Friday, May 8, 2015

Why I Feel Like a Queen This Mother's Day

by Amy Ruhlin

These later years of motherhood have gifts waiting for us, of that I am sure. I don't know yet what they are, but I stay alert.

My daughter, and my son, are both in their early 20s. They are smitten with the idea of endless possibilities and surprising opportunities. They are embarking on their young, exciting lives, and heeding the call: "Come on in! The water is fine. You'll love it." They wade in, eagerly, waist deep. I strain to watch, standing safely along the shoreline, my feet firmly planted in the sand.

As I watch them dive in, I remind myself that this is now their time. We boomer parents had our own spotlight for many years. But now, we stand a bit in the shadows, and if we have the courage and wisdom, we will at least try to be the elders, the ones who have the sense to get off of center stage and instead, offer a supporting role. Comes a time, boomers.

My son recently took me to his college art studio where we ran into some of his fellow students. He eagerly introduced me: "This is my Mom," he said. I loved the way he said "Mom" -- there was gladness, gratitude and dare I say, pride in his voice. His hip, young friends' eyes lit up. "Your Mom! Wow, has she seen your work yet?" "Not yet!' he replied. When they left, my son and I walked through the studio together, while he gently and humbly pointed out some of his art. I could tell that it meant something to him to show his mom his work. And somehow, for the first time, instead of feeling like an older mother, I felt like a Queen.

It wasn't like when I was a younger mom. I didn't feel needed. I didn't feel like I had to have all of the answers. Or that I was taking care of him. Instead, I felt recognized. I felt appreciated. I felt honored.

So, give it up boomer mamas. Our supporting role is the best one yet.

All hail the Queen on this Mother's Day.

Friday, February 6, 2015

On Aging As A Couple

by Amy Ruhlin

My husband comes home from work with his backpack slung over his shoulder, the same way he carried a similar pack during our college years. Back then, the weight of the pack was a few textbooks and a pack of cigarettes, but now it's his fancy laptop and files of responsibilities. He slides the strap down his arm, eases the pack onto the kitchen chair and unzips the outer pocket, the space where, in our younger days, he stashed Marlboro Lights. He takes out his pain meds, his only relief from the arthritis that has settled into his spine. I can see the stress of his workday rooted in the reddened rims of his eyes and the years of devotion as a husband and father carried in his gait. He's a good man, the best I've ever known, and his love has been strong and wide, always, in our 30 years together. He's solid, his feet planted firmly on the ground, his Irish heritage often on display with his playful mischief. It's been only recently that I've faced the fact that like me, he is vulnerable to time. Like me, he is a little tattered and worn. And like me, he is growing older.

I've been so preoccupied with my own issues of aging--perimenopause, kids flying the nest, fine lines and sagging breasts, that I've kept my husband safely frozen in time. In my mind, he's always been the 21-year-old boy that I first laid eyes on in a hotel lobby in 1981. He was working as a bellman and he wore a ridiculous, black bellhop uniform that made him look like a leprechaun on his way to a funeral. But still, I fell for him, hard, and have loved him ever since.  It's not like I love his battered 53-year-old self less than I loved his fresh 21-year-old self. In fact, the reverse is true, and therein lies the problem.

I know we are the lucky ones. We have each other to help bear the burden of aging, to soften the blows of time. He’s always been my safe space to land, the one whom I trust completely and who can make me laugh at anything, most importantly, at myself.  But selfishly, I don't want him to grow old too. It’s just too damn scary and he’s too much to lose.

I’d always heard that it takes courage to truly love another and as I age alongside my husband, I'm learning how true that is. Love is a trickster. In the beginning, it’s like a fruity cocktail before the heavy meal.  It’s sweet and easy, but as you move along, it becomes richer, more textured, loaded. It’s more satisfying and substantial, and yet, you know it is getting closer to the end.
But, perhaps, learning how to fully love another, despite the enormous cost, is its ultimate goal and a benefit of aging.
I ask him how his day was as he pours water into a glass and then swallows his pill. He says something to make me laugh and then he opens the back door and tells me that he needs to step out for some fresh air, but I know he is really going out to sneak that Marlboro Light he had hidden in his backpack, underneath the meds. I know that, at least for now, he’s got my back and he’ll lock up for the night, so I head upstairs for bed, feeling glad and grateful that together, we are growing older.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rest, Live and Be Loved

by Amy Ruhlin
Sometimes I think we boomers are in a bit of a panic. At least, I know that sometimes, I am. 

Especially in those moments when I realize that we’ve been on this planet for more than half a century. When I mention this small fact to folks my age, they often look shocked and horrified. Surely that estimation isn’t right. Can’t be. We’re too hip for that. Too busy. Too revolutionary. We don’t do old.

It just doesn't seem to fit the boomer storyline- sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, baby. And after that, upward mobility, tiger moms and helicopter parenting.

I mean, we've got this. 

So, true to our nature, we’ve turned these later years into opportunities to reinvent ourselves. Which is a wonderful thing. I created a blog when I turned 50, after years of raising my children and having a career as a therapist. And from that simple, and for a lot of us, courageous act of deciding to write at this stage in life, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to have my work published on a little website called The Huffington Post. I’ve also volunteered, worked for a non-profit and currently work as an independent contractor.  I've reconnected with old friends and with parts of my own self. A full steam ahead reinvention effort. 

But lately, my reinventing seems to have stalled.
So I’ve been taking naps. And taking great joy in wearing my colorful, winter scarves, being and laughing with my husband of thirty years, and watching our children embark on their exciting, young adult lives.

On good days, I tell myself that I’m just chillin'. On others, I worry that I’m just being old. I worry that I’m being an inadequate reinventor and wonder if I should do something new, like become a bank teller. Or take up skydiving.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with an old friend via text. She told me that in addition to working full-time, she is going back to school to get her degree, something she’s always wanted to do. I told her how happy I am for her, but that I didn’t know how she did it, because frankly, I’m beat.
And then she texted me this: “You’ve done it all. Now is your time to rest, live and be loved.”
I wanted to reach through my cell phone screen and hug her.
I decided it’s okay to just chill for a while. Or to just be old. And to just love and be loved.
In fact, in our 24/7 crazy world, these acts could be the most revolutionary reinvention of all. And that is very much a part of our boomer storyline.
Rest, live and be loved—I’ve got this.