was it. I reckoned she was going to suggest I keep my day job. Keep on singing. Leaving coaching to the grownups. But what she did say was this – “Vickie is an absolute natural. I don’t know how else to say it but it’s like she’s been doing this for years.”

Well the truth is I had. Been doing it for years. Just in my kitchen with wine.

So today this all got me to thinking about coaching and if you could break it down into an easily understandable model, one that could be explained in a sentence or two, what would that look like. And then I remembered that time in Los Angeles when my son was finishing his course at The Musician’s Institute and he was having a tough time wrapping his head around what he needed to accomplish. His final few months in Tinseltown had been a challenge (he was only 18) and the poor boy was spinning. And that’s when it hit me.

We spin because we engage in circular thinking. We are so overwhelmed with so many thoughts or tasks or problems or goals that we allow them to overtake our brains and rotate willy-nilly like a whirlpool, eventually sucking us into a vortex from which there is no escape. At least that’s what we think. We think we are doomed because we feel doomed. And we feel doomed because we cannot abandon that circular thinking. We cannot move our doomed asses into …

Linear thinking. Going in a straight line. Handling one thought/crisis/task at a time and when that one is covered and only then, moving on to the next.

And so that is exactly what I did with my son. I asked him what the next thing was that had to be completed. Was it a project? Was it a test? And then I asked him not to think about anything else except that one thing. No listening to music, no looking in the mirror worrying about his complexion, no wondering about the rest of his life or the rest of this course or if he would even pass. Just finish the one immediate task. Then we’ll think about the next one.

So why I am telling you all of this?

I think because we all get sucked into that vortex on occasion, some more often than others. And if we remember this one trick, this one concept, those two words (circular and linear) then maybe when we feel that dastardly pull we can say NOOOOOOOOOO … I am not going down! I am going to concentrate on one thing and only one thing and I am not going to think about anything else until I get this one thing sorted and then and only then will I … move on to Thing #2.

My son did pass his course. So did I and not only did I finish that wellcoaches course I actually went on to coach one of my fellow coaches (from my study group) because she asked. And I was honoured. She wanted to self-publish a book and wasn’t quite sure how to get there. Neither was I but I figured I could help her sort it out. Can you imagined how delighted I was when she thanked me, in her book? Yes she got there and I was thrilled to be a part of her journey.

I am a total believer in getting help when you need it, whether at a kitchen counter or from a trained professional. But I am also a total believer in regulating your own thoughts which will in turn regulate your own actions which in turn will get you moving forward which in turn will save you from the vortex.

Onwards Linear Thinkers! You can do this!

And if you need help I am here … and by the way I am free.

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What I Have In Common With Sharon Stone …

March is my birthday month and as such a time for contemplation. Also a time for wine-drinking and merry-making (I am so not one of those people who says “don’t make a fuss … please fuss away!”) and I try to keep my ruminating to the grateful, optimistic type. But once we enter what will no doubt be the final third of our lives it is difficult to not take a little stock or wonder (when we look in the mirror) how the hell did this happen?

So in the midst of today’s thought-fest I came upon an article in Vanity Fair about Sharon Stone’s new movie “All I Wish” (which I believe comes out, oddly enough, at the end of this month which is exactly when my birthday will transpire). When first given the script, the soon to be 60 year old Stone was offered the part of “the mother”. But she had other ideas. She lobbied for the part of the 25 year old daughter. Not playing her as a 25 year old, mind you, but giving the story an entirely different slant with a much older daughter and a much older mother (Ellen Burstyn).

And there is a photo of Ms. Stone in a bikini top and long blonde pigtail and another of her in cutoff jeans on a beach and in my opinion, because she looks absolutely fucking fabulous, I immediately think – I want to be Sharon Stone when I grow up.

It hits me a moment later that I am grown up (and then some) and I am Sharon Stone. I mean I’m not a movie star nor do I have her movie star looks but I am sitting here writing this blog in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt. My uniform. And I mean my uniform all year long. Even today when the snow has been flying, the winds howling and the temperatures maddeningly below zero I am sitting here in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt, drinking wine and writing this blog. Our house is by no means hot (68) and neither am I (though I do tend to run somewhat warmish these days). These are just my happy clothes. And damnit it if I can’t live in my happy clothes at this stage of my life, when can I?

I do realize that many would say my attire is not “age appropriate”. God, how I despise that term. And who the hell got to make those rules anyway?

But it’s not the clothing, this I realize. It’s all about the attitude. And I have chosen to remain young at heart (everybody sing now!). And believe me, this is a choice that has to be worked on every single damn day. Much like we may colour our hair or get Botox or go to the gym or wear makeup to make ourselves look younger, we also must spend time on our attitude every single day to remain youthful. I try to keep up with technology, I cultivate friendships with younger people, I nurture a relationship with my 25 year old son which is open and non-judgmental and I just fucking refuse to “be” old.

Trust me, this is not an easy task. When I look in the mirror and see all those lines around my mouth, when I realize I just may be developing jowls, when the crow’s feet around my eyes can no longer be hidden with concealer and those damn brown spots just keep appearing like they were invited or something … well, it is disheartening to say the least. Don’t even get me started on chin hairs.

But then I look back and remember that for me life did not exactly unfold in what I might call a “usual” fashion. I actually hit the peak of my “physical” beauty in my late 40s. I went on the trauma diet, lost tons of weight, still didn’t have many wrinkles, figured out how to dress and it all came together for about 5 years of “Holy shit, look at me!” Believe me, I was more amazed than most.

Reality, however, never goes on permanent vacation. I come from good German/Russian Mennonite stock and we are genetically predisposed to, you know, girth. Add to that the fact that I love to cook and drink wine and well, bye-bye size 8.

I am okay with this. I am okay with this because I am currently madly in love with my own skin. Not it’s physical attributes, not the wrinkles and spots and saggy bits and extra bits. I am just madly in love with who I have become.

Now please don’t think I’m getting all vainglorious here. I say this from a place of torturous, struggling, hard-won acceptance. A place where I no longer have even a moment’s time for those who may choose to criticize me. A place where who I am far outweighs how I look. A place where my wide open eyes and wide open heart contribute far more to my “beauty” than a diet and plastic surgery could ever tender.

Of course I still get highlights in my hair and wear makeup when the occasion calls. And last year when I was undergoing some skin cancer treatment on my face I also had my dermatologist blast off as many brown spots as he could locate (well worth the price). I also wear a bikini when I feel like it, buy groceries in just lip gloss (well, and clothing, of course) and pretty much live in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt. Don’t worry … if I don’t know you that well and you’re coming over to drink wine I’ll probably also put on a bra.

I truly believe it is this magnificent comfort-in-our-own skin that keeps us youthful. It also helps to have relatively good health, keep somewhat fit and enjoy genetic blessings (my mother died at 93 with still quite lovely skin). But the key word I think is curiosity. And the other key word is acceptance.

Curiosity is what keeps us in the game. It keeps us current and contemporary and vibrant and relevant. There is a reason I am friends with many of my son’s friends. A reason they actually come to visit me. A reason I am not just the old mom. The funny thing is I had him fairly late in life so I really am the old mom. But I don’t think they see it that way.

Acceptance is perhaps harder. I have friends who now dress only in baggy clothing or cover up with cardigans or shop at old-lady stores (never!) because they are now so uncomfortable in their skin they feel the need to hide it.

Not this girl. If I need to spanx it up I will. And if can’t, or don’t feel like it, I won’t. If those cool ripped jeans show off my muffin-top, oh well. If the low cut dress highlights my sun-spotted chest so be it (it also highlights my boobs!). And if I can head to the beach wearing whatever I choose and not worry even for an instant what anybody is thinking then praise Jesus! Because the fact of the matter is most people aren’t thinking about me at all. They are too worried about how they look in a bathing suit to worry one iota about me.

So bring it on Birthday! I am always so very thankful for another year on this plant. Doing it my way … in cut-off jeans. I think this year I may just celebrate at the cinema, with my new best friend Sharon Stone.

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