Partners

How I Recovered From My Scary Depression

My granddaughter Reagan told her parents after a March visit that “Grandma slept all the time”.  Despite taking a yoga class to get me settled into a Zen state, I ran right into a roadside I couldn’t “see” because I was so rattled. Sad, blue and feeling panicky about another tough thing happening from the moment I got up, till bedtime when I dreaded going to sleep knowing I would wake up ruminating about some unknown, but certain, imminent tragedy.  Somehow, a variety of big, and many little, events had tipped me from a “little off” and sad at year end, to depression by late January.

It was frightening, and something I cannot remember experiencing before.  By April I was determined to work like hell to crawl out of it and get back to being my neurotic, but basically very happy, self.  I swore never again would I let myself get in such a dark, disturbing place.  And yes, of course I got “professional help”.  My shrink is not only great, he is funny and comforting.  And he reminds me when I forget that ultimately, much of being better is committing to being better, and taking responsibility to change what is not working for what will.

Am feeling pretty good, if not great, today – and it is mid June.  What happened to lift me back up?  The truth is that since I made that firm decision to heal, multiple decisions, events and pieces of support have all helped to clear my head.  And, like many things in life, luck played a part too.

Mid May we left Tucson for our travelling time.  We live in Tucson, Arizona, but come May when it starts to get uncomfortably hot for us, we travel to other places till about mid October when the weather again suits us back home.  We came to New York in May and rented an apartment not far from our daughter and her family in Westchester County.  The change of scene has been a big part of lightening my mood.  We have already taken a couple of mini trips to further mix up our schedule and get away from depression triggers associated with my home in Tucson, which is where I was when the deep blues hit.  It will be fine to go back come October even if I don’t spend money on a deep spiritual healing of the space.

I have also taken the strategy one of my dear friends taught me: being one with something tangible in a room or place – just keeping my mind quiet and focused on a chosen item for a few minutes is very useful.  I am calling it “the tree is me” strategy – pointing mindfully to a tree ahead while walking and just “urging” myself to stay “with the tree” rather than letting my mind ruminate and repeat endless loops of negative nonsense.

And then, there are my many wonderful friends like Betty who called me everyday once I told her what was going on. Cathy P. wrote me emails and tailored my workouts to include pep talks. There was Janice who held a spiritual session where she worked on me breaking bonds with a sad and dangerous habit I had fallen into.  Donna had me over for dinner and listened when I was pretty awful company. Cathy B. set up a date to meet and go to a spirituality center for a special meditation. Pat told me about her journaling effort during one of her depressions and suggested I try it.  And the list went on from there of friends who I mentioned my sadness to who just turned around and offered love and help.

Another really big help was my 50th high school reunion.  I’d been part of the planning process so I was very much excited and invested in the activities.  Seeing, and more importantly, sharing with women who I had shared my adolescence with was amazing therapy.  We weren’t older versions of ourselves – we were new selves that were developed by our history, the lives we have lived, the choices we have made, and the way we have connected and loved ourselves.  The biggest way to know how people REALLY were faring in life, was to listen and watch for how happy they were with who they turned out to be.

Not everyone or even most anyone has the luxury of having the level of support and caring that I do.  Friends were my priority always (in many ways equal or more than family which I am also close to). Their multiple ways and approaches to helping me, coupled with our ability to create changes of scene, proved the golden recipe for dealing with my depression. I want to end with a quote another friend sent me that summarized the heart of much of the wisdom so many shared.

“There are only two days a year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is he right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” –  Dalai Lama

Patty

Why My Husband Really Needs Me

Since this blog is about my husband and may possibly contain some information that he finds less than flattering, I should start by pointing out that I am very lucky to have a great partner who shares responsibilities around the house and in our lives.

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Here are a few things Ray does really, really well:

He cooks … excellently. He makes a great Bolognese sauce, a killer bouillabaisse, and to-die-for crab cakes, for example.  He even cooks day-to-day meals.  I can’t cook and don’t like to cook, so this is a really important thing in our lives. (Actually, he began cooking out of self-defense. See my blog about this subject.)

Here’s one of Ray’s weekday meals: pork loin with veggies

Here’s one of Ray’s weekday meals: pork loin with veggies

He drives 99% of the time when we are together, whether around town or on a road trip. He refers to himself as my chauffeur and I shamelessly take advantage of him.  Although I think I’m a good driver, I drive 5 mph slower than he does and I don’t like to parallel park – which means we arrive somewhere later than he wants or I spend too much time looking for easy parking options.

He takes care of our beautiful gardens.  I hate snakes, moles, hot weather, cold weather, thorns on our rose bushes, bugs (especially caterpillars), rubber gloves and just about everything there is to hate about gardening.

He also likes to run errands, take our clothes to the dry cleaners, stop at the grocery store and mail packages.  Lucky me!

Of course, I do a lot of things for us too. I manage all of our bills, order things that we need online, take care of the house, make our travel arrangements, and orchestrate our social calendar, for example.

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We’ve never really had to “decide” who does what, either.  It just kind of happened over the years.  Things get done. We both do what we do. We have a pretty equitable and easy arrangement.

But there are a few things that he REALLY needs me for …

1.)  He swears he can’t run the dishwasher. We’ve been together 26 years. We’ve had three homes and several short term and long term rental homes and apartments. Not once in all that time can I remember him running the dishwasher.  We have been in our current home for five years and nothing has changed.

Here’s our Bosch dishwasher panel. Relatively simple, yes?

Here’s our Bosch dishwasher panel. Relatively simple, yes?

2.)  Ditto #1 for the washer and dryer. Again, he says he just can’t figure out either of the machines. Too many options. Too many buttons. Too many decisions.

3.)  He can’t remember the number 9. Every time he answers the phone to buzz someone into our gated community he asks me what number to push on the phone. It’s #9 and has been #9 since we moved here five years ago.

4.)  He can’t spell.  I am a former English teacher and a writer. Let’s just say he found the right person to marry. Even with spell-check he doesn’t get close enough to the spelling of words for the auto correct function to do much good. I really don’t mind helping him out, but I do get a little annoyed when he gives me a word like hydrangea, bouillabaisse or hors d’oeuvres and thinks I should be able to rattle the spelling off quickly.  I’m also not too happy when I attempt to spell one of those difficult words for him and he then tells me that his spell-check corrected it.

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I like being needed, but I have learned over the years that I should never give him unsolicited advice. His sarcastic response is that he really doesn’t know how he ever survived before he met me.

On the subject of survival, if I leave this world before he does, I wonder if he’ll be able to run the dishwasher and the washer/dryer and if he’ll be able to remember the number 9.

I suspect the answer to all of these is yes.

But spelling? He would definitely miss me!

Cathy Green

Making New Friends Is Very Fabulous – Don’t Stop Doing It!

In October of 2012 I wrote a piece about making friends (link below).  It was a look back at how we USED to make friends in our youth – they were in our neighborhood, school, parent’s friendship circle – or we hit the bars or other typical youthful endeavor then filled with smoke.

Older now, we sometimes find ourselves pooped out by friendship.  Some “socializing” with old friends has gotten exhausting – some boring, some just a replay not a deepening of sharing.  Time for a friend shake up and shake out – we no longer have time for obligation friends – only friends of the heart, the soul, the common thread.  We need friends to stay grounded, to stay true to ourselves, but also to grow and experience new perspectives. So get the list out, cut the obvious by simply not reaching out to them – people are forgetting so much most won’t even miss you or care.  And start doing things you cherish with those that are left and you know are great ones.  Sprinkle your life with new friends too – the best ones meant to be will be fresh sources of love – doesn’t that sound exciting?

Here is the link to the older post: Making New Friends

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Patty

I’m Not Sleeping Well And My Cat Knows Why!

I have always been a good sleeper. Eight hours easily. Not anymore.

My 16 year old Maine Coon cat has decided to meow in my face at least 3 times during the night. With my sleep interrupted so often, I find myself tired during the day. And, I’ve lost my husband. More about that later.

This is new behavior for my cat, so I did what any addicted internet surfer would do. I checked out websites, blogs and chat forums for hours.

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First, all of the sites agree that a physical exam is the first step. I took Ms. Blue (who was named for her grey color which for some reason is called blue by cat people) to the cat vet. $400 later I got the good news that everything checked out perfectly, except for her high blood pressure. Of course, the fact that she relentlessly hissed, lunged and clawed at the vet and her assistant probably accounted for that spike. The vet happily reported that Blue could live many more years.

So, she has no obvious physical ailments.

Ms. Blue in her younger days, eager to travel

Ms. Blue in her younger days, eager to travel

Next, the sites say that hearing problems could be causing her to vocalize more loudly than normal. There are apparently expensive tests for hearing loss, but cat hearing aids aren’t an option as far as I know. I can’t rule hearing loss out, but there’s no solution anyway.

What about senior dementia? Just like people, aging cats can get confused and might be signaling this confusion during the wee hours of the morning. Cats can’t be asked to name the month, day and year, or the current president’s name or to count backward from 10. So, I can’t rule dementia out either, although I haven’t noticed her wandering aimlessly or losing stuff.

And then there is the possibility that in her old age, she just wants more attention. This one is the most likely, in my opinion. She definitely hangs around me more. And she begs for her Temptations treats every night before I go to bed, a practice I started several years ago when I thought it was cute. Yes, it’s possible that her middle of the night meows are for treats (which I never give her), but I don’t think so.

I think she wants to be petted. If I touch her, she settles down.

But the websites agree … DON’T DO IT! You’re reinforcing the behavior by rewarding her, they say. Ignore her, they say. Only pet her when she is quiet during the day, they say. And, don’t scold her, knock her off the bed or swat her either. She could decide that any kind of attention is good attention and come back for more.

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So, what else is recommended?

  • Feed her a meal before bedtime since a full stomach might make her sleepy. (I’m trying that one, but so far it’s not working.)
  • Play with her during the day, and then again right before bedtime, to tire her out. Sounds promising, but at 16 years of age she has no interest whatsoever in cat toys. If I bounce a fake mouse on a string in front of her nose, she might deign to swat it twice. Then she puts her head back down and goes to sleep. It tires me out trying to tire her out. And yes, she sleeps all day so that she can be awake enough to keep me awake at night.
  • And, finally, add a second cat to the family so that they can play with each other and leave you alone. They’ve got to be kidding! If Ms. Blue didn’t immediately kill the other cat, the thought of them frolicking together in the house during the night is scary. Wouldn’t I be exchanging one problem for another?

So, what can I do? My husband – after threatening to move into the guest room several times because of his interrupted sleep – actually moved last night. “I have to get up early for a meeting and don’t want to be tired”, he said. He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, which I was not. I’m taking bets on whether he’ll move back into our room tonight.

What is his solution? Put her in a big cage with her litter box, food and treats and place it in the furthest reaches of the house, far away from our bedroom. Then let her meow all night if she wants.

Did I mention that he’s a dog person?

I told him that I hope I don’t start wandering aimlessly or losing things. Maybe I should be checking to see if he is doing any online shopping for extra large cages.

Cathy Green

P.S. Seriously, I’m open to all suggestions!

P.S.S. During my internet surfing, I spotted a YouTube video that I used to think was funny. Enjoy … or not.

A Perfectionist Tackles The “Game” of Golf

I never wanted to play golf.

No one in my immediate family played, or even mentioned golf when I was growing up. I didn’t have any friends in high school or college who played. I tried it once in my early 20’s and concluded that it took too long to play, I didn’t like men scowling at me on the course, and the clothes and shoes were not flattering.

And then one day a few years ago, as my husband and I were beginning to take more time off from the business and could envision the possibility of retirement at some point he said: Why don’t you take golf lessons so we can play together when we move to Asheville?

I told him I’d think about it and then promptly decided not to think about it. But a good friend, who is also a psychologist, told me that I might want to consider Ray’s suggestion in another way. How many men, he said, invite their spouses into their lives this way? I had to admit that I didn’t know many.

So, I decided to give it a try.

Did I mention that I’m a perfectionist?

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My first lesson on the driving range didn’t go well. I kept missing the ball, no matter how big the golf club head was. I was sure the guys around me were laughing and hoping they never had to play behind me on a course.

Keep your head down, the golf pro said. Down where? Keep your body still but twist your hips, he said. Huh?

Somehow, because of or despite those directions, I finally managed to hit the ball – or more accurately, I hit the ground behind the ball which caused the ball to dribble a few feet. By the end of the hour, I was hitting the ball about half the time and knocking it erratically but at least a little further.

My second lesson was better. I seemed to be getting the “swing” of it and I actually hit the ball 50 yards or so a couple of times.

Ray thought I was ready to play. On a real course.

Will there be any players behind us, I asked. Yes, that’s the way it works, he said. Men? He gave me one of those “of course, darling” looks. But don’t worry, he continued encouragingly, we’ll just pick up your ball and move it along with us on the cart, OK?

Riding around in the cart with my ball – that sounded like something fun to do for 4 hours.

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Let me digress a little. Ray played on a college golf team, but only played occasionally throughout his business career. He once lived on a golf course, though, so I figured he knew everything there was to know about golf and that he had learned everything needed to pick up the game where he left off.

During our first game together, I moved my ball along many, many times in the cart, lost at least 5 balls in the woods or the water, scowled back at the guys behind us and kept tugging on my ridiculous golf “skort” – an item of clothing that should never be sold in any size over 4.

Ray seemed to be playing well, although I was a little surprised that some of his shots weren’t all that straight and some didn’t go very far. Was I interfering with his game, I wondered?

And then he hit an incredible drive. It sailed through the air, maybe 200 yards, perfectly straight – a thing of beauty! And, before I could censor myself, I said…

Why don’t you hit it like that every time?

I knew right away that this was not an appropriate response to his great shot. He scowled in silence. But then he seemed to realize that I had actually made this remark in total sincerity. I really thought that once you learned the game of golf, you would be able to hit the ball well – every time!

Cathy, he said, if I hit the ball like that consistently, our lives would be much different. I would be on the road with the Senior PGA Championship Tour and we would be friends with people like Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer! (I had actually heard of some of those guys).

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Point well taken.

I have now been “playing” this game of golf for a few years. Not often and not well. I threaten to quit every third time I play. I have learned not to make remarks about others’ shots. I occasionally still miss the ball, but if I can get away with it, I pretend it was a practice shot.

I’ve taken many more lessons from many more pros: Keep your head down; keep your head still; place the ball closer to your left foot; twist your body; make sure your belly-button ends up where you want the ball to go; use your shoulders when you putt; chip without bending your wrists; keep your arm straight on the backswing; follow-through; keep your weight on your left foot; don’t sway; lead with your left hand… and on and on and on. I write everything down and usually forget what it means.

But occasionally, just occasionally, I hit a shot that is incredible, if I have to say so myself. The club hits the ball with a solid “thwack”, it soars through the air and lands perfectly in the middle of the fairway and I am close enough to the green that I might actually feel good enough about this hole to put a score on the scorecard. I’ve even been known to pump my arm like Tiger Woods. And, when I make one of those shots, I’m hooked enough to schedule another round with Ray.

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I can’t say I’ve learned to love golf, but the perfectionist in me continues to think that it will “click” one of these days. Who knows? Maybe it will. Most likely, it won’t.

And the clothes? I still don’t like them.

Cathy

p.s. The other day, Ray and I attended a woman’s professional golf tour. As one of the golfers walked up to the tee, Ray whispered … you would look good in that skirt. I stared at him. Did he really mean the silky, form-fitting, short, pink polka-dot golf skirt that was being worn by a tall, thin and athletic 21-year old? He smiled at me and I realized he meant it! I decided to keep my mouth shut. It’s nice to know that he thinks it could be true.

Cathy - May 2015

Cathy – May 2015


Can You Hear Me Now? Apparently Not!

The verdict is in and my husband is vindicated. The doctor said that he is legally deaf in his left ear. (I, of course, gave my husband this information quite some time ago, but I guess he didn’t hear me.)

Because he is so thoughtful, my husband wanted me to have this news right away so that I would fully understand and respect his many requests to turn up the volume on the television. And, of course, to make sure I knew why he sometimes doesn’t answer when I talk to him.

That same doctor told me during my own annual visit that I have almost perfect hearing.

Last week, you told my husband that he’s deaf, remember?” A light bulb seemed to appear over the doctor’s head. “Oh, yeah… I guess that could be a little bit of a problem for the two of you, huh?”

He smiled.

I didn’t.

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My semi-deaf husband told me that the doctor said he could qualify for a hearing aid through our insurance, especially since the loss is at least partially due to a military service injury. “Hell, no!” he told the doctor. “I’m not going to get one of those things! I can live with it just the way it is!”

Hmm.

So, a wife with almost perfect hearing living with a husband who is at least 50% deaf … in our 60’s … spending more time together, overall healthy and looking at the possibility of another 20+ years of marital bliss.

Hmm.

According to the National Institute of Health’s website:

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults… There is a strong relationship between age and hearing loss… 30 percent of adults 65-74 years old and 47 percent of adults 75 years old, or older, have a hearing impairment.

Men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women.

Hmm.

There is actually some good news about our TV volume dilemma. For some reason, several years ago my husband abdicated responsibility for the remote control to me. A few of my women friends, who report being driven to the brink of insanity, have husbands who won’t let go of the remote for any reason.

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But here’s our scenario. Husband and I agree on a program or movie to watch (that’s an entirely different dilemma). Then, I turn up the volume to a comfortable level for me… and immediately notch it up a few more numbers. If the volume is OK, I get a nod. If not, he says “turn it up a little more” and raises an index finger. That finger keeps stabbing the air until the level is where he wants it to be.

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Occasionally, I try to sneak the volume a little lower, especially during one of his favorite types of movies – obnoxiously loud shoot ‘em ups with guns, explosions and never-ending car chases. Very seldom do I get away with it. Instead, that finger starts stabbing the air again, and I raise the volume and cringe.

Because I love him, though, and because I would probably have a hard time finding another guy in his 60’s without some kind of hearing loss, I resist the urge to stab one of my fingers into the air.

Cathy Green

Putting on my face…

As I was applying makeup last evening to go out to dinner, I thought of the old expression “putting on my face“.

I remember as a little girl watching my mom putting on her face on the rare occasions when she was going to a party. It was magical! A little mascara, some red lipstick, face powder … and voila! She was transformed into an exciting, elegant woman instead of just mom!

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So, I have now been putting on my face – in many different ways and with many different products … for over 50 years. But I realized as I was getting ready to go out last night that I have developed “degrees” of make-up application. Let me explain.

On a scale of 1 (I’m in hospice and don’t need makeup) to 10 (I’m getting ready to meet Pierce Brosnan for cocktails), I decided I was on my way to about a “7” last night. We were meeting good friends at a local restaurant – nothing too fancy. If they were new friends, if one of them was a younger female, and if we were going to a new hot spot in town, I might have tried a little harder and shot for an “8”.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I wouldn’t have settled for anything less than a “9” at ANY restaurant with ANY friends. In my 40’s and early 50’s, that might have slipped to an 8.5.

But once I hit my late 50’s and now into my 60’s, I’ll work like hell to achieve a “9” for a black tie holiday or New Year’s Eve party. Other than that, I’ll live with a “7” for a nice evening out. The women at the local CVS are likely to see me as a “3” and Ray, poor guy, get’s a “1” in the morning at breakfast and about a “5” when we go out to lunch.

Putting on a face to any degree over a “3”, of course, takes time and involves a wide array of makeup products and application instruments.

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Here’s what I used last night just to accomplish my “7”:

  • Cleanser
  • Moisturizer
  • Eye lid foundation
  • 2 shades of eye shadow
  • Brow shaping pencil (and powder)
  • Eye liner
  • Mascara
  • Eyelash curler
  • Facial primer
  • Facial foundation
  • Bronzing powder
  • Blush
  • Lipstick
  • Lip Gloss

Exhausting! And, this doesn’t even take into account all of the products and instruments used to style my hair around my face – hairdryers, hair gel, styling spray, curling irons and more!

And men wonder what we could possibly be doing for so long in the bathroom!

Speaking of men, if I would ask my husband to rate his “above the neck” effort before leaving the house on a 1-10 point scale, he’d look at me like I was crazy. It isn’t a concept he “gets”. He only needs a few items to get ready to go ANYWHERE, and many of these are optional …

  • Soap (optional)
  • Shaving cream
  • Razor
  • After shave (optional)
  • Hairdryer (optional)
  • Hair Brush (sometimes optional)

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What is even more irritating is that I’m sure that he looks in the mirror after five minutes of preparation and says to himself… “Lookin’ good! I think I’ll have a drink while I wait for Cathy!”

Note: I made the mistake of showing Ray this blog before posting it. Now, he has decided to ask me whenever we’re going out to let him know what number I’m shooting for. He thinks it’s funny. Me? Not so much.

Cathy Green

Nurse Patty 1969 and 2015

When we fabulousover60 women graduated high school and college (mid-sixties to mid-seventies) the major careers for women beyond homemaker were three: secretary, nurse and teacher. It struck me as I have attempted to “nurse” my husband post his knee surgery on January 7th that so much has changed and will continue to change since I made a decision to definitively NOT be a nurse.

Wearing my white stockings, shoes and shift dress of cheap polyester with a “Peace Now” button I entered the hospital as a would-be nurse’s aide with some trepidation back in 1969. My peace button was quickly removed by my supervisor in the first hour of my shift, and my “career view” of nursing was formed in just a little more time. “The drill” was taking orders from male doctors who you stood up for when they came to the nursing station, and doing tasks of compassion that made you feel central to the patients care, but also isolated from doing much about the overall medical outcomes or the obvious inefficiencies of some hospital routines. This was when nursing joined being a homemaker and/or a grade school teacher as definitely OUT as career choices. Business looked all shiny and new then didn’t it?real1604[1]

What this recent blip in the road of our lives (Bill’s surgery and recovery) has reminded me, is that the most mundane things I undervalued as a nurse’s aide are what is most helping Bill’s comfort and recovery. True, the surgery performed required skills beyond mine, but caretaking and support for the day to day activities of life matter more than I imaged. Making a cup of tea, straightening the sheets, helping him to the bathroom, listening to his complaints about the pain, and drying unreachable places post a shower are very good uses of my time and energy. While certainly not often stimulating, these “chores” are giving me informative reinforcement for my earlier life decisions and helping me make better decisions going forward.

My decision not to do anything for a living that was connected to serving others who were young (school teaching), dirty (everyone – cleaning is not my thing and yet I love cleanliness), ill or disabled (nursing), hungry (cooking) or disorganized (secretarial/clerical work) was absolutely the right one. I live most happily in my mind — and I love to listen to and analyze the quandaries of people’s lives and/or work—and then support efforts to improve the situation. Another good result of not choosing nursing or other direct care/support work was that now, at 65 (January 20, 2015), I am not worn out from years working in these support fields and can experience these roles freshly — rather than as an extension of an earlier career.

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Clearly, whether we did or did not choose nursing, teaching, administrative work professionally — we are going through more of just those things as we age. Our lives, and the people in them dictate that. From spouses, friends and partners needing care, younger family members needing help with young children or teens, or our inevitable downsizing/re-invention efforts requiring more organizational skills and planning we need to be close to the ground executing what we may have thought of as “mundane” or “beneath us” activities rather than working in the relatively detached vacuum of executive and professional work.

This means as fabulous women we need to think a great deal more deeply and realistically about our own abilities and our limits for caring for others, being in an educational role for younger generations or organizing and supporting downsizing strategies (rather than just deciding on them) for our lives. Few of our moms worked outside the home and for many of this “greatest generation” care-giving was natural—or at least extremely familiar. As for being an organizer and downsizing wizard, many of our parents didn’t quite handle these tasks well — some of course did, but not a few of us cleaned out our parents home after one or another crisis, and in some cases made decisions for them on next steps since they obviously, in denial, did not plan to age and/or die doing anything other than what they were doing 20 years before the crisis.

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We know we want to do better dealing with aging – but I wonder if being fabulous is going to help us actually do that or just push us into a different form of denial and inevitably messy if not dangerous situations of being ill-prepared to care for and plan with those we love; and/or become too cheap or poor to pay others to do it well. We all know boomers who are convinced becoming a 24/7 exercise fanatic will eliminate aging for them — or are still holding on to a lifestyle that was getting outdated in 1990 — along with their furniture.

I do not envy those of you who chose careers of care and are now faced with caring for those in your own life. Can’t decide if you are more at peace with knowing that your life’s work inevitably becomes everyone’s job at some point or if now in hindsight wish you too had let others do it professionally. As our mothers often said “time will tell”. But along with other decisions, we have to hurry up and make some decisions on new roles and efforts. It is easy to criticize our parents’ lack of “appropriate” planning, but I wonder if fabulous or not we are sliding into similar tracks of denial and side stepping the realities of being older and having to play nurse.

Patty

What Not To Say

One of our readers sent us a great piece about what not to say to another over 60 woman if she is involved in a change in her relationship status. We loved it and have it here. If you have comments and ideas to share with Sue about her story feel free to comment on this post or send us a message and we’ll get it to Sue.

The story got us thinking about what else not to say in difficult and often changing situations.   And, as we age, there are more “awkward” situations that test our ability to show support and sympathy but without offense. Even changes in weight or looks can cause an otherwise fabulous woman to say something inappropriate.

My favorite story of saying the wrong thing was back in 1977 at my 10 year high school reunion: “So Mary — when is the baby due?” You got it — I will never forget her face and comment “I am just fat Patty.” Alas less than a year ago – some 30 plus years later, I slipped again. Sure enough – Gloria wasn’t pregnant either. Now unless the woman is in the process of delivering I am not mentioning her having a baby.

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Here’s a few more tips — essentially here’s what NOT TO SAY when people are grieving.

Skip comparisons and bringing in your similar experience. Here are some examples I know you have heard or said. I too admit to a few slips.

  • “You know my Dad had the same cancer and they got it in time.”
  • “I was so distraught when Jan left me – I feel your pain.”

Skip assuming how other people feel — I have definitely made this mistake.

  • “You must be relieved after all the time you have been caring for h/h”
  • “It was her time – she was ready.” Having said this once and gotten my head bit off let me suggest extra caution on variations on this theme.

Forget references to the afterlife unless you are absolutely 100% positive they are believers. Even if they are believers — the timing could be off.

  • “You’ll see Harry in paradise some day soon”. A variation on this for my mother in law got a book thrown at my head.
  • “They are in a better place.”

Don’t downplay or make the person feel they were a fool ever to have gotten involved with the person, job, house or whatever it is that is now gone. And remember, just because something is absolutely TRUE, doesn’t mean you should say it!

  • “She was a bitch and everyone knew it – except you obviously. You’re well rid of her.”
  • “You won’t miss that corporate job — sure it paid the bills, but it ate your soul.”
  • “You couldn’t save him — he had to save himself.”

The older I get the more I believe in the point: less is more. Here’s a suggestion of what to say that could work in literally dozens of situations. It conveys concern and sympathy/empathy, but avoids remarks that while well-meaning, could potentially backfire.

Look the person in the eye, put your arm out to touch them in a light way — unless of course you already know they are one of those few folks who never want to be touched. Pause, and then starting with their name, speak softly and directly to the person.

“Bob/Carol I am so sorry about what you are going through (likely they are still suffering in some way). I am here to listen and help in the way that would be best for you.” Wait and determine if they do or do not want to talk, share or ask for help. Some people welcome a chance to share, others are more private, or in many cases too upset or tired to keep repeating the same “tale” multiple times.

You likely feel much better now that you have read this wonderful therapeutic blog — or, maybe not. Let me just say – be well, be happy and enjoy the day — and if the blog helps you, great — if not, just delete it.

Patty

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