Gender, Sex, and Power

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Male & Female LionsSo much has been in the news lately about sexual harassment. That encompasses unwanted sexual attention ranging from remarks, gestures, innuendos, touching, all the way to rape. If you’re a female, most likely you’ve been the recipient of some behavior on this continuum at some time in your life. If you’re a male, you, too, may have experienced it, or you may have someone close to you who has. Today, I have a guest blogger, Janet Maker, who was inspired to write about her own personal experiences with sexual harassment.  Here is her post:

Gender, Sex, and Power
by:  Janet Maker

Recently I got a hug from my male yoga teacher and I felt myself stiffen, even though I knew that the hug was affectionate and not the first move in the direction of sex.  I was sure of this for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that I am 75 years old.  Nevertheless, I still had the hypervigilant reaction that had been ingrained in me over most of my life.  I was never raped or beaten.  I never even had my career threatened by men.  I just had the usual stuff:  Between the ages of about 12 and 50 I would regularly be on the receiving end of unwelcome overtures, fortunately not from employers, but from pretty much everyone else– from doctors to auto mechanics to the husbands of my friends.  I’m sure I was not exceptional—I was attractive but not a great beauty, and I know I was not giving mixed signals.

Here’s the thing that was so crazy-making: Except for the husbands of friends, who were easy to deal with, I could never tell them the truth.  The truth was that in most cases I was not physically attracted to them; I did not feel any “chemistry;” or as the Brits say, I did not “fancy” them.  I was always afraid that if I told the truth their minds would snap and they would become violent.  So I made up excuses.  When I was very young I tried telling them that I was frigid or a lesbian, but I soon found out that those excuses did not deter them.  The only thing that would usually work was to tell them that I belonged to another man.  There were times I couldn’t do that—for example, I would sometimes accept a date from someone who looked interesting but for whom an attraction did not develop.  So I had to figure out strategies to parry any overtures until I got safely home.  I don’t mean that all men were wolves, but I felt I always had to be on guard.

Once in a while I received overtures from women, but that was not the same kind of problem at all.  I could simply tell them that I was not attracted to women, and that would generally be accepted with no hard feelings.

I wondered if this issue was a generational thing, so I asked my 30 year old daughter if she and her friends felt they could safely tell men that they were not attracted to them.  She said no.

The question made her recall her first experience with sexual harassment.  She was eleven, and we were Christmas shopping in our local mall.  She wanted to buy a gift for me, so she asked if she could go off alone.  I agreed, and I showed her where I would wait for her.  After a while a woman showed up with my sobbing daughter in tow.  My daughter told me she was going up the escalator when a man grabbed her bottom.  She was terrified; she found a woman and asked for help.  We made a police report.  Of course I knew that the police wouldn’t do anything, but I wanted my daughter to feel that she had been taken seriously.

I had a friend once who had a gay male couple living in the apartment upstairs. Sometimes when they would argue they would end up in a fistfight, and I felt almost jealous.  I did not want to fight, but I did want the satisfaction of knowing that I would have an equal chance of winning.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

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Silence and Stillness

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Monkey with hand over mouthA friend recently mentioned that she had attended a retreat on the topic of silence and stillness.  What a concept!

All my life I have had trouble with being silent and being still. My interpretation of silence on the part of others in my presence meant that they were unhappy or bored with me. So, to ease my discomfort, I would fill the silence with chatter.  Of course, that meant animation–the opposite of stillness–even if just body language.  It was an exhausting enterprise, but I had no control over it; I did it without thinking–a compulsion. 

I remember the turning point.  I was driving with my then boyfriend when I noticed that he had become very quiet.  I thought he was angry at me, because that’s how my ex-husband used to behave–the silent treatment, a cruel form of punishment.  I went through a mental back-and-forth with myself, vowing not to be the first to speak.

Who does he think he is?  He’s not going to get away with pulling that crap on me.  I’m not going to have that in my life again.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I was nervous, anxious, and worked myself into a defensive state.  After a little while, my boyfriend made some inane remark such as, “look at that tree over there.” I was amazed.  What I thought was going to grow into a big argument was just him being quiet.  I had never realized that anyone could be quiet deliberately with no other motive.

It is very difficult to change a behavior pattern that took years to perfect.  Although I’m still a work in progress, I’ve slowly gotten better with being quiet.  My inclination is to fill those silences, but now I can stop myself.  Sometimes, it requires a mental dialogue (I do a lot of those) that my role doesn’t have to be the entertainment committee–that it’s okay for me to just remain silent.

These days, I seem to crave quiet and calm more and more. I cherish my down days where I can pad around my house alone with no appointments, deadlines, obligations, etc.  The space to spend my time reading, writing, thinking, and whatever else strikes me has become precious. I surprise myself with this new outlook; it’s so different from my former self.  There is a peacefulness I didn’t have when I was younger.

Try adding periods of silence and stillness to your life.  Schedule time for it if it doesn’t come naturally.  Embrace it instead of fighting it.  It is cleansing, calming, and healing.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

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Taking Care of the Caretaker

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

PICT1615Some of us go willingly into the role of caretaker, and some of us are thrust into it without being consulted. Examples of voluntary caretaker roles are: parent, teacher, nurse, pet owner (yes, owners of sick pets have been found to have more than normal stress, anxiety, and depression.)

Some people deliberately choose caretaking involvements, and thrive on them. But, what about when the role of consuming, full-time or almost full-time caretaker ensnares us when we hadn’t planned on it, hadn’t desired it, and it does not fit our personality type?

A typical scenario might be when an ailing spouse requires ongoing, long-term care. There may be no one else available to step into the caretaker role other than the remaining, healthy spouse. Other examples might be when children have to care for an aging parent, or when parents have to care for a child who has become permanently disabled. We’re not talking here about just bringing them lunch in bed. We’re talking about hands-on care of their bodily needs and functions, entertaining them, transporting them, and maybe even supporting them financially.

You might be a caretaker from afar. Maybe you are responsible for someone in a placement of some sort or who resides a long distance from you. Perhaps you’re the go-to-person for any problems, crises, concerns, questions, etc. Although your life is not necessarily hampered on a continual basis, that responsibility is always capable of demanding instant attention from you, superseding anything else you had planned. You live with an underlying tension, never knowing when your remote caretaker duties will kick in.

You may feel overwhelmed and no longer able to cope with that role no matter how much you are concerned about your charge? You might find yourself becoming resentful, angry, bitter, impatient, irritable, stressed out, etc. This can lead to negative behaviors toward your dependent such as yelling, ignoring, pushing, or worse.  After that, you may feel guilty as he/she did not choose to require caretaking and is helpless to help you. Cyclical emotions such as these can spiral you into depression which renders you less capable of being an effective caretaker.

To the outside world, sympathy and attention usually goes to the sickly or helpless one. People rarely have much left for the caretakers, or even think of them as needing any. Yet caretakers burn out. Caretakers may become sick themselves simply from the job of caretaking.

So what can you do to break this cycle and stay relevant and capable in your role as a caretaker?  How can you take care of yourself, not only for you, but for your charge? Both you and he/she need you to remain strong emotionally and physically.

You can seek respite from time to time. Find outside activities that bring you pleasure and enjoyment. Take breaks from the caretaking business just as anyone with a job has weekends or other days off and takes periodic, longer vacations. In short,  refresh yourself on a regular basis.

To do this, you need someone or several someones to step in as a substitute caretaker while you’re gone. Start seeking suitable candidates. These might be your children; other family members; friends; neighbors; members of your church, synagogue, or temple; hired help; volunteers from an organization; home-health aides referred by an insurance plan or a governmental agency, etc. You must do this for yourself, even if you feel that no one else can take care of your ward as well as you can.

By taking better care of yourself, you are indirectly taking better care of the one  who is dependent on you. You return to duty refreshed, in a better mental state, and with a better outlook knowing that your next break will come soon.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

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Boredom

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Cat yawningWe come into this world yawning with boredom, and go downhill from there.  Recently, in my philosophy class, we were having a discussion about whether we would want to live an extra hundred years. One class member commented that he would not want to do so, because by that time, he probably would have done or learned everything interesting, and life would be just too boring.

We all laughed while nodding in agreement. Yes, we scurry from boredom the moment we encounter it. Humans seem to need constant engagement, constant entertainment, constant stimulation.

We don’t just sit around and do nothing. When we are not actively involved in a goal oriented pursuit, we will grab a book or magazine, turn on the television, check our iPhones, surf the web, go shopping, and on and on. We flee boredom like it’s a disease. The idea of nothing new to learn, nothing new to experience, only eternal boredom is horrifying.

I am always weighing the amount of stress I put myself under against the boredom that I can’t tolerate. I’m trying hard not to cram too much into my life, but it an ongoing challenge. Every time I hear about something that sounds exciting, I want to get involved. Like usual, I’m involved in too much stuff. It’s so difficult to pick and choose, because it’s all interesting.  Everyone lives with the dichotomy of that struggle between boredom and stress.

A few years ago, a friend visited me with her daughter and two young grandchildren.  We chatted for a short time whereupon the oldest child announced, “I’m bored.”  My friend’s daughter quickly wrapped up our conversation, telling the child, “Okay, okay, we’re going.” I’m not passing judgment one way or another on her parenting skills.  However, the child could have been encouraged to walk around my house observing all the interesting things I have displayed on shelves and walls.

So, how do we grownups combat boredom?  We can whine to anyone who will listen, pandering to be entertained.  Or, we can adopt the old adage about making lemonade out of lemons.  We can walk around wherever we happen to be, observing all the interesting things there.  We might actually learn a thing or two or ten, or at least have a pleasant experience. We can, also, accept the stress and learn to flourish under it, remembering that we can back away whenever we desire.

 

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

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Man in a Bucket

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Man in a BucketEach of us lives in a bucket–many buckets to be exact: our homes, our schools, our jobs, our extended hood, etc. Buckets are the catchment areas in which we roam, but they are for the most part relatively circumscribed. Some buckets are very small like that of the tree trimmer in the photograph, and some cover miles.  Our various buckets bump up against each other, and we move from one to the next.

It is our responsibility to participate in keeping our buckets pleasant, tidy, positive, and all other adjectives we can think of to describe a comfortable life. We do so not only for ourselves, but for others who might share them with us.

I remember standing at a bus stop once with a man who was also awaiting the bus. He was eating some sort of fast food, and dropped the wrappers as he finished each item.  I watched him as he opened his fist and, with as little effort as possible, let the paper, cup, or container float to the ground.  In a short time, there was a small circle of trash surrounding him, but he was oblivious to it.

What if we all did that rather than throwing our discards into the nearest trash can? We would soon be maneuvering our way through our bucket by scaling a garbage heap. It is an unpleasant and unnecessary way to live.

How about the emotional trash we discard in our buckets? Are we going to spend all of our time posturing and fighting with everyone else? What if we all did that?  Our buckets would soon be filled with anxiety, nervousness, upset, and negative feelings, also an unpleasant and unnecessary way to live.

Remember to do your part to care for your particular buckets, and encourage those close to you to do the same.  Buckets can be a comfortable, joyful cocoon, or they can be a stressful, distressing jail.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

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Rest and Regenerate

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

hummingbird-resting-2

Rest is mandatory for all animals to renew their energy and vitality including those living helicopters: hummingbirds.  I spotted this little guy hovering near a bush outside my window. Then, much to my surprise, he landed on a branch. I had never seen a hummingbird before that wasn’t humming.  I stopped what I was doing and just hung out with him.  Mr. H. stayed there for about ten minutes, resting, regenerating, and allowing his heart rate to slow down before continuing his frenetic activities.  Such a smart bird.

Hummingbirds’ wings flutter 80 times per second and their hearts can beat as much as 1,263 times per minute or as little as 50 times per minute when conserving energy.  Compare that to the human heart which beats as low as 60 and as high as 200 times per minute depending on age and activity level.

Do you remember to rest and regenerate?  We must learn to pace ourselves—land on a branch—and allow plenty of downtime in order to be able to function well when we are active. Rest and especially sleep have an unexplained yet proven impact on our health and productivity.  A very rare hereditary disease called fatal familial insomnia manifests itself in midlife to its victims and eventually renders them unable to sleep.  At that stage, death comes within months.  We cannot live without sleep.

Have you noticed that when you are not rested, your responses become dull and sloppy?  We make many more errors and bad decisions when not rested. It’s tempting to overdo. There are so many interesting and compelling projects and activities.  Sometimes, it seems there is never enough time to do everything we want to do. However, over-scheduling and cramming in too much becomes counterproductive.

Catching some ZzzsRemember to do your resting in a location conductive to that end.  Choosing a roomful of people, noise, and stimulation does not yield good quality relaxation to most.  If out and about, try to find a quiet, isolated place.  If one is not available, you might decamp to your car.  No car?  Try a stall in the bathroom.  It’s a one-holer, people are banging on the door, and you’ve run out of options?  Then find any seat and use the earplugs and eye mask you always carry with you in your purse, pocket, back pack, whatever (you do carry them, right, along with a granola bar for quick energy when needed?).  If all else fails, take a tip from this gal catching some Z’s on a commuter train instead of grabbing her cell phone to read her emails, navigate the net, or play mindless computer games.  Make it work for you!

Remember to schedule plenty of rest time into your life. It takes discipline but is an art that you must master.  Then, the things that you do participate in will be so much more fruitful and rewarding.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

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Playing Well with Others

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Children playing gameAre you a person who has trouble playing well with others?  Or, perhaps you know someone like that.  Getting along with other humans is a talent gained from part nature and part nurture.

It almost doesn’t matter what you say or convey to others.  If done in the right way, almost anything is acceptable.  For example, if someone is wearing clothing that you think looks terrible, you can say, “You look awful in that dress,” or you can say, “I think red looks so much better on you than blue.”  If someone is doing something you don’t think is correct, you can say, “Don’t do that!” or you can say, “I don’t think they want us doing that.”

If you’re not a natural at warm-cozy techniques of communication and are tired of people drawing away from you or completely ostracizing you, consider practicing some basic requirements.  Here’s a list of “musts” that I came up with.  Perhaps you can add a few of your own.

  1. It’s not all about you. Don’t spend the interaction talking only about your stuff or sucking the focus onto yourself whenever possible.
  2. Do show interest in the others present. Everyone wants a chance to be the center of attention for awhile.  Aid in that goal by asking questions of them, and really listen to their answers.  You show that you’re listening by maintaining consistent eye contact and asking meaningful, follow-up questions.
  3. Check your attitude. Don’t come across as irritated, impatient, hostile, pissy, etc. People don’t like that and will begin to avoid you.
  4. Don’t be the resident expert-in-everything even if you are. It gets old very fast.  As my father used to say, “Nobody likes a smart ass.”
  5. Be gracious. Say things like “thank you” or “that was really interesting” or “nice to see you again,” etc.  People love compliments and acknowledgement.
  6. Be aware of the tone and volume of your voice. Dial both down a notch or ten.  Practice exchanging verbal coldness for warmth.  Record yourself and listen to how you come across when you speak.
  7. Body language speaks volumes. Chill out and relax.
  8. Facial expressions are huge. Everyone is always reading people by the expressions on their faces.  Do yours come across as: sourpuss, angry, negative, critical, bored, disinterested, etc?  If so, practice in front of a mirror making facial expressions which are positive, accepting, warm, upbeat, supportive, interested, etc.  Experience how your face muscles feel with those positive expressions, and repeat them in public.

If you can’t figure out how to put into practice some of the aforementioned suggestions, study others who seem to do so effortlessly.  Then, wiggle into your actor robes and perform, using them as role models.  It may seem strange at first, but you’ll get used to it. Remember, the content is far less important than the delivery.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

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