OPINION: My mum pretended to be OK so we didn’t have to worry. It made things harder on us all.
Read the full article here: My ageing mum didn’t want to be a burden. And that was a burden. | Stuff
OPINION: My mum pretended to be OK so we didn’t have to worry. It made things harder on us all.
Read the full article here: My ageing mum didn’t want to be a burden. And that was a burden. | Stuff
The first Monday after Christmas is known as Divorce Day.
Two women reveal how the pain of divorce helped them to create better lives.
Forgetting your birthday was the first warning sign, which only highlighted their laid back attitude to sharing the housework.
Read the full article here: Divorce Day: Why ending your marriage could be the best decision you ever make | International Business Times
A healthy sex life has been tied to improved brain function in older adults, according to new research at the universities of Coventry and Oxford in the UK.
Read the full article here: An Active Sex Life Boosts Brain Power | Lifetime Daily
Our three couples – Hans (79) & Edith (76), Ellen (84) & Horst (77), Ralf & Kristin (both 73) – have two things in common: After being together for 3, 16, and 51 years they are all still heavily in love.
Watch the video here: Young Hearts | Vimeo
It’s often said that we live parallel lives in cities. The other day, I was invited to a pub on a familiar junction in London that I must have passed for 30 years yet never noticed. I was meeting some musicians who found the essence of Macedonian mojo in Peckham Rye but were decamping for the season lest it is sullied by the gridlock and the ceaseless barney.
My daily commute in London was getting to be of that ilk and unreliable too, a weary outwitting of arthritic infrastructure with no access to flotation tank and Dead Sea mud. The creaking bureaucracy overarching my profession of 16 years, that had started out years ago with local JP in the shires popping in for an informed chat and a friendly trawl through the books, had become a behemoth survived by brilliant colleagues and wonderful, woefully marginalized, troubled but soulful clients, but unsustainable.
After those 16 years, my knees were buckling under the legal bundles for constant benefit tribunals, last-ditch stays of eviction belatedly on the team radar, and the pavement pounding to beat the traffic and the tardy buses. I used to go to the river to watch the timeless flow, as referred to oddly enough by HG Wells in the epigraph to a novel titled by my family’s surname. Towards the end of Tono-Bungay, about a wonder tonic whose development is as restorative as the finished product, Wells writes of a trudge through the city ‘…But after that one is in a world of accident and nature…. beyond all law, order and precedence… conferences of brown-sailed barges’. His point there I think is that traditional graft, natures’ anarchy and certain stillness revolve around the river. Not a million miles away from the green utopia he envisaged in ‘News From Nowhere’. Wells saw these urban overloads coming down the pike and he noted where the Lighter Men were, unloading vessels so they could travel safely.
During this testing period, I recalled a couple of idyllic days spent making an EP with an old musician friend some distance up the Thames. Yards away a hippie maker of bamboo sax ligatures was testing his products before an audience of newly-hatched goslings and their mum. The shifted, earthed quality of what we put into these tracks as the studio floor juddered intermittently with the current. The lack of dead-eared deadlined din and hum. The industrious and at-ease-with-it who wave as they pass and the zoned out competitive rowers, waterproof as if allergic, who don’t. The wind in my face as I took the tiller of Russ’ boat for 500 yards or so and felt the benign might of the current and the foliage gently waving and swaying from the bank, the sense of being half a mile from Tesco’s yet in another, ancient world at peace with itself, calling to me. Nearly buying a craft from the Cossack heritage masseur to Dame Maggie Smith and Kylie Minogue whose close circles thereby mutter reverently of the life-affirming qualities of Rickmansworth. A glass of wine swirling with some gentle pitch and yaw is akin to a massage I think.
So a mutual old friend of Russ’ is moving to mountainous Italy with his GF and their watery den the Jam Pony is up for sale. My Mum left me part of her bequest and I hovered between her semi-detached sensibleness and her bursts of derring-do, such as flying a glider at 70 and her discreet heroism in the blitz when being the distant relative of one of the Lightermen (they who still unload river traffic from Tilbury that’s too bulky and disperse the loads was considered a walk on the wild side). As I was leaving Streatham for somewhere Thames Water were digging up some tunnelling rumoured to have been deployed for shelters then. And in a manner of speaking, it’s the water again.
So I fall in love with a little stretch of river and she, 55 foot of blue-twinset liveried doughtiness with a hint of the racy, the Jam Pony. A bit the worse for wear but soon with immaculate internal snagging. The engine has the timbre of a fine lady baritone in a barbershop quartet with sympathetic bass undertones. Another name perhaps?
A former co-worker of mine came to mind, and she has consented, but the word is that its bad luck to reassign a vessel when you first take it on. That current means risky business in the wintertime. The Swans, who had made war with me over my lunch when I worked in the canal side country town a few years ago -I’m reliably informed they are cousins- came to be fed through the window. Terms established for the inevitable payola, I went to my local bank and perspired a little as the payment went through to the broker who has a legitimate business rather than a sandwich-fleecing operation. The quietest of red-letter day moments on a busy urban afternoon, as if the river had invisibly manifested as clearing, windy, cool (to quote the usual reading on my parents’ barometer, eventually the case).
I find that I am part of a team. Not as of a corporate training day. As you arrive it’s game on over tea and digestives in a converted Sea Scout hut as mission control. Ropes, timber for decking, scaffolding poles to lash the boat to the riverside even as the bank itself shifts and expands with the challenging winter tides. . Sourcing a dinghy for getting to and fro as there is no direct road access.
It’s a bit choppy but you’re assured these things won’t sink though you might fall in once or twice, so here’s where to get your gear. You’re embedded through this into the friendly passing noddery of the river network that gets things done and organises its parallels to what you begin to see have been and are the much choppier waters of the school run, the mall, the traffic snarls and the glassy commuter glares at uncommitted fouling of personal space. The swans nod at me now as I drive past them in the dinghy like 50s pinstriped commuters, but there by regal charter, making it clear you are on trial initiation.
What the river also does is flow together bits of your life you had left half-done and re-locate those ships that pass in the night. The person making many of these fix-up calls for my boat, with me by his side, who for many years was the first responder to traffic accidents, overdoses and climatically and unassumingly, a gun massacre by a secure hospital escapee for life-saving at which my fixer got an MBE. Though gratefully received, it’s in a drawer now, on land, maybe 15 miles from the scene, and it secured no decent pension rights or security of tenure.
Yet in a roundabout way, it did start their river journey. We also realise that we were vocationally in parallel in the shires in the swan-baited years when hostel residents overdosed, I made the call in the depths of the night and this geezers’ ambulance crew raised Lazarus umpteen times. In a parallel process, we found that the concrete and the clay beneath our feet started to feel that crucial bit less exalted with less challenged, more effusively humdrum missions. In time, tuning into the river and its denizens of all species the and the well of experience finds its wellies, its shed full of useful odds and sods, and time to ponder amid the multi-species waterside welcoming ways and means committee.
Michele Kirsch, learns the hard way, that it is not.
The son has done a mutual and amicable break up with his girlfriend of six years. He is only 21 so she was the main one, probably the only one. When I ask why they split up – I refrained from hysterically crying, saying how much I loved her, how he would never find someone who looked as much like Mila Kunis as she does, how she was the ultimate package deal: beauty, brains, personality and manners, asking him if he was clinically insane, that if so I would draw on my pension early to pay for psychological treatment, or ghostwriting love letters from him to her saying it was all a hideous mistake, and would she marry him and have babies with him – yes, I did NOT do all that stuff, because he just might not have appreciated my making his break up all about Me, Me, Me, cos kids today, ay, they don’t like a drama. So, I have to accept it, that my head-turningly-gorgeous son (this is not my prejudice, he actually turns heads when he walks into a room) has decided, in an outrageously mature fashion, that they had grown up together and as the way of these things, had also grown apart.
Now I have a history of trying to intervene in his love life, from the age of 11 (him not me, though you could be mistaken) when he fell for a girl called Clementine. It was Valentine’s Day, and after I got him some flowers for her from a Tesco Metro – ‘Mum take the Tesco thing off, I don’t want her to think I am cheap’ – and we jointly stalked her house, and he was just going to leave the flowers with a ‘Be my Valentine’ card and run away. I said, ‘No, son, you want to do a GRAND GESTURE’ – so in chalk, we wrote outside the house, on the pavement – ‘Be my Clementine’. I thought it was ever so original and clever, and we decided against tossing clementines around her path, because we could only get satsumas, and maybe she hated citrus fruit or had a fatal allergy to them.
I never found out if the flowers were received, or if the chalk message was rubbed away in embarrassment. Clem wound up going out with a friend of his, and my boy met his lovely gal when he was in his mid-teens. I think he did. I was drunk off my arse for most of his teens so it is a little foggy.
So anyway, fast forward to…not that long ago. He comes over to my flat cos we are going to do what we do, which is go for Pho and chat shit for ages. It is by far my favourite thing to do. He mentions he has joined a dating app, not the really popular one Tinder but a different one, where you can only potentially hook up if you swipe each other at the same time. I think. I don’t even know what swiping means, except it doesn’t hurt and you do it on your phone and nobody gets pregnant. He shows me some of the girls, and I am shocked and sickened cos they all look EXACTLY alike, like the Kardashians, big arses, small waists, cat’s eyes, virulent lippy, eyebrows shaped by people who do not understand eyebrows, and wait it gets stranger. They are all 22 and all either philosophers or curators or anthropologists. Weirder still, they all pose with their friends who look just like them, and they do some strange photoshop thing to put on kitten ears and kitten noses and whiskers. And I’m like, ‘I don’t get it, so all these kitten women are curators and when you go out with them, you get the friend as well?’. Oh yeah, and lots of them are holding bottles of Prosecco aloft.
I do not understand any of it, so I say, OK, have you swiped any of these girls? Did you meet any, and do they actually have kitten faces and strange brows, and he goes no, he has not really swiped any cos yes, they do all look a bit modified, a bit altered, a bit samey, but the thing that really gets to him is that they all have these fancy pants jobs, and he works in construction, though he was a model til he decided he hated it because he did not want to be judged for his looks. So I say construction is a noble job, honest, everyone needs something constructed. But he feels it is not really impressive enough, and he does not buy my line, ‘Oh, I know these curators, they like a bit of rough’ so he feels that his profile does not really do him justice. I say, lemme look at what you’ve written. (Voice inside screaming – don’t interfere, it’s his date, not yours, but other voice goes, interfere. It is in your genes.) He has a lovely photo, a modelling one I think. So I go ‘Great pic’ but then the first thing he writes is – ‘This is an old photo’ and I explode: ‘You can’t put that! It is only a year old, maybe two, but you look exactly like that, maybe better. If you put ‘old pic’ they are going to think you are 75, bald fat and have halitosis and those strange hairs that grow out of old men’s nostrils and ears.’ He is not convinced. He also does not want to say he is in construction cos it sounds boring. And I’m like ‘no, everyone loves a builder. If you were a curator as well you would just talk hi falutin boring art shite all day and it would be a passionless relationship. You would have to go to galleries and museums, not clubs or festivals, with a clever kitten woman. NO!’.
And I realize that I have to let him go out there and meet these kitten women and make his own mistakes. He rejects my profile rewrite – ‘Can strangle a giraffe with my bare hands, if needed, though I love animals…particularly cats’ even though I protest it shows brute strength and sensitivity all in one phrase. And what do I actually know about dating in the modern world? Nothing. What do I know about my son? Enough to know that he’s smart enough, charming enough and gorgeous enough to make his own way in the world of dating. The stuff I find funny (OK, you meet one of these kitten ladies and find out that she does not have kitten ears and nose, and you look at her in horror and go, “But your ears and nose looked so different in the photo… this is really false advertising. I loved those damned ears and nose…”) leaves him cold. We abandon the app and go out for Pho, and I count my blessings. He’s happy and healthy, I am sober, and life is very sweet right now. He will meet his sweetheart, one day, and I will love her as much, if not more, than the last one.
I’m talking personal development here, not a coffin or a chutney-making one. These emotion-evoking workshops are all about transforming oneself in order to go out and transform the world. It starts with the self and expands out into the world. That’s the idea – love, love, love.
And I have done a fair few in the past 20 years, it has to be said.
From a year group with a psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern to the Hoffman Process to Jan Day’s Tantra groups to 5 rhythms dance to the Path of Love, a seven day group process which runs globally. And lots of women’s groups too.
I am a fan of group process rather than individual therapy. For me. They have the potential to accelerate change because the room is always full of other uncomfortable mirrors. I might instantly dislike someone on first sighting. The idea however disagreeable/uncomfortable to me is to look to myself and see what it is that that I’m projecting on to that person. What am I not looking at inside myself? What part of my own shadow do I dislike? Easier said than done, I am eternally resistant, however it’s a great opportunity. Always.
Also I have an ongoing difficult relationship with my own vulnerability. I would rather be argumentative, defensive, win the debate and project onto my partner all sorts of false blame than face the vulnerability that lies just beneath that conflict. Often it’s simply his situation seems difficult and even dangerous to me and that distresses me, so I attempt to impose a solution because it seems untenable. But often only to me!! Now he understands that dynamic and lets me know that he is okay and doesn’t need active support.
Am I a workshop junkie? Not really, I see workshops as a way of connecting me to significant parts of myself that otherwise, I might be ignoring. Like my tenderness. They are also a way of being nourished, being seen and being acknowledged at one’s fullest, and importantly continuing the struggle to evolve in that emotional intelligence way.
And so one Saturday morning, I find myself getting up at 7 am to go and do a Path of Love Day on Relationship at a swish venue in Shoreditch. Run by co-founder, Rafia Morgan who is a psychotherapist originally from San Francisco, and used to live in Osho’s Ashram in Poona and then on the ranch in Oregon. Osho is the Indian philosopher and guru – there is a series on Netflix at the moment called Wild Wild Country, which recounts the controversial events around him – who created much of the tantra and meditation work that has become popular in the West. He was also a non-conformist in the spiritual world – he called it rebel wisdom – which attracted a lot of followers or sannyasins. The other facilitator today is Abigail Iquo Isuo Peters, a charismatic psychotherapist who zaps the day into action with her humour and energy.
First of all, there is the optional Dynamic Meditation. It’s optional because it’s hardcore in its physical demands. Today I’m in but with the intention not to overdo it. I am 65, I will go for it, but not over-go for it. That was my former self.
Dynamic Meditation has five stages – chaotic breathing, catharsis, jumping up and down with one’s arms in the air shouting HOO, stillness and celebration. The idea is to remove you from your comfort zone and stir up all those feelings that lurk just below the surface. This is an Osho invention and I’ve done it a few times before. I’m dreading the Hooing, but I’m looking forward to the rest.
I opt for a gentle version. For the chaotic breathing, we breathe only through the nose and the aim is to disrupt ourselves. That’s fine. I do a quiet disruption. The catharsis is the opportunity to rage and scream, to let it all go. This is something I don’t have a problem with. I can shout and cry until the cows come home. My difficulty is more around the opposite. I would like to be more contained when it comes to anger, sadness etc. Which seems like a heresy but isn’t. I shout and scream for a while and then find I don’t need to.
The jumping up and down with my arms in the air shouting Hoo in a fast rhythm is as hard as I anticipated, but I approach the task in a sanguine way. I do what I can for as long as I can, then, I have a rest, and carry one. Really it seems to me to be about the capacity to keep going through whatever life throws at you, about keeping the tenacity going and to be honest, I have got a proclivity in that direction. There is a reason that my close friends refer to me as a terrier.
Next comes stillness and silence for 15 minutes, which is are blessed moments although I do reach up and wipe the trickles of sweat away as they cascade down my neck and forehead. Finally, there is celebration, some sitar music stirs us into emerging. That is my favourite part, that feeling of the butterfly leaving the chrysalis. And dance. I can never resist free movement in this way. It is like spring time in music.
There’s talk of an intention and cementing an intention for the day. I’m thinking beforehand that mine is more engagement politically. Silly me, this is all about the heart. Rafia takes us on a trip around the heart in a guided meditation. How does your heart feel? Is it hurt, mistrustful, open, numb?
‘Remember,’ he says, ‘the heart loves truth, it relaxes the heart.’ This really is the mantra for the day.
We are invited to share about our hearts afterwards with one other person near us. I divulge that my heart is more open than it used to be but that it can always do with more practice around melting. I tell my partner, a tall American, that when I did the 7-day Path of Love, that’s what it was all about for me, I became like a soft jelly, a birthday card kitten, in fact, I was schmaltz itself and it was delicious.
I’m already moved to tears by my partner’s heart story. Oh, it’s going to be one of those days. Just what I needed. Tuning in and turning on to love in the overflowing sense.
After a quick break, we’re immediately into the soul of the workshop – an exercise where we become our mothers and our partners become us, and we see what that brings to us in the way of feelings and actions. I do it first. I have a decision to make – shall I be my mother now with Alzheimer’s or my mother before? I decide on the former. For me, it’s not so much about discovering family patterns but about seeing where I am with my mother now after 15 years of working in a healing way on our relationship.
So I am looking at the world as my mother with Alzheimer’s and that’s a very vulnerable, open, and needy place. I find myself looking in a plaintive way at my partner who responds by backing away and looking away. I move towards her in complete openness and need and she resists for a while, and then she opens to me, her mother, and we tentatively hold each other’s hands with love. It’s awkward but there’s a lot of love there.
For the next part of the exercise, my partner becomes my mother and I am myself. This seems a lot more straightforward, she comes forward and then we embrace for a long time. It is so beautiful and healing. I bathe in being held by her, I imbibe the nurture, I giggle at the wonderfulness of it and so does she.
I am also aware of the surreal aspect to this – I am much older than my partner, and she is both younger and much taller than me. However none of this matters in this endearing embrace.
Afterwards, we share what happened for us both. I say how amazing it feels to explore the nature of my relationship with my mother now she is 91 and has Alzheimer’s and how much softer our relationship is now than it was 20 years ago. How I feel her trust in me, which I never did before. And how profoundly healing it feels to be nurtured by her because in reality there hasn’t been much of that. There are tears and laughter.
Finally, before lunch, we do the same exercise around our fathers. My father is dead and our relationship was loving as a young girl, then violent as I grew up, then passionate round debate as I became a teenager, then conflictive again as I got older. Again I get to express what was underneath. Although I start off as my father and being in the frustration I feel with my daughter, I quickly move to wanting to connect to a safe loving place. When I’m myself, I am able to accept love from him, which feels like a gorgeous place to be. I didn’t find that place with him when he was alive so it feels nourishing to find it now he’s dead.
I have a gut instinct that this will all help to be more open to love from my partner. And more loving towards him. That has somehow arrived as my intention for the day.
Lunch is informal with people bringing their own lunches or going out to a local café.
Afterwards, we are directed into cushion-seated circles of nine and invited to participate in a cyclonic inquiry. The Path of Love facilitators love inquiry. And me too. Especially about our shadow selves. They believe that the more that we can accept our shadow selves and declare them ie all our unpalatable traits – the deeper we will be able to connect with others. And the more relaxed we will be as human beings.
We’re asked to repeat the sentence; ‘If you were in an intimate relationship with me, you would find out that I am’ and the answer is all of that secret stuff. Mine are being over-expressive around anger, insecure and jealous, eager to win at arguments, scared of real love, protective of my vulnerability and therefore more often seen in defensive mode, easily distressed by your emotional distress.
And the next one, which goes round and round the circle from person to person is; ‘What I need from you in a relationship is… and that is my need.’ Mine was to stand in the fire for me around my insecurity and jealousy, to make me feel sexually be safe and on an adventure at the same time, to come forward in love so that I can move myself. And there are more! Then the important part is to own them all as my own needs.
The day finishes off with some pulsing breath work which again was to get us back into our bodies and integrate feelings that might have come up, but to be honest, didn’t do much for me, and then finally celebratory dance with everyone in the room which I always love.
What did I come away with? A feeling of joy that I can be calmer on these sorts of days now, I don’t have to return to the trauma of my upbringing. I can connect to my heart without connecting to great grief.
And finally, the knowledge that my partner and I have unveiled and exposed every one of these shadow parts to each other. I realized and messaged him on the way home, and then thanked him again on the phone the next day. We really do have a truly reciprocal intimate relationship and that I feel blessed in that. It was something that I had yearned for, for a very long time. I felt moved to clearly declare this to him. Of course, we still have dramas and difficulties but we know how to get through them. I couldn’t want for more than that.
More info about the Path of Love on pathretreats.com
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Read the full story here: In Old Age, Friends Might Matter Even More Than Family
Dr. Twenge started doing research 25 years ago on generational differences, but when 2011 -2012 hit, she saw something that would scared her to the core.
Read the full story here: The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids | Your Modern Family