Tuesday, January 24, 2017

More Reflections, in Winter Sunlight. . . .

 Yesterday, as I said I would, I met a dear friend for coffee. Our friendship stretches further back in my life than any other relationship other than those with my siblings, yet we hadn't seen each other for years. Two hours disappeared in waves of connection and emotion and remembered history and forgotten incidents; when I decided a nap was necessary later in the afternoon, it wasn't just the 8-kilometre round-trip walk to the café that I identified as the instigator of fatigue. . .  But oh, to see oneself through the eyes of a good friend. . .
 As I said yesterday, I'm thinking about the difference this is making to my self-image these days, but I'm also thinking about some commonalities that are emerging from my conversations with a number of women friends recently, all of us in a similar position within our families -- that is, we all have grandchildren, and our sons and daughters are moving out of the stage where they're desperately grateful for any help at all. They welcome our contributions to their lifestyle management -- most of us find that all babysitting (which those I spoke to are happy to offer, depending on other commitments) is much appreciated-- but having found their own parenting feet and their network of parenting peers, there are times they would prefer that our paths be separate.
 I'll say no more about that now, but I wanted to let you know that the post I gestured at yesterday is gestating. It's a tricky topic to manage, as you might imagine, but what my conversations with friends have shown me is that phenomena I'd personalised are probably more general -- and probably more structural or systemic -- than what the media suggests.

But, right, I'm not saying any more for now.

So, the pretty photos?
 When I woke from my nap, Pater brought me a cup of tea and suggested I stay where I was, in bed, with a book.
 I followed his orders dutifully, so was lucky enough to catch a few magical moments when the afternoon winter sunshine pierced a large hand-blown glass vase I've placed in the corner of our room; last September, delighted at having a large potted hydrangea in our new terrace "garden," I'd tucked a few stems in the vase to dry.
 And four and a half months later (Really? That's all it's been?! And we were away for two of those.), while still not properly settled here, there are simple pleasures and beauties declaring themselves daily.
 Sometimes I just have to sit still and watch for them.


There you go. I'm going to hazard a yoga class this morning, with Pater, after these weeks of enforced inactivity.  I will definitely be taking it gently and carefully. . . .

What about you? What's on your mind, on your schedule, on your to-do list? As always, I'm happy to hear from you if you have a minute. 

30 comments:

  1. Great vase. Re the parenting: I am not at grandmother level yet (if ever) but it did make me cast my mind back, especially as I have been going through all the photos for three days. My mother wisely never commented, my m-i-l ventured a few but after a while left off. I think it is probably healthy to be left to it if you don't have parents on tap permanently. What was new and cutting edge (and sometimes frowned upon by elders) a quarter of a century ago is now out of date already. Hey ho. I am pondering a practically sugar-free existence at the moment and enjoying it greatly. 60 is less than six months away and I am not going to enter this decade feeling anything less than splendid. The general winnowing continues in small and meaningful ways. Latest to go: instant coffee. Who knew?

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    1. We'll have to chat more re the (grand)-parenting. I lived far from both sets of parents when our kids were small, but we tried to manage visits as often as possible -- my own relationship with my grandma was so important to me.
      Good for you with all the healthy living. I must admit I still enjoy my sweets occasionally...

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  2. A.in London
    Those photos! Oh, what a kind sweetheart you have- bringing you tea and insisting you stay put for awhile. Such a reward you were given by watching the light dance and play around the room, too.
    Just fab photos; thank you for posting them. Brightened my day, too.
    Sharing with your friends lately seems to have brought that necessary feeling of commonality that I think we all crave, no matter how independent we are. Especially these days-huddling together seems very important so we can share what is in our hearts and minds. That encourages resilience in us, individually, I think. We are stronger together.
    A.

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    1. You're very welcome -- glad you enjoyed.
      And yes, huddling together seems what's needed at the moment!

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  3. My dear friend's mother died two days ago
    We are friends for 47 years now. I have first met her with her mother on the first day in the new school.
    It is interesting how friends,husbands,kids ..see us quite different indeed
    I agree with Annie,but it is common for adult children here to live very long with their parents ( even longer and longer)
    Interesting photos
    Dottoressa

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    1. I'm so sorry for you and your friend, Dottoressa. I'm so aware, now, of so much of our pasts disappearing, memory by memory with these elders passing...
      Take care.

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  4. The vase is lovely and those hydrangeas make a nice pairing...
    Long time friends are such a gift and its so nice that you were able to reconnect again.
    Nothing too much going on here...sorting out the filing cabinet and shredding loads of old papers. Feeling a wee bit out of sorts and cranky and not sure why.
    I will be eager to read what you write about families pulling away ad wanting more independence...I think we are also adjusting to the fact that our adult children do not "need us " as much as perhaps we'd like them to need us!

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    1. I saw on your blog that you were feeling a bit off-kilter. Best to honour that as best you can -- curling up with a book and tea or heading out for a bracing walk...
      Yes, I think this is an adjustment that can't be known until it happens -- and it seems to be a bit of an awkward secret, tbh...

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  5. I'm quiet right now, having just passed the 65th birthday. I'm a little scared. Five years ago tomorrow, I left to spend 6 months in Paris, full of dreams. My dad was alive and my mother did not seem elderly. I'm not sure what the next five years will bring. Monsieur turns 70 this year. Old friends are great because they have known you through many stages. My daughter has always been more involved with her network of friends than with me as she is single, so grand-maman is a role that I have missed out on. As I have a lot of single friends and friends whose children
    have not produced offspring, I wonder about the changing roles of women in our time. My grandparents lived next door when I was young, so I was part of an extended family. My widowed grandmothers were invited for Sunday dinner as long as they lived. I like the colours of your vase. You have the sea and the sky (sort of) in your apartment.

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    1. I think many of us now must hit these moments of being "a little scared," and it's brave of you to admit it. We can be as lively and energetic and curious and engaged as we are, in the middle of our seventh decade, but when we sit alone and quiet, we must acknowledge the ratio of the life behind us to the life ahead. . . . And yes, I think we'll chat here a bit about the changing roles, especially of senior women....

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  6. I haven't commented for ages, Frances. Sorry about that. With respect to the exhilarating exhaustion of conversation. Usually when I go home to NB, I'm so tired of talking by the time I leave. Talking, talking, talking...with Mum, with nieces, and grand-nephews, and brothers, and sisters-in-law, and cousins, and neighbours, and sometimes old friends... when I can squeeze them in. And by the time I leave both Mum and I are "done in." And when I attended my junior high reunion last fall...well... I had to come home to recuperate! Still...isn't it wonderful to, as you say, "see yourself in the mirror" that old friends hold up?

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    1. It gets too cumbersome, trying to keep up with all the commenting, much as we might enjoy the reading, doesn't it? I find the same -- you absolutely needn't apologise!
      And yep, exhilarating exhaustion, that describes it -- thank you!

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  7. I am looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on women of our age and changing roles within our families and with friends. As has often happened, your frequently verbalize thoughts that were somewhat unfocused in my mind and bring out the "that is what I am feeling!" realization. While our grandchildren (four that are five and under) are still young, I can sense the coming pull of friends, peers, activities, etc. pulling them and their parents down their own road. And, I am very aware that I did something similar myself. We were close to family (not geographically) but very conscious of wanting to follow our own path. It is an awkward time to be on the other side. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. You're very welcome, Beth, and I'm sorry it's taken so long to respond to your comment. You're thinking and processing sounds similar to mine. We'll chat more as soon as I muster some words....

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  8. This summer I will turn 65, and like Madame Là-bas, I am also feeling a bit scared--a recent sudden-onset health problem certainly kicked the fear into higher gear. My children have not had their own children (yet? I still hope), so I cannot enjoy grandparenthood as I thought I would be at this age. My own parents are still alive, very elderly, and psychologically, if not physically, dependent. I know that relationship will only increase in intensity. I am feeling somewhat trapped, and floundering. The most uneasy time of my life. I so look forward to your posts on this topic. Thank you. Linda

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    1. I'm sorry to hear this, Linda, but I so appreciate your honesty in speaking out, adding to what Mme says. I hope I'll be able to facilitate a conversation around this. I suspect there are more voices like yours out there.

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    2. Thank you, Frances. I'm happy to be here, no matter where the conversation leads. A wonderful blog you have built.

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  9. Always enjoy your blog. Interesting post and topic. It is funny how all through our lives we find it is hard to transition and life is one long transition. The first half of my life was very stable with not many changes and the last half has been a shock of change upon change. I have one daughter and we have always been close, but since she became an adult we have never lived close to one another. For many years there was the closeness, but she was (and is) very independent in her ways and an introvert too (with and more extroverted Mom). I am close wtih my grandson, but living far away, was not depended upon for much advice. Although, I did spend about three to four weeks a year with them. My daughter is in her forties now and I find she is drawing closer again and keeping in much closer contact. She had a rough time a number of months ago and reached out. I tried my best to offer support, advice (when asked) and much love. The appreciation from her was obvious and made me feel needed and wanted in that capacity. Things are very much better for her now, but still that drawing closer feels very special to me. And, I have made it clear that I am very supportive, but not offering words unless asked.....trying hard to be sensitive in every way. I am looking forward to you expanding on this topic from your vantage point. Enjoyed reading others' input too.

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    1. It is precisely that, life, one long transition. And yet we continue to expect otherwise....
      Your sketch of your relationship with your daughter over the decades and the varying distances is really instructive, and it reminds me of what a wise friend used to say as we reared our kids together from toddlers through teens. . . "Ages and stages" -- which might just circle back to your emphasis on transition as being constant. The other comment you make that really sticks out for me is the "trying hard to be sensitive." This really resonates with me -- the effort this takes, an effort whose cost we try our best to disguise, to efface -- which magnifies the effort and takes a certain toll, I think.

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    2. "The other comment you make that really sticks out for me is the 'trying hard to be sensitive.' This really resonates with me -- the effort this takes, an effort whose cost we try our best to disguise, to efface -- which magnifies the effort and takes a certain toll, I think."

      Oh, yes...

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  10. Such a tantalizing lead to your future post...I too feel the push-pull of a maturing set of mother daughter relationships. In some ways it reminds me of parenting an early adolescent- never quite sure where the boundaries lay. Happy to help, but needing my own boundaries respected as they needs theirs'. These are tricky waters to navigate. I'll ponder this as I look forward to your post.

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    1. Aha! See above, between NE/ME and me. . . . You're right there!

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  11. Like all grandmothers , I'd like to see more of my grandchildren but appreciate all the photos , news and phone calls and know just how lucky I am to have them at all !

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    1. Yes, absolutely. But perhaps also worth thinking about: Do you think the other end knows their good fortune as well? And is it just luck on our part? Why might we feel we need to remind ourselves we're lucky to have the contact? Is there a self-censoring that sets in and where might that come from?

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  12. I love the photos, and that sense of peace, and the elusive sense of capturing a moment, light, something that is too often slipping away.

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  13. Yes, this Not Wanted On Voyage feeling creeps up on you and, as you say, it's a bit of an awkward secret. From having the years ahead mapped out - however loosely - by career rungs and then children's schooling, suddenly there's no clear path ahead. It's a privileged position to be in, of course, but that doesn't make it any the less unsettling.

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    1. Oh, spot on. Especially for those of us who have moved into retirement, letting the work identity go as well. And the privilege can have a silencing effect as well, no? As in my response to SmitoniusandSonata, above.

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  14. This is an interesting topic to me as the grandmother of a soon to be seven year old grandson and 4 year old granddaughter. When they were very young their other grandmother was the primary caregiver as she did not work outside and I did (not retiring until April this year). But my daughter and her family lived less than 2 miles away and we saw them often. Now they live about 1/2 hour away and we still see them weekly, often for overnight sleepovers to provide the parents with a date night. I so look forward to it but I am exhausted after they leave and I am just 59 1/2 ! I find I sometimes feel lucky that I get to see them as often as I do but I find myself, as you do, wondering WHY I feel lucky. I remember my parents as loving and very interested in my own children but never involved to the extent that DH and I are. And now that my own grandchildren are getting a bit older, with parties and other events to attend, and their parents finding other interests that do not involve DH and perplexed to find ourselves left out and then even more perplexed about why on earth I would feel perplexed about that. I am realizing that for some reason, I need to look to my own interests with DH first, which I realize I neglected for awhile, so enamored was I with my role. I look forward to reading more on this subject from you mater.

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    1. I'm stalling on that post for the moment, Teri, as I work through something a bit too close to the topic if you can read between the lines...;-) But I'm getting there, and I hope not to be much longer. This is a very worthwhile aspect of the grandparenting phenomena -- interesting to look back and wonder what messages we inadvertently gave our parents and/or how the social expectations were so different. . . And yes, I think a bit of self-interest is a very healthy priority, as is keeping in mind that grandchildren grow quickly into their own lives. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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