Tuesday, November 19, 2019

What Now?

So, what now?

A year later now and I’m asking myself what I have gained from this giant stride outside my comfort zone.

Certainly, I’ve discovered I’m a stronger, more capable person than I ever thought a 69-year-old version of my puny self could ever be. I always assumed that once over 60, the body would decline as well as the mind. I’ve proven to myself this isn’t necessarily true. In some respects, I am even better than I was 40 years ago. For example, I can do the splits and stand on my hands. But that's another story.

The journey:

 The effort I spent on the cardio machines this last year at the gym has really paid off, though not as completely as I thought. I Imagined the work I put in would get me through the dance routines with hardly a huff or a puff. Wrong. Although I don’t feel like I’m going to piss my tights for lack of control, I’m still heaving when the curtain comes down. But the time it takes to recuperate has lessened remarkably. In less than three minutes, I’m sitting in front of my makeup mirror craving a cigarette. 😉

With the newfound stamina, I was even able to put an extra movement or two in the routines. Last year at this time I was thankful not to hear the sirens of an ambulance during the last number.

Which means I’ve finally been able to drop the fear that my drawn-out dancing career will end in cardiac arrest.

Another plus point: now, when I inadvertently refer to myself as an old man, it comes out like a joke and not an excuse for my declining energy level. ;-)

And finally: that I survived and improved both physically and mentally has given me the courage to bite off new projects. Granted, none of them are as harsh as this one, but still a lot more prodigious than getting up off the couch and going for a pee.

On the other side, I’m still wondering how I’ll feel when the music dies out after the last performance this year when I will be that much closer to 70. At the moment the outlook is good.

Granted, unsurfaced fears are still standing in line waiting for my attention, but their voices are subtler than they were last year; as different as Charlie Brown’s phobias to Edgar Allen Poe’s.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Nine miles outside the comfort zone

Little wonder people retreat more and more to their comfort zones when they get older, even though they may know: real life is happening outside its borders. Beyond this place of comfort lies experiences waiting to be discovered, circumstances that quicken our spiritual growth, a reality that allows us to be far more than we are allowing ourselves to be.

Piss. You’d think it’d get easier with age.

Lying on the floor in front of the couch watching TV is so satisfying on so many levels, none of which is very invigorating. Shopping is another item which promises a lot more than it delivers. As frustrating as it sounds, stepping outside your imagined boundaries is the only way to get a glimpse of your true grandiosity. I guess the old adage: no pain, no gain, really does apply.

Boo. A hot soak in the tub sounds so much more inviting.

A born dancer, I ended my career 13 years ago at the age of 57. Not a difficult decision that was made for me when the last curtain came down on the show I’d been dancing in for 10 years, a yearly, one-month tour through the bowels of Bavaria. A small show with me as the only dancer, two actors and a five-man band of Bavarian rock musicians.

You can imagine my surprise when the phone rang last year, almost 12 years after the group disbanded.

It was a journey out of my comfort zone into a world of fears, anxieties, and debilitating mind fucks I never knew existed.

Here’s the story:


Since I committed to doing the new production of the Bayerische Rauhnacht, (Ghouls Night Out, Bavaria's Harsh Winter Nights), more fears have surfaced than in the past decade. And, why not? The process from beginning to end has blown my comfort zone to smithereens. From the first day, a horde of uncomfortable situations and fears appeared.  (What are fears but unhandled dross, imagined blocks to experiencing the Light of our true virtue? And, the only way to remove those imagined barriers is to acknowledge them and let them go.

 First and foremost was the fear my aging body wouldn’t live up to the demands I’d be placing on it. After all, I’m 68, four years older than my deceased grandfather. Heart attacks happen in this age group.  Imagine going into cardiac arrest in the middle of one of my dance numbers. Aside from the possibility of death, I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing. Or, what if the muscles in my legs give out in one of the dance combinations I’d executed with ease twelve years before? Would someone be there to drag me off stage? Or, horror of horrors, what if I found out someone in the audience wondered why I hadn’t hung up my dance shoes decades before. Nothing more pitiful than an artist beating the dead horse of his career.

Even if I did get through the physical exertions, who’s to say what tricks my mind might play? For instance: what if I had a blackout in the middle of one of the numbers. I mean, twelve years ago I had no trouble remembering where I left the keys after I came home. Two weeks ago, I finally found them in the refrigerator. Twelve years ago random objects weren’t disappearing and then reappearing as they do today. Sad but true, my memory like my eyesight seems to have taken off for happier hunting grounds as of late. Especially when I need it the most. Like, when I am trying to remember my best friend’s name, find the perfect word in one of my writings, recall the second half of a yoga routine I am offering my students. My photographic memory is a thing of the past. What, then, would happen if I had a blackout on opening night, left running around the stage like dingbat in Bedlam?

The rehearsal dates were getting closer and closer.

Although I’d trained regularly both with weights and yoga these past twelve years, since I’ve committed to the production, I’ve taken my work out to a new level: getting my heartbeat up to 140 and keeping it there a half an hour, pushing my lungs to their limit three times a week, sweating like a popsicle at the beach, all in the hopes it would make the routines easier when the time came along.

The day after the first rehearsal, I was horrified to find myself heaving at the side of the stage, unable to gulp down enough air to quiet my racing heart.  Despite my efforts on the treadmill at the fitness studio, my stamina, as far as my breath was concerned, was in the bucket. Would three days of rehearsals be enough to better the condition enough that I could take my bow on my feet and not on my stomach?

As if all these worries and fears were not enough, my husband started coughing two days into rehearsals. Which meant, it was only a matter of minutes before I came down with the same illness, whatever it was. Since we both reached older age, the pattern has been: he comes down with something, two days later it’s my turn… which would be opening night. As it was, I could hardly catch my breath after one of the numbers. With a cold… well, that was something better not thought about.

And then, it was opening night…

…and everything went fine.

A Course in Miracles says,

The presence of fear is a sure sign that you are trusting in your own strength. The awareness that there is nothing to fear shows that somewhere in your mind, not necessarily in a place which you recognize as yet, you have remembered God and let His Strength take the place of yours. The instant you are willing to do this there is indeed nothing to fear.

I wish I'd remembered that a couple of weeks ago!

To be continued…

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Entering the golden age is best done in style.

Entering the golden age is best done in style.

Amour Propre: some call it vanity; I call it self-esteem. In this day and age when we’re living longer, retaining a bit of panache is essential if you want to continue on with any sense of self-worth. After all, if you’re not proud of yourself, how can you expect others to keep in awe of your fabulous being?

What got me thinking this way was a recent encounter with an elderly gentleman I saw on the street the other day.  His entire being reeked of old age. Rusty hairs tumbled out of his nose and fought for space in his ears, a powdery stubble patched his pallid cheeks, what hair remained on his head was unkempt and greasy, his eyebrows as bushy as unsightly as two overweight caterpillars. The faded shirt he wore fit him where it hit him, way too large for his boney body. Pleated at the waist, his khaki pants were stained with, what looked like, the sauce of last week's supper. Vapors smelling of scorched rayon and urine trailed behind him. Hunched forward as if carrying the weight of the world, his dulled eyes had the resigned look of someone on his way to meet the grim reaper.

The saddest thing of all was, I knew this man was just as old as I am!

Before you judge me for judging him: I didn’t really see this man on the street at all. You see, he is the main character in my own worst nightmare, an ever-present image of what I would look like if I simply threw self-care to the wind and gave up caring about what I looked like.

 So, I have made a vow this won't happen to me now that I'm dancing along the silver-lining of maturity. I am doing my best to keep up my outward and inward appearances so people and spirits continue seeing me in a positive light, still responding to me in a positive way, still acknowledging my existence.

Whether they are or not, is inconsequential.  I think they are and that’s the important thing.

One of the big secrets I discovered for my happiness now and forevermore, was learning to love myself. Hard enough in my youth, getting more and more difficult as a get older. So, why should I make it next to impossible by presenting a sloppy, run-down rendition of myself to the world around me?

It's what's inside that counts.

As a kid, I often heard people say, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover.’

I believed it.

Until the Kardashians came alone.
Let's face it: the world has changed. People do judge books by their covers. So, in the present age, I’d be a fool if I thought the old adage still applied. The truth is, in a world of the rapidly decreasing attention span, the first impression better be a good one or no one will stick around to read the book.

 You say: I shouldn’t be so concerned about what other people think of me.

I say: I know I shouldn’t, but until I’m enlightened, I still do. So, when someone looks at me on the street, judges my book by its appearance, and gives me a smile or a nod for my efforts, it makes me feel good and, when I feel good, it’s so much easier to love myself.

Outside of all this, I think the whole resistance to keeping yourself in tip-top shape has a lot to do with leaving the confines of your comfort zone, (where, we all know, life is really happening).

We all know the story: It's so comfortable not to have to shit, shower, and shave every morning. (Well, at least the last two!) It’s also a lot easier not to bring up thoughts about what you’re going to wear before you go out to buy a six-pack of beer and a bottle of Tequila. Eating healthfully and/or looking your best is not always easy.
Keeping up a good appearance means leaving the comfort zone for a few minutes.
Smiling at people on the street and sitting up straight when you meditate means leaving it for longer and longer periods of time.
Doing a daily yoga routine, going to the gym, or trying to forgive assholes are all so far away from the comfort zones as love from fear. 

Again: Life is happening outside the comfort zone.

But just think about how much more fabulous you will feel when your vehicle is washed, waxed, and smelling like auto-freshener!
Please don't wait until your vehicle is so run down you have to get it towed away to the junkyard. Waiting for a new car can be more tedious than fixing up the one you have. Believe me! I've done it... 17,360 times. (Give or take a few incarnations.)