(Authors note: Sometimes I feel self conscious about writing so much about my own life, but it is really all I have to offer, and it’s the only graduate school I have attended. It’s been quite an eventful life that took me down many roads many do not ever travel and wouldn’t want to if they could!  I share only to offer my views for whatever it may be worth to any other travelers, as a simple offering, no more no less. )

About this getting old business. Just stand in a supermarket check out line and scan the covers of women’s magazines, or spend a single hour watching TV, and it’s clear that getting old in American is almost as bad as contracting the plague, especially for women.  Talk about double standards: male TV news anchors can have jowls hanging to their chests and as many wrinkles as a Sharpei, and that’s fine, but you women had better be ready for the scalpels and botox if you want the job!  
But there is a definite upside to aging, in my eyes.   I really don’t miss being stared at like I was a T-bone on legs walking past a group of starving workmen. I like feeling free to leave the house without having to spend hours “primping” and making sure I am as “desirable” as I can possibly be. I enjoy choosing clothes and shoes that please ME first,  that allow full and free movement and do not pinch, bind or hurt any part of my body.  (Yes, I do remember the days of rubber “panty girdles”)

There certainly are parts of living with an aging body that present many challenges and I do often miss the physical fitness, strength and stamina of my youth.  But now I understand that the body is only one part of what composes a human being, and my other parts were just waiting for their turn to “come out” fully.

I mean the parts of me I had little time to develop before, like my full creative potential and a “freed intellect” so long forced to operate only with the limits of my profession, and never allowed free reign before.  Once liberated, these parts can lead us in the most undreamed of directions, which is how I ended up spending five joyful years directing/performing on stages all over two states, with our traveling theater troupe of actors with disabilities, plus dabbling in stand up and other performance venues. I’d been so busy for so many years I didn’t even know I’d love this stuff!   (and BTW, the theater project was launched into a solid money making operation with NO operating budget: just the talent, skill and determination of two very creative women and the commitment of a bunch of so called “dis-abled” people! )  What a RUSH that all was.  And since then, it’s just been one new adventure after another.

So you see, for me, getting “old” was not only NOT the “end”, but one great big beautiful BEGINNING!  How I wish more people could stop dreading “getting old” and start looking FORWARD to it. It holds so many wonders  one can’t really know about until you get there.

 Now let’s talk about the Upside of being “poor”.   Like everyone else young, I dreamed of a certain kind of retirement: I’d have my precious log home in the woods by a river. I’d travel all over a world I’d never seen.  I’d go back to college and learn so many thing life had not allowed me the time to learn. All of this would be financed by the money I’d make and save from a lifetime of hard work.  

Wasn’t to be, of course. One good work related injury = disability = end of ones productivity and savings and KaBOOM, a whole different kind of “retirement” looms straight ahead. (No, I did not accept this change gracefully; I had a very tough transition that I inflicted on everyone around me.)

We often don’t get the life we want; we get the one we get, period.  Sooner or later, it’s decision time: how do we want to play the hand we’ve been dealt?  

For me, the first step in this process had to be challenging, and eventually deconstructing everything I had been taught by this culture, and everything I believed about what was “essential” to survival, and to having a good and productive life.  In other words, my life forced me to conduct a thorough autopsy on the corpse of my so called “American Dream.”  


The RULE:   No matter what it takes to get enough money and stuff, to hang onto enough money and stuff,  and make it  into even MORE money  and stuff  we MUST  do it because we MUST have these things if we are to live the AMERICAN DREAM and to be considered “productive, successful citizens.”  

If we don’t, we could end up destitute, homeless, dependent on others, and thus,  worthless.   It was this belief, this particular set of fears, (even terrors) , that forced me to continue working, even though I knew it was causing serious further damage to an already damaged  spine.  Thus, by age 55, the spine gave out for good and all my worst fears came true, all at once.  It didn’t tale long for me to run through the small savings this single parent had accumulated.

Yet here I still am. Not homeless, not destitute, not dependent on anyone and most certainly NOT feeling “worthless.”  And folks, I am just one of millions of Americans who, for whatever reasons, ended up without all the material “essentials” we thought we had to have, who somehow ARE still alive, and more important, we are thriving.  

No way am I unique. You just don’t hear much about people like me, that’s all, but we are everywhere, and many of us are living lives so much richer in all the most important ways,  than we ever lived back when we had `FINANCIAL SECURITY and were busy wrecking our bodies and lives to hang onto it!   (Talk about discovering the pot at the end of the Rainbow , when you never REALLY believed a pot even existed! )  

Another belief that had to go was this one:


I thought I had really “arrived” back in the 70’s, when,  all by my self, I bought a big new home and had a sparkly new car sitting out in front.  The kids and I had nice clothes, and I had a fairly prestigious “position” in my professional life.  I had shown them all what a determined single mother could do with NO help form ANYONE.  I was so very proud of this.  

I was also mortgaged up to my eyeballs, and thus, totally DEPENDENT on continuing to make a certain amount of money to maintain all of this.  Which in essence, made me a slave to the employers I had to please in order to keep that paycheck rolling in.  Which meant no matter how crappy the hours, or how many they expected me to put in without pay, I had to do it. Which meant no matter how much neglect and abuse the vulnerable adults in my care got due to staff cuts, I didn’t dare make too much noise about it or I’d jeopardize our survival.  Which meant living with killer amounts of stress for a long time, until I just couldn’t anymore, and blew my whistle so loud even the state legislature heard it.

You all know the outcome. No more job, no others either, because no one wants a whistleblower on staff.  For others, the end of access to the “golden goose” of regular, ample paychecks, comes from “downsizing” or a myriad of other maladies that can some out of the blue to take away the money we need to stay out of creditors hands.  Pretty darned hard to hang onto all that material “evidence of success” without a paycheck large enough to cover the payments.   Pretty tough to let it all go, too, when losing it all drags your entire sense of self-worth with away with it.  

Yet, here I still am, without ANY of that material evidence of success, yet living a much better life than ever before.   Just like millions of other Americans who have made the same discoveries I have about what REALLY makes life sound like a symphony almost of the time.  

What it took from me to climb up out of the pits of feeling like a worthless failure, to really liking who I am now, was finally looking at what had been driving me to such self destructive choices for most of my lifetime.   This led me, in due time, straight to those two deeply  imbedded beliefs. “I MUST HAVE  MONEY AND STUFF”  (to be a success and thus, “worthy”)  and  “I  AM WHAT I DO AND WHAT I HAVE”

I am glad my life went the way it has.  Because it forced me to question and abandon a belief system than had enslaved me as surely as if I’d been in chains.  Beliefs that KEPT me dependent on systems designed to foster that dependence, no matter the cost to my mind, body or soul. Systems that profited greatly from my socially sanctioned servitude, while using me up totally. A culture that had be totally convinced that only by “conforming” to the status quo, could I even survive, and thrive.  

It took time and a willingness to suffer through a painful transition to “deprogram” myself to the degree I have and I have a long way yet to go.  I still must wrangle with a world full of people who think, believe and act on those same beliefs, and so, of course, to them I am worth very little now.  That still angers me sometime. Other times it doesn’t, because I know about the programming now, and I remember how long it took me to even begin to question it all.  It’s a toss up if I ever really would have had the courage to, had I not been forced into it by disability.

If I had to choose one word to describe the UPSIDE that I, and so many others have discovered, of ending up old, poor and disabled in America in 2006, I would choose the word “FREEDOM.”

I mean the internal kind of freedom that dwells in the heart, mind and spirit.

I mean the freedom to finally believe only what rings true in my own deepest being, regardless of what anyone else believes to be true.

I mean  having the delicious freedom of time and energy to go searching for all my amputated parts that I severed and left behind over all these years, as I tried to mold myself into someone else’s idea of who I  “”should be.” , what I `should do”, etc.

I mean the incredible, almost indescribable freedom from needing anyone else, or “society” in general to “approve or validate” who and how I am.  

I mean the freedom from a life controlled by the pleasure or displeasure of any “boss” who has the power to determine the quality and quantity of my life energies I will have left available for my own use after they are done with me every day. I mean freedom from every again having to  compromise my own principles for a damned paycheck.

I mean the awesomely delicious freedom of waking up when my body is ready to, to linger as long as I wish over morning coffee, delighting in the ample unplanned  spaces in the day to come, waiting for me to fill with whatever delights or duties I so choose to fill them with. And the freedom to not fill them with anything at all, and instead just surf the waves of the day to see where they want to take me.  

I mean the freedom to allow my mind to roam where it will, to seek whatever it wants to feed on, to tap the bottomless wells of knowledge out there I never had time to drink from, ,to read and absorb so much wisdom from writers past and present,  to learn how to truly appreciate the miracle of the smallest bits of nature, of others around me, of  a life finally free to absorb all the wonders I raced on past for a lifetime…

Oh and finally, belatedly for sure, but finally and gloriously  free to  fully see and appreciate the sheer and miraculous wholeness and beauty of my daughters, my grand daughters, my partner, my dlearest friends.

I will always have to make room for the regret that will never be gone from me, for all the years when enjoying and feeding the relationships with those so dear to me, took a permanent back seat to my driving need to “acquire” all that material evidence of having attained the “American Dream.”.  Because all of that is now long gone anyway, and a good many of my beloved ones are gone now too, beyond my reach. Amd I can never fix all those early years when  my two sweet little girls  were told again and again, “Not now. I don’t have time.”

I just didn’t understand that it’s THIS…the authentic bonding of human heart to human heart, that is THE most important thing about being alive.   I didn’t get it, that in order to be ABLE to bond my own heart with others hearts, I first had to liberate it, so that it could be free to do so.

Now I have. Now I know what makes life a symphony, and it doesn’t have a damned thing to do with money, status or stuff.  

I know it is possible to lose all of that, and to stumble forward into what literally feels like nirvana to me.  


NOW I have wealth, far  beyond my wildest imaginings, and none of it costs one red cent.


NOW I know safety, because I am surrounded by those who truly love me and who feel loved BY me, and all of whom have my back.


You betcha!

The kind that can never be taken away ever again.

So. There is my UPSIDE to ending up old, poor and “disabled”.  

(Better to learn late, than never!)  

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