Saturday, May 29, 2010

Down and Dirty

Hi, Boomers,
I had a busy week and no time to blog. It made me cranky because from time to time I have things to blog about and can't find the time to do so.
However, I find myself in Denver, CO, at this moment at a tango festival with some free time, lying in bed with my sore right foot propped up on a pillow. I come to Denver twice a year (Memorial Day and Labor Day) to dance tango like a maniac and to visit with old friends who are dear to me. One of the most interesting aspects of these festivals (I go to Portland , Oregon, also twice a year) is the opportunity to talk to my favorite people and get down an dirty with what's on our minds. It is curious to me, however, that all my friends are male in the tango community, except for my one long-time female friend who sells her tango clothes collection. In Los Angeles, I have three close female friends and one very best male friend and I feel lucky to have them for support and love. As I get older, I am more particular about who my friends are in my life.
Inevitably, conversations run to male/female relationships. It doesn't matter if the man is 63 or 46, emotional adolescent outpourings, yearnings, longings, hopes, lost and found loves pour out of us like a faucet without a turn off value. This seems to be the human condition: the search for fulling relationships. My friend, Philip, can attest to this because his psychology practice is all about finding happiness in mid-life relationships. Sometimes I think it's rotten luck that people have to endlessly search and sometimes flounder to find love. It's hit and miss. It's sad and happy. It's right and it's wrong. We can't get there from here. Where is the love? as the song lyrics ask.
I heard an outrageous story from my 63 year old friend who fell for a woman in the baby boomer category. From the moment he met her a year ago, he knew he shouldn't get involved with her. The bells and whistles were out there for the viewing and the signs indicated that this was not going to be the nurturing, supportive relationship he was seeking. But he fell for her anyway and it was a hard fall because he put in a huge amount of time and effort. And all the while, something in the back of his mind knew intuitively the chase was wrong. In this case, the object of my friend's affection wasn't well-educated; she had been divorced a long time, had no children, was not responsive to his professional or artistic pursuits. In short, she was a woman who was into trying out men but not necessarily wanting to commit to long and loving relationship. So what did this woman want from my friend?
This woman was after was the perfect penis! No kidding! It turns out after four months of dating, she told my friend that his penis shape wasn't quite right for her. She was looking for something a little different, something a little thinner, something a little shorter, something that would give her an orgasm because it seemed that she had had only two orgasms in her life and she was on the search to find that perfect penis again. She told him she wasn't in to my friend in a sexual way. On the next penis!
My mouth is still open in wonderment about this story because (a) I know his penis (he is a former lover and a man who is a lost to me in love due to our inability to sustain a long distance relationship), and (b) a man of 63 who is still active sexually is a real find. In boomer speak, hang on to the sexually active and sexually interested.
This situation hits me in the face with everything that is wrong about looking for love in all the wrong places. Of course, I did it, too. Not with a penis, mind you, but with wanting a loving commitment from a man that was never going to happen even if I spent four years trying to make him my partner in life.
We're in our 60's, for God sake, and our intention is to find a relationship that not only possess an intimate component (and hey, girls, a penis is a penis is a penis and if it works it's an even better penis), but the couple has a spiritual connection that inherently contains caring, support, fun, way loads of fun. I don't want to drag around a sad-sack for the rest of my life. I need energy to match mine and we both have to be going in the same direction. At the age of 60 or more, we should know the nuances of what makes a good relationship. On the other hand, this relationship business can be a mystery of huge porportions.
You wouldn't think at a tango festival that you could learn so much about men. But I've learned a lot about the state of the male mind as it relates to females. My 46 year old friend and I were discussing how to spot a "crazy" woman quickly and then how he astutely avoids these kinds of women. My friend is so very intelligent and sane and knows exactly what he wants in a female. He is very conscious about certain psycho signs in a female as she approaches him to dance or to talk. He's got his male relationship check-list in his head and he quickly makes an assessment about the woman who is coming on to him. It probably takes him about thirty minutes to gather information from her to see if she is a prospective date. This guy saves an awful lot of time in his life. He doesn't get too attached at the beginning. And for sure, he isn't thinking with his dick.
More from Denver later. I'm going to dance this afternoon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Musings on the Tao

Hi, Boomers,

In the middle of my busy week of teaching yoga, I found myself musing on my tao, that is to say, my life's journey. Here I am, post 65 years old and reflecting on what it means to follow my bliss by staying present and grounding myself in the power of now while not succumbing to my fantasies or daydreams. The good part of being my age is that I have relatively few off the wall fantasies. Yet, I understand that fantasies are good to have as long as we don't get stuck on them. Fantasies and daydreams expand our minds and provide us with energy as we put one foot in front of the other and, as people in recovery say, "show up." But the real work on self is done in the present.

My journey has been an exquisite blend of teaching, either acting or English as a second language or yoga and attending to my family. It is a full life with lots of consistent behavior and lots of surprises. This journey of mine is a gift and I honor it with daily gratitude.

However, my daily challenge is not to resist my tao. Non-resistance has been a mantra I have been using in my yoga classes this week. Resisting is one of the primary ways we trip ourselves up in life. In effect, our journey stops dead in its tracks when our minds resist staying present; or in yoga, when our bodies resist embracing the asana or posture we are working on in class. This mind/body resistance prevents growth and transformation and we find ourselves locked inside our heads, muddled in struggle, unable to find the joy.

Most of our thoughts during the day are negative. If we ask ourselves whether we feel we are a positive person or a negative person, I'm sure we would all say we are positive in our outlook. However, if we truly reflect on our thoughts, we will discover that we are intoning negative resistance most of the time. It is a moment of challenge when we discover our negative bent. But the opposing force of the negative is positive so we can actually program our thoughts into positive reflection. Check out what you are thinking about before you fall asleep at night. It's amazing to discover what a negative track our minds run on.

Yogis stress mindful awareness in thought, word and action. During my yoga teacher training class, one of my teachers suggested we use a timer and set it for every ten minutes so that we can reflect consciously on the present and then express gratitude for our gifts. This practice of reminding ourselves to be mindfully aware directs us into our joy, our bliss and infuses us with non-resistance.

Something to think about.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

The 40 Percent Solution

Hi, Boomers,

Yesterday, I had the privilege of having lunch with a classmate of mine from high school. I hadn't seen Frank in 51 years. He was coming into the Los Angeles area with his wife to visit family and friends and then to head off with a couple or two in their RV's to sightsee some national parks.
Now, really, I didn't know Frank well at all in high school. He went to St. Anselm's grammer school in San Anselmo while I came from St. Raphael's in San Rafael. The two schools were only about ten miles from each other, but us Catholic kids were all going to end up in the same Catholic high school. He was a handsome, rather shy fellow who ended up dating my best friend whose energy was the spark plug for our clique.

Shortly after I signed up for my high school's Facebook page and subsequent web page, Frank was one of the first to contact me. I was surprised. And I was pleased because I don't think we said much to each other in the three years he attended Marin Catholic High School. He probably got some gossip from my boyfriend in junior year because they were best friends and I think we probably double dated for awhile. Of course, I wondered why he contacted me but after a few chatty emails about family and life and grandchildren, we were instantly connected. I think people in our class are curious as to how we all turned out.

As I walked around a corner of the Third Street Promenade on Saturday on the way to the entrance of the restaurant, I suddenly realized that I might not recognize Frank. Come on, fifty years, so much gray hair, glasses, widening of the girth, wrinkles, more wrinkles. But when I started to walk toward the entrance, I would have recognized Frank anywhere.

Three hours later, I began to know and understand this kind, generous, embracing human being. What we hit upon as former students together in high school was how the values we learned in our school, at home, and in our social environment have carried us through our lives with strength and generosity.

Here's how Frank put it: he is a man devoted to time management and making room for all the important things in life that are crucial to his happiness. In order to create his happiness, Frank devotes 30% of his day to work (which includes helping other people and finding time to still be on the emergency ski patrol in his home town), 30% to his wife, three adult children and grandchildren (he created a family blog and they check in with each other once a day, and, most important, Frank gives over 40% of his day to being surprised at what life will bring him. I am impressed with Frank's very balanced and conscious life.

How Frank arrived at this blissful state is a miracle. He had to overcome a difficult family situation, a mentally ill mother, moving constantly, changing schools, living in an orphanage, and surviving a life that would have done most young men in by the age of 15 when he finally landed at Marin Catholic High School. Frank told me that the turning point for him in was in his sophomore year when a few of the boys in our class offered him a daily ride to school in their car pool. And then he met and started dating my best friend whose humor and warmth gave him confidence. Frank began to come out of his shell and discover the kind and caring man he was going to be . High school was never hell for Frank. He excelled at sports, became quite popular and was able to withstand the sadness of having to move again - this time across the country to New Jersey to face his senior year without his gang of friends. But Frank had grown into a man by then and this time he brought along his self-confidence.

I have been given many gifts in life, but one of the special gifts turns out to be a man whose exemplary life inspired me with his friendship and honesty. I'll see Frank again next year at our 50th high school reunion, along with other fine men and woman who shared life together at a special time and place.

It strikes me that we should all take a piece of Frank's journey and find out 40% solution to happiness.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Yoga And The Art of Body/Mind Maintenance - Part 2

Hi, Boomers,

I was teaching class yesterday at the Math and Engineering building on the UCLA campus (Boelter Hall). The class is held on the 8th floor of the building and is literally referred to at "The Penthouse." It's hardly a penthouse. It's a meeting room on the roof. My first impression of the scene was one of "OMG" - I can't teach yoga in this place. It's gross.
Amazing how a group of men and women assembled to twice weekly practice yoga changes the atmosphere from an old classroom, designed as an after-thought decades ago to accommodate special lectures and classes, can morph into a really exciting yoga room.
What I should explain is that on the campus of UCLA most of the buildings host yoga classes once or twice a week to staff and faculty. I really expected that faculty would be the dominant group in attendance; to my surprise, my students in the buildings on campus are mostly administrative staff, researchers, and grad students. I teach in the medical (Semel Neurological Institute), the law school, math and engineering and CNsI (or the California Nanosystems Institute). I can truly say I have the most intelligent, tenacious, dedicated students that any yoga teacher can imagine. I also teach at the John Wooden center and those students and some faculty are also truly incredible beings.
We are at the end of our room booking at Boelter Hall and there was a moment when no one was in charge of the yoga program. I announced this to the group last week and asked if someone could step forward and be in charge of booking The Penthouse. The next class, as I put the students in resting pose, I saw one of my students, a woman in her late 40's, early 50's, walking off of the elevator. She had some papers in her hand. I walked outside on the roof to meet her. Julie had taken care of everything for us. She booked The Penthouse until September, listed the dates we were not going to be able to be in the room (we practice yoga on the room outside in these cases in the glorious summer days of August), and told me not to worry about a thing.
"You're amazing," I said to Julie. "Thank you for your efforts."
"Are you kidding, Joan?" she retorted. "Yoga has saved my life. It's more important for me to be in yoga class than anywhere in my life. I'm a cancer survivor and now I have some fibroids in my body and yoga is the saving grace. When I told my doctor I practice yoga, he gasped. I told him never you mind. Yoga is the antidote to my cancer and whatever is in my body." Then she added, "I'm going to cry now."
I hugged her (tears in my eyes) and felt that my yoga bond with my students was the most precious gift after my children and grandchildren that life has given me. Julie's story is just one story in my yoga world. I have heard many stories like that. One woman in my class was so resistant and stiff when she entered my class that I thought she wouldn't come back after her first class. She has come to class religiously ever since. She jokes with me, she teases me, she tells me I'm cruel, heartless, then laughs and continues with her challenging body movements. She is my angel in class; she is the heartbeat; she is why yoga exists for us.
As we yoginis and yogis move through our resistant minds and bodies, as we practice non-judgement and non-attachment, we move through our lives with grace and divineness. We transcend our expectations, we discover there is continued personal growth; and we are amazed by our resilient natures and our consistency and dedication to our open heart practice.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

Hi, Boomers,
Adult children can be taxing sometimes. I was just talking to my friend, Kathy, about her Mothers' Day and how difficult it was for her. Her daughter has her own agenda so she began the afternoon dinner with: "I can't stay long. I have work to do." This after Kathy, who has a respiratory illness that sounds like she is ready to expire; this after shecooked dinner for her family, which includes her husband, her father-in-law, her son-in-law, the two grandchildren - one who is autistic - and her son-in-law's brother. Why should she cook the dinner when she is sick and it's her special day to relax? Who's day is this anyway?

There wasn't much relaxation going with with her daughter's comings and goings and errands and drop-offs of the kids. The final cap on the day was that her autistic grandson refused to sit down at the table and eat and her granddaughter got up from the table without eating, roamed around the dining room hiding under curtains and tables and declared that she was bored and wanted to go home. End of dinner. End of day. Back to bed and no yoga today for Kathy because she is too sick to get out of bed. And she is so very sad about what happened to her mother's day.

Sometimes we ask: where is the honor, where is the respect, where is the cherishing from our adult children. I had no dinner to prepare, no flowers to look at and no company. I was sad but resigned. And Kathy was sad but resigned, too, the Monday after. Sometimes we can expect the unexpected.

In my world, I didn't have the time or money to fly to Las Vegas to be a part of my ex-husband's Mother's Day lunch for the family. I'm going for a visit in June. I got calls from my sons, and I got to speak to my adorable grandsons. And I was very sad about the loss of my mother. It was the first year that she has been gone from my life. I always used to send her pears from Harry and David and some yellow roses.

I didn't know where to put all this emotion. So, like my therapist told me, I just sat with my emotions, experienced them, and went to bed to read the last chapter of Michael Lewis's The Big Short and got more sad. But that sadness was about the state of our country and the amazing rip-offs by Wall Street. That's a topic for another blog.

I received two cards in the mail today: one from my oldest son and daughter-in-law and one from my grandsons. It was a day late. Mother's Day was over for me. While I appreciated the sentiments, I felt oddly detached.

We often expect too much. We often have unrealistic expectations. We often experience struggle that is of our own making. It's challenging to remember that our happiness is of our own making. We want our happiness to be the responsibility of others.

The curve balls we get in life give us the opportunity to rebalance. The ego tells us we "deserve" and the id tells us to "expect" and the superego tells us we "deserve more." It's all out of wack. Who's on first?

Our joy comes from self-love, self-respect and self-worth. It's not so complicated and yet it is so complicated.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Tango Festival

Hi Boomers,

I don't usually go on and on about Argentine tango not because I'm not passionate about dancing tango but because I'm often private about how I feel about the dance. It's something I have done for about 15 years and my relationship to tango and its long history is emotional, complicated and passionate.

Fro those of you who don't know, Argentine tango is a social dance and not a competition. American tango is part of the ballroom scene and its unending competition and is not so similar to the tango danced in the tango salons around the world.

Tango dancing has taken me to some of the coolest places on earth. Mecca, of course, is Buenos Aires - the most authentic place to dance tango. I've been thirteen times. Is that sick or addictive or just plain fanciful? I don't know but the city kept calling me back for all those year - and it's charm and authenticity still does - but I'm running out of years to see other parts of the world and so I'm taking a break for awhile and trying out Costa Rica, Southern Spain, Morocco, Bali this year and maybe Africa next year. I'll bet back to Buenos Aires, but for now, I can dance really wonderful tango in many cities in America. I used to go to Amsterdam to dance in the Christmas/NewYear's festival, and I have been to Berlin and Paris to dance, but Europe is, well....Europe is in deep trouble. And besides, airline flights are unpredictable. Someone once asked me to rate the best tango cities outside of Buenos Aires: Berlin and Amsterdam are tops - in fact, all cities in Holland and most of Germany are outstanding. And then there is the new kid on the block: Istanbul.

Which brings me back to Los Angeles and our tango festival that is just finishing up today, Sunday, May 9. Many years ago, there was a festival that ran for two years in Redondo Beach, but this tango festival was in my own backyard of Santa Monica. To undertake a tango festival takes incredible planning and organization and tenacity, usually ending in exhaustion and utter happiness. And I just wanted to recognize and applaud the organizers in my tango community for their incredible efforts.

The joy of a tango festival is to reacquaint with old friends, make new friends and dance with familiar partners. The tango atmosphere generate a generosity of spirit and an esprit de corp that distinguish tango dancers with an unusual set of dance skills and a genuine love for the history of the dance and its deep appreciation of its music. And this morning, I feel the pain of my swollen feet, view with horror the dark circles under my eyes from the late nights, and wonder if I have the energy to attend tonight's last milonga (or dance), knowing that I will probably drag myself back to Santa Monica high school and see who is left from the 200 or so attendees.

I know I'm probably the oldest tango dancer in any festival I attend. And I keep it a very closed secret, although once in awhile to my very close friends I tell them about how joyful I am about my grandsons and how thrilled I am to be awaiting the birth of my first granddaughter. They've got to guess my age, but if my guy friends know - or if they ask what the title of my book is (Sixty, Sex & Tango) they surely know - but they are happy to share a little piece of my life and then we dance another tanda.

I'm anticipating going to Denver for Memorial Day, which is my favorite tango festival in the US. It will be fun to see who shows up, exciting to anticipate dancing with more old friends, and terrific to spend time with one of my closest friends from Santa Fe who designs and sells tango clothes. If she brings her pugs, it will be a special treat.

Dancing tango has brought me more joy in life than I could ever hoped for, more comfort and passions than I could have ever dreamed of, and more excitement and travel than I could have ever dreamed of.

Thanks for letting me share my experience.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's A Girl

Hi, Boomers,

Well, finally, after thirty-eight years of trying, my family came is about to produce a girl baby. It's a miracle! And it was random, of course. My oldest son and his wife gave birth four months ago to a perfect baby boy, Jude Love. It was their third boy. Oh, there was the usual, "Are we ever going to get a girl in this family" remarks, but everyone was happy because Jude was a healthy and a happy baby. My youngest son produced a male heir the first time. And now: Here comes the girl.

My last blog was about being a grandmother and its miraculous joys. It's still a mind-bender to me. However, it brings me around full center to living in my 60's and finding surprises and unexpected moments.

I was speaking to the marketing consultant from my publishing company this morning. The call was by way of introducing himself to me and getting my ideas on how to market my book, Sixty, Sex & Tango. Now, if I had to choose a marketing mentor for me vis a vis my book, it would not be a forty year-old male. And yet, the voice of this forty year-old male captured my attention. He actually was familiar with the themes in my book about living joyfully in the decade of the 60's, finding passion in life and love, and was going to recommend my book to his mother-in-law.

I posed the question to him about his interest in my book's topics. He thought that life brought a variety of experience to each decade and it was always worth reading about what other's have gone through.

"I get your book," he said. "While it is not specifically a self-help book, it is a book with experiences of a woman who has lived fully in her sixties and has insights and opinions and experiences that might help others."

Wow! Did he really say that. He's forty; he's a male; he's so far away from my sensibilities.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you," I was raised with three older sisters."

How did I get so lucky today? I can't wait to hear his marketing suggestions and work with him after the book comes out. Mr. Marketing Consultant was fun, humorous, intelligent and randomly assigned to me by the publisher. It's a good thing no thought went into the selection.

On the bad news side: I just found out that my beloved therapist made so much money investing in a prostate cancer drug that he is retiring. When I say so much money, I'm referring into the 20 to 30 million range. He bought the drug at $2.00. I had a chance to buy stock in Dendreon, the company that brought the drug to market. But what would a schlepper beatnik/hippie yoga teacher do with a millions of dollars? I actually contemplated that thought in my 7 am yoga class this morning. And I actually couldn't think of how I wanted to alter my life. Sad, but true.