In recent years, I’ve become fascinated with the tales and history of the many wonderful places around me. One such place is the Erie Canal, a true feat of engineering brilliance. Construction on it began in 1817, and it took 8 years to complete the entire length, which stretches from Buffalo to New York City.
What I find particularly magical about this man-made waterway are two things. The first is the vestiges of the original canal. Sometimes there are remains of a cement lock obscured among forests and trees. Then there are portions of the old canal bed, sometimes now part of a highway, other times a difficult-to-discern gully harboring just a trickle of water hidden in a forgotten tract of woods.
I recently discovered some of these treasures while walking the canal path with my trusted Boston Terrier buddy Brinkley. We walk this stretch of canal often, and since finding them, I am obsessed with the many mysteries they hold and the stories they could tell.
I am next awed by the seasonal draining and filling of this 363 mile long waterway. With a change in elevation of 500 feet from the Hudson River to Buffalo, a series of locks change water levels so boats can pass through. My amazement comes from first wondering what is the source of such an incredible volume of water, and second, the complexity of calculating all the who, what, when, where and how’s of this process.
On a recent walk, it appeared that the momentous process of filling this behemoth had begun with what appeared to be a swelling of the winter melt. I felt full of excitement and wished I could witness the entire process. A week later we returned and the bottom was hidden until next November.
Live Nice. Yikes, when these two words came to me a few weeks ago, I knew I was onto something. I knew it was to become my mantra. I knew it would become bumper sticker and T-shirt material. I knew it was something I needed to write about.
So besides the obvious, what is it? A few thoughts for Live Nice in my humble world.
Do it the simple way, not out of laziness, but out of purposefulness
Take walks in the country, through the woods, or in old city neighborhoods
Plant a vegetable garden and reap its harvests with healthy meals and salads
Plant a Zen garden and sit in it often with a book and glass of sun tea in hand
Ride my horse Buzzy taking small steps when I’m fearful and bigger ones when we’re more sure-footed
Call and visit with friends more often: I am blessed to have many good ones
Learn new things
Embark upon a research project for something truly purposeful
Limit technology time and stop wiling away hours doing nothing on the Internet
Stop feeling guilty about everything
Be kind to people in supermarkets, stores, and public places instead of feeling annoyed by them
Focus on writing
Drink good wine
So, just a few new behaviors for my Live Nice list. Many, many, many more to follow…Maybe you have something to add?
I am on a serious book binge, and when I say serious, I mean a major hording episode. I mean I am exchanging baby pictures with the UPS man. I mean OUT OF CONTROL.
I have adored books since I was a little girl when we had Scholastic Book Club in my Catholic grammar school. Several times a year our nun-teachers would solicit our book orders , but the biggest and most exciting order was the one for our summer reading lists. After more than 45 years, I STILL have some of those books, including Candy Stripers, Willow Hill, Everybody Calls Me Father, and one of my all-time favorites, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I still can feel the thrill of getting that order of brand-new, off-the-press paperbacks: smelling the fresh ink and fanning the pages. Bliss.
You know what? I do the same thing today. I smell the ink and fan the pages. In fact, friends and families find my page-smelling habit rather peculiar. I say, let them smell their roses and leave me to my book bliss.
I was reading one of the women’s magazines yesterday and I was struck by all the dieting, exercising, fashion-ista-izing, and botoxing articles it contained. Now don’t get me wrong – a healthy diet, exercise – all to the good. In fact, I’m a great proponent of exercise – have been running, swimming, walking, etc. since I was a teenager. I also eat healthy, sleep well, and try to manage my stress levels. Where I draw the line is in taking my natural form (body) and shaping, molding and squeezing it into clothes that are simply not designed for it.
Now, as I ‘ripen’ into my more fruitfully robust years, so does my body morph into a still healthy state, but somewhat altered shape. This shape is, truth be told, quite comfy and insular. It is fit, tight and well-tuned. What it isn’t, is sculpted. What it never will be – sculpted.
However, along with this altered state comes a dilemma. It is called waistline. It is called great discomfort with many at the waist ‘cinches.’ My dilemma is that what’s comfy at the waist is huge everywhere else, and what fits elsewhere feels like a tourniquet keeping the blood flowing to my lower body.
So what’s my point? It’s actually threefold. One, I am happy as a pig in a mud puddle in my own skin, ripened waist and all. Two – clothes designers of the world: TAKE HEED!! We Baby Boomer women are not of the ilk to sweat, starve and carve our way into your clothes. Third: I am here to sing the praises of elastic waistbands (… as long as they’re not too tight ….)
As it so happens, many of us take periodic inventories of our lives – where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. These should be productive inventories, not great ruminations on past blunders and mistakes. I like to think of it as a take stock time when I can tally my new skills and see how they can benefit me as I move forward in life.
Today I discovered one such skill that I’d not previously recognized in proper context. What is it? The art of picking up dog poop in a grocery bag during my twice-daily walks with my Boston Terrier Brinkley. (Aside: Way back when I had 4 other BTs, someone asked Brinkley’s name, and when I shared it, they said, ‘For God’s sake, don’t go out and get Huntley.’ It’s been 7 years: so far, so good).
Anyway, back to poop-bagging. Today, when I grabbed Brink’s poop in the used Wegmans grocery bag, I used a smooth flicking motion with my wrist – it was almost poetic in its grace — deftly turning the bag inside-out, complete with poop inside. A single motion: swish and plop!
Maybe this is my new career: Poop bagging: a way to be a responsible dog owner/walker and a Zen type practice in wrist flicking. Face it, poop bagging is a hell of a lot better than shoveling all that shit you find in so many other (corporate) jobs.
I have to face the fact that for me, anyway, menopause has ushered in an era of ultimate klutz-hood. I am constantly tripping, dropping, banging into stuff and slipping, and why I am not yet dead is beyond me.
Example: my ‘sort of’ mother-in-law (another story for another day) was coming later in the day on Sunday, and I was in frenetic cleaning mode. I’d finished vacuuming the family room, and bent down to unplug the vacuum, when I felt searing pain and the flow of liquid to accompany it. . I’d rammed my head into the edge of the buffet, a mighty sharp edge, might I add.
The liquid was red and it was everywhere. My head hurt like samurai sword had stabbed it, and I wondered if I should call someone, drive myself to Urgent Care, or stick my head in the toilet. I did none of these things. Instead, as a good First Aider, I kept tons of paper towel with tons of pressure against the wound and wandered around the house alternately cursing my clumsiness and feeling deprived that no one was home who would give me the appropriate sympathy.
Today: another tragedy – I dropped my beloved and totally funky little coffee mug. I have a thing for hand-made pottery, especially coffee mugs, and my favorite haunts to find them are thrift stores. A few months ago I found this squat, round-like-a-globe, blue and white mug that felt so good in my hand and reminded me a bit of my own mid-section rotundness. I was whizzing around in fast-forward and I thought I placed my mug on the counter, but alas, it fell before I could catch it and shattered into myriad fragments, just like Humpty-Dumpty.
So, I am grieving my mug. I am pissed about my klutziness. I think it is time to slow down.
Have you ever felt like you were outside yourself? Like you’re sort of outside looking in? It’s a feeling like you’re watching, judging, and controlling your actions, your thoughts, your BEING from the outside. Like instead of walking down the street and thinking of whatever, like what you’re going to have for dinner, you’re walking down the street watching yourself walk down the street, and thinking about the fact that you’re walking down the street instead of just doing it.
I suspect this is one of those things in life that many of us go through until we achieve what Maslow calls self-actualization: realizing one’s potential, achieving self-fulfillment, and seeking growth and peak experiences.
I do not espouse to having achieved self-actualization in the true Maslow sense, but I do know that something is different. The question I pose is this: when did this ‘different-ness’ happen? When did I stop looking from the outside in? When did I feel comfy dashing out the door clad in sweats, no makeup, and hair askew? When did I stop being a waffler, a woman without an opinion and too scared to express one even if I did?
This new place feels free, fresh and exhilarating. It is sans the hellish ups and downs of the monthly hormone cocktail. It is gray and wrinkly and puffy in the middle. It is be healthy but have fun. It is a damn good place to be. It is menopause and I made it here in one piece!
Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications