Things I Have Learned

It’s Tuesday. I find myself with what others might call “writer’s block.” And if I worked for a publisher, they might send me an “assistant” to light a fire under my ass or to inspire me with their thoughts of creativity (like in the movie, Stranger Than Fiction.) But I don’t write for a publisher. There’s no one out there waiting for my next release or getting anxious, because I may not meet my deadline. Nope. Just me. But that is enough, for don’t they say that we are our own worst enemies? Yes, I know that if I waste this day, I will be upset when I have to get up and go to my day job tomorrow.
So as I sit down to write, I find that I am bored. Bored with what is coming from my fingertips. The project that I had set my mind on just doesn’t seem to hold the power that it originally did, and I continue to be drawn back to one thing. The number 45. You see, I’ll be 45 next month. And I am so amazed that I am that old. Not that it is old, per se, but that I, personally, am that age. That many years have gone by in my life!! So much searching, so many experiences, so much pain, so much joy.
As you can see, the number 45 seems to have become like some turning point in my life. 40 means you’re over the hill, and 50 – a half century old. But 45, I guess that’s the valley between the hill of 40 and the height of 50. A time to sit and ponder how you got here, what you have learned and which direction to turn now. And truthfully, it doesn’t matter if this is supposed to be the time to do this, it is happening anyway. Through chance passings-by of old friends and acquaintances, flashbacks, and even just the faces of my children, I see the time gone by. Maybe other people see it and choose not to discuss it. Maybe they don’t see it at all. I don’t know. But it has inspired me to make a list of what I feel are the most important things I have learned in my 45 years.

Things I’ve learned by the age of 45:

1. My misery is not the fault of anyone else. I cannot blame anyone or shame him or her for my misery. Not parents, siblings, children or spouse. I am no one’s victim, unless I choose to see myself that way. Choosing to see yourself as a victim is like saying that everyone else has all the power and you are powerless. Not blaming puts the responsibility in one’s own lap. It is actually very empowering.
2. It is up to me to make myself happy, and happiness is a choice. I can choose to be happy, or I can choose to be sad. Most times when I am feeling sad, I am not seeing my possibility. So I have to stop the downhill roll and look up and remember all the possibilities that lie within me and before me – for me.
3. Knights on white horses, someone who will be your “other half” or complete you are all fantasies. These are only symbols and ways that we, as women, have been seduced into thinking that we cannot be responsible for ourselves or our happiness, or live fulfilling lives without someone else. But after 45 years of waiting, I will tell you, it isn’t happening. And you know, I am glad to finally realize this. Now I can take my world into my hands and make it the way I want it and STOP waiting for someone else to say it’s okay or to pick me up when I fall or to “complete me”. The disappointment at these events never commencing has just been one slap in the face after another. Instead of lying on the ground with my hand up, I’ve learned to just use that hand to push myself back up and get going again.
4. There will always be someone that is prettier, thinner, smarter, a better cook, wittier, a better writer…. I could go on. So I better just be happy with who I am. Otherwise, I’ll spend the rest of my life in that high school mentality that there’s some sort of competition always going on – and it isn’t against anyone else. It’s against me. It’s time to embrace me – yes, me, the woman with the too small breasts, the too large waist and the haircut that just doesn’t seem to be working. Sometimes I think I’d been better off to have been an ugly girl. Then I would have been forced to reckon with my imperfections sooner. Maybe that doesn’t really make sense, but I was always just mediocre, so with a little make up and hair color, I could almost compete with the real beauties. Whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore, because I’ve come to realize that this is who I am, and the best change I could make within myself would be to love who I am. Really, what is prettier or more attractive than a confident, friendly, and life-loving woman? It is not hard to find women who have that “I’ve given up on life” look on their face. Today I saw a woman that I used to work with. Shortly after I left that job, she found out her husband was having an affair. They divorced, and here it is, five years later, and she looks like it just happened. Something about her just looks lifeless and beaten, like he took her life force and made her feel like nothing with his lying, cheating and rubbing her face in the dirt the way that he did. Which leads me to the next thing I have learned.
5. No one, not man nor woman, can take your life force. That’s a tough one. And hard learned. When you sink your heart and soul into a relationship, (believing that other person completes you) and then find yourself being shoved off that horse and replaced by some blonde ditz, it is hard to regroup. It is hard to redefine yourself after so many years of letting them define you. The main thing that one has to remember; if your loved one turns to someone else, leaves you lying on the ground, it is their loss, because they did not see the value of you. And if they don’t value you for who you are, then why would you want them around anyway? That’s a horse of a different color. So hold onto that valuable life force and grab the reins of your life.
6. I’ll give my dad this one – he used to say, “If someone gets mad, they’re going to have to just get glad.” Well, that’s (kind of) something I have learned. I used to worry about what I said or did all the time, because I would rethink it and worry that I hurt someone, or I would assume they were mad at me. But the truth is, I am not the savior of the world, and I truly try to live life from a conscious place and never intentionally hurt anyone. So if someone chooses to take what I have said or what I have done and make it something it was not intended to be, then they will have to just “get glad.” I no longer feel the need to cover all bases, even ones that don’t need covered. It is rather freeing.
7. I’d have to say that this last one kind of goes with number 6, but it is really huge, so I am giving it its own number. This last lesson learned is a big one, especially for women. We have been led to believe that we are responsible for everyone else’s happiness. Taking on the role of mother, we take care of everyone, and when it’s time to stop taking care of them, we balk at giving up the role. Duh! It’s like somewhere within, we have convinced ourselves that our only worth is in doing and giving. This is without a doubt, the toughest lesson I have had to learn. I loved being a mom. I loved the hugs of a child, the compliments for my cooking, the feeling of nurturing the ones that I loved. Besides all that, being responsible for everyone else didn’t leave me much time for being responsible for me. And in all honesty, it was a responsibility that I didn’t want to face. But with the empty nest growing more empty with every day, I’ve been forced into realizing this most wondrous freedom that I was avoiding! Silly me.

Well, as you can see, it has been a busy 45 years. And I’ve done a lot of learning. Truthfully, I forget these lessons sometimes, too. But each time I come back to them, they become more strongly a part of who I am.
I wonder – could the next 45 years hold as much learning? I’d like to think that I’ve spent the first part of my life acquiring tools and maybe the next part will be about using these tools. I suppose they’ll need sharpening at times; I might lose one, or one might break and need replaced. That’s part of it, I am sure. But my tool belt is loaded and my muscles are toned. So bring on the next 45 years.


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