OT and PTI never would have thought to ask this until lately when my rehab therapists have spent so much time raking me over the coals about my posture and the way I walk.

Yes, I’ve known for years–because my father so often reprimanded me–that I don’t stand up straight. I have what some (generously I thought) call a Model’s Slouch. That is, I lead with my stomach. Add to this that I do something funny with my knees–with each step I lock the weight-bearing knee. This has a fancy name which I’ve been told but never bothered to remember. Why should I? It’s the way I walk. It gets me where I’m going, doesn’t it?

In Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy, this has become the source of much discussion. As has the fact that I now–since the surgery or before??–push my head forward at what I’m told is an unnatural angle. The problem is, it feels very natural to me. I have no idea that I’m doing it until someone points it out to me. When the therapists have given me instructions on how to properly hold my head, it feels weird, not to mention awkward and who-the-hell-walks-this-way.

I have, it seems, no sense of where and how my body is. They’re right; I don’t, so much so that I have no sense of what that sentence actually means. Gloria, my physical therapist, has me stand against a wall with a ball in the small of my back. This evidently forces me to stand correctly. Then she has me walk up and down the length of the therapy room, and she has taught me that the correct gait is to keep my legs spread further apart than feels natural (sort of like I’ve wet my pants) and then, especially with the left leg which is the weaker, to goose step. When I do this, she nods approvingly. The only thing I can tell you that I’m doing, apart from the spread legs and goose step, is to suck in my gut. Other than those three things, I haven’t a clue why this is right and my normal walk is wrong.

I’ve just come back from walking. I did 1.31 miles around my neighborhood. Level ground, yes, but still–that’s over a mile! I’m so proud, but I’m also mystified. Did I walk that 1.31 miles the right way or the wrong way? Without Gloria watching, I can’t tell. On the last leg of my walk, I thought about something that my OT, Sidan, said to me the other day. “When you walk, you are all in your head.”she said. “You’re dreaming about whatever is coming next and what you’re thinking or planning or writing. Your head rules your body.”

Isn’t that true for everyone?

If it’s not for you, could you please explain what it means to have your body rule your head. Gloria and Sidan will thank you and, yes, I will too. 

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 by John Ptacek of  On Second Thought

 

Negative people

What should we do with all the negative people in the world? Should we place them under house arrest? Banish them to a remote island?

It has become commonplace for advice givers, including some on the spiritual side of the fence, to preach segregation as a strategy for personal happiness. They urge us to cut negative people out of our lives. Their negativity is a drain on our positivity, we are told. Apparently, there’s just so much positivity to go around.

But since almost all of us react negatively to life’s unpredictable ups and downs once in a while, including the most enlightened among us, this would seem an impractical approach.

I suppose it’s possible to determine the amount of negativity we’re willing to accept from others on a percentage basis, and then sort the population out according to our personal negativity indexes. But this is just as problematic. If the positive among us catching us doing this, our behavior could easily be perceived as negative, and there we would be, part of the population we were attempting to distance ourselves from. It gets knotty.

And anyway, how can avoiding negative people pass as enlightened counsel? I doubt that Jesus or Buddha would have thought much of this idea. Human beings just like us, these men were walking examples of our highest human potential, to love without exception, to admit the least of us into their company.

Isn’t negative is just another demeaning label, like flamer, ditz, bible thumper, neat freak, and loser?

Labels anesthetize us to the shame we might otherwise feel when we turn our backs on another human being. People we label as negative are simply those who have yet to find tools to break out of their emotional prisons. They are confused and scared and hurt, even though they would prefer to happy.

Haven’t we all been in such a dark place? And when we were there did we want others to step around us as if we were carrying the plague, or were we hoping they might pierce the darkness with a kind word or gesture? When I was there, a knowing smile could warm me for days.

It is one thing to keep our distance from those who truly threaten our physical or emotional well being, but it is quite another to turn our backs on those whose fates might be altered by the light of our loving presence–people like you and me whose reactions to life’s complexities vary only by degree. If not us, then who?

So cleanse your life of so called negative people if you must, but if this is part of a spiritual journey, you may want to consult your map. You may remember that you too were once confused and scared and hurt, and that it was this suffering that ultimately ignited the flame of your self-awareness.

Not to worry. I won’t cut you out of my life. You and I are on the same spiritual path. We all are. We all want to be at peace with ourselves and the world around us. If you find yourself slotting others into negative categories, it’s a sign that you’ve ventured onto the wrong path. Time to check the pilot light. Your self-awareness may be sputtering into self-absorption.

 

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le weekendRoger Michell’s LE WEEK-END is being promoted as a film focusing on the thirty year marriage of two sixty-somethings, but it is really much more than that. It is an exploration of the many layers that comprise the lives of those of us who are on the other side of sixty. In fact, to accurately reduce this film to a synopsis of plot and character is impossible, so nuanced is it. I suspect that LE WEEK-END offers a kind of Rorschach test, in which one’s answer to–what’s this film about?–depends on just where you are in dealing with the oh-my-god-how-did-I-get-to-be-this-age scenario.

While LE WEEK-END foregrounds the issue of marriage–this weekend in Paris is the celebration of Nick and Meg’s thirtieth wedding anniversary–for me, the film is about so much more than their marriage, a marriage or even any marriage. I saw the signal question the three main characters of LE WEEK-END were asking as some variation of “what’s next?” which includes, as it must, the secondary question, “is there a next even possible?” And then the mega question which hovers over all–”what happened to who and what I thought I’d be?”

Behind these questions for all of us is the human urge to create a meaningful life. It’s the same urge that propelled us in our twenties, except now there are limits imposed. Some are real, some imagined, some imposed by others, some by our own view of aging–but they all have to be acknowledged, sorted out if you will, in order that we can continue to satisfy that existential urge.

The three characters of LE WEEK-END offer three different possiblities. Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), who plays an academic superstar now living in Paris, has dealt with it by starting over again: new wife, new family, new life. Except he knows that this fresh start will one day be stale–and the question then will be, can he pull it off again? Nick (Jim Broadbent) is a mild-mannered, somewhat sheepish professor of philosophy at a polytechnic in Northern England. This is definitely not where he thought he’d be headed in the days when he and Morgan were grad students in Cambridge. Even more, he has just been fired, which makes the question of what he’ll do next more pressing. Meg (Lindsay Duncan) is a teacher who fairly pulsates with exasperation at her slower, stolid husband, even as she loves and wants him–and wants more for them than their current life.

Even as I write this I’m aware how the Rorschach effect is coloring my own descriptions. I was watching the film unfold through Meg’s eyes; so that exasperation–was it all hers, or was some of it mine? Even while I was watching it, I wondered how a man would view Meg and Nick; who would he empathize with.

I found out quite quickly when I read Kenneth Turan’s review of LE WEEK-END in the LA Times. “Le Week-End” is a sour and misanthropic film masquerading as an honest and sensitive romance. A painful and unremittingly bleak look at a difficult marriage, it wants us to sit through a range of domestic horrors without offering much of anything as a reward.

Had Turan and I seen the same film? At first I was appalled at the vituperative intensity of his antipathy. Then I was amused. This was the Rorschach effect at work on Turan. I don’t know what his domestic situation is but I’ll bet on this: he is, for whatever reason, heavily invested in a happily-ever-after rendition of married life.

Meg and Nick’s marriage wasn’t difficult; it was incredibly realistic. I don’t know what the domestic horrors Turan was referring to are–really, I can’t think of one–but I can tell you that the reward of LE WEEK-END for me was the joy of seeing sixty-somethings portrayed on the screen as fully rounded people, operating in a world with the same consciousness they had at twenty layered over by the experience of their next forty years. There wasn’t a false note in this film and as for that Rorschach effect–how rare these days to see a movie that not only makes one think, but promotes self-knowledge.

Here’s the trailer. Watch  it. Then go see LE WEEK-END and let the Rorschach effect work on you.

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The Workday BeginsWhen Marci Rich, of The MidLife Second Wife, nominated me to follow her entry in the My Writing Process (#mywritingprocess) blog tour, I hesitated. I don’t usually do blog tours, but since I’ve moved my focus from blogging as a business back to blogging as a writer, I’ve missed having other writers to play with. Even more the whole focus of the blog tour matched perfectly with the theme of the Writers Workshop that I created last year: Writing as Process and the Process of Writing. Serendipity…propinquity…and all those other good karmic words seemed to be at play here so I said yes to Marci and yes to the tour.

Then I started reading some of the actual posts on the blog tour, and I quickly became intimidated. I am not a poet or a short story writer with a long list of credits. I am a non-fiction writer and my credits, while the list is pretty long, are in various publications, some of which are well-respected and some less so. Having started out as a journalist, my attitude toward my writing has more to do with a seat-of-the-pants work ethic than anything else, and I questioned whether I was Writer enough to fit in. Then I started responding to the prompts, however, and I really got into it.

1. Why do I write what I do?

When people ask me why I write, I tell them, because I can’t not write. I suppose I could clothe my motivations in something glorious like, “it’s how I make sense of the world,” but while true, that wouldn’t be what drives me as a writer. It’s just what I am and who I am and I can’t fancy the fact of it up anymore than that. I love working with words; I love coming up with the perfect expression of something. I love–well, let me be honest–most of what I love about writing is after the fact. That is, I love having written; actually doing it is often another story.

As to why I write what I do–years ago in grad school I had to write an essay following George Orwell’s “Why I Write.” It was an A paper, and I wish I could find it to quote myself. Suffice to say, the gist of it was that I write what I do because I want my vision and my version of the world to be heard, seen and paid attention to.

Why do I write non-fiction? Truth be told, I also write fiction. And some poetry. But those rarely see the light of day. Why is that? I’m not sure. Perhaps I don’t have the guts to offer myself to the world in the way that fiction and poetry can demand. When I have put my fiction out for comment, the feedback has sent me scurrying for cover. With non-fiction, I’m adept at using words to obfuscate or misdirect or just plain bury. Okay, now that I’ve written that, I see another reason why I write: to find out what I’m really thinking, even when I don’t want to think what I’m thinking.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Um, in that it’s my work–in my voice? I’m not trying to be clever, but I don’t know any other way to answer this question.

Okay, for the sake of this exercise, let me try: if my genre is non-fiction, then I’m more Norah Ephron than Joan Didion. I’m not a lyrical writer, although I am a stylist. I’m not a self-described humor writer, but my quirky view of the world colors all my work.

3.How does your writing process work?

I get up in the morning, late-ish, and take a cup of coffee and an oatmeal breakfast bar down to my office and fire up the computer. Then I read my email and dither around the latest news on Yahoo and lose myself in FaceBook for a while. Eventually, I yank myself out of the alpha state on-line always puts me into and Get. To. Work.

Right here, I’m verging on painting a lovely word picture of myself as Author at Work, fingers flying over the keyboard, stopping only long enough to sip that cup of coffee before rolling out another line of pearls. I wish. The fact is, I have ADHD, which means I have a hard time sitting still, let alone focusing on the topic at hand. Sometimes I forget what the topic at hand actually is. Most of the time I have to allot at least double what it would take anyone else to finish the task. I used to think that the fact that I couldn’t fulfill the Author at Work fantasy meant I wasn’t really a writer. I beat myself up about it a lot and lost not a small amount of time doing so. Now I more or less (sometimes a lot less) accept that my writing process is what it is, for better or worse, and it’s gotten me where I’m meant to be in my career.

My own experience and that I’ve had over the years teaching writing makes me feel very sure of two things with respect to writing and process. The first is that the process of writing is on-going. It’s not something I have done; it is something I am doing. As such, I cannot focus on the product of my writing because It has a life of its own and is always open to change. The second thing I know for sure is that all the little habits and weird quirks, the must haves and cannot do’s I’ve learned over the years that constitute my writing process are vital to my creativity, my productivity, and my state of mind!

4. What am I working on?

I founded MidLifeBloggers six years ago when blogging was very much in the domain of young moms. Today, I’m pleased to say, there are any number of midlife and boomer bloggers, many of whom identify as writers. I’ve moved MidLifeBloggers from being a professionally-edited on-line magazine publishing the best of midlife writing to being my personal blog. Yes, I occasionally still publish other writers, but my focus is on expressing my own experience in my own voice.

I started the MidLifeBloggers Writers Workshop several years ago as an informal, free on-line venture. Last Fall, I formalized it as a ten-week, fee-based program called Writing as Process and the Process of Writing. I tried, as much as possible, to duplicate on-line the best of writers’ workshops that I’ve both given and attended in real life. We use Google Drive to share the writing parts of the Workshop and Google Hangout for weekly face-to-face group meetings where we read and comment on each other’s work. It was an incredible success, both for me and for the workshop participants, and all of them are signed up to do the next session, which begins in June.

I have a unique background that informs my teaching of writing: On the one hand, I’ve been a working writer all my life which means I understand what it feels like to be a writer as well as what how the business works. In addition, I’ve had years of experience teaching writing of all genres to students of all levels, so I understand both the pedagogy and the practicalities of teaching writing. Finally, I use my theoretical and practical work as an M.A. in psychology to understand what I call the the Psychodynamics of Writing. All of that enables me to coach, console, motivate, educate and in all ways help other writers to realize their own potential. I’ve started thinking of myself as a midwife to other writers, helping them birth their own babies whatever they may be.

As part of that, I’m loving that I get to introduce three writers who I’ve chosen to follow me on the blog tour:

1. The first is Janie Emaus, a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, who I published last year on MidLifeBloggers after we flew together to BlogHer 2013 where she was honored as a BlogHer Voice of the Year.  As a little girl, Janie would entertain her family by incorporating newspaper articles into stories that she would read out loud. By junior high, she was creating plots and characters all on her own. Since then, she’s been writing everything from poetry to educational videos, with a big of sex thrown in to keep everyone interested.

The author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the Young Adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love, Janie’s non-fiction has appeared in several of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as the current best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth. In a previous life (before cell phones and the World Wide Web, Janie was an author for Parachute Press, the packager of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series. In addition, she wrote dozens of stories for The LA Times Kids’ Reading Room Page.

Today, you can read her on In The Powder Room, The Huffington Post, Better After 50, and Midlife Blvd. Janie believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is currently working on a novel, women’s fiction this time. You’ll find links to all her published work at www.JanieEmaus.com.

3. I first found Inger Anna Jones through her blog, So You Want To Be A Writer. She had an enviable life working in the Foreign Service in London but what she really wanted was to give in to her urge to be a full-time writer. I was entranced by her writing. For one, her life today–with the London and writing connection–resonated with my memories of my life in London wanting to be a full-time writer. Even more, though, there is something about Inger’s voice that I find rare; it’s clear and pure and eminently readable. Her daily blog has chronicled the ups and downs of her decision to quit that enviable London job and move to a small village in the Cotswolds. It continues even now that she is a full-time writer hard at work on a book of creative non-fiction.

“I’m a believer in taking chances and not knowing all the answers,” Inger writes. “I think change equals opportunities. I started this blog as a way to keep track of my writing process, a public diary if you will. It’s been part of my daily writing ritual ever since, a wonderful outlet to vent, rant, and write about whatever is going on and keeping me on the straight and narrow. Nobody wants to read about someone who sort of wanted to be a writer but never did anything about it. This forces me to stay focused and keep going.”

3. Last but certainly not least (can you tell I’m doing the alphabet thing here?) is Kim Tracy Prince, who grew up on the coast of the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. An avid reader, she started writing short stories and personal essays while studying at the University of Notre Dame. After moving to Los Angeles, she became a television and multimedia producer, creating episodes of the celebrity biography show “Revealed with Jules Asner,” and directing and producing lifestyle reality shows and behind-the-scenes entertainment programming. In 2010 Prince made the shift to web publishing as the founding features editor of CBSLA.com, commissioning and curating useful and entertaining content about the city of LA, leading a team of 25 freelance writers.

Prince started her award-winning blog House of Prince ten years ago and has been one of the most active in raising the LA blogging scene to where it is today. Among her many credits are several columns including an advice column for modern mothers on Mom.me, a gossip column about bloggers on ShePosts, a real estate column for Roost, and a travel column for Uptake. She has sold numerous articles and essays to outlets like DAME Magazine, Babycenter, and Mamalode. She currently writes the American Family Budget column for Intuit’s Mint.com. Her essay “Back To School” will appear in print in the summer issue of the University of Notre Dame Alumni Magazine.

Prince lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two young boys. She is writing her first book, a memoir about her love-hate relationship with housework. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and a tasty cocktail.

 

 

 

 

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David Stein

See that lovely lady in her classy sheath dress. Doesn’t she look about 23 or 24? She was, maybe, 16. Today’s teen girls dress like their younger siblings; our style was more to look like our mothers. 

The event was an evening party–we called them “affairs”–given by the club I belonged to, the G.E.M.s. My date was David Stein, who I’d met at camp when I was 12. We stayed friends and he became the boy I took to all parties where I didn’t have an actual date. Which was all of them, including my Senior Prom. Thank you, Dave, for being such a good sport!

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