Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life is the Ultimate Art Form

The creative act is a courageous, ancient gesture, a dynamic exploration of the dark mystery that is human existence.
                          - Adriana Diaz

A few nights ago, I had a potent dream. In it I received a sacred bundle composed of an archaic compost with wonderful regenerative powers. That archaic substance was a kind of homeopathic medicine. Even in small amounts, it enriched and rejuvenated the earth wherever it was placed.

The numinous figures that gave me that bundle told me that the archaic compost was as old as time itself. They said that it came from the deepest recesses of the richness of the Earth and was filled with all the knowing experience that had accumulated from aeons past to the present.

The archaic earth was soft, dense and dark, fragrant and of course deeply mysterious.  I took a tiny pinch of it and cast it out over the landscape, which was enhanced, enriched, beautified. Just a small pinch rejuvenated a vast territory.

Whenever I took a small pinch of the earth for healing, the delicate membrane that covered the bundle repaired itself easily. I was astounded and full of joy to have been given this gift and this responsibility, which felt so buoyant and healing for myself, the Earth and all beings.

Since that night, I have been contemplating this dream. How does it translate into my everyday life, to my creativity and my deeper purpose? I have no answers yet, but the dream has lifted me up and provided me with a reminder of the powerful nature of the subconscious mind.

The past 7 months have been very difficult. In January my younger daughter and I traveled to rescue my older daughter,  whom I have seldom seen for decades. So began a rough and consuming ride on a rocky road as we did our best to support her in dropping her long-standing addictions.  It was heartbreaking. And piercingly sweet at times. Now she is gone again. She left a week ago, returning to the city where she had been living. 

That was a gigantic effort for me, one in which I discovered deep wellsprings of love and acceptance of my daughter's very difficult life. It has also been very hard to come right up against the truth that I cannot fix my daughter's life, no matter how hard I try or how much I do. It is up to each of us to live our lives, make our choices, construct a reality that we inhabit. She has her own journey, and I pray that it goes well. My heart feels very tender these days, even raw at times. I am in a time of self-healing.

Then there is the business of selling my flower cottage, which I put on the market at the end of March. It attracted a buyer quickly, but that first sale fell through. Again, buyers quickly appeared but at the very last moment, a second sale fell through. My realtor tells me she has never seen anything like it. Well, I am happy that not too many have to go through anything similar.

I was so confident about the second deal, I  got rid of almost all my furniture and moved into a room in a friend's place.  That was a month ago. Now I've lowered the price on the cottage and we are focusing on magnetizing the right buyer and completing the sale successfully. May it  be so, and soon.

Every time I go there to water the gardens, I feel what a delightfully welcoming place it is. Somebody is going to love living there as much as I did.

Attitudes about Aging --- OLD as a Word of Power

 As you no doubt are aware, many people are afraid of aging and being old. In our culture,  there are many noxious ageist stereotypes.  People seem surprised when someone over 60 is vital, vibrant, creative, happy and capable. That's because people buy into stereotypes. Older people buy into them, too. They start to collapse into and become those stereotypes.

Well, I'm too old to do that.
That's what happens when you get older.

It's bad enough that people who are not yet old have unreal, unkind and prejudicial attitudes about aging, but when older people themselves take on those limiting beliefs and perspectives, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I may be too old to do certain things now. That could be true. But why should I focus on that, rather than on what is good, rich and enjoyable? We are all subject to the ravages of time (a phrase I happen to enjoy). I have less energy than I did 10 years ago. I cannot easily drive at night. These are age-related limitations. Others I know are grappling with chronic illness, neurological conditions, things that bring even more significant limitations. No matter what, I notice that when a person brings positive self regard, acceptance and optimism into their life situation, it benefits them and everyone around them.

Lately I've been thinking about Elaine Stritch and Rabbi Zalman Schachter, two elders who passed recently. Such different lives, but so similar in the way they poured their creative joy into everything they did. That's attitude.

And I've been thinking of Olga Kotelko, a nonagenarian athlete from Canada who passed recently. She was outstanding and passionately engaged. We don't have to be famous to be engaged, passionate, creative and joyful. We can just be ourselves fully.

I think that is good news.

OLD is a word of power. It really is. It's time to reclaim the word OLD from the junk heap of language. Be old and proud of it. Set a good example. Leave a meaningful legacy, of whatever genre or type. Don't get caught up trying to maintain the superficial facade of youthfulness. It's demeaning and it doesn't really work either. We were already young. Let's plunge into the waters of oldness. There is a lot to learn and share in this time of life.

In the midst of this world so full of conflict and war, may we find peace within ourselves and may that peace radiate out to others. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bulletin: Adventures in House Sharing

I've had three house share experiences in the past 5 years. First I shared a town house with Louise, who has a Ph.D. in womens' spirituality. The year we lived under the same roof ignited a friendship that continues to be a source of pleasure and richness in each of our lives. While we lived together we shared meals from time to time, watched movies, enjoyed each others' intellectual and spiritual interests, and provided valuable emotional support for each other.

Then I bought the flower cottage and after mishaps with two unsuitable housemates, Anne appeared. We had already met through a mutual friend and knew we liked each other. She moved in to the back part of the house, which is a self-contained apartment. Anne and I had fun together too on walks, in dance classes, eating at the local taco joint and of course talking about our lives.  After a year, Anne moved north with her daughter Angela and started putting together a new business, Travel That Matters. The mother-daughter duo are developing tours and trips that satisfy the wish to experience a country more deeply. "When being a tourist isn't enough" is their website's tagline.  It has been fun watching Anne move into fulfilling this dream of hers. What she and Angela are doing is exciting. I think it would be great fun to do a creative aging trip with them for a group of older women.

Both house sharing experiences were full of surprises, new insights and a beautiful quality of community. Now I've moved in with my friend Linda, who I've known for over 30 years. I expect to be here for a few months and am very glad that we are having this opportunity to be with each other.

Many older women are choosing to find house share partners. This New York Times article  talks about the trend and the experiences of some women who have engaged in house sharing in various cities. It makes sense to me both in financial and emotional terms.

Have you tried house sharing yet? What is your experience?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Riding The Chariot of Disappointment

I have moved out of the flower cottage into my friend Linda's house, which is perched high on a hill with expansive views of the mountains and sky. This is the view I see each day from the balcony of my room.  It's beautiful here, and it has the panache of a new environment for me. In spite of having lived in this valley for decades, this particular area is one I never explored before now. It's full of gorgeous old houses, beautiful trees and elegant gardens. There's a big historical cemetery nearby, which is a great place to take a walk and contemplate the transitory nature of life. Or just have a good time walking with a friend.

I moved out of the flower cottage on June 20th.  The cottage was as good as sold, or so I thought. But at the 11th hour, the buyers pulled out because of an IRS lien whose total for some reason they didn't know. Go figure. It seems one should know the status of debts when trying to buy property. Rant, rave, etc. This is the second sale that has fallen through.  So I am disappointed. Very disappointed in fact. My disappointment led me to re-read a section in Chogyam Trungpa's book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.  In it, Trungpa says,

"We must surrender our hopes and expectations, as well as our 
fears, and march directly into disappointment, work with 
disappointment, go into it and make it our way of life, which is a 
very hard thing to do...Disappointment is the best chariot to use on the path of the 
Riding the chariot of disappointment as a way of life. Okay. Okay.

I have to put some oil on the axles.  It's great to have a chariot, I tell myself, so enjoy the ride. Having a chariot of disappointment is not the same as dragging your tail in the dust of disappointment or crawling through the stinky mud of disappointment or rolling around in the garbage heap of disappointment.

I mean, you have a chariot!

I went to the coast for a few days and it was glorious, even chilly at times, amidst the redwoods at the ocean.  I found these sunflowers backed by a wonderful corrugated curtain just as I was leaving town.

It is very hot here in the inland areas--over 100 degrees many days in a row. The air conditioning at my new abode is not working at the moment either. Which is of course disappointing, stickily so.  But there is a pool close to the house. If I had any sense at all I would stop typing this blog and take a dip. Yes, I had sense and took a dip which was refreshing. Some neighbors were poolside with their granddaughter.  The condo complex where I am living is populated with older people, so I expect I'll witness many grandparents in action while I am here. As an an elder with no grandchildren, I like seeing the interaction that grandparents have with their grandkids.

I am expecting to be here for a stay of about 3 months. Then I am planning to head to Mexico, but right at the moment with the cottage unsold, still recovering from the move to Linda's and a nasty cold that came along with that, I don't want to think too much about Mexico. Not today anyway.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter died on July 3rd at the age of eighty-nine. He was famous as a pioneer of Jewish renewal. I read a number of obituaries, which confirmed his vitality, originality, ecumenical perspective and lovingkindness. He had a profound influence on many people, not only because of his innovative style of Jewish prayer and worship, but also because of his work in the field of aging. His book From Aging to Saging has become a classic. Have you ever read it? If not, I highly recommend that you do.


 This Japanese art involves repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer so that it is more beautiful for having been broken. I think that the transformed, enriched vessel depicts character, the way wrinkles do on the faces of old people. If we are lucky in our later years,  we take the time to repair and restore whatever has been broken from the deeper perspective age can bring.  And when old people make those efforts, they often appear to be very beautiful, just as this bowl is beautiful.