“What the hell is THAT?”

smartphone-1987212_1920Ah, those famous words that greet the first sight of gray hair, facial lines (doesn’t that sound evah-so much nicer than wrinkles?), butt or boob drop, a thickening waist … oh, heck, add to the list on your own. We all have our demons. (That goes for you men as well; I’m not just talking about women here, although that’s what I’ll focus on since I am one…or was the last time I checked.)

Can’t  say I’m bothered by graying hair, although the first truly black strand that came out during a shower made me do a double-take. I’ve been blonde of one shade or another all my life. (I say it that way not because I’ve dyed my hair–I haven’t–but because I was born a tow-head, but my hair has decidedly darkened over time. Funny old world. When I was a kid, I badly wanted to be brunette like my mother and sisters–I thought it would be a way to fit in.)

See? Big difference.

Baby Writer              Graduation 1975            IMG_5663

Maybe I’m not bothered by the gray because there’s not that much of it (or so says the woman that cuts my hair). At this point, I’ve no intention of coloring it, and I rather hope that I’ll wind up with a great mane of silver or white hair. Guess we’ll see.

As for wrinkles (oops! ‘scuse me, facial lines) I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have them. Sure, I likely didn’t as a child, but by my teenage years (and all  that angst) I certainly did. Mom was forever telling me to stop frowning. “I’m not,” I’d say. “I’m concentrating.” It was all the same to her. But, yeah, it left me with two permanent upright marks between my eyebrows that she constantly tried to smooth out with the ball of her thumb. (Really, Ma?) Rough times of one sort and another bestowed the horizontal lines across my forehead that ain’t nevah gonna go ‘way now, sugah. Whatever. I’ve spent nearly 63 years living in my face. It’s bound to show it. And, anyway, I rather like the look of a lived-in face, mine as well as other people’s. There are stories in those lines, and stories are what make people interesting.

(Case in point: Take my former Coast Guard cadets–adoptees all into our household–now grown and experienced officers. Seasoned. Aged. They’re no longer the fresh-faced eighteen-year-olds we first met, scared and uncertain by the road they’d chosen to pursue. Now they’re approaching middle-age. They’ve braved bad seas, drug busts, and those much scarier rites of passage called matrimony, divorce, and parenthood. I loved their young adult faces, but the ones they carry now–ah! Those speak of Life, and I mean it with a capital “L” and emphasis.)

Butt and boob drop? Well, I’ve never had much in the way of breasts. (Boob is such a stupid word; I bet some man coined it first.) Always been small, something I regretted before I wised up and stopped buying into the societal party line. (A friend’s boyfriend once derided me for being “concave.” I’ve also received such endearments as “You’d have a perfect shape if only your breasts were bigger” (that one from my mother, if you can believe it) and “You’d be so much more attractive if only your breasts were bigger.”) News flash, folks–my breasts aren’t anyone’s frigging business.

As for the butt, well, suffice to say that I caught a sideways view of myself in the bathroom mirror after a shower and only one thought that arrowed through my brain:  “Oh, my God, I have Mom’s ass.”

Again, whatever. You get the gist.

Here’s the thing. see. I grew up knowing I wasn’t beautiful, wasn’t even pretty. It was said to me often enough, pointed out by family, that even if I hadn’t believed it at first, I certainly came to. (A guy I spent way too much time with years ago told me, “You’re not the best looking girl in the world, but you have a good heart.” Another–who’d actually expressed a desire to date me, said, “There’s nothing wrong with you that can’t be fixed with braces and contact lenses.” Gee. Thanks. I am overwhelmed.)

I wasn’t taught to think well of myself, and so I didn’t. And I was mistrustful of the rare individual who suggested I might, actually, not be all that hideous. What was wrong with them that they couldn’t see it? What did they really want from me?

I remember the day I decided I actually sort of like my face, that it’s not a bad old fizzog. Talk about a cocktail of epiphany and relief. Because if you can find peace in your own skin, what the rest of the world thinks and says in its arrogance and thoughtless stupidity (or rancor and general meanness), doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. Don’t let it matter.

Do Tell

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Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

T’other day, it were pourin’ down when the turkeys came from the woods–single-file, bunched, single-file, bunched–like one of them wire slink toys kids like to make march down the stairs. It were a miserable rain, what the olders call a “wet rain,” and by that they ain’t bein’ stupid or smarty-pants sarcastic. What they mean is rain that does more than wet you on the outside; it gets you from the inside, too. How’s rain make wet on the inside something that’s already pretty sloppy once you cut past the skin bag that holds us together? Why, it’s the chill. That chill, it don’t sink into you, it digs into you, like fingers. It burrows in like chiggers. It chews its way deep inside and wraps around your bones until you can’t get warm for nothin’.

I wondered if the turkeys felt the same chill as me. They don’t have the luxury of a home fire when the outdoors is cemetery cold. Oh, they can roost, but roostin’ don’t fill an empty belly and they’re all about belly-fillin’ which suits me just fine. They rake the forest duff, all those fallen leaves and twigs and whatnot, spyin’ out bugs, worms, ticks, and whatever else they call food. It’s a hard life, bein’ outdoors in all seasons. They’re welcome to whatever they can find, most ‘specially them ticks.

So it’s rainin’ steady, sometimes gentle, what we call a “soaker,” but more often drumming down in lines so thick you can see ’em, but not past ’em, like a curtain of gray wet, what I’ve heard call a “goat-drowner,” and here come the turkeys. I’d like to say I can tell ’em apart, but that’d be a lie. They’re pretty much of a size until spring when the toms do their Thanksgiving impression and puff out all plump and gorgeous like they know it, bronzy-green, tails erect and fan-spread, chest feathers fluffed, wings rattled half-open to display the white bars, naked heads flushed scarlet and blue. Gobble-gobble-gobble! If you never heard it, you should. It’s one of them sounds everyone should hear at least once in their life.

In between spates of Biblical flooding, they spreads out across the yard, each to its own, hunting-pecking. Then the rain comes, flash-flood quick. They freeze, bodies hunched and bunched, each like a single fist of feathers. Water subdues their colors ’til you half expect to see it run down their legs and puddle on the ground. There’s a line of lighter feathers that runs up their backs from tail to neck, splitting them in half. It’s murky in the wet half-light, like cream with a bit of mud mixed in.

Meleagris gallopavo silvestris. I only know that because I looked it up. Makes me wish I’d named the biggest male “Silvester” or “Pavo,” but he’s been “Barry White” ever since I first heard his sultry, deep-throated, come-hither call last spring. This boy, he’s all about one thing. But today I learned a big mistake. I thought the flock was him and eight hens, but I’m wrong. How wrong will depend on my ability to count next time they come through. I’ve been wondering about these spiny-hairy beards that hang down a turkey’s chest and it turns out only the males have them, which means a good portion of Barry’s harem is made up of other males. Not only that, but I read that males and females mostly travel separately except when it comes time to breed. Now I understand why we didn’t see any poults (chicks) taggin’ along last spring.

I also understand that what I really know about turkeys could be stuffed in a sack the size of a walnut and have space left over. That’s okay. With luck, I got time to learn.

Forgiveness

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Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

I don’t know about you guys, but I have a difficult time with forgiveness and the compassion that goes with it. Maybe that’s because it’s a problem for me to forgive myself for transgressions, even teeny-tiny ones, let alone find the largeness of spirit to forgive others. I was raised to embrace guilt (the gift that keeps on giving) and it’s a tentacled monster that doesn’t want to let go.

Some days I manage better than others.

It took a long time for me to understand the notion that forgiveness toward another person is not the same thing as condoning what they’ve done. If someone hurt me deeply, why should I forgive them and let them blithely walk away, all innocent and smug? But that’s not the point. The point is to remove from your own shoulders the burden of maintaining that anger or rage or hurt so you don’t have to live with it every day for the rest of your life.

I’m working on it.

There are a few people on my “hard to forgive” list; some friends, some family, a few people I barely know. I’ll think I’ve done a pretty good job expunging their black mark from my life, but then some trigger sets me off again. All the old hurts and resentments coming pouring out, tainted with as much bitterness as before, if not more. In some cases, I don’t want to forgive them. I don’t want to carry around the bad emotions, no, but I don’t want to set them free.

And that’s the thing, the mystery as to why I don’t want to turn them loose, why I feel the need to hang on to the pain. Often, I’ll take steps to back away from the person, inject some distance in our relationship. Yet there’s something that just … won’t … let … go.

It’s annoying as hell.

Because there must be something I get out of it, but what? Of what possible use is retaining those sorts of emotions unless <and here’s a bit of the proverbial light bulb> hanging onto them keeps me from seeing something else I ought to deal with.

Hmmm.

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Here is a bit of wisdom on compassion from Nadia Bolz-Weber

Had It Coming To Me

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Image by fsHH on Pixabay

Today I got pulled over for speeding. Fifty-seven in a forty-five mile zone. I saw the cop too late, but he saw me in plenty of time, flashed his lights, and pointed to the side of the road. I nodded and pulled over…right in front of a fire hydrant! I quickly moved past it, parked, and turned off the car. By the time the police officer reached my door, I had my license out, ready to hand it to him.

“You know why I pulled you over, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

He nodded. “You were speeding a bit.”

“I know. I got distracted.”

He took my paperwork and returned to his patrol car. And while I waited, I noticed something extraordinary: I wasn’t upset. Or embarrassed. Or angry. It was what it was, and what it was, was fine.

I sat quietly, hands in my lap, breathing slowly, and dropped into the moment. A dog barking inside a house. Bird song. The pooling of sunlight between winter-barren branches. The sound of tires as other cars passed me, their drivers no doubt relieved that it wasn’t them who’d been pulled over. I breathed, and listened, and paused my life in that moment. Calm. Relaxed.

When the policeman returned, he handed over my license and registration…and a warning, nothing more. He explained what my fine would have been (over $100), and cautioned me to pay more attention. “Understand?”

Oh, yes, sir. I do. Loud and clear. More than you’ll ever know.