Dear friends,

I’ve been quiet for some time now, leaving this space empty of my reflections even as I’ve missed the solitude offered by writing and the friendships nurtured in this forum.

I had surgery two days before Christmas. It was nothing very serious, an ailment common to women my age, but it sucked the wind out of my sails in a surprisingly fierce way and I’m only now beginning to lengthen my stride.

While recovering at home for two and a half weeks, I did little more than sleep, watch television and read. Mr. Mom kindly fussed over me and many friends sent greetings (and flowers and chocolates!), but I’m exiting the experience with a new appreciation for the fortitude required of aging. No wonder, I thought to myself many times, that old folks fail after surgery. The isolation is real and discouragement easily sets in when both mobility and workaday distractions are in short supply. To be honest, I had a bit of a frightening glimpse of my future. (And while it may be, God willing, two decades my future, it’s still sobering to have tasted the bitter pill of senescence.)

Once my doc gave me the thumbs up, I rushed back into the world at something very close to full speed. I’m running again, a lick faster than I was before surgery just because I’m determined to beat back the crone that seeks to claim me. I’m traveling quite a bit for my job (three weeks in a row this month). I’m filling my weekends with quilting and classes and dinner parties and decorating projects, all in an effort, I think, to deny my age.

But I’ve also sat in the stillness quite a bit, too. And the most surprising revelation of my quietude is that my parents weren’t crazy after all. I think of my mother in the last 10 years of her life and, for the first time, I understand her.

I understand her heightened indecision and her anxieties and her sudden tears and her longing for more time with loved ones. I understand her careful step and her anxious questions and sleepless nights and seemingly endless need for reassurance. I understand the lines of her face, pulled downward by gravity but also by apprehension as the uncertainty of her adult children’s futures weighed heavily on her. I understand her heart, so eager, so full, so ready to give its all even as her energy lapsed.

And I wonder what it would have been like to have had this understanding in her presence? To have held her hand as one who knows, rather than as one whose love is strong but whose discernment is impaired by the ego and impatience of middle age?

I don’t dare ask why because that is a fool’s errand, but I do wonder, and then hope my ponderings lead to at least a snippet of hard-earned wisdom I might share.

In the mean time, I sit with her. In my meditations. In my dreams. In the quiet of my mind. I hold her hand. I tell her I love her and miss her. I tell her how wise she was. I marvel at her courage and generosity. I ask her about my children in the hope she’ll reassure me as she did when they were babies and I was the most tentative of mothers.

I write her name, Colleen, in every corner of my heart and sing the song of her devotion as my lullaby, trusting her love to lull me through this night.

With gratitude {for understanding that is better late than never},

Joan, who’s looking forward to Spring and every form of rebirth that goes with it




Some thoughts on being young (from an old fart).

Dear friends,

My cousin Kate wrote a blog post recently wherein she discussed one of the essential markers of adulthood, namely the need to self-manage.

Don’t let my dry description of her essay dissuade you from reading. Kate is beautiful, funny, and smart (a powerful combination!) and her reflection is entertaining and worth your time.

But it got me thinking — as you’ll see if you also read my comment following her post — that she might be worrying for nothing. Kate writes:

And while bills are the true mark of growing up, realizing that you have to self-govern from here on out is slightly intimidating. It’s not by any means a bad thing, but it’s not exactly something I’ve had to do before. I’m not entirely sure what it entails . . . Doing my dishes consistently and not waiting till every pair of underwear I own is in the dirty clothes to do laundry seems like the way to move in the right direction.

I’ve recently decided that squandering your 20s isn’t such a bad thing. Ask Mr. Mom, who knows me better than anyone. I’ve been a very serious person for a very long time. Kicking up my heels, even in my youth, never seemed advisable. I’ve never pulled an all-nighter (for any reason, noble or otherwise), I’ve never gotten sloppy drunk (tipsy is my limit), and I’ve never thrown caution to the wind about anything more monumental than costume jewelry. Joan is so light-hearted and spontaneous, said no one ever.

In fact, in my 20s, I had a bad rap as a wet blanket. I wasn’t trying to be, but I was focused on my goals, namely to earn my degree, get a good job, and make something of myself. I did earn my degree (two, actually) and I landed a series of good jobs, including the one I’m in now. Whether or not I made “something” of myself is a judgement for others. Along the way, I paid a lot of bills, washed a lot of dishes and underwear, acted responsibly in every way I knew how, and in some ways mastered the art of self-governance. Now, at age 49, I’m just not sure self-governance is all it’s cracked up to be. At least not in your 20s, for Pete’s sake.

So that’s why I advised my cousin Kate (and, frankly, would give my daughter Kate the same advice if asked) to live it up.

Be young! Be single! Be carefree! (I started to make a parenthetical joke here warning CupKate not to be flunk-out-of-college carefree, but the truth is she’s so much like her mother in the self-management department that the joke fell flat.)

I know what you’re thinking. I sound ripe for a midlife crisis. I really don’t think that is what’s going on here. I already upended my life once — last year — and when given the chance I didn’t set my compass to throw-it-all-away-for-a-life-fling. Instead, I went for balance and equanimity.

However, anyone out there reading this can take it from a very serious, very responsible, very self-managed woman that the world probably needs a whole lot more fun and a whole lot less temperance. Which is why I’m going to eat two chili dogs for dinner, drop my clothes on my closet floor when I change from office attire to yoga pants, and bliss out for the whole evening in front of the television. Consider it my mini-revolution (hey . . . baby steps).

Viva unsanctioned frivolity!

With gratitude {for a cousin who reminded me it’s possible to simultaneously stay young and get old},

Joan, who once worked for a very conservative employer where a boss thought the workers were celebrating way too much and therefore distributed a memorandum banning “unsanctioned frivolity,” a phrase she now aspires to have included in her obituary, preceded by the words “frequently encouraged”