Posts Tagged ‘boomers’

Assuming our good health continues, my husband and I will continue living in our home in the leafy suburbs where we’ve raised our children. We considered relinquishing the flora and fauna for a cute pied-à-terre as some of our empty nester friends have quite happily done, but we are too attached to our home and the neighborhood. We’re staying.

We’ve taken good care of ourselves. We eat healthy most of the time (if you don’t count the occasional movie popcorn for dinner and a few other other bad habits involving chocolate) and we exercise. Well, he exercises. I don workout gear and imagine myself running and lunging, burning calories, feeling that adrenaline rush. Then I sit down and pick up a book.

Someday, we could face the decision that confronts many seniors: the need to move to assisted living. Obviously, I hope this will be a long ways off, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about it.

“Our next home has to feel like home,” I told my husband. “I want us to feel good about it. No regrets.”

As boomers, our numbers will translate into a huge demand for these facilities. I started to imagine the ideal accommodations for us and our friends. What features would inspire us to sell the old homestead, not with sorrow but with anticipation for the move? What would it take to make us feel positive about making this lifestyle change? What would feel like a home away from home?

A tall order, I know. But then it hit me. You know how they say the college years are the best years of your life? Remember how fast those fabulous years flew by?

What if moving to a retirement facility was like returning to college?

memory lane, sign

Picture this: a place just for nostalgic 60s and 70s flower children. How much fun would it be to walk down memory lane on the grounds of a facility that simulates the quintessential college campus of our heyday? Direct out of central casting, you’ve got your ivy-covered halls, your grassy lawn for frisbee throwing, your meal plan in the dining hall. Dorm rooms are furnished with lumpy beds or a waterbed or simply a mattress on the floor covered with an Indian blanket.

Taped to the cinderblock walls are posters of favorite musicians (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues) and movies (Love Story, American Graffiti, The Godfather) and sports (Dorothy Hamill, Muhammad Ali, Nadia Comenici, Seattle Slew).

Classes may be taken but they are all pass/pass. You get credit for just showing up on time. Forgot to drop/add? Not a problem; the professors are understanding. Out on the quad there are benches with sensible backs for mid-afternoon bull sessions, with rock and roll music wafting through the air on a sound system turned up extra loud. Former SDS members might stage a sit-in in front of the administration building with demands for greater representation. Assistants are on hand to help them stand up.

How about late night “rap sessions” at 8 p.m. before the R.A. tells us it’s time to turn in? Instead of pondering the meaning of life, which we pretty much get by now, we would play “Name that Alma Mater Tune” and give the old brain cells a workout.

My fantasy is all in fun and I mean no disrespect. But when I think back to a time when life was ripe with promise and dreams were yours to follow, I like to think that it could happen again.

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I remember sitting in a college French class absently twirling a string of my hair and half listening to the professor talk about idiomatic expressions. Until one in particular caught my attention.

Etre bien dans sa peau

The literal translation is “to feel well in one’s own skin.” It means to feel good about yourself. But typically the expression is used in the negative — ne pas etre bien dans sa peau — and relates to anxiety or dissatisfaction with yourself. As in “I’m too fat, too thin, not pretty enough, not smart enough …” Wow, I thought.

Je ne suis pas bien dans ma peau. 

Mon dieu. C’est moi.

Yes, that was, and is, me.

Since as far back as I can remember, I have had … issues. Like looking in the mirror and grimacing at my image.

I blame my internal critic who is on call 24/7, providing continuous commentary of the negative sort.

She gives me a head-to-toe appraisal, her eyes flickering over the most egregious of body parts, and shakes her head sadly. Clears her throat. And with a sigh, begins to tick off the litany of flaws present in my body.

I listen. I agree. Even though, by probably anyone else’s standards, I look just fine.

Like the late Nora Ephron, whose book “I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” resonated with many of us dames d’un certain age, I fret about wrinkles, cellulite, hair loss and all the rest of it. That is to be expected, I suppose.

But that doesn’t account for why I felt this way as a teenager. Any probably even younger. I wasn’t obsessed with my body image. But I sure wasn’t happy about it.

The insecurities start at a very young age, especially with girls. Where does it come from? My mother didn’t instil these feelings — I did. Why? Is it societal norms, the overwhelming pressure to be thin, be beautiful, be perfect, thereby finding eternal happiness?

As I begin my latest diet to get rid of the 10 pounds that have crept up on me, I think of the alternative, being content absorbing the extra 10 pounds. Being happy in my own skin.

But that’s just not me.

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“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  ~Author Unknown

I used to be a fairly active person in my younger years. I hit the gym four or five times a week. I had a weekly group tennis lesson and played in a foursome every Sunday morning. Mind you, I was never an athlete, could never boast a low percentage of body fat, but at least I had … a shape.

But aging, lack of free time and intense laziness have all conspired against me. I feel very blob-like these days. The last time I worked out was, hmmm. Does strolling around our cul-de-sac with a dog that sniffs every blade of grass count? Probably not.

I had an appointment with the foot doctor on my 50th birthday. I waxed philosophical about reaching this half century marker, and we got to talking about exercise. He said, “You know, I tell my patients that your thirties are for running, your forties are for aerobics, and your fifties are for stretching.”

So be it. It took a while, but this summer I decided to start yoga classes.yoga, poses, stretching

With a purposeful bounce in my step, I showed up for my first class, excited at the prospect of transforming my body into a supple thing of beauty and discovering spiritual awareness and inner peace at the same time. The instructor, let’s call him Yogi, greeted me with a soul-searching, unblinking gaze. The scent of incense wafted through the air. Looking around at the class, I felt a little self-conscious in my baggy shorts and t-shirt.

“What are you looking for in this class?” he asked intently.

“Well, I’d like more flexibility, more strength … ” I began.

He stopped me right there. “You will NOT gain flexibility OR strength if you don’t practice on your own. No one –not me, not anyone — can make you strong. It’s up to YOU. Can you commit to that?”

“I guess so,” I whispered. My baggy shorts and t-shirt felt so wrong.

“OK then. Watch what I do and try to follow me,” he said, more kindly. “Everyone, on your mats, please.”

“Deep breath in through your nose,” Yogi instructed, “and whoooosshhhhh out through your mouth.” OK, I could do that. “And again. Deep breath in …. whoooosshhhhh.”  So far, so good.

yoga, stretching, poseBut my confidence evaporated like the beads of sweat dotting my brow as Yogi effortlessly contorted himself into twisted poses that defied the imagination. All around me were lithe bodies following suit. I did my best but this was way out of my element. I am about as flexible as a tree branch. A dried out, crackly one.

“Stand up slowly, hands above your head. Place your right foot onto your right calf. Let your mind leave your body,” Yogi intoned. “Close your eyes. Feel your spine lengthening. Relax your head, your neck, your jaw.”

Dutifully, I shut my eyes and tried to settle into the pose. I swayed and felt slightly nauseous. I opened one eye just a crack to check out my neighbor, who definitely seemed in the moment and perfectly balanced, in her fitted silver toned racer back top and tight calf-length black shorts.

Yogi walked around the room to check everyone’s positioning. “How are you doing?” he asked softly as he tried to align my hips.

Aaaayyyy ayyyyyy eeee yowwww ngangggggn nanggg, whined the piped-in new age music.

“Now take your left arm, swing it under your right arm, twist your hands so your palms are facing each other and breeeeaaatthhhe. Inhale deep breath, exhale whoooosshhhh.”

I thought of that kid’s game where you have to figure out where to put each body part. But no time to daydream. Must. Stay. Focused.

I learned how to do Downward Dog, Cobra, Plank and Hunter, and wasn’t quite as wobbly as I gained concentration. At the end of the class, the room was darkened and we lay on our backs in the Corpse pose (that was an easy one), eyes closed. The whiny music was replaced with a steady, reverberating “ommmm” that went on and on. But as I lay there corpse-like, I felt fluid and whole. The tightness had left my shoulders. I felt like I had just had a massage and gotten all the kinks worked out.

“Namaste,” we said in unison as we bowed, a salutation that means “The God/Goddess Spirit within me recognizes and honors the God/Goddess Spirit within you.

Gathering up my things, I told Yogi I enjoyed the class. “You did fine,” he told me. “Are you relaxed? Do you feel refreshed?” I nodded. “Then you have successfully practiced yoga.”

Feeling stretched and sublime, I headed home, inhaling and exhaling rhythmically.

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