Friday, February 26, 2010

70 years old at last

Last Wednesday I finally turned 70. It did seem like a significant birthday, more so than almost any other. Even turning 21 was not a big deal, because by then I was married and travelling in a train across (then) Yugoslavia: I felt frightfully mature. As you do!

But 70... the age my mother died, having programmed herself to do so at "three score years and ten". Some years back I observed that in their seventies, people often became fragile, their skin transparent, their gait uncertain, their vision restricted to a narrow circle. That was rather frightening.

Key phrase: "some years back". Looking at today's septuagenarians, I wouldn't dream of making any such generalisation. Nowadays, this is what 70 looks like!

The photo is me on my birthday, in costume for the current show by Crows Feet Dance Collective: "How to be a Domestic Goddess -- La Revue de Cuisine". After rehearsal I was seriously surprised by a little party. (I mean we're all focused on the show, who would remember a birthday?) Champagne and chocolate cake and flowers from the women who are my inspiration.

Back to the philosophical musings: in my case, the real difference between 70 and 69 is a deep and daily appreciation of how lucky I am to live now, here, with these people in my life, with these opportunities at my fingertips. I intend to relish every minute.

Photo: Elizabeth Isaac

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Launching Scarlet Heels: 26 Stories About Sex

Hooray! It's Valentine's Day, the official date for launching my new book:

Scarlet Heels: 26 Stories About Sex

Frankly, I wrote this book by accident, and yet of all the books I've written it's my favourite.

OK, favourites change over time, but I feel strangely fond of this one. When I think about Scarlet Heels, I feel affectionate, amused and carefree. I've got nothing to lose. This book is... like a member of my family.

Some of the stories are fictional versions of secrets whispered to me by women aged from 16 to 84. They were so excited, so alive as they talked about a sexual event that was significant to them in some particular way. Other stories are based on memories and hunches about women I've known.

And I kind of love all these women, from Anna, Beryl and Caroline to Xianthe the geeky schoolgirl, Yvette who finds Mr Available, and Zoe, who revives her lost libido to please her husband.

At 3pm this afternoon, six friends and I will quietly — or noisily — raise a glass of champagne in a beautiful garden. We'll eat apple cake and strawberries, I might read a few love poems, and we'll relish the moment.

I had no idea what people would think of this book, but they seem to be enjoying it heaps. So far, critics have called it a darling little book, great, great fun, and happy. They find two or three of the 26 stories steamy, which is about what I hoped. Trust me, this is popular fiction, not erotica.

Now, here's a reward for reading this far.

To celebrate the launch I'm giving away five copies of Scarlet Heels.

To enter the competition, just comment on this blog post.

Give me a reason why you of all people deserve a free copy. The five people with the most convincing reasons will be the winners.

Deadline: Saturday 20 February 2010, 10am New Zealand time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 5-Minute Meditator

I'm a born again meditator, for health reasons. My first port of call is this book:
The 5-minute meditator by Eric Harrison

This is a favourite book with a refreshing approach. Eric Harrison has heavy duty credentials as a lifelong practitioner and ex-Buddhist monk, but his mission is to make meditation possible where it's needed most: not in a solitary wilderness, but in the city, in the office, in marriage, in hospital. His teaching is jargon free and not allied to any one tradition.

He explains practical, highly specific ways to relax your mind and body any time, any place, just for a few seconds or minutes. I'm trying to do this. While it's not easy, it sure is heaps easier than conforming to waffly advice like being in the moment.

One of his tips: Do what you're doing. If you're washing the dishes, just do that — without simultaneously planning your day or tackling a problem in your head. Just look at what you're doing, feel the water, admire the plates, notice your hand movements, and so on.

I'm keen to make headway on calming my busy brain, because I'm starting to understand that an older body cannot handle stress as well as a young one. This is a brand new thought, for me. After all, I'm strong and healthy, I love my work, I've got heaps of energy. And yet small things bring me more stress than seems logical. It's a change.

I'm not surprised when I get stressed by tasks like reorganising web files. Naturally I'm stressed when changing php and css files because that's downright dangerous— especially when I'm just winging it.

On the other hand, sometimes I notice myself feeling pressured when doing an easy Code Cracker puzzle! Now that's ridiculous.

All the more reason to meditate.

I buy 10 copies of this lovely book at a time and give them away to friends in need.

My first old-lady ailment

So. It's official. I've got an actual medical problem that is plain and simple the result of my age. What took you so long?

After years of low or normal blood pressure, about a month ago I discovered it's gone up rather too much. I need medication, but my doctor agreed to wait 6 months while I try and tease the BP downwards by other methods.

1. Lose weight. I started by losing 5 kilos through two weeks on the Atkins diet. That's the first time I've ever dieted in my entire life, which probably made it easy. Now I've changed my eating habits in sensible but not neurotic ways. Seems to be working fine. Luckily I love my veges.

2. Exercise more. I upped to 30-40 minutes every day, regardless of the weather. An exercycle is the extra factor besides dancing and walking.

3. Meditate religiously twice a day for 20 minutes.

4. Reduce workload and stress factors. This is surprisingly hard, because I love doing what I'm doing and I've got a ton of energy. Guess I should just do less.

I'd hate to start banging on about my little tiny ailments, because that's what (notoriously) old people do: compare symptoms and treatments.

Still, the blog is about growing older, that's the deal.