The Voice

 

MPW-3067.jpegThe movie Funny Girl opened in 1968. I was eight years old and in Third Grade, struggling with Mrs. Mishaw, the dower educator who wore Irish wool suits and had no patience for fools. I was a dreamy fool finding solace in movies. Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice became my hero. Fanny Brice for celebrating her kooky self, and Barbra for singing so magnificently. She was the balm for an otherwise abrasive year.

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This past week I got to revisit the magnificence of Ms. Streisand singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” She brought down the Brooklyn house with her clear, luminous voice. I was enthralled then, as I am now. And, if that weren’t enough, she sang at least three Sondheim songs, my favorite composer.

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I was late to the game. I first heard about Sondheim from Paul Puccio a co-worker at Strawbridge & Clothier when I was in college. I went to see Angela Lansbury in Sweeny Todd in 1980, and have subsequently seen most productions of the shows and revivals in New York or London. So, having Barbra Streisand’s splendid voice, and Steven Sondheim’s magical lyrics and composition, was simply perfect.

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We all have moments like this, when we experience art and emotion, and feel transported. There is hope for the future, and deep satisfaction in the moment. The concert, thanks to Barbra Streisand, gave me, as well as thousands of others, that transformative moment. Life isn’t always easy. In fact, we have witnessed so much heartache and struggle in the media recently, and, for some, in our private lives. So bearing witness to art, music, theater, dance, literature, or other artistic mediums, gives us an opportunity to replenish our faith in ourselves and the world around us. It can move us deeply, and replenish our soul.

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I am still a dreamy fool late into my 50s. And, Barbra Streisand’s voice remains a balm through thick and thin.

(all images are taken from the internet)

Letting Go in ’16

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What a concept! Letting go has been used as a catch phrase describing a way of not feeling what we don’t want. I am not amused when I make a complaint and I’m told, “just let it go.” If I could have let it go I wouldn’t be complaining in the first place. But 2016 feels like a good time for me to let things go. Partly because I haven’t liked what I’ve felt, but mostly because what I have previously over-enjoyed isn’t serving me right now.

 

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I usually make lots of plans, however, my plan this year is to plan less. I’m letting go of being too busy. It means more Yes time to do less, and more “No”s in the scheduling category.

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I feel relieved with this plan. In the past I would get overwhelmed with all that I had to do. I am smiling as I write this because I’m looking forward to less. And in this case less is more; more freedom, more ease, more inner peace.

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I don’t imagine living a less fulfilling life. In fact I image I will be more fulfilled doing less. But New York City still offers a lot. I will try to relax as I choose plays more judicially, or pick what art exhibits I’ll see. I go to the opera and dance performances less, so that feels easier. Movies may be difficult to decide on, but I’m up for the challenge. I will be reading less based on recommendations and more on what moves me at any given time. I’ve been fortunate to have gone to a lot of parties and events over the years, and am happy to slow down significantly. I’m just not in the mood right now. I still look forward to going to work, walking, running, and spending time with my family. And I’m always up for a good laugh.

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It will be interesting what I end up doing or not doing, as the case may be. Yet, letting go does not feel like an imperative at this juncture, it feels natural, as if I made it to this point and letting go is what’s next.

To Run or Not to Run

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I don’t like when I get sick. Nor do I know anybody who does. For the last few days I was well enough to do a few things but sick enough to sleep a lot and eat very little, feeling weak and dizzy. Next weekend is the NYC Marathon. I’m scheduled to run, well, mostly walk. And, this weekend was slated as a pivotal training weekend. All my plans were opportunities to run miles to my destinations. That didn’t happen. I cancelled plans.

I’ll gage the week to see how I feel. I plan on entering the marathon and completing it with my slow jog. It will be dark and late, but that’s my plan. I was scheduled to run last year but an injury prevented me from running. I rescheduled for 2015.

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It’s hard to know whether my body is informing me that it will be compromised if I attempt 26.2 miles. Or, is it a reaction to my fear, challenging me to overcome obstacles? It’s hard to know what lesson is in front of us.

There have been many times I misread the signs. I would have a funny feeling about making a plan. I would then think I’m just not open and accepting enough, so I’d go, trying to be okay about it. But in the end it was a lesson on setting limits not on expanding them.

When it comes to fitness I’ve learned a lot about myself. I don’t like boot camp classes, or instructors or trainers who yell and push. I like gentler, kinder trainers who encourage and gently prod me to try more. I want to enjoy my workout. I don’t expect to enjoy the entire marathon, but I’m going to do my best. Larry, my husband, created an awesome playlist. I’m writing my name on my shirt so I can take in the encouragement. I trained throughout the year, learning new stretches, and exercises to strengthen me physically.

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If I don’t do the marathon, I gained a great deal this past year. I love to run, something I dreaded most of my life. I know that after next week 4 to 5 miles is my sweet spot, and I will maintain that, choosing not to run longer runs, unless something changes. I got comfortable doing something just for me. So, it was a year well spent.

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In this next week I’ll do my best to listen closely to how I feel. I will respect my body whether that means a marathon, or it means starting it and not finishing, or, even if it means opting out. Even though my age (56) may be a contributing factor of my lack of speed, my age also gives me the advantage of making a choice that’s right for me. No matter what, I’ll do my best.

Something for Nothing

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I am easily seduced. Obtaining a bargain, or being given the possibility to win something is an easy hook. But now, after years of winning nothing of substance, I am on email lists for any number of companies who want my business. Most of the emails get deleted without a second glance. On the one hand, I have a Pollyanna view of life, hopeful that things will turn out. On the other hand, I’m a sucker. I want something for nothing. And the something I get is an overabundance of emails luring me to go on vacations, acquire luxury products, or donate to another crowd-funding start-up.

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This is nothing new. My father has always loved a good deal. He chose his present home, a two-story town house in an over-50 community because it was priced to sell. A Pollyanna himself, he didn’t figure in stairs as a deterrent for a couple in their 80s. While growing up he always brought home dented appliances because of their low price tag, while my mother scoffed at the impaired item. No matter how much my mother begged him to buy at a regular store, he couldn’t stop himself from scouring the off-brand warehouses popular in the 60s & 70s.

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And, so, in my father’s footsteps I get excited when I see that I could win a trip to Tahiti, or win a shopping spree on a site that probably doesn’t accommodate for my curves or my age. I did stop myself from purchasing a membership to the Oprah Club. The ad promised free give-aways and deep discounts. As much as I love to get something for free, I decided that the price of the club wasn’t worth it.

Nonetheless, I have spent more time than I’d like to admit filling out surveys for a chance to be entered into a special drawing for one thing or another. I did win a free bag and a $25 gift card to Trader Joes once. But it wasn’t because I entered anything, I merely brought my own bags for shopping and was entered into their drawing. I like Trader Joe’s because they always have great prices even though it’s not a discount store. And, since I always bring my own bags for shopping, I can enter the drawing with the hope of winning another $25 gift card.

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But no more online contests. Luckily my Dad doesn’t own a computer. So my parents dodged this bullet.   And now now I’m spending my time unsubscribing from email lists. I don’t want the temptation of a big win to get in the way of living my life. My time is dear. I can use it enjoying what I already have.

My Shade of Gray

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Some changes are easy. Changing my clothes after a walk on a hot day, changing my mind, when I go for a walk rather than a yoga class, easy. Changing my hair, not so much. I’ve sat in many salon chairs, tears in my eyes, feeling helpless while scissors cut away the vision I tried to communicate to the hairdresser. Conversely, I loved the artists who gave me so much more than I had hoped. But the last few years I’ve gone back and forth about going completely gray or continuing my once a month trek to my local salon, tediously covering my roots.

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Like my dad, I went gray at an early age. Like my mom, this wasn’t something I wanted to share publicly. So by my mid-twenties I dyed my hair any number of shades of brown, auburn, chocolate, and other colors not easily found in nature. This past year I made the decision to stop dying my hair. I came to this decision partly because I don’t enjoy going to the salon, and mostly because I’m working on not doing things that aren’t pleasurable to me, if I can help it. Dying my hair fell into the category of something I could help.

janet-zinn-1 (3)silk jacket dyed green; hair dyed dark auburn.

At first it was uncomfortable to walk around with gray roots. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been because my hair is curly and I don’t usually part my hair. Nonetheless, it wasn’t the style that I wanted to sport. But I let it grow and grow, walking around as a two-toned woman. And then last week I cut it all off. I hadn’t imagined the freedom I’d experience. I feel unburdened. I can’t explain it, but I feel liberated. I cut away a part of my past and am embracing my present. I am fully gray and proud of it.

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Choices

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I am not going to my yoga class today. If I go I won’t get a chance to write, and I want to go for a jog before work, too, which I won’t be able to do if I go to my class. I love yoga and will miss the stretching and the relaxation that comes from the class. Lately I’ve chosen not to go more often than I go. I miss it. But when I do go, I miss these easy mornings before long days. I miss time spent with the family in the morning, or taking Lucy, our dog, for a walk and enjoying beautiful Carl Shurz Park. With every choice I gain something and I lose something else.

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When I was in my 20’s & 30’s I hated making choices. I felt personally responsible for others’ happiness and if I made a choice that someone didn’t like, then I felt deeply guilty. I always said, “it doesn’t matter to me, you decide.” Often I did have a preference. I preferred to go to a café rather than a coffee shop for breakfast, but I kept my mouth shut, while I silently regretted their decision. It took a long time for me to be able to voice my preferences. It’s not always easy, but I’d rather have a say in what happens, feel whatever I feel in relationship to the results than resent the ultimate outcome.

When we’ve experienced deprivation in any form making certain choices can feel daunting. We know we’ll feel a loss of what we don’t get, even as we know we’ll enjoy what we have. This has happened to me on vacations. By the time I take a vacation, I am so looking forward to the rest. Yet, because I yearn to travel the world, I am sad that I’m not choosing the Amalfi Coast over an inn in Connecticut. The practical, easier choice is the inn, which will be lovely. But the Amalfi Coast looks splendid. And, Italy is a wonderful country. If, in the end, I choose to go abroad, then I choose wander over simplicity.

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No, I am not deprived in that I get a vacation, a luxurious option in any life. But considering my options brings up all the times I had to do what I was told without being able to voice my unhappiness or disgust. The fear of the consequences of voicing my displeasure always seemed worse than just doing what I was told.   So even though my current life is not one of deprivation, making a simple choice can feel oppressive. But with practice the deprivation lessens, and the choices get easier. So, as I learn from a day without yoga , I feel more equipped to make the harder choices that life brings our way. And, I don’t feel like the old victim because I now understand that I do have a say.