Grief, Uninvited

Grief is such a rude visitor.

It comes uninvited and too often, unannounced, and it outstays its welcome.

Emily Dickinson‘s poem, “Death,” describes well the rudeness of death, but death’s companion, grief, is much more pesky. It teases and taunts us, making us feel like we are getting better (and perhaps we are), but then it pulls the rugs from under our feet, and we find ourselves falling down into that empty hole that death left behind.

I thought about that as I listened to a person describe how horrible it has been for her since her husband died. It has only been two years, I think, as she speaks. Grief usually stays much longer than that …but this woman wanted grief to go away, and stay away, so that she could get herself together. Grief was not obliging her request and desire, and she shared that she was sinking into a deep depression.

“My soul aches,” she said. “It’s like my soul wants to vomit something up…but there is nothing there. It’s like I wretch and wretch but nothing comes up, and the wretching won’t stop.”

Were that there were an easy way to get rid of grief. Unfortunately, it is a process that takes a good bit of time to be eliminated to a point where we can function. Even after that huge block of time, grief remains a scar on our souls; there are scars there which belie a wound that was once gaping and ugly and at times, infected with anger and fear and confusion about how death or some other tragedy could have come and wreaked such havoc in our lives.

The only thing we can do in grief is to respect it – give it room to do whatever it is doing as it lingers within us – but then breathe good, deep, cleansing breaths when it takes a reprieve. We find that we go from living moment to moment, to living hour by hour, then day to day…sometimes slipping back to the moment-to-moment or hour-to hour mode, but consistently coming out of such a haphazard way of living to something more like we remember “normal” being.

I think that when our souls ache from grief, we should let them ache. We should “go with the flow” as our souls wretch with this unspeakable pain that is obviously trying to come out…because sooner or later (probably later,) the retching will stop. The acute parts of grief will have been gotten rid of, and we will be in a position to begin the healing process. We might as well go with it, because we certainly cannot direct or control the process.

When the retching finally stops, we know that we are at least getting to the possibility of putting the tragedy or loss in a place where we can see it and not have a violent reaction.

I guess that’s called life.

A candid observation …


Girl Talk: Oh! The Shoes!

Christian Louboutin shoe at BATA Shoe Museum. ...
Christian Louboutin shoe at BATA Shoe Museum. The mirror display shows the red sole that his shoes are famous for. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a time when shoes meant nothing to me.

Growing up, we had, basically, three pairs of shoes each: a pair of black patent leathers for Sundays, a pair of school shoes, which might be Mary Jane or loafers or saddle Oxfords and, in the summer, a pair of Keds gym shoes.

I wore black shoes with everything outside of school… and so it was no big deal to me when, after I grew up, to wear black shoes with everything too.

But my girlfriends saw that I needed training. One didn’t wear black shoes with everything, they told me, just like one didn’t wear bell-bottomed jeans in the 80s, even if they were pressed and creased…

And so began shopping excursions where my girlfriends taught me the fine art of shoe shopping. They challenged me to try different colors (to go with your different outfits, for goodness’ sake!), different styles (you can’t wear the same style in 14 colors, Susan!) and different designers.

It was a whole new world!

I thought about my transformation today because I saw a colleague of mine wearing a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. I recognized them because of the red soles; closer examination with my now fine-tuned eye for shoe fashion revealed that they were in fact the real thing. I had to chuckle, because there was a time I would not have noticed nor would I have cared.

It has occurred to me that a girl has to have diversions, and shopping for shoes is about the best diversion I know of, other than reading. There is a joy in finding just the right pair of shoes, at, of course, the right price. My obsession is with dress shoes, but I have girlfriends whose obsession is boots, others crave sneakers, and others, sandals. We don’t need these shoes. We want these shoes.

The earliest shoes appeared to have been created in the Middle Paleolithic period, about 40,000 years ago. During a period of time known as the High Renaissance, women wore slipper-type coverings over their feet, usually made of brocade or some other fabric. Because the slipper was not waterproof, the women (and men) had to wear what was called a “patten,” which was an overshoe made of wood with a raised sole, so the wearer’s feet would stay dry. Women also wore what were called “chopines,” which were again, overshoes made of wood, sometimes very high. These chopines were often so high that the women who wore them often had to have their servants (or friends) help them walk and stay upright. Despite the discomfort, and a periodically disappointed suitor who thought he was marrying a very tall beauty, only to find out that her chopines made her much taller than she actually was, the obsession with shoe fashion continued.

Some chopines were reported to be 30 inches high! They were eventually outlawed, as they were thought to have caused too many women to suffer miscarriages.

Ancient artwork on caves in Spain show pictures of men with animal skins wrapped around their feet, and people who lived in very cold climates, it has been learned, sought to cover their feet as well.

But those were functional shoes…we women, it seemed, took shoes to an entirely different level!

At the end of the day, does it make a difference what we have on our feet? In some developing countries, women wear no shoes at all, or, at best, they wear flimsy flip-flops. Clearly, people in poor and developing countries are more aligned to the original purpose of shoes: to protect the feet.

But it seems that as early as the Renaissance, or maybe sooner, women became fascinated with footwear, a fascination which has only increased with time. Many of us are just plain self-indulgent as we address our “issue” with shoes.  I try to justify it by noting that my standard price of shoes is about $59.95; in other words, I am not extravagant or reckless in my shoe shopping. That makes the obsession better, right? Probably not.

I suppose I could go back to wearing black shoes with everything, like I did coming out of my youth, but having this obsession is a lot more fun. After all, a girl has to have diversions …

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: Getting Older

Fuck You AARP
Fuck You AARP (Photo credit: martymadrid)

Some things about getting older are funny as hell.

Like, when you turn 50 and you get the AARP card in the mail. I resented it when I got mine. Did I ask you for this card?  Turning 50 was interesting enough without getting that little reminder. There’s something about being half a century old that takes a few minutes to get used to.

But other things are funny. Like gray hair in the eyebrows and eyelashes. When you’re younger, you don’t think about the fact that all hair on one’s body has the capacity to turn gray. I first noticed a gray hair in my eyelashes while I was driving, and looking for hairs on my chin in my rear view mirror.

Those, too, are funny.

But my eyelashes? Seriously? Once I saw that, I would do a witch hunt every day, looking for the little unwanted visitors, tweezers in hand. And yes, I did tweeze them until I realized they were not really growing back, gray or otherwise. While I hated (and still do) the gray eyelashes, the alternative of not having them at all was not acceptable.

Chin hairs! What in the world? They come onto our chins, again uninvited, and stick out, like little sticks. There are gray ones there, too. Sometimes you cannot see the little gray ones, but you can feel them. I thought about making it explicit that when I die, whomever “does” me makes sure the chin hairs are gone.

I am fortunate; I don’t have stiff joints, and my health is good, but the physical signs of getting older have truly amused me. Once, when I was a tad late in getting the rinse on my hair to get rid of the gray, a guy came up to me and said, “look at all that gray!” Oooh! Needless to say, I left church and went to get my rinse.

Then there are the wrinkles. I have deep wrinkles in my forehead, so I have gotten a couple of creams to see if I can lessen them. How about NOT?  Every time I hear the commercial that says, “Is your anti-wrinkle cream gone…but your wrinkles are not?” I laugh out loud. I am not going to do Botox, and walk around with a frozen face, but the deep creases in my forehead kind of make me laugh. They are stubborn and are here to stay.

The cellulite is pretty interesting. How did that happen? I can remember seeing “old” women with “funny looking legs,” and now I am one as well. Seriously?   Will doing my ballet stretches help to alleviate that? Time will tell…but geez! Who invited the cellulite? It came stealthily, quietly, and when I look at my legs, I promise it looks like the cellulite is smiling at me, victorious.

This process of transitioning from what we used to look like to being “older women.”  is immensely interesting …and funny!  My sister said she passed a mirror once and backed up and looked again, asking, “Who is that old lady?”  How about I know that moment well.

Everything changes. Our necks change, and Kathy Lee Gifford says that we get “peach pits” instead of sexy cleavage. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but I suppose it’s coming.

I am not complaining. I am glad to be older, yet alive and healthy. I do not think being attractive or not looking old is the ticket to having a good, full life. I have plenty of friends who are not so old, and who are very attractive, who have empty lives. Mine is not empty, nor will I allow it to be.

But it is funny how this physical part of  getting older thing just kind of crept up on me. I concentrate on eating well and being active so that no matter how old I am, I feel good. There are some things I’d like to do before I get too old to enjoy them like I’d like to, things like visiting the Pyramids, and the Great Wall of China.

I am writing this because I am hoping that more and more of us women are looking at ourselves getting older and are smiling, not panicking or becoming depressed.  The cosmetic industry absolutely counts on us panicking and spending tons of money on creams that will never get rid of our wrinkles, but make us feel like we’re doing something to fight the inevitable.

Rather than spazzing out over getting older, it would be nice if we just “walk in it,” and be as elegant and as classy as we can, kind of like Helen Mirren or Betty White or the late Lena Horne. Better that we thank God for one more day, wrinkles and all, than to waste a single moment being sad that we are going to get older and continue moving away from our young, fresh look, no matter what we do.

We are no longer young and fresh; we are seasoned and mature. We are beautiful, that beauty defined by the trials and experiences we have been through. Better that we bask in that reality than to create or recreate something that will never be again.

Getting older is funny…but a blessing.

A candid observation …