In January of 2007 I went with a friend to North High School in Des Moines, Iowa to hear Hillary Clinton announce that she was running for president. Her slogan at the time: I’m in it to win it. It was a rousing afternoon with people packing the hall and everyone in great spirits. Believing in someone does that to crowds. Making a decision to support someone can take you places. Hillary did not win the Iowa caucus and eventually dropped her run. But her actions had an effect on me and one morning I found myself writing the following: Hillary and I are not dumb old women. I must have been reacting to something I’d heard as I joined the ranks of empty-nesters and faced a future that was full of shadows. And tasks. That same day I made a list.
THINGS TO DO TODAY
1. Sign power of attorney for health papers for my aunt, age 96
2. Call the head nurse at Smith (the facility where my aunt was living) regarding her dementia
3. Submit paperwork for Mom’s (my mother) Medicare D Plan as she requested; try to explain to her the donut hole
4. Work with Andrew (my son) on completing admission forms for application to colleges
5. Research a new health protocol for John (my husband) who has a chronic illness
6. Find a house for a family reunion in the coming August
7. Proofread a master thesis for Christie (my daughter) she’s close to graduation
8. Make phone calls for the Clinton campaign
9. Take some time for yourself: write
That last one–who was I kidding. When and where would I find that time. But I did.
BOOMER HIGHWAY BEGINS
The list sat on my desk for a few days. Maybe I was working on it–it’s all a big haze now. But sometime during that period I wrote to the Des Moines Register and shared the list. Wouldn’t they like a column or a blog that dealt with this craziness, this midlife, this sandwich generation?? No, came the answer. So I started Boomer Highway. It was a way to organize my thoughts, to share with others in my place that though I no longer was changing diapers, staying up late with a fevered child or debating which to do first–clean, grocery shop or shovel snow–it was a busy time in my life and I had to figure out how to navigate it without losing myself and hurting my health.
My very first post was THOUGHTS WHEN I SAW THE CARDINAL. There was no photo when I first posted–I had no clue how to do that. In the post I wrote:
The cardinal against the so pale green grass and just beginning trees has to be something of my father’s soul reminding me to remember him, to hold him in my heart as the day wears along. Because the brightness of the cardinal’s feathers is inexplicably beautiful, like the spirit within all of us that begs for us to be perfect, though we struggle within our human context. And so I look to the garden and the birds of air for mental and spiritual health. And if I’m digging in the dirt and dragging bags of soil and mulch around, it keeps my body healthy too!!!
I must have wanted to channel my father, who I lost at the age of three–maybe he could help me spiritually with the tasks that lay ahead. I went on to research lots of stuff related to my aunt’s and my mother’s dementia and their eventual passing and the sorrows we all experience as life takes us away from a place of comfort and we find ourselves in some new, uncharted territory. And there are lots of joys that go along with such an adventure. I am blessed, my son and daughters living successful lives and my husband healthy and volunteeriing, helping others. My phone calls for Hillary didn’t help much, but now here she is running again.
None of us who strive and care and accept change as we go are dumb old women. No, we are vibrant and flexible, we are full of passion and intent.
Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers and arm-chair philosophers writes:
Age had deepened and widened our sense of faith–and by “faith” I don’t necessarily mean religious conviction. I’m talking partly about belief in the existence of a divine intelligence but also about faith in goodness, in life, in things mostly working out. And let’s not forget faith in ourselves–the conviction that we are loved and chosen–which is such a component of the spiritual life.
I love her: things mostly working out. That’s key to acceptance and happiness. We have a vision, but sometimes it’s not exactly what happens and then we say–You know, I really like this better anyway. This is what I really wanted.
So on we go. I still make lists and this upcoming week I have a really big one to work through. I’ll share a lot of that list next week. Until then, I wish you the best with your own decisions. They are important and whether we like it or not they do take us places.
PHOTO: thanks to Writing Life List FB, Huffington Post