CONVERSATION WITH…A Traffic Light…Wanting to Make the World a Better Place in His Old Age

Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, I decided to ask the Wizard of Oz where I belong in the world as I grow older.  When I got to the Emerald City, there was a line to see the Wizard.  A traffic light was waiting to see him, too.  We started a conversation…

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Hey Traffic Light, what brings you here to see the Wizard?

TRAFFIC LIGHT: I’m bored. When I turn green, cars go. When I turn red, cars stop.  When I turn yellow, cars slow down.  Day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year—

So you want to ask the Wizard for something new that will inspire you?  A new purpose in life?  A new reason for your existence?

TRAFFIC LIGHT: Exactly.

Actually, in some ways, I envy you.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: Why??

I have a son and a daughter who are young adults.  When I talk to them, I feel like a traffic light, too. But for me, it doesn’t go so smoothly.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: How so?

I can never decide if it’s the right time to tell my kids to stop!  Or go!  Or when to warn them of upcoming danger without making them crazy!

TRAFFIC LIGHT: I’m not sure what you mean.

Well, if I think my son should follow a certain career path, I’ll say to him, “Go! Go for it!” But it doesn’t matter. He does what he wants…when he wants.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: What about your daughter?

If she’s doing a million things at the same time and loses her sense of self, I’ll say, “Stop!  Stop! Put your feet on the ground!”  But it doesn’t matter. She does what she wants anyway.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: I see…

And my yellow light doesn’t work so well either.  If I try to warn my kids of upcoming potential danger, they’ll say, “Mom, please.  You worry all the time.”  Again, they do what they want.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: Even if they don’t do exactly what you ask, do you think on some level they hear you?  Might you be some kind of underlying voice?

I’m not sure.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: Maybe you should be glad you raised your kids to be independent.  You won’t be here forever.  Be proud they want to live their own lives.

I just had no idea this part of parenting was going to be so excrutiatingly painful.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: Well, I had no idea being a traffic light was going to be so excrutiatingly boring.

I don’t see you that way. I see the world as a chaotic place right now.  Sometimes I think there isn’t enough structure and order.  You remind me there are rules to follow for good reasons. Imagine how many people would be hurt if you weren’t hanging out in the world.

TRAFFIC LIGHT: I suppose you’re right. I hadn’t thought of myself that way.

I think you belong in the world now more than ever!

TRAFFIC LIGHT:  And I think you’re creating an underlying  structure for your kids that they need now more than ever!

THE FOLLOW UP: 

At that moment, the door to the Wizard’s chamber opened and the traffic light and I entered.  The Wizard felt there was one thing missing in our lives: a directional signal.  He immediately put one on the traffic light.  Now the traffic light sends vehicles off in different directions where they can have new adventures. And me? Every time I think of that directional signal, I’m reminded my children are probably listening to me…in their own way.

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Conversation with…A Peach…With A Pit In His Stomach

Wandering Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, I ran into a peach tree surrounded by raspberry, blackberry and blueberry bushes.  I noticed one peach hanging low on a branch and moping.  I had to find out why…

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Uh, Peach, I know it’s none of my business, but why are you moping?

PEACH: No one will ever want me.

What? Why?

PEACH: Here’s the bottom line.  I’m a peach.  I know I’m ultimately going to be eaten. I get that and I’m on board with it.

So why wouldn’t anyone want you?

PEACH: Because I have a pit.  I mean, look around us.  There are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries everywhere.  All you have to do is pick them and eat them. But if you pick me, you have to deal with my pit.  Why bother? There’s enough stress in the world.

You think your pit is stressful?

PEACH: I know it’s stressful!  After you eat me, what are you supposed to do with my pit? Put it in your pocket? Carry it around with you all day? Stuff it in your purse?

Well, if it makes you feel better, sometimes I feel a pit inside me, too…a pit in my stomach.

PEACH: You don’t resemble a peach in any shape or form.

I’m not talking about a literal pit. It’s an emotional pit.  Whenever I think people don’t accept me because I’m older, I feel a pit in my stomach.

PEACH: That stinks. When does it happen?

Well…when I’m in a trendy clothing store, if a salesgirl looks at me, I assume she’s wondering what the heck I’m doing there because I’m older.  I get that pit in my stomach.

PEACH: I see–

That’s the tip of the iceberg. When a repairman is on his way to my home to fix something, as soon as I open my front door, I feel that pit in my stomach.  I assume when he sees me he’s saying to himself, “Ugh. She’s older.”

PEACH: This goes pretty deep.

And when I apply for jobs, it’s the worst! As soon as I meet the hiring manager, the pit in my stomach shows up again. 

PEACH: What makes you so sure people are obsessed with the “older” stuff?

Because I don’t live on the Yellow Brick Road.  Where I come from, there are lots of unspoken messages about aging.  Like, being older is annoying, boring, depressing.  Older is something to avoid or dread. The idea is to look young.

PEACH: I’ll be honest with you.  When I first saw you, I noticed you were older.

I didn’t need to hear that.

PEACH: But! That’s not what I was focused on!  I was drawn to your personality, your sensibility, your spirit. That’s what makes you interesting.

Okay then, I’ll be honest with you.  Since you’re a peach, when I first saw you, I assumed you had a pit.

PEACH: I knew it!

But!  That’s not what I was focused on!  I was looking at your beautiful peach fuzz skin and your stunning shades of yellow and dark pink.  And I was thinking about how delicious you might be.

PEACH: So you don’t have an issue with my pit?

Not at all!  In fact, peaches are the best!  I can’t imagine the world without them!  You have your own, exclusive flavor.  You have a place in the world that’s unique to you.

PEACH; Same to you!

You didn’t have to say that.

PEACH: I know. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.  But here’s something I feel sure of. The next time I start obsessing with my pit, maybe I can say to myself, “Pit, I know you’re not going anywhere, but you have no right to screw up my life.”

I’m with you!  Maybe the pits in our stomachs will always be there, but we’ll never allow them to define us.

 

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CONVERSATION WITH…A House…Remembering Its Past

When you’re traveling Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, it’s a good idea to keep looking up. You never know if a cyclone carrying a house will crash land in front of you. This actually happened to me.   The small country house I lived in every summer when I was a little girl fell from the sky.  I had to ask if it remembered me!

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Uh—summerhouse? Do you remember–

SUMMERHOUSE: Cathi!

Yes!  It’s meeee!  How did you know?  I haven’t seen you since I was nine. 

SUMMERHOUSE:  I remember you…

little cathi

SUMMERHOUSE: Your eyes and smile are the same.

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SUMMERHOUSE: How did you recognize ME with my makeover?  When you lived in me, I had white, shabby shingles and dark green trim around my windows.  And there was a screen on my front door and I had a screened in porch.  Now I’m yellow, I got a roof lift and–

I see you had some work done.   But your structure and lines are the same. I knew it was you.  You look amazing!

SUMMERHOUSE: Thank you. But I must say…even though I look younger on the outside, I can’t escape knowing I’m still older on the inside.

I know the feeling.

SUMMERHOUSE: Why did your family stop coming to live in me so abruptly?  All of sudden, I never saw you again!  It has been fifty-four years!

I know. There was a terrible tragedy in my family.  My mother, grandmother and grandfather died in a car accident.  My father remarried and we moved to the suburbs.

SUMMEROUSE: Oh my dear! I’m so very, very sorry.  Of all the families I’ve had inside me, yours was the most fun loving.

Thank you. So many beautiful memories are here…

SUMMERHOUSE: Yes….I remember when you lived here, early every morning, you’d sneak into your grandma’s bed–

Oh yeah! I snuggled up with her and we sang songs she knew when she was a little girl!  And when everyone in the family woke up, we ate breakfast–

SUMMERHOUSE: In my kitchen!  Around my big table–

And my mom made warm cinnamon buns with vanilla icing!   And then my sister and I played with paper dolls for hours and hours and hours–

SUMMERHOUSE: In my den—

Yes!  We cut out all the dresses in the booklet, put them on the dolls, and imagined they were going to parties.  And then we made the dolls houses, and made their beds out of towels–

SUMMERHOUSE: From my linen closet–

Right! Then my dad gave us piggy back rides–

SUMMERHOUSE: All around my yard!  But you had to remember to duck when you went under my cherry tree.

Ha ha!  Yes! Then we ate lunch—

SUMMEROUSE: In my screened in porch.  You were afraid of the bees that came in, but you never got stung.

And after lunch, I went on the swings—

SUMMERHOUSE: In my back yard.  You went higher and higher–

I was daydreaming!  And then!  Remember my sister and I fed the cows apples?

SUMMERHOUSE Of course!  Because a dairy farm was next to my fence.  The cows used to poke their heads through.

And after dinner, my sister and I built make believe neighborhoods–

SUMMERHOUSE: On my gravel driveway!  I remember you piled my gravel so high, no one could get out of the garage.

Ha ha! And when it started to get dark, I sat next to my grandma—

SUMMERHOUSE: On my little front porch—

And we smelled the honeysuckles, and watched the fireflies come out.

SUMMERHOUSE: Those were most special times…

Yes! Oh!  How I wish I could fling your front screen door open again and run inside and play the way I used to!

SUMMERHOUSE: I wish you could, too!   But… you’ve probably noticed…my screen door isn’t there anymore.  Now it’s a wooden door with a glass panel.  And my kitchen table is gone.  I have an island with stools around it.

That seems to be what people like today. What happened to your screened in porch?

SUMMERHOUSE: Over time, there were too many holes in it.  A builder tore it down and made it into a bedroom. And my gravel driveway is covered with tar.

What about the dairy farm next door?

SUMMERHOUSE: Now it’s a horse ranch. The cows behind my fence are gone. And my cherry tree fell to the ground during a terrible storm years ago.

Oooh…How very strange life is…

SUMMERHOUSE: How very, very strange…

How is it possible that the home where I felt so safe and free isn’t mine anymore?  How can it belong to another family?

SUMMERHOUSE: I guess it’s the way of things.

You know, I’m traveling Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road to figure out where I belong in the world.  But now… I feel more lost than ever.

SUMMERHOUSE: Maybe all your memories here have helped you become the person you are today.  What do you do?

I’m writer for children.

SUMMERHOUSE: Oh!  A writer!  How wonderful!  I’m so proud! And I think then you are still very much needed in the world today.

Where do you see me belonging?

SUMMERHOUSE: I believe you belong to the world of stories. You’re meant to go on writing about new places and new things for as long as you’re here.  And you and I will always belong to each other. I will belong in your past, and you will belong in mine.

You know, if I didn’t know you were a house, I’d think you were the Wizard of Oz.

SUMMERHOUSE: And If I only had a mouth, I would smile.

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At that very moment, the house had to excuse itself. It felt someone scribbling on its bedroom wall.  The new little girl living inside was probably up to no good. So, as I left the house behind, I thought about where I’d like to go next and share a story.  I closed my eyes, clicked my heels together and recited to myself, “There’s no place like Rome.  There’s no place like Rome.”

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CONVERSATION WITH…An Older Shower Cap Who Started A New Relationship

As I grow older, I tend to isolate myself.  I feel safer in my own world or sticking with people I already know.  However, since I’m traveling Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road to find where I belong these days, I feel obligated to push myself beyond my comfort zone. So, this morning I started a conversation with a shower cap.   It was awkward at first.

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Hey shower cap, I like your elastic.

SHOWER CAP:  Really?  I think it’s getting kind of stretched out and shabby.

Oh.  Okay. I guess my perspective is off.

SHOWER CAP:  Are you from around here?  You don’t look familiar.

I’m just visiting… looking for my smile or a new way to look at life as I get older.

SHOWER CAP:  I know what you mean.  I just made a life change, but it took a lot of soul searching. I spent a lot of time thinking about what was important to me and what I could let go of.

You mean, what’s central to your being vs. what you’d rather not deal with anymore?

SHOWER CAP:  Exactly. I realized I’m sick and tired of getting wet all the time.

That’s totally understandable.

SHOWER CAP:  But I also have a strong, protective side. I’ve spent my life protecting hair in the shower and it’s given me a great sense of purpose.

I’ve always been a fan of shower caps.

SHOWER CAP:  Thanks. So I decided to continue being protective, but I want to bring out that side of myself in a different way.

Have you had any luck?

SHOWER CAP: Yes!  Last week at the movies, I met a very full bucket of popcorn who couldn’t hold onto all her kernels.  The kernels on top kept falling on the floor. It didn’t come naturally to me,  but I pushed myself to offer to help.  I ended up covering the top of the popcorn bucket and preventing the kernels from falling.

Very protective of you!

SHOWER CAP:  Yes!  Now we’re an item. Here we are:

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Cute couple.

SHOWER CAP:  Thank you. How about you?  Have you met anyone new who makes you smile?

Well, I’ve met lots of creatures Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, and they’ve been inspiring. But oddly, they’re not the ones who make me smile every single day.

SHOWER CAP:  Well then, who does?

The actual human beings who read this blog.

SHOWER CAP: I’m in a blog?

Yes! In fact, every time I write a post and people comment, relate, or just “like” what I have to say, it brings the biggest smile to my face. They are my sparks.  I’m grateful we can share our stories.

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The biggest shout-out of all goes to fellow blogger Maria Wen Adcock. She writes an awesome blog that touches the lives of many: http://www.biculturalmama.com.  Maria helped me start overthehillontheyellowbrickroad.wordpress.com and is a shining star.

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CONVERSATION WITH…An Orchid Coping With Lower Stem Pain

Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, all who visit are busy trying to figure out where they belong in the world. This morning, I passed an orchid who was clearly losing her petals.  Her stem was clamped to a stick to help her stand up straight, yet she didn’t seem unhappy about it.  I sat down beside her and had to ask why…

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Hey beautiful orchid—

ORCHID: Stop right there.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  I’m not beautiful.

Well, I’m sure you once were. It looks like you held lots of pretty, white petals.  And even though you’re losing them, you don’t look particularly sad.

ORCHID: Why should  I be?

I mean, I find it hard losing parts of myself that used to be pretty.  I miss my natural hair color, my decent skin, my smaller waistline, many of my teeth, my arches that used to cooperate and slide comfortably inside high heels—

ORCHID: I see where you’re going wit this, but I look at it differently.

How?

ORCHID: Start with my white petals.  Yes, they were beautiful, but do you have any idea how much stress and work it’s taken to hold up all those flowers day after day, making sure they all got enough sunlight, water, the whole nine yards?

I never thought about it that way.

ORCHID: Well, think about it.  Every flower on me starts as a bud.  Then, the bud opens and I get used to carrying the weight of that flower.  Just when I get the hang of it, another one opens. Then I gotta carry two, then three, then four and five and six!  After a while, they weigh a ton and start pulling my stem down. No wonder I have lower stem pain!

I know! I have lower back pain!  It’s the worst!

ORCHID: It is!  Which brings me to the reason I’m not upset about losing my petals. I mean, I love them but they make me crazy.  It actually feels freeing to let them go.  For me, it feels natural to release everything pulling me down and just rest right now. It feels like what I’m supposed to be doing at this phase in my life.  I just want to breathe and enjoy what’s around me.

When I really think about it, I’m feeling that way, too. But letting go and allowing myself to feel older and quieter seems like…well…getting ready for death.

ORCHID: Not necessarily. Something surreal might be happening.  Like, in my case, I’m an orchid stem. I’ve got my roots in the soil. My roots are an ongoing part of me.

I’m with you so far–

ORCHID: After my petals drop off, I’ve been warned I’ll turn brown and the leaves around my roots will look limp. We’ll all look dead, but we’re not. We’re just in a resting period.  Eventually, a new stem comes up with new flowers. That’s the way it works with orchids.

Do you think humans work that way, too?

ORCHID: I’m just an orchid. Do you really expect me to answer that?

Sorry.

ORCHID: But I’ll say this much…we all definitely seem to be part of something bigger.

Yes. I think we’re part of the universe in a way we don’t understand.

ORCHID: Right. So my plan is to go with the next phase of my life and see what it brings. Who knows?  I might even be beautiful in a different way.

I think you’re beautiful right now. I’d love to sit and chat more, but my lower back is killing me.  I can’t sit for too long at the moment.

ORCHID: I hear ya.  Let’s stay in touch.

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With that, we parted ways. A short time later, the orchid sent me a selfie.  Now she’s two-toned, got a slim, zig zaggy shape, and no longer needs to be clamped to a stick to stand up tall.  She surely is beautiful in a different way.

orchid no petals

And for me…any advice for lower back pain?

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