Mary Beth Writes


Do you know “Women’s Older Wisdom”? You must request to join this Facebook group and I recommend you do so. WOW is hosted by Pat Taub and her page is often poignant, funny, artistic, or thought-provoking. Sometimes I post my things there to get a wider audience than I have here.

Lately Taub is asking her readers, “What have you found to be both the best and the worst aspects of aging?”

I thought about this yesterday as I drove to visit friends. If I was better at finding Bluetooth WHILE I drove, I’d listen to more podcasts and think less for myself so there’s that. Also, on my way home I got sleepy so I sang Christmas carols. Do you sing when you are alone in a car?

Anyways, I’ve been “old” for quite some time and I still can’t believe it - but I groan when I get off the sofa after binging Masterpiece Theater. I never drink coffee after 2PM. I just came through months of dealing with a garfed-up digestive system that has become remarkably “older person” sensitive. Yet in my soul and heart, I don’t feel a day over 54.

Aging, as many of us who are getting towards the bottom of our toboggan runs are noticing, is not an orderly decline done in lockstep. Aging is more like waking up to a town we recognize but don’t know. We try to negotiate this new place but soon realize we are constantly recalibrating old habits and goals in order to get around this new place.

For instance, I have become inconveniently timid in a car as either the driver or passenger. Basically, I don’t trust other people to stay in their lanes - and I’m occasionally right about this, right? My heart also beats fast at unprotected left turns on busy streets. The reality is that I’m a good driver; I’ve driven 50 years without even getting a ticket. Well, once a cop pulled me over for driving out of a library parking lot at dusk without my headlights on, but that was just lame. I’ve been in two car accidents, both fairly serious but neither was my fault. Maybe this is why I don’t trust other drivers?

Expressway driving anxiety is an aspect of aging I don’t admire or enjoy, but it’s here. How about you?

I love that here where there is less time, there is more time. We sleep later, get up later. There’s time to make better breakfasts. Today I had oatmeal with fresh cranberries, raisins, and cinnamon, and a prettily sectioned orange on the side. Then after I ate I spent 40 minutes cleaning the kitchen including inside the fridge where the cranberries had tipped over. I listened to jazz and thought about writing this while I worked. Enough time to do small things well? What a luxury.

I did not think I was a person who needed to have grandkids, but now that I have four of them, plus my two local young friends– I absolutely love having kids in my life again. There’s a reason to look at kid books in a bookstore. I’m allowed to buy cool pads of paper and markers as much as I want. Being a sidebar to the imagination and happiness of kids sparks small adventures and messy creativity for me, too. I like this.

I like that celebrating holidays is no longer my job and responsibility. I mean, prepping things so little kids learn the wonder and meanings of special days, that was cool. But I’m just as glad to no longer make the show happen. We’ve had a six-foot-tall faux tree for twenty years. This year I bought a much smaller tree and the cats love sleeping under it just as much as under a tall tree. Meantime, Len gave the tall tree away via Freecycle to a family with an iffy van and several kids and that’s cool, too.  

I’m less crotchety than I was when I was young and too often stressed. I don’t expect all the people I love and like to do things that way I choose to do them. I’m more angry at the diddly nearsighted prejudices of people who don’t like other people. I hated mustard when I was young, but I am beginning to respect the tang it can bring to the party.

It’s too easy to think we know enough now. It’s too easy to become patronizing. But this is a new town and we don’t.

“What have you found to be both the best and worst aspects of aging?”





All my life, I've loved wandering more than trying to get somewhere in particular. Walking, driving and especially reading and learning things. This has been a problem at school, at jobs, and on vacation. I am famous for 'Dad's Shortcuts.' I would rather wander the library than finish reading a textbook, or a task at work. Now that I am retired I have more time to try out things that I'll never do again, like fix an outboard, learn a computer thing or just putter. Which kind of makes you wonder what we were meant to be in the first place.

The best part of aging is learning about boundaries and exercising Paul's mantra, "If it doesn't make you happy, don't do it!" The worst part of aging is that the list of names of those that have left us continues to grow longer.
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks for reminding me of Paul and his often-humorous "I don't have to do that" attitude, I think once he survived my dad and Vietnam, the rest was coasting.

As we grow older, most of us have learned a thing or two... That's a good thing. On the minus side, our bodies don't always agree with everything we want to do! But retirement is a plus, if you can do it earlier, even better!! Sleeping in is beneficial! I second the suggestion on Pat Taub and her WOW site and fb group. Great conversations there!
Mary Beth's picture


Loved this article as an Older woman!!!

I identified all to much! Good read!

Because of aging (and widowhood) I have discovered that the rebel I used to be, is alive and well and living inside my aging body. It is more of a realist than It was at 22, realism that comes from a lived life. I am comfortable with myself, something I definitely was not at 22 (despite a tighter body). I don't love that I am uncomfortable driving at night, avoid highways, and am I luddite in a world that is so technology driven. I am unconstrained about other people opinion of me. Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn. I love being a grandmother. LOVE it. I embrace aging (not always well,) in honor of all those that did not get the opportunity. Be well, my friend. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

"in honor of all those that did not get the opportunity" This thought, too. I often think of my dad and sister and brother and feel so sad they did not get to live into these years.

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Three Things / Story, Eclipse, Brando

1. I scheduled my Substack story to go out at 8AM this morning. I just looked to see why it didn’t show up and it says it is going to be sent at 8:49 tonight. I’m going to leave it like that. Maybe 9PM on a weekend night is a good time to send short fiction. Let me know if you have an opinion.

2. I read this quote by Marlon Brando who said this early in his career. “I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”

Even though this is probably not exactly true of me and you, I do love the bravado.

Peace Like a River / Book Report

4/3/2024 She Writes

I just finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and I am going to talk about it for a little bit before I forget how profoundly interesting and evocative this book was and is, at least to me.

I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

My Grandkids & 'Wandering Stars'


The past month has been jam-packed. The week in Mineral Point. Len’s two-day seminar in Chicago. Last week we had various grandkids here for three overnighters and yesterday our family came to Easter dinner here in our house which was clean after a week with grandkid overnighters so you know that was a piece of cake. Len smoked two hams (yes, hard to keep them lit) and I made the largest amounts of from-scratch scalloped potatoes plus macaroni and cheese that I have ever made. As in, I grated four pounds of cheese Saturday afternoon. “On Wisconsin.”

Ghost on a Post / Poetry with Third Graders


This is what I texted to Len this afternoon after I finished the poetry class with third graders. “I’m done and back. The kids were great and I’m a limp washrag, Teaching forty 8-year-olds for 90 minutes is way more energy than Everest.” I then drank half a beer (I NEVER drink in the afternoon) and fell asleep until the Mineral Point afternoon ‘change of shift siren’ shrieked for several minutes. It’s been a full day.

How 2 Write a Poem (3rd grade edition)


Next week is my Writers Week at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI. I won this when my story “How Crow Got Out of Jail” (Read Here) won first prize in the 2023 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest for short fiction.

Winning that contest motivated me to open my Substack account. So far I’ve published 17 stories and only published once twice. (Who noticed that?)

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