Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'd Rather not Talk about It

For the last few weeks, I have felt sad. I am tired and unsettled and my regular activities fail to please me. I am writing my blog less because I feel less than enthusiastic about most things. I haven't been to church for weeks nor do I feel inclined to call up my friends to chat or go for a walk. The brand new bike that I bought is hanging in the bike room and I have only been twice to the pool. It seems that I am suffering from depression.

I have always been aware of the moods that come and go. Monsieur suffers from a mood disorder but he tends to live in the hypomanic state.  At the high times, he is 150% involved in whatever his fancy may be at the time. He has run 13 marathons, played in several music groups at a time, been a workaholic and had several domestic (and not) relationships in his life. It's part of what attracted me to him in the first place but it is hard to live with. I am more likely to feel sad or lethargic. I guess that makes us a bit like Jack Sprat and his wife.

It is easy to say "just get out there and do more things and you will feel better." I am a sociable introvert. I enjoy time by myself except right now when it seems that I don't enjoy anything. I enquired about volunteering at the Sharing Farm today and I called my personal trainer to see if she has any openings. But depression isn't really "fixed" by doing more things or buying more things or going more places. If I had a "cure", I would be a wealthy woman.

I have now been retired for two years during which I have travelled and accomplished some of my personal goals. My dad died this year and my relationship with my mother has changed a lot as she works to build a different life for herself.  I have no grandchildren and I do believe that generativity is an important aspect of older life. I was used to being around children as I was a mum and a teacher. Monsieur does not need anyone (so he says) and does not feel that it is his job to make me feel better.

Depression is often the elephant in the room that we don't talk about for fear of seeming weak or ungrateful. Those who don't understand depression may ask themselves "What does she have to feel sad about?" I have ample financial resources, good health and the ability to engage in many activities. I have read lots of books about "Third Age" living and am not afraid of growing older. I have no answers. If this sadness and lethargy don't disappear soon, I will go to see my doctor.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Why of It

Patti at Not Dead Yet Style posed an interesting question about modesty and fashion in her last post.  I thought about how we make our clothing choices. Some cultures have prescribed levels of modesty and some clothing is considered more appropriate for certain ages. Peer groups, activity choices and body shape certainly play a role in our clothing choices. Why do we wear what we wear?

Walking home from the greengrocer, I passed a girl with hot pink and purple hair (must have been a wig). It seemed to me that girl wanted to attract attention but it is possible that she loves purple and pink. When a woman shows a lot of her body, is she hoping to attract new sexual partners or is she just more comfortable wearing fewer clothes? As we get older and our bodies change, do we in fact gain more freedom to express ourselves with our clothing?

I considered my clothing choices today. It is warm so I decided to go to the pool for a bit: one piece bathing suit from Laure Sokol (the French make very nice maillots pour les femmes d'un certain âge), Pretty Woman sundress on top as a coverup and flip-flops. I chose these clothes because I like black and turquoise together and as an older woman, I feel more comfortable at a shared pool with a coverup of some sort.
I'm comfortable at the pool.
This afternoon, the apartment is warm and I am preparing une salade niçoise for Maman as Monsieur is out to a rehearsal. I put on an oversized sage green linen dress, coral bangles and a pair of espadrilles. I like the colour because I have changeable Celtic eyes, the bangles are fun and my $7 espadrilles can be slipped on and off easily.

Perhaps we just choose our clothing because we feel happy and comfortable in certain styles. When I feel content with my appearance, I smile and say "hello" to everyone that I meet and generally my day goes along pleasantly. It could be that a smile and "hello" or "bonjour" are our most attractive fashion accessories.

This weekend, after the pool, I'll be visiting Patti for visible Monday.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Forty Years' Experience

Graduation 43 years ago

Graduation last year
Yesterday, my friend Nora sent me an old graduation photo that I had not previously seen. It is funny how our self-images were skewed. Needless to say, I am the petite brunette. My hair was once dark, thick and curly. I didn't really like my hair or my body because I wanted to be tall and blonde. Nora and I spent a lot of our teenage years bemoaning our shortcomings.

Both of us won scholarships and book prizes which also qualified us as "nerds". We were certain that we would be wallflowers for our whole lives. I wanted to write and to study French Literature and Nora wanted to be an artist. Back in 1970, in Richmond, we had no idea how to go about realizing these dreams.

It is funny because those "nerdy" girls did just that. Nora attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design when she was in her 50's and I graduated with honours from the Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne when I was 60.

Young women often do not know who they are or what they are capable of but as we age, we can better appreciate our strengths. I wouldn't mind being the petite brunette again (except without those little curls on the forehead).

Monday, July 22, 2013

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

I have just finished reading Excellent Women by Barbara Pym and found the novel amusing and insightful. Published in 1952, Excellent Women is written in the voice of Mildred Lathbury, an unmarried vicar's daughter living in a bed-sit in London. Mildred's voice in self-deprecatory but wry and insightful. As an unmarried lady, she ministers to the "distressed gentlewomen", helps out with church jumble sales and provides a listening ear and a cup of tea to friends and neighbours. She is an "excellent woman."

Unfortunately, others do not recognize that Mildred may have her own needs. Assumptions are made that, since she is unmarried, she has no purpose in her life but to care for others. No request is too great to be made of her. Mildred's own wistful ambivalence to her unmarried state leads to various romantic fantasies. Being needed or being used is very different from being loved. The "excellent" woman is often overlooked and under appreciated.

Excellent Women is one of those quiet novels that could easily be a BBC production or a Merchant Ivory movie. Domestic squabbles, maiden sisters, and quirky characters are the stuff of this book. Although it is a tale set in time before I was born, it made me ask myself, "What is an excellent woman?"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

After the Road Trip

Liberty Bell Mountain in the North Cascades
I have had a cold since our road trip last week. After having worked with children for 25 years, I have such an immunity that I am almost never sick. I retired with a 200 sick days left in my account. But, this week, my nose has run, my face has ached and my energy has dwindled. When I was a child, illness was discouraged. If we stayed home from school, there was no TV or anything remotely like fun.

This week, I edited some photos that I took with my new camera, attended a culinary event with my sister and attended the Music at the Cannery on Friday night. I have hardly walked and I am generally lethargic.
Diablo Lake North Cascades
Monsieur and I love our road-trips. There are so many places to see in the Pacific Coast of North America. I prefer islands and the Olympic Peninsula while M. loves mountains and forests. I enjoy a bookstore to browse and some art to look at.  A healthy restaurant is an added attraction for me while gas station grub is Monsieur's travel food of preference. Natural scenery and physical challenges are passions of le mari.

We like to visit Fairhaven near Bellingham.
For many years, we have stopped at Village Books in Fairhaven where we browse and usually have a meal at the Colophon Café before returning home. I am buying fewer books because of storage issues and trade with others or read on the Kobo a lot. Right now, I am reading Excellent Women  by Barbara Pym. I learned of this book about a month ago from Ciao Domenica where there are often lists that feature the quiet and quotidian British novels that I find relaxing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Science Fiction?--Flight Behaviour

When I was an elementary school teacher-librarian, I met a boy who had a designation as being on the "autism spectrum." While many other students viewed the library time as "free time", he always posed questions that I really had to think about. His favourite was: "What is the difference between science fiction and fantasy?" I would try to present him with a clear explanation and he would counter with another question. At this point, his classroom teacher, eager to get moving, would put an end to his questioning.

In Flight Behaviour, Barbara Kingsolver deftly weaves science and fiction together. Kingsolver was a biologist and her concern about the effects of global warming and deforestation on the animal population is apparent. In February 2010, there were heavy rains and mudslides in Angangueo, Mexico, one of the principal destinations for the monarch butterflies. Legal and illegal logging activities had removed too many trees from the hillsides. Lives and property were lost in a village largely dependent on butterfly tourism.
This is actually a purse that I bought in Mexico a few years ago.

The novel is set in Feathertown in Tennessee where the Turnbow family are dependent on raising sheep to provide an income to support three generations. Dellarobbia, her husband, Cub, and their two children rely on the elder generation for housing and employment.  A teenage pregnancy and a lack of education have prevented Dellarobbia from leaving this life that she dislikes. As she is climbing a hill to
meet a fantasy lover, she sees the millions of butterflies and her life is transformed.

The ecological theme is important in this novel. The poor people of Appalachia are just as ready to log the hills and to exploit the butterflies as the poor people of Mexico. Many of the environmentalists are too quick to condemn the rural poor who have few resources and little understanding of the situation.

The butterflies' migration is  a metaphor for the choice that each person must make:either to stay in an uncomfortable situation or to leave it. As Dellarobbia learns more about the monarchs, she learns more about herself and about the people around her.

I wonder if my former student ever found a really good answer to his question and I imagine that he is still asking those questions that take up too much valuable class time. I was satisfied with these two explanations by two very knowledgeable authors:
According to SF writer Robert A. Heinlein, "a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world,past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method."[5] Rod Serling's stated definition is "fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible."[6]

The monarch butterflies have never spent a winter in Appalachia.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One of Our Favourite Places

We stopped to buy cherries and Okanogan wine.
More than 20 years ago, on a camping trip through Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, Monsieur and I discovered one of our favourite places, the Methow Valley. After leaving Kelowna on Sunday morning, we travelled through the bench country with its wineries and crossed the border into the United States. Once over the border, the Okanagan becomes the Okanogan and there are fewer wine tasting stops.

As it was Sunday morning and we had spent Saturday night at a 65th birthday, wine tasting was not on the agenda. Our destination, the Mazama Ranch House is a much loved lodging for both of us. There is unlimited hiking, 120 miles of cross-country trails for biking or walking, a few really special restaurants, and a general store where I could spend hours. There is the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival held next weekend and lots of arts and literary happenings.
Each of these units has a kitchenette
We have stayed in a condo, a cabin, a couple of Bed and Breakfast places but we like the quiet and the freedom of the Ranch house best. If you have a horse (which we don't) it stays free in the stables. We eat on the porch or we go out depending on our mood. This time, we went to Kelly's at Wesola Polana where I had a delicious black bean burger. They have an extraordinary beer selection and we tried a Slovakian and a Croatian beer.

The sky is blue and cloudless.
Last year, Monsieur did a lot of hiking and visited Goat Peak. We went biking on the trails but this year  we both have colds so relaxation was in order. I brought Flight Behaviour  by Barbara Kingsolver and I purchased a book of poetry Architect of Hope by a local poet, Danica Ready. I read them both in two days. 
It is so therapeutic to sit in the sun and read. Monsieur loves to read and to sleep in the hammock. For me, new people and cultures are intriguing but sometimes we just need couple time without television, telephone or Internet. Last night, there was a power outage so we only had a Coleman lamp and no running water (the pump is electric). Today, we returned home and M. already has 2 rehearsals lined up. It seems that we have to go away to really get away from it all!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thoughts on Growing Older

My mother and I just came back from a mini-vacation in Laconner, a small town surrounded by farms and flowers in Washington state. Like Monsieur and me, my parents loved to visit small towns along the Pacific Coast. Whether it was exploring Vancouver Island with friends who had retired in Nanoose Bay or roaming like gypsies in their van down the coast as far as Sonoma, my parents travelled extensively.
Bird houses on Whidbey Island

My mum, who in the latter years, drove the van, packed and unpacked the bags and listened to the endless lectures of concerned offspring regarding health insurance and the wisdom of taking dad for "one more trip" likes to remember those times. It must be very difficult when the partner who shared your adventures is no longer there. In her new apartment, there is little room for the treasures collected on many journeys or for the photo albums that she compiled to commemorate each year of retirement.

We stayed at The Wild Iris in Laconner where we had a flowery "chick" room and delicious healthy breakfasts. We toured about Whidbey Island visiting places where mum and dad used to frequent. We shopped, ate, drank wine and watched DVD's in the evening. My mum put off having a knee operation  while my dad was sick so sometimes walking was difficult for her.

Right now, at 61, I am healthy but we will all experience the physical and mental frailties of age. I have the time, the financial resources, a husband and daughter, and many friends to lead a full life. But, some day, the inevitable losses of dwindling time and departed loved ones will be part of my reality.
I can walk in lovely places near my home.

Today, Monsieur will wear his floral shirt and go to play music at the Garden Room in the Extended Care Unit. My dad would be looking in the greenhouse for the first tomatoes. Even the frail elderly enjoy music and sunshine and gardens. This evening, Monsieur and I will go to the free music at the Cannery. I am packing for an Okanagan trip to a 65th birthday and then a few days in the Methow Valley. Monsieur loves the mountains and I, without my computer, will read "Flight Behaviour" by Barbara Kingsolver and work on my stitchery that I bought in Paris.
Monsieur and I will have the "cowboy" room in Mazama.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Too Busy!

Maman's first party in her new home
Last week, both Monsieur and I were too busy. Monsieur, because he was reviving a singing group to perform for Canada Day. Me, because I didn't say "no." I had made arrangements long ago to go out with Daughter and friends to Les Misérables. It was fun and I enjoyed spending time with lifetime friends. But I also went to  "Hamlet" at Bard on the Beach ,"Dream Girls", a couple of restaurant lunches,  a Grade 7 farewell, my sister's birthday at my mum's new apartment and a Canada Day party. Too much food, too much wine and too much company is my recipe for disaster!

I am basically a friendly introvert who is easily depleted by too much activity. When I am tired, I can do none of the solitary activities that I enjoy:writing, reading, or sketching. I have my Tour de France stages on PVR but I lack even the energy to watch them. Somehow, at home, with friends and family around me, I find life more difficult. Saying "no" to too many activities and knowing when to listen to my own voice when others are chattering at me is difficult for me. My own voice is never as strong as I would like it to be. But my "shadow voice" can be.

Do you know about Carl Jung's shadow theory?
Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.
I am never sure where this part comes from but it does arise in me sometimes. It is my repressed child self who grew up doing all the little pleasing things but who sometimes wonders "what did this get me and why do I keep doing it?"

Being a "good" mum, wife, daughter, friend, teacher role model (for indeed, all people who work with children are modelling behaviours all the time) is a tall order for any mortal woman. We are cheerful, encouraging, supportive, nurturing, positive...... We learned these roles as little girls and often adopted them without question. Yet, these roles are superficial and it can be scary to see and to explore the shadow.

On a lighter note, I bought a bathing cap to protect my hair colour and a magazine to read at our swimming pool this week. Summer has finally arrived!