Dear 2018: Whatever Happens This Year, Please Don’t Demand That MayBelle Be a “Change Agent,” “Goddess,” or “Warrior”

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Or worse, a “badass.” MayBelle doesn’t want to be any of those things. She just wants to be herself. Maybe, in this new year, a more refined MayBelle, or even the most MayBelle-iest MayBelle she can be. But she refuses to be overwhelmed/intimidated/shamed by messages implying that she needs to be different—that she has to re-create who she is—in order to live a full life or make a mark. Her middle-aged MayBelle-ness—overweight and prone to worry, proud of her accomplishments while embarrassed by missteps, aware of time passing but still hopeful—simply has to be enough.

So in the coming days, 2018, MayBelle plans to “center down” as Howard Thurman says in Meditations of the Heart. She will rise to her strengths as often as she can. She hopes to help those in need when she’s able, tend her loved ones with care and compassion, take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, push herself to be healthier, follow her heart, improve her skills, and in all things give thanks. But please don’t tell MayBelle every day has to be awesome, New Year, because some days aren’t. Some days are just plan ol’ days, full of mundane events and interactions. And while MayBelle believes there is usually something extraordinary in the ordinary, other days are so challenging they can only be endured. It’s life. And life requires more than positive thinking and exhortations to be a “badass” or claim one’s inner warrior. MayBelle actually hopes she doesn’t read the word “badass” again in all of 2018, and she’s glad her precious mother is not here to see how commonplace such words have become. (Pardon her prudishness, but MayBelle, for one, does not need the f-word on a coffee mug.)

Surely MayBelle doesn’t have to be a change agent or a goddess to live fully, serve others, pursue her dreams. She just has to be herself. So, 2018, you will not find MayBelle berating herself if every day isn’t off the charts fantastic. You won’t catch her strategizing for world–or even neighborhood–domination.

Instead, MayBelle will be over here doing the best she can. Paying attention to the world around her, writing her heart out, and helping others do the same. Making adjustments as needed, relying on grace, and counting her blessings. If she loses a few pounds or gets a book deal in the process, great. If not, she’ll still be pretty bada**.

Love,

Real Life

 

Show Me Your Scars and I’ll Show You Mine

IMG_3730.jpgI didn’t realize I was sick back then—just miserable. I knew I didn’t belong in law school, though everyone around me said I did. Problem is, you don’t drop out in my family. Wilsons persevere.

“I think something’s wrong with your thyroid.” This from my mother at the Thanksgiving table after my dismal semester. Turns out a goiter had sprouted in my neck and I hadn’t even noticed. That’s how out of touch I was with myself, people. (Google “goiter” at your own risk.)

“You better go see Doc Murray when you get back to Oxford.”

I did and it was. The kindly and charming old-school doctor sent me to a specialist, a not kindly and especially uncharming man, who glanced at me and said: “Most times this is cancer.”

My twenty-two-year-old self started crying and ran to call my parents.

“Come home,” they said. So I did. We got another specialist. A nicer one.

After the surgery to remove half my thyroid gland, I didn’t really mind the scar, even early on when it was angry and red. It proves I can weather the storm, if you will, that’s the way I see it. Cliché or no.

“I can fix that for you,” said a doctor acquaintance at a party not too long ago. He was tilting his head toward the base of my neck and stabbing for an olive with one of those plastic cocktail swords. Red I think it was.

“Fix what?” I asked. I wasn’t even trying to be coy, as I don’t think about the scar, which looks a little bit like a short, braided rope.

“Your thyroidectomy scar. The surgeon should have done a better job. You know, so it wouldn’t be so noticeable.”

Maybe your mother should have done a better job with you, I wanted to say. You know, so your personality wouldn’t be so bothersome.

“I don’t want it fixed,” I said instead. “But thank you for your concern.”

Besides the small rough patch on my right hand—a neighbor’s German Shepherd jumped up on me while I was riding my bike (boy was I proud of that banana seat) and I ended up in a puddle of gravel—I don’t have other visible scars. (I’ve had more surgeries, laparoscopies and such, but no additional physical reminders of trauma.)

My mother, bless her precious 93-year-old heart, is riddled with scars: colon cancer, mastectomy, gallbladder, vena cava filter, skin tears every time her body tricks her into thinking she doesn’t need to use a walker and she pitches to the floor.

I don’t know if she minds her scars or not. I could ask her, but the answer might not be based in reality, as dementia is robbing her of such. She doesn’t seem to mind them, though, or much of anything, actually. Instead she comes across as content, happy even, in the moment. She no longer seems anxious and does not spend her days borrowing trouble, a favorite pastime of hers that I’m sorry to say I have inherited.

Usually she just smiles, asks me if I’m her baby, and rolls herself into the dining room to join the other old souls who can no longer live on their own.

“Yes, ma’am,” I say. “I am.”

Scars and all.

Amy Lyles Wilson

Writing Prompt: Read Lucille Clifton’s “Scar” and write about what it brings up in you. Write for 20 minutes. I’ll set the timer. Go!

http://www.sunsetcoastwriters.com/blog/scar

Here’s Hoping Fifty Really Is Nifty…

From Her NashvilleAugust 2011

This month I turn 50. As in, half a century. As in, at least half of my life is gone. It sounds depressing, and in some ways I guess it is. But for the most part, it feels like a gift.

Earlier this year, I vowed to become as healthy as I could before my momentous birthday. I increased my visits to the shrink, started getting acupuncture, hired a personal trainer, scheduled facials on a regular basis, tried to give up carbs, and took up yoga. I had hoped the big day would approach and find me 30 pounds lighter and boasting a low cholesterol number. Alas, those things did not happen. What I can celebrate, though, is feeling more like myself than ever.

Read more here…

In Which a Middle-Aged Goober Steps on the Scale and Weighs Her Options

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And so today I looked at the scale in the doctor’s office and found out I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. Ever. For years now I have avoided the number, telling the nurse I didn’t want to know. I would take off my shoes and shut my eyes, waiting to hear her say, “Okay, you can step off now.” I’d make sure not to look down at my chart while talking with the doctor, so as to avoid glimpsing the truth. But today, in this year that marks my fiftieth birthday, I decided it was time to stop kidding myself: I’m overweight.

This is not a news flash for me, of course. I’ve known for a while now, even though I’ve managed to kid myself into thinking I look okay and feel pretty good. Neither of those things is true. Photographs show my full face, wide hips, and soft belly. My knees ache, I snore (Precious describes this, lovingly, as “fog horn like”), and my cravings lean more and more toward sugar and carbs.

One of my friends, a woman I met just three years ago but feel I have known for decades, lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers. I thought she looked fine before, and she did. But now, she’s just about the best-looking sixty-something woman I know. And she’s way cool to boot. I would like to be her when I’m 63, that’s how fabulous she is. She says she was never driven by vanity; it was her creaky knees that made her lose weight. That’s the way it is for me, I think. I don’t seem to scare small children when I go to the mall, and Precious loves me as I am, about 20 pounds heavier than when we married in 2002. But now I make moaning noises when I get up from the couch, which isn’t often, because that’s become my favorite place to park myself. I complain about back pain, low energy, and blue moods. My cholesterol is through the roof. Can you say put down the cheese doodles?

Another friend says she lost weight by eating only on alternate Tuesdays, and yet another swears by the hCG diet, which seems to involve injections and possibly urine from pregnant women. As it is with most meaningful undertakings, I will have to find my own way to better health. I suspect my path will involve smaller portions and more workouts, but I’ll keep you posted.

In college, I thought I was too heavy. Pictures from those days make me teary-eyed with envy, as I see now that I was “normal” back then, back when I weighed 40 pounds less. Today, though, my weight is not the only thing I’m paying close attention to as I plod toward the big five-oh in August. I’ve taken up yoga, and I like how it’s putting me in touch with my body in new ways, making me aware of moves I didn’t even know were possible and affording me a sense of calm (thanks Hilary and ALIGN!) Also in my arsenal are a therapist (no website!), a personal trainer (thanks Stephanie!), and an acupuncturist (thanks Eden!). A supportive husband, a loyal dog, and plenty of women who have gone before me.

“It’s the sharing of our stories that saves us.”

Give It Up in 2011

With a nod to the ever-inspirational Sam Davidson, here are 11 things I can do without in 2011:

  1. Clothes I haven’t worn in two years. I’m bagging them up now for donation.
  2. Duplicate copies of books that I bring home, forgetting that one copy already rests on a shelf or in a backpack waiting to be read for the first time.
  3. People who live to criticize.
  4. Wasted downtime. Use it or lose it.
  5. My obsession with getting an old car back that I wish I’d never sold.
  6. Fear of Skype.
  7. Worrying about things I can’t change.
  8. The third datebook I bought, hoping it will help me get more organized. As soon as I find datebooks one and two, I’m sure I’ll be on top of things and won’t need the third one.
  9. Comparing myself to others.
  10. Group emails with recipients’ email addresses visible. Repeat after me: “Bcc.”
  11. That extra 15 pounds.

MayBelle Goes to an Acupuncturist

“Does it hurt?” asks MayBelle’s sister as they talk on the phone one afternoon in June. MayBelle is late for her appointment with the acupuncturist, and she should have known better than to call her sister with only ten minutes to spare. Their phone calls last an average of 45 minutes and you can set your digital watch by this. But MayBelle was desperate for a piece of information that only her sister could give her, so she gave it a shot and then ended up being late for her appointment.

“Sort of,” said MayBelle, trying to speak in a whisper as she entered the all-natural health center. She didn’t think cell phones would be appreciated there. “I’ll call you back.”

The truth is, the slight prick of the needles hurts much less than the leg pains MayBelle has been complaining about–don’t you feel sorry for her husband, Precious?!–for two years now. “Nothing wrong with your legs,” says the internist. “Nope,” echoes the orthopedist. So MayBelle has resorted to desperate measures, such as losing weight and giving up artificial sweeteners. Soon she shall have to say goodbye to the powered creamer she keeps in her purse since she can’t tolerate the lactose in the milk at Starbucks. What else will the long-suffering MayBelle have to give up next?

For now, she is feeling a bit better, and vowing to be on top of this “healthy living” approach before she turns 50 in two years. In fact, please remember her fondly  in the morning at 11 when she goes to the physical trainer who seems to forget that MayBelle is 48 and out of shape.

In Which I Bare All…

Her Nashville June 2010

While walking the beach in Fort Morgan, Ala., I see young women who are thin and tan. They wear bikinis and an air of self-assurance. Their long hair is pulled back in ponytails or piled on top of their heads with big plastic clips. I also see middle-aged women, like myself, who are not so thin. Our bodies are covered in sunscreen, and we wear full-coverage, one-piece swimsuits with tummy control. Hats protect our faces from harmful ultraviolet rays. But we, too, seem confident; propelled down the shoreline by beauty of another sort. . .

Read more at Her Nashville magazine