Freshness date

I was standing in front of the refrigerator holding a jar of salsa that I am sure, had been purchased sometime during the Eisenhower administration.

(Ok, so they didn't have salsa back then.)

Keeping the fridge clean and up to date is I admit, not a strong suit of mine. I have hotdogs in the freezer that were purchased two years ago, and condiments? Don't even get me started! This concept of when is the time to let go should be easy when it comes to food: just check the expiration date, right?

Intangible concepts, such as emotional issues are more complex.  I had posted previously about a butterfly release ceremony  I attended a year ago this month.  I had asked an older woman at that ceremony who had lost her husband three years prior, if it gets easier and her gut reaction was "no."  It shocked me at the time but now I understand.

There is no black and white freshness date to let you know when things will be better after a loss.  I am a year and 4 months in and still have many days when it feels dewy fresh and raw.  However, I'm thankful for other days I find moments of joy and blessed distraction.

On a recent business trip to Miami, I was traveling back to our hotel with some colleagues after consuming a gorgeous gourmet meal and many glasses of wine.  During the ride one of my colleagues, a nice woman in her 40's who has been married for 20 years, took it upon herself to lecture me about being alone.

"Martha, you're young, you'll meet someone else.  It's time for you to try," she urged me, in what I had wished was a stage whisper, since everyone, including our silent and courteous driver Julio, could hear her loud and clear.

I tried to get her to stop, but alcohol and an all-knowing attitude would not be squelched. I find it offensive that anyone would tell me that my time of mourning should be over.  It may never be over.  Or it may be better tomorrow.  I may never want to engage with another partner at this stage and am totally fine with that.  Shouldn't everyone else be then too?

The lesson here is don't stamp people's feelings and actions with your own freshness date.  If you know someone struggling emotionally whatever it is, let them evolve on their own schedule.  Offer help, but give them space to adjust, grieve, make decisions about what to do next – and when.

"Eh…" I placed the salsa back on the refrigerator shelf and closed the door.

The old and flu season

My friend Laura, certainly the most fit person I know, made a seemingly innocuous admission recently that has stuck with me.

While on vacation in Maine with her husband, they were out enjoying some cross country skiing. Out for a couple of hours, he turned to her and asked if she wanted to continue on the set of trails they’d yet to explore.

“I said no, I’m good.”

It doesn’t sound like much, calling it a day, but Laura is an animal. I mean, this woman went running through thigh-high snow some years back right after minor leg surgery!

Now, maybe she was just bored by the steady swoosh of the dogged ski trail, or maybe she is at an age and stage where having to push through the limits is no longer such an attractive option.

I find myself using that phrase “age and stage” a lot lately, now that I am closer to the north side of 60.

A recent two-week bout with the flu not only left me weak, but weirdly took away my senses of taste and smell. What fresh hell is this? I thought to myself. Then, due to my illness-induced inactivity, I messed up my shoulder in Ashtanga yoga class.

Ok, enough is enough. I get that millions are impacted by the flu. But am I at that crossroads where all signs say, “Proceed with caution – you’re past the double nickel and all minor ailments will last longer, carrying forward a piquant aftertaste that lasts well beyond the last bitter sip.” (Yeah – too long for a sign, I know!)

The saying “time heals all wounds” is not true when it comes to grief, and certainly not applicable to aging. I’m certainly not on my last legs, and Laura can still rock a bikini like nobody’s business. But it gives you pause, the domino effect of minor aches and pains, and how they awaken thoughts of the decrepitude to come.

Aren’t you just dying to invite me to your next baby shower?

Join the resolution revolution

Just when it seems darkest, one of my tribe reaches out with a Coleman lantern and waves it in front of my face.

I am fortunate to have a family I get along with. But since they have always lived an airplane ride away, I have formed wonderful relationships over the last several decades with many friends who I will now refer to as my tribe members, since the line drawn between friends and family has become so blurred.

Today, sitting drinking my morning coffee, I get a text message from one of the tribe elders, Pam.

“Call me when you are up. I have ideas!”

Many people besides myself were impacted by the loss of my husband. Pam has found it to be especially tough, coming on the heels of a year when she helped her husband through a bout with cancer (he is now fine) and other events which have made her question her life’s purpose at this juncture. It was a tough year for all, indeedy-do, in Pam’s lingo (and as I may have mentioned ever so tactfully, in a previous blog).

This is not us but could have been (except for the gal holding the cell phone, as they were not invented yet when we were attending JFK Junior High School).

But Pam has already been trying to pull herself back up by her boot straps. We are part of a core group of friends who met in junior high school and camped together a lot. We gals thought nothing of packing a cooler and tent and heading for nearby Vermont for the weekend. We still see each other. Most of us went for a walk on New Year’s Day at a local park. We have more shared experiences than we could ever hope to remember. That’s why I know my friends were happy when I met James and married. At last I had found my mate as my friends had decades before me.

In either case, back to the text message. I immediately picked up the phone and without preamble, asked Pam for a run down.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m calling it six in six!”

“Like a lottery scratch off game?” I responded.

“Well, yeah…OK,” she said, used to my offbeat quips.

Pam’s idea takes the New Year’s resolution to a different level.  We would each commit to plan something to do together. It could be read a book, take a day trip, sneak into the movies, steal a car (haha) –  something we have either never done or want to revisit with fresh eyes, she explained.  She takes six months of the year and I take six months and we plan one event per month.

We are all familiar with the typical type of singular resolution. The gyms are full of them come January. This idea appealed to me. A new twist that could inject some life back into our lives. Something we both needed desperately. It recalibrates the stale idea of making a resolution. Create a roadmap of experiences to look forward to throughout the year and share them with a friend.

I could already feel a small ember in my core, starting to be fanned ever brighter by a light breeze. It was not a giant plan, we would never conquer Everest, but maybe it could inspire us on to bigger and better?

“I love the idea!” I said to her, already starting to think of what we could do as the year unfolds.

The wheels are starting to turn, a bit resistant due to recent rust formations but moving all the same. So I dare you – go ahead – foment your own kind of revolution in 2017.