Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Old Lady Arms

This essay will be published in the next issue of Prime Time Monthly, a regional publication targeted for boomers and older in Albuquerque, NM

OLD LADY ARMS
By Karen Walker

Nora Ephron hates her neck. I completely relate. Until recently, some of my body parts were on my most unwanted list. After years of trying to apply New Age philosophy to shift this self-hatred to self-love, feeling gratitude for my body and what it does for me is a daily goal. However, when I looked in the mirror the other day and saw crinkly flesh sagging from my upper arm bone, my immediate oh my God, I have old lady arms, was most definitely unloving.

Part of it is my fault. Overweight for most of my 59 years, I only recently lost 40 pounds. Despite exercising throughout the weight loss, flabby skin flops over arms, neck, stomach and thighs that, at this point, will never become taut. And truth be told, my upper arms always sagged, even in my twenties. It was the crinkles which threw me. I’m not talking fine lines at the side of my eyes, or laugh lines that have grown a bit deeper. I’m talking elephant skin.

Okay, Eckhart Tolle, I’m in the moment here—not resisting what is. But I am judging and certainly not graciously accepting. It’s not that I mind getting older—that’s inevitable. I guess I just wasn’t ready to face the fact that I am older. Folks in their seventies and eighties say that in their heads they are much younger than their physical bodies. I get that. Me too. In my head, I’m 30-something so my reflection in the mirror surprises me every time. One soon-to-be 64-year-old girlfriend tells me she just doesn’t look in the mirror anymore—it’s too painful. When did this happen, we lamented to one another.

Bette Davis once said growing old wasn’t for sissies. She was so right. How does one graciously accept losing looks, friends, bodily functions, mobility, independence, and ultimately life? I’ve had some experience dealing with elders as caretaker for my father the last three years of his life, helping a close friend with her mother and now caretaking my 88-year-old mother in law. As I watched these octogenarians deal with the aging issues, my prayer was that somehow I would approach growing older differently—accept it more graciously—become more peaceful and serene and content with myself rather than mourning all the losses.

Instead, the fact that I’m turning 60 this April has thrown me into a bit of a tizzy and I’m not quite sure why. Yes, I’m surprised by my reflection and not happy about what aging is doing to my skin and hair and flexibility and range of motion. And no, I am not dissatisfied with my life and accomplishments. Yes, I wish I’d done some things differently. No, I don’t really regret anything because it all led me to where I am now. Yes, I would love to have had my present wisdom years ago when I made really poor choices. But I do believe things happen for a reason and I am very content with who I’ve become and where I am in my life.

So what is this tizzy about? Didn’t I hear somewhere that 60 is the new 40? True, today’s 60-year-old is much more active, involved and vital than 60-year-olds from my parents’ generation. In fact, there was an article the other day about how baby boomers are wearing out body parts much younger than previous generations. The good news is our generation has the option of replacing some of those parts.

But I have to ask myself, do I even want to? Replace body parts, that is. When does one begin to accept what is happening to one’s body, rather than continuously trying to repair or enhance it? This is a complicated issue. My father took medicine to prevent strokes, reduce blood pressure, and keep a skin condition from recurring, which I’m pretty sure added some time to his lifespan. When I fractured my ankle a few years ago, it never dawned on me not to have it repaired so I could return to normal physical activities. If arthritis deteriorates my knees or my hips, however, should I get new ones? I’m not sure. The issue gets confused with vanity and societal pressure to look and stay as young as possible for as long as possible. One must be able to separate body functioning from body appearance and make wise, personal, appropriate choices.
My hair is completely white now, but I colored it ash blonde for years. Now it’s white with platinum highlights, a bit closer to the truth. In the past, I couldn’t handle looking older (and yes, I’m sorry, but our society does consider those with white or gray hair to be old) but perhaps now is the time to begin feeling good about my age. A volcanic paradigm shift would be needed, however, to think I’ll look good as well. Letting go of whether others think I look good is a whole other issue.

There is no room for vanity in the aging world I want to inhabit. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to 60 and 70 and 80 not worrying about how I look, or how anyone else looks for that matter? When I reach the end of my life, I truly don’t want it to have been about body parts I wished looked different—I’ve wasted enough time and energy in that zone already. There is still much vitality, energy, passion and hunger to use my wisdom, experience and skills wisely—to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

Perhaps turning 60 can revolutionize me. Rather than obsess over reaching 60 years of age, which, to my mind, is an ancient milestone, perhaps I can release attitudes and old ways of thinking which no longer serve me. What if the 60’s become my best decade ever? How freeing that would be to accept what is—even white hair and old lady arms.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Podcast

Sharon Lippincott, a wonderful writer from Pennsylvania, interviewed me for her first podcast. Sharon hosts a lovely website for writers: http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/2009/04/following-whispers.html
Please check it out. You can hear my first podcast interview, plus check out Sharon's books and blogs.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Surgery went well on Thursday, so the surgeon told Gary. It is hard getting used to using only one arm. I finally figured out how to position the laptop so I can type with both hands, instead of just one finger, but it is awkward and uncomfortable. It is a time for healing, not working, as I recover and pray that I get full function back in my right arm with no pain. Three of my four limbs have now had surgery (right ankle, left knee and now right shoulder). I turn 60 in two weeks. In total, I have had eight surgeries in my life. It is enough. I am blessed because otherwise I am quite healthy. I am also quite ready to begin a new writing project. A writing retreat is planned for June, the first time I will be out of a sling and able to travel.
Letting go of emotional attachments to things around me continues. The hardest to let go of is sales of my book, but I'm working on it. Helping my son through a family crisis is also difficult, but it feels wonderful to pass along some of the wisdom I have gained through my years of pain and struggle.

For now,
Blessings and love,
karen