The Arrogant Lecture

When my ex and I were going through our divorce, I called him one day and left a voicemail. I was furious about something (there’s a lot to be furious about when going through a divorce) and felt very proud of my scathing, belittling, you’re-such-a-moron-who-doesn’t-understand-a-thing voicemail. My thought, when I left the voicemail, was that he was clueless and did not “get it,” and I was going to explain the situation to Mr. Clueless using a condensing tone and clever, witticisms.

Most voicemails only allow one to two minutes to leave your message before asking you if you’re satisfied with the message. The phone then gives you options, like number three is to listen to your message and re-record if you like. I had hit the time limit but was so proud of the arrogant lecture I’d delivered that I chose to listen to my masterpiece before sending it.

My ex’s voicemail allows an extra two minutes for a total of four minutes, so I had said a lot. (Surprisingly, when you aren’t blasting someone, that’s a lot of time to fill up.) As I listened to myself berate another human being for four minutes I was astonished by my arrogance, my pride, my utter lack of regard for the father of my children, my lack of respect for a human being–the list goes on. I was floored and humiliated. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t cuss him out or use vulgarity, that’s not really my thing. It was just the sheer arrogance of I know what’s right and wrong and I’m explaining all of this to YOU. I deleted it quickly. I live alone but I looked around anyway, hoping no one had heard that diatribe.

As a side note: My “right” and “wrong” definitions didn’t function around absolutes, like murder, which we all agree is wrong. It focused on such paramount things as soccer practice or homework or going out of town that weekend. Lots of important issues. It’s just a good thing I don’t run the world. Imagine my hissy fits with say, Russia.

Thankfully, I don’t remember what the argument that started the whole “let Cinthia tell you a thing or two” was about but the humiliation of that day stays with me. Now, when I am aggravated with my ex, and that still happens because we’re still family, I’ll call and leave a long voicemail, and then delete it. It gets the frustration out but doesn’t insult him. He noted one day that I am prone to call and not leave a voicemail. I smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”

That’s a step in the right direction, not leaving the voicemail, but my goal is greater. I don’t want to belittle another human being. I am reminded of how many times I did that during our marriage and how often I said, “You don’t talk to me.” Well, no, he was avoiding the inevitable arrogant lecture that may come his way if he shared anything. Having reached my 60th birthday recently, I’m old enough to realize that I wasn’t right, he wasn’t wrong, I wasn’t wrong, and he wasn’t right. We approached situations differently, that’s all.

I’m going to hammer the women here for a minute. We think we’re raising our husbands. We’re not. We’re their partners, not their mothers.

I see this in others, not just in myself. It is summarized in the whole, “Don’t ask me if you don’t want an honest answer,” crap. The only person that can give a completely honest answer to any one person is Christ because he is the only person that can see into our hearts, which is where honesty is found.

I’m so much more interested in hearing someone’s heart these days. It’s always surprising to me. EX: Dreading a difficult client all weekend long, only to get to her house and find her in tears. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say, I misread her completely and once I heard her story, wow. But how quickly did I want to give her an “honest answer.” Another humiliating moment that I hope guides me with others.

Here’s what my ex and I know about each other now. We were both wrong to not give each other the benefit of a doubt. We assumed the worst in each other and that brought out the worst in each other.

Here’s what we do now. We give each other the benefit of a doubt. Sure, we could have done that and possibly stayed married, but we didn’t. Live, learn and forgive yourself. And, enough of this possible arrogant lecture. 🙂

Burnout

A Moment of Crazy

I want to encourage you today because yesterday I hit a wall and maybe you did too.

Here’s the craziness:

Two weeks ago, my landlord told me to get a lawyer and get out. He was reacting to a very large bill from Orkin that he didn’t want to pay. A proposal I should say, which both the landlord and I now understand was possibly a scam. But his “get out” reactionary moment terrified me because I live in Asheville, North Carolina, where housing is way more than income. At least my income. I suddenly understood what facing possible homelessness feels like.

Last week, a big work “thing” happened. You know the person that we all avoid at work. That person who corners you and drives you mad until you tell them everything you know and then uses that information against you? Yeah, that person happened and caused some serious repercussions.

To finish, this year all my PTO was used for a boring illness in January and a beautiful wedding (my son’s) in September, which tallies up to no vacation or even a quick weekend away. I work 60-70 hours a week and well, remember all work and no play Jack? I hit a wall.

This was my wall:

I finished up with a client and got back into my truck to leave. I was on Kimberly Avenue, a street in Asheville I know as well as I know the street in front of my house, but I couldn’t think of where I was. My brain refused to cooperate and I kept looking at the street trying to make my brain bring up the information. I wondered later why I didn’t just check my GPS, but I don’t think it would have mattered. I felt the same way I did when my landlord told me to get out. Lost. And absolutely no clue where I was. For a full ten minutes. (A friend who travels for a living told me that he often wakes up in hotels and has to call the front desk and ask what city he’s in.)

Okay, so yeah, a meltdown occurred. I googled it. It’s called burnout and it’s real.

I texted all the wrong people. You know. The friends who tell you to pull it together. Yeah. Those types. Hey, I need those types of people in my life, because sometimes I need to pull it together. (I remember a midwife telling me to pull it together when I was in labor with my first son. So needed that.) But I had spent ten minutes trying to pull it together and I couldn’t. I started driving, hoping something familiar would trigger my brain into functioning again. The Fresh Market, a place I shop a lot, was that trigger. I am a forever customer now because of the familiarity their sign on the front of their store provided me.

I didn’t need the power-through, locker-room pep talk yesterday. I needed a listening ear. I needed to vomit out (forgive the metaphor) all the crap of the last two weeks–the crabby boss, the knee-jerk reacting landlord, the weirdo-manipulator at work, the long work weeks with no end in sight, the power-through mentality that only gets you so far. I needed a friend who would do nothing more than hear my life right then.

Fortunately, I have two of those friends and one was happy to meet for coffee. We didn’t solve a thing. I’m still burned out. The crazy person is still crazy and they’ll be at work tomorrow. My landlord may one day soon say get out and mean right this second. It’s his house, he can. But the weight of my little world was less and when I got back into my car, I knew exactly where I was.

Keeping The Family Together

I am the middle child. Translated: I grew up with the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak draped around me. I’m also an introvert and my entire family is the biggest bunch of socialite-extrovert-pranksters-life-of-the-party crew you’ll ever meet. The phrase, “I need to move,” was always in the back of my mind. Running as far away as I could get from these scene-stealing folks was a regular back-up plan. Let’s be honest. It still is. I was thinking about it this morning as there are several upcoming family events and I already feel about ten years old wondering where the exits are.

My other plan was no less dramatic. I would become famous. Because famous people are not invisible. They’d have to notice me then, by golly. Of course, your first chance for true notoriety is in high school where the popular kids rise to the top of the peer ladder and the rest join the masses, and that sealed my fate. My sisters were first tier popular. I was mass material. It was a story written before my time on earth: The introvert, middle-child whose life is spent in party-land. How does she manage it? Books and gardens, my friends. Books and gardens.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family. How often I wished I were more like them, favored, pretty, outgoing, funny, always a cute outfit.

I wished I could throw on any old thing, show up to any old function and be that person everyone was waiting to show up. The party starts when you walk through the door. But, let’s be honest again. I never even go to parties until I’m forced.

Though, hey. The best party I ever attended and was even a hostess of was a medieval party where deer burgers and ox-tail soup were on the menu, and the ladies wore pointy hats. Sounds dorky, but it was one for the books and everyone still remembers it 30+ years later. I had to be alone for a month afterward to recuperate–fun as it was.

But, here’s the deal. You can’t force yourself to be anything other than your introverted, garden growing, book nerd self. My mother, the queen bee of extroverts, suggested I could become an extrovert if I only tried.

Extroverts live under a delusional idea that introverts are just being stubborn.

When you’re born into a dumb spot (to quote Erma Bombeck) in a world where being visible is the ultimate gain, and you’re the introvert, moving is probably your best bet. Famous is a possibility, but likely out of reach. Consider the east coast if you’re a west coaster and the west coast if you’re an east coaster. Or hey, go all the way and be an ex-pat.

Here’s what doesn’t work: Divorcing yourself of your family. You know, finding your people, your tribe, as the saying goes. It’s great to find people who get you– do that where you can because life is hard and we need people who get us to join us on the journey. But, finding a crew that fits you and abandoning the crew that felt like it didn’t isn’t the answer and it ignores the issue. If you’re the one introvert in the land of happy-go-lucky extroverts or the one extrovert in a house of people who haven’t looked up from their books in a week, maybe there’s a reason. Could you have something to learn? Possible you have something to give?

Oh, do hit the pause button and ponder. Pondering is a lost art. Pondering can be revelatory.

What have I learned from my family of extroverts? Sooner or later extroverts simmer down, and introverts open up, so there’s that. But the lesson for myself was learning to love these insanely party-happy people just period. I was always waiting to love them when the party died down. When they were no longer talking to everyone but me. I’ve learned that loving means loving them during the party, not just when the party finally stops.

In other words, don’t start to love your family when they start acting like you, love them now.

One of my happy places is with my sisters, in our pajamas, sipping coffee, and catching up in my living room (or theirs) on a weekend morning with zero agenda ahead of us for the day other than lunch at some cute place with a hokey name like The Puffy Muffin. (You know you want to eat there.) In those before-noon-hours, I have them all to myself. No one interrupts, no one suggests we all hop up and go someplace–it’s the four of us, listening to each other’s lives. I can wallow in such a spot. My sisters gifted me with this recently on my 60th birthday. They get it now and I understand their need for speed, parties and on the go fun. It’s who they are. It’s who I am.

My mom finally understood it too. A few years before she died, she stopped asking if I wanted a big party for my birthday and started giving me what I did want, her. Just the two of us, having dinner together, me basking in her full attention. She was the best birthday present she could give me, well that and she had excellent taste in purses.

The thing I celebrate most isn’t that a few extroverts and an introvert figured out a personality trait. I celebrate that despite decades of differences, we’re still showing up for each other. In a world where family feuds can outlast a lifetime, and family members feel justified in making it so, I am thankful for the family of extroverted, party-crashing, dancing-silly, people I ended up with. It took this introvert way too long to join their party, but I am forever thankful that I finally did.

Being Spectacular

I’m Tired of Being Spectacular

“I’m tired of being spectacular,” my most Southern, Junior-league client said while we were preparing her garden for a spectacular party. “Oh lord, me too,” I said and we observed this shared truth in silence watching the catering trucks unload.

I should’ve said, “I’m tired of trying to be spectacular.”

When I was little, my parents said to me, as most parents say to most children, “You’re so smart. When you grow up, you can be anything you want.” I took that to mean anything spectacular. I figured the list of “anything I wanted” had a few stipulations.

You know, like what if I wanted to join the circus? Or work at McDonald’s? I understood those careers were not on the “anything I wanted to be” list. My ten-year-old brain knew anything meant anything with clout, status, and dollars. I also questioned the “so smart” of that equation, but I figured if they didn’t know, why tell them?

I appreciated my parents’ vote of confidence, but they left it there. There wasn’t a follow-up conversation about potential careers from that mysterious anything list. No team of experts surrounded me to help determine exactly where those smarts were best applied. I was on my own to figure that part out. If you’re wondering where my teachers were while my career hung in the balance, here’s a peek. The football coach/history teacher ran off with the English teacher’s wife right after the school fired the sociology teacher for bringing in a prostitute to discuss abortion with us. Clarify?

The word doctor was thrown around a lot. “Honey, you’re so smart, you could be a doctor.” When I got to college every student I met was pre-med. “Hi, I’m Cinthia, what’s your major?” “Pre-med.” So, lots of parents were telling lots of kids, honey you’re so smart you can be anything. Translated: Go be a doctor.

This go-be-spectacular idea hasn’t slowed down any. Just this week my boss filled me in on two neighbor children. One boy is so smart he’s likely headed to MIT, the girl is a shoo-in for Vandy, and on and on. Oh the smarts, oh the success, oh the money.

I’m certain I said the same spectacular thing to my kids.

But, my dad said something else, too. He said, “Your feet take you where you want to go.” That I got. And it has proven true. My feet have taken me exactly where I want to be even if the road to getting here looked like an exercise in distraction and bad choices.

It seems I like the ordinary. Or, at the very least, the diminishing middle class. Money, while necessary, didn’t intrigue me. I wanted it (who doesn’t?) but knew I wouldn’t sacrifice to get it, no matter how much I guilted mysellf. Certainly not enough for decades of medical school and weekends on call.

I asked a college date what he wanted to be, and his answer was spectacular. “I want to be wealthy,” he said. He skipped right past “you can be whatever you want to be” and went straight to where I always felt that sweet talk about being smart was trying to aim me–at the cash. But if I had no plans to be rich, how was I going to be spectacular?

“Don’t you want to do something you like?” I asked.

“Look, we all have to work,” he said. “We may as well make some money while we do. Liking my job would be a bonus. If I like it, great. If I don’t, I’m still rich.” I appreciated the straight talk.

Two days before the sociology teacher’s firing, she asked the class, “What do you want to be?” Doctors and nurses were top of the list, of course, so she then went student to student, leaning over them and whispering in their ears, what do you really want to be? I don’t know what my classmates said, but I whispered back, “A writer.”

“I think you’ll make a great writer,” she said.

Not spectacular, but great.

Great, I understood. Being great meant trying to do something of importance and value. Being spectacular is really a flash in the pan. I don’t remember a word that prostitute said, but I do remember the sociology teacher leaning down and asking me, what do you want to be?

The answer surprised me. I was still working on the doctor idea or at the very least marrying one. I was trying my best to come up with something spectacular that would impress everybody when I discovered–at 15–that I wanted to be a writer. Of course, I felt immediate pressure to be a spectacular writer, one with fortune and fame. Thankfully, the part of me that puts pressure on myself to be spectacular is pretty much ignored by the part of me that goes to Waffle House for breakfast.

To be clear, writing has never paid the bills or brought me fame, but I have met many ordinary people who do spectacular things because I am a writer. A nurse who gave her kidney to a stranger. Newlyweds who traveled to Uganda to build houses for three years. A cancer patient who opened a retreat for other cancer patients. A retired doctor who created a beautiful garden. A scientist who collects seeds of native plants. A mom with autistic children who opened a school for autistic children.

I did not turn out to be a great writer, instead, I’ve been privileged to write about great people.

Here’s what I’ve figured out about all this go-be-spectacularness business. We all have a purpose but we don’t all have the same scope. Some of us coach NFL football, some high school football. Same job, different scope. Some preach to worldwide audiences, some preach to the same fifty parishioners every Sunday. Same job, different scope. Some practice medicine at Johns Hopkins, some practice medicine in small towns. Same job, different scope.

You figure out your purpose, but you figure out your scope, too.

If you’re wondering how to do that, simple. Forget trying to be spectacular and watch where your feet are taking you.

.

The Fourth Quarter

The Fourth Quarter

I ran into a childhood friend recently, and we caught up on the last 40+ years of life. Two marriages, two divorces, five kids, four grandchildren, the death of parents, possible retirement, turning 60 (we’re both stressing over that a bit), and finally, what’s next? We didn’t say much about what’s next. It seems neither of us is sure. We discussed all of that in 45 minutes.

During our 45 minute conversation, my friend commented that at 60, we’re starting the fourth-quarter of our lives, the metaphor being football quarters. Of course, I’ve heard that before, but it struck me with more poignancy this time because, well, it’s my fourth-quarter. And, frankly, the first three quarters have me exhausted. I hear the Patriots are famous for their fourth-quarter comebacks due to a hill near their practice field the players refer to as that “f___” hill. That hill is where they run, conditioning themselves for a fourth-quarter edge. When their fourth-quarter comes, they aren’t exhausted. Running, the Patriots believe, wins the game.

I found my friend refreshing because he admitted that when retirement comes, he isn’t sure what to do. He wondered out loud how he would spend his time. He mentioned a few hobbies, his kids, and so on, but he was clear about one thing—he was tired. “I’ve worked at the same place for 30+ years, and girl, this old boy is tired,” he said.

I was glad for his honesty. I really am over the whole bucket list mentality.

After our meeting, I googled,  “Worse three football quarters ever then a win in the fourth inning.” Yes, I typed inning, but Google knew what I meant.

The Buffalo Bills comeback in the fourth quarter against the Houston Oilers on January 3, 1993, is so famous it is simply referred to as The Comeback. Lagging by 32 points, the score was 35-3 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Buffalo Bills won by gaining 38 points going into overtime. The final score was 41-38. It’s like they woke up and thought, oh yeah, we’re playing a football game. We need to play. I find that impressive. I’m sure if I had watched that game, I’d have cheered them on excitedly, but for my fourth-quarter, I’m not interested in huge wins. I want to play with the grandchildren, take long leisurely walks with the dog, and drink coffee mid-day on the porch while visiting with friends.

I started a bucket list of what I don’t want to do in my fourth-quarter. Here it is.

  • I don’t want to run a marathon.
  • I don’t want to wear ridiculous looking bicycle shorts.
  • I don’t want to join a gym. (They smell.)
  • I don’t want to climb Mt. Everest.
  • I don’t want to run for politics.
  • I don’t want to ride motorcycles.
  • I don’t want to go to a nude beach.
  • I don’t want to go volcano boarding.
  • I don’t want to get a tattoo.
  • I don’t want to skydive, scuba dive, or jump off of coral reefs.

I want to breathe deep. Sleep late. Stretch wide. Work the kinks out. Take naps. Eat carbs. Listen to silence. Let go.

I want to take my time.

And, maybe see the Northern Lights or a Broadway musical.

I don’t want to end the fourth quarter mad at anyone or anyone be mad at me. I’d like to forgive and be forgiven. I’d like to learn how to love well. I want to laugh and have dance parties with my grandchildren.

You get the idea. This old girl is tired.

I looked up people who became successful after 60. Two examples stood out, Judi Dench (as if she wasn’t always Judi Dench), and the guy who wrote the thesaurus, Peter Mark Roget. Roget compiled lists of words to help him combat his depression. One list was synonyms, today’s Roget’s Therasus, which he published when he was 73. You gotta love that guy. Who doesn’t love a thesaurus? Who doesn’t understand saying, I’m going to make lists now? Not a bucket list, but a list nonetheless.

My friend confessed he’s afraid of sixty. There’s a strained relationship with his youngest child; she blames him for the mistakes all parent’s make. His mother died this past fall. He’s cleaning out her house, sorting through his childhood while his daughter tells him what he did wrong in her’s. Medical insurance is expensive in retirement–1500 dollars a month– a mortgage payment. Then there’s the question of what his days will look like. “I don’t mind telling you,” he said, “60 is hitting me hard.”

I’m not looking for more years or more youth.

I’m looking to set records straight. Make peace. Make room. Forget grudges. Reconnect. Connect. Reconcile.

I’m looking for what I looked for in every new decade, love. Before my kid’s heads pop up, I don’t mean just romantic love. The older I get, the more I know that all love is love. I want to spend my fourth quarter loving friends, family, and community. Comebacks and late-in-life successes make for great reads, but my encounter with my friend reminded me that human connection is what we crave, what I crave. The world tells me I’m as young as I feel, to shoot for the comeback, to make that bucket list. My friend reminded me that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want my fourth-quarter to be all highlight reels, but there’s a couple of places in my history I need to revisit, mostly to say I’m sorry or to check in and see how someone is doing after years apart, to remember and make new — less of a fourth-quarter and more of a full circle.

Still, if I’m honest, I am hoping for a few spectacular moments, maybe even a Hail Mary.

The Entitlement of a White, American, Southern, Christian Girl

When sad or uncomfortable things happened to me, I was able to steady myself with retail therapy, lunch out with friends, dinner with family, a random tv show or movie. All sorts of “normal” things returned my mindset from anxious, grieving, disappointed or whatever, back to “normal” again. It was akin to the old bury-the-head-in-the-sand ploy and it worked fabulously. Without realizing it, there was an unconscious (or maybe not so unconscious) part of me that was thinking, “I’m a white, American, Southern, Christian girl. What could happen to me?”

Even this week, as my plane circled to land in Asheville, where the smoke from the forest fires was so bad the pilot was forced to take a couple of “go’s” at it, I was simultaneously pleading with God to get that plane on the ground, while reminding him that this, THIS, wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I’m a white, American, Southern, Christian girl.

Do I think God is impressed with this?

My oldest and dearest friend, Donna, died in July of this year from brain cancer. She was my age, and we were college roommates at Furman University. We met freshman year, the first day of enrollment, in our dorm room. That day began a lifelong friendship. You know the kind. The real deal together-through-all-the-bad-and-good-stuff-friendship.

Had I been Donna, my astonishment that this was actually happening to me, would have been off the charts. My astonishment that it was happening to my best friend was off the charts. God, I said, you can’t be serious. This is Donna, as in my Donna. As in, who am I supposed to talk too if Donna isn’t here? As in, we’re taking the grandgirls to the beach when they’re old enough (I have 3, she has 1 with 1 on the way–5 little girls and their grandmas). As in, she’s 57, not 87. We’re going to be 87 together.

I reminded myself that this was happening to her, not me, but God wasn’t hearing me. I’m so accustomed to my privileged and undisturbed life, I assume God will keep it going, though he may need a gentle nudge now and then. My nudging didn’t work, and I’m still trying to get my bearings in a world without Donna in it.

Circling in that plane, I reminded God I still had so much to live for, and I though I didn’t say it, I fear I implied it: Remember Lord? It’s me. The Southern, Christian girl? I don’t die in plane crashes. Things like this that don’t happen to people like me. Remember? (Just like brain cancer wasn’t supposed to happen to Donna.)

Then I read the news about the soccer team and the Columbia plane crash. Wow. Just wow.

My thinking is getting interrupted with reality. Donna did die, and I started following a 7 year old girl on Twitter (@AlabedBana), who is reporting live from Aleppo (via her mom), and last I read her house was in rubbles and she was trying to read Harry Potter to distract herself from her friends dying. She tweeted a picture of her dead friend, maybe age 4-5? I guess distractions do serve a purpose.

My Sunday School class thinks that the millennials don’t know hard work and believe everything should be handed to them. They refer to the millennials as a bunch of whiny babies. It’s a common topic. They feel certain Donald Trump will set those kids straight now that he is PEOTUS. (When he stops on whining on Twitter, perhaps?) I don’t follow their logic, but I’m not worried about it because I’ve got problems of my own.

My own entitlement has reared it’s embarrassing head, and yes, it involves a lot of whining. Disgust reigns.

Somehow, my thinking got very entitled. I believed that being me meant I didn’t go through what others do. And, in many ways, I don’t. I’m clueless as to what a 7 year old and her brothers do when their house is bombed. I’m protected from that, and I’m more grateful than I can say, but there was a time when I didn’t and couldn’t hear Bana’s voice. My lunches and friends drowned out her bombs, her friend’s dying and her Harry Potter books.

My plane did land, easily and without incident, but it could just have easily crashed. Why was I on the plane that didn’t crash when others were not? Why am I a white, American, Christian girl living a protected and privileged life who somehow fell under the delusional thought that I was entitled to it? Why didn’t I find it odd that some people went hungry, or without water, or that babies were born while wars waged over their mother’s heads? I didn’t find it odd because it wasn’t happening to me.

Here’s what happens when you raise your head and look around: The distractions cease to work. The voices are no longer murmurings in the background of life. They take front and center. The bombs seem like they are literally overhead, and you find yourself asking for courage to speak, to rail, to scream against all of it. You look at yourself and you no longer see a white, Southern, Christian girl. You see the world and everyone in it.

humble pie

Humble Pie? Yes, Please.

Want a piece of humble pie? Try this. Read your old journals. I’ve been reading my old journals. That I’ve written since I was 12. I can’t even.

Describes me from age 12 to say, 45: Narcissistic. Silly. Ridiculous. Delusional.

I know, you’re thinking, uh, yeah. We knew.

Then why the heck didn’t you tell me? But you were narcissistic (and often the victim), you say. True. I’d have thought it was like, so your problem not mine. Like NBD. Learn some boundaries, people. I’m on my journey. You’re on yours.

I wish age wasn’t the thing here. The thing that allows you to stop. Stop the obsessing about yourself. Stop the insanely, crazy idea that you must be happy or well, well, you just must. (Truly, happiness is a state of mind.) I wish age didn’t soften the edges or turn the mind toward others, but it does.

I used to love watching my mother with her friends. They were so very careful with each other’s lives. Their conversations brought ease, distraction, laughter, encouragement, help, or just passed the time. Certain subjects were off limits. The child that died at 40 from cancer. The husband with Alzheimer. The best friend with stage 4 colon cancer. What was the need to discuss, ad nauseam, when nothing changed, and there was still life to be lived?

I hear my younger self’s voice, and she and her friends discussing everything–husbands, kids, parents, jobs, houses, siblings–always purporting to know everything and even better, how to fix everybody. I am glad my silly, narcissistic, ridiculous, delusional self wasn’t completely alone.

Now, like that horror movie you just can’t turn away from, I find myself face buried in my journals, flipping page to page. Humiliation burns into my soul with each new paragraph, but I can’t stop myself. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. I wasn’t thinking or truly, would my rational mind write such dribble?

I want to scream to everyone who knew me then: I AM NOT THAT PERSON NOW.

But is that true? Something to journal about, I suppose.

My prayer, these last 4 years, has been for humility. These journals are a huge slice of humble pie, so prayer heard. I’m not alone. As FaceBook so often attests these days, a piece of humble pie would benefit us all, but I’ll take mine first and I want a large slice, please.

I’ve reached an age where I cannot fathom unkindness, no matter your political affiliations or religion or how right you may be, though I haven’t learned to love the one who is unkind, yet. Name calling and finger pointing make my stomach turn, though I am still stuck on so many stereotypes. Vulgarity makes me cringe, and words that serve no purpose other than to show the foulness in our hearts are simply words I don’t want to hear anymore, though I wonder, especially with my children, do my non-vulgar words build up or tear down?

I ask myself this question, am I still absorbed in me? Unfortunately, yes. May I have another piece of pie?

Am I able to say, I am not that person now? Could I, with confidence, say I have changed?

Maybe I could whisper those words, just barely utter them, but a declaration?

No.

My journals expose the truth of how wrapped up in my life I was, how tormented by my own thoughts I was. It was a vicious cycle. One that had the simplest answer. Put the pen down, close the journal, and GO DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE. My, how I whined. My, how I did not proactively change a thing about myself or my circumstances. My, how I was waiting on everyone else to change. They didn’t.

The lesson I’ve learned, besides my big dose of humility? I’ll quote the psychiatrist who gets credit for me not whining anymore: “Why journal? You obsess enough without it.”

Touché.

The one positive about all the volumes of handwritten agony? They’ll make great fire starters this winter.

I know some of you are thinking, journaling helps me to process. It’s a good thing. I hope it is for you. For me, I have learned that so much of life isn’t to be analyzed, but to be lived. I’ve learned by showing up and doing. I’ve learned to live a life that doesn’t match my dreams, and to make this life my dream. I’m learning to love people who disappoint me. I learning to love myself when I disappoint me. I’m learning that while words are incredible, couple them with actions and you have healing.

My Uncle died yesterday and my cousin remembered him this way, “He hugged you like he never wanted to let go.”

That’s the best way to be remembered, isn’t it? Let’s live that life, then maybe journal that.

 

 

How Long Do You Get to Live?

Just yesterday.

A woman said.

“I can live until 77.” Cracking a joke everyone over 50 identifies with.

I thought, when is the value of a life measured in dollars and cents?

Of course, she was referring to her retirement account and it’s longevity. Which seems to be the determinate of a lifespan (at least among my crowd) these days.

Saving for retirement is a lot like saving for a child’s college. Completely necessary, often forgotten, and, I would add, not always realistic when college tuition is skyrocketing, and stocks are dive bombing. I was told 2 things regarding old age.

  1. Marry well so someone can take care of you in your old age.
  2. If you don’t marry well, have a lot of children so they can take care of you in your old age.

I did neither. I’ll add that neither did I work for the state, so they could take care of me in my old age. The conclusion: Someone is necessary to take care of me in my old age. I rebel at the thought, while recognizing the changes age is definitely bringing with it.

Vulnerable.

That describes my emotions as I move into this last 1/3 of my life.

Planning.

That’s the word I hear from financial planners to insurance salesman to my AARP magazines. Plan for retirement, plan for long-term care (they turned me down), plan to downsize so my expenses are less. You cannot plan enough. Who can plan all of that and even hope to get it right?

I don’t really want to know when I’m going to die, but truly if one did know, and the means thereof, the planning would be a tad easier.

Enjoyment.

I’m told to enjoy these final years. I find that word a bit pandering.

Someone recently told me that life was not a spiraled progression but a series of circles. We stay in one circle until it’s time to go to the next one. And then we must leap to the next one. The time immediately before leaping is the hardest. We don’t often know what circle is next or what to expect when we get there.

I don’t like the stereotypical circles for “elderly,” retirement communities, cruise ships, nursing homes. I can’t see myself in any of those circles. They remind me of the show my College Son watches, The Dome. an encapsulated place predetermined by God knows who that is supposed to meet my needs, but doesn’t quite, and even separates you from family in some cases. But, I don’t think I’m so smart I can outwit old age, and avoid those places. Sometimes life is about finding meaning and purpose right where you are, encapsulated in a dome or not.

If I had a bucket list, it would have only one thing on it: Purpose.

I want my last years to be an exercise in addition not subtraction. What can I add too? Where can I give? Where is the circle that accepts what I still have to offer? I want my days, when I am laid to rest and the reminiscing starts,  to be added together, each day added to the previous one to equal the sum of a life with purpose. Giving, loving, blessing, contributing, belonging. If subtraction enters the equation, I only want it to do so based on what I gave, not on what I depleted.

And, if there is any money left in any accounts (and, hey, don’t forget all those off-shore accounts :), then oh, do spread it around. Don’t stress over it’s longevity. Cast it onto the waters,  and see how it returns.

Skinny Girls and Over-50 Girls

You know what I really don’t like? Women who post pictures of their food and it’s pancakes piled high with syrup dripping everywhere, bacon, eggs, and a slab of ham for good measure, and that woman is a size 2. And then, later that same day, she posts pics of her peanut butter pie with chocolate sauce on her face, captioned, “Peanut Butter Pie!!” As if we can’t see that. It’s all over her social media. You can’t escape it.

I’m sorry. I’m 56. The word metabolism left my vocabulary just like it left my body somewhere in my mid-40’s. Listen it’s a 19 year old’s world (and girls, enjoy it now), because once you’re over 50, unless you’re fasting the other 6 days a week, there is no eating like that. If there is, something ain’t right.

On our first snowy morning, I delighted Micah with French toast, eggs and bacon. I watched him devour whole pieces of bread in one bite, while I sat with my Greek yogurt and walnuts, blueberries and pears. It was a sad, bitter breakfast for one of us. The other one (22 and into the whole extreme workout thing) wolfed down 1/2 loaf of bread, 1/2 lb. of bacon, and 6 eggs. You’re wondering why didn’t he just go for it and eat all of it? He wanted too, but I held him off. We can’t get to the store until Mr. Muscle shovels our driveway, so I’m conserving resources. Plus, I don’t have a cool snow shovel like my neighbors, and well, I am going to look a little stupid out there with my trowel shoveling 2 1/2′ of snow. I’m waiting until they go to bed, you know, when the snow turns back to ice.

Unlike my neighbors, whom I have new found respect for, I did not park at the very edge of my driveway, leaving me about a 1/2″ of 2 1/2′ of snow to shovel. I parked all the way down the drive, by the garage (it’s full of my gardening gear, so I can’t actually park in it), leaving me at least 20′ of the pure white driven stuff to shovel. It’s doesn’t looking promising as Mr. Muscle is presently doing pull-ups on the pull-up bar that’s wedged into the door frame between the kitchen and living room. He can’t be bothered. If he needs to go somewhere, he’ll just put on his ski gear and jog there. No biggie.

At 56, soon to be 57, I want to say that my early years of bike riding 36 miles round trip on a Saturday up to Mt. Mitchell, running marathons over tree roots through the woods, hiking up mountains, or heading to the gym when everyone else was heading home, has allowed me to rest on my laurels, but it has not. I did think, silly me, that all that crazy exercise would insulate me when I got older (as in, my current age) from the dreaded weight gain of a mid-to-quickly-becoming-elderly-lifer.

But, food is no longer my friend.  

I’ll be honest. I didn’t work out for my future health. I worked out so I could eat that plate of pancakes, bacon and eggs, and not gain any weight. It was with sheer pleasure that I gobbled down red meat, french fries and yes, a salad, basically, whatever I wanted, then finished it off with a bag of Cheetos, and remained a size 2. I was that woman who would have if she could have, posted pictures of her scrawny self alongside pictures of her heart-attack inducing food. But that was 20 years before the internet. I’m thankful because that time-lapse ensured I still have girlfriends.

Now, my food choices are based on my grandgirls, ages 4, soon-to-be-2 and 9 months. I think, as I am picking up the bag of M&M’s, do you really want to die of a heart attack and miss one of their weddings? When did my food choices become my life expectancy choices?

My daughter-in-law and I were chatting about the girls getting bigger and how fast they’re growing and when they leave for college (since they’re not even out of pre-school yet), and I realized I would be 68 when that happened. My response? “Oh good. I could still be alive then.”

Woah. When you start determining your RSVP choices based on how long you think you have, what is going on? 

I know. This post just went dark. From pancakes to mortality in 700 words. Don’t blame me. If I were in charge, pancakes would be health food.

All of this is to say, come on women over 50 who manage to stay a size 2. Are you really gonna post another picture of pancakes and peanut butter pie?

Star Wars VII: My Fan Theory

This past Christmas week my family gathered at my house, and Star War’s fan theory was the topic for most of the week, primarily the potential love interest. I never heard so much blah, blah, blah over who would end up with whom. I finally piped up and said what I thought. I sort of stunned them with my brilliance, but won them over with my theory.

So, my fan theory on the love interest of the new characters introduced to us in Star Wars VII.

It’s simple. Ray and Kylo Wren.

Fan Theory Point Number 1:

I’ll start with the pause. That moment when Kylo Wren took off his mask at Ray’s request. That moment lasted enough time for me to think: Oh, they’ll end up together. Not a big surprise. How many times has a good girl tried to save a bad boy and a bad boy tried to turn a good girl bad? Oldest plot line in the world.

Her expression summed it up. She expected a face twisted with evil, but instead she saw a young man with soft features and nice eyes. She looked surprised but also attracted. He takes his mask off for her and the audience is also caught off guard. This sort of blew the whole climatic bridge scene with his dad, Harrison Ford. As a movie go-er I would have preferred the big reveal during the bridge scene, but Kylo removing it for her just makes the whole moment thing a definite.

Fan Theory Point Number 2:

For a spoiled rotten villain who pitches temper tantrums and doesn’t mind mass murder and torture, his treatment of Ray is almost touching. He carries her like a damsel in distress. He does not allow her to be tortured (unlike Poe), and he is her interrogator. During the interrogation, he tries to connect with her, offering comforting words regarding the force. And finally, in their battle scene, for a guy who is trained in the force, whose family is practically the force, whose Uncle and Grandfather are famous in the force, he pretty much lets her win. Come on, there’s no way this guy couldn’t have destroyed her no matter how much the force was with her. He even offers to train her in the force.

Ray already has the makings of a girl who will go a long way towards helping a guy she’ll see as a victim of the dark side and not a convert. And Kylo Wren? He is already smitten. Done deal for him.

So, there is it. My fan theory. As my dad used to say, bad boys and good girls will always be drawn to each other.

(Some credit goes to my son, Joffrey Bagwell, who wrote a three page draft of the points I outlined above. Clearly, he is obsessed.)