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."