I turn 60 years old on August 4. I’ve been feeling very restless lately. I want to travel, to make things, to interact with new people, to learn a new skill, to start a new project. (Or ten.) It is hard to put my finger on exactly what I want. I spend a lot of time planning trips. Then I line up the excuses why I can’t take those trips right now. I have a list of 100 books I want to read.
What is this restlessness? It feels like I am racing against time; as if the things I can do with my life are whittling down as I get older.
And this is true, I guess. There are only so many books I can read, only so many places I can travel. So in addition to the restless feeling, I feel frozen in space. I can see so many possibilities, but I am not reaching out for them.
At 60, is it too late to reach for a bigger life? Am I too old to travel alone? Am I too old to write a book? Do I have the stamina to do what it takes to build an audience for my blog?
My gut tells me that of course it is not too late. There are dozens of stories of people who found success in their last third of life. I have the freedom. Do I have the will?
Writing is my one real talent. I have played at several careers, but writing is the thing that gives me joy. It isn’t easy, but it is always satisfying. Words on paper, rolling into sentences and paragraphs and pages. I love them.
I blog for myself, although having an audience is amazing. My blog entries are the result of taking my thoughts and feelings out and putting them into words and sculpting those words into something hopefully readable and meaningful and maybe entertaining. I resolve not to worry so much about my themes, or my categories, or what readers “expect” my blog to be about. Today, it is about turning uncertainty and timidness into courage and action. I am a (soon to be) 60-year-old woman who wants, still, to do magical things in this life and write about them.
For those of you who are not from Hoover, or are not in the Facebook Group “Hoover Vote,” I’ll share a little background. There has been a discussion going on for the last few days about parking ordinances in residential neighborhoods in Hoover. This was triggered by one of our city councilmen who was approached by citizens asking for an ordinance prohibiting overnight parking on the street, and also prohibiting parking on front lawns. He asked what people thought. And wow, did he get responses!
People get bent out of shape about cars being parked on the streets. Bent. Out of shape. Except for the people who park on the streets, that is.
Hoover is a sprawling suburb and we have no public transportation, so almost everyone has a car. Some families have more cars than licensed drivers. Two-car garages are probably the most prevalent, but some houses have more, and a lot of houses have carports, and a few have none. Our streets are narrow, and there are no marked parallel parking spaces in any residential neighborhood I know of. But neither are the streets marked with “No Parking” signs.
Anyway, the parking on the street issue is not one the city can legislate with a blanket ordinance. There are too many cars. And most people are not going to deal with musical moving of cars when the kids are home from college, or the grandparents are in town.
But the other issue, the one about parking on front lawns, is the one where the rubber meets the road. Or the grass. You know what I mean.
The most interesting comments are the ones from people who say, of course, we must allow street parking sometimes; my kids come home from college, and we have friends over, or there are parties, or Bible studies, and so on. But parking on front lawns? We get really judgey about that.
My homeowner’s association (which is not one of the very strict ones) occasionally mentions in the newsletter that it is unsightly for cars to be parked on front lawns, and please don’t do it. As far as I can tell, that has no effect. The people who do it continue to do it. It doesn’t bother me because I can clearly see that their only other choice would be parking on the street. If they want to park on their own lawn, rather than on the street, who am I to complain?
But the interesting thing is the different rationale for why people should not park in their own yards. It is not unsafe or unlawful.
Yes, people in my town want to outlaw tacky. It sends a chill down my spine, because I get my life from tacky. I grew up in the country, where people had lawn art, and sometimes lawn chickens, and our house had no fence between the yard and the pasture and we ate breakfast with the cows staring in placidly at us from three feet away. We parked in the yard, the dogs ran free, and we had numerous “outbuildings” and disabled vehicles. My parents grew up during the Depression, and they didn’t get rid of things. We hung our clothes out to dry on a clothesline. We didn’t have these, because my mom came from town, but if other folks did have those half tires painted white and set in the ground to form a border, it meant they CARED about their home and their image in the community. Uppity.
So I accept the possibility that my “tacky” meter is calibrated differently.
I love bottle trees, and flower pots hanging on fences, and tomato plants in the front yard, and bird houses made from gourds. I love a profusion of mixed, crazy wildflowers, sidewalk paths inset with multicolored shards of broken dishes, and ivy tumbling over stone walls. I love those old metal gliders from the 40’s like my grandmother had on her front porch. My neighbors got a new toilet the other day and set the old one out by the street. I drove by it several times before it was taken away, thinking that in Red Hill, Alabama, that baby would have been a flower planter in a heartbeat. Morning Glories. I sort of grieved for it.
I just can’t help feeling, when I read some of these comments, that some folks would really like it best if everyone in the neighborhood was more …how shall I put it…homogeneous. Fewer wildflowers, more begonias. There is a lot of concern about the “older neighborhoods” like mine, where the houses, and the people, are not so new and shiny anymore. We’ve aged, kids have grown up, and we’ve had illnesses and knee replacements. Maybe our houses and yards show it a little. Or worse, maybe we’ve moved to a house better suited to our health and abilities to keep it up, and have relegated the house with the big yard to ………. (yeah, I’m about to say it)……….renters. (Duh-duh-dunnnnnh!)
I swear, you would think renters were about to cause the collapse of civilized life in Hoover. They park on the lawns, people say. The live too many to a house, people say. They don’t care, people say. And sometimes they are black or brown, but people don’t say that.
Personally, I don’t really know how you spot a renter. It’s not like you can bring it up when they move in and you go over to introduce yourself. “Hi, here’s a cake I made to welcome you to the neighborhood, and, by the way, are you buying or renting this house?”
My mother taught seventh graders for over thirty years, and she had a saying, “Let every tub sit on its own bottom.” The seventh graders liked it because it had the word “bottom” in it, which made them snicker, but what she simply meant was mind your business and don’t tattle on each other.
I think we need that advice now. I see no evidence that property values are affected by the parking habits of my neighbors. I think what makes our property valuable and our homes sought after is that our neighborhoods are nice, welcoming places, where we know each other’s names, and are aware when someone on the street is in the hospital, or has a new baby, or gets a new son or daughter-in-law. Let’s not judge each other from afar, but try to be the kind of neighbors we want to have.
I know my neighbors reading this are thinking, “Is this that Hermit Woman on Russet Cove Circle writing this?” Because I am. I own it. I am an introvert, and an inside person. Coming over to introduce myself or inviting everyone over to grill out is SO out of my comfort zone. But I know you all. I know your names and your children and who leaves for work at what time. If you are renters, I couldn’t care less. I DO care if your car won’t start and you need jumped off, or if your dog or cat is lost, or if you need eggs or sugar, or a ladder or long extension cord. I am right here, neighbor.
I want to write about the Women’s March, and the reactions to it, and the general wtf-ness of American politics, but this piece by George Lakoff is so good, and clear, and helpful, that I’m simply going to link to it and hope you guys read it.
How long is appropriate to follow your sons’ exes on social media?
Don’t judge me! I’m not stalking. Just occasionally a picture or comment shows up on my feed. And I’m only talking about the serious relationships; the ones who were in our lives for a significant time. They did not become daughters-in-law, but I was absolutely sizing them up for the role, as one does.
Now, certainly, when they marry someone else, yes, I get that.
But what about before that? In my defense, I have no daughters, and these young women are my window into Millennial Woman World. Besides, my boys have good taste! These women are funny and intelligent, and their views on life are interesting.
So, what say you, moms? What’s the “don’t get creepy” cut-off?
I have many heroes, and reading their writings, or speaking with them, or seeing them interviewed has been very important to me, especially since the election.
It occurred to me recently that it is important to tell people that their good work means something to me, specifically. Some of my heroes have gained recognition for their work, some have not. Either way, I want to let them know that they inspire me and lift me up.
So, I am starting a project to write a letter every day or so to a hero who has inspired me to do better, to give more, and to keeping fighting for a better world.
My first letter went to Jimmy Carter. He has been a hero of mine for a long time. I cast my first vote for President for him in 1976, in an old fashioned lever-pull voting machine in a country store in Red Hill, Alabama.
I am not going to publish my letters, but I will keep a list on this blog of who I write.
Apparently, the allotted time for shock, sadness, mourning, anger and fear has expired and my Facebook timeline is starting to fill with “likes” and “shares” of assorted Trump-supporting asshats who are eager to explain to all us elitists why Hillary lost and why we should get over it.
Well, the strangest thing happened while I was debating whether to unfriend or just block the gloaters. I got Over It.
I don’t mean I’m not still deeply pissed off, worried, and aghast at what America has done. But I’m not wasting another single minute of my time reading about what percentage of what demographic in what state went for Hillary or Trump and why. The freaking Ku Klux Klan spread fliers around neighborhoods near me on election night. The KKK. In Birmingham, Alabama. In 2016. The most evil hate groups feel emboldened by the election of this unqualified, narcissistic, sexually deviant braggart. This is not the way I thought my country would be at this point in my life. I thought the battle for basic human rights for all people would be over. I thought constitutional rights won at the Supreme Court level would stay won. When I was twelve years old, I saw a man walk on the moon, sent there and brought home again by brilliant men and women using slide rules. I thought by the time my children were grown, we would, at the very least, have figured out how to get clean drinking water to children all over the world, but we can’t even do it for America.
I just read a headline on Twitter, and it grabbed my attention. I haven’t even read the article, because the headline alone was inspiration enough. It said, “Welcome to the Fight.”
If I offend you with what I am about to say, and you feel you can’t talk to me, that would make me sad. But this needs to be said: please do not quote Franklin Graham or Mike Huckabee or James Dobson or other privileged, politically connected and influential white Christian men to me. They are hypocrites. Yes, exactly the kind Jesus cautioned us not to be. They are “seen by men.” They hold influence and power, and they have their reward. I don’t want to hear from them about Jesus’ plan for this country. They excused horrible speech and actions so that their tribe could win the election. Now they want to tell us that this was God’s will? Nope. I’m not listening to that rubbish.
What I am doing is joining the fight. I will stand with all whose freedoms are threatened by Donald Trump and the GOP. I will stand with women, the disabled, people of color, people of ALL religions, athiests, agnostics, LGBTQIA people, indigenous people, undocumented people, children, artists, prisoners, the homeless, care-givers, teachers and all who are marginalized and treated as “lesser than” by the patriarchy.
To those of you who were just elected to office here in Hoover, Alabama, your actions in the first council meeting made me wary, but I will stand with you. I will have your back while you do the right thing. I will go through fire with you to recognize and serve those who are most in need in our city. I will push you toward transparency, because I understand transparency is hard.
I will call out bs and anything that smells like bs. And I will shout the word of your successes from the hilltops.
I am joining the fight that I expect to last the rest of my life. It is the fight to do whatever I can to bring peace, create greater equality, ease suffering, and leave a livable world for the next generations.
Bigotry, authoritarianism, oppression, patriarchy, you’re on notice. I. Am. Over. It. I am putting on the full armor of a pissed off woman warrior. There may be more tears in the future, in fact, it is very likely. But not today.
I am the checkboxes of life: daughter, sister, college graduate, wife, mother, friend. I am a Honda and a modest surburban house. I am PTO, Band Boosters, college dorm rooms and first apartments. I am the empty nest.
I am high cholesterol, and ten or so extra pounds. I am Sertraline for depression, and Clonopin for anxiety.
I am the sixties and seventies. I am a farm in north Alabama. I am a tiny rock schoolhouse and an old yellow bus. I am tomatoes and okra. I am a long line of schoolteachers and others who treasured books and poetry. I am ghost stories and family tales. I am the Johnsons of north Alabama, decended from England and genetically eccentric.
I am Bible school and Sunday School. I am Jesus Loves the Little Children and Just As I Am. I am white patent leather Mary Janes, Easter dresses and baked ham. I am baptism by immersion and I am disillusionment.
Because my mother often quoted, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” I am compassion. Because I always had enough, but saw children every day who didn’t, I am gratitude.
Because bad things sometimes happen to children, I am childhood sexual abuse. I am years of guilt and repression. I am therapy and healing.
I am words, but not math; perfectionism, but mad disorganization; good food, but bad cooking. I am cats, not dogs; chocolate, never coconut, and always, always libraries and book stores.
I am 59 years of houses, apartments, neighborhoods, friends, events, weddings, wars, babies, car repairs, tornadoes, Presidents. I am a young mind.
I am sometimes fear, but more often optimism. I am Liz.
Writing creates a certain connection with the world that I often can’t attain in person. Even with my closest friends and family, there are still some walls that remain. Maybe this is a personal failing of mine, but I keep certain beliefs and desires and dreams behind the wall because they are too tender to hand over to others – especially the others who I love and respect the most.
When I write, and publish my writing on my blog, I tear down the wall and become my most honest, authentic self. I often have a moment of anxiety before I click that “Publish” button, because I am putting my heart out there, defenseless, to those who know me well, family members, those who know me only by reputation, and also strangers.
I blog because there is a certain exhilaration in writing and publishing on honest, heartfelt topics. Love me, hate me, be indifferent – this is who I am. When I write, I have the freedom to be real. This is why I want to “Blog Like Crazy.”
I often feel so frozen, as if I can see all the things I want to do, but I spin my wheels and never really get anything completed. I am an expert level procrastinator. All my energy is inside my head. I compare myself, unwisely, to people who are doing great things in the world. Not a smart way to live. But I had an idea that if I had a big white board, I could write down the things I have accomplished that made me feel good and proud, and then I could look at them and know that I am not frozen, and not just sitting here watching time pass. Continue reading “Write it Down; Move Forward”→