On shampoo, toothpaste and aging…

Recently there was an “ah ha” moment in the shower; have you ever noticed that the last half of the shampoo (and toothpaste) last longer than the first? We mete it out more carefully when we are approaching the end – whether or not there is a “back up” under the sink.

That certainly explains a lot about my impatience in this “third half” of my life.

Irritability with folks “slowing me down” has crept up; oh I’ve always been the impatient sort, but the idea that folks are “stealing” what little time I have left on the planet is accompanied by a rage that is shocking, even to me.

I don’t know what’s worse: that I‘ve been downright uncivil with Sky, Talk Talk and BT while waiting over 4 months for proper phone, cable and broadband, or that I’m not embarrassed by or inclined to apologise for my incivility when I reach a call centre powerless to resolve my complaint.

Then there are the adaptive accommodations to aging I didn’t even know I was making.

My arthritis had been advancing markedly for years but when I moved my household from two years of storage, I was unable to use kitchen tools like the peeler and the paring knife that I had just unpacked, I was astounded. Unconsciously, when I’d only moved a few favourite kitchen things, I’d chosen the handiest and most comfortable. They were all the newer – with fatter, softer grips. Unconsciously, adapting all along, I hadn’t noticed just how disabled I’d become.


Joan Walsh Anglund is the poet, this is an excerpt:

I shall be older than this one day.
I shall think myself young when I remember.
Nothing can stop the slow change of masks my face must wear, one following one.
These gloves my hands have put on, the pleated skin, patterned by the pale tracings of my days.
These are not my hands! And yet, these gloves do not come off!
I shall wear older ones tomorrow, til glove after glove, and mask after mask, I am buried beneath the baggage of old women….

I was enamoured of her sweet, simple rhymes illustrated with charming drawings. This is the only one I remember; I was haunted by it. At fifteen I knew I was seeing my future.

If you have been in the way of my impatience lately – or experience it in the future, I apologise. I’d just like you to frame it with the knowledge that there is much to do and I’m trying to squeeze twice as much production out of the last third of my days.

All this is punctuated by crankiness over the fact that now that my head is screwed on right, my body is failing me… and customer service at BT needs a heads up, I’m calling tomorrow for a new line.

Gratitude…for Brigid, Floodgates & Rage

Brigid is the Celtic goddess of abundance traditionally honored on the Celtic cross-quarter feast of Imbolc  between Winter Solstice & Spring Equinox; now on February 1st.

A floodgate is the metaphor I used for years when describing a fear of being paralyzed if I unearthed a long-buried childhood trauma.

Rage, even the expression of mild anger, was forbidden in the household and schools in which I was reared.

The message was uncompromising:

  • Portray life as it “should” appear
  • Make everything look perfect
  • Don’t tell the truth about what’s really happening
  • Never let your feelings show

In spite of that, I’ve learned to trust that life is to be lived and not controlled.

Last week, I fully experienced the memory of a trauma that sent me into a rage. After half a century the floodgates were opened. A gift from my unconscious. I was blind to a toxic relationship – and the wounded little girl inside recognized what I did not. So she grabbed my attention- the memory was her SOS to me.

Pretending life was “normal” became impossible.

In that rage though, I reclaimed myself from the polite peace I was maintaining to make things comfortable and normal for the folks around me.

Apparently, I’d wasted half a century fearing I would drown in a flood.

Oh, the liquid metaphor was correct, but it turns out that I was dying of thirst. A thirst for the truth I couldn’t see if I didn’t allow for keeping up perfect appearances and letting my head overrule my gut.

I was reminded that the most important lesson distilled in the “Artist’s Way”, is that to recover an authentic, creative self, one needs to embrace anger; it is a friend. Not a kind or gentle one, but a loyal one.  It is truthful.

Another message is that the way in which we recover our authentic selves is one day, one step at a time. Our unconscious minds are to be trusted. That memory I’d feared and suppressed did not return until I was able to handle it.  It is for that I am most grateful.

If you are interested in taking steps to reclaim your creative self, decide to.

When we adopt a discipline of listening to our body and becoming mindful of our real feelings we’re no longer guarded. Being guarded saps the energy which would otherwise fuel creativity .

We are first and foremost human beings, not a human doings. When we “do” polite, living life to please others, it’s a lot of work with little room for play – rethink it.

Take a walk, a yoga class, have a massage. Feel.

I am often reminded of a catechism lesson of my childhood: “Who made you? God made me, I was made in the image and likeness of God”.

Let’s embrace the divine within us. And consider that the gods of our ancestors raged. One even sent a flood.

Yesterday was Brigid’s day, I’m particularly grateful that the gods and goddesses described by Christians, Jews and Pagans are consistent in their message.

I needed to be reminded that even an abundant flood of anger is empowering.

And it is a blessing that I have been sustained to reach this understanding.


An earlier version of this post appeared in February 2012