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February 24, 2020

A constellation of selves—embracing life of the mind-body-spirit at Mardi Gras

Dum spectas, fugit hora: carpe diem.

(motto on a sundial, Wolsingham County, England)

Whilst thou art looking, the hour is flying: seize the day.

People have found messages in looking at my body that I never put there. Whatever categories they say define me—gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, age, opinions—I say I am and am not those things. Like you, I am a constellation of selves.

I’ve heard it said once you’re in your early fifties, you’re invisible, non-existent, don’t matter, no longer young but not old, either, as if some form of you died and you’re in the in-between time before old age.

But they are wrong.

I caution you now—your yearning and desire will never end.

Aging is like perfume—the essence of the finest parts of us, holding on to them, growing them, and burning off the dross, the parts of us we can let go because they don’t serve us anymore. Working with our mind-body-spirit constellation instead of ignoring its messages and pushing through is an important part of getting older.

We are not parts and categories and not just mind-body. We are one extraordinary tactile, complex, organism, reaching for wellness unconsciously with every breath. Stubborn and flowing, yes and no, sometimes you can eat this or do that, sometimes you can’t, don’t-know-why organism. Everything works together and is in conversation with the rest, at times with a clear cause and effect and other times not.

More than when I was younger, I yearn for the sensual experience of life—for hugging people when they hurt, for being touched, tasting flavors, feeling the caress of wind on my arm out the car window, and sweating with movement. I hold a smooth stone, rub a buckeye in my hand or touch trees. I dance without pain and sweat, forever rediscovering what my body can do. Eroticism comes in many forms! I also yearn for community with friends, lovers, family and animal friends.

There is yearning for old sensations, too. I miss my grandmother hugging me and giving me advice. If I close my eyes, I can feel her and smell her perfume. I miss being able to call up my sister or a friend to meet at our neighborhood diner when I’m having a bad day. I miss them needing me, too.

We must matter to ourselves—in this lifelong dance between light and dark—and the times in the shadows when you cannot see the edges of your life.

During dark times after my injury, my body expressed itself without words, moaning and whimpering. Sometimes my scarred body, like a lover without words, said, touch me like this. At other times it was as an ache, a hot, throbbing wound, the cut of a knife, the tickle of a feather. When I didn’t want to live in the home of my soul anymore, it changed, and joy and compassion replaced pain. When the body transformed, the mind and spirit followed.

Sensual pleasure is within reach, too, in large and small ways. I move through the day mindfully, reducing exposure to blue light, listening to old records, reading from books, eating in silence with intention, and sleeping in a cocoon of soft sheets and pillows alone or with another. Another indescribable good feeling is to sit with someone who suffers to bear witness to this person’s experience with empathy, to live a life of giving for the greater good.

With age, more than anything, I see where there is light, there must be darkness. If we cut ourselves off from experiencing and acknowledging pain, we cut ourselves off from feeling joy, too. When we accept the existence of both, we wake up. We realize why we’re alive, that this is what it’s about, and that it will all end someday.

This is the meaning of Mardi Gras to me—living now, embracing now of mind-body-spirit with its many light and dark times. Whatever your age, whatever the conflict today, raise your arms and reach to the sky like you’ve been filled with the spirit, say: hey, hey, here, throw me those beads, give me those shining colors, give me a dance and a kiss. Experience it all while you can in the home of your soul and remember others are doing the same.

Happy Mardi Gras!

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