Wednesday, September 5, 2018

My Next Battle

For the past few months or so it seems that one of my emotional, developmental tasks has been coming to grips with going grey. My grasping of this and acceptance of my hair as it is has had its ups and downs, but gradually I am moving in a good direction. It seems my next task may be a bit more daunting. Whereas, should I decide that my confidence, my psyche, my self-esteem just isn't quite there yet, the grey is an easy, quick fix. But my other issue isn't.

One of the reasons that I have so desired to let myself go grey and be at peace with it is to help push back against the cultural stereotypes of beauty and the negative view of aging. I can't complain about it, about the expectations that I can get older internally but externally I can't change (whoever came up with this crackpot idea anyway?) and yet still cave to the pressure. I'm a bit of a rebel. I will refuse the status quo if I think the status quo is screwed up. So, grey I am becoming.

My next task is gonna be a beast though as it entails coming to terms with my changing body. I have so much more against me here. Not only do I have the beauty culture against me, I have the fitness culture against me, too. And behind all that I have the message I received from birth: that being fat is about the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

I have told bits and pieces of my story before. Of my weight obsessed mother who hated her body. Of the weight obsessed culture of my childhood. Of my own success in weight loss that led to a serious eating disorder in high school.

Over time I began to eat healthy and watched my body go up and down in size until it adjusted because it knew I wasn't going to starve it any more. Then I learned to trust my body. My hunger. My cravings. I began eating when I was hungry and not when I wasn't (well, some of the time anyway). I grew babies and nursed babies and my body responded to me kindly as I treated it kindly. My relationship with food has been healthy, I would say more healthy than average, even more healthy than most, for decades now. My relationship with my changing body has been a different story.

It is still so easy to put my value in my appearance. That is what our culture does. I've written about some of my struggles in posts like #metoo and Eating Out of the Trash Can. Youth, beauty, fitness. That's what really matters, right? It certainly would seem so. But time marches on and marches right across your torso, thighs, hips, and arms. Menopause enters. Estrogen leaves. Metabolism tanks. Skin elasticity goes to pot. Who I am as defined by my physical body comes into question. Our culture tells me I must fight. Fight it all. I must eat less. Exercise more. I must look awesome in a bikini at age 62 (yes, I saw that on a magazine cover once). It is all too much.

I am a grandma, dammit! I know people in their 70s and 80s who are still wringing their hands over their weight and trying yet another diet. I don't want to spend the rest of my life fighting my body. Fighting nature. There is do much more to life than driving yourself insane trying to achieve some subjective, and quite honestly fucked up (yes, I said it because sometimes situations warrant it and this is one of those) standard of beauty and acceptance.

So here I am. Looking 55 in the face. A bit more bulky than I was this time last year. Considerably more wobbly. But making the choice to say no to the pressure to maintain the body of my youth. We gotta fight this, people. Who's with me?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Lessons in Lawn Mowing

I cut the grass this morning and it was awful. It often is awful. It is awful because our mower sucks. If you let it cut off then you have to wait at least 30 minutes before you can start it again. And, worse yet, the self-propel function ceased working a couple of years ago. If you live on flat land that might not be an issue, but alas! The mountains. Anyway, that means that cutting the grass needs to be done by brute force without interruption.

This morning I prepared myself, or so I thought. I went ahead and filled a glass with ice water because I knew at some point I would be about to die. I set the glass where I could grab it without letting go of the handle. It was a welcome relief as I came to it about halfway through and guzzled down all that I could, minus the flung piece of stick that swam around.

Unfortunately, this morning was oppressively muggy. The grass was slick from dew. And it just took way more out of me than it might in more favorable conditions. At one point I really thought I wasn't going to be able to finish and tried to yell, over the roar of the lawn mower, for someone to bring me more water. I'm not that much of a loudmouth and nobody heard. I finished. Barely.

I realized that this is life. When faced with an overwhelming task or jam packed week, it is wise to set out points of refreshing. We aren't machines. We aren't even crappy lawnmowers. We need points of rest. Refreshing. A cup of cold water. Sometimes we can't set one out ourselves. Sometimes we might need to ask someone to be alert to our need. Next time I will ask my husband to have his office window open and be alert to my possible yelling for help.

If cutting the grass is easy for you you might not understand why it is such a big deal to somebody else. You might have a kick-ass mower or a level yard or more muscles and stamina and perhaps a cool, refreshing breeze. You might not realize that the person struggling to tame their yard is dealing with steep slopes, rocky soil, soggy grass, heat and humidity, or (like me) rapidly shriveling muscle mass (damn you, menopause!). It is easy to assume that if something is easy for you, it should be easy for someone else. But our loads are not apples to apples.

I know so many with various challenges in life that others just don't understand. They are continually met with the "why don't you just ...." Such ignorant, unwanted advice is condescending and demoralizing. The parent of the special needs child can't just.....whatever. The single mom can't just.....whatever. The person with debilitating depression can't just....whatever. They have more obstacles than you can see.

It is important to look more deeply into the lives of people to better understand the struggle. I know so many whose seemingly easy life tasks are made so much more difficult by conditions I may not see or understand. I want to be there for them with a cup of cold water. Please, if you know you are going to need one, let me know. I may not be able to cut your grass, but I can hopefully refresh your soul when you need it.