Enlightenment

It’s time to write something! LOL I’ve had the flu AND pneumonia for the last 2 weeks and my friend asked me, “oh!! So you’ve had lots of time to write in your blog!!” To which I responded, “I WISH!!! It’s kind of hard to write when you’re curled up in a fetal position with a fever between 103 and 104 for four days straight!!” I’m on my second round of antibiotics with a new ailment–a terrible sinus infection, and my pneumonia wasn’t gotten rid of with the first round of antibiotics.

I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, I get spiritual. And fortunately, I really don’t get sick often. Which means I really don’t get spiritual often. I don’t get colds. I get sinus infections seasonally, but I’ve been a pretty healthy person my whole life.

Laying on the couch shivering, crying for relief, seeing the daylight outside and realizing how much I’m missing out on. I missed seeing both my adult kids last week; we had to cancel a gig, and I am supposed to be in beautiful sunny Southern California right now visiting my father and family and friends. But I’m not. I’m here. On the couch. And I’m super annoyed being sick and immobile.

I go inward. I realize I couldn’t do cancer. It’s given me such an appreciation for those who’ve suffered through cancer or any other chronic illness. I’m too much of a wimp. Because I actually felt like I was dying that first trip to urgent care. I gave up. I was too sick to care. I just wanted it all to end. Of course I just wanted to feel better but the mind goes to scary places with such high fevers. I hallucinated all sorts of strange things and places I can’t really remember now, but as I’m finally feeling better, I feel like I’ve been on a spiritual journey.

I believe the mind and the body are connected, and we don’t just get sick from “germs”. The immune system becomes compromised, and something’s gotta give. In my case, I think I was not only just having too much fun (what can I say? It makes life worth living!!) but also, stuffing down some feelings I didn’t want to feel.

So my body said, “hahaha Lauren, I’m going to MAKE you feel and think the things you don’t want to think and feel. You will do nothing but feel and think for two weeks.”

And it did.

Suddenly, I found myself crying a LOT. It was almost like I was pregnant again! Crying over every little thing, and coffee smelled and tasted horrible. And this is someone who drinks coffee all day long. What the fuck was happening to me??? Everything felt more profound than it ever had.

What I realized was, I hadn’t grieved enough over becoming an empty nester. I had tears, sure, when both my kids moved out, but the daytime silence must’ve been getting to me more than I realized, as I made sure I was home less often. Busy, busy, busy is the way I like to be, and I’m never bored. I have a full life–I love my band–I have a great group of friends and family and I’m never at a loss for something fun to do or someone fun to do it with. Spontaneous trips out of town, dinner out, a hike, a bike ride or just an impromptu trip to the mall, I’m always up for something fun to do.

But having been a stay-at-home-mom for 22 years, I hadn’t realized that I was directionless, as happy as I claimed to be. And we had decided to sell our home and move to the big city in a cute little condo, and I hadn’t let myself feel how sad saying goodbye to our home was really going to be. So the Universe directed me where I needed to go, and that’s where I’ve been for almost 2 weeks now.

Prior to becoming sick, I started doing a lot of cleaning and un-cluttering. There’s so much that goes into preparing a house for sale, and without realizing it, a lot of feelings had welled up that I kept down like holding a beach ball under water. Certainly they were destined to pop up. I started to think about how much I missed the simple days when my kids were little and I didn’t even know how much money was in the bank because we didn’t need any. We had so much fun anyways. Walks with little kids is miraculous and can take hours as they stop to notice every bug and leaf on the way. I used to take them to Pet Smart and we’d be there for hours watching all the birds and guinea pigs and mice and fish. And it was free.

And in realizing they were never moving back home I believe was the precipitous moment that caused that first domino to fall.

I know in my head that I’m so lucky to have raised two kids who are ambitious, smart, and love their independence. And when I’d get sad for them I would tell myself, “Hey Lauren, you could still have them here, smoking pot and playing video games.” So yeah, I’m SO proud of both my kids and know they’re just like me–there’s no way they’d ever move back. I never did and I know they wouldn’t either. And that’s a good reflection on my parenting that I did something right.

But I still miss them.

And it’s funny, when you’re in the thick of raising little kids, people tell you to “treasure these times because they grow up so fast” but your head is spinning because you haven’t had enough sleep for years, you need to go to the bathroom but you can’t, and if you do you always have someone with you. You neglect yourself for so long it becomes a habit. I remember those years quite well. I loved every minute of it and don’t feel like I gave up anything. I got to be their mom, every single day. It was me that drove them to school and it was me that picked them up. When they got sick it was me that took care of them. My husband and I agreed before we started our family that we’d never put them in daycare. And we never did. And I know we made mistakes and looking back, daycare wouldn’t have killed them. I should’ve made time for myself and not martyred myself like I did, but I didn’t know any better.

So now I’ve got all this free time and this big house to myself, and it’s a double-edged sword. I love and value my independence and feel extremely lucky that I don’t “have” to work. I have the time now to work on my writing, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. But there’s this huge void in the silence as I accept that this chapter of mommying is over. I’m sure it’s not unlike retiring from a career you loved. Your identity is wrapped up in that job and when it ends, you have to redefine yourself.  Suddenly, a new purpose needs to fill that void.

So that’s what I needed to grieve, the loss of my 22 year career being somebody’s mommy. And I know that I’m still their mom, and they still need me, just not the way they did, and that’s the whole point. I raised them to NOT need me in their daily life anymore. They’re successful, independent people with their own lives now.  In the words of my daughter, we now get to be “best friends”. It’s wonderful. Seeing them so happy allows me to live my own life. I’m so grateful.

So I’ve sweated and sobbed and felt the pain of closing the happiest chapter of my life these last 2 weeks, and I’ve come out of it sober, caffeine-free, and seven pounds lighter. As the meds kick in, and the fevers have finally stopped, I am looking around me seeing the beauty of my life and the wonderful chance I have now to redefine myself and this next chapter.

Time to re-visit my bucket list–I’ve realized that I want to travel more. I want to go everywhere and do everything. I want to see animals and other cultures. I want to learn a new language and learn about Eastern religions. I want to live minimally and shed the things that no longer suit me.

We’ve decided to wait on selling the house. My husband admitted he had similar feelings of sadness cleaning his office. So many happy memories; were we really ready to let go? We will do the necessary repairs we’ve put off and enjoy a quiet home with nothing broken for the first time in decades, and when Christmas comes, there will be room for everyone. The condo will have to wait.

Thank you illness, for the spiritual path you led me on. I will pay closer attention to my feelings are try to feel them as they come up, however painful they may be.

 

Too sexy for your shirt

Have you ever noticed how so many women begin to give up on themselves as they move from their forties to their fifties? For many women, it starts earlier. I’m going to make a huge generalization and say that the women who mostly tend to “let themselves go” are married women.

I don’t want to address how married men let themselves go to as they age. I’m a girl and I’m going to talk to you married girls about why you might be a bit timid to let your sexy self show after you’ve been married for a time and probably are up to your eyeballs in everything housewifey and children-y, and you find yourself living vicariously through your Pinterest page.

I was playing tennis yesterday (as I do four times a week: I’m obsessed) and suddenly, as I’m crouched, waiting for my opponent’s serve, I became aware of the fact that we four all had ponytails. And we all had brightly colored skirts and tops. On the court next to us, in contrast, were four women in their 70’s- (badass tennis players, I must add)–hair grey and chin-length, outfits grey or black.

I continued to observe them and us as we played, and I couldn’t help but make some interesting comparisons which of course spilled over as I went about my day after tennis. Everywhere I went–the grocery store, the mall—I began to check out married women and make little mental notes as I went along on how they presented themselves. Now don’t judge me harshly here–short hair is darling and grey can be too. I even saw a super hot woman who must’ve been pushing 70 at a wedding last October who had waist-length grey hair. It looked like spun silver and I wanted to touch it so badly. What I’m saying is, she’s the exception. Something starts to happen to (especially) married women in middle age.

It’s a cliche, isn’t it? How women say things like, “oh, I gave up heels years ago”. And it’s not because of illness or deformity. It’s a decision. I’m not sure when that line gets crossed, but suddenly, women are wearing “sensible” shoes ALL THE TIME. And “sensible shoes'” sister is “sensible bedtime.” I sing in a rock band, and I can’t tell you how many times when I’ve been asked what time our shows start (usually 10 pm) I’ve heard (married) women–some younger than me!–say, “Oh, that’s too late. I’m usually in bed by 10.” REALLY?? ON A SATURDAY NIGHT??? WHY??

It’s like we just give up. Dressing up and going out at 10:00 o’clock at night is too much work.  It’s easier to just stay home in our jammies on the couch. And don’t get me wrong–that’s just about MY favorite thing to do too–but if I didn’t get out of the house all dressed up at least once a week I would shrivel up and die. I know I would.

When and why do married women in their late 40’s and early 50’s begin to act like they’re headed for a nursing home? Girl, I beg you to take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. Do you like what you see? Do you think, “this girl’s hot!”? If not, why not? I’ll be you’re hotter than you think you are. Who says you have to wear “sensible” anything? Who are you trying to please? I’m aware we live in a society that says a married woman must remain sensible at all times. I’m here to shake you up and say, “WELL FUCK THAT SHIT!”

I have a BFF who was married for 30 years. Very religious. She colluded with her husband to make sure she was a sensible woman at all times. And he cheated on her with his secretary. So cliche. And guess what??!! Now she’s a hot divorcee. She lost 25 pounds, dyed her hair blonde and got a boyfriend half her age. Alternatively, I have another BFF who wore leopard pumps right up until she gave birth to her and her husband’s fifth child. I give her major props for that balancing act. And the confidence to turn a blind eye to all the stinkeyes she got and continues to get. Why do (married) women think a mom has to wear flats to be a “good enough” parent? Where does this judgmental mindset come from???

To me, “sensible” means “invisible”. Women who dress sensible 24/7 are, in my opinion, trying very hard not to be noticed. And as someone who gets a lot of attention for the way I dress, I know what that feels like to be looked at all the time, and it’s not always positive attention. I get stinkeye from married women who cluck their tongues at me possibly because “who am I trying to impress”? Guess what? I’m not trying to impress anyone dear. I LIKE DRESSING THIS WAY FOR ME. I wear what I wear because I like to feel pretty and girly and what’s more fun than being a girl???!!

It’s a known-fact that many ill-thinking hair-dressers encourage middle-aged women to cut their hair to look more “sensible”. I remember an article I read on Facebook that went viral about a hair-stylist who said to her now ex-client, “Happy 40th birthday! Time to chop off your hair!”

And how many of us think we need to “grow old gracefully”? I don’t believe you get more points in heaven for not fixing ourselves up. What if I choose not to be graceful about aging? Does that make you better than me? Even my teenage daughter knows I’m going to be the “old woman who wears purple”, but it will be my hair, not a hat. Even if I have bad luck and get cancer and have to wear a prosthetic leg, trust me, it will have a 5-inch stiletto on it in the nursing home. Grey hair?? NEVER!! And my nails will always have glitter polish. That’s just who I am.

I don’t know why many married middle-aged women hate me for the way I dress. Why does it make them uncomfortable? Is it because their husbands secretly think, “damn, wish I could see my wife’s cleavage once in a while!”? I even got bullied once. Grown women laughed and made fun of me one night last summer at a trendy bar we go to often. I became aware of them and asked my husband, “is it my imagination or are those women laughing at me?” He responded, “it is not your imagination”, and proceeded to flash them a stinkeye of his own. I was literally shaken. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.  I decided to confront them. I was going to walk over to them and say, “Hi there! I saw you starting at me so I decided to come over and introduce myself.” And just as I worked up the nerve to get off my barstool, they made a fast bee-line to the door.

I’m sure you’re curious what I was wearing that caused all that commotion. I’ll tell you. It was a turtleneck. Hahah just kidding it was a slinky spaghetti-strapped off-white cocktail dress. Oh, and no bra. Guess I was just too slutty for my age and they thought I should’ve been wearing something much more sensible. After all, who was I trying to impress? I already had a husband!! “SHE MUST BE A SLUT!” LOOK AT HER!” “JESUS CHRIST!” “WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS GOING OUT IN PUBLIC LIKE THAT!?” I honestly can’t believe I have that much power; that I “ruined” their meal or whatever the fuck. I didn’t even notice them until they were so obvious they were impossible to ignore. Grown-ass women! Bullying another human being! This wasn’t elementary school playground teasing. These were women who were probably grandmothers and should have known better! How rude and pathetic!

I just have to say for the record that I am sensible enough to wear running shoes when I’m in DC or going to the museum. I learned in junior high that my favorite white go-go boots were not meant to be worn at Disneyland, and I suffered greatly. I actually cringe when I see a hot woman in high heels on an airplane. Jesus girl, I know you wanna look good coming off the jet but change when you land before your bae sees you. Heck, stuff them in your carryon if you must. I’m sure the flight attendants are with me on this one. God forbid we need you to help in the event of a water evacuation!!

I ask myself, “why would any woman want to be invisible?” I get it though. It sure beats getting bullied and enduring stinkeyes. But the common denominator is, the perp is a married woman! Why would this be?? Why would I be such a target for someone who’s married? I’m married too by the way, and happily.

Since I’m not trying to steal your husbands, something else must be going on. I think I’m hitting a nerve.

I think I anger some women for “trying too hard”, because then it reflects on their “not trying hard enough”. I also think there’s something about an older woman being sexual that makes many married woman turn angry. Society reinforces that unmarried women can be sexual but from middle-age on, turn that shit off! EW!!!!! She must be a slut. Unless she’s trying to snag a man, then it’s okay. How unfair is that??

Why is it though that marriage turns hot women into frumps? And don’t tell me it’s lack of money. I shop at mostly consignment stores because that’s where I find the dresses I love. I will confess to splurging on my hair–touch-ups every five weeks. It was my teenage daughter though that showed me how to wear make-up appropriate for my age (read: “no black eyeliner Mom unless you’re onstage!”)

I am sincerely curious as to when this shift begins, and how it continues. I honestly think that since this is a predominantly married woman’s predicament, I have to conclude that when you’ve been with some for two decades, the shine has worn off, and the security of knowing this person finds you attractive no matter what you’re wearing becomes your autopilot. When you no longer “need” to dress up for your dinners out unless it’s accompanied by a trip to the theater, it’s easy to get into a rut of just not bothering to do much more. Older married women can be some of the most conservative women on the planet. And it doesn’t help that aging leaves many of lumpy in the process. Because to suddenly decide to dress “hot” or sexy, one must face the reflection in the mirror. And let’s face it–society is not gentle to the female gender. We have to be perfect in every way: body, skin, eyelashes, a Rachel Ray in the kitchen, Claire Dunphy mom and a Jenna Jameson in the bedroom. It’s all too much and for some of us, it’s easier to just throw in the proverbial towel. Where do you begin?! It’s daunting for sure.

Oftentimes, these married women become divorcees, and that’s when they often transform into Hot Divorcees. Isn’t that a cliche? If you’re a divorcee, you’re hot. Why aren’t married women thought of as “hot” too? It’s because everyone knows that a divorced woman has to “put herself out there” to “catch a man”. So the message is, unless you’re fishing for a husband, there’s really no reason to shop at Victoria’s Secret anymore.

Yes, this is the message society is shouting at us. Once you’ve been “taken off the market” why bother with the annoyance and expense of stilettos, thong undies and make-up from Urban Decay? You’ve snagged your guy and the chase is over. There’s no need to impress him anymore, he’s already yours. Why is it only okay to dress provocatively if you’re single? I really want to know.

I’m not saying you have to go around dressing like me, but I urge you to ask yourself why it might bother or upset you if I do. Or what stops you from showing a little side-boob? How many red lipsticks do you have compared to nude colors? Do your clothes hug your curves or hang on you like a potato sack? Is everything in your closet monotone? Why do you keep your hair short, because it’s more flattering on your or because you think you’re “too old” for long hair? Does feeling sexy make you uncomfortable?

For my BFF, she now realizes that her husband was afraid if she presented herself as sexy and attractive, she might leave HIM, which propelled him to cheat on her first. Many married women would prefer not to have their loyalty tested by “false advertising”. Do you not trust yourself if a man does come on to you? Are you hiding behind your turtleneck because you’re afraid you wouldn’t be able to handle a handsome man’s glance?

Am I hitting a nerve? God I hope so. I live to hit nerves.

We women deserve to feel good about our bodies and the skin we live in. If you’re dressing to be unnoticed 24/7, it’s likely you have body image issues and hiding that gorgeous bod of yours because you don’t feel good about yourself. This isn’t about snagging a man or being sexy for anyone but yourself. If you have to, get yourself to a therapist to uncover why you might be so critical of your physical body. It’s not about weight or height or breast or waist size. Beauty comes from within–it’s a confidence that says, ” I’m absolutely okay with the way I am and I embrace myself'”. It’s not a dress size. I’m no longer a size 2 and that’s okay.

Seeing my husband’s face when I dress up for our date nights is an added bonus. I love to see that spark and he likes the confidence he sees in me when I feel good about myself. And don’t forget, our Significant Others don’t love us conditionally folks. Only your mom and your pets love you conditionally. I want to feel like I’m someone I would go out with! To me, dressing up and taking care of myself is one part of being the best me I can be. When I feel comfortable in my own skin, I can be present for YOU.

It’s a freeing feeling never having to compare myself negatively to any other woman, nor feel diminished by her beauty. When you feel good about yourself, there’s no reason to put anyone else down for any reason. It’s sad those women weren’t nice to me instead–they missed out on us buying them a round of drinks and sharing some laughs. How hard is it for you to say (as I do quite often) to married or unmarried women, “You look gorgeous in the dress!”? Next time try it, especially if you’re feeling a wee bit jealous. If you’re looking at a woman and think, “damn, I wish I had a collarbone that sexy” tell her! Don’t keep it to yourself and turn it into a put-down of your own lack of a sexy collarbone. You’ll find you’ve made a new friend in the process, and trust me, she will thank you and probably compliment you in exchange. We women need to lift each other up at every opportunity.

Now go and be your sexiest self. And if some hot young guy gives you a wink, don’t be surprised. Smile and know that you still got it girl! You always had it baby. You just didn’t realize it. Now you do. GRRRRR!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Clown shoes not necessary

The week between the day after Christmas and New Year’s Eve seems to be a time of self-reflection for me. I’n not sure if it’s the post-Christmas blues, but I get this melancholy slump that leads to a feeling of hope.

It’s also the time to present my New Year’s resolution.

I think most of us can say that resolutions aren’t easy to accomplish, nor do they happen overnight. I don’t honestly set up to “find” a resolution; usually there will be something niggling at me that I suddenly can’t turn my back on, like a pan of pasta boiling over.

I have long ago ceased the tired “lose weight and exercise more”, since I’m pretty happy with my physical self.  The last few years I’ve been making resolutions that focus on my emotional self, and basically, how to be a better human being. My looking better doesn’t make the world a better place, and honestly, self-acceptance comes in many forms.

The last two resolutions I made were to answer my cell phone every time it rings and stop being late everywhere. As you can predict, I’m about 50% more successful than I used to be on both of those. My father won’t talk to me if I’m driving, so I don’t answer his calls, nor do I answer the ones whose numbers I don’t recognize. Otherwise, I DO try to answer them as they come in. My reason for this resolution was to save time and stress by not having to call people back. “Just answer the damn phone and get it over with!” became my mantra. If it’s a friend, well, that’s a no-brainer,  because of COURSE I want to talk to them. It’s the other 90% of phone calls that are confirming appointments or other related tedious calls that when I see them come in, I tend to roll my eyes and think, “I’ll call them back later”, which never comes.

My resolution to overcome my constant struggle to be on time is on-going, as my ADHD causes me all sorts of distractions and mental gymnastics to read a clock the same way everyone else does. I’ve learned to manage it better though using a football analogy—you know how in football fifteen minutes on the clock can turn out to be anywhere from 30-45 actual minutes??? In other words, fifteen minutes is NEVER fifteen minutes on a football field. So when I say I’ll be ready in fifteen minutes, my family and friends know that could be anywhere from 30-45, but honestly, nowhere near the actual fifteen minutes I claimed it would be. The problem is though, when I say it, I honestly think that’s how long it will take me, but it always stretches out to be 30-45 minutes.

I feel badly for the people closest to me. I’m sure I drive them crazy.

I’ll be you’re curious what emotional inadequacy  I’ll be addressing this New Year’s! LOL There are many things about me that need to be siphoned off and hosed down but what’s been bugging me the most about myself lately is how I really don’t have a great sense of humor.  I want to learn to “find the funny” in situations I now take too seriously, including myself.

It became apparent to me that I’m a pretty sensitive person, and I don’t think highly sensitive people can be highly humorous at the same time. Unless you’re a comic and then you’ve turned your defensiveness into a well-paying career. I realize that growing up the only girl with three brothers who teased me and made fun of me endlessly made me into someone who always feels like I have to defend my right to even breathe. When your very being is constant fodder for someone else’s entertainment, it takes a toll. I know now it’s something people refer to as “sibling rivalry”, and my brothers and I get along very well now and we’re very close, but being who I was, I took it all to heart.

It has always upset me that I don’t get jokes, and I don’t “get” the subtext of many conversations. I’m the person that things fly right over my head like the proverbial 747 jet. Days later it will come to me, and like a slap to the forehead, I’ll be incredulous: “Is THAT what he meant??? REALLY????!!!” and I’ll be as shocked and surprised as if I just landed on Mars. I’m not quick-witted and I take everything literally.

And I don’t believe I’ve been picked on for a couple of decades, so this realization of the origins of my lack of sense of humor has been quite troubling and insightful at the same time. What started as a coping mechanism has resulted in a personality trait that I’ve been told is unchangeable.

I believe that anything is possible. Like I said, first there has to be an awareness, like Dr. Phil says, “you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”. As much as that bald man bugs me, and as much as I dislike him, he’s right about a few things and I believe that’s one of them.

“Milwaukee Comedy” has workshops for people who want to become funnier. I have already looked into it, and I am excited to give it a try. It’s not about telling jokes: it’s about “finding the funny” in ourselves and situations that I’m unable to recognize. I have always admired funny people. I adore them and who doesn’t enjoy being around people who make you laugh? I want to become one of them.

The threats are gone; I’m no longer someone’s kid sister to kick around, yet I carry my sword constantly just in case it’s needed to fend off someone’s arrows. It doesn’t mean I allow mistreatment; no one’s mistreating me anymore. I don’t need to walk around feeling defensive anymore. No one’s attacking me, yet if someone calls me on my lateness, my messy desk, or my inability to go anywhere without lipstick, the shield is up, and I realize I react as if the comments were daggers.

I know my family, I know my friends, yet I take these not as poking fun but as if they’re  putting me down in a mean-spirited way. And that’s proven because when I take offense, they’re left feeling badly as if they were disparaging me in some way. I don’t like being the person who “can’t take a joke”. It’s frustrating not knowing the difference between a superfluous comment on my sloppiness and being bullied by a stranger. I’ve had both, and they feel the same to me. Just writing that was a huge light-bulb moment for me. WOW. Can you even imagine how it feels to be me? Ugh all I can think about is how annoying it must be to be my spouse, or friend.

I have already taken the first steps towards accomplishing my resolution to take myself less seriously, and those are: 1. Acknowledging there’s a problem 2. Accepting that it’s affecting my life in a negative way 3. A belief that it is possible to change and 4. A willingness to be uncomfortable.

I asked my hubby to join me in taking the 6-week Saturday morning workshops starting in January, and he’s agreed it sounds fun.

I think for me, it will be the beginning of a transformation that will make me a happier person. And in turn, by being less defensive and more self-deprecating and self-accepting, I believe it will deepen my relationships.

If anything, I’ll hope to be a lot more fun to be around. That, in and of itself, will be worth the effort.