Friday, June 29, 2012

A Tale of Two Helens and One Nora.

As I near my birthday, I realize another year has gone by and I become wistful..

I start realizing my own mortality and how the years have escaped me. And, the road ahead seems shorter than it used to look when I was 30. Where's my legacy, my notable career achievements, my great novel, or at least a considerable following for my blog. (While I love having 8 followers of my blog.. it's just 8. I've seen really lame blogs have hundreds of followers.. what am I doing wrong, aside from not posting enough?). I was supposed to have the svelte figure, Michelle Obama arms, and the ability to run a half marathon (it seems everyone is doing that on Facebook. I didn't even know some of these people owned sneakers let alone could hold their own in a race!) So, recently I've been wallowing in my despair and allowing these dreams to fall like deflated balloons. It feels like the road ahead is a lot shorter than the road behind me. Yeah even if you live to 100, but you're not really doing too much at that point. Physically your body craps out and you can't do anything but worry about your hip and not falling down.

Then Nora Ephron died this week. They've been playing her interviews and she was speaking on NPR:
"You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday," she says. "If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it."

For Ephron, there was a moment that helped bring that realization vividly home. She was with friends, playing a round of "What would your last meal be?" (Her pick, by the way: a Nate & Al's hot dog.)

"But (my friend) Judy was dying of throat cancer, and she said, 'I can't even have my last meal.' And that's what you have to know is, if you're serious about it, have it now," Ephron says. "Have it tonight, have it all the time, so that when you're lying on your deathbed you're not thinking, 'Oh I should have had more Nate & Al's hot dogs.'"

 NPR calls these "driveway moments." This is when you sit in the car and can't get out because you're engrossed with the radio story. So you sit in the driveway until the story is completed. I had my "parking lot moment" with Ephron. Yes, I need to do it now. There's no more waiting until tomorrow or next week or next month. I need to move the clutter in my life and do the things I love. (Hence, the blog post at midnight)

My second epiphany came during my art class on Wednesdays. I've been taking art class since Sept (shoot, I haven't even blogged about it and it's been life changing for me! I owe a blog about that one!). So, Jenn is my instructor and she said 2 ladies from her senior citizens class would attend the evening class this summer. So, I've met two lovely ladies named Helen. I remembered them from Jenn's story about the two Helen's painting each others work because it was signed "Helen". These two ladies are full of stories, opinions and light-hearted banter.

Helen #1 is early 70's, thick, light brown hair cut short and a ready smile. She's elegant and has a face full of soft wrinkles, but a strong body. Since the art class uses on of the dance studios, Helen went to the ballet barre and showed us the 5 positions and included a plie. Then she swung her leg over the barre! Helen #2 teased her by calling her a 'show off'.  Helen keeps extremely busy - she's active as a Township Supervisor, a number of quilting and arts group, has her swimming club and will be leaving for Okinowa to see her granddaughter have a baby in few weeks. She offered to buy her grandson a ticket provided he join her, and they plan to stay in hostels and eat local food.She's also going to be riding in a car for the July 4th parade representing the township.

In those soft lines on her face, I see so much enthusiasm for life. Aging gracefully doesn't mean you don't have lines on your face. It means you accept the life you're leading and continue looking for new adventures.

Helen #2 is probably the same age and is a larger African American woman. She's a retired nurse and her husband died and he was in police force, I believe. She's got white hair cropped short and an animated facial expressions. Her arms and bosom are big and you know those are the best kind for hugging grandbabies! (yes, I've seen pictures and the little girl has her nose). Physically, she has trouble moving but she's busy with her senior groups and cooking for potlucks. (Helen #1 said she was bringing a 5 cheese lasagna and then confessed it was Stauffers'. Hey, you don't have to do it ALL!.)

 She's a perfectionist in her art and gets frustrated so easily. She showed us her album of artwork she's done and I was stunned. Painting after painting was done beautifully. There must have been over 10 paintings in her album, and I'm sure there have been more that weren't in there. My one acrylic 10x8 takes me 4 classes to finish. These are large canvas paintings that must take hours. I thought "wow, she had time to work on these and make them so perfect." That's when I saw how many years ahead I had, and saw that Helen was taking advantage of what years she did have.

All my panic about running out of time faded. The Helens reminded me there is a lot that can be done in the time that remains. But I need to do it and not dwell on it. And like Nora reminded me, you need to enjoy every day because life is so short.

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