It is early. Not so early that I have not been up at this time before. I have my beautiful and smart and high energy Doberman puppy and so waking before 6:00 each morning is not uncommon. But it is early still.
And I am on the road.
My youngest daughter is heading back to school and I am coming along for the ride. I write this with intention because she really does not need me to take this trip with her. Fact is, she doesn't need me at all. I need her.
For this, I know, will be the last trip that she and I will take like this.
Of course I will take other trips with her. Road trips here and there, maybe even a day or two at a time, but this trip across five states and for four days is a trip that we probably won't have again.
There is the obvious reason why this trip is important. It is time I get to have with my now adult and incredibly independent youngest child. It is an opportunity to connect without interruption. And to sit in silence as the land passes around us.
But it is more.
Because for me this is a trip of trust. Not in the process of this trip but in the things I left behind. The sweet and smart and incredibly beautiful Doberman puppy to walk and feed. The cats to take care of. My other children and their comings and goings that will go on without me there to bear witness. How will it all work without me?
One if the hardest things for me is the letting go. The taking of that one step back. The calming of my worrying mind that all will be ok.
I am not sure when I became like this. I always thought I was easy going. With the flow, an easy mojo. But I seem to have a knack for worrying. In that deep set way where I am deeply invested in the outcome, whether it is feeding a pet or picking up a child at the airport.
And this is not good.
Because when I am worrying I am not present in the place where I am. Whether taking in the dimming Ojai light or here, driving with my daughter across state lines, if my mind is focused on those things I really can't do anything about anyway, I am missing what is happening right now.
And I don't want to miss these things.
And so this trip, for me, is a meditation in being present. In trusting that all is well at home. And that my moments with my lovely daughter is all i need right now.
We had a great conversation last night. We, meaning myself, my husband and my three kids. The great conversation - how to navigate that balance between our immediate family and the families that each of my three children will create and nurture - as they marry/connect/find another to spend their lives with and perhaps (of course they will, I NEED to be a grandma!!) have children of their own.
This conversation is very timely, as my son is engaged and a wedding is being planned for next year. And so talking about the shift in our family dynamic at this time makes a lot of sense. My son started the conversation by describing us - the five of us - our family, as a pack.
This amuses me and causes me pause, both.
As some of you may know if you have been reading my previous posts, we have a new and brilliant and beautiful and amazing and what-other-adjectives-can-I-use-to-describe my Doberman puppy and have been working with a new trainer so that we can learn how best to help her be her best. I spoke about this last week. A lot of the conversation centers around this pup of ours and how she fits into the family. In dog language this means how she fits into our pack.
The fact that we have been learning about pack behavior at just this time, when these changes are taking place in our family with my own children, does not surprise me. For just as life imitates art - or is it the other way around - so does the integration of my sweet and smart and quite breathtaking puppy mirror the growth that is occurring with each of my children as well as my husband and I.
We are a very strong pack.
We just are. We have a complicated and powerful energy that runs through the five of us and keeps us connected just as we are very much individuals. I am very proud of our family. But this, the strength of the totality of us, is also that thing that often makes it difficult. For just as a lone wolf has to step gently into the alpha's den in the hopes of being accepting into the pack, so each of my children's chosen partner must feel that intensity as they enter into the fold that is our family.
And so we strive for balance. But more.
Because the conversation tonight centered not on the importance of this new pup/spouse/girl or boyfriend becoming part of our pack as they connect/mate/marry each of our children, but that each of our children go off with their chosen partner and start a pack of their own.
And it is our job, my husband's and mine, as pack leaders, to support them as they leave the fold that has, up until now, been their core. We are saying to each of them, collectively tonight, and also to the incredible partners that they have chosen or will choose in the future, you are not turning your back on us, breaking your loyalty, betraying our trust, by creating a pack of your own. In truth, you are doing exactly what you are supposed to do. Creating a nuclear family that is your very own.
You will all be great pack leaders.
There is a new dog in town.
Actually she's the same dog I've had. My new and brilliant and beautiful and charming and incredibly capable Doberman puppy. She is 5 1/2 months old right now and is just as smart and brilliant and wonderful and beautiful and capable as she's always been. The difference is that she needs something new.
Which means that I need to do something new. Or, to be more specific, it is really about me learning something new.
I didn't know this, until this puppy that I have right now. Because all my other puppies, they kind of followed the same thing. There was a rhythm. There was an even flow. There was a familiarity. My mojo work.
But this puppy. She's different. She's got a whole new level of intensity going on. At first glance, you'd think that she has a lot to learn. And that it will be a challenge to teach her. But honestly, it's not about her ability to learn. At all. She will learn anything I teach. She is that smart. She is that capable. She is that able. It is not about her at all. Really.
It's about me.
This has happened to me before. I've been a mom three times. My first two kids, they were distinctly different from each other. They truly were. But in one sense they were both very much the same. Because they both matched me.
They matched my rhythm. They matched the even flow of my day. They were unstructured in the same way that I was and so, in turn, they followed my unstructured way of structure. They felt secure in the ease in which we lived each day, day by day and moment by moment. And they didn't question that there was no schedule to what was coming next. They didn't need a structure. They went with the flow.
And the flow was easy
And then I had my youngest daughter. Oh my. She was completely different than they were. She was completely different than I was. And so I had to learn something new.
Because the best thing we can do for our children is to parent them exactly the way they need to be parented.
It wasn't about her matching me. It was about me, as her mom, giving her exactly what she needed to be her best self. And so, whereas my first two children were able to go with ease into whatever came up at that moment without a worry about what would be coming next, my youngest daughter needed a plan. She needed to know what was to be expected. She needed to know what she was supposed to do.
And I was screwed. I had no idea how to do that.
But here is the beauty that is our children. They do not just come to us to teach us lessons we need to learn. They come to us equipped to help us learn those lessons, in any way we need them to help us. And that is exactly what my youngest child did.
Mommy, she said to me. I need you to tell me when to go to bed.
I can do that, I said to her, feeling completely inadequate and unable to do that. I think I need a little help, I said.
OK, she said. I will tell you each night it is time for you to tell me when to go to bed.
OK, I said. I can do that.
And that is exactly what I did. Each night my seven-year-old, brilliant and capable and knowing exactly what she needed daughter came to me and said Mommy I think it's time for you to tell me it's time to go to bed. And each night, after she told me, I looked at her and I said Faith, it's time for you to go to bed. And she would wish me good night and give me a hug and off she would go to bed. And she felt safe and secure. And I felt thankful. And relieved. I was serving my daughter in exactly the way she needed to be served. And she was helping me to serve her in exactly the way I needed to.
So back to my puppy.
My other puppies were easy. They matched my rhythm. They came when I called. They sat when I told them to sit. We went on walks without a leash and they followed along with tails held high and a skip to their gait. We were connected. They didn't need much structure at all. Or rather they needed the kinds of structure that I was good at. Where a command was more a conversation. Where constant loving and stroking were more important than tasks. Where we could hang out and everyone was happy.
They didn't need to work for me. They just needed to be with me.
But this, my beautiful and smart and capable and brilliant and incredible and challenging and lovely Doberman puppy, she needs more than that from me and so that is what I am learning to do. Because just as my youngest daughter needed me to give her more structure, and I learned to do that with some help from her, so I am learning to create a more concrete and structured way of living through each day with this, my incredible and beautiful and brilliantly smart Doberman puppy.
And in return I am learning so much more about myself.
I am learning that I can learn. I am learning that I can grow. I am learning that I can work as a team with my husband and with my family. I am learning that it is OK to ask somebody else for help. I am learning that it is okay to say that it is hard to take myself out of my comfort zone and do something that is best for someone else. I am learning that my puppy needs a strong and capable hand. And that she looks for that from me. And I am learning that I can do that.
That I may need help, but I can do that.
And I am learning that in giving her my best self in just this moment, she can be her best self, too.
Why I wear very good and extremely, obscenely expensive bras and other healthy ways of coping with a changing body
warning - spoiler: for those women not yet at this stage of your life, you may decide you would rather wait and experience this first hand rather than read what may be in your future….for those not female…..you may want to skip this altogether, perhaps too much information (though you may want to scroll down to the paragraph on periods and hormones… I mean you do live with us on a daily basis, it may be helpful to gain a bit more insight so when we rip out your heart and suck you dry and then weep on your shoulder only to forget what we were talking about seconds later, you will understand and can be supportive).
There are certain things going on with my body lately. I am sure they are all gradual things, though they seem to just appear overnight. Similar to when my babies were little and I would put them to bed in a one piece, feet included sleepy that was too big and they would wake up and could not bend their knees. Kind of like that. But not really.
Anyway, I digress. I am changing. Inside certainly. My heart, my mind, my soul. This collective we, are all getting stronger and wiser and more at peace. Unfortunately - or not, I am trying to make peace with this - my body is keeping up with this transformation. In some not so pleasing ways that I thought I would share with you here so as to warn you of what is coming and perhaps give you some ideas to prevent, starve off, or at least cope in a healthy way, this does not mean drinking wine.
Let us start with...
Graying Hair: Hair turns gray. EVERYWHERE ON YOUR BODY. Not just on your head. I did not know this. I did not even think about this to know this. And nobody ever thought to tell me this. But now, when I mention it to other women, they all say, oh yes, that is what happens. And we laugh because it is a private joke. On us. Someone should have warned me. I am warning you so you do not wake up one morning and look down and say what the fuck. Well, you may say that anyway but at least you won't be surprise. Now, I am a laser hair removal survivor, I say this in all truth, it hurt more that getting my tattoos, and so there is really not a lot of hair there. Except for those motherfucking gray ones that cannot be lasered off. The contrast between hair and skin, that dark against light thing that the laser needs…it does not exist when gray hair is on light skin. So be warned. If you are thinking of laser hair removal and you have not even one gray hair anywhere…DO IT NOW! Kill those fuckers before they morph into the demons that they are.
And speaking of gray hair, let us talk about...
Eyebrows: They turn gray too. One hair at a time. But there is more going on here. They get long. Like long as in I-swear-I-pluck-one-and-it-is-attached-over-the-other-eye long. Those older men we see, our grandfathers and great uncles, I have their eyebrows on my face. What is up with that. Gray, long eyebrows. But not all gray. Some half gray. Or still darker. Some still manageable. But keep an eye on them, this sentence amuses me. I think they could take over my face if I am not careful.
Let us move on to…
Knees: Or more specifically the skin above them. Well, the skin that used to be above them but now seem to want to rest right against the knee cap. Saggy knees. I have this. I know that a lot of this is sun damage. So first piece of advice: if you are young still or not so young, USE SUNBLOCK. And not just on your face and chest where you may worry most. Use it on your thighs and knees. The sun damage makes the loss of elasticity in skin that much more pronounced and someday your knees will look like my knees. Now don't get me wrong. I have great legs. I always have. Just loose knees. There is a joke in here somewhere…loose knees, loose lips sink ships, can't quite get it though. So take care of your skin around your knees. And second suggestion: keep your knees bent as often as possible. They look really great that way.
Ok, let us visit our…
Ass: I do believe I have a good one of these, too. But just as my knees look great bent, my ass looks best bent over. It used to look standing the way it looks bent over now. This is an age thing. That skin I was talking about above, that elasticity thing that is happening, it happens everywhere. Some places faster than others. Think sun damage/use sun screen/I am going to drill this home today. Hence the sagging knees. Well, ass skin gets loser, too. And those pert cheeks that used to fill up jeans just so - they are a bit flatter and perhaps a bit lower down than they were before. Still good but definitely looking a bit tired. Worn out. So work out. Drink lots of water. This is my advice to you.
Let us now talk about our…
Period: Or lack thereof. And how long that lack there of takes to reach. Because for me, this process started OVER TEN YEARS AGO. And is only just ending now. Truly. But yours may be less years. Or more. You may feel all sorts of symptoms or nothing at all. And let me tell you, what you read about the peri-menapausal stage - this is BULLSHIT. None of us are the same. That constant period that you have. That is normal. Not having one then having a huge one. Normal. Spotting. Normal. Being cranky, horny, emotional, psychic, scatterbrained and intense. Normal. Now this is not to say that if you question something ignore it, you should definitely have it checked out. Though keep in mind that what is happening here…. in a whisper, no one really knows. My doctor, who I love and knew all my babies…this is what he said: Honestly, he said to me, we really don't know what is going on in women's bodies. Well…thank you for that because I already knew that and this is why I love my doc. Now I am lucky compared to some women I know. I did not have hot flashes for most of these ten LONG ASS YEARS, except for about 1-2 years a number of years ago when I would wake up and HAVE TO GET OUT OF THESE GODDAMN COVERS RIGHT THIS SECOND OR I WILL DIE and now when the lack of a period has become a reality and I am truly done with "the change". And though I am emotional at times, I think this is more being mindful of my feelings than hormonal symptoms. And I am not bitchy. I never really was pre-period anyway. I am, however, really scatterbrained and forgetful. But that is ok because I think about it for like one second and then immediately move to another thought or forget about it. So good luck with this one. Keep the communication open with those you love and that significant person in your life. It's important to keep the connection there even during this changing time/changed time. I have gotten a bit serious here….let us move on.
Ok, I have one more to do, and then I am done.
Breasts: Specifically the size and shape of them. Now…I was always told and I read in books and magazines and other women talked about this, too, that my breasts would get little at this stage of my life. Perhaps less pert but little. And this I liked to hear. Except... IT WAS A LIE. They are bigger. Much bigger. Like two cup sizes bigger. Some may say that this is a good thing. I, personally, like little breasts on me. I like my clothes in little breasts. I like working out in them better. They are all around easier to handle, another amusing phrase. But mine are not this. They are HUGE. For me they are huge. And full. And they hurt. Because they are heavy. Now, while I was still going through that change that I just talked about above I got to thinking that perhaps after they get huge like this and then they will get small. But that is not how it works. And when I look around at a lot of women older than me, they have huge breasts too. And just the other day, while out bra shopping, for my very good and extremely, obscenely expensive bras, the woman in the bra store said that her's got huge too. And, whisper again, stayed that way. And, like my ass and my knees - and other places I have decided not to visit today - they are not nearly as pert as they were. So, what is a girl to do? I wear great bras. Beautiful ones. Yes, I have some basic ones, too. But I also have lovely ones. Lacy and sexy. And….and this is a big and…..they fit me. They support me. Both physically and mentally. So buy good bras. Feel beautiful. Take care of your breasts. Love them. Your significant other loves them. See them through their eyes if you can't see them through your own.
So, here you have it. A body's transformation into something a bit different but still the same. Still me, just slightly looser and grayer and bigger in places. All in all a good thing. But still hard to handle. I look in the mirror sometimes and I am surprised. Because my mind's eye sees me differently. But I still see me. Beautiful and strong.
I hope you enjoyed this trip into what could be your future, too. Advice: take good care of your body. Love your skin. Love your sags. Love yourself. I am learning to do this, too.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.