We’ve been together 50 years… Precisely 18,250 days, plus. 50 years of falling in love, falling out of love, being “in like” and being “out of like…. All the time growing one way or another… apart or together. Sometimes it felt like being in Harold Pinter’s play, The Room…two old people having run out of things to say and no longer having the temperament to try and understand the other. So we’ve been both over the years Pinter characters and Thornton Wilder characters, one being the optimist while the other played the pessimist. But on distilling our life on this beautiful snowy day I’d say our cup was more than half full and certainly not half empty. I can’t imagine designing a life without you in it,. Now onto adventures that we’ve never had but always wanted.
I usually don’t take seriously the sentiments found inside Chinese Fortune Cookies. But last night as I bit into its crunchy center and pulled out the message the cookie actually yielded a worthwhile sentiment:
Engage in group activities that further transformation.
Good idea, I said to myself as the world crawled out from behind COVID during which we had lost all semblance of social life. Hell, I can’t remember when last I attended a book club meeting, church service or coffee klatch and what’s worse, my retreats came to a sudden end. What followed was doom, gloom, and too much Zoom.
So, several weeks later, as if by divine intervention I received an email from one of my year by the sea retreaters asking if I had time to get together when she and three others would be on the Cape. I was eager for any or all connection, especially with like-minded seekers. Somehow, women who have “done the work” (by that I mean spent time asking the universal questions) were the ones with whom I wanted to hang around.
This would be a win, win as I had long since realized that ex-retreaters usually possessed a zeal that only persons in search of themselves seemed to possess. I had only met these women in a large group but that didn’t stop our personalizing the conversation right from the start. Huddled in a dune at my favorite beach we began sharing our recent pasts…I started by sharing the loss my husband and how understanding the dimensions of grief was enormously debilitating; Donna had downsized and felt she didn’t belong in the condo she just bought; Pam was caretaking her mother with little help from her siblings; and Sally had just sold her business and felt isolated from 20 years of daily routine.
There was much nodding of heads with understanding although underlying the stories was the silent question: What about me? I noticed that the conversation became peppered with words like purpose, feeling invisible, not fitting in with grown children, being sidelined. I settled back in my beach chair and sunk into the warmth that comes with reciprocity and raw truth smiling at the energy, the passion, the desire, the shared knowing. It brought to mind a line by therapist, Jean Shinoda Bolen:
In a circle where we face ourselves, we listen like a miracle.
Although our lives could easily become generic, seeking women sense that the real horror is not death but the featureless passing of life. The only standard we seem to live by is the one we designed for ourselves. Propriety has little meaning in the way we behave anymore. In fact we women are more of the “when I am old I will wear purple women” variety, trying to do pretty much what we please.
There seems to be an unspoken credo that being of a certain age, we’ve had our moments and played them out on various stages. Now we’re left with the challenge of filling space which comes with little or no narrative. The question we are asking ourselves is what character have we finally become or want to become.
If we keep asking we will not age out…only grow up.
Join me in pondering this very important question.
Who have I become after a lifetime of being all things to all people?
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Plan B……“Life is all about how you handle Plan B.” Those are the words on the mug one of my best friends gave me. She firmly believes that if things aren’t working out there’s always Plan B. That’s the problem. I don’t have a Plan B, at least one that is appealing and somewhat exciting. Come to think about it, she doesn’t either! What is Plan B after all? Is it being prepared in case Plan A fails? Or having a safety net to fall into while doing Plan A or thinking ahead to catastrophes that could happen while attempting Plan A? It would seem that Plan B, being second choice is also the less desirable. That’s a problem for a person like me who is always grabbing at beginnings…ready to jump into any chasm or take a dare. I never did learn to edit my life while in the process of living it and I’ll probably not start anytime soon. Perhaps I’ve never cottoned to the idea of Plan B as it seemed to take all my energy just to activate Plan A. I’ve come to see that moments, hours, days, weeks seem to be nourishing the rhythm of my life.The pandemic has forced me to live in the moment—not a bad place as most of us can only ponder the future but not count on it. One virtue that seems to have stuck for me is trust…trust that which is unfolding because you can’t control it anyway. I’m ready to be fascinated by what is coming and how I will gracefully handle it.
Standing Sure….It is dawn. I awaken to a lawn covered in snow as a fierce wind blows through the yard forcing the limbs of some of the larger trees to bend to excess, but they do not break. One tree is said to be over a hundred years old. A hurricane two years ago tried to take it down but she held firm. I am that tree. The Anderson motto is: Stand Sure… so much strength comes with lengthened years. Even though it is sometimes hard to bend, I do. Even though I think I will break, I don’t. Today I am gifted with a new outlook…I hope you are too.
Just when I thought I was doing well enduring the perils of the pandemic, in the blink of an eye, en route to the bathroom, oops! All six foot 4 of my husband fell hard and bad. Diagnosis: Broken Ankle, Surgery needed, six weeks of non -weight bearing.This would be the fifth surgery in 4 years as a result of other falls and this time when I looked through the fog in hopes of finding lazy, hazy dew, today nothing was clear. For days upon days I have been awakened by nature and now, once again, I’m drawn into winter’s darkness.The famous American artist, Andrew Wyeth said that everything he might want or need to paint could be found within a five mile radius from his studio in Brandywine, Pennsylvania. I suppose the same is true for me here on Cape Cod. The muse has not left me…the muse is within. Each person chooses his or her own complications. I want to scale mine down to “littles” and find solace in the simple and the immediate.Perhaps there is a reason for my life to be temporarily stalled. I can only harness the power of restraint and trust that after trauma, there will eventually be flow again. For now I will simply breathe in and breathe out offering my inner self a time to regain its equilibrium and know that way will open.
Meet Photographer Ann L’Esperance. She was once a mountain girl, coming clear across the country from Colorado to live by the edge of the sea. It was time to change venues and find a new point of view. Cape Cod would offer the ocean water, sand, dunes, big sky, sunsets, and the space that she craved. This low tide girl found her bliss. Each day she would hop in her car and head east with only a vague idea of where she was headed…”mostly to the outer Cape where there are fewer people and wild seascapes,” she told me, and “where I have the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Cape Cod Bay on the other.”“At first I was simply in awe by what I saw in all kinds of weather and seasons,” says Ann. “No beach walk is monotonous. The landscape constantly changes with the tides, storms and light. I walk fast at first, wanting to get beyond the footprints left by others. Then I’m alone, seeing what no one else can see, at least for that particular day. I used my cell phone to take pictures and it was just so I could share my days with my family and friends, wanting them to experience what I was experiencing. My hobby became more serious as I attempted to capture not just the scene, but the feeling that comes with seeing such unique images of natural beauty. Gradually, I began realizing how many people cannot or do not want to walk through sand for miles and miles or attempt to catch so many sunsets – and that’s when I started sharing my pictures online.” Although time and family responsibilities have kept me from similar forays recently, Ann’s pictures became a muse for me. The spirit of the sea washed over my notepad and my soul quickened and I was able to break the writer’s block that had held me hostage for several years. And so it came to be that I am using Ann’s pictures and my words to awaken that which has been dulled in many of us with the pandemic and other personal challenges. If her work and my words awakened us, perhaps it would do the same for you. Pandemic peril has had a way to keep us closeted along with our feelings, senses, attitudes and thoughts. Check out her new website here: https://ann-lesperance.pixels.com
As I stand at the horizon it appears as if an artist has divided the canvas in half and I am standing at the edge of the known and the unknown. Each day I have been breathing in a new understanding and breathing out that which has become stale. I am left with myriad thoughts, none of which has had time take hold. And so for the next couple of weeks I will practice what has found me and what I have found. Fresh thoughts need practice. Process without practice keeps one stagnant. As Joan Erikson taught me: “Wisdom comes from life experiences well-digested.”
The very first time we met was on a jetty in our little town of Harwich Port. You have to be a little crazy or daring to tiptoe over the icy rocks as waves splashup one side and down another. On this particular day I was in a deep fog. I had escaped to Cape Cod to seek the direction I had lost along the way. And what should I bump into but a statuesque elder, her silver hair blowing in the wind. She turned and set her eggshell blue eyes on me as if she were expecting a visitor. “Do you suppose we’re the only two people in this town in the fog?” she asked, finishing her question with a bit of a giggle.I soon would learn that she was the partner of claimed psychotherapist, Erik Erikson and together they coined the phrase Identity Crisis. This was my lucky day. She was to pass on her thoughts of a life well digested and many more original gems. No more sitting around pondering my navel and staying in my head. Wisdom was found in the senses. Lethargy comes from lack of action. Energy is created in reciprocity.What jetty or bridge, or mountain will you head off to? “Always keep your hands on the plow and keep pushing,” she would say. Serendipity happens when you step out of your comfort zone.
I once was a fearless girl. But I seem to have lost her along the way probably because I was too busy taking care of others. I want some of that fearlessness back…the stuff that led me to disobey my mother, pelt snowballs at my brother’s gang single handed, swim nude knowing full well that people would soon inhabit the beach, or tell on my best friend when she lit an entire box of matches and almost burned our garage down.
a wastin’. If I hope to make it into the Odd Gals Hall I best begin to
loosen up, be occasionally defiant, not shy away from the ridiculous and
begin to take on one fear at a time, not unlike the sculpture on Wall
Street called: Fearless Girl who symbolizes Female Empowerment.
As I was driving in Orleans I came to a stop in front of an old shabby building that would have never caught my attention except for the sign above the door…the Odd Fellows Hall. As I continued on my way I found myself imagining who those odd fellows were and what allowed you have to be labeled one. The more I thought about it the more I wished for an Odd Gals Hall. Too many years of a woman’s life are used up being perfectly camouflaged, meaning being like everyone else. At this stage of life, I long to be odd. What a relief to finally be whatever comes naturally—silly, ridiculous, defiant, peculiar, outrageous, naughty and more. There may not be an Odd Gals Hall but that will not keep me from being one.