Simplifying

Simplifying, what does that mean? A realtor told me many of her clients are simplifying, by buying smaller homes. They want less to deal with in terms of square footage, yard work, and upkeep costs. I get that. And I am thinking along those lines myself. It is funny how things, items, possessions can have energy, and walking into a full or cluttered room can be draining. And then to have ownership of all those things, often things that now years after buying them we don’t  appreciate in the same way we did, nor use.

I guess in our twenties and thirties we were figuring out our tastes and preferences in terms of material possessions. What kind of furniture did we like and need? What kind of life did we want to live? What kind of purchases would support that life? Like a stainless steel BBQ, or a wall size television, or a yoga friendly room? Whether we purchased or were given possessions over the years, we may now have more than we need or use. How to simplify?

For years I have been aware of the things I own, that if I were to relocate I know the things I would not pay to move. That seemed telling. It seemed there are only about 4 pieces of furniture I care about. Yet while I’m in a house with extra space, there seems no impetus to get rid of those things I know I won’t keep. I think of natural disasters, like losing everything in a tsunami, and I know none of the stuff really matters and could be taken away in a heartbeat. Sometimes I hang onto things because I feel it matters to the person who gave it to me. Or it reminds me of how much I loved it when I bought it. Yet now, few things matter or affect me in that way. I guess it is the letting go of the meaning I attach to a material thing and feeling when is the appropriate time of use and value. Again if a tsunami struck, all of these decisions are out of my hands. Yet I feel closer to more of a real cleanse and simplifying of what I have around me. Clothes that are worn out or don’t feel right, or linens that are in good shape but I may be bored of them, silly things but it adds weight and could be simplified.

I hear often of how much lighter a person feels after simplifying her/his life, be it culling through household items, or altering ones schedule to make more time for simple pleasures like cooking, reading, walking, and spending quality time with loved ones. Simplifying would mean slowing down and choosing where best to spend one’s time, energy and resources. It would mean spending less time tied to one’s devices. That way the device is a tool to serve one’s life, not an addiction, pressure or distraction.

Simplifying is a choice. We each can do it. To say we are too busy and can’t, well that is a choice too. Maybe we like rushing from one thing to another, one meeting, event, or obligation, often running late, and not fully present to those people around us. That can create a sense of drama and intensity some seem to crave. We miss out on so much by not being present, and a part of that is our lives have become too complicated. In the western world, we have a lot of material possessions to keep track and in working order. In my mind, one approach to simplifying is looking at how we spend our time, energy and resources, and asking ourselves if that is a happy investment that is paying off for us.

Listening

redgreenleavesWhat does it mean to listen? Or to be heard? We think if we have ears that work, meaning we hear sound, that we can listen. We must be listening because we hear another’s voice and answer. If we work at a cafe, we listen, get the order and hand the customer what they wanted. Most of us do this all day long in our interactions, and figure that is communication. We figure listening is natural, easy, what humans do.

Now it seems as we learn and age,  listening and effective communication can expand. There are discernments, subtleties, and yes, patience. Listening isn’t waiting to speak. It really is hearing what that person says, and maybe even asking for clarification, to check for meaning. The same word can hold different meaning or intensity for one person than another. Checking is a good thing to do as you listen. If we ask a question of someone that she/he just answered, we weren’t listening.  As an interviewer, a good interviewer, especially in film or media, you have to listen. A guest loses interests if you are not listening. If you just follow your list of questions one after the other and don’t connect the conversation and topics that your guest has covered, you’re not listening.

Listening is an art form, and one that may gain appreciation and notice as we age. I’m still deciding. I don’t think I’ve changed particularly, but it seems others comment on how well I listen and retain or comment on what they said, then or later.

I think I’ve always enjoyed listening. (Although I don’t enjoy monologuists anymore.  I realize back and forth listening and conversing is a beautiful thing.) I think when we are  curious we tend to listen. When someone is speaking to me, I pay attention. I’m not doing anything else. I’m listening. I notice when later I bring something up that connects to that conversation, often the person says I have a good memory as opposed to I am a good listener. I think if you are listening to someone, you do remember. What I have noticed, is often the speaker isn’t listening to what they are saying, they just talk a lot. Sometimes a person forgets he/she has told me the same story 3 times at the same party. I can get exasperated. I wonder, should I be listening to people who clearly aren’t listening to themselves?

Listening is a form of attention. We know when someone is really listening to us, and when we don’t have their full attention. We expect full attention from a paid professional like a therapist or a lawyer I suppose, and hopefully we get it. I guess I expect that same attention from my friends and colleagues.

Listening can be a way of slowing down, a form of meditation, something that brings you into the present moment. Now if the speaker is distracted or talking gobbley gook it might not necessarily be meditative, unless it helps you see how distracted they are. Maybe your attention to listening helps quiet them down, because you may ask a question or want clarification that shows you are listening. I don’t think many of us are used to being on the receiving end of real listening. Sometimes we get caught off guard when someone remarks on something we said, or asks us a thoughtful question based on what we said. It can be startling in its rarity. Yet that kind of attention can give us energy and maybe bring us into the present moment.

I have always had interest in listening. I enjoy it because it can bring connection. I’m not interested in talking about people though. Certainly not gossip. “He said she said”. That is draining, negative and doesn’t build anything good. I like to know what makes a person  tick. And I love to discuss ideas, to innovate, to solve. My interest in listening and conversing is to learn, to share, to expand, and to get closer to people. It seems many people don’t stand still or have enough interest in connecting through conversation and listening. Or maybe don’t know how, or fear it?

Listening with openness is important. It is said you can find what you seek, so if you think someone is catty, you can interpret whatever they say or do in that way. Just look at  the tabloids. And no doubt the opposite must be true, yet in each case, it means we hear with a point of view we want to bolster.

Listening with curiosity and the desire to understand, that can be a challenge sometimes, depending on whether the conversation is between a happy couple or the leaders of nations in conflict. Listening in order to understand, and being open to really try, leaving our defensive or reactive selves at the door, that alone could change our immediate orbits for sure.

Shopping Carts

So I rejoined Costco store after 10 years of not being a member. Now when I hefted a 40 pound bag of dog food, and a 40 pound bag of water pellet softener, I remember why I had not renewed. Dang, there is nothing elegant about struggling with an unwieldy bag of goods. I watched one woman struggle with the toilet paper “towers” they sell. She squatted down yet didn’t have the strength or range of motion to  push it fully onto the undercarriage shelf of her cart.  Some of big box store shopping is strength and control I guess, and some of it is dealing with humungous amounts of product inside the packaging. That is why we like big box stores, yet now it is clear the schlepping is not so much fun as we get less strong. Years ago, I never thought much about the weight or size of packaging. I just saw the price and amount of stuff I was getting (good value)  and was ecstatic.

In the 10 years I’ve been away from this food box store, I’ve been choosing 20 pound bags or less of what I might purchase. Mostly so that I could manage them from the store to my home with some modicum of self respect. As a general rule, I hate huffing and puffing in public. Maneuvering the bigger bags today was an experience I had forgotten yet I was in the midst of a lift so had to keep going. And then so much in the store I don’t see anywhere else, so I was drawn to enormous tins of shortbread cookies ( I put them back) and fresh cotton covered down fill pillows sets (I kept them). In my mind when I decided to rejoin, I was thinking of the savings I would make with the annual bags of water softener and dog food I buy. Today, that was 80 pounds in my shopping cart. I hurled each bag over the metal side, forgetting to engage my core, so I struggled, grunted yet didn’t injure myself. Whew. And that cart. Holy moly. I pushed, pulled and weaved that laden cart through the aisles. My cart steering was feeble,  having forgotten full cart etiquette but I did get an upper body workout.

Those shopping carts are like tiny houses. It is hard to believe I could fill one, especially with no shopping list, or special event on the horizon. Did I really need 2 pounds of organic hummus? Will it get eaten before it is ready to walk away on its own? These and other questions keep me awake at night. But I look forward to my next Costco visit and all the goodies my eyes get excited to see. And hey, maybe I’ll master the Shopping Cart shuffle.

Ageilicious

What’s that mean, Ageilicious, and is that really how it is spelled? I don’t know how it is spelled or spelt 🙂 I think it is made up at this point. But a good word, and this is one, the meaning seems clear when it is spoken. I say Ageilicious, or aging deliciously and people laugh and spark up. And that is better than a Senior support group or other themed groups that can be managed as though anyone over 70 is falling apart. Are we? Some may be but they might have been falling apart at 30 as well.

I guess aging well or deliciously is a choice. I can’t say I’m a glowing, strong, age defying specimen/women 🙂 but I sure don’t feel like the photos of 60 year olds we see in the 1950s or earlier. And some of it is a mind style. I mean how one thinks about everything, determines a lot of his/her life don’t you think? Okay, so you are sitting with that friend who tells you all the reasons why something won’t work, and he/she is only telling you that for your own good. Mmmmmm. But the friend who listens, and gives you feedback that relates to what you said, even if it is tough love, that is more about lifting you up. And I say this, because  I believe the people who listen and give us meaningful feedback, that seems an aspect of aging deliciously. Well, to me anyway. And that too is about real friendship. And having friendships that go beyond activity, like going to a party or a movie together, but friends who will come when you call or need them, that kind of friend, that is rare, and something we need as we age deliciously.

Aging deliciously includes an upbeat attitude, being involved with the world and curious about it, and what others are doing. Aging deliciously is being active, moving , being engaged, enjoying life, trying new things, having curiosity for sure, and finding ways to feel connected and productive while sharing the wisdoms earned when it makes sense. And Ageilicious is probably a ton of other things that will unfold and present themselves, in the years ahead. This is new territory.  We aren’t  blue haired permed mamas, nor bent over grandpas. Or maybe we are. Yet our attitude, curiosity and zest for life will amaze and be a window into aging deliciously.

Yard Work

Twenty years ago I bought a home in a small village in a rural area. I wanted the rural experience and I figured this would be the time in my life to do it. I was in my early forties, and the opportunity presented itself to live in beautiful agriculture setting so I took it. I had never dealt with a septic system or having a well, yet it seemed a part of this quasi country life. (We were only 3 miles from a big box store. )

My dog and I loved the dirt trails, miles and miles of them. I loved the smells of the earth, the abundant fruit trees with dripping apricots, apples, peaches one could scoop up. I even enjoyed learning about the land, the land in my yard, which was sand actually. I was amazed at what can grow in sandy soil. And how parts of my yard can look like actual beach sand. And how hard I might try to grow certain plants like hollyhocks or Spanish broom but they would never take. But then a mulberry tree springs up all on its’ own.

I tend to let nature do much of what she wants. I figure if something living knows how to grow and is tenacious enough to thrive, then I work around it. Unless it is an Elm Tree close to the house. Their roots are large, seek water and can destroy or crumble anything in its path. I love them for shade especially when nothing else will grow. In 100 F degree temperatures we need shade, so I did let some Elms grow. But now they need to come down as their roots are bubbling up the brick patio, and one of their trunks is bursting through the wood fence, like a superhero.

There was a time I enjoyed taking care of the yard. It was fun and novel, and maybe I was putting my stamp on it. It was all sand in the yard, blowing sand and some wild sage bushes. Over time I had help in designing the patio,  adding grass to keep the sandy dust down, and recently adding a shade structure. Yet in between those projects I planted, raked, hefted, sorted, fertilized, pruned, chopped, dug, painted, watered and repaired. I enjoyed the effort and the sense of accomplishment. Lately though, I enjoy a well cared for yard, yet I don’t seem to have the interest anymore to do it myself. I wonder,  is that an age thing, or I’ve had the experience and want to spend my time differently?

I know lots of avid gardeners of all ages. I was never an avid gardener. I got involved in the yard as a new kind of experience while I had the energy. Now I’ve had the experience. I know what it takes to maintain a happy yard. I had a daydream as I washed dishes, looking out the kitchen window to my pretty yard, what if my view was from the fifth floor of an apartment, and I had no lawn to worry about? You know, there was a kind of lightness in that thought, of living somewhere with no pests sneaking inside, no roaches, ants, mice or centipedes. I accept pests and yard work as part of rural life, yet I sense the idea of living a simplified urban life is gaining appeal.

 

 

Wine

Have the ingredients in wine changed over the years? Certainly the size of wine glasses have changed. I remember setting the table in the 1960s for my Mom’s dinner parties, and the wine glasses would have held maybe 3 oz of wine. The water goblet stemmed glass back then would still be smaller than a current size wine glass. Now at restaurants we get offered so many glass sizes from 3 oz to 12 oz, I got confused this summer when I first noticed the options. What happened to one size of glass and one accepted pour of a glass of wine? Now we will have so many ways to drink ourselves into we aren’t really drinking. “Oh well officer, I only had one glass of wine. Well yes it happened to be 32 oz, but it all fit in this beautiful glass my host provided.” 

So back to the ingredients. A bottle of wine used to be somewhat rare. Mom and her friends would offer wine at dinner, and guests usually had a glass, maybe 2, but again, the glasses were small. I remember chianti wine Mom bought in the straw wrapped bottle, a wine she bought for a spaghetti dinner party. Afterwards we used the empty bottle as a candle holder and lined them up on the dining room wall ledge.

And wine was a specialty item, specialty beverage, not an everyday occurrence or choice. Wine took time to produce, bottle and age.  It was not mass produced. Yet now we have box wines and box stores that sell wine. How do we keep up with the demand with only so many grapes, growers and the need to allow wine to age? Well ingredients. What speeds up the wine aging process?

This isn’t a wine making column so I have no idea, but my body reacts differently to wine than it used to react. Some might be my age, rather than the wine’s, yet I do suspect we artificially age wine in some parts of the world, and that affects the body. Other than sulfites, we don’t get to know the ingredients and amount in our wines. Maybe there are more or different kinds of sulfites now?

I was told wines from France or Italy, the original wine making countries, still make wine closer to the original “recipe”. I’m sure the best ones are considered expensive so I may not have tried them, but generally good wines won’t leave an aftertaste or heavy head feeling (even with just a 6 oz glass) or a low feeling the next day. A good wine, certainly a white, to be feels crisp, clear with a real grape taste. Due to volume offered for sale everywhere, to expedite such a mass of wine, we must be  adding man made chemicals and ingredients to get wine ready, bottled and on the shelf within weeks versus years.

Regardless I am sad something artificial has been added to wine, and that many of us feel it even if we haven’t pinpointed it. In wine culture we’ve moved from corks to screw caps to boxes. It can be mind boggling when we grew up to have a certain reverence and protocol for the treatment and care of wine, from the aging process to pouring. Or has wine just become more accessible and my taste buds are just off? Or maybe it’s my 20 oz glass….