Monthly Archives: November 2016

Midway

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I turn 40 in about seven months and I realize that this means I am likely about halfway through my life, and that from here on, I will slowly deteriorate physically and mentally. Already, I have learned that it takes me longer to recover from late nights and crap food and even exercise, than it did when I was younger. I find my brain sort of short circuiting when I’m tired, making it so I have a hard time remembering words and thoughts. I’m more easily distracted and have a harder time mentally getting back on track. I used to listen to older people talk about how annoying it is to get old and I would shudder inwardly and tell myself “I am never going to get that way!” Well, whether I want it to or not, it’s happening.

I have friends that are younger than me who quip “Age is what you make it!’ and “Age is just a number!” but they are fools, because there really is something ugly and unpleasant about getting older physically and mentally.

Now, I should say, to people ten or twenty years (or even only five year) older than me I am still a youngster in my prime, and have no reason to start moaning about old age yet, but it’s all relative, right?

I like to think that I’m as young and hip and elastic as I was in my twenties, but I’m not, and no amount of thinking and wishing will make it so.  Maybe with some plastic surgery…

This is the part where I should probably say something conciliatory, like even though I am no longer a slip of a young thing, I am, at nearly forty, really confident in who I am as a person and not all freaked out about what everyone else thinks—and this is true, but I still would like my 18 year old body back, thank you.

I would also like my idealism and sense of invincibility back. I would like to be taken seriously as a human being and not be relegated to “soccer mom” or “someone’s wife.” We praise the young and encourage them because they have their whole lives ahead of them and they can “be anything” they want to be.  One of my pet peeves at church is the focus on telling the kids how awesome they are. They don’t know a damn thing without the generation that came before them, and even thought my kids ARE awesome, they didn’t do it alone.  Sure, they came with proclivities towards kindness and industriousness and studiousness, but if I and my husband and a host of other people our age and older hadn’t nurtured that, my kids would probably be snaggletoothed little trolls. Let’s be real here.

Temptation and struggle don’t go away when you become a grown up and take on adult responsibilities. In fact, I think temptation and struggle intensify. Being a decent adult is hard. Attempting to be an exemplary adult is even harder. I want an A for effort. And a cookie.

Now tell me I’m pretty.

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No Regrets

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How do you live so that you have no regrets? I don’t think it’s possible. We all make mistakes that impact ourselves and others, often in ways we may not be able to foresee, and unless one is a sociopath, we will occasionally regret the things that hurt others, especially loved ones.

When we have regrets, I think we need to find, if possible, a way to rectify the damage we’ve done, or the things we’ve lost. If we cannot do that, we need to find a way to forgive ourselves and others and move forward with more understanding and compassion and wisdom. If we can do that, we will truly live a full and meaningful life.

Praise me not, my work hath yet not warm’d me…

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In Shakespeare’s play, Coriolanus, the title character, a fearless Roman warrior then known as Caius Marcius, leads a battle in the city of Corioles, and is wounded. His men admire his ferocity, but worry he is too bloodied to return to the fighting. He shakes off their concern telling them:

“Praise me not, My work hath yet not warm’d me…the blood I drop is rather physical than dangerous to me; to Aufidius thus I will appear, and fight.”

And back he charges into battle.

 Flesh Wound

Though Aufidius escapes, Marcius captures the city of Corioles and is given the honorary title Coriolanus.

When I first read this play, I was training intensely in Krav Maga, and feeling a bit discouraged because I wasn’t physically where I wanted to be with training, after recovering from a concussion some months earlier.  As I do when I’m frustrated with anything, I turned to Shakespeare for some inspiration. I had never read Coriolanus before and was intrigued by the story of this fearless, proud warrior. He’s actually kind of a jerk to the citizens of Rome, whom he feels are weak and fickle, but he’s principled and unrelenting in his commitment to those principles. And he was one heck of a fighter.

I was wowed by his words after being wounded. Nothing was going stop him from getting the job done and taking over Corioles and taking on Aufidius. He wasn’t really doing it for Rome, he was doing it for himself.  Ultimately, his pride  and his disdain for his countrymen are his downfall, but I LOVED his stick-to-it-iveness in battle, because at the time, I was struggling with wanting to quit training and feeling kind of wishy-washy about other things in my life.  Coriolanus wasn’t going to let wounds or the negative opinions of others get to him.  He believed in everything he was doing and barely even acknowledged a gaping, bloody wound as a setback.

Ah, to have such singularity of purpose! To be so focused on a mission, so determined a will to succeed! To be so excellent a fighter! His words gave me courage and strengthened my will to continue in training and rally myself for the trials in life.  Coriolanus was not driven by the desire for power, but for excellence. For whatever reason, that resonated with me. The fact that his desire for excellence turned tragic because of his unbending pride in his own superiority is another topic for another day, and maybe I’ll examine that closer when I need to check my own pride. For now, I will merely focus on his dogged determination to see a task through, come what may.

shark cat

Cheer thyself a little

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Whenever I feel down, frustrated, or intellectually stagnant, I turn to Shakespeare.  His plays and characters fascinate me, as do his words.  I won’t pretend to be a Shakespeare scholar. A lot of what I read or see (in live performances or film adaptations) would go over my head without having read online synopses or dually reading the modern translations via the No Fear Shakespeare series, but I think that’s what draws me to it.  I love words, and I love how differently they can be interpreted by stressing different words or even different syllables, or by using different tones and emotions in one’s voice.

Reading Shakespeare, or better yet, watching one of his plays performed, requires me to focus on something outside myself while giving me the opportunity to analyze and internalize what I’m experiencing.  I have seen myself in Hamlet’s undecided anguish, in Coriolanus’ self righteous, unyielding pride, and in Cordelia’s insistence on pragmatism when others want their ego stroked, and in dozens of other ways shown through as many other characters.

Participating in Shakespeare makes me feel smarter than I am and gives me a chance to experience a magnified version of life from the safety of my couch…no real life poisons, betrayals, or mistaken identities needed!