You think it’s easy staying home all day trying to cobble together a meaningful life?
Even on a dark, rainy day the view from our 1920s porch overlooking Lake George cannot be beat.
Whether you are gazing at a blazing sunset or a misty due hanging over the mountains there is never a bad view from this window.
I can roam the halls of Bergdorf’s in NYC as easily as a Walmart in Queensbury, which is in upstate NY.
I can talk to corporate moguls vacationing in Aspen with their private planes as easily as a welder who grew up in Ft Anne, NY, and likes to “blow shit up” as a hobby.
I am city, suburbia and a little bit country.
I am designer resort wear and full out don’t care about my clothes, as long as I look thin and the fabric is breathable.
I never stop looking for my next home, though I’m at home where I’ve always been.
I belong with my Bill and long to be near our children.
New Englanders are by nature cold, like their winters.
As an extreme extrovert, I’ve poked my nose into the lives of strangers, acquaintances, and friends from Lisbon to Costa Rica, two locales of which have the world’s friendliest people.
People are not cold in Chicago, Kansas City, San Diego, or Nashville. Nor Boulder, Denver, L.A., or Napa Valley. It’s New England. Explanations for this phenomenon are hard to muster since all of America is made up of cultural roots spanning the Earth, yet New England still has the greatest concentration of cold, unemotional, non expressive folks no matter what country of origin.
As I walk my “hood” in late July I count how many front doors are slammed shut, even with a glass storm door behind the big oak door. Mine is the only door that is opened to show the inside, as if to say, Come on In, the Water is Fine.”
No one hangs out on their front stoop waiting to greet a neighbor. In these parts when you go to work you enter your car head down and when you return at night, same posture. “Head down, don’t shoot”, or more like “don’t talk to me” in this tony town.Exhibit A:I go to my local supermarket after a month in our country home and run into a woman whom I’ve travelled social circles with for 25 years, whose kids played with my kids, and still do. If you were a fly on the wall observing our encounter at the fruit section you’d think she doesn’t like me, but you’d be wrong. She actually does like me. Our conversation is filled with me asking the usual family questions, sharing how I feel about this and that, only to be met by a lack of facial and/or body expression.I’m thinking if this is how folks around here respond to positive encounters how is it they act if they don’t like you? Maybe it’s the same. Confusing.On the other hand, the bagger, who walks me to my car, and hails from Brooklyn, NY, like my own parents, returns my bombastic social proclivity with a heated conversation about the Brooklyn Dodgers leaving for LA in 1957, the year I was born. Bam. Warmth from the stranger.Exhibit B:I walk my “hood” where I have walked nearly every day for 26 years but on this day after a month away I run into a neighbor who knows me well, whose parties I’ve attended. The reception is as flat as the street below my feet, more like what you’d expect from someone with Asperger’s or Autism— no offense to either of these conditions.They say around these parts that New Yorkers are the worst, and in many ways, that’s true. But they are warm. They hug you while modulating their voice to match a show of emotion. And in California they fake warmth all day long, which is entirely all right with me.
Written: 2004 and published in Wellesley Weston Magazine
by Beth Nast
At the age of 45 I learned to love winter. I began to see the sun as the closest star, shining brighter than all of summer. The ice glistening more radiantly than all the world’s sandy beaches. The cold, something not to avoid, but embrace– to dress for and then warm up in. As I watched my son create snow angels in the backyard I woke up to how closely the snow is to the look of our summer beaches. My sunglasses become a necessity. My lips are in need of moisture. My neighbor, also a doctor, explained it to me this way, “When we reach our menopausal age, we long for cold, not warmth. Our bodies produce enough warmth on their own.”
My love for winter began when we got our dog, for the children supposedly. But really it was for me. I figured how could I ever experience depression if there was always someone to care for, someone waiting to be loved. Surprisingly, the first 6 months of owning a dog are full of stress and self doubt – more work than a newborn but without that instinctive love.. The dog taught me how to appreciate the need to be walked every day. How to see the sticks on the ground as playful objects, not broken limbs. A daily walk in the outdoors, it turns out, is a necessity for humans as well as dogs.
There are always two voices within us. The voice, which I mostly listened to in my 20s and 30s, telling me whatever I did… it was not enough. It was less than I could do, less than my parents would hope I should do, less than someone famous I’d read about would do.
Then there is this other voice, more sweet and gentle than the other. It’s the voice I’m hearing now more clearly than ever before. It basically says, “Cut yourself some slack. Don’t demand more of yourself than that which feels good and comfortable, and forgive yourself all your “non successes”. In Yoga my instructor says, “We approach yoga as we approach life.” And nothing could be closer to the truth. The days I’m angry and quitting in yoga are the days I am angry at myself and quitting at everything I begin. But the days I work to master a position, I know that will be a successful day.
The new inner voice says, “Stop thinking of what you could do, and learn to enjoy what you do, even if it seems uninspired. This is a big part of who you are. And the other part will struggle alongside like a shadow waiting to peek its creative head out every once in a while. The same Yoga teacher councils, “Don’t nibble through life. Decide what is important and take big bites. With that advice I finally saw with clarity that my children and husband, they are my big bite, and that will be my legacy.
I have outfits for a country club cocktail party, a beach party, a walk in Paris down the Champs-Elysees, a hike up Mt. Etna, a cocktail cruise on Lake Como, an IBM Board Meeting, a NYC art opening, a Rocky Mountain bluegrass festival, and yet: I don’t go to any of these.
These days I need a Summer wardrobe of yoga, golf and dining out and then Ski clothes in the winter. In between my sporting life a casual wardrobe that consists of jeans, leggings, and countless and redundant tops.
My dream of a walk- in closet seems absurd now, I no longer dress for a discerning professional audience in Boston or NYC as I used to in the career parts of my life. And that was 25 years ago. So why do I keep buying clothes for a life I don’t have? Old habits die hard at Bloomies and Bergdorf’s.
My clothes tell a story. Each outfit with accompanying shoes, bags and jewelry required creative energy. Since we are all basically the same underneath, our clothes express who we are at any given time. My mother and I shop in NYC every year and while I buy clothes for now, I can’t help but buy clothes for my former life. Then I go home and photograph them, inventory them, and organize them by color and content to my heart’s content.
I won’t part with any of them, they are hardly worn, and I love them all, but maybe I should stop buying clothes I’ll never wear.
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It can go like this:
My childhood “friend” of 45 years who I’m content keeping at arms length as a phone and Facebook friend finally realizes I don’t actually go out of my way to see her. It’s particularly obvious when she sees I’m in her hometown NYC on Facebook and don’t include her. Damn Facebook. Rather than acting like a guy and “going with the flow”, or keeping her hurt feelings to herself, the disappointment causes her to lash out in a text, “I get it, you don’t want to have more than a Facebook or texting friendship — so I decided I won’t be contacting you again. Good luck and have a good trip home.” Ouch, it stings, even if I’m fully in agreement with her assessment. The truth does hurt, even when it sets you free. My husband says, “sounds like she’s off her meds” when I read it to him. I just feel, well, hurt.
So, I remove her from my Facebook “follows” and wait for time to pass. I know from past experiences that over time the hurt will dissipate, in full awareness that this friendship has outlived it’s course. The sting may take a few weeks or months, but I will get over it and move on. Sorrow comes from knowing you caused someone in your past emotional pain and frankly it’s a little bit embarrassing. Whereas a guy might explain the same scene in this way: “We just haven’t been in touch for ages,” you, as a female, are made to endure an ending that is overt.
Girlfriends have dumped me as often as I’ve dumped them. I couldn’t take the hint from a former friend who had enough of me and when I push to get an answer as to why the cold shoulder, I force her cards and she declares, “We are breaking up. Thanks for all you’ve done, for me, for my family, the trips to Lake George, but it’s not working any more.” Ouch, once again.
The truth is men never get burned by their guy friends, or do the burning. They don’t have to. They can talk sometimes, never talk, hardly ever talk, but always pick up where they left off or not pick up at all. No big deal. Never having expectations they freely ride the “whatever”. It’s all good.
So, I ask, wouldn’t you rather a fist pump than a hard slap in the face, painted nails and all?
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I have an extra sweeet life. It seems my intensely introspective life has finally come together to form a more perfect union of balance. All this at the ripe age of 60.
Today I thought of an anagram that works, more or less, to convey the balance required for ME to live a sweeet life. Maybe you can define your own anagram, or use this one as a start.Being an A-/B+ type personality, I’ve even taken to adding on my calendar each day what I did to achieve these mini milestones in each bucket, causing me to “lay off myself” and loosen the grip I usually strong arm myself with. My NYC therapists in the ’80s always told me, “YOU’RE SO HARD ON YOURSELF”, and yes, they were right. But the student learns only when they are ready, and then all those teachers can appear.S is for Social. I have to have social interchange each day, beyond my 24/7 conversations with my husband who works from home. Though I have numerous friends and family members around me to meet up with for lunch, walks, coffees, dinners, that’s hardly required as I talk to everyone I meet. I can’t resist people.Sometimes the most delightful conversations are with neighbors, workmen, my mailman, as I take my daily walks in the hood.W is for WORTHWHILE. This is the sticky one. I used to define worthwhile as a “job” or “career”, but I’ve loosened that grip as well, which has made all the difference in how I feel about myself. It’s whatever I decide is worthwhile that day. Some days it’s just doing laundry and tidying the house. Some days it’s teaching yoga, visiting a museum, donating to a charity, or reaching out to someone in need.E is for Exercise. I can’t live a day without it. My mood suffers greatly. But exercise can be a 10 minute yoga session with a great U-TUBE video, or a walk. It doesn’t have to get my heart rate up, and rarely does.E is for Educational. My Dad used to ask me after school each day, “What did you learn in school today?” I dreaded that question, but now I would love to be asked that daily. From studying anatomy and investing to bird songs and creative cookery, my day is happiest when I learn — and I do from NPR, books, magazines, on-line info., and probing conversations with intelligent people.E is for Entertainment. I am a media junkie, in the form of TV and Movies. Always have been. It satisfies me at the end of the day to melt into my coach with my husband for hours soaking in a good story, great acting, and be entertained. Period.T is for Talent Flexing. We all have talents or can develop some in the form of hobbies, activities we enjoy. I’ve recently started to bird watch and photograph birds to flex my talent in photography. I consider golf a talent that I’m working on, along with cooking and blogging. I enjoy board volunteer work to raise money for a good cause and short stints working with someone I admire to develop their business idea using my talents in marketing communications.Somedays I am only living a SWEE life or an EET life, but I strive for a SWEEET life.
Go for it if it really does something to make you feel happier, but consider this if you are on the fence or getting fed up with the maintenance involved:
l. Your plastic surgeon looks amazing: When someone says YOU LOOK TERRIFIC, what they really mean is “your plastic surgeon or botox nurse made you look terrific”.
On the other hand when someone says YOU LOOK TERRIFIC with your marionette marks, jowls, bags and sags, you should take this as a major compliment to your living a healthy and happy life– alongside good genes.
2. It’s a zero sum game. You never win, you just postpone another trip to the Botox nurse or Plastic Surgeon for nothing lasts. If you put a bandaid on it this time, you will only need to patch it up again … and again. Instead think about the best haircut to frame your aging face and stay in good shape.
3. Embrace aging: see it, feel it and accept it like a yogini. It takes the same amount of energy as fighting it, but less money and trips to the doctor/nurse. Besides it prepares you for the inevitable (getting older) with the accordant life skills you will need to adopt.
4. Aging with grace and dignity is an honor and a privilege. In Europe an older woman who dresses well is admired. Your length of experience as a woman makes you sexier than a woman half your age.
p.s. I’ve had botox and fillers half a dozen times, and recently I’ve just decided to “say no” until I change my mind.