While I am serving snacks during half-time of the Super Bowl, I am forced to watch a 53-year old Madonna lip-syncing her greatest hits. Not forced as in anyone is making me do it — but more in the way to reconnect with my 20s — when she was relevant.
Then came another commercial. A familiar scratchy voice walking through a darkened stadium tunnel — is he still alive? I asked Joe. You mean Clint Eastwood, Joe says? And as images from the beginning of this millennium flashed across the screen, and I couldn’t look away as he talked about America, and Detroit. I tried to speak, but found it hard to get words out. By the time Eastwood said, “It’s Half-time America” followed by a screen with automotive logos and the words, “Imported From Detroit,” tears were spilling out. Now this was serious. A call to stop the bullshit and start working together for the good of the Country. Stop pretending we are all still kids, and, as my friend Tara says, put on our “big girl panties” and stop blaming someone else for our collective predicament.
I spent the last weekend of January in the local hospital. This, after my blood pressure had spiked to an all-time high and it did not want to come down. That is until I closed my eyes and imagined myself in Santorini, sitting outside our room at Hotel Helioptopos and looking out into the azure of the Caldera. And I lowered my blood pressure 30 points in 2 minutes*.
Which is a bit ironic because most of our visit to Santorini I was pissed off. Why in such a beautiful setting? With such glorious food, wine and accommodations?
There were six of us during most of the press tours – two guys with two twenty-something and two 40-something women. At least that’s how I saw it. While the other over-40 woman has more credibility and journalist chops than the rest of us combined, our host addressed most of his comments to the two Joes — asking them of their opinions and to pose for this picture or that. And the two Joes spent more time talking to the twenty-somethings — at least that is how I perceived it at the time. Stacked up beside the pretty blonde, and her brunette friend (who seemed intent on flirting with the older guys) I felt like a frump. An overweight, out-of-shape, hausfrau who was there as an auxiliary instead of a colleague, instead of a wine writer — just “somebody’s wife.”
Yet who was really to blame? I blamed my lack of exercise on the need to work crazy hours. My overeating on the gourmet cook who prepares my meals. The huffing and puffing to get up and down the hills on the island — being left in the dust while the guys walked ahead with the 20-somethings — on my high blood pressure — which in turn was blamed on genetics, and age. It was certainly not MY fault. And there was nothing I could do to change it.
All I could do was be pissed. Feel sorry for myself. Waste all that beauty around me.
What a shame.
Yet here I was nearly two years later imagining myself looking out at the Caldera, feeling calm and relaxed. Maybe I have finally put on those Big Girl Panties myself.
On to Fabulous Fifty
The good news is they found nothing wrong with my heart. No blockages. No irregular rhythms. Nothing akin to my brother’s heart attack or my mother’s congestive heart disease. Perhaps it is simply in response to my heretofore inability to act my age.
I will turn 50 at the end of April. And with that comes the need to accept that I can no longer work 60 hours a week, function on only 4 hours of sleep a night, or consume food and drink like I did when I was in my 20s. I can learn to accept my age and limitations as well as eat healthier, get more rest and get off my ass and exercise.
Santorini is a truly beautiful place. So beautiful, that words, even pictures, cannot do it justice. You need to experience it for yourself. The wines and the people are delightful, the food sumptuous and the view almost mythical in its beauty.
I hope one day I can go back, and appreciate all it has to offer. But for now, it will be my mental talisman; a place to remember to keep my blood pressure in check.
*Note: Initially, when I arrived at the ER my blood pressure was brought down with medication. If you have an abnormally high spike in blood pressure (normal is about 120/80) you should see a doctor. For more information on High Blood Pressure, visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001502/