The same day my 90-year-old mother put herself on an assisted living community’s waiting list, I received a snail mail notice from Enterprise car rental. Seems that my “rental vehicle incurred a citation or toll during [my] rental period.” Huh?
First reaction: This is a scam.
Second reaction: Well, if someone’s ripping me off, it’s a pretty modest ripoff: Enterprise informed me it was fining me, using my credit card number—which they had, of course—$18.00!
Third reaction: OK. Maybe I did mess up. One look at the date and I knew exactly what happened: Cruising up Interstate 95 on a beautiful, late-summer day, a dear friend in the passenger seat, the two of us chatting away, we arrived at the tolls in New Hampshire. So I breezed through the EZ Pass lane. Because that’s what I always do. In my own car. Ooops.
1. “You never call and the NSA can back me up on that!” Yup. This is my Big Brother moment. Just imagining the surveillance and the computerized systems’ interconnectedness activated by my one, stupid mistake, then multiplying this one incident exponentially? Yikes. Messing up has never before been so fraught! They got us; we’re caught.
2. This incident may be my first, public, Getting Older & Less With It moment. (I have plenty of these moments in private, 90% of them before drinking my morning coffee.) As egg-on-my-face moments go, as the customer service woman at Enterprise pointed out,”You got lucky.” $18 is incredibly cheap. Making the same stupid mistake in another state would have really cost me. Given that I am living in Surveillance Land, though, and I’m not getting any younger, heightened attention, constant vigilance is called for, I guess. Gotta bring my A game to these kind of situations. I can’t cruise, go on auto-pilot.
Sounds exhausting. Naptime?
Leaving today for this summer’s last hurrah: a writing-retreat weekend in New Hampshire followed by a week in the Catskills at a YMCA family camp (I’m to serve as a pinch-hitting member of my daughter’s and her kids’ family because her husband has to work.). Odd to pack swimming gear and sunblock and a murder-mystery when, emotionally, I’m already into September. And the upcoming year (even bought a 2014 datebook this week!). And the rest of my life!
But I’m remembering summer camp lo these many years ago and how, sometimes, between things, i.e. walking alone from the dining hall back to my cabin through the woods, the eight or ten or twelve year old me thrilled at my aloneness, loved that pine-scented quiet to simply think. Ponder. Feel my breath. Smell. Listen. I loved that!
As a told my physical therapist this week: “It’s never been more clear to me that this IS the first day of the rest of my life.” As I hang out with my writing buddies and swim and read and chase after grandchildren and practice my archery skills (Yup! For real!), my prayer is that I’ll be gifted with quiet moments, too. Moments to ready myself for Fall’s bustle. Moments that will offer new insights into what’s to be.
[A window at Art and Soul Yoga Studio in Inman Square, January, 2013]
Given that on Saturday I decided to give time and energy to Mothers Out Front, it’s pure crazy that today I decided to now go to yoga TWICE a week, right?
Crazy like an aging fox, maybe.
The Backstory: At Saturday’s MOF kick-off launching “a movement that will move beyond fossil fuels and ensure a livable future for our children in the age of climate change,” MOF organizer, Vanessa Rule, quoted an MOF grandmother: “I have one more campaign in me. And [Mothers Out Front] is it.”
And while I, another grandmother, choose to believe I have more than one more campaign in me, I, too, am looking at my own endgame. What am I called to do—while I can? And what ought I to be doing to take good care of myself so I can truly be an instrument of Thy peace? (Full disclosure: as I write this I’m scarfing down double chocolate chip cookies. I am dunking them in skim milk, though. Surely that counts for something?!)
One second-to-last thing: the organizing principle underpinning MOF acknowledges that mothers are incredibly busy! (And grandmothers have less energy than they’d prefer.) I will not be doing any of the upcoming, exciting work alone.
Last thing: Working hard and collaboratively (with a core group of wonderful Somerville women) against “dirty energy” is, by itself, enormously energizing, healthy. After the kick-off—Seneca Falls was referenced more than once; we even signed a declaration—my body feels better.
So, not so crazy, huh!
Sunday morning I walked to Friends Meeting for a 9:00 meeting. Much of Friday’s heavy snow had melted the day before and Sunday was also supposed to be a gloriously sunny, early-spring day. Later, that is. Later it would get warm; melt would melt. NOT at 8:15 as I gingerly made my way over icy sidewalks.
Although I’m slowly getting better at settling into the present moment, ignoring my To Do list and listening to that timeless, small, still voice, on Sunday a scared sixty-eight-year-old inner voice begged the Universe, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Hurry up, sun. Hurry up, future. I don’t want to fall.”
Later that morning, safe and warm, no bones broken, I sat at meeting for worship and considered that morning’s walk. And how I need to remember that those zen-imbued words, “present moment,” can be fraught. I thought about my own future and how my intentional settling into the Here and Now most likely will begin with the acknowledgement of pain.
Warm and healthy and blessed, in Sunday’s silence I remembered this: That I was recently eldered to remember that I am privileged. I’m afraid I did not receive this eldering well! I was defensive and indignant; “I really don’t need you to lecture me!”
But apparently I did. And do. Because although on some level I am aware of my privilege, there’s way more to understand. Like how how much easier it is for me to settle into silent worship and that wondrous, timeless, Light-filled present moment because of my easeful life.
When I was in my thirties and first attending Friends Meeting at Cambridge, one of the ways I got through an hour of silent worship was to check out fellow worshippers—especially the older women. What beautiful skin they had! What lovely, soft, gentle, serene faces! (Their sensible shoes and L.L. Bean clothing I found far less intriguing—although there was this one, ancient mohair suit I adored.) A Quaker newbie and quite sure I’d never quite measure up, I knew those elderly women’s beauty was because they’d led deeply Spirit-led, mindful lives.
“I mean, it’s not like they all have a secret face cream,” I joked with a F/friend of my generation.
“You do’t know that!” she replied. Sharply, as I recall.
Thirty years later, I am now a white-haired grandmother with a medicine cabinet full of Origins’ latest anti-aging creams and serums. (My beauty secrets revealed! You read it here!) Thirty years later, it’s finally dawned on me that everyone—even lovely, serene-looking old women—has a backstory/ain’t perfect. We’re all just doing the best we can.
So if my wrinkled face appears serene during meeting for worship, it’s not because I have lived an unblemished life. Far from it. It’s because I am delighted to be in silent, collective worship. And listening to that small, still voice.
And, yeah, checking out my fellow worshippers.