Birthday! Walk in my shoes…

 

shoes

Still love crazy shoes after all these years…

Today is my birthday and of course I am introspective….life goes by very quickly. When people tell you time flies, believe them and use it well. Life is a racehorse, but living a life is all about the journey, not the finished line.

The speed with which I have arrived at this point is absolutely stunning, the speed of light to me, in retrospect. I would tell you how old I am but it is truly, most of the time, unimportant to me and I also want it to be irrelevant to you….except for today. Today I want to celebrate it, then I want to forget it for a long while. At least a year, OK?

If I told you how old I am you very likely might pass judgment about what kind of person I have become and how I like to spend my time and what I like to do and who I like to do it with, what turns me on (yes I can still get turned on, thank you very much) and what types of activities and which places on the earth I return to again and again because they fill my heart and soul with wonder and delight. I can get high on life in the blink of an unsuspecting eye, all of a sudden giddy with its miracles and gifts; inspired by just a film, a great dinner with friends, a good painting,  a boat ride across gorgeous water, a beautiful stone or a deer in the woods.

A hearty laugh. Especially that.

If you knew my age I would be willing to bet you would be grossly underestimating my current situation and my potential. I can still dream big. I have plans. I want days packed with joy and surprise. I paint, I write, I travel and walk on mountains, beaches and among ancient ruins, I cook more fabulous meals than when I was younger and I walk on the edge a little bit more with my beliefs about the world; I refuse to be stagnant. I am flexible, I am a good judge of character after all these years., but I try not to judge.

I am in love. With life, with my friends and family, vistas and views, Amy lifestyle and one magnificent man who deserves me, and I him.

I have incorporated much of what I believe about life inside my third book, a brand new novel titled A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON. It is the life story of one artistic girl who learned about life and love the hard way… a love story about art and creativity and the misguided choices she made…but it has a super ending. You would enjoy it – available on Amazon.com – and a perfect holiday gift.

artIMG_7670

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The Creative Epiphany – Giant Redwood-like Birthdays

sunone Muir Woods, California

Today I am having one of those epic birthdays, right on the heels of Thanksgiving, that are thrust upon you to get your complete attention and sober you up about life. I am beginning to feel like a giant Redwood. Last year launched me involuntarily and against my protests into a new decade and now, a brief, fleeting, sort of nano-second year later I have my first year of that decade already under my belt. My belt is tightening with all the decades under it. When I was growing up I never could imagine I’d be this old, and I thought that if by any chance I was, someday, this old, I would be at death’s door – shriveled and feeble and ditsy and wrinkled and not having any fun at all. Might as well be dead, I thought.

I am none of those things, to my own amazement. I walk normally, I can still run and climb steep mountain trails, I am not at all feeble, and/or ditsy. I have a gorgeous boyfriend and yes we are lovers. I am a bit wrinkled but so are my younger friends, and I am having Tons Of Fun, enjoying one of the greatest periods of time in my life. Who knew it would be like this? I still listen to the R&R station on the radio when I drive because it is upbeat and infinitely more energizing than the news talk shows. I do believe that the channels you listen to on the car radio are revealing of your internal state of affairs. Please don’t listen to those idiotic and arrogant “spouter – offers” who seem to want every single person on the planet to believe as they do. They will pollute your day, robbing it of any optimism and cheerfulness, and eventually sour your mind and your soul on life. Listen to the fun stuff.

Yesterday around the Thanksgiving table we were discussing how old all of us are. Finally I offered the info to my sweet 5 year old great-niece that I was going to be 71 today. Her eyes widened, she looked at me and said, “Great (she drops off the “aunt” ) Jo, you are going to die!” Everyone laughed and I was the first to agree with her. But I am not dying today. I am nowhere near being finished.

Honestly, composing this blog is my attempt at brushing off this birthday with clever observations when in reality my birthday is always a deeply emotional moment in time for me. Last week I was reminded again and mourned again the fact that JFK was killed just a week before my 21st birthday. I can’t say that I enjoy birthdays anymore when they are my own. I have a reputation for making other people’s birthdays special and spectacular, but not my own. I see my own as harsh reminders. I am always glad glad glad when the day is over and I can stop the celebration. I can’t wait to move on…..I appreciate everything that loving people do for me, but moving on is my desire.

What I will say to you now is nothing more than the obvious – life seems to grind along most of the time like a slow and heavy wheel, but it is a true phenomenon that when you get older the years begin to fly by. I first noticed this when I turned about 50. The number of years you have lived are greater in length and represent a higher percentage of your probable lifetime than the years you have ahead, and so an urgency settles in. You have that feeling – that looking over your shoulder feeling – that something is chasing you. Instead of trying to run faster, you understand that no matter how fast you can still run, the years are gaining on you, gobbling up your time. You have a lot you want to do and an indefinite period of time in which to do it. If you are an artist, as I am, you know that you are painting better than ever but the payment you make for that reward is a loss of time. Every single day is precious, every holiday, every visit, every moment. Every brushstroke on your canvas has to count.

Gratitude is a word you begin to use more often. Thankfulness. Astonishment at your blessings. But you want to feed the hungry children, save the whales, see peace in your lifetime, witness miracles, travel into space, and leave a lasting legacy. You wonder about lost opportunities, you have experienced forgiveness, you hope for second chances, there are mistakes you can still correct….. you often feel unworthy…..you would like to believe in reincarnation. You value living in a country where life itself is the greatest gift and every life is valued, a country where we can all make a difference and freedom is the consistent, primary focus.  But it’s getting late.

It is my 71st birthday right now but tomorrow I will be ok again.

The Creative Epiphany – Re-opening Doors

Moroccan Door

“There is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen.” – Hugh Prather

Last week I re-opened the door to a new, deeper friendship with an acquaintance I have had for years but seldom seen. We had lunch, for less than two hours, but it was a such a quality conversation about art, life, etc.  – time well spent in other words  – that I wished it could have continued long into the afternoon. It was a brilliant moment in time, most informative and encouraging, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned and how uplifted I felt as a result of that lunch. It was just what I needed and apparently my friend felt the same intellectual connection. I will be seeing more of her. Thanks for your valuable time Jane!

I have recently been concerned with how I spend my time….and I do mean SPEND. It is a commodity that is limited, precious and of great value to me – in regard to time, I am no longer wealthy. Suddenly I am on a time budget because I don’t have forever anymore. Remember when you felt that your life stretched out before you and time was plentiful? Those days are gone for me. A sense of urgency has roughly, rudely, nudged away any comfortable, mental lounging around and replaced it with a “hurry up and do it now” kind of antsy-ness. My new normal state of mind is that I am freshly agitated every single morning, at a time when a lot of people my age are picking up speed with their lack of activity….under the false assumption that they have time enough left to waste.

It is a daily challenge, feeling the urgency of life’s timeline. It is sometimes energizing and other times frightening, or even at certain junctures, downright ridiculous. It is easy to feel foolish about some of the things you find yourself doing. Should I keep my appointment to get a haircut at 1pm or do I have to start planning my trip around the world this afternoon instead? I may not have time for both…

Why don’t I have more stuff on my bucket list? I am missing about a thousand things or more – I need to look around for some other stuff to add and compiling that list will take some time. But I also must save time to paint a great body of work. People are asking me for a third book – I have one lying dormant on my PC right now that could be brought to life with a few breaths of oxygen and a slap in the face.

I haven’t seen my relatives in Ohio for the longest time but I need to see Bangkok. Guilt. What to choose.

So I begin to paint a fresh body of work, wondering how long that will take, measuring NOW against how long it took me when I was relaxed and had time for enjoying the journey. I want to enjoy the journey, I really do, but the stretch of highway I am traveling on is going off the right edge of the map. I know that painting while relaxed is so much more successful than painting in a hurry. But I am….usually….in a mental hurry. I need to smell the roses.

Not ever intending to be maudlin, at least in public conversation, I am usually able to temper my “lack of time terror” with humor and a staunch denial of the numbers of life. The birthdays. The decades. The number of summers I might have left. That’s just way too real for me. I prefer to live in the LA-LA Land part of my brain where I am convinced that the sixties are the new forties and the seventies are the new fifties. I heard that on TV and I want so badly to believe it. HUH? Laughing at that, are you? Wait until you are right there in life….you are suddenly willing to bargain with the devil, the statisticians, the medical researchers and the doubters all at once as the ever growing doom & gloom group they are. Whatever the hell works at keeping the life in my days and the optimism in my years is what I am hanging onto. I actually believe it is almost all mental, but as I say that I look over my shoulder to make sure an unannounced  train is not approaching. Luck certainly plays its part.

Anyway, finding a “new” old friend who speaks my language and lights up my life and who is wise, funny and smart is a true blessing. You are defined in large part by the company you keep and the things you think constantly about, so I am grateful to have a generous handful of quality people around me. The older I get, the more I realize that spending any of my hard-earned time dollars on people who bring me down and contribute less than a quality experience to my precious schedule are sooner or later going to become expendable. Unfortunately I just don’t have hours left in my days for the whiners. If a friend of mine needs help, or a shoulder to lean on, I am 100% in and available, as everybody in my life knows, but if I hear nothing but superficial moaning, groaning and complaining – well then I am sorry but I no longer have the time for that.

Gotta run.

The Creative Epiphany – Life is a Three Ring Circus

 

oct11 002 Painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott titled Red Sea at Night, Sailor’s Delight

As I was having dinner with a couple friends the other night we happened upon the subject of getting older – a subject we don’t dwell on here where we live but it does rear its gray and wrinkled head from time to time. We live in  a  lovely 55+ active senior community of over 7,000 households that affords us many choices for how we might enjoy spending our leisure time. Sun City here in Lincoln, CA is a state of the art senior retirement area that has it all. We are located in the rolling hills leading into the Sierras, halfway between SF Bay and Lake Tahoe, so we can certainly keep ourselves busy when we go “off campus” as well. There are many people here who still work, and many who do very well at staying productive and relevant although they are completely retired. I have had a part-tine job here for the past 3 years teaching adult art classes, so I fall somewhere in the middle. The lifestyle we wake up to every morning is a positive example for anyone over 55 who is dedicated to staying active and young at heart for as long as possible.

One of my friends mentioned that she doesn’t like to volunteer her age in social gatherings because some rude harsh realists instantaneously make a judgment to themselves about her when she does – mentally placing her in a category they see as appropriate to that number, thus stereotyping her based upon no actual factual information. It drove her crazy – she could see it happen before her eyes. They either made remarks of utter amazement at her ability to stay looking and acting so young, as if she was some mutant who had drunk from the fountain of youth, or they saw her as doomed any minute when her age finally caught up with her. So she made a conscious decision to be “age-free” similar to some people who never discuss their weight and refuse to acknowledge a scale.

They said recently on TV (and sometimes we want to believe what we hear on TV) that 70 is the new 50. Well! That got the attention of many people I know. You can call this denial or readjustment of numbers a silly tactic or you can call it clever marketing….. I happen to believe it is no one’s business how old you are or how much you weigh. Who cares. I certainly don’t. But I will say this – when you arrive at certain pivotal markers in life, you do begin to realize that you may no longer be in the “center ring”. You pick up on subtle clues…in a heated discussion of some topic, for instance, involving a group of people of which you are the oldest, you realize that no one cares what you think. No one asks, no one wonders, no one directs the conversation your way. Or perhaps a group starts making plans for an activity that is quite physical, maybe a hike, and instead of asking if you’d like to participate, they assume it’s going to be too strenuous for you and leave you out of the plans. No one wants to be dragging your sorry ass up the trail. And maybe it is too strenuous, but an invitation would still be nice. Please let me hold onto my dignity; I will decide what is too strenuous for me. Maybe I’ll die trying but that’s for me to decide. Maybe I’ll just stop halfway up and eat my lunch.

It is difficult to start feeling irrelevant long before you really are. Many cultures include the older members of the family in their extended living arrangements, and that seems to me a great way of elongating  the productive years for seniors. There is usually something we seniors can contribute to the family whole that is valued and helpful, and being included in daily conversations and activities of the people you love is a crucial to feeling relevant. It has been proven that longevity is far more likely if accompanied by a healthy and happy quality of life that gives you several reasons to get up in the morning, whether it is a garden to tend, a pet to feed, a child to read to, a porch to sweep or just a friend to have coffee with on a regular basis.

The circus of life does have 3 rings, and even a carnival side-show. The trick is to figure out how you can continue to be productive in some arena. Then after that, be a little assertive about holding your place in the order of things. Don’t vacate your hard-fought territory.  Offer your opinions, laugh and listen to the conversations around you. Insist on being the same you that you have always been. This is not our parents world; this is not Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet. This is the brand new 21st century and the statistics say we are going to be around longer. However we choose to handle ourselves as active seniors, you can be sure we are being observed. We are the new Poster Children for active senior living. Let’s make some noise about it and leave everyone proud we were here for so long.