Spirituality

What We Can Learn From The Three Wise Monkeys

Wikipedia shares that the Three Wise Monkeys, sometimes called the three mystic apes, are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”  These monkeys have always aroused my curiosity and tested my wisdom as I have aged.

As the end of the year and the start of the holiday season begins, we all need guidance and support to not only continue to be fabulous, but to serve as fabulous role models to other women.  The holiday season tests us, doesn’t it?  You begin to wonder how to organize it and participate in it.  Before any evidence is in, we start thinking that people are not going to live up to our arbitrary holiday standards. I also get a slightly sick feeling that whatever I do it isn’t quite fabulous enough. So why not let these monkeys give us some guidance?  As fabulous women say – can’t hurt, might help.

Let’s start with Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil.

Last week while driving in Phoenix I saw a guy walking down the street with his penis out of his pants, slightly bouncing to the beat of his walk.  Not sure anyone else but me noticed.  Bill insists I was seeing things.  Phoenix is a big driving town and thankfully most of the drivers are busy looking at the road ahead rather than to the sidewalk.  Now, you may think this situation caused me to think – ‘let me see no evil’ – and ignore this man’s penis and send him positive vibes instead.  While a great idea, that is not my point.  My point is that looking or not looking at this man has nothing to do with the idea of seeing no evil.  Seeing no evil is much less about avoiding trashy news (or partially dressed people) than it is the need to purposely focus our attention on the good, the positive and the meaningful.

I may have found part of “the answer” – and tens of thousands of others have too.  It is the Good News Network, founded by a woman of course, in 1997.  Geri Weis-Corbley is the world’s first positive news expert.  One of the great quotes from readers includes this one from former Secretary of State Colin Powell: “Thank you for writing your newsletter, Some Good News. I enjoyed reading the positive stories . . . I am heartened by the goodness and generosity that I see in people . . . keep up the good work.”  All the news on the site goodnewsnetwork.org is free, although one can become a member.  And, it is not a non-profit.  You might want to check out Geri’s blog from August on their 20th anniversary and of course sign up to get the good news daily. I did and it is inspiring me already.

The second monkey is Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil.

In the Shinto religion, monkeys are important beings. There are even festivals that are celebrated in the Year of the Monkey, which occurs every 12 years.  It was the Year of the Monkey LAST year by the way.  The next one will be 2028 – we won’t be writing this blog then but we’ll still be thinking of what that second monkeys can teach us.  Like seeing no evil, the key to “not hearing” is not ignoring anything that doesn’t agree with your own narrow view of the world, but rather tuning in more strongly to those messages worth hearing.  Deciding to never watch Fox or CNN, while perhaps a sensible idea in this climate, is not a decision to hear no evil.

Hearing no evil is the fabulous positive step of seeking out voices that are aching to be heard but often are not.  The person shouting from the rooftops about some or another piece of nonsense is not worth taking our earphones out for.  We need to listen to the other fabulous women – those with the quietest voices, children’s voices, voices of the marginalized and poor – which are often drowned out. Most importantly, we need to listen to our own inner voice – the one that tells us over and over again that we are fabulous when we choose to listen with, and listen through, our hearts.

Finally, we have Iwazaru covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

Of course it goes without saying that fabulous women never gossip – except occasionally while drinking champagne to excess.  Here’s what a fabulous woman does talk about.  She talks about the holidays in positive ways.  She skips the “sad” tales of what her family or friends are NOT doing right, well, or appropriately.  She focuses on easy, fun, simple and caring ways to role model the spirit of the holidays.  She is gracious – an old fashioned but wonderful word that describes what we all wish to be: full of grace and full of love, laughter and infinite patience.  She also focuses on:

  • Good news about others
  • Her own expertise – especially when others seek out their advice in that area
  • Her own stories – never other people’s
  • Praise and more praise for everyone in her life
  • How it is she is so lucky or blessed
  • Things that make others happy, comfortable and that are truthful

Actually, there is a fourth monkey.  Remember ‘do no evil’?  Well, that’s for another blog – the one after the holidays that includes resolutions and returns.  Yikes, let’s not get into that fourth monkey or returns yet.  It is only Halloween, right?

Patty

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

Remembering What My Mom Taught Me

I had a pretty amazing mother.  If I think about what people most admire about me, or what I most admire about myself, the answer is clear.  My mother taught me the good stuff that people admire and those things I admire in myself.

My mom didn’t stop moving.  My sister Wendy and I laugh that we never saw her resting or taking a nap – something we both do regularly.   So clearly she didn’t teach us every good thing we now do.  But we both believe, she taught us our central values – to be loving, to be kind, to be a giver and to be a doer.

My mom worked when others mother’s didn’t.  She modeled being self-sufficient, motivated and focused on many important things, not just being our mommy. A strong work ethic and a drive to be successful in a meaningful way was the result of that.

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Patty’s Mom in the mid 1940s

My mom was older than other peoples’ moms – she had me at 40 in 1950 (slightly younger when Wendy was born) – considered highly risky if not down right disgusting from conventional wisdom of the time.  She worked into her 70s and was very lively and fully fabulous over 60 – some of her most productive years. Ditto us Gill girls.

My mom loved great food and great clothes.  Hard to have these two passions – one tends to make wearing the other tougher.  But somehow I do love pasta and wine even as I work like hell to keep myself in shape and wear great clothes – and not the same ones – my mom was fashionable for a long time and I picked up that drive to look stylish in a current way.

“But the greatest of these is love”. From first Corinthians, the Bible and my mother said it over and over. It stuck. If I have a choice of calling a sick friend, or finishing my new book; remembering someone’s birthday or having an early cocktail – it is my mother’s words and life that made me the women who makes the call, writes the note, or tries to be helpful and useful to others.

My mother drove me insane at times.  She wanted perfection in some ways I just could not accomplish.   She wanted standards adhered to that I came to see as ridiculous.  But I wouldn’t trade my Mom for anyone else’s.  She made me who I am—the kind woman who is still a bit compulsive.  And while not a biological mother myself, I do a good deal of mothering I think.  And any good I do, I owe to her legacy of thoughtfulness that helped me create my own version of being there for those I love.

I still miss her.  Not all the time of course.  But on Mother’s Day, I have to pause and remember how lucky I was in the “mommy lottery”.  Someone once told me my grandchildren had won the grandmother lottery getting me as one of their grandmothers.  I hope that is true, and if it is, I owe most of my great grandmothering skills to Magdalina Maria Manganiello or Mrs. Gill as she loved to be called.  I realize now at 66 I didn’t always appreciate her, and in some ways I feared her.  And, I never did get her feelings of certainty about all things.  My mom was different… and special.  I feel she made me, and Wendy, the same way. Thanks to my mom and to yours – they did a very fine job.

Patty

Reconfirming what’s important in my 60’s: Sedona Reflections

I’m at the center of world – energy wise – I am literally in Sedona Arizona.  Sedona is home to the bright red and orange sandstone formations and many spiritual paths to inner (and outer) health, wellness, peace and balance.  For many years people have come here for inner renewal.

Of course I am having a privileged time (like most things in life, gaining peace and serenity and an awesome massage continues to get more expensive every year) with Bill and a couple of our special friends who with us are thrilled to be surrounded by the intense beauty and calm of this place.

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Sedona is fabulous.  There is no doubt about it.  Over 4 million people visit Sedona each year: 60% indicate it is for a spiritual experience.  That is all I need to know to make it fabulous.  If millions come here to find deeper calmness and roots, it is more than doing its role in helping humankind everywhere.  The newly calmed and centered people make the world a better place.  Many of you likely would like to reserve some calm and centered people for your church, club, synagogue, or canasta group.  You can’t help but leave Sedona with improved intentions about all that is good.  My guess is most of us slip quickly off the wagon of resolve – but we are, despite ourselves, still better than we were before our chance to grab this energy.

Yes, it belongs on your/my new Fabulousover60 List! (See below).  This is my name for a subset of the Bucket List (see movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) that focuses on those experiences, ideas, people and places that seem musts for any fabulous woman over 60 who wants to keep the journey and being fabulous going.

This resolve to create a new FabulousOver60 List is increasing.  It is striking me weekly if not daily, that aging gracefully and being an internally/externally beautiful, good, centered, living in the present moment person is 100% harder than it sounds – and harder than ever to achieve as you age.  Here’s my solution: by creating a new list of places to go, books to read, reflections to have, joys to share, ideas and experiences that are just better as we age, it seems I will automatically feel better about all the work that continuing to be fabulous entails.

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Once I leave Sedona (tomorrow) my resolve to get the list going may fade.  But I don’t think so.  I have this crazy feeling, confirmed by a strong tingling vortex vibe I felt this morning on a hike, that we all owe each other a hand to keep feeling and being fabulous.  As the world spins, we need each other’s good energy and good ideas. We also need to work together to make sure as many of us who want to continue to be that beautiful centered caring and daring woman we continually dream and strive to be can be a wider reality for more women – not just those very privileged.

New List for staying FabulousOver60:

Entry one: Don’t quit caring about yourself in the special way we all deserve.

Entry two: Do quit all the things you know you need to quit – just stop it.

Entry three: Come to peace with losing things that inevitably come with age – but keep looking for new gems of wisdom and ways to have fun to support the continuing journey.

Entry four: Go to Sedona sometime – or at least look it up and think about it.

The list continues . . . just like we do.

Patty

Loss, Fabulous Style

Turn around and there is news of loss: Carol’s husband has been diagnosed with cancer, Mary Jane’s mom passed away at 97 after a year in and out of hospice. Or we get a diagnosis of one or another of the chronic health challenges like losing one’s hearing, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, foot aches and pains and often worse. Thankfully we are on average healthier at our age than previous generations, but we are not forever young. We are starting to wear out too, despite being committed to regular exercise and eating right. Fabulous women are if nothing else, committed to healthy living and moderation in all things. But even though we are often practicing yoga in record numbers – loss is just a more frequent development in our lives and is testing our ability to stay fabulous.

Is there a fabulous way to deal with loss? How do you still care about things like looking your best, keeping up with old friends, sharing fun events political or spiritual with folks you agree with, spending time with grandchildren or keeping up with work commitments? All that and STILL keep balanced in the face of loss which is not just appearing more frequently, but turning out to be more serious than ever?

A few weeks ago I heard some personal loss news that threw me. The day after I heard it, I was in Phoenix supposedly having a fun “mini vacation”. While looking at art, a wave of sadness hit me and I sat down on a bench in the middle of the art walk area and started to cry – and worse, did the sniveling thing – nose running and grabbing for tissues that I didn’t have. Why fabulous sisters is “having tissues at all times” on our list of must haves – and yet when we really need them we changed bags and do not have any? But I digress. Thankfully my wails took place in Phoenix (only partially kidding here) – which has enough shallow people that seeing a grown woman cry can be chalked up to a bad hair day or manicure gone wrong. Certainly no one stopped to comfort me (thank God).

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As quickly as I started wailing, I stopped wailing and went back to being semi-pulled together. But I kept thinking about how I was handling the latest in a line of losses in my life. Could I handle them more “fabulously”? Should I call lots of friends to discuss what’s up? Or perhaps sit with my news, and then integrate it into my life before telling others as time, occasion, or desire arose? How should I accept the loss into my life and proceed to place it in the right framework while maintaining and also moving forward? How do I make sure that I am not defined by any given single loss or new life condition?

Here’s some of what I am still learning about navigating loss while staying fabulous:

  • Once again less is more. Sharing in moderation over time rather than having a phonathon soon after hearing some hard news makes more sense. Re-telling a sad tale multiple times in one day doesn’t help the process of regaining balance.
  • Expect little from those you tell your troubles to. Not because they do not love you – or do not wish they could wave the fairy wand and make it go away, but because you respect that everyone is in the same boat – and maybe, MORE so. Your friend’s, family member’s boat may be sinking faster than yours and you just weren’t aware.
  • Tell people clearly you don’t expect more than an open heart and ear – but really appreciate their listening – and praying for you, or thinking of you and sending good vibrations in the universe as fits THEIR style and/or faith.
  • Treat yourself “like a princess” at least once a day especially in tough times – and know this is the best thing you can do for everyone. The better you take care of yourself, the better you manage your emotions, the better you heal yourself, the more those you love will be able to give you the love you need.
  • Being too needy is an absolute turn off in 2016. It always has been dreaded – but now, people can block and defriend you and otherwise keep you away in semi dramatic fashion. Which because there is so much over-communicating can seem more hurtful than it really is. Check excessive neediness at the door.

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Didn’t we always agree being fabulousover60 was hard work – not only often expensive? If you ever doubted that, think about sharing some tough news that just came your way – are you wailing or rejecting your fate, or comforting yourself? Sharing with the right friends and family; or, spilling your sad tales on any who will listen or pretend to? Fabulous is as fabulous does. Fabulous adult friendship isn’t about sharing bad news with others and expecting an audience who is sympathetic and totally supportive of you being in a heap. Rather it is being empathetic and also helping one another see light in our darkest hours, and supporting our own and our friends’ moves toward composure, peace, calm, positive action and self-responsibility.

Thanks to my close friends who were fabulous helping me deal with loss. Oh, and don’t anyone skip your manicure – it is medicine for you in your loss, and helpful to those who love you and want nothing more than for you to be as OK as you can be – given all of our inevitable losses.

Patty

Caveat: I am not a Luddite – but for all of you who share life, death, accidents, work travails, and other personal issues via social media, I don’t want to judge, but NO WAY for me. Putting out a loss on social media doesn’t quite seem fabulous to me. I find it too public, not serious while too narcissistic or dramatic, and too detached for me to share loss without direct conversation. Sharing tough news one to one implies that the hearer is special to us and considered part of our true circle of intimates. To me, honoring is a core feature of being and acting fabulous.

The exception is using a way to share information about someone ill who has an enormous network of family, friends, colleagues or classmates which makes sharing one to one impractical. This can and is done through online services designed to making the sharing appropriate and confidential to those needing to be “in the loop”.

66 This Week: Time for Dream Analysis

Most of us have read or studied something about dream analysis. But if the last time you thought about dreams was when you took undergraduate psychology in the 60s and studied Jung and Freud, it is likely time to take another peak. Consider looking at www.dreamdictionary.org and get informed again as I am.  Actually I hadn’t thought about analyzing my dreams in a quite a long time. Two things happened that got me “re-focused”.

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First, a sermon at Church a number of weeks ago suggested a fresh look at our dreams as a way of working on oneself to understand more of who one is, and how one can improve or grow in faith and action given the insights of dreams. Referring to the Bible’s obvious use of dreams as a means of providing motivation for action, the idea of paying a bit more attention to my dreams seemed like a good idea for my own faith journey. Since this year for the first time I am writing NOTHING about my weight on my plans for 2016, dream analysis seemed like a good idea to fill in that open space.

Second, I have decided to have a “tune up”. For those of you who have never gone to or considered going to therapy – a “tune up” is a return to the well of wisdom otherwise known as Dr. Judy in my case, or Dr. Whoever in yours. I tend to go back for tune ups every 5 years or when I think I need support for staying the course of continuous learning, growth and sanity as I age. It hasn’t failed me yet. Most of us by our fabulous 60s have figured out our recurring weaknesses but like having another fresh reminder to “let it go”. And also, we hopefully know our greatest strengths – the good stuff that makes us magical, unique and wonderful. We often need a reminder of that too as external events get us mired in complex situations, health challenges, or just off track as life often can – especially when one is older.

Keeping track of my dreams, I started quickly after the Church sermon struck me as good fodder (or content?) for my therapy tune up. My goal was and still is to discover what am I still doing, or in the case of dreams, still thinking/emoting/stressing about that I should have long ago just put to rest or resolved. While tempted to share more graphically I will not. Another person’s dreams are about as interesting as watching your best friend get a pedicure. Somethings, not nearly the number younger women think, really honestly do need to be about you alone. Dream analysis is on that list.

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My point is, try it. I was skeptical but between writing down dreams (and the website mentioned above will give you guidance on remembering if you don’t already remember your dreams), re-reading them and just reflecting on some rather obvious themes that recur, I am finding myself getting a fresh and real picture of what I need to work on to feel and be better as 2016 unfolds.

Like everything else, we don’t have time for 20 years of therapy anymore than we have 20 years to date someone or stay married to someone we don’t love, pretend to go on a diet – or, do dream analysis and therapy. With experience comes insight and perspective. And, of course discipline and appropriate focus on real issues and shooing away the rest.

A few dreams of drowning, running away or just stewing in your own juice with characters from recent movies or your own life makes it clear that dream analysis isn’t rocket science anymore than most things are. With our years of dreaming, our years of thinking about our faults, problems, issues, family, ex loves, current loves, private sorrows and the knowledge about what we have to change, most of us can relatively quickly diagnose our dreams and use that information, with or without professional guidance, to do the necessary work we need to do on ourselves.

If there is anything that fabulousover60 women have learned it is this. Be brutally honest with yourself, figure out the issue/problem, and take personal responsibility to fix it. It never was easy and it isn’t easy now. But at least at this point, we aren’t thinking there is “an answer” out there that doesn’t involve hard work on our own part. Most of us tried that approach – and have given it up for good now: at least that is what we tell ourselves – and each other. Sweet dreams!

Patty

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Remember Your EOS (End Of Summer) Rituals

Last week we spent some time in Long Island at the beach. We were taking a brief break from THE MOVE (see any number of my posts this summer) to regain our lost sanity. For those caring – yes, it did work. Emptying an American household is truly overwhelming. We boomers have all said at least once (or three thousand times) how “money is tight right now” – but we all seem to have more or less a zillion dollars of possessions – but I digress.

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Meanwhile back at the beach, I walked the seaside several times – both alone and with friends and thought about this topsy turvy summer of change. The typical and untypical birds were there – including of course Mr. Seagull – that constant of beach life. I admit I never see a seagull without also remembering Jonathan Livingston Seagull – a story, published in 1970 – an early book on love, forgiveness and positive psychology. Many boomers besides me read and connected with that book – another influence on our thinking already significantly shifted left by the 1960s.

Last week the beach was filled with little short adorable beach birds that were delightful to watch as they scurried here and there going about their bird business. And of course there was the breeze that is unlike any other feeling against one’s skin. It brought me peace. The walking, the letting go of stress, the memories of hundreds of earlier walks just like this one, but basking in just this new one and the gifts it was giving me.

Post our beach time we headed to NYC to stay on the upper east side due to our generous friends who were away and suggested we use their space. I grew up in New York. In the 1950s suburbs I remember “trips to the city” when we would dress up and go to Schrafft’s on Fifth Avenue. The memory of such times is getting vaguer and mixed up with other similar memories. I often wonder now if something is a real memory or something I saw in a movie.

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Each day I walked Park Avenue for dozens of blocks – just ambling a bit. Ambling in NYC is not possible except in August when the city is “empty” as us “natives” say – meaning you can get into a restaurant and not be bowled over by thousands walking the streets. I realized that this NYC walking was another of my rituals. Whenever I was facing issues – while at 25, 35, 45, 55 or now, I walked the streets of NYC and looked at crazy expensive stores, Central Park, old and new buildings and amazing townhouses. It is the place I think about decisions for the next 5 years – my ritual meditation on life – very little of which is spent in NYC anymore.

On Sunday while at church, I prayed for all those I love – especially for a dear friend who just underwent a stem cell transplant that truly is a gift of life. Another ritual I practice: showing up at “odd” churches and reminding myself of all that is so much bigger, and more beautiful/important than my particular life and its petty concerns. There were only 10 or so people in this charming 1872 church – guess the ritual of praying in random churches is becoming a great deal less common. That made me a little sad, but reminded me why I need to keep at it. My rituals, my places of comfort that anchor me to the past, and help me navigate the future are important. No matter where I am, I need to remember to get to the beach, NYC and an old church.

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The sermon at church was about not relying on rituals – not being a hypocrite but living and experiencing things for their essence – love and connection. Couldn’t agree more with the priest, but still need to hold to some of my own EOS rituals. Sometimes going back into a place/space of comfort becomes the exact thing that allows me to pivot back to life in the now. My heart is healed, my thoughts are clear, and I go back to a life more online than I would like, but then “the online world” too is deepened and expanded by my rituals.

Don’t forget your rituals fabulous sisters. Hopefully they do not include buying stuff – as noted at the start – enough already with the stuff.

-Patty

 

Easter or Passover – Say Hallelujah!

It’s Easter time and I have been feeling wistful these last weeks for the Easter season of my youth. March 29th was Palm Sunday this year – the Sunday prior to Easter. The celebration of Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday is the holiest week of the year for Christians. The real preparation for Easter begins even earlier with Lent, the season kicked off (in a secular way) by Mardi Gras.

During Lent we gave up things like chocolate or picked new things to focus on – like “not being disobedient to our parents”. What we ever did that was disobedient still eludes me. I think most Catholics made up sins for confession when we were under 10. We varied our limited schedules to include more visits to Church for silent reflection or to attend extra services. During holy week there were major services including Holy Thursday which commemorates the Last Supper, Good Friday with its focus on the crucifixion and the saying/going through the Stations of the Cross, which aided in thinking about what Christ went through.

Being a 1950s/60s Catholic, these traditions were not generally considered optional. And it seemed everyone went to Church, participated in these services – while my and my parents’ Jewish friends went to Temple and/or the Synagogue for Passover which we knew less about – except of course that Jesus was Jewish. Everyone seemed to be doing something important and religious. And doing it in the exact same way every year.

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Easter finery: Patty (left) and sister Wendy circa 1954. Cathy, far right, circa 1959

 

There was the ritual of coloring Easter eggs and eating chocolate rabbits once it was officially Easter. My sister Wendy and I also liked helping my mother make “Easter bread” – a delicious type of egg-infused loaf we only consumed during a few weeks prior to and after Easter Sunday. We enjoyed preparing once a year treats of “Italian cheesecake” – think ricotta cheese versus cream cheese; and pizza rustica – a sort of torta of cold cuts and cheeses in a tasty crust. Stir in new bonnets and dresses for Church and “going as a family to Church” and you have the experience.

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Easter Sunday was like Church every week — except more crowded since back then 100% of Catholics went to Church on Christmas and Easter while only what seemed like 95% went every week – with loud and strong singing and frequent ‘Hallelujahs’ and lilies with purple foil bases everywhere you looked.

It’s 2015. I realize that my wonderful memories have been utterly replaced with what? Now, Easter means only the need to attend Church if I want to (which I do), hearing from a select few friends who are deeply religious (which is a very short list) or some family members who are touched to be remembered (like my 100 year old uncle or my 95 year old aunt). Nothing else is expected – or required.

Upon reflection, I got what I wanted — the choice of what faith and what role that faith plays in my life. Easter is a day I choose to celebrate privately. I lost all the fattening parts of the holiday which tempted me: cheesecake, torta, and the chocolate bunnies as well as the endless list of should-do’s around the holiday. It is definitely harder to form and keep my own faith including holy days for myself. But that is the freedom I believe is important and what I thought (and still think) is what we as a generation stood for: personal responsibility and wonderful creative license to believe and worship as we please – what is truly fabulous.

Oh and Blessed Passover, and Happy Easter to those of you who choose to celebrate – Sing Hallelujah!

Patty Gill Webber

Obituaries As History Lessons

I am likely not the only fabulousover60 woman who faithfully reads (online or off) obituaries in their local or favorite national newspaper.

No, I did not do this under 50 – maybe not even under 55 or 60 – but at this point, at 65, I do read them. While what could be argued to be somewhat obvious — the older one is the more ‘death is a reality’ rather than something old people do. For me it isn’t so much morbid curiosity (so how did this person die?) as much as considering others’ lives as a whole and considering what (if anything) would be said about me if I died.

Many of us super competitive boomers are, if nothing else, curious how others “did” versus ourselves in the overall game or journey of life. Did I contribute as much to my field? Was I as philanthropic? What about my famous recipe that hundreds adored every holiday? Will I be missed by a large number of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? Or anyone in particular?

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When reading the New York Times, whose obituaries are often terrific history lessons, I gravitate to people in my own professional field such as the two from 2014 noted below.

Warren G. Bennis, an eminent scholar and author who advised presidents and business executives on his academic specialty, the essence of successful leadership — a commodity he found in short supply in recent decades — died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 89.”

I read his books, heard him speak, and used his expertise to help my own. Warren was an un-introduced to mentor of mine.

Lillian B. Rubin, a sociologist and psychotherapist who wrote a series of popular books about the crippling effects of gender and class norms on human potential, died June 17 at her home in San Francisco. She was 90.”

Dying in California clearly ups your chances of making the NY Times. That or it shows that smart people retire to great weather and blue states as they age.

Dr. Rubin used qualitative research — interviewing people – hundreds of them in some cases — to write her many books on aspects of adult development. In her later years she wrote often for the online journal Salon on issues of culture, politics and sometimes, but rarely, about the realities of aging. “Sixty is not the new forty” she wrote. Fabulous absolutely agrees with that point and has said so repeatedly.

*Speaking of death and dying, Cathy called to my attention obituaries’ (local ones) use of odd euphemisms to mean death. Here are some favorites: “ended her battle with cancer”, “entered heaven’s gates”, “peacefully passed”, “went to be the Lord”, “went to her rest” and Cathy’s favorite – “earned her wings”. That line was of course borrowed from It’s A Wonderful Life, the 1946 movie that encouraged people to think of being a good person before one’s death so you could “earn one’s wings” rather than just pass away (that is, die) when the time came.

Its a wonderful life

Mostly though, obituaries remind me of the very limited ways we are truly remembered. Even when famous it is nearly impossible to get more than a column or two. We have to make sure if there is only one thing to say about us, we plan our lives to make that one thing clear. Or maybe not. Actually, I really like something else about Lillian Rubin. She wrote at age 88 that she had mixed feelings about living at that age, and dying too. “Ambivalence reigns”, she wrote, “in death as in life.” Yes, Dr. it does.

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