I decided for Lent this year to try and remember, every day, things I am grateful for in my life. To try and reinforce gratitude, because although I've had a lot of ups and downs in recent years, I still have a pretty nice life.
I am most grateful for these two people, who make my life lovely:
I think about all those years I lived alone, and I wish I had been more proactive about sharing my life with others. I was so intent on finding a husband and doing things the "normal" way that I stupidly prevented myself from having a much richer existence.
Instead of spending so much time and effort on my outside, I wish I had spent more time and effort on my interior, my thinking.
I was required to read a book years ago called Who Moved My Cheese? It was one of the key components of the corporate mindset at a job I had years ago. The book, like most self-help books, can be reduced to basically one sentence: be flexible in your thinking.
If there is one thing I have had to learn and re-learn throughout my life, it's that simple lesson.
Mother and I were laughing this morning at breakfast, talking about my dad, and the fact that when he traveled he never changed his watch to the time zone he was in. Mother and I ALWAYS changed our watch to the time zone where we were. Otherwise, you are living completely out of sync with your environment. When I traveled to Russia with the choir in 2003 there were folks who were constantly saying "It's midnight back home" and they never adjusted to Russian time.
When your life circumstances change, you have to adapt, or you will suffer more.
Bruce Lee used to say that we should "be like water." Same idea. Adapt to where you are.Water can change form and be a roaring torrent or a single raindrop, and everything in between.
One of the advantages to getting older is the ability to look back at your life and see what worked well and what didn't. Young folks get so caught up in their own angst, they rarely are able to take the long view. They think about their hair, their next date, their test next week, wanting more money, wanting a new car, or a million other things. Years later they look back in disbelief at how self-absorbed they were.
I see things posted on Facebook all the time by people who take their own lives and their own problems far too seriously. They can't see beyond their nose.
I have a friend who is terrified about getting laid off from his job. So he is working 60-80 hours a week, to try and make himself so valuable to his company that they will never consider laying him off. I understand that, and yet I think it's a huge mistake. I think it's fine to work extra hours when necessary, but once you set up that expectation, that you will spend most of your waking life at that office, then when you want to step back it will be seen as slacking off.
He is younger than me. One day he is going to look back and realize he should've spent more time with his family. He is going to realize he missed important milestones in his kids' lives, because his insecurity drove him to slave away at a job like that for far too many hours.
I can't tell him that, though. He thinks he has it all figured out.
It seems to me that as they get older, men are more prone to burrow into their lairs, to hold onto their early views and ideas with a death grip, to refuse to change because they think it's a sign of weakness. They rarely will alter their thinking unless there is some huge life event that rips them out of their complacency, like a divorce, or death, or job layoff. Women seem to be much more able to adapt and learn and change.
I see things posted all the time on Facebook by women over 40 who are coming into their true selves, and realizing there is a lot of wisdom out there if they will just put down the makeup and curling iron, get their heads out of women's magazines, and really look into their own souls. Once you take vanity out of the equation, and go back to simply grooming to be presentable, not to try to "catch a man" or other idiocy, then you have time to find your real, authentic self.
I'm not saying don't spend time on your appearance, I'm just saying don't spend too much time on it. Simplify.
Look around at all the ideas floating around in the world. Talk to folks. Make new friends. Try new things.
I see the truth of this every month in my book group. The group is open to men, but they never come more than once. They find a group of very intelligent, educated, outspoken women who don't flatter or kowtow to them in any way. We say what we like, and laugh, and really engage in some very enlightening topics of discussion.
Of course, these are generalities. There are always exceptions to my observations. There are some very enlightened men out there. I just don't get to hang out with them too often.
Sometimes I look back and realize I have been alive for many than a half century and it's a bit scary to contemplate. Then I take a deep breath and realize, I have so much less stress in my life. I am pretty happy with who I am and where I am. Life is not ideal, but life is never ideal. There will always be issues.
Right now life is OK, even though it's not ideal
I am looking at the sunshine and listening to the birds sing, feeling the cool March morning air through the window, and I am grateful to have matured this far, and to be able to adapt myself to this age and this place in my life without fear, with faith. I see things more clearly.
I have suffered some very painful things. I have done stupid things on occasion. I have missed out on some things. I have regrets, but I've never buried my head in the sand.
I am still here. I am still trying on new ideas and looking for new friends, and trying to really live. Without fear or shame. I can't control what happens to me but I can control how I react to it.
My message to everyone, no matter what your age, is this: Go out and do the same. Embrace it all, without fear. The most important thing is to not wallow in the negative. Get up every morning grateful you can get up, grateful to have people in your life you love, who love you back - if you don't have them, find them. Keep loving as much as you can, including yourself.
“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” - George Bernard Shaw