Waking Up @ 60

February 15, 2021

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I woke up when I turned 60. Yes, it took a while, but I was busy giving to others. Giving a lot. Not that I minded. Actually, I loved it but when I was no longer needed, well, that’s when the confusion typically started. And with the confusion came opportunity, information and finally clarity. 

What good can come of being 60? Skills are rusty, we are tired, feeling pretty much done and knowing the younger kids should get the first crack at the job/opportunity, be embraced, employed and loved. Especially in times of great hardship like when your son gets divorced and has to struggle through the devastation thousands of miles from home, all alone with two confused and sad children, wanting to make sense out of nonsense with a job that dwindles down to less than part time. 

Yes, getting the kids raised and happy will never be a reality in the real world. They will suffer and they will triumph, they will love, and they will lose love they never really had. They will suffer in their own confusion and hopefully wake up one day. Sooner than later.

So here I am, reinvented yet again. I have changed most everything about me except my hair. How could I? It is after all, my signature look. Frizz, fluff, and curls if I just give it a minute of attention and lots of product.

Sixty, although still in the process has been the biggest transformation ever. So, don’t give up hope thinking you are too old to start, or stop, to begin, to wonder and take the first step. Youth is overrated. Poor things. They have to look good, be good, and feel good while working full time, raising a family, paying big bills and worrying about the future. At sixty, we are in the future. And it’s looking mighty fine.

Okay, first is our health. Everyone says it and don’t really realize or care much until it is threatened or gone. A scare will do it too. Thinking you have a life-threatening ailment and finding out you were misdiagnosed is a blessing for sure. So many are not misdiagnosed. They say only the good die young. I want to be bad, but not as bad as my parents.

Weight is a biggie. Just look around and see all the fatso’s. Yes, that is mean but that was how I was raised. My mother used to tell me I looked like a ‘big fat tamale’ or at least my arms did. I must have been 12 or 13, a size 9. Way to go mom.

I lost 30 pounds this year. I had let myself go during my confusion and when the light went on, I knew I couldn’t keep my newfound state of being with so much baggage. Literally. I do confess exercise alludes me. I have the bests of intentions. I have the big ball, the weights, the tapes, the gym and the pilates. Love them all, truly I do. But I am lazy. Never said I was perfect, just transformed.  While we are in the confessional, I still drink. A lot. Probably too much if every day is too much. It’s a choice. I choose yes.

Okay, here’s the biggest part. Be in love. Ha you say! Easier said than done. There are so many reasons to believe and live as if love has passed you by. No, no. Be in love with yourself. Yep. Millions of self-help books, classes online, classes in person, therapists, etc., promise to teach you how. The formula is there for a price. You too can experience self-love. It is not an experience. It is a transformation.

You can’t make it happen, you just have to be open to the possibilities and somehow quiet that mean old robber in your mind that like my mother, tells you that this is not to be. Remember darling, you are not worthy.  So how do you find it?

Well, some fortunate folk never lost it. Can you imagine? They are the half full’s 24/7 although I bet even, they have moments of doubt. It is just part of being human. So how does one transform if they have forgotten or worse yet, have never loved themselves?

TRANSFORM:

T – Take chances. Do something different, but don’t worry if it isn’t exercise. Just be open to seeing all those things in front of you in a different light. Like sunglasses cut the glare, see things gentle, see things while asking yourself why you are seeing and being a part of whatever is going on.  Lots of answers there. This was the catalyst for my transformation.

I am an artist by trade, watercolor botanicals; pastel figure drawing, loving art since I was a child. Just by chance I was in my doctor’s office nine months ago to get a whooping cough shot at the request of my pregnant daughter in law. It was a prerequisite to seeing, holding, touching and loving my soon to be born grand daughter.

I had an art piece with me to deliver to a client. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a regular day; doctors visit and chores. The nurse was struck by my work and remarked on the drab, sadness that permeated the chemotherapy rooms at their location. I graciously offered a print for each room. With glee, she ushered me into a daunting room. And I do mean daunting… Naked walls with nails protruding, yucky grey/green, florescent lighting, Tragic. That’s when I woke up. 

I couldn’t let it go, realizing that a piece of art would make absolutely no difference in those horrible rooms. I rested. I listened. I asked questions. I made a list of what needed to be done. I realized I no matter how hard I tried; I couldn’t make a difference. It was much bigger than me. 

R – Rest. Just because you are transforming doesn’t mean you have to be on the go all the time. When at rest, listen. Listen to what you hear inside and outside of your head. Write it down. See what makes sense. What questions come up time and time again. What answers are you not wanting to hear? What answers are you waiting for?  Make sure you get your beauty sleep even if it means turning off the tv and/or computer and getting some much needed shut eye. And, if I may, please no tv in the bedroom. It is a buzz kill in every aspect. Bed is bed, you know, sleep, pray, love. You can’t do any of those things while watching tv. While we are at it, can you keep you ipad, laptop and/or iPhone out of the bedroom as well? This is a challenge for me. I love nothing better (well almost nothing) than to fall asleep to solitaire on my iPhone and to wake up and read the paper, check my messages and check out Facebook in the morning, in bed, on my iPhone. Practice what I preach? Not here.

After I rested, well kinda, I was up all-night thinking about those horrible rooms. I had a thought. Get others to help, those that were experts in their field that may just be willing to help me out. So, I wrote about 20 emails to interior designers I never met asking them to partner with me in transforming these rooms. For Free. No payment, just because they needed to be done and I couldn’t do it

A- Apples. Yes Apples. Take care of your body. An apple a day keep you know who away. Nurture your body. It’s old. It needs your help. Don’t abuse it any longer. If you smoke, well really, do try to stop. Once your kids have kids, they won’t let you around them if you smoke. They might not even visit your house since second hand smoke lurks in every nook and cranny. And well, hate to say it, but you stink. Absolutely no one loves that smell, so how can you love you with an astray mouth?

Okay, maybe I had breakfast first, but believe me when I tell you, in less than 24 hours, six designers emailed me back thanking me for the opportunity to transform a chemotherapy room and make this tragic experience a bit more comforting, hopeful, safe and lovely. 

N – Nice. Yes, be nice, play fair in the playground. Open the door for others, Let the jerk in the fancy car merge in front of you. Smile. Even if you don’t mean it, make yourself smile. Believe me, those sixty-year-old frown lines can be reduced in many ways. Botox helps but easier is a smile. For a while. 

My mother said, If you can’t play nicely, you can’t play at all. She also said, if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, they don’t say anything. So, although she found me unworthy, she did want me to be nice to others. If only we could convince our mouths to keep shut. It opens and the words are out before we even realize it. 

And about those nice designers… The rooms were transformed in amazing ways within five months of the asking. And they covered all their own costs. Except paint. I contacted Kelly Moore Paints who contact Mike at Creative Paints in San Francisco who donated paint and supplies for all four rooms.  I just contacted him again, six months later asking for two more rooms that need paint. He thanked me and told me to keep up the good work, paint donated just like that. Talk about nice. This man is amazing!

F – Fun. Have some fun. I mean BIG fun. That means different things to different folks but please find your fun. My fun these days is much different than the fun of my youth and yet, fun it is. Sometimes fun can look to others like hard work, but you know it’s not. It’s uplifting and well, fun. If it makes you laugh that’s a bonus. Yep, I admit I’m one of ‘those’ that watch Wheel and Jeopardy. I must admit my husband got me hooked as I vowed at an early age not to watch the show that gave the older folks so much joy. Now we play along and actually talk to the tv, answering questions and cheering for contestant we want to win. We are having fun together. And it’s painless.

Now I am having fun with my new non profit born of out of ‘nice’ Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo. It has turned into a full time, fun job, transforming chemotherapy rooms throughout the country and beyond. Believe it or not, right now I’m on a plan to San Salvador to rock a free clinic, no expense paid. I believe the donations will come in time and for now, the joy and safety that will be felt by those using the rooms along with their families and medical personal, well, as they say in the commercial, priceless.

R – Rock someone’s world. Get out of your bad self. Think of others. Do something for someone without them knowing who you are or that you did it. Everyone has a gift and there is someone somewhere that will benefit and be grateful for that gift. Find that someone, that organization, that child that will benefit from knowing you. Make a difference. Just one tiny one. My husband had an Italian Nana. Her gift was cooking for her family. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. No microwave, no cans or jars. She’d walk to the store every day to get the ingredients needed for the day. Her husband came home for lunch everyday as did my husband, her grandson. She would make his lunch, sit and eat with him and send him on his way with a dime to buy an ice cream to keep him happy on the walk back to school. She rocked my husband’s world in a way that will never be forgotten. She also gave her gift and love of food to our daughter who lovingly remembers cooking with Nana. She is now a pastry chef and makes sure our family honors Nana’s Christmas tradition of making home made raviolis. Thousands of them, every year.

I’m rocking the world in my own small way while providing others the same opportunity. Each designer has a story as to why s/he wants to contribute. Most have lost a loved one to cancer and understand the importance of environment on the healing process. The memories of horrible, dismal rooms echoed though out. This gives them a chance to rock, have fun and well, eat apples because they sure feel good when their room is complete! 

O – Organize yourself, your soul and your environment. Clean your closet. Get rid of 10 things a day for 100 days. Stop buying new things and when you do, discard one of the same, i.e. a shoe for a shoe. Stop the clutter in your life and the clutter in your mind will also start to diminish. Go through your kitchen cabinets. You’ll be amazed at how many of your canned goods are past the expiration dates. Yuck. Organize your files, your books, your bills. Your underwear drawer needs some attention too. Are your towels a bit dreary and ragged? Come on, transform your thinking. You deserve fresh, lovely and bright towels. Get two colors and organize them to your liking. It’ll look like art in your bathroom. Don’t say you can’t afford it, even Walmart has great housewares.

Might I suggest you organize your bad habits as well? We all know how difficult they are to let go of, so organize them by listing them in order of preference.  List all 100 of them and then figure out which ones you want to get rid of. Or not. Baby steps.

Since I am suggesting, might I suggest you organize your good habits as well? Yes, you have them, the traits you know are worthy. List all 100 of them and then figure out which ones you want to use the most. And then list 100 more. You know you are that good. Baby steps.

I have had to reorganize my entire life with my new found love/job/work. I not longer am allowed the luxury of staying in bed indefinitely each morning, my husband by my side, reading the paper with a big, steaming latte that he lovingly makes me every morning. Now, I don’t linger as long, and I am on the go from sun up to sun down. There are clinics to visit, designers to interview, money to be searched after, and all the paper work of starting a new business. The business side is not as organized as I’d like it but I am getting over my fear of imperfection and letting myself not get in trouble for forgetting something or not doing it “right”. It is trial and error at this point, and I do know the more organized I am the better I feel and the more I can get done. With a smile. Like it is fun.

R – Remember. Remember the good and the bad, the yes and the no. Remember also, those around you are remembering the good and bad, the yes and no in their life as well. It might not mesh well with yours. Don’t take it personal, just pick up your toys and go somewhere else. Or ask them to leave. You do have a vote. You do matter, you are worthy. Remember to use your voice, you are worthy. And if you don’t ask, you’ll never know will you? 

One of my favorite jobs was drawing what I termed “essence portraits”. They were three quick pastel portraits of a person, preferably nude, exposing to them what they don’t see in the mirror, their essence, their perfume. The entire fun experience took about an hour and I was growing the business quite well via word of mouth. However, I didn’t really like the fact these were done in my home. I wanted them to be more fancy and exciting.

The Triton Hotel in San Francisco was quite the happening spot and had weekly Thursday Wine & Art Receptions. I heard about it, found out who the manager was and took my bad self to my first Thursday Wine & Art Reception. 

Asking the staff, I located the dapper manager. I introduced myself and my concept of essence portraits explaining I needed a space to draw people. Might he be interested in hosting me the in house artist at the Triton where guests could sign up for essence portraits and I would draw them in their room, all at no cost to me? 

He immediately said yes.

I was so ready for him to say no, I forgot to listen to him and kept pleading my case. 

He stopped me and said, “I said yes.”

And so, another fabulous venture was born. We had a wonderful relationship, I was able to help others transform as they transformed in their vulnerability and thirst for the truth. They were able to love who they were regardless of why they wanted to be seen in the first place. Bottom line was, they were finally seen, spoken to, and listened to as they spoke their truth while seeing the beauty within that was unique to them.

Remember with smells and tastes and holidays and special treats. Remember a someone just because, not for a birthday or holiday. A simple note (not email), a little giftie that will delight the child in all of us, just because.

Please remember the past with humor and compassion. You might need both. No sense in being bitter or resentful. It’s over. Sorry but it’s true, you can’t go back and change it, no matter how much you wish you could. So do the transformation jive and be present.

Remember when you listed the 100 good habits/traits of yours? Well, you wouldn’t have them if not for your past. I like to live with the saying, “Suffering build character and that is why I am such a character.” How about you? Honestly, I’m not trivializing your memories and possible sorrows, just reminding you that today is a new day.

M – Manners. Have your manners. Do your chores, pick up after yourself. Where ever you go, leave your surroundings better than they were when you arrived. Say please and thank you. Always and I mean always write a thank you note (not an email) to anyone that grants you a kindness or a gift. Especially old people, we love handwritten mail, it’s been so long and it is a tradition that has sadly become outdated. Actually, this could go under the fun and nice categories as well. Suffice to say this is a gold mine of gold stars.

When my kids were little, if they didn’t write a thank you note, the gift was taken away. They still are timely with thank you notes today. With my roomsthatrock4chemo, each donation no matter how small is received with a written thank you note, and an acknowledgement on our “star wall” on the website. Kindness goes a long way.

Chew with your mouth closed, no elbows on the table, asked to be excused, say good night when you are going to bed, kiss your mother goodnight when you come home from a date, and as a guest, never stay over longer than fish can stay in the fridge without getting smelly. Two days, three max.  I know it’s hard but try not to judge others, you just don’t know what they are going through. Cover your mouth when you sneeze, apologize for any ungodly noises that escape you vs. blaming it on someone else. My father was a great one at this… At church he would has gas, let it rip and look over at my Auntie Blanca and say really, really loud, “Blanca”! She was mortified and all us silly kids would giggle, our shoulder shaking in unison, grateful he didn’t call our name.

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