Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Mirror Has Two Faces

Dear Boomers,
      I'm still in Las Vegas for my monthly visit to my adult children, grandchildren and very elderly mother.  I was dreading the "Elmo Live" show, but as my 4 year old grandson said, "Gran, it wasn't really about Elmo.  It was about a flower looking for a place to grow."  The boys enjoyed the show and my older son, Jonathan, and I enjoyed the boys watching the show. It had really cheap production values, by the way, but I wasn't writing a review for the Los Angeles Times.

Elmo is not what I'm pondering about today.  I'm immersed in the emotion of two visits to my mother, 97, in bed most of the day and waiting, and not very patiently, to have it over with finally.  "You're brave to come here," she said to me on Saturday.  She was very surprised to see me although I had been there the day before and we had a nice visit.  But I sensed depression was about to run rampant.  

My mother was concerned about two things:  she never knows what time it is, and even when told the time, she always thinks it is night; and she threw up the night before and was disgusted with herself.  "I want the whole thing over," she said with finality.

But the "whole thing" isn't over and may not be for quite awhile.  There is nothing major wrong with her except that she gets confused and disoriented and sometimes there is an angry voice inside of her that comes out in another, older version of my mother when her temper erupted.  She also has a leaky heart valve that sometimes goes haywire but she seems to recover, albeit with confusion the next day.  My mother kept telling me how awful the situation was and why did I bother to come she her because she didn't have much to say.  We used to be able to share our experiences but no longer.  I told her not to worry about that.  "I don't know anything any more," she said with a face of an angel.  I told her knowing a lot was over-rated.  

I'm looking at myself when I see my mother.  I'm actually visiting my image at an advanced age.  It's frightening and peaceful at the same time.  At least I how how my life will end.  We always mirrored each other in life, our ambitions, our fortitude our strength and tenacity, and our pragmatism.  I will be like her in death, disgusted and wanting to be done with it.  "I've lived too long," she always tells me.  And sometimes I think we do or we don't live long enough to reach some kind of transformation.   Only the good die young or some such thing. 

I walked out of my mother's home, and not for the last time, stunned, over-flowing with emotion and grief.  I cried for the first time in along time over her.  I told my mother how I became the woman I am because of her and thanked her for all the gifts she gave me and there were many.  And I found our spiritual circle of continuity in that moment and it was stark and clear.  It was a finite mind/body/spirit connection.  I wanted to shout with joy as I found the opposing force of my energy dissolve into sadness.  For that is life, isn't it?  That is womanhood, the anima raging upstream, the goddess within.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


Good Morning, Boomers,

      I love being a grandmother in my 60's.  I'm headed to Las Vegas tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn to take care of my 2 grandsons and attend the 1st birthday of my third grandson.  My daughter in law will be away attending a college reunion of friends from her Tulane days.  My son, Jonathan, and I will take care of the kids.  This is the best part of being 60.

     Text message last night from my daughter in law, Carli:  "I know you'll be so excited to know I got tickets to see the Elmo show at the Thomas and Mack Center."  Carli knows I won't be excited.  She was laughing at me when she sent it.  I went into a deep depression when I read it just before teaching my 4 pm yoga class at UCLA.  Way to mentally prepare myself for a positive yoga practice.  

     I've done lots of things as a grandmother, some good and some not so good.  The bad things are related to losing my temper when my grandsons begin to play with food and I get the stern witch voice going so I scare the holly crap out of them.  But I do love to hunt for books at Barnes and Noble with my oldest grandson, 4 year old Jordan, and we do like to play in the part and swim together and those are part of the great fun of hanging out with the boys. 
     But Elmo!!!!!   I hate Elmo!  I don't like the way he looks or talks or moves.  I don't like anything about Elmo.   Both my grandsons love Elmo and so I have to look interested in their fascination with the creep.  Thank God Jordan is on his way of love with the guy, but Luc is right on track developing an addiction to him or it.  

     I can endure the birthday parties this weekend, especially Greyson's 1st birthday party; I can endure eating out with them and watching them play with their food.  I can endure the craziness at bedtime and the screaming when they don't know how to share toys.  But I cannot endure Elmo and, yet it seems I have to.  This is my inner child screaming for a way out and there is no out.  There is a way out of cleaning poppy diapers, a way of sleepless night, waking a baby grandson for an hour at 2 am, a way out of coaching them to eat when they have no interest in food, a way out of distracting them from dangerous behavior, but I believe with all my heart, there will be no way out of my Friday night meet and greet with Elmo or my name, Gran, will be mud.

     I don't feel bad about this negative feeling even though I am a yogini and teach yoga all day in the positive light of the universe.   You see, Elmo isn't real.  Elmo is a made up character in Seasame Street so he doesn't have to touch my heart or my mind.  This really gets me off the hook because it doesn't relate to my karma in past lives or on earth.  Now, I'm free to really despise the big guy.  Take that, Elmo!

     Now I feel better.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm Too Old For This Life

Hi Boomers,
I've been thinking that my blogs go into cyberspace and no one is going to read them.  I'm right about that, I know, because I should have a website and blog on my website and I'm not there yet.  I'm waiting until I publish my book (stupid) or get an agent (I should be so lucky) and I'm not really kicking ass like I should.  
I'm 65 and too busy working.  Can you imagine teaching 27 classes a week in yoga and one tango lesson to my best friend?  By Friday I can't walk or talk.  Don't get me wrong.  I absolutely love teaching yoga and meditation.  In fact, I'm taking a seminar in Kundilini yoga tomorow for 4 hours at UCLA through the Mindfulness Center.  It's all very wonderful every day, but the physical toll on my body worries me.  Someone said to me, "That's why you're in such good shape," and I responded, "It's overrated."  
More angst this week with my old lover returning and the same pattern materializing.  I finally got up on Friday morning and wrote the email of all emails to him about how I see our relationship developing if he would just get out of his mother complex long enough to listen to his heart and stop running away.  
Which leads me to ask:  Do people really change?  Do men change?  I was talking to my ladies in recovery (from drugs and alcohol) in their meditation class  on Thursday and I posed the question to them.  Well, they are in recovery and, of course, they feel people can change.  They are changing, for God sake!  But these are women - nurturing, open, compassionate women and in this moment of their lives fully conscious for the first time in decades.  But can men change?  Can we change the strips of a zebra?  I do not know.  I will let you know if there is a man that can change when I find one.
I'm closer to publishing my book, SO YOU'RE 60, GET OVER IT:  CONFESSIONS OF A BEATNIK/BOOMER.  I have 2 agents to hear from and one publisher and my contract with another publisher and then I'll move forward.  I'm feeling low on energy right about now.  It's the lull before the storm.  I need patience.  That's why I meditate 4 times and day.
My iPod shorted out this week.  On Monday, no less, with the entire week ahead.  I play music in all my classes.  My iPod is my life!!!   It had 80 GB and they don't make those anymore.  I got a nano iPod with 8 GB and it isn't enough to hold all my favorite music.  
I'm off to see the new Chinese gardens and the Chinese art exhibit at the Huntington Museum in Pasadena with one of my male best friends.  Andrew will help me load my 8 GB iPod.  Really, men can be great in other ways.  They really don't have to change.  I wouldn't want Andrew to change a hair on his head.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Death Be Not Proud

Dear Boomer,
We're 60 now and we're beginning to lose friends, loved ones, parents, and the inexplicable becomes a zen meditation on daily losing.  There is no way to explain those feelings of loss.  My therapist would say, "Sit with it, Joan.  Be with the feelings for as long as you need to."  

I opened the mail yesterday afternoon around 5 P.M.  There was a letter addressed to me from a man I did not know but whose name I recognized.  He was the devoted son to my good friend, Doreen Kuhl.  When I say devoted, I mean that with every fiber of my being.  Doreen's two adult children, Philip and Diedre, set the standard high with love and devotion to their mother. Philip wrote to tell me that his mother died on March 30.

I knew she was going to die.  She told me so in an annual Christmas letter.  She said, "This is the last Christmas greeting you will receive.  I am dying."  I wrote her and we then exchanged a few beautiful letters.  Hospice had quietly entered into her apartment in Arlington, Virginia.  She told me she was not happy about that.  My friend had the most incredible sense of humor, dry, penetrating, sharp, real, raw.  "I don't them around me.  But they're useful, I guess."  She had C.O.P.D, a disease, which she probably had for years and didn't tell me or anyone.  

How a person perceives his or her own death is the mark of divineness.  Doreen had divineness is spades.

I think Doreen was about mid-70's.  I met her in Ls Vegas so many years ago I cannot remember.  But I was running a legitimate year round equity contract theater in a shopping center down the road from UNLV where my previous job as an acting instructor ended at the glass ceiling.  You remember those days.  I woman couldn't rise above her status because men were deathly afraid they might be smart, capable and better at their job than they were.  So I went down the street and opened a theater after I spent a year fund-raising and gathering around me the most capable, brilliant theater people in the business west of the Mississippi.

I met Doreen through her husband, Larry, who was my thesis advisor in theater at UNLV where I was getting my second master's degree.  Larry was brilliant, too, but difficult.  He died rather too soon of lung cancer, which freed up Doreen to pursue her passions after a decade of taking care of him with devotion.  She acted a bit in community theater after moving to Arlington, was a docent at The Kennedy Center and museums and did art work for just about anybody who needed it.  She was an amazing example of growing older gracefully and full and richly.  I remember directing her in "On Golden Pond" one fall season and she had just about the best instincts as an actress you could ever imagine.  She had it all over Kate Hepburn.  It was her shinning, glorious moment on the stage and I was able to witness it.  I don't think I even directed her.  She had it all together from the moment of her first rehearsal.

When I told her how brilliant her performance was, she said, "Oh, my darling, it was not, but it was the best I could do."  She always began every sentence with, "Oh, my darling."
Doreen is my role model for growing older.  She always kept active and fed her mind and soul with important things in life:  family, children, giving back to community.  She was selfless, loving and larger than her life.  

I will miss her.  


Sunday, April 5, 2009


Attention Female Boomers,  (this is not a man's issue)

     I am single, living alone and learning to enjoy the fruits of my being.  I was just dancing along in my life with three great days of tango dancing when suddenly an old lover returned. 
     Almost five years (in July), I began to date on the Internet.  I first signed up for J-Date (the preference is for Jewish men) thinking how impossible it would be to find an age-appropriate Jewish man near retirement.  But what what the heck, nothing to loose and my yoga client kept prodding me into it.  All right, already, I did it and, lo, behold, the first man out of the starting gate was the man I fell in love with.  Now, come on, what are the odds?  Playing craps has better odds.  More and better, he fell in love with me.  I write lots about him in my book, SO YOU'RE 6O, GET OVER IT:  CONFESSIONS OF A BEATNIK/BOOMER. We hit if off like Sonny and Cher, like Abelard and Eloise, like Brad and Angelina.  It was magic.  Forty-five minutes after we met at my Starbucks, we were making love.  It was that clear we were meant for each other.  But as my mother says, repeating the words of a song made popular by Tina Turner, "what's love got to do with it?"  Boy, is she and Tina right.
     But three days later, in the throws of lust, he asked me to marry him.  

      "Where do we do that?" I asked him.
      "City Hall," he responded casually.
      My head was exploding off my body.  I couldn't believe what was happening.  A little voice whispered slow down.  Be cautious of all of this sexual madness.
     "We only known each other three days.  Maybe we should take more time."

     Four months later he told me to date other men.  He thought I hadn't had enough experience dating.  I had been in a long term relationship for almost sixteen years, but that ended two years prior to my meeting the Jew from the Internet.  But I was sure and he had already started running away from love, from me, from commitment.

     Our dance, the Ben and Joan show, has lasted for almost four years.  He would call, see me, leave me for seven months, call again, see me.  It was a sad and painful loop because I really fell hard.  He loved me, too, but he didn't want a relationship.  So really, he didn't love me, right. He was care-taking his parents, still is, busy with making documentaries, and I understood, really understood and I moved on. 

     I really did move on, worked on myself, went to therapy, had a boyfriend, broke up with the boyfriend (maybe I still loved Ben), saw a few men along the way, had a few one night stands with much younger men, considered myself cured and then....

     A call at the beginning of March.  This time a little shy of seven months.  But right on time. 

     "Are you married yet?" he asks.  He always asks that.
     "Are you dating?"  He always asks that.
     "Why not?"
     "Because I seem to only attract schmuks."
     "Like me?"
     "Like you."
     "This is ridiculous, Joan.  You are vibrant, beautiful..."  Yada, yada, yada.  

     The catch up.  Everything is fine.  Family good.  Finished the book.  Still teaching all the same clients, lots more yoga at UCLA.  All is good. Goodbye.  Be well.  Conversation over. Thought nothing more of it.

     End of March:  Email:  "I give up."  I called.  
     "What are you giving up about?" I asked.
     "I can't find your number," he lied.
     "You just called me at the beginning of the month," I said boldly.
     "I've looked all around...."

     He was tired of missing me, tired of being alone without a buddy, getting older, growing older...wanted to see me...saw me, love at first sight again.

     But is it love at first sight again?  I was finished with him in my book.  It was cathartic to wright about it.  I loved that it had ended.  In my heart, I knew he could always come back for a phone visit.  I could always conjure up a phone call when I felt like talking to him.  I felt like a witch but it worked.  But in person was something different now because I'm different.
     When an old lover returns, when the intensity is still there, and there is still no promise of consistency let alone commitment, what's it all about Alfie?  At this moment, writing this blog on a Sunday with no call (it's a weekend, buddy!), I am sure he is the same man five years ago.  I knew he couldn't bring himself to be available on a Sunday when a couple in love likes to hang out at a movie or at the local art fair today.  He never did before and he cannot do it now.  I'm not close to the top of priorities.  His promise to work on changing is nothing but wishful thinking.  He can't.  I told him men don't change.  A zebra cannot change its stripes.  He is just lonely, needs a buddy, a hug, sex from time to time, but his priority remains the same:  he is his priority.  His needs, his responsibilities.  I told him once, near the bitter end, that he expects the woman to give everything and he gives nothing in return.  If he gives it is at his convenience. Maybe it's common for men; maybe it isn't.  Women give no matter what.  We are givers and nurturers and, sometimes, fools.

     The good news is that I have no expectation and attachment to an outcome.  I'm still having fun in my single life and it feels good.  How long will this situation last with the same old, same old with Ben.  Not very long.  I'm wiser now, more confident.  You'd think it's about time since I'm blasted 65!

     Oh, but age doesn't matter in questions of love.  Isn't it odd that women's relationships with love and men, no matter the age, is fraught with common threads if obsolete expectations and romantic fantasies.  We've all experienced these common threads since we started to date and fall madly in love with the high school football quarterback.  Gender relationships are difficult enough to sustain, but you'd think by 60 that things would just mellow out.  It can be the case or it doesn't have to be the case.  Stay balanced and in the center of your being.  It works.

     So the lesson here is to be slightly detached about the whole business of old lovers, new lovers, old husbands, new husbands and not let our emotions get ahead of the present moment. I am in the present and it's very powerful.
     I salute all our divine sisters who have ever been in love.