Better & Bolder the Blog


This is something I’m working on right now.

Whole Living Magazine (October 2010) published an article called “Wabi Sabi Your Live’ by Gretchen Roberts. The idea of wabi sabi (or wabi-sabi) is a Japanese or Zen aesthetic that embraces imperfection and transience. 

I don’t know much about wabi sabi so this is a broad generalization but it speaks to me, probably for some of the same reasons as those articulated by Leonard Koren when he wrote that wabi sabi is “the antithesis of our classical Western notion of  beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental.”

Or, in another words, Laura Mvula in “That’s Alright” (see it on YouTube here) sings: 

I will never be what you want and that’s alright,

Cause my skin ain’t light and my body ain’t tight.

And that’s alright.

Who made you the center of the universe?

and made you judge and jury over me?

It’s so simple and clear when put that way. I’ve let some other ideal be the center of my universe whenever I fall under the spell of permanence and perfection. Neither of those is possible, and striving for them both is the key to suffering.

Turning 50 is still kicking my butt because I’m scared. I’m living in fear of what absolutely for sure at some point is going to happen: I will be less capable than I am now, and I will (if lucky) grow old and die. My joints will get older, I will get slower, and I will have less physical energy and mental power. This decline is neither imminent nor avoidable. The fear, on the other hand, is wholly by choice and entirely avoidable. 

Roberts writes, “But what could be more radically simple than acceptance?” We can accept the world as imperfect and then, more! embrace and celebrate that imperfection. What relief, what freedom. What expansion. 

Here’s the thing: most of us are perfectly happy to accept others as imperfect. Yes, we grumble sometimes, but we would never ever expect those we love to be perfect unceasingly. We hope that they are good and kind, certainly, and fair. But perfect? No one can be perfect. 

My word for this year is savor. I am spectacularly imperfect at embracing this. In the moment we savor, something is perfect because it’s interesting. It’s perfect because we are in relationship with that thing, that moment, aware of it and ourselves experiencing it. It doesn’t have to be more than a moment, a perfect moment. Wabi sabi, according to Roberts, includes appreciating what we have. 

I’m working on it. 

Every Issue Ever

flapper dress

This is my favorite photo from my birthday weekend. It’s my favorite because it’s part of one of my happiest memories from that weekend.

My mother took me and my family out for a late afternoon meal on my birthday. When we got home, I didn’t know yet what to wear to the dance party that night at Sway. I brought my mother and daughter upstairs to help me decide. I put on a few dresses. This is the one my mother said to wear. It was the most fun dress, and she was right. Then my daughter did my make up and hair, and my mother helped me pick out my jewelry. You know how sweet all of that is? How simple and perfect? Ten years from now, this is the only memory I need from that day. 

Turning 50 did not make me feel less anxious about getting older. I flew straight into my disordered eating, cramming down the gluten-free, agave-sweetened cake that remained after the party. I ate without pleasure and without reason until I was sick. I spent the whole month of May digging myself out of my hormonal funk, fighting off seasonal allergies, and struggling to find a sense of fun and vitality. 

It feels as if every issue I’ve ever had is just sitting around, waiting for me to go deeper and really resolve it or perhaps surrender to it. We all have our little rituals, our tendencies, and our life-long struggles. Some of these have been patiently waiting for me to get old enough and strong enough to deal with them. Okay, they’re saying, you’re 50 and it’s summer. Let’s get down to business. Let’s go deep. 

Except, I feel spectacularly incapable of going anywhere or doing anything. I think, yep, tomorrow, gonna wake up and take a walk first thing, get outside, get moving, spend time with my dog and be in nature. The next morning, I get up and have a very long, intimate session with my computer, again, not so different than the long and intimate session we had just the night before, the very night I swore I’d spend less time online and more time doing activities that nurture me. 

I’m waiting for something to click, to shift, to slip into place. It’s possible that this place is what has been called the Fertile Void, a transition time into second adulthood in which “a woman wanders until she finds her true self,” according to Suzanne Braun Levine. Women in this stage wonder why they can’t get their act together and what’s taking so long. 

Here’s what I thought when I first read about the Fertile Void. I thought it’s a stage that women in menopause face. I thought it’s a stage that often accompanies retirement as women figure out what to do next. I thought it’s a stage after our kids have left home. I thought it must be this one year period that happens at the onset of one of those big changes. I can’t be in the Fertile Void because I’m still working, still parenting, still fertile, and not yet ready to look for my new self. I’m, instead, doing 40s 2.0, doing all that I did last decade but just a bit saggier. 

I’m beginning to think the Fertile Void is distressingly like perimenopause. Perimenopause is an interminable and exhausting development that takes, literally, years. Years and years. First there are small shifts in a woman’s hormones and cycles. Then there’s more disruption. Then the cycles stop, for months, and then, whooooa! here they come again. 

Hormones shift up and down in new ways and there isn’t the familiar pattern that we have relied on for decades. A menstruating woman knows what it feels like to be mid-cycle (it feels great, by the way) and what it feels like the few days before a new cycle begins (our testosterone peaks, we dream of murder and mayhem -- literally -- and we cry often while ingesting large quantities of carbohydrates). 

The later stage of perimenopause is wildly unpredictable. We ask constantly if it could be the hormones.  I can’t sleep; is it the hormones? I am sad and lack motivation; do you think it’s the hormones? I’m farting more than usual; oh, thank goodness, you too? It must be the hormones. 

So when I sit around eating and eating, when I can’t quite get my mojo rolling, when I know that I should be journaling and collaging and actively getting to the roots of those old, old issues and this wearisome eating disorder, well, it must be the hormones because I just can’t quite get moving. Except, my “can’t get moving” means four Nia classes and three runs a week. It means blogs such as this one. I just revamped my website and today I wrote and published 8 product reviews. I also searched for new music for a routine today. For someone who feels stuck, who feels she just can’t get much done, I get a lot done. 

I told a friend I was depressed and she laughed. It wasn’t unkind. She just knows truly depressed people, and they can’t get out of bed. I suppose a better word for me is dispirited and here’s the worst of it:  all I need to do is cut myself some slack. This dispiritedness is a result of my constant, internal fighting. It’s me giving myself a really hard time. Maybe it’s the hormones, and maybe it’s my oldest, deepest issues, coming on strong and daring me to finish them off. 

Fun Run

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This Sunday, I signed up for what I thought was an un-timed fun run but it turned out to be a timed race. I could have run it at any pace, but, actually, I couldn’t. I ran as hard as I could. 

While last November, five miles wouldn’t have been far, it’s my long run these days as I re-learn how to run without SRS (standard running shoes -- I made up that term, by the way, just now). I could have tried it barefoot as almost all of the route was on the generally smooth bike path (this race began at Midtown Sports and Wellness), but I knew my feet would get sore at mile three (a good reason to keep on my UnShoes sandals) and that I’d go slower (not such a good reason as perhaps I might have more attention on form). Still, it was my first race as a 50 year old and my first race wearing UnShoes sandals. 

I ran this 8K as hard as I could, which was a bit though not much slower than my 10K race for Duke City last October. On the first half, I cheered others on, and I felt a little boost as I did. It seems to me to be a nice thing to do, to cheer for others. The leaders were at a 5 minute pace (the winner at 4:53 per mile for each of the 5 miles). They could use a Yahoo or two. I’m chatty when I race. I like to say hi to people. I like to maintain this “we’re all in this together” feeling. 

At the turnaround point, I decided I would catch the next 10 people in front of me, and I did. Apparently, “we’re all in this together” still means “and I want to place before you.” 

When a female outruns a male, we say he’s been chicked. There’s also getting geezered, being outrun by someone 50 or older. I’m adding getting sandaled, as in, “yo, you just got passed by someone running in sandals.” I’m never going to be front of the pack of a race. I’m running to take first in my age group in a small race like this. I’m running to get a time I want to post on FaceBook. I cannot possibly explain how small and silly that makes me feel. 

I’m also running to say that I did my best. I don’t know how I feel about Sunday. My calf cramped up at mile 3 and I kept going. My lungs were hurting at mile 4, and I made all sorts of noises, loudly exhaling. I even stopped to walk for one count of five before running ahead to catch up again. I pushed myself even when I wanted to slow down. Was that me doing my best? My calf and achilles still hurt. My back hurts. Was that me running in poor form or pushing too hard? Is that me doing my best? 

Sometimes my friends or my husband or my mother will note that I’m too hard on myself. This is what they mean. I kick butt in the race and then instead of enjoying that, I kick myself: I was too whiny; I wasn’t in shape and should have backed off; I should have been friendlier to the guy I was running with that last mile; I shouldn’t have been so noisy; I shouldn’t have taken pride in passing people. 

I cannot freaking win.