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."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 211: Fitting In Or Standing Out

As I was walking yesterday morning, I was thinking (big shock I know) that it has been 2 years since my 30th (gulp) high school reunion. My first thought was, "damn, I really am o-l-d," 30 years wow. But, as I was reflecting on the event, both the good and the bad of it, I was once again remembering that while all of us are chronologically 50, some of us are still emotionally 15; still seeing ourselves as part of some clique or pack.

Lest I digress too much, I thought about how some of the "girls" at the reunion were just as mean as they were back in high school. I actually saw them turn their backs on somebody that they thought wasn't "cool enough" to snub her as she headed towards them. Of course, me being me, I had to get in their face and say something. I did not cause a scene, but simply said that I thought it was a pity that at nearly 50 years old, they would still be so petty. Of course, they didn't talk to me for the rest of the night, which made the evening even more pleasant for me.

Those who know me, know that I am all about being who I am and saying what I think about things. However, this was not always the case. There was a time that I would have hidden from them or even worse, might have said something mean to the "nice" girl just to fit in. Yeah, I am not proud of the fact that I was that way and bowed (often) to peer pressure. But, at 50 years old, I don't remember the last time I even considered bowing to peer pressure. And if anything, I need to learn to be a bit kinder when I am speaking the truth, especially if it goes against the crowd (as it often does).

I wasn't the most popular girl in school, far from it. But, I wasn't the least popular either, I was in the middle. Not that it matters, especially now. But, it did then. As my friend Pablo always tells me, I seemed to be hiding. The exception to this was when I was with my friends, especially those louder and bolder than I. Then I would be completely inappropriate and say hurtful and mean things thinking I was being funny. I had no middle setting, I was either on or off. 

I know my experiences growing up are not unusual, especially for pre-teen and teen girls. All you want to do is fit in, be one of the crowd, and be accepted. The worst thing is to stand out and be "different."  Yeah, like I wasn't doomed from the beginning. I was born with two different colored eyes, that IS different. And now I love it, but then, not so much.

There were (and are) so many ways that I have never felt "part of the crowd." I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief at what is popular, what people think is important, and what they can't live without. I also used to think there was actually something wrong with me because I didn't (and don't) like many of the things that other girls and women do.

But, as I have learned in the past 50 years, I am not the only woman (or person) like this, who is "different." As I would tell my 15 year old self: we are ALL different, and that embracing our differences and sharing them is what makes life interesting and worth living.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 204: "Don't Compromise Yourself. You Are All You've Got."~Janis Joplin

If there are people who actually read this blog, you might have noticed that I haven't written anything in over a week. There are several reasons for this, one of which is that I have been working non-stop except for household chores and errands, and a couple of meals out. As I have written here before, being busy is a bad habit, it is addictive, and it tends to make one think they have greater import than they actually do.

While that may be true, I am happy that one of the things I have been busy at is putting together the new Learning Garden for the hospital. Unfortunately, it has meant my other work has been piling up, including the still unfinished book, and other projects. And I will no doubt bitch, er write, about being too busy again soon.

But, at age 50, I am happy to finally have work that I feel is meaningful, and that I think can make a difference in people's lives. I am happy because I spent a lot of time both in graduate school and on the job, working towards a career that ultimately made me feel less than important, and like I did not make a difference.

I certainly didn't start out thinking that. I started out thinking I would make a huge difference and I kept ignoring the red flags that told me that I never would. As I have written here before, I seem to excel at ignoring red flags, not just in my professional life, but particularly in my personal life (lest I digress too much, I will not go into that here, that is for another post). Ignoring them, or minimizing them has meant a great deal of unhappiness and confusion. And, I spent a lot of wasted time trying to fit into a career that clearly I did not fit into.

So, the lesson that my 50 year old self would give my 18 year old, or even my 25 year old self, is this: you spend a large percentage of your time at work, and while it is not your whole life, it really is a big part of your life so do something that you are passionate about, and that you are good at because even though you hate something, you are a hard worker, and are overly responsible even when you don't want to be. You give up a lot of yourself to work, so find something that doesn't require you to compromise who you are and what you believe in.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 196: Two Months Post 50

It is now nearly 10 p.m. and it just dawned on me that today is the 14th. I knew this. It is a friend's birthday today and she is actually 5-1. But, the fact that it is exactly two months post-50th birthday just dawned on me. It isn't that I am getting more and more forgetful as I age. My story is that I have so many things going on; my brain is full with them, and that's why I can't remember things. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Lest I sound repetitive, (oh WTF, face it, I am repetitive) I have been 50 for two months. And instead of feeling like I have more answers, I increasingly feel like I have less. I remember when I turned 40 and was talking to my Dad about this. I told him that I actually felt like I was getting stupider as I aged. He told me that as we get older we actually finally realize we don't know everything, and we never will, and that we are always learning. And, if we aren't learning, we are through.

He has given me lots of good advice over the years, and some not so good, or that did not apply to me, but lest I digress again, I will stick to the subject. But this piece was one of the best. I work at following it and to learn something from everything, even the really bad things. But, sometimes they sting so much that I often don't see the lesson. Or, it takes a long time to see it.

As I have written here many times, I am stubborn and I often hold on to things for way too long. So, it is no surprise that learning when to give up, or to let go of things is still the hardest lesson for me to learn. But, holding on to them can actually do more harm than good. Recognizing this doesn't make it any easier, it just makes it impossible to ignore them anymore.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 193: Does Reality Bite? Or, Do We Just Think It Does?

Throughout my life I have found one thing to be constant, that is that most of us tend to think things in our lives really are worse than they actually are. And, life being life, it always has a way of showing us reality. We see that things could either be worse, because something really bad happens; or, it somehow shows us that what we have really isn't that bad, and we should be grateful for the smallness of our problems.

I am going to admit here publicly that I have often thrown myself pity parties in my own head; dramatizing how horrible things are, and making a mountain out of a mole hill (oh yeah, another tired cliche). It is scary how f*cked up we (or, maybe it's just me) can make things seem in our own heads when they really aren't. 

And, as I am reflecting on this, it keeps pointing me back to that other tired cliche I keep writing about on this blog: our days are short. That means we shouldn't waste what time we have by creating problems in our heads that are not really there. Reality provides enough real ones for us to navigate. 

And, I think that at age 50 I am finally starting to get this (what can I say, I am a slow learner). As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, bad things happen in life, that is just life. Some of these we can control, and some we cannot. 

"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."~Theodore Issac Rubin
But, the only thing we can control is how we react to them. They can either make us stronger, or, they can knock us down.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 187: Forgive & Forget or Just Forgive?

The fact that my 50th year is now more than half over hasn't been lost on me. Neither has the goal of learning something new or positive each day. I like to learn, I always have. I just wish that sometimes the lessons of life wouldn't be so hard or painful. Maybe they aren't that way for everyone, but they are for me.

As I have written here before, I never do things the easy way; always the hard way. I don't do this intentionally. I just tend to be too stubborn for my own good. It takes a lot to change my mind, or to make me give up on something I really want, or believe in.

Ah, but again I am digressing (just like in real life, any shiny object seems to work for me). I intended to write about forgiveness. Not about forgiving other people, but forgiving yourself and moving on."They" say that one should always forgive and forget those who hurt us or do something wrong. But, does this also apply when we need to forgive ourselves?
I have been pondering this for months now, and keep coming back to the same question. That is, if we forget what we have done, aren't we doomed to repeat the same mistake again? Is it possible to forgive ourselves, yet still remember? Or, do we really have to just let it go from our minds to really forgive?

I know that keeping it at the forefront of my mind is keeping me stuck, and while I keep going through the motions of moving forward, I haven't really. It seems that not letting go is just a way of perpetually repeating the same mistake. And, while I appreciate every new-agey, positive affirmation that tells me to move on, I would appreciate it even more if "they" also included instructions on how to do that.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 184: Busy or Bewildered?

It is interesting how things seem to happen to other people at the same time they happen to you. Or, at least other people are talking about or writing about the same thing you are thinking about.

Once again, I saw something on my Facebook feed that really struck a chord with me; an editorial in the NY Times by Tim Kreider called The 'Busy' Trap. In it, he talks about how we are all too busy, always stuffing our schedules and never having any unscheduled time. In the piece, he argues that this is not inevitable, but it is something we have chosen. And, I have to agree with him.

This is what Kreider says is the crux of the issue:
"It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work."
I have to admit that I am one of those people who feels guilty when I am not being productive and working or volunteering. I find that so odd since I used to have no problem literally lying in the sun all summer, hanging out with friends, and having non-stop movie marathons. Now, if I have free time, I immediately seem to need to fill it up.

If I am honest with myself, I do it because, like Kreider says, I am afraid of what I will find in the absence of busyness. As I have been working on changing this and other things this past year, I am struck by how true that is. If you are too busy, you don't have time to see what's missing in your life and what needs to be changed. It makes you feel as if you are taking care of something important, when it actually prevents you from taking care of something more important in your life.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 181: The Consequences of Our Choices

"The price of anything is the amount of life 
 you exchange for it."~Henry David Thoreau

Those who know me, know that I am not a person who believes that things happen for some mysterious, unknown reason, that it is somehow destiny, is just meant to be, or, that it is part of some higher power's plan.

To me, things happen, and our lives go in a certain way because of some choice or decision we either made, or didn't make. You can call it fate, or you can call it destiny, but to me that negates the power we have over our own lives. Every step we take through our lives influences what happens to us, and what the next step will be. Things happen because they are part of life, or more specifically, part of our lives.

But, there are some things that we do not have control over, that we did not and cannot decide or choose, and that we certainly didn't ask for. They are the things that leave us asking, "why?"

Not surprisingly, these are usually not the good things. While there are so many good things, too many for me to even list, life also involves some painful and horrific things. Things that we are never prepared to deal with, but we somehow do because we have to.

I don't think these things happen as "punishment" or because we are bad people. The only answer I have found is that they just come with living as a human being. Our bodies wear out, we get sick or diseased physically and/or mentally, and on a smaller scale (although it doesn't feel that way to us) they happen because somebody else's choice or decision differs from ours (i.e. they don't love us back, they want to move on, etc.).

I certainly did not intend to write such a Debbie Downer post today. I guess it makes some sense since I have been reading about the death of Nora Ephron, the brilliant writer/screenwriter, who wrote some of my favorites like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle.

She had a great sense of humor and was kind of a cynical romantic (sort of how I feel about things). And, now that I am 50 the fact that she died at 71 makes it even sadder to me.  I was particularly struck by something she wrote in her last book, about how the older you get, you realize that the days are getting shorter:
"You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday. If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it."
I have to say that over the past year, this whole turning 50 thing has really made me think about this. And, I am now going to admit in what sounds like the worst cliche yet, I have started to really think about my own mortality and making the most of the time I have left.

And, if I had to give advice to my 15 year-old self it would be this: "There are already many opportunities in my life that I have missed, remember that there is no "do over." Do not miss anymore." 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 176: Passion or Obsession?

"Cure for an obsession: get another one." ~Mason Cooley, literary professor 
One of the things I have increasingly noticed at my age is how easily it seems for people to take something they are really, really interested in, enjoy, and yes, maybe even love, and become obsessive (or, as I say OCD) about it.

It is all they talk about, all they do, and they are so one-tracked and obsessed with it, that they don't even see that: 1) other people do not like said "passion"; 2) other people are no longer listening when they talk about it or do not see their body language indicating this; or 3) they have actually started to make other people dislike or resent it, and want nothing to do with it.

I came to this conclusion in two ways. First, I have also increasingly noticed that if this said "obsession" is not one that I share and have started to really dislike, I often find myself with the desire to shout, "shut the hell up!" If I have to hear about your stupid stamp collection (or whatever) again, I am going to kill both you and myself." But, so far I haven't gone postal and done this, and have only heard it in my head and thankfully, have not heard myself utter it out loud.

But more profoundly, I recognize this in myself. After hearing myself drone on and on about my own "obsession," and seeing either the glazed over look in people's eyes, or, having them walk away in the hopes of escaping my incessant yammering about it, has really made me think about the danger of OCDing over anything.

My obsession with being a "writer," or, more specifically a farm/garden writer makes me want to "share" it with everyone. I somehow think it is my personal responsibility to save our small, local, and family farms, and to get more organic, edible, gardens planted, and to stop the "evil" corporations that are ruining our food system. I literally can't seem to turn it off.

However, my enthusiasm has been tempered by reality over the past 6 months (and not in a good way), and I have realized that there really is more to life than farming, sustainable food and gardening or writing about them. And, I seem to have suddenly realized that prior to this obsession, I liked to do many other things and I actually have many other interests.

This really hit home the other night when I was with some other people, and someone who has their own obsession (which in my opinion is way worse than mine) actually asked me to talk about gardening to change the subject. At that moment, I realized that is how people see me, that is how not only I define myself, but how they define me too.

I didn't realize this at the time, but, later when I thought about it,  I wish I would have said, "life is about more than just gardening. I like to talk about so many other things I am interested in. There's art, music, baseball, traveling, cooking, walking, reading, dancing, architecture, beer, tea, chocolate, cheese, movies, comedy, live theater, history, and so much more that we could talk about."

I don't want to be put in such a narrow little box, I don't want to be that one-dimensional. But, I am the one that has put myself there. That means I can take myself out. I am working hard on doing that by once again doing other things that I love other than working and volunteering. I will never stop doing either because I love them too. But, turning 50 has really reminded me that in what seems to be the blink of an eye, life starts to pass you by. Or, as Ferris Bueller said:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 172: On Solstice & Baseball

"Strikeouts are boring - besides that, they're fascist.  Throw some ground balls.  More democratic."  ~From the movie Bull Durham

As hard as it is for me to believe, today marks the first "official" day of summer, aka the Summer Solstice. It is also known as the longest day of the year because it has the greatest number of daylight hours than any other day (brilliant I know).

Lest I digress too much (like usual) and start getting all scientific, the point of this post is that it is summer and I really, really like summer. I know that this isn't unusual, most people do. It's just that as I have gotten older, I seem to have forgotten how to just have fun and enjoy the season like I used to.

I know that it isn't possible to just do nothing all summer like I did when I was a kid. Even when I was in college, I may have had summer off from school, but, that just meant working full time. However, even then I managed to have more play time than work time.

I even wrote this week's Care 2 post about celebrating the summer so that I could remind myself to do the same. In it, one of the things I suggested was to have your own "Summer Film Festival," and I wrote that mine would consist of baseball movies, especially Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. Because to me baseball is summer.

This got me to thinking (of course it did) about how much I used to watch baseball and how much I love the game, and how much I missed watching it. It is just one of many things I stopped doing or enjoying for many years, and that I have rediscovered this past year thanks to my friends who always remind me that life is short, and that there is more to it than working and volunteering.

So, in that spirit, I decided to take it a little further than just watching baseball movies by going to some games as well. I thought it was especially fitting to start this on my actual 50th birthday and so when we went to San Francisco, I went to see my Giants play (among other things I did in the city).

And, on Monday I had a rare chance to see my Giants play the Angels at Angel Stadium for an inter-league game. Unlike last night, my Giants won.
Giants warming up at Angel Stadium
I have to say that going to the stadium and watching the game live, with all the sights, sounds, and aromas, was just as great as I remember. And, I will definitely be going to more games.

"A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz." ~Humphrey Bogart

Giants won 5-3, was surprised that there were so many Giants' fans there chanting with me, "Let's go Giants!"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 167: One Month (+1 day) Post 50

Ah, nothing like starting out a post by repeating the same tired cliche: "time sure does fly," especially as one ages. I remember how the days seemed to crawl as I awaited my 18th birthday and then my 21st. But, once I turned 21, and especially once I graduated from college, it seems like somebody set my clock to warp speed and it hasn't slowed down since.

I meant to post this yesterday on the 14th which was actually "one month post 50!" But, I was just too busy and too tired last night to stay up and write. So, since it is my blog and nobody is the boss of me (that was for you Missy), I am writing it now.

I am not sure what I expected when the big day came. Did I think I would suddenly feel "old?" Or, that I would suddenly be wise and stop making the same stupid mistakes I always do? Yeah right. I may be 50 now, but I am still me, mistakes and all, over thinking at times, and not thinking at others, and always, over committing and over doing.

I am also beginning to realize that while I am working hard on changing some things that I don't particularly like, that I am also coming to some reluctant level of acceptance of others that I either cannot or will not change. And, depending on my mood, I choose which to focus on.

When I am feeling like working hard on being what I think would make me a better person, I have found some quotes to inspire me to keep changing for the better:

Conversely, when I am just tired of thinking and just feeling "spent," this one makes me feel a whole lot better (thanks to my buddy Howard for posting it on his FB wall on his 50th birthday):

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day 162: An Old Dog CAN Learn New Tricks

When I look at my life since I gave up a career that made me miserable (way back in 1994), as hard as it was, I realize that making the leap and changing something that really, really did not work for me, was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

As I wrote about last week, change is hard and it requires you to give up a lot, sometimes more than you even realize at the time. I had a "secure" job that paid pretty well, with full benefits, and I was using my hard-earned M.P.A., and my research and writing skills. But, I was miserable and saw that it was a dead end. More than that, to keep moving up required me to compromise myself, and that was something I just couldn't do anymore.

So, I left. When I did, it certainly made our lives much harder, especially for the first few years. At first my leaving wasn't intentional. I went part time to help my hubby heal from his first broken hip (that is worthy of its own blog posting) which he broke 21 days before our wedding (and yes, this also merits yet another blog posting).

And, as I was prone to do when I was younger, I made an impulsive decision; once I went part-time, I thought it was working out so well that I just quit without any actual plan or income. Not surprisingly, I saw that it wasn't going quite so well once the reality of the situation was reflected in our checking account.

I floundered for several years until (again) quite accidentally I stumbled on something that I loved to do but alas, did not pay much. So, I took whatever part time work I could find to supplement our income. I was a merchandiser for Hallmark cards, a merchandiser for Burpee Seeds (way before I knew what GMO's were) and I even worked as a tutor for ESL students. And, I wrote for local businesses and non profits and started building up my writing portfolio.

Ah, but again, I am digressing too much. The point of all this is that after hitting on farm and garden writing, I started to write for anyone I could find, whether they paid me or not (yet another painful lesson to learn, don't work for free). But, I loved it. It got me thinking about work in a way I never thought of before: you can actually like what you do for a living.

It also got me to start gardening and to take classes to learn more, until I finally went so far as to apply to the UC Master Garden Program. Much to my surprise, I got accepted and have now been certified for 8 years!

Aside from being a UC Master Gardener, I also volunteered for other groups in my community. I never thought about getting something from my volunteering, but, I not only have met some wonderful people, it has also led me to another thing that I love. That is teaching gardening classes to seniors at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

Somebody I had volunteered with many years ago, recommended me to become the Editor/Writer for the newsletter for the hospital's 50+ (seniors) newsletter. And, since it fell under the Health Education Department, I was able to ask if I could teach some gardening classes.

I have been doing that for two years now, holding classes only in conference rooms at the hospital. But, my years as a volunteer at the Torrance Farmers' Market (I write the newsletter) have paid off. The Market Manager also happens to be the Community Garden Manager and I asked if there were any open plots. She said there was one that was overgrown, and if I cleaned it up, we could have it. So, now we finally have a place to work in the ground.

Plot before weeding

Plot after weeding
My "boss" at the hospital is ordering these for me and I couldn't be more excited.

This is a screen shot of .pdf of my new business cards

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 157: Weeding It Out

"Some faults are so closely allied to qualities that it is difficult to weed out the vice without eradicating the virtue."~Oliver Goldsmith, Irish essayist, poet and novelist

Today turned out to be a day of weeding things out. It started this morning when I actually got into my own garden to plant some pole beans and burpless cucumbers (yes, they are indeed burpless and tasty too) and to do some weeding. It continued this afternoon when I went to weed the community garden plot for my senior garden program. And tonight, it ended as I was weeding through the paperwork that has piled up on my desk.

While I was weeding, I got to thinking (big shock I know) how weeding a garden bed is a never ending chore and yet, we keep doing it, almost without thinking about it. Or, about the fact that it never truly ends.

That's not to say it is an easy chore. If you let them grow too tall, getting rid of weeds requires great physical effort. Even if they aren't that big, it requires commitment and effort to keep them under control. And yet, we keep weeding. And, not just in the garden.

We weed out all kinds of things. Usually they are things that are easy to get rid of. Like weeding a garden bed, we don't even think about it when we do it: we weed through the fridge, getting rid of spoiled food; we weed through our closets and dressers getting rid of old clothes; and we weed through our mail, our files, and our paperwork. We get rid of things that we don't need, that are no good anymore, that we don't have space for, or, that basically serve no purpose. And, we do it to make room for newer or better things.

But, the things that really matter to us, the things that we should weed out, we don't. These are usually the people or things in our lives that make us unhappy, that create a constant source of drama or problems for us, or that hold us back.

Often, they are the parts of ourselves that we just can't seem to let go of, or, that we don't know how to get rid of, or that require too much emotional effort to get rid of.

It is much easier for us to exert ourselves physically than emotionally. Maybe that's because you can easily see the results when you complete the weeding of a garden bed. It is obvious and there's an immediate payoff to the hard work. And soon, the space you have cleared becomes home to the things that you want to grow, to the things that bring beauty and joy to your life.

But, if we weed out those things and people that serve no purpose in our lives other than to create this unhappiness, imagine how much we could grow once we are not crowded out or held back by them.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 154: Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

As I have written here several times before, I over think things. And, as should be obvious by this blog itself, I have really excelled at over thinking this turning 50 thing.

But, since I am 50, it is more than likely that I will not ever change this. Instead, I have come to a reluctant acceptance of it. Now, when I start to feel that my head is going to explode from all of this thinking (note: I did not say it was always deep thinking), I force myself to think of something else, or to do something else, or to talk to someone else.

Naturally, all of this thinking about my over thinking has led me to think of something else ;-P. That is this: at what point does change just become too hard? Or, can you teach an old dog new tricks?

This has come to me during the past year because I have been working at changing the things about myself and my life that I feel just don't work for me anymore. This is one lesson that I have finally learned, and that took me until my 50th year to get: Don't settle for things that don't work for you. Don't try to keep making yourself fit into some box that you don't fit in. I have already wasted too many years doing that. I don't have another 50 years to give up anymore. You don't think of that when you are young. At least I didn't. You always think you will have more time and more opportunities. Or, you think that somehow things will just get better.

They don't just get better. You have to make them better. All the bitching and whining, and yes, over thinking in the world, will not change things or make my life better. And here's another "duh" obvious statement that I never got at 20, 25, 30 or even 40. It is only the doing that will change things. And, the doing is one of the hardest things there is. I see this not only in myself but in so many other people in my life. They stay in careers that they hate, or in relationships that make them unhappy, or live somewhere they hate, because change is so hard, and because of what they'd have to give up or because they are afraid to be alone, to be broke, or, to be considered a "failure" or some other thing they are afraid of.

But, what we often don't see is what we will gain instead of what we will lose. And, seeing change as positive is the first change that needs to be made for most of us. 

Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement address 2005


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 148: Idealistically Cynical?

"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."~Samuel Ullman, poet

The fact that it is Memorial Day weekend and the "unofficial" start of summer has made it seem like it has been months since the big day. But, it has only been two weeks. And, I still seem to be shell-shocked that I am actually 50. No matter how much I write about it and talk about it, it still doesn't seem possible.

Maybe it's because I keep thinking that I am supposed to have so much more wisdom now; that somehow I am a slacker-50-year-old because inside I still feel 23, and lack the maturity I think I should have at this age. I also feel like a complete cliche because this milestone has been (and is) so hard for me.

I know that age is only a number. I have heard that expressed in more ways than I can count in the past two weeks. And, I have also heard "50 is the new 30" so many times that I never want to hear it again. I am a stubborn one, and usually face things kicking and screaming, so I shouldn't be at all surprised that this is how I am facing this.

But, since I have lived this long and have been through so much, I have actually learned some things. One of those things is to actually listen to others who have been there, who have wisdom, or that offer good advice. The quote above is an example of one of those pearls of wisdom that I believe to be true.

There are a lot of things I have lost in my age, but I have certainly not lost my ideals. They are one of the few things that I still have absolute and complete enthusiasm about. It's not that I have not become cynical or haven't had them tested. I am cynical and I have been tested.

It's just that for me to keep my enthusiasm about life, if I stop believing in the things that I have always fought for and that I still think are worth fighting for, then I really have become old, and I really am done.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 144: Sharing Too Much Or TMI Revisited

“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.”  ~ Oscar Wilde

A week and a half post-50, and I think the big 5-0 celebrations, lunches, and gifts are finally over. I have to say, that the best part about reaching this milestone is having people in my life who want to share it with me and who have been so generous with both their time and thoughtful gifts. I am very grateful for that and feel very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family (both near and far) that have made this birthday so special.

As I wrote about last week, I have been pondering about blogging beyond the big day, or, actually, pondering what to write about. Since my workload has not decreased and did not stop while I spent the past week celebrating, my time is still limited for this blog. I still have a book to finish, a 20 x 20 garden plot to work on and the Senior Garden Program to plan to work that garden, plus my "regular" writing work (such as it is since all my print publications have folded). But, although my time remains limited, writing this blog has been therapeutic, and gives me a nice break from it all.

And as always, I grapple with how much information is TMI. Believe it or not, there are many things I don't share here. Which probably surprises the people who know me best. I often am told I talk too much, or that I "yammer," and since I got my fancy iPhone last year, am told to stay off of it, that I check into Facebook too often and share too much on it.

But, part of becoming 50 is that I no longer feel like I have to apologize for who I am and for what I like to do. And, if people don't like it, they can choose  not to spend time with me, or, if they think I post on Facebook too much, they can hide my feed or even (gasp) unfriend me.

As Popeye says, "I am what I am." And, what I am is verbal; I like to use my mouth. I seem to recall many  people in my life saying that is a good thing and that talking is good. I find it so ironic that I do talk so much because as a kid, I never talked. I was like a living and breathing statue, and my family was always worried because I didn't talk. This comes to mind another tired (but oh so accurate) cliche: "Be careful what you ask for."

Ah, but again, I digress, and am starting to get off on a rant, or as Dennis Miller used to say (back when he was actually funny) "I don't want to get off on a rant here....That's just my opinion. I could be wrong."

One of the things I have learned in my 50 years is that the whole point of being in relationships of any kind, is to share. Otherwise, why be in them?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 138: 4 Days Post-50 And Still Pondering

Well, since the poll I put on this blog overwhelmingly said I should keep going (okay, I think 4 people voted, out of the over 1,400 that have actually read this blog). So, since I am all about satisfying others, I will keep going. NOTE: the poll is on the top right hand side next to this post, so you can voice your pleasure or displeasure so that I can make sure I am satisfying everyone. 

For those who read the big 5-0 day post, you know that I went to San Francisco to celebrate the big milestone. This was a wise choice and it was a fun trip. I always have fun in San Francisco, I never tire of it, and I never run out of new places to discover and new things to do there, and I love to see what's new at some of my "old" favorite spots too.

I have been to many places around the world, both big and small, and no matter how many other places I go to, San Francisco remains my favorite city. It offers the best of both of my favorite things: a vibrant, bustling city with great architecture, museums, music, good food, etc. but it is equally full of natural beauty, from rocky beaches and the Bay to plenty of trees and open spaces including the incredible Golden Gate Park. 
Union Square from 31st floor of St. Francis (where we stayed)
San Francisco Ferry Building, a foodie haven

As I wrote about here last month, when you think you want to do something and you have the opportunity to do it, do it because that opportunity rarely presents itself again. I thought of this on my birthday, a lot, because one of the things I have pondered throughout the last 27 years is how I can actually make the move to live there. Had I done it when I was 23 and unencumbered, I would not still be wondering "what if" at 50. But, now, there are many things that make relocating difficult.

But again, I digress. I have been 50 now for 4 days and I am still adjusting to the sound of that big number and pondering (there's that word again), what to write here and for how long. So, I thought while I sort through it all, I would share some photos of some of the things I saw in The City in celebration of my 50th birthday!

Went to great crafts, art fair next to City Lights Bookstore in North Beach

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden
Went to Giant's Game at AT&T Park on my actual birthday, it is a stunning park, can see Bay Bridge and Bay in background (and my Giants won on my b-day too!)   

Treated myself to Club Level seats, best move ever!