Present Tense

I’m at that age….

I’m not sure at what age you realize that you’re getting older.  I suppose it’s different for everyone and for most of us, we really never quite feel it happening.  But, it does.

I’m at an age where I feel great, but I know and accept that I’m no longer young.  Emotionally and spiritually,  I’m morphing and growing in a productive direction.  But, then I look in the mirror and see a middle aged woman gazing back at me; which doesn’t exactly freak me out, but I do on occasion wish I was seeing my 30 year old self.

Lately, there have been rumblings around work about a need to sound ‘younger’; to appeal to a younger demographic.  To not seem so old; to try and channel my inner 30 year -old.  You know what?  I don’t want to.

I don’t want to dampen what I’ve learned over the years; it was a hard fought battle to grow up and see things through the eyes of experience.   I don’t want to edit my perspective to appear younger and hipper, when I’m not.  Young and hip is overrated, by the way; my goal is to be older and hipper…or a hippie.

As I said, I’d love to have my 30 year-old body, but my 30 year old mind, sensibility and immaturity have all been buried, never to be revived.  I’m finally at the age where I am seeing that as you get older, there is a cultural bias that I’ve most certainly taken part in as a young whipper snapper.

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘older and wiser’ for as long as we can remember, but until you get there, you don’t fully understand it.  And I should add that I’m certainly not fully there; I’m not as wise as I will be in 5, 10, 20 or God willing, 30 years.  But, I’m older and it’s most certainly starting to define me, at least to others.

I don’t want to be the old lady that preaches about how my extra years have given me extra insight (even thought it’s true).  I don’t want to turn into one of those older folks who constantly tell you how long they’ve been on the planet (I’m 53 years old).  But, it is increasingly frustrating to feel as if you DO have some wisdom and insight and experience and knowledge to impart, but the older you get, the less the younger folks want to hear about it.

As a ‘civilian’ this really doesn’t bother me; as a media professional, it’s harder to swallow.  Fortunately, I’ve seen it coming and I’ve planned for the day when I outgrow the demographic that we are charged with attracting and appealing to.  It’s okay; I’m probably happier and more at peace than I’ve been since I WAS 30, but it’s kind of sad that our culture doesn’t prize wisdom and experience as much as we prize youth and beauty.  That lament is certainly nothing new and none of us say it or think it until we’re over 50.  It’s just that  I’m at ‘that age’ where I’m seeing that older people can fade into invisibility, thanks to this cultural bias against “old people”.

I began to internally disengage from my public persona a few years ago.  I didn’t do it consciously, but maybe I was sensing that getting older could mean I would begin to lose value, professionally.  Accepting that I have changed and morphed and possibly outgrown that persona has been a fairly easy transition.  We all evolve in our relationships to work, other people, and our families; it’s inevitable and it’s probably easier if we anticipate it and accept it.

I’m flying back to Michigan to visit my 93 year-old parents in a couple of weeks.  At their age, every minute is precious and for the first time, I plan to sit with them and ask them what they’ve learned; what they can teach me as I approach the sunset.  They’ve taught me plenty, through their guidance and example, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never looked them in the eye asked them to teach me.  This time, I will.

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 16 Comments


question“Enlightenment is a destructive process.
It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier.
Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth.
It’s seeing through the facade of pretense.
It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”

From destruction comes growth.  We see it everywhere, in everything.  I live in the mountains where  we saw a devastating mountain pine beetle outbreak kill millions of trees.  We watched the trees turn from healthy green to brown to red; red means dead.  In order to mitigate the outbreak, many trees were clear-cut and hauled away.

Now, as I walk around the area I see new growth; hundreds of thousands of new little trees.  We see more of the mountain peaks that were obscured by the big trees before the outbreak.  From devastation comes growth and a new perspective.  Nature is an amazing teacher.

About 3 years ago, I began the process of trying to rebuild me. I felt decimated by some of my choices and there was nothing to do but dig around in the ashes and look for some building material.  In all honesty, I was hoping that my spiritual and religious quest would bring me comfort; a soft place to land.  I wanted something that would make my crappy choices ‘all better’.  Honestly, I think I was looking for a substitute for the self-medicating effects of alcohol that wouldn’t ruin my health or further damage my relationships.  That is not what I found.

I found that there is no soft place to land; at least not for me. Once I started deconstructing me and really delving into religion and spirituality, I developed some new perspectives.  These new perspectives forced a re-evaluation of the old perspectives and it turns out that there just isn’t enough storage in my hard drive to keep the old ones around.  Particularly since the old ones weren’t all that great to begin with.

It’s interesting to try and go back and remember why you formed an opinion to begin with. If we’re honest, a lot of us just picked up stuff from parents or teachers or friends or co-workers or some idiot media pundit.  A lot of our beliefs are passed down to us, like our eye or hair color.  It’s what we heard our whole lives and so we absorb it without question and then we add to it by finding others who reinforce those beliefs and we point to them and follow them and idolize them and say, “See? I was right all along”.

I was a typical opinion/belief/philosophy sponge until I realized that whatever was animating me wasn’t really working all that well.  Once you hit ‘rock bottom’ you gotta find a way out and in my case, that meant a bit of therapy, a lot of books on religion and spirituality and a slow awakening to how closed I was to other ways of seeing the world.

We are all very invested in our truths; our core beliefs that we ride like a life raft, through good times and bad.  It doesn’t make them right or valid; but they are comfortable and they’re ours.  What I began to see is that people who may not share my beliefs and opinions feel the same way about their life raft.  So, who’s right?

That’s the uncomfortable part, you see.  None of us are right.  None of us know what’s true.  We may believe that we do, but that’s a false premise because life is random and unpredictable and full of so many variables and unintended consequences.  There is no soft place to land; no marvelous truths that we can solely and unequivocally rely on.  Does that concept scare you or make you uncomfortable?  Or am I completely full of crap?

Doesn’t matter, really.  Life will unfold as it will, no matter what we believe is true.  And that’s okay……

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , | 7 Comments

Breaking Up With My Ego

I’ve had a feeling of buoyancy and lightness for the past couple of weeks that is foreign to me and I’ve been warily observing and circling these feelings like a cat stalking a moth.  It kind of pains me to admit this, but I have to credit an Oprah book club selection for this sea change in my outlook.

I read Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” after some prodding from a friend.  I have a bias against Oprah’s preachy, airy-fairyness, which is ironic since I am right at this minute embarking on the same thing in writing this post.  The book appeared at exactly the right moment in my journey.

In a nutshell, Eckhart Tolle teaches that when we learn to let go of our ego, our need to be right, our need to be important, our need for status, our need to stand out from others, we will find peace and enlightenment.  This obviously flies in the face of everything we believe in the year 2013.  It’s an age of rampant ego, self-righteous arguments, expensive status symbols and constant cries for attention.  That is our culture in this era of reality shows and Kardashians.  I am increasingly uncomfortable with certain aspects of our culture and that’s probably why the book resonated with me.

In my opinion, religion and spirituality are very personal and internal; we can only control ourselves.  That’s it. Bottom line.  No matter how much you want to control the rest of humanity, you cannot.  And so the constant complaining about other people’s stupidity, rudeness, ignorance, hate, godlessness, lack of common sense and everything else that they do differently from you, is a waste of time.  It feeds our feelings of division and separateness from other humans.

We all know it’s wrong.  I take that back.  Most of us know it’s wrong, but it’s so easy to always blame someone else for the ills of society, isn’t it?  It’s hard to look at ourselves and our actions and our beliefs as contributing to the ‘breakdown in society’.  We are not accepting of other points of view and are so obsessed with protecting our viewpoints and beliefs that we shut out others who aren’t of the same mindset.  Tolle points out that this is our ego speaking.  I think that it’s our ego throwing a massive tantrum.  All the time.

Our ego is like a protective shell that we develop throughout our lives.  It’s comprised of the things that are comfortable, but not always valid; things that we think are ‘true’, beliefs and opinions that we’ve held so long that they are like an ingrown toenail; it would be way too painful to excise them and so, they fester.   Our lives change but we hold onto our ego, our protective shell and unlike a hermit crab that sheds it’s shell once it outgrows it, we hold onto the old one. And we cease to grow.

We fuss and fight to the death to protect the ego; this collection of hard, crusty opinions and beliefs that we never question.  We allow it to define us and then we play the role that our ego requires to keep it crack free and intact.

That is no way to fulfill the promise that our creator gave us as humans.  We are supposed to grow and morph and evolve in our lives.  Watch a tree or a storm or the ocean or the solar system.  Growth, change, destruction, life, death, devastation, birth.  That is our life; that is our destiny.

We live in stagnation because that’s how our protective shell works.  We trudge through our days, waiting for some future event that will suddenly make life worth living and we do nothing to allow newness and growth.  We play our defined roles (yes, I’m referring to me here) without question because it’s easy, it’s our routine, it’s what our ego allows inside our little shell.

Here is what has given me this lightness and buoyancy:  It occurred to me that I have to stop; to crack my shell.  I am not required to continue down this path.   We can all choose a religious/spiritual path that is personal and internal.  We can say ‘screw you’ to the ego that drives all of our boring, routine and many times, hostile reactions to the rest of the world.  We can be free of the restrictions that we have imposed on ourselves.

I’d been rolling all of this around before I read the book.  I had a feeling that I wasn’t living as authentically as I knew that I could and it was eating at me. I know that I tend to react too quickly and too predictably when I feel challenged or criticized or fearful.  My ego wants to win every argument, vanquish my opponent and revel in my superiority.  But that really doesn’t make me happy.  Because there is always another argument, another opponent, another ego to grapple with.  Do I feel good after these conflicts?  No, I don’t.  I feel empty and alone and kind of stupid.  It doesn’t fulfill me to be ‘right’; in fact, it diminishes me.

So, I decided to try and stop reacting according to my established patterns.  I can accept that life is random and painful and beautiful. I can accept that it’s my reactions that are key and that my reactions don’t always have to follow the rigid rules of my ego.

If this resonates, read the book.  What can it hurt?  You might start to see a crack in that shell and a crack lets in light and light makes everything clearer.

January 13, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , | 12 Comments


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