“Are you looking for trouble, Sylvia?” Erma, hoping for a juicy reply, asks her friend.
“No, I don’t think so. Well, perhaps – maybe a little,” Sylvia admits.
“Good, get out there, and do it for the team!” Erma adamantly encourages. **************** Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. [Commencement Address, Wellesley College, 1996] ~Nora Ephron ****************
A frigid Saturday in February provides the perfect opportunity for self-care, both indoors and outdoors.
“So, did you decide on a trip to the spa or a good book and a cup of tea by the fire today?” Erma inquires.
Sylvia, already peaceful and content from a day of walks on the snow-covered beach followed by a hot toddy and a nap, has a delicious thought as she prepares her reply.
“No spa today, Erma. No fire either. However, the day isn’t over, and I hear a long, hot bath calling my name,” Sylvia announces gleefully.
Weekend Wisdom from the gals: Self-care may not be planned or scheduled but that doesn’t mean it is accidental. Seize a moment, an hour, or a day to give yourself the attention you need and deserve. Be deliberately indulgent and guilt-free. **************** The bath is one of the places I prefer, certainly not a place I leave readily, a place where one can close the door and remove oneself, put oneself in parentheses, as it were, from the rest of humanity. It is a place for reading and thinking, where one’s mind wanders easily, where time seems temporarily suspended. ~Sheila Kohler, The Perfect Place **************** #midlifeblogger #womenwriters #weekendwisdom #feedyoursoul #selfcare #livewithintention
Sylvia spent most of the day purging. Dresser drawers of mismatched socks and threadbare pjs. Closets of dresses and outfits that no longer aligned with her body or attitude or both. And shoes. Ah, yes, more than a dozen pairs of shoes that were gently worn, overworked, or had never made it onto her feet. She made room in her physical space; and at the end of the day, she felt her mind might actually have some room for fresh thoughts and ideas, too.
Erma rejoiced at the news and praised her friend for finally shedding some weight. “Now that you’ve scaled back on things, scale back and free yourself from people. Reduce your tribe to those who feed your soul, those who accept you without condition, and those who don’t run from your tears and sorrow. You need to be more discerning when it comes to who knows your secrets,” Erma cautions.
Sylvia, priding herself on the headway she made today, sighs. She knows that Erma is right. She has allowed those with no true interest in who she is becoming to stay and weigh in. “Tomorrow. It begins tomorrow. A smaller inner circle and more attention to the person who deserves my attention the most. Me!” **************
Solitude and loneliness are not related. The former celebrates the peace and contentment she gains from her own company. The latter reaps strength and rears its ugly head when she makes herself smaller for others. **************** “Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people—it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” ~ Parker Palmer
Some days, most if truth be told and we are truly committed to appreciating and living in the present, we should only pay attention to what is right in front of us. It is what can bring us the most peace and comfort. It is okay to put on blinders once in a while; they allow us to keep our eyes open and focused on what is important. And more often than not, we discover, Sylvia & Erma discover, the what is a who. Who is most important in your life? You.
A bit worn this midweek but in the best way – from multiple days of self-care, a change of scenery, and a bounty of unconditional love – the “blinders” are helping. Twenty-four hours of worrying, lamenting, and second-guessing herself gets wearisome each day, so Sylvia opts for the here and now. The blinders can be eye-opening and restorative. ****************
Some days, 24 hours is too much to stay put in, so I take the day hour by hour, moment by moment. I break the task, the challenge, the fear into small, bite-size pieces. I can handle a piece of fear, depression, anger, pain, sadness, loneliness, illness. I actually put my hands up to my face, one next to each eye, like blinders on a horse. ~Regina Brett
Hazelnut eyes. Cherry lips. Milky complexion. A bit of a muffin top. A few spoonfuls of cottage cheese (in places that only she can see). Our body parts and appearance are often compared to food, from all types of the required food groups to even some of the more forbidden and indulgent. We move through life allowing ourselves to be both pictures of a veritable feast for the eyes and a shameful smorgasbord of gluttony and a lack of self- control.
Today, after Sylvia and Erma exchange pointed comments about their own diets, they force each other to see the beauty and wonder of their midlife bodies.
Yep, a feast. A smorgasbord. Delicacies and deliciousness resulting from lives well-lived and survived. Joys celebrated with cakes and muffins; disappointments swallowed with milkshakes or wine; dilemmas pondered and cracked like nuts.
A well-balanced diet looks different on each of us, so feed your soul – mind, body, and spirit – in your own way.
“All of you shows and is multiplied in everything you do, so know yourself and take care of yourself first, so you can live on purpose and contribute from a place of abundance and overflow.” ~Anton Uhl, FEEDING BODY, MIND AND SOUL: How What Goes In Changes Everything
It is the last day of summer, and Sylvia and Erma are feeling less ambivalent about summer’s ending and autumn’s beginning.
“The year has four perfect pieces, Sylvia. I love its definition, don’t you?” Erma asks.
Sylvia, after a long day of trying to arrange her thoughts and her schedule, considers both Erma’s comment and query before offering her perspective.
“It is four pieces, yes, but I wouldn’t say perfect. Four unpredictable chunks of time. And honestly, that is what I like most about the year. It is broken into parts, and we don’t try to make those parts more or less than they are. Even when the seasons don’t end or begin as they should weather-wise, we accept them as they are. In the end, they always make a year. They make up a whole.”
Erma, very aware of Sylvia’s penchant for overthinking which occasionally borders on wearying rumination, nods her head in gentle agreement. **************** Pieces do not have to fit together perfectly. They are not always indicative of brokenness. In the end, their edges – their beginnings and endings – may create a different pattern, but they still result in wholeness.
You are not broken. You are whole regardless and maybe even because of imperfections.
“Smiling so profusely on a Sunday?” Erma asks her friend with a tone of disbelief.
“Don’t seem so surprised, Erma. That is a genuine grin of satisfaction,” Sylvia counters.
Erma, still a bit perplexed but bringing herself to delight in her friend’s newfound countenance, replies with an equally broad smile, “Isn’t it a peaceful feeling when you can finally stand and listen to your own voice?”
Indeed. Be your own person, and be the person you listen to first!” ****************
“The Voice” by Shel Silverstein
There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long, ‘I feel that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.’ No teacher, preacher, parent, friend or wise man can decide what’s right for you – just listen to the voice that speaks inside.
“Lately I have been going to bed feeling much closer to my goal, but today, I see and feel that I’m in the same place I have been. That light at the end of the tunnel even seems a little dimmer,” Sylvia laments.
Erma, not the optimist but the realist today, hears something in her friend’s voice that she hasn’t heard in a while – despair. It is a slippery slope that she has seen her friend travel down more than once, so fortunately she knows that it is temporary. She also is well aware though that Sylvia needs a jolt to snap out of the looming funk fast.
Thinking back on some of their past antics, Erma recounts the story of the penny pony that has only recently become a favorite memory for both of them. She tells the story attempting to conjure up the image and the feelings that Sylvia experienced that summer afternoon. “It was totally impromptu, remember? We were walking the mall, complaining about how grumpy and miserable society had become. And then, there she appeared, Sandy, the penny pony, strategically placed near the restrooms on the way to the exit.”
“That was funny. Silly and immature, but fun. Do you remember the passersby with their eye-rolling and judgmental comments?”
“Oh yes, but what I remember most is the pure joy in your eyes. The completely carefree look of freedom as Sandy rocked back and forth for those all-too-quick twenty seconds. Awesome.”
“Too short. Fleeting. And look, that ride didn’t take me anywhere,” Sylvia said dampening Erma’s mood.
Erma, sadly annoyed by her friend’s complaining, decides it is time for the stir, the jolt, the wake-up. “Syl, stop. Take a roll of pennies and go to the mall. Lose yourself in a trashy novel. Make brownies and eat the entire batch. Pour yourself a cuppa and have a daydream. For God’s sake, those won’t get you anywhere in life either, but they will hold your place in line – and you might even have a little fun and find a little happy. I know you will.”
Sylvia, lifts herself from the chair, and rides into the very next moment with a smile and a little more hope, enough to finish today’s ride.
There is no straight way to a destination. So enjoy the ride even when you get lost.
Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris on a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge, and drink gin with abandon. (Mrs. Hemingway, a novel by Naomi Wood)
Summer, 2021. Taking mid-afternoon refuge on the deck once again. An ocean breeze, a book, and a little Pinot Gris to satisfy the weekend.
To your health, happiness, and good fortune, friends.
“Sometimes we fall, Sylvia. That’s just the way it is,” Erma informs her friend in a calm yet authoritative voice.
“Oh, I’m falling. That I know. I have bumps, bruises, and cuts. I’m worn, weathered, and yet I am becoming more and more curious about this abyss of time in front of me, hanging over me, and likely beyond me and my imagination. Sometimes I actually welcome the path of the abyss – full of meanderings, gulleys, and hidden impediments. At least I know I’m not tripping over my own two feet. There is a quiet comfort in that.”
Erma, never surprised but always somewhat unsteadied by Sylvia’s musings, sighs. She pauses. She is digesting her friend’s perspective.
“Ah, Sylvia, you describe the free-fall perfectly. You never see rock bottom, perhaps because deep down you know that there is no end to the abyss.”
“Could be, Erma. Or maybe I’m just looking up the entire time I’m falling.”
We fall into an abyss and automatically we assume an absence of light. An interminable darkness. After all, that is the definition of abyss, right? A Saturday stroll has Sylvia thinking about how others might view her in this abyss of time. Right here, right now, it is not so bad. She has found a place of light. **************** “A photograph offers us a glimpse into the abyss of time.” ~John Updike ****************