In a small number of days, I'll be joining my blogging friends for a retreat at the Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island, our fourth gathering. This time, instead of staying only for a three-day weekend, we'll be there for two more nights, leaving on a Thursday and coming back on the following Tuesday. We'll use our extra time together to have a writing retreat, and hopefully I'll be coming back from the time together with some new writing tools. I'm excited to find some new directions to take with my two blogs, things that inspire me as well as my readers. It was December 2009 when I began this blog, and in those years, almost six now, I've sometimes struggled to find the next direction I want to take.
When I began to write here, I had a plan. I started with my early life and wrote from my earliest memories to the present day, marking the milestones that brought me here. After all, having been married four times, borne and lost two children, and having spent a third of my life as an active skydiver, there was plenty to write about. But then I got a little stuck, wondering if I could write from the current moment as a meditation in the same way that I used for so long. It has worked, sometimes well, and other times I truly struggle to find a direction.
At first I refused to even consider the importance of my readers, thinking that I was writing just for myself. But of course that's simply not true. Once I began to generate followers, I would look forward to hearing what you would have to say. And I sometimes suffer from the self-consciousness that afflicts most writers from time to time. I consider writing to be one of the activities that gives me real pleasure, at least most of the time. There are times when I sit here writing, tears streaming down my face from the recollection of a painful memory, and other times when I laugh out loud and startle my sleeping partner next to me. Writing can definitely be a catharsis, but it can also be somewhat of a tribulation. When the words don't want to come, or if my brain is foggy without any focus on my current situation, then I flounder.
But I try, every Sunday morning, to come up with words that reflect the current state of my life. It really amazes me when I go back and read some of the previous posts that they actually came out of me, and often I can remember exactly what it was like to be there at that moment, indicating to me that I was successful then. So why not always? I ponder the answer to that question.
Time is linear, but life is not. My days flow in erratic patterns. If I've got a physical ailment, or if I'm distraught over some event in my life, the ebb and flow is more of a churning surf, driven by storms of anxiety or illness. Rarely do I experience the sense of being becalmed, unable to move from my current situation. I have lived long enough to realize that any situation I find myself in will not be permanent; it might get better or worse, but it's not going to stay static and unchanging. Life itself is a process of growing and changing and becoming something different from day to day. Last week I was filled with contentment; this week, not so much. And it's only been seven days!
Last Thursday I hiked with my fellow seniors in cloudy weather with occasional light rain. It was not an easy hike; we traversed a muddy trail that had four steep ravines to descend into and climb out of. There were places that were so difficult, steep steps up and down for my short legs, that I realized my left knee was beginning to complain. By the time we finished our hike, we had ascended and descended 2,500 feet (750+ meters) of elevation. On the way back to Bellingham, my knee throbbed and felt quite injured. I worried that I was going to be unable to carry on my usual activities. When I woke the following morning, I stepped gingerly out of bed and tested the knee, to find that it was working moderately well. Although I needed the assistance of the railing as I walked down stairs, it was definitely not as bad as I feared.
I have a plethora of braces and paraphernalia for my knee, and I use whatever I need to keep going. But yesterday, Saturday, I went walking with the ladies for a brisk five-mile jaunt (also in the rain) and found that my knee didn't hurt at all! In only a couple of days it had begun to heal, with the help of a brace and my persistence. I also managed to keep from taking any drugs, since I know that they might help in the short term, but I'll save them for later when I really need them. The latest news about all anti-inflammatory drugs is not good, including my usual ibuprofen, so I really try to use it only as a last resort. And so far, so good.
These bodies were not made to last, and I intend to get as much mileage out of mine as I can, but I'm not so naive to believe it can last forever. I suppose it's possible to consider a knee replacement in the future, but before I get there, it will need to be much worse that it is now. Plus I've got cataract surgery much more prominent in my future, I expect, as they also continue to grow and cloud my vision. But that's also not necessary today or tomorrow. In another year or two, there's no doubt I'll need it. And those who have put it off, like me, usually wish they had done it sooner once it's done, but just the idea of having my eyes operated on gives me chills. We live in an age when the doctors can attempt to fix many failing body parts, and I guess that's a good thing.
Or is it? It's all stopgap measures, and I really believe that a mature person should not attempt to stave off the inevitable. I saw a movie yesterday, Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin, who is 76 and looks it. She's in great shape, and the movie reminded me that it's still possible to be relevant and even beautiful at any age. She's also up for an Emmy for her performance in Grace and Frankie, a Netflix sitcom I watched and enjoyed. But what I really noticed in that series is the difference between the way Lily Tomlin looks compared with her costar Jane Fonda, who is almost the same age (77). Jane has had plenty of surgery on her face in an attempt to look younger, and she wears lots of makeup as opposed to the almost clean face of Lily. Although Jane looks good, to my mind she doesn't hold a candle to Lily. If Lily has had any surgery, I would be surprised, although she probably dyes her hair, since I don't see any grey in it.
I stopped wearing makeup when I retired eight years ago. There are moments when I pull the stuff out, but frankly I think I look a little strange in it. Mascara became problematic when I realized that most of it ends up underneath my eyes these days, giving me a raccoon look. Not what I was going for. And eye shadow disappears in the folds of my eyelids. Plus I think wrinkles are exacerbated by foundation; they don't go away but become more prominent. No, I'll stay clean faced and invisible.
Well, guess what? Another post is written, and I ended up enjoying the writing process after all. I still have plenty more to say, but I think I'll save it for another day, since the sun has come up already, my tea is gone, and I'm actually looking forward to starting my Sunday routine. Once I get out of bed, I'll weigh myself, then dress and go out to the front porch to do my five Tibetan exercises. Afterwards, it's breakfast and a trip to the coffee shop for my daily fix of espresso in the form of a two-shot latte. My fisherman friend Gene might be there, and I know that Leo and his family have the habit of starting Sunday together there, so I'll be glad to see them, too.
I hope that this day brings you, my friend, plenty of whatever keeps you going, keeps you happy, and that there's a friend nearby to hug. Or pet. Until next week, be well.