Tucson

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

Post Traumatic Travel Disorder

Last Thursday evening, after 5 months away from home base in Tucson, we arrived home.  If you read any of my blogs these past few months you know it was lots of laughs and fun – along with learning lessons about what not to do (and what definitely TO DO) when you are on the road for 5 months in multiple cities.

Sunday I backed out of the garage and knocked down our mailbox (yes, one of those steel ones with a concrete base that desert communities are fond of) even though I have a backup camera in my new car.  The car got a few “boo boos” too. YIKES. Upon reflection, I think I have a bad case of PTTD — the mind melt and trauma that happens when you do not plan to travel differently, and plan easing back in after travel as a FabulousOver60 traveler.

                  This is not actually me but found it fitting

Post Traumatic Travel Disorder is an affliction that I have noticed has been increasing in my life. While working full-time I traveled often for work – typically several trips per week flying to various places for consulting assignments.  At a certain point, I had it all down to a science.  Always packed bag ready, just what I needed and nothing else, and a clear focus on getting where I needed to be and doing what I was being paid to do.  My days were pre-planned and many evenings as well – mostly I scheduled in working out to keep my stamina high.

Now, I continue to travel – increasingly as many of us boomers are – as part of being semi-retired or completely unemployed and finally having the time and resources to take off here, there and anywhere – or, at the least somewhere.  But rather than having the travel “down to a science”, every trip seems like a fresh opportunity to over-pack, plan too many things for too little time, and making sure that any possible friend is visited or connected with when going to “their neck of the woods.”  This is of course in addition to returning home not to the same routines, but often returning to my life and home that is ever evolving to meet our changing and evolving needs.  In other words, travel used to be routine, now it is anything but.  We have to plan for it differently, not attempt to go back to how we used to travel.

I truly believe that I backed into our mailbox because of PTTD (Post Traumatic Travel Disorder).  Am going to see hitting my mailbox as a gift going forward – it helped me reflect and share what I now believe are important tips on being a fabulous traveler over 60, as well as for avoiding PTTD.

bags1. Unlike business travel, the reasons we travel now are more varied and sometimes complex, combining several agendas. Sometimes it is a family obligation (Uncle Ted’s funeral), or a social obligation (your 50th college reunion, where you also are on the board, not just attending the reunion). Or then again it could just be for fun (we’ve never been to Cleveland). That being with new or different friends with new and different routines and expectations of what matters when traveling (the Kelly’s love dawn running wherever they are).

Tip? Taking a bit of time before a trip to think about what is most important for you to experience from the trip, or a piece of it, is critical.  It helps you with choices while planning, and for remembering that every choice includes excluding things – not just choosing things.  A wise woman has expectations matched to her needs – and her plan.

2. Most of us feel blessed to have so many fewer obligations other than hobbies, or work we are truly passionate about, that we make the mistake of thinking it should be EASIER to do everything, including traveling.  But novelty (a true key to being fabulous) often means doing things differently, and doing things differently adds stress – albeit good stress.

Tip? Be much more aware of how your travel now involves unique things that, even when fun or exciting, can be tiring and stressful.  Plan to ease into going and ease into returning – rather than trying to recapture the head spinning efficiency of hitting the ground running when going or returning from trips.

3. God has helped create FedEx and the USPS. Use these services to pre-ship stuff to you destination – and ship home after the trip.  There are no more points for filling the car completely or taking two carry-ons weighing 40 lbs. each on the plane.  Not only pack more lightly but think about your neck, shoulders, and back for those times between, when you do have to carry things with you.  Less is DEFINITELY more.

Tip? Ever lighter luggage is in, and all your old suitcases/trunks or old work travel bags are for Goodwill or its equivalent.

4. Do not bring the ugliest, most boring things you own with you – thinking the boring nature of what you are wearing will make it easier to keep having to wear the same thing over and over.

Tip? Bringing  just those things that really flatter you and are light (terrific scarf, interesting gloves, simple dress, great earrings) and that you love wearing guarantee you can stand to repeat your clothes again and again and feel good as well as look good.  You want to come back with memories that include you looking reasonable and happy with yourself.  Packing right really helps.  And attitude too of course – that fabulous attitude of looking at the bright side of the newness of everything.

5. Make friends with one department store cosmetics person – go to them twice a year for the best cosmetics for you. YES, this does have to do with travel.

Tip? These ‘wizards of looking good’ will give you samples of everything great or want to try.  When it is time to travel you have lots of samples of everything you need to travel – make this a conscious effort and you will win on multiple fronts besides just travel.  Your makeup will be up to date and help support the image you want.  You will have someone to ask for advice on what works and doesn’t for you, and your lifestyle, and to help you decide what to toss and keep so you never have expired cosmetics.  If you have decided to stop wearing makeup entirely – well, Cathy (co-creator/partner of FabulousOver60) and I want to suggest to rethink that one.

Thankfully PTTD is an unexpected syndrome that can be edited out of your life.  We are so smart in so many ways – many of us just need to rethink outdated assumptions about travel in our 60s.  There is a fabulous way to do it – and a not so fabulous way to do it. Coming home stressed and ill-prepared to take it easy and let the trip ease you into your home priorities is not conducive to being fabulous.  Just ask my car dealer.

– Patty

Note: PTSD is a real and serious issue. This blog post in no way is meant to minimize or dismiss it.

My Vagabond Summer (Of Love)?

Some of you may know our lifestyle changed in 2015 to owning just one house in Tucson, Arizona.  We have spent this summer of 2016 trying to get out of the Tucson heat – obviously that hasn’t worked too well.  The whole country seems to be sizzling or pouring rain – sometimes both.  We have driven or flown to various places renting apartments, houses and also staying in between rentals with family and friends.   We have been in Santa Fe, NM, Yardley, PA and Long Island, NY – still ahead are NYC, San Francisco, White Plains, NY, Asheville, NC and Atlanta – all before returning home to Tucson in October. Like most plans, much of what we were certain would happen did not happen (we did not mind being in the witness protection program as one of our dearest friends described this lifestyle), and new things came up that have turned into gems of experience.

Here’s a few highlights:

  1. We confirmed our love for Santa Fe. It is a magical, artistic, historically a very Hispanic town with charming architecture, warm people, nearly perfect weather and a real liberal vibe.  Spending time there is like taking a course in the country’s colonial past, art history, and kindness. We made new friends with an old friend of mine from college who I had forgotten lived in Santa Fe – she and her husband fit all the descriptions above.

e876c260d04acfac2838fc98e0d9adbf

  1. We rented a house in Yardley, PA without a washer or dryer. I referred to this in an earlier blog.  The surprising event was becoming friends with the manager of the store and her niece who helped us figure out how to get back in the groove of Laundromats – we discussed work, getting raises, school, politics, and life and got along famously.  I found the connection with these great people that we have little externally in common with, super interesting and amazingly comforting for the future of our country.
  1. Episcopal churches are everywhere and yet extremely consistent. The churches are beautifully traditional and, of course, old (many were built when towns were founded), situated in the heart of downtowns, and only occasionally more than half full.  One is always greeted by people who recall the 1950s style we grew up with – charmingly formal in the sense of respecting boundaries and not assuming “being your new best friend” – softly open and welcoming, low key and anxious to make you feel you belong. It is the America some of us grew up in frozen in time.  I love these church visits and the sensitive sermons and people – like Stacy, the manager of the laundromat, comforting in these loud mouthed, obnoxious times.

CCI-120519-003-S

  1. I read serious books that touched my soul. Among them were Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me; Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, and The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb.  I feel I actually learned something real, intimate and important about being/growing up African-American, Chinese-American, and Norwegian.  The bravery of these books, their glimpse into realities of people I could never really know expanded my sense of what it means to be a human being.
  1. Finally, I fell in love. With John (not his real name of course), a late 50ish beyond handsome physician (sort of a mature JFK Jr) who is neighbor and friend to friends of ours.  Like the old time falling in love of 1960s it was both intensely sexy (in my dreams) and totally innocent with absolutely no basis in reality of any kind.  I saw him playing fetch with his black lab on the beach looking happy and carefree.  He then was introduced to me and I knew “he was the one”.  Though of course he is totally someone else’s.  Like our fabulous teen/young adult love for Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, and Rock Hudson it was both unrequited and impossible. A reminder that the pure joy of hearing “see you in September” is coming up next.

image001

Being a vagabond is working for us.  I could share so many more stories about how being loose and moving frequently is making us stay in the present moment and give up judging others.  But to be honest, I admit some nights I am looking forward to being HOME.  We fabulous women love change, our treasured summer memories, and yet miss our comforts too don’t we?

Patty

%d bloggers like this: