Monday, December 31, 2012

Day 365: The End is Here

Well, this is the end of my 50th year, at least the end of the blog which I started on January 1, 2012. The good news is that I still have 5 months until I turn 51, and for those people that are tired of my self-indulgent whining, I repeat...this is the end of my 50th year blog.

And, as I wrote in August, I thought that I had pretty much covered everything I learned then, and didn't want to become even more pathetic by repeating the same thing over and over.

But, as I wrote, those "last" lessons were going to come tonight anyway and some really are worth repeating and often.

Foremost among these, and just as cliched and tired as it was back in August, is this gem: you only live once and life really is short. You will not, or do not get, another chance to do the things that you think you can put off until "later." In spite of your best intentions, you won't, or you can't, or you have too many responsibilities, or life just gets in the way. That means in reality there is no later, there is only now.

That's not to say that you won't discover new things to do, new places to see, new work to try, and even new people to love. And some of these will be even better than you thought they would be at age 50.

But, there are some things that you won't ever get the chance to do again because the circumstances will prevent them, or the opportunity only comes once. DO THEM! Travel to the places you want to see, explore more, live where you want to live, love who you want to love, and try work that you are interested in. TRY EVERYTHING.

This is YOUR life. In what I am sure sounds like a "no shit Sherlock" observation; finding out what truly makes YOU happy, will give you a happy life, and you will not just settle for whatever you stumble upon. Don't tell yourself that this job is "good enough" or this relationship is "good enough" because as Sarah McLachlan sings it, good enough really isn't:
And don't you know that why
Is simply not good enough,
Oh, so just let me try
And I will be good to you
Just let me try
And I will be there for you,
I'll show you why
You're so much more than good enough
Do not find yourself at age 50 with regret for the things that might have been and wondering what if.  I have to say that at age 50 my life is so much better than I ever thought it would be in so many ways. But, I have to be honest and say that the biggest regret I have is for the things I did not do when I had the chance to do them without completely disrupting my life in the process. Do not pass up an opportunity when it comes because it may never come again.

However, even I cannot end my 50th year blog on such a depressing note. So, in spite of any regrets I might have, and the bitching that I have done about turning 50, I have to say how incredible my life is and how grateful I am for it. As I have written before, I am healthy, I have work that I love and people in my life that I love. What has surprised me the most about reaching this milestone is that I also find myself learning every day, discovering new things and appreciating even the littlest things even more each day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 361: The End Is Near

I realize that some people might think that my 50th year won't end until I turn...gasp...51 in May. However, I started this blog on January 1 (with a preview post on December 31, 2011) so to me, the end is near (but, not in the Mayan Calendar kind of way) since I followed the calendar year.

While I have been pretty open and shared just about everything that I thought had import on this blog, there are many other things that I have not shared. Perhaps the biggest of these things is how incredibly difficult I have found this milestone to be. And, how I believe that I have epitomized the midlife "crisis" cliche, questioning everything and everyone in my life, and finding this past year one of the hardest I have ever faced, which is saying a lot considering I have been through actual horrible things in life, not just some stupid milestone birthday.

But, I am me. I over-think things so it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. In all fairness to myself, as I reflect on it, I did not go out and buy a red sports car (oh wait, I am not a man); nor did I get myself a boy toy and go all Cougar on anybody; nor did I start coloring my hair or go under the knife for a little nip and tuck in an effort to be something I am not. 

As I wrote when I first started this blog, I have used this milestone as a time to reflect on my life, both the good, the bad, and everything in between. I think what has made it so difficult is the reality that taking an honest look at yourself  makes you not only aware of the things you do not like, but also aware that you need to change them.

Changing life-long habits and beliefs is hard work. But, I am a workaholic (one of these self-revelations) and hard work is something I am used to. It is just not something I am used to doing for myself, but for everyone and everything else. And hiding in work isn't any better than hiding in other things.
Your life will still be waiting for you when you finally have to face it. Hiding only postpones the inevitable, and I realized that at 50, it is way past time to stop letting fear run my life, including the fear of not liking who I might really be, or not liking the life that I have created for myself.

So, as a way to end this blog and my 50th year, I will use this last week of this year to share a few of the big things that I have learned, and will post them over this last week of 2012.

The first of these is that I have discovered that my life is not any more special, difficult, or unusual than anybody else's. It is simply life. But it really is what we do with the things that happen to us, how we react or conversely, don't react, that really matters.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 328: Gratitude For Being In My 50th Year

Yeah, I know I keep saying I am gone and done with this blog but, then I start thinking about something (yeah, like that's a big shock) and feel the urge to write. And, while it is still technically my 50th year, this seems to be the place to do it.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and it came and went in a blur. I don't know what happened to this year, it has sped by, which started happening more and more as I have gotten closer to this milestone.

There are so many things that I have to be grateful for in my 50th year. First and foremost on this list is the fact that I made it to age 50. It seems that we take aging, like most other things in life, for granted. I never had any reason to doubt that I would reach this milestone. But, I didn't know what it would feel like--or, what I would feel like--would I be feeling good at this age, or, would I be unhealthy? Would I be even crabbier and more negative than I already was? Would I have any "life" left or, would I have given up and just settled for wherever and whatever I was at?

I am happy to say that I don't feel "50," whatever that is supposed to feel like. I feel good, and am so grateful for the gift of health. As tired and cliched as it is, that old saying: "when you've got your health, you've got everything" really is true. There's no amount of money, work, or even love, that can make up for the lack of physical health. While I know I can always be even healthier (especially mentally :D, oh, and of course I do have more weight to lose), I am thankful that each day, I get up and work towards those goals rather than fighting just to stay well.

As for whether or not I am crankier, I'd have to say that yes I am in some ways. But, in others I am less so. And, after spending a very hard year looking at myself very closely, I have started to rediscover the part of myself that isn't cranky, the part that is full of life, and that wants to express that regardless of who gets uncomfortable if I do so. The funny thing is what made me cranky is the inability to express it, and being exhausted from locking it away for so long until I no longer knew that it was in me anymore. 
As Popeye would say, "I am what I am," and I like what I am, including my dorky side. I am so grateful that I discovered this at age 50, it has been an unexpected gift. I am so thankful that I have no longer given up, and am no longer  trying to be something I am not instead of being who I really am.

It is not only liberating, but it also makes me grateful that even at 50, or maybe especially at age 50, to discover that there's no reason to hold back, to put off doing the things that you want to, or to live the kind of life you want to. 


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 311: Voting In My 50th Year

While I realize that I "closed" this blog on August 14, 3 months post 50, I also realize that it is still my 50th year and that I had more to say. At least, I do today, on Election Day.

I have had the privilege of voting now since....gulp....1980...32 years! Wow, seeing it in writing like that sure does make it sound like a long time. But, the funny thing is I can remember voting in each Presidential election since my first one. This amuses me because I can't remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, but I can remember that.

There are many things that I have become cynical about at age 50. And, if I am completely honest, some that I have been cynical about for pretty much my entire life. Ironically, at the top of this list are politics and religion, two topics that my Grandpa Kritt would often advise me not to discuss with family.

I never have seemed to be able to take his advice and might regret this post. But, he also encouraged me to have an opinion, and to not be shy about having one. He's not the only one that encouraged this, my Dad always has and continues to do so.

Now unless you have just met me; and/or have never seen my Facebook page; or just happened upon this blog by accident; you know that even in spite of my increasing cynicism, I remain a: l-i-b-e-r-a-l, yes, I used the "l" word, and I even spelled it out. NOTE: this is my personal blog, reserved for my personal viewpoints, opinions and feelings, therefore, I am not asking for a debate, or, to have my mind changed, or, even to change yours. Trust me, any rude thing you can call me, I have probably already heard.

I do not want to fight anymore, or defend my position anymore. I just want to be able to express that opinion freely, without fear of retribution and if we don't agree, then agree to disagree. If my political viewpoint angers you, or makes you "unfriend" me, or write vile things on my Facebook wall about me, or my political choices, then chances are you have bigger issues than me being a liberal.

The sad thing is that things have become so nasty (and that goes for either side of the political spectrum) that I have started to feel that it is better to just not say anything. Which goes against everything I am and everything I have ever stood for. It is these feelings that made me feel like I had to write today.

And what I wanted to write about was that in spite of all this negativity and cynicism, that even at age 50 when I go my local polling place, and they hand me my ballot, I still feel like I am doing one of the most important things in the world. And, as a woman, I think about all of the women who came before me that worked so tirelessly, some literally starving themselves to death in protest, so that I would have the right to vote.

To take their sacrifices for granted is wrong. For me not to exercise that right is wrong. I must honor them and show them my appreciation even if there are times when I feel that my vote doesn't matter. It does matter. My vote is my voice, and no matter how weak I think it might sound amid the much louder din of other voices, it matters to me that I use that voice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 227: Three Months Post 50: The Last Lessons

Exactly 3 months ago I turned 50 and not surprisingly, the world hasn't really changed all that much since the "big day." Or, I haven't really changed since the "big day," at least not in any perceptible way. It has only been 3 months after all.

But, as I have been reflecting on my aging process and by reviewing this blog, the lessons that I have learned don't seem to be increasing, and in fact, seem to be decreasing. I seem to be going backwards rather than forwards.

Frankly, I am not sure how riveting it is for people to read that I like to color and dance, or how much I love tea and gardening. So, I think that this makes it a good time for me to end this blog rather than keep struggling to come up with things to write about. And, there are some lessons that I am still struggling with in my "real" life, that I think I ought to focus on so that I can finally resolve them. I am 50 and it is time.

I had planned to do this with the last post of the 50th year, which was going to be December 31st, a sort of New Year's gift to everyone. So, think of this as a kind of early holiday present; a list of lessons that I have learned in my life that I would tell my 15 year old self:

First off, as tired and cliched as this sounds, it really is true: you only live once, you do not get another chance to do many of the things you think you can "do later." You won't, or you can't, or life just gets in the way.

That means try to live your life so that you don't have to wonder "what if" at age 50, or with regrets because you didn't do the things you thought you wanted to do. DO THEM! Travel to the places you want to see, explore more, live where you want to live, love who you want to love, try work that you are interested in, to see how all of it feels and how all of it fits.

Know what it is you want out of life, clearly define it, and then go after it, and do not stop until you get it. Do not let anyone or anything interfere with that goal. If you get it and don't like it, then at least you will know that, and can move on to something else.

Listen to yourself; do not ignore the red flags that tell you that something or someone is not right for you. Do not wait for it to get better. It does not. It only gets worse and the longer you wait, the harder it gets.

Before you get serious about someone, know what you want out of a relationship/partner and what you cannot live without. And, know what you do NOT want and what you can't live WITH and do not settle for anything less, or think that he/she will change, she won't.

Tell that boy that you have a crush on that you like him, and get to know him better to see if he really even is "crush-worthy." Yeah, you might be a complete disaster together, but it might be as wonderful as you fantasize about. And, that other boy (okay young man) that you are in love with, tell him before it is too late. In either case, if you do nothing, say nothing, you will never, ever know. At least you will know and you can move on without wondering "what if."

This means tell the people that you love how you feel. Tell them you love them. Do not assume they know this; they might assume that you don't because you never said it.

Never apologize for who you are, for what you believe in, and for the way you live your life. It is your life.

Live your life according to what you believe, what you feel and what's important to you. If you don't, you will always feel conflicted. 

Bad things happen in life; very few we have any control over. People you love will die, they will hurt you, you will lose jobs, friends, etc. But, you are strong and you can face anything if you rely on your inner strength. Ironically, you become stronger by facing them.

Related to this is let those who love you and those you love help you when they do happen. You know how to give; you also need to learn how to take, so ask for help. It does not make you "weak" it just proves that you are human.

But, wonderful things happen in life that make the bad things easier to bear. Never forget this, even when things are horrible. Just look at the things that you feel make life beautiful, surround yourself with them and with the people who feel the same way about life. And do not let the bad things make you hard.

Do not let anyone else's negativity or insistence that the world is bad make you stop believing this or start acting like it is.

Do not hold on to people that hold you down or hold you back. Good relationships of any kind are about bringing out the best in one another, not the worst.

You will make "mistakes," lots of them. But, don't think of them as mistakes, think of them as lessons, as things you don't want to do again, or as things that hurt you. The only way they are "mistakes" is if you keep repeating them, and keep letting yourself get hurt by repeating them.

Perhaps the biggest lesson of them all is this: do not let fear rule your life, it doesn't protect you, it doesn't make you stronger, or keep bad things from happening to you. It just makes you weaker and it makes your life so narrow, and causes you to miss out on so much of life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 225: Bitter or Better

As I have written here before, I sometimes feel as if I haven't really learned anything in my 50 years. This feeling tends to come when I find myself focusing on the negative and taking on other people's negativity. Not only are bad habits and old behaviors hard to shake, but the reality is that bad things happen in life.

But, what I have learned (finally) is that how you react to those bad things is what really determines how your life goes, and the kind of person that you will be. If all you focus on is the bad, whatever it is, that's all you will see and all you will attract. Another tired cliche that I have found to be true is that "misery loves company."

What some of us tend to forget is that happiness loves company too, maybe even more, and considering that we can't control the bad, choosing to focus on the good sure makes more sense.

I also have learned that for me, there are so many things that I think are good and that make me smile, that if I focus on them, and do them, that not getting all Negative Nelly is easier to do.

Some of these things are so simple and goofy, but, they are the things that make me grateful to be alive and that actually prevent me from being hateful or nasty, and saying something that I will regret.

I have never shared them before, certainly not in written form. But, for some reason, I am going to share some of them now (in no particular order) at the risk of embarrassing myself. Why? Because allowing my "inner child" to come out, is what keeps me from letting "the bitterness steal my sweetness." How can I be bitter when I am being goofy and childlike like this:
  • If there is a song that I love that is remotely danceable, I will stop what I am doing and dance to it. NOT in public (unless I am with someone else who is game) but always, always when I am at home.
  • Related to this, if I know the lyrics to a song, I will, ALWAYS sing along, and in spite of being in Glee Club for 3 years, I am not sure I can still carry a tune. I just know that music makes me feel "shiny!" Whether it makes those around me feel shiny or not, isn't something I can guarantee.
  • I love to color, yes, color in coloring books with crayons, still, even at age 50. It relaxes me.
  • I love to blow bubbles still, yes, again at age 50 and I even bought myself a giant bubble wand.
  • I love to swing, yes on swing sets. One of the best things about living across from a park is the easy access to swinging.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day 217: It's My Own Design

The warm summer weather has me thinking about the days when I was a college student way back in the 1980's (wow). I spent most of my days sunning myself, going to parties and visiting my friends. I did work full time during the summers, but in those days, I could work all day, and stay up late at night, and not miss a beat. Ah, to be 21 again.

I graduated from college in (gulp) June of 1985, Those who went to high school and were in the class of '80 with me, may notice I did NOT graduate in 1984. That means I was either a slacker or got delayed somehow. While during those years I was not the most motivated, I was not a total slacker, I did my work. But, I did get delayed due to parental circumstances beyond my control. As usual, I am digressing and I do not  want to go there.

The point is once again how music can trigger so many things in me; so many memories and feelings; and can transport me back to places where sometimes I don't want to be. This happened as I was driving home after teaching a gardening class on Thursday.

"Everybody Wants to Rule The World" by Tears for Fears came on the radio. This song is still one of my all-time favorites and it came out in the summer of 1985. I always thought it was very fitting for somebody just graduating from college. I remember how these lyrics in particular struck me at the time:
Welcome to your life.
There's no turning back.... 

It's my own design
It's my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world...

I can't stand this indecision
Married with a lack of vision

To say I was indecisive is putting it mildly. I was completely lost when I left Santa Cruz, and in spite of not wanting to, I came home, back to LA. I was completely ill prepared to be a grown up and completely unsure about my future. I graduated with a bachelor's in Psychology and realized in my senior year I did not want to be a psychologist, nor, had I done anything about prepping for graduate school. Not only that, I wanted to stay up in northern California and start my life there but, crippling fear of failure, or starvation, or anything else you can think of, and the harsh reality that I had no income, made this choice seem impossible to me at the time.

The lesson in all of this seems to be the same one I keep revisiting during my 50th year. That is that being afraid, limiting yourself by that fear does not make your life your own, rather, you are owned by fear. And, if I could talk to my 22 year old self I would tell her that you can always earn more money, or get more roommates, or figure out some way to survive because later on you will have to do that and you rock it. And, if you let fear limit you, you will spend a large part of your life settling for something because it is "safe" and in spite of having a wonderful life, you will find yourself at age 50, at times still wondering "what if."