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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Work grows more intense with each day ...

...but maybe that's not what's happening at all. Maybe it's the sense of urgency about running out of the power to actualize all that's collecting in my mind -- that never-ending "to do" list may collapse into itself at some point like some black hole ...

Something else is beginning to color my days; it's the sense of some new quality of 'listening' to my words by others that wasn't there before -- and that I'm beginning to place demands on myself that words not be squandered into nonsense but that they be worthy of the attention given. Crazy? Does that mean that I'm in danger of becoming stilted? Pompous? Perhaps, but it goes along with the fact that I'm beginning to amass honors of a kind that make me want to peek behind myself to see if some more worthy soul is standing there waiting ... and that I'm blocking the view ... .

Perhaps my world is trying to say to me that it's time to leave the stage and make room for some unannounced successor. On the other hand, the excitement of feeling relevant still, and with the ability to join with others to bring the forces of change together in meetings and receptions and on picket lines and at demonstrations and civic meetings is heady and makes retirement still some faint goal for some distant future.

I'm still feeling effective and stirred by contemporary issues as if time has ceased to exist and that I'm caught in some undetermined age group -- somewhere between 35 and 70, surely not 80 or beyond. All of the Bettys are operative still, each rising to the forefront as the occasion demands. Now and then I catch sight of myself in a mirror or a reflection in a storefront window and my mother looks back. It can be jarring. This is surely the reason that some women opt for cosmetic surgery; to bring the inner and the outer selves into some reasonable alignment. I'm beginning to understand that.

My personal appearance has been relatively youthful for such a long time that the temptation to tamper with it has never been an issue. But now I'm beginning to notice that everything is beginning to fall, that my eyebrows have dropped closer to my eyelids and the feathering over my top lip .... What used to be freckles are now fullblown age spots that defy all attempts at coverage -- (don't believe the hype). And the hair! I will not succumb to wig-wearing -- but the hair-count is miserably scant -- and each time I draw the comb through my brush and toss away those collected in the bristles I know that there will be no replacements. Hair follicles are finite -- one of life's fundamental truths!

I worry now that my wardrobe is no longer reflecting my age. Am I dressing too young? Having no detectable changes in body shape over a lifetime, there has been little reason to buy clothing. I'm now past the age of acquisition so my wardrobe is perhaps 20-30 years old now -- except for the purchase of a new sweater or Levis now and again. Maybe I'll look around for the modern day version of that little black dress that was always the mainstay of my wardrobe with my long-dormant string of pearls ... that should reflect agelessness, right?

If this all reads like trivia, know that it has to do with my inability to put into words here how humble I'm feeling at having been announced as one of the honorees for the year 2006 by the National Women's History Project (NWHP). Having participated in the Mills College Conference on "Women of the West" a month or so ago, I have some sense of just how prestigious an honor this is. When I visited their website a moment ago and read through the list of women previously honored I could scarcely breathe!

The announcement of the year 2006 honorees is scheduled for November so I'm late. I need to return this form as a followup to the letter of acceptance I sent two weeks ago when notification came. Instead I'm sitting here stunned into silence and so awed by the honor that all I can think of are all of the stupid ways that I'm unworthy, like sagging eyebrows and terminal molting!

I came to my computer this morning to begin to put together the bio they've requested and to select a "favorite photograph" to accompany that -- and instead find myself sitting here feeling tearful, filled with humility, and totally unprepared for what this means. I'm so intimated by all of it that I'm having an extremely hard time following through. Does one ever feel worthy of such honors?

Maybe a trip to Nordstrom's for a new hat will take care of the qualms ... .

Or not.

(Stephen Sondheim -- Elaine Stritch, where are you?)

Photo: Another unbelievable day. This one in 1995, being presented with "Woman of the Year" plaque by Ms. Gail Wilson, wife of Governor Pete Wilson, before the California State Legislature. I didn't tell my family but drove the 78 miles to and from the Capitol alone and unheralded by those I love. Spent the day in that strange world being feted with no witnesses to share the experience with. Why? Maybe this year I'll change that. Maybe I've already overcome the reticence by posting it here.


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