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.