Of Friendship, Goodbye…..and Hope

Friendship brings so much into our lives. True friendship, I mean. Life would be a desolated place without our friends. Many would argue that family comes first and I would agree, but many of us have either lived away from family or have families that are not supportive or caring. It’s a fact, not a judgement.

This new year has brought friendship front and center for me already. It has been expected, but it is still difficult. It began last year with the celebration of our 50 years of graduating from high school. I have become involved again with those girls I went to school with so long ago. It has been wonderful!!!

With all the excitement of the week of celebration, I got even closer to my best friend in school. For years we were inseparable, knew each others’ secrets, supported each other in our crises and laughed and cried when needed. We have kept in touch and have shared the ways our lives have changed in these past 50 years.

Since she lives in Panama and I’ve lived everywhere, it has not been easy, but we have managed. Her mother was originally  from Curaçao and somehow I couldn’t get her to visit while I lived there. I now regret I didn’t try harder to convince her, but that is water under the bridge. Not important anymore, so I have to let go.

A few months after our fabulous week of celebration, she was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable cancer. There was talk of chemotherapy, talk of giving her quality of life, giving her more time. There were tears, but there were also laughs and a new closeness. We have been on our phones chatting away, sending funny messages, calling at all hours even during her chemo treatments.

I held up hope this could be beaten or at least it would give us time to have more moments together. I had planned to go see her for a week and do only what she wanted to do: out for lunch, car rides, ice-cream, beauty parlor visits, girl talk, reminiscing, just enjoying each other company.

This week, her doctor cancelled the chemotherapy when her body gave up and she was hospitalized. Now I am traveling to Panama on a different mission. I have no idea when I will be able to visit again since this will be a very hectic year for our family. So I am going to say goodbye to my dearest friend.

I am going to say goodbye now, when she still can enjoy my company and I can enjoy hers. Now that we still have the time to  laugh and talk about our friendship. Now when we still can sit in silence at times because we both are fluent in that language. Now when we can both look at each other and smile, laugh or cry. Now when we can embrace and hug and kiss.

As I get ready for this visit, my heart cannot help but be hopeful. After all, I am only human. So against all that I’ve been told, against all that my mind says is true,  there is a small voice that tells me: “Hope is the last thing we relinquish“. I know this is true, in my heart, where it counts. So I am taking this trip, for our friendship, for her and for me. May we be granted many more times together and then may it be as it must be.

Photo: Dreamtime Credit Commons Zero (CCO)

 

 

Why Not? It’s our time…..

 “Tis the Season, the season to consider the rest of our lives. It might not be the traditional Christmas giving, but it is something we must give ourselves. We have been daughters, wives, mothers, friends, lovers, caregivers. We have done everything required of us and more. We have put our dreams and our goals on hold for family and friends, husbands and lovers, aging parents and demanding children. What have we got in return? Well, some would say we have the satisfaction of having done our duty. Or we would feel at peace with ourselves.
 All that is good and personally rewarding, but don’t you feel sometimes we deserve better? don’t you feel we have the right to expect some palpable recognition? I do!!! Sorry, but we are human and there is nothing wrong with that. I am not going to get it from others, I will make my reward, my own Christmas present. Personal and wonderful and we deserve it.
From now on, let’s be realistic. Accept that we have more years behind you that we have in front of you. Unless there is a medical development I do not know of, we are not going to live another 50 or 60 years! Then, we have to put our foot down…we will live the rest of our lives as we want. It will be marvelous!!! Do what you always wanted to do. What a gift that would be……and why not?
Go places you always wanted to visit, even if it is the museum in the next town…….travel farther if it is possible. Remember when you wanted to take a cruise or walk at night along the Seine, or spend time in a Tuscan town, an English village or a Caribbean beach? Well, do it… why not?
Are you interested in painting, photography or pottery making? Do you think you want to explore your artistic side? Go for it! There are classes and groups and clubs that encourage all those things, right there in your city or town….why not?
Do you keep journals? why not publish your memoirs? We all have something to say, share  your experiences.  Do you think you can tell a story? or have you been told you are a storyteller? why not put that in writing? It is so easy today to get your work on the internet. I wrote a book and started a blog at an age when others are thinking of retiring. So, why not?
Have you been called the life of the party? do your friends laugh out loud at your witty comments? Start a blog, share your wit and your humor. Remember, laughter is the best medicine and is side-effect free! Gather your thoughts and start writing! People love to be entertained. So, why not?
Do you love to cook or have a knack for organizing events? are your parties always well attended because nobody wants to miss them? Do your friends ask you for advise when buying clothes? Do you get compliments about your garden or your home? Then consider doing this….a hobby that can bring an income! Besides, if you love it, you’ll be great at it. So, why not?
Most women my age have retired or their husbands have, they have no children at home…..at least not the ones that need care….they know themselves well, they know what they like and what they want. What they need is the will to do just that….and why not?
Now, whatever you decide to do, do with flair, with passion. These are the best years of our lives because the only person you have to please now is you. It is Christmas after all, give yourself the best present:  Go out and get the most out of the rest of your life!!! WHY NOT?
photo: @creativecommonsstockphotos
ID 85156331/Dreamtime Stock Photos

Life Continues……So Let’s Plan!!!

The hurricane season has not ended, debris is still to be picked up from many streets, some parts of Florida are not back to normal and other storms have hit the Caribbean with unprecedented destruction. Seems like a new day has dawned and it doesn’t look promising.

Mother Nature has being more cruel and active than in many years, on the other hand we have a global sense of complete breakdown of humanity and values. There is so much hate, so many hurtful messages. What can we do?? We must give better examples, less extreme opinions and we need to remember, that if we want it or not……life goes on and we need to live with each other!!!

At this time in our lives, we have a clear vision of what we want, how to achieve it and how to enjoy it. Our generation of women has their lives well in hand. We are well rounded and navigate the waters of our lives with ease and determination. We stop at all ports that bring us joy…..the way it should be.

Every time we do, we must share those joys and those experiences. We must be aware of the fact that no matter what people think……women are the ones that can change the world. All of us, but specially the older generation: the Crones, the Wise Women of Old, the Keepers of Memories and the Givers of Hope……

Many would think me naive and even stupid. That’s alright, I am not looking for accolades or acceptance. I am just trying to make, my corner of the world a bit more livable. Let’s plan, let’s look ahead and make it so.

Photo 1: courtesy of Alan Maduro…..crack of dawn in Curaçao

Photo 2: Dreamtime CCO

Something has Changed……..

There comes a time in everyone’s life when a discovery, a piece of news, a flash of understanding changes it forever. That is what happened to me in 2015. It has been a long 18 months, a time of adjusting, of accepting and of working on moving forward. What I have to share, in the hopes that it could help others, is about living with a chronic illness.

For months, years even, I experienced all sorts of odd symptoms seemly unrelated: low-grade fever, joint pain, unexplained cough, upset stomach and on and on. Everyone told me that we all get some aches and pains as we age and we should not over think that. What do you do? you begin to doubt yourself, you begin to think everyone is right and you are just not accepting your age or the changes in your body.

I kept trying until finally, I found a doctor willing to run tests until she found what was wrong. This is most important. A doctor that listens and is willing to go along until the reason for your symptoms is found. I have been lucky with that and are doing better because of it.

Just before Christmas 2015, I received a call from my doctor’s office. She wanted to see me that afternoon. I immediately thought: this cannot be good. It wasn’t. The tests were back and the doctor said the four words that have changed my life: You have Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the moment, I was not familiar with what all that meant. Arthritis didn’t sound good, thought. Well, it was worst than that.

RA is an autoimmune disease that presents many symptoms and causes untold damage to the human body. It is in the same group as Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease and other illnesses. It causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues in your body. There is no cure and produces painful inflammation not only in the joints, but the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys and any other part of your body.

Pain is your constant companion and fatigue is ever-present. Insomnia, brain fog, dry-eyes, forgetfulness are just a few symptoms. Left untreated can be deadly, but known treatments can slow the progress and help with symptoms. Unfortunately, they could also cause untold damage since they involved chemotherapy and steroids. There most be a balance so you need to research and read, inform yourself. Ask questions and go for second opinions. When you find a doctor that understands you, keep her!!!

Most of people suffering from RA have a hard time explaining the illness. It is difficult because most of us do not look sick, we continue our lives as normally as we can and try not to complain. Besides, not everyone is comfortable  to sharing everything with everyone.

Each day brings new challenges and we deal with them as best we can. We can make plans and cancel them unexpectedly. There is always a possibility of a flare that will take us to bed and keep us there for a while. A day of activity can render us useless for many days afterwards. So understanding is an important part of what our friends and loved ones can do for us.

Taking care of ourselves is a priority, more than ever. Becoming selfish is a most. You cannot help anyone if you are not fit to help yourself. You learn not to feel bad about standing your ground and saying no when needed. RA is something that will shape your days for the rest of your life.

Each one of us deals with this in our own way, but it is important to realize that we must have a plan. Make changes in our way of doing things, our diet, anything that needs changing. Keep active as much as we can, don’t give up on what we enjoy. Also we must accept that we might need help to do the smallest things and must learn to accept it. Finally, love yourself and take care.

 

P.S. “The beauty of life and the reality we live with” — perfectly captured in this photo of a Curaçao sunset by Neelam Melwani. Thank you!!!

 

 

Of Moving and Goodbyes

This past week my daughter moved again. Camille has lived in different cities, countries. She has studied here in the States, in Europe and has worked in both places. She adapts easily, as a third culture child, to circumstances and places. She makes friends and truly blooms where she is planted: the first rule of a happy expat.

For the last 4 years, she has been with us. Working and living in Miami, it’s never easy for a young single woman. Camille adapted, but was never in her element. This move will be wonderful for her. Not only is she moving to a Caribbean island, but she is moving to be with her fiancé. She already has friends there, a job and all she wants at this time in her life.

This makes moving sound very simplistic, but we know for a fact, nothing is this easy. Moving and uprooting yourself take a toll on you. It is not as if we pack, get there, unpack and we walk into our new life. It is not as if we just wake up in our new home and we feel at home, if you know what I mean. There are steps we go through and some of them are not easy.

I am not an expert by far, but I have moved a few times. It was hard the first time and was hard the last time. So, first thing: be prepared to deal with heartache, exhaustion, anger, denial, elation, happiness, excitement and so many other emotions. It is part of the game.

Then there are the situations you encounter: locating a good mover, packing or letting them pack, what to take, what to discard or donate or sell. This is followed by regretting not taking this or that once you get to your new home!!! Getting and filling countless forms and lists would make your head spin.

All along, you have been saying goodbye, promising to be in touch (much easier nowadays), trying to see all your favorite spots, accumulating memories. This part is emotionally draining, no matter the reason you have for moving. The last round of parties, lunches and such will help get you through the last days. Enjoy them, take photos,

Once everything is settled, boxes packed, container filled and tickets bought, there is a lull in the process. You are able to breathe. For some reason, when this all is done you’d feel you are going to enjoy the move. There is the emotion and excitement of going to a new place. In a way, it is starting your life again. Go with that feeling!!!

Finally, the day of departure arrives. Try to relax and concentrate on what needs to be done. Go over your lists and forms, get your documents ready, make sure all your bags are labeled and easily recognizable. Leave for the airport with plenty of time, it’s better to wait there.

Once you are in the air, look forward. Concentrate on the trip, the plans for arrival in your new home, then breathe and try to relax. Regardless of the lenght of the flight, take the time to rest. Close your eyes, listen to music, watch a movie.  You’ve made it, you are on your way…..goodbyes are part of the past.

Lessons Learned Led to Downsizing

For years I have been de-cluttering: donating, selling and throwing away. It has been a never-ending story. Still, things seem to reproduce in my home. I have to say, it’s discouraging, so I have finally decided to end this once and for all. I am downsizing!!!

Of course, this would seem similar. Isn’t it the same thing? I ask myself….well, not really. I have neglected to make some big decisions and it is time to correct that. So I have made a list of things that need doing.

First: asking my children to take their things and dispose of them. Take boxes out of my storage space and send them somewhere else, somewhere where they cannot come back. Could it be that simple?

Do not know for certain, but I have started. My son moved to Houston a couple of months back. With everything he was taking there, I managed to send some boxes that have been in my possession for more than 10 years. There could have been more, but I discovered that later. Still, it felt wonderful!!!

This week I plan to spend some time looking through boxes again, making sure I find those which escaped me last time. I am sure a couple of more will be on their way to Houston soon. 

While down there, I will make sure that boxes belonging to my daughter will be found. She needs to go through them and decide what she wants to keep and what she wants to get rid of. Going back into my storage is not a choice. These are their things and they should do with them as they see fit.

Second: being ruthless, concentrating on what I want to achieve instead of getting lost in the memories and the sentimental value of my stuff. This has been the hardest lesson to learn. To work through it, I do not dwell on it. I make decisions on the spot and carry them out right away.

Boxes are open and I follow simple rules. If I haven’t seen in years, I already learned to live without it. There are plenty of charities that would take them. If not,  throw them away. If there are papers older than 5 years, shred them. Clothes, shoes and accessories, handbags and hats. Do I really need that much? Donating is the best way to get rid of most of them. More space in my closet and drawers is a great reward.

Third: organizing what to sell is important. Why not make some cash out of this exercise? This has been tricky. We live in an apartment building……garage sales are not allow. Fortunately, there is always a friend with a home who does not shy away from helping you with that. Hopefully I think I have found mine.

Separating these items, then be ready to price them without getting involved with the way you feel about them. Be realistic when it comes to what you think they are worth and what they are really worth!!! This is another lesson that has taken some time to learn. Being objective is not always easy, it helps to put myself in someone else’s shoes. How much would I pay for this, if I was buying at a yard sale? Still working on it.

Fourth: books, CDs, DVDs, even vinyl records and VHS tapes is more exasperating than others things you want to get rid of. Books are slowly going out of style, no matter how I feel about that. There are too many books, apparently, and no more are needed. Finding places that would take your books and give you credits to get different ones has been relatively easy……but that is not my goal. I wanted to just get rid of them. Making sure I separate the ones I would keep because I love them and would read them gain. Donating to public libraries, school libraries, nursing homes, hospitals…..they are still accepting books!!! Will try to sell the others.

In these days when we can stream anything on you computer or television…..who would want these relics of the past? Well, I found out that there are places that buy CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and even vinyl records, but not everything. They require you to go to them, they inspect what you bring and then pick and choose what they want. Do not expect to get too much. What is left, I am keeping  for your garage or yard sale…and hope for the best.

Fifth: big pieces such as furniture and appliances are difficult to get rid of. Especially if you do not have a vehicle to transport them. Getting any charity to pick up these items is easier said than done. We waited for weeks to get the Salvation Army to pick up some pieces of furniture from our son’s apartment. When they finally came, everything was inspected and a few things were rejected. Thankfully we had a Plan B……because you cannot just put them out on the sidewalk. City Ordinances say you must pay a fine and still end up disposing of the items yourself.

Once I have completed all these steps, I will have just what I want, need and find beautiful. I will have space in my home to make it feel bigger and more spacious than it is. Hopefully, I will also be reluctant to buy anything to replace what  I sold or gave away. This looks more promising that just de-cluttering.

 

Perfecting the Art of Wasting Time

Haven’t you felt at times that you should be doing something? haven’t you felt restless because you are just sitting enjoying a cup of tea? or coffee? I know I have, especially these days. Somehow, we feel we must be doing something productive at all times. We are conditioned to feel that way, aren’t we?

That may be so, but I am here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be this way. Nowhere is it written that we must do something indispensable at all hours. It is fine to just take a deep breath and figure out what you really do not want to do……and don’t!!!

The world moves on, with or without us. That we stop to just breathe and relax will not cause a major shift in its path. As much as we worry about what is going on, as much as we will like to change some things, we cannot do this constantly. We must stop and smell the flowers, we must make ourselves learn how to waste time…..in us!!!

I have read somewhere that nobody can pour from an empty vessel. If we do not replenish ours, how are we to give to others? The art of wasting time is all about that. We must step back once in a while and look inside instead of out. We must be ready to be selfish and replenish our vessel, so we can give again. Each and every one of us has the duty to ourselves to see this happen. It is the only way.

So sit on your balcony or porch with a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of wine. Go outside and walk in your garden, admire the flowers, look at the sky. Make sure your patio furniture is comfortable and sit there with your eyes closed. Put aside your smart phone, your computer and listen to your thoughts.

Take a nap in the middle of the day, just do it. Take your dog for a walk following a new path or simply let him run free in the yard while you sit in the sun. Go to a park and just sit while people watching. Go window shopping, go for a car ride without a destination. Read a self-help book. I love those and mostly I wouldn’t do anything they suggest, but it does make me smile to read about them. The whole point is to just do nothing you must do: no shopping, no watering the plants, no cooking or baking. Try it!!!

Just one more thought, this is about wasting time not procrastinating. It is refusing to be ruled by schedules and having a purpose for whatever you do, if only for a while. This is about slowing down, looking around you. This is about trying for a more balanced lifestyle. If we perfect this art, we don’t only become better persons, we then can help others do the same. So go ahead: Waste some Time!!!

photos: top by Julieta  Reyes Flores and bottom by Nancy Tripp

 

Goodbye, 2016!!!

I am sure we all agree that this year has been full of surprises, heartaches and uncertainty. From the political world to the world of entertainment, from our personal lives to the state of humanity, things have tossed and turned all year round. It is also true that there has been some good news here and there. Harder to find, but not less true.

Let’s accept what happened that changed our lives, the ones we could control and the ones that are out of our hands. This would be the hardest part. It is only human to just go out and try to change the world when we have witness things we cannot comprehend. Now, we must remember that some people will find those same things to their liking. We must not judge them too harshly, not everyone is wicked, racist, misogynist and evil. Good people exist in every group, as do bad ones. I want to stick to that premise. It gives me hope!!!

When it comes to accept each other, I am unapologetic. Never would say it’s easy, but also never would completely give up on people I like and love because we have disagreements. What I see missing is the willingness to talk to each other. To listen to the other side, to present our arguments without insults. To try to agree to disagree is not simple. Some opinions are so deeply felt, we cannot pretend to change them in one wave of a magic wand. Unfortunately, this is what I see: if you do not agree with me, I will disown you, break all ties with you, even if you are family. Sorry, not me!!!

Life has taught me that things rarely remain the same. Opinions change, circumstances change, the world keeps moving no matter what. Whatever is going on today, will end at some point, nothing is eternal. So I am not willing to give up on my friends and family because we disagree. I say, let’s concentrate on making the world around us a better place. There is no way we can changed most unpleasant things that happened, but there are many small things we can make better and should!!!

The fact that we lost so many wonderful people this year is a sobering thought. I lost my mother and my most favorite cousin, my brother, in a matter of months. Most difficult months I have had in years. The experience left me thinking that there is more to the world than politics. At the same time, it taught me that family is not always the group you were born into, family is also the friends that are there when you need them. I have been blessed with many.

Then there are the people that we always saw as part of our world because we saw them in movies, television, read their books, saw them performing, sang their songs. They made the background of our lives and we are definitely going to miss them. It gave me hope that every time one of them passed away, the world mourned regardless of political views.

Humanity has been specially cruel to itself this year. We only have to look to Aleppo. Famine and disease, terrorist attacks and senseless murder have been in the news seemly every day. It was so hard, I stopped  watching television. Books offered me a calmer, happier and more sensible world. As you can imagine, I read many books this year!!!

Uncertainty is part of what 2016 leaves behind, but it’s up to us to try and make sense of that. It is our duty to ourselves and our families and friends to come together and work for a better year than 2016. May 2017 give us that chance!!!

Being Thankful!!!

disney-s-citizen-kid-november-media-thankfulness-shaping-youth-ecqbsb-clipartThis has been a very contentious year and we all can agree with that. So many instances of intolerance, so many insults thrown without thinking, so many hateful actions have taken a toll on all of us. Usually, after an election, everything is colored by who won and who didn’t. That is not a surprise. This year a lot more was involved than differences of opinion and ideology. We find ourselves facing the fact that some of our friends and family voted one way and others voted another. Nothing to do about that since I believe you cannot change people’s mind unless both sides are willing to engage in civil dialogue.

That is what I find disturbing this time around: the unwillingness of either side to extend a hand, to try and heal relationships or to just talk politely to each other. It has floored me!!! I come across as very opinionated and very forthcoming and, in many ways, I am. I am also a firm believer in trying to find common ground and to be thankful when it’s found. We should be able to speak out, but also to listen.

Having lived here and there, I have developed friendships with people of diverse backgrounds, religions and ethnicity. What I have discovered, and I am not alone in this, is that we all have more things in common than we believe. That is the point. We have more similarities than differences, but I am finding that goes over people’s heads nowadays. It worries me.

Still, I am thankful for each and everyone in my life. They have all contributed to make it better, have taught me lessons, have share my good and bad times, have been there when I needed them, have allowed me to be there for them. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Never give up on each other, we are better than we even imagine. Differences of opinion should not make us forget how we really feel about each other. Let’s agree to disagree and enjoy our similarities. It’s Thanksgiving and we all have so much to be thankful for!!!

P.S. The picture used above belongs to Disney’s Citizen Kid. Thank you!!!

Caring for our Minds

books-1578589_640We are aging, there is no spinning this one. Yes, and if not we would be dead….think about it!!! I know not all my friends will appreciate the fact that I am calling us aging. I apologize. Life goes on, regardless of what we want to happen. We cannot stop time. Accepting is the best way because it allows us to concentrate in staying vibrant and involved and happy.

Never mind what we do to our bodies to keep healthier and younger looking, we are still middle aged. Looking great is fantastic, feeling good and being healthy is priceless, but keeping our minds alert and sharp is even more important. Unfortunately, some of us pay too much attention to our bodies and not enough to our minds!!!

I am sure everyone will say: well, that is not me!!! I would be willing to bet each and everyone of my friends feels this way…..but is it true? Do we all read, play mind and card games on our tablets, do jigsaw or crossword puzzles? Do we listen to music, attend the theater or have a hobby? Do we keep up with the news…..as awful as they are nowadays? You tell me.

I have friends that definitely do all of those things and more. They are on top of their game, as they say. They can talk about current events, enjoy a great book, keep up with life. They travel and visit different places, try new foods, entertain new ideas. They are good with social media and love having younger friends. Women in their middle years, but so involved and vibrant, they break stereotypes. More than worry about their looks, these women worry about not letting their minds go to waste.

These women have kept on learning, striving for a better self. Everything for them is an adventure. Some have literally drove around the country on their own, taken a volunteer vacation in Third World countries, have meditated in Bali and hiked in Machu Pichu. Never mind the ones that have started businesses after retirement or have become successful writers or bloggers.

Besides, they mostly look fabulous, dress impeccably and exude elegance and poise. Still, it’s the fact that they can talk about any topic, hold opinions that could be considered advanced, what makes them so interesting. Confidence is the best quality they posses. I am proud to call them friends.

Then, I have other friends who have so many things to complain and rant about. Who forget that aging is not a choice. They are the opposite of my other friends: they cannot stop telling themselves that this is it, life is not going to get better, old age is creeping in and soon they will be useless. Nothing seems to energize them more than talking about imaginary illnesses, aches and pains and feeling their age. A long life is a blessing, why waste these years lost in fearing the inevitable.

They might do some reading, maybe watch the news, but always with a sense of foreboding or a sense of I told you so. New things interest them little, so no new music talent, promising new artists, forget about  books expressing different ideas. Traveling is out of the question since it can be so complicated. They believe that: I know all I wanted to know, seen what I wanted to see and heard all I wanted to hear. Cultivating new attitudes is not even considered. I love them too, but I have been slowly distancing myself from them. Part of living in the moment!!!

Aging will happen, it matters not what you do or want. So cultivate your mind to keep feeling alive and happy. Make friends with younger people, people from other cultures. Engage in conversations about anything and everything, who knows, you might find new interests. Become part of a group that caters to older women, there a few out there. I belong to some and have made friends and learned about things I thought I knew everything about. It’s exhilarating!!!

Finally, just go out and try whatever you always wanted to do. You owe it to yourself, what is the worse that could happen? that it turns out it’s not as interesting as you thought? or you actually love it or you move to a small place by the beach? or your blog, business or whatever is a resounding success? At any rate, it will be fabulous, trust me!!!glasses-664078_640