Do I think too much? I often wonder if I make life harder than it should be. Do I engage my brain instead of listening to my heart and spirit? Do I simply exist instead of living life fully? Am I letting stereotypical expectations of what I should be and how I should act stop me from being true to myself?
There are a number of pithy little sayings floating about in the ether of the internet or self help books that I could apply to my feelings to create a feel good factor, but how many of them really make any difference in the long run?
I guess we all need to stop and do an internal check to make sure we are staying on the right course. Allowing ourselves to buy into the popular ala carte culture of self analysis is the easy way out of negative feelings. However, if we don’t delve a bit deeper than surface feelings, we are wasting time. None of the quick fixes out there will last beyond the next critical meltdown in our lives.
Oh, I don’t mean we need to run out and spend thousands of dollars sitting in some analysts office talking about how rotten our childhood was and how our relationship with our mother was horrific. If that makes you feel better, go for it, but I am talking about is taking the time to get to know what we really want in life and why we aren’t doing something about it. I am talking about taking the time to really learn what we feel about our lives, and to know our spiritual beliefs and needs are fulfilled.
As I age, I have less patience for people who constantly look for reasons to be unhappy and unfulfilled. I want to throw my hands up and shout, “For heaven’s sake, get off your duff and out of your pity puddle and DO something about your problems.” Inaction is no excuse for failure to thrive. We can always play the unending blame game rather than change what needs to be changed in our lives so we can flourish. It takes courage and determination to actually take steps to transform our lives. If you don’t like what you live, then alter, amend, modify, convert, exchange, or replace the things about your life you don’t like with things that you want or dream of doing. As long as you are inactive or a non-participant in your personal growth and dreams, you will never achieve happiness. Learning to be proactive in all areas of your life will give you the ability to attain all that you desire.
I recently had a conversation with my husband about how fast life has gone by. It seems that just yesterday I was a mother of two young boys, and now I am the mother of grown men and a grandmother. The years just whizzed by without my noticing; it was shocking for me in a number of ways. He pointed out that if I broke down the years, I would be amazed at all I had done, almost without noticing. He was right, and I really had no reason to be feeling sorry for myself. I had accomplished a great deal in my life, and in doing so, became the person I am today. Bumps, warts, and all, life experience has helped to make me who I am, along with all the spiritual moments that strengthened me.
We can’t go back and redo the past. It is over, to paraphrase a song by Brooks and Dunn, “[Life] is like the Mississippi, when she’s gone she’s gone.” It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “if only” we had done things differently or made a different decision our lives would be better, and we would feel happier. Nonsense, what is, is and cannot be changed just because we wish it so. We live with what we have earned through our life experiences. I can’t make any difference in my life if I spend all my time thinking ‘if only’ about the past. What I can do is move on from this instant, right now. I can mend relationships, ask for forgiveness, and try to make restitution for the hurts I have caused, but I cannot take back what I have done and relive the past. Despite what all the science fiction stories tell us, time travel is still just a fantasy.
We could waste time beating ourselves up over our mistakes, after all, misery loves to propagate and the best way to do that is to use our guilt or frustration as fertilizer. All we will end up with is a patch of weedy discontent. If, however, we have the courage to pull all those weeds of discontent and replace them with the ability to bloom in a garden of possibilities, we can enjoy our lives.
At one point, I was a young mother, and you know, those days were so full of things to do, teaching moments, and work, I didn’t know how fast the years were going. I didn’t have time to sit around and feel sorry for myself back then. I had two little boys who were busy and growing, and I needed to be there to support that growth emotionally, educationally, and physically. I was the home room mother, Cub Scout Leader, and Sunday School Teacher. I squelched through mud and muck finding ‘treasures’ for their nature project, stood knee deep in a pond teaching them how to fish, stayed up late helping them learn to saw, nail, and glue together Cub Scout Derby cars, and had more than one battle over math homework. It was what moms did without question or thought; it was simply part of the job.
As they grew, I taught them how drive a car, work hard on a job, hygiene, and dating manners. I struggled with them through their final exams and yelled about homework more than once, and I was still there for them when they came home after curfew and ended up grounded. I learned to let go and let them make their own mistakes, and to make them be responsible for cleaning up the mess they had made with those mistakes. And, I had more time to think, and to do things for myself. I was so lost I finally went back to school to have something to do when my nest was empty. And, I started the downward spiral into feeling sorry for myself because I was no longer needed so much.
I wasted a lot of time feeling sorry for myself, until I had an epiphany one day. I realized that no one was going to feel sorry for me but me. Sympathy was not forthcoming from anyone, and not one single person was willing to join me in my pity puddle. I sat in it so long I was getting pruney and soggy. No amount of whining or moaning made any difference, except encourage people to move further away from me as fast as they could without making a scene. So, without a real plan, I just stood up and walked away from that pity puddle and began to find a way to overcome self pity and my patch of weedy discontent.
The how isn’t all that important, because it will be different for each of us. What is important is that we take the step to over come what ever it is that is keeping us from being joyful and content in our lives. Not every day will we be able to overcome the discontent in life; we have too many issues in our lives for that to happen, but with practice and dedicated attempts, each of us can have joy and contentment more often than not. For me, the most important step I made was to consciously decide that I was going to be a feisty old lady someday, and to do that I needed to practice being spirited and determined. I had to stop allowing my inner fear of making a fool of myself stop me from trying new things and learning new ways of doing old things. I had to learn to speak up and state my mind. And, I had to learn to be willing to be wrong now and then.
The second most important thing I had to do was find something to be passionate about. My passion was teaching and through that writing. For someone else that passion could become politics, women’s issues, health food, diet and exercise, learning to sing, or learning to paint. The choices are endless. What ever it is that you choose, make sure it is something to which you want to dedicate your time and energy. And, if you find it wasn’t your cup of tea after all, then admit it and move on to something else. I started out thinking I would love to teach high school, something I quickly learned was not for me, so I switched mid-stream and decided to teach at a university level. That passion I had for teaching finally manifested itself in tutoring women who were learning to speak, read, and write English as a second language while we lived abroad. My point is, without something in our lives that we can be passionate about, we have no direction for our energy. We cannot be joyfully engaged in life if we don’t have something to be joyful about.
So that leads me back to my original question, do I think too much? Am I searching for a quick fix, or am I really engaged in life to the fullest? Am I still waiting to be rescued, or am I really out there making choices and mistakes as I give every adventure a chance to enhance my life? Life has changed for me in the past few years as my health has become an issue. I don’t teach any longer, and now I need a new passion. I guess its back to practicing to be a feisty old lady, after all, someone needs to help set a good example for the next generation of up and coming feisty old ladies. Why not me? I guess I had better go and explore my garden of possibilities.