On Friday I’ll be fifty years old. Sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it? I know. Show off. But – there it is. And you know what? I really can’t even think of anything interesting to say about it, other than that. I mean – I’m certainly feeling proud of myself for hitting it clean and sober. Oh and guess what – I quit smoking at the start of this month so I’m starting this new decade a non smoker. I haven’t been able to say that since I turned ten. And I figured out that I’ve lived a third of these fifty years within listening distance of the Pacific Ocean. That’s kind of cool. I have teenaged children now. That’s also cool and my favorite age so far by far. Favorite age to parent, not be. Anyhow – basically all’s well. I am moving from mother to crone with a smile.
So – what am I going to do to mark this milestone? On the social end, I’m going to have dinner with friends on my birthday and I’m taking a trip to Monterey with my family the weekend after. And I always make a big ass deal about my birthday so my poor co-workers have no choice but to take notice. But on a personal note, I’m going to get up early and run down to the beach and find a nice spot and just sit and connect with the universe – rain or shine. I’m also going to try and come up with some sort of list of reasonable goals. There’ll be some big stuff like buying a home and lots of little stuff like reading more and cleaning out my shoe closet. But mainly – I want to stay close to the people that matter most to me. If I have any regrets from maiden and motherhood, (and I mean real regrets, not little ones like forgetting to get out the St. Patrick’s day decorations that one year….) they are centered on people I miss. I let a lot of sweet, dear people fade out of my life for no reason other than being too self-centered. I’m feeling so much more able to love now. I’m not willing to let that happen so frequently anymore.
I’m definitely excited to see what the next fifty years are going to bring. And that alone is a happy thing. Meaning – I’m not looking forward with fear or frustration or ennui or dread or anything negative. I feel like I have choices, if not right this instant, then in the not too distant future. At least, I feel like I can go ahead and set goals for myself and dream up fun things to do. I think I’m going to like being a crone.
This past Monday was the feast of Saint Sabas. He spent his life just pretty much wanting to be alone and never quite pulling it off. A bunch of the faithful even followed him out to his hermit cave wanting to be hermits with him. Although denying him his solitude and obviously missing the point, the presence of these supplicants credits our saint with founding the oldest monastery on the planet. And much more popular and well known – this past Tuesday was the feast of Saint Nicholas. Hailing from Smyrna, he was a friendly bishop who once tossed some gold coins down the chimney of a family in need. And the rest, as they say, is…well…”history”. I wonder what he’d think about all the kooky customs that have evolved since that act of kindness. I wonder what the present day bishop of Smyrna thinks, for that matter. I think we may have strayed a bit off track. But then again, the holidays do bring us together and I guess that’s a good thing whether or not we feel compelled to decorate like crazy and spend money we don’t really have on gifts for people who may or may not be in need.
As I’ve said before, if it weren’t for the holidays I might not ever see my family at all. Like Saint Sabas, I think I’d rather be alone. But of course I won’t be and though I’m 99.9% sure my family and I won’t be credited with starting a monastery, I’m equally sure I won’t regret so much as one minute I spend with the people I love this holiday season.
Monday was United Nations day. I really should write an informative little essay on the United Nations, its history and relevance today. But that, dear reader, wouldn’t be my style. How would I get my whiny complaints in if I just informed you about the United Nations? Impossible. So – happy United Nations day! Now, let’s move on.
I guess unity and connection would be remotely related to United Nations day. How are you at maintaining connections? I’m not exactly batting a thousand right now, but that’s given me an opportunity to focus on the people and things in my life which are really important to keep. Relationships, whether they be friendly, romantic, organized or professional, take work and consciousness. I am truly trying to be present for as many moments as possible during the day. The longer I’m sober, the more I find that if I really try and live in reality with all its emotions and chores, the better off I am. As I try to maintain some sort of balance, the useless weights become more apparent and I can lighten my load. In other words, “Focus, Mary Elizabeth!”
So – I’ve taken some time off from personal blogging because I got sick of the sound of my own voice. But – it’s not bothering me so much today, so I thought I’d reel one out on the beloved subject of gratitude. I know, I know – super boring. Lately, I’ve tried to boil it down, though. For what, exactly, am I grateful? I mean, some of the things I try and list to the universe on a daily basis really belong on a “I wish I felt more grateful for:” list. Like, seriously, who’s truly grateful for your boyfriend every day?How about your job? You get the point. Knowing the things for which we ought to be grateful is a far cry from being grateful. So – I’ve decided to list five things for which I am TRULY GRATEFUL.
my children’s’ health, intellect and good looks
the CD player in my car
For those of you wondering. I left cigarettes off the list not because I don’t love them more than anything else in the world and have found them to be the only reliable constant in my life time and time again, but because I’m actually aware that they’ll eventually kill me. So – off the list. Then, of course, there’s home facial wax without which I couldn’t live either, but it’s expensive and messy and endless. Off the list! Those things listed are the ones I can feel grateful for all the time without any catches. So, I’m curious. In the words of my friends at Café Gratitude, “What are you grateful for?”
Last weekend, my daughter and my friend Kerry and the world’s cutest dog went on a road trip. This weekend I am working and getting ready for a visit from the landlord. Last weekend was fun and full of laughs. This one, not so much. But – there’s a lot going on at work, at least, and I’m feeling sort of proud of myself because I’m not letting the landlord’s home invasion send me into a frenzy of fear and anxiety. That may not sound like a big deal, but everything sends me into frenzies of fear and anxiety, so this is real progress. Or – just a big fat load of denial. I mean, there may actually be something to fear in this one. It’s her house and she can through us out if she wants to. But I’ve decided that all the anxious fear I can muster won’t change the situation, so let’s just tidy up and rock it like grown ups. Grown ups with messy children.
I used to be a homeowner but now my ex is and I just get to nomadically move from rental to rental at the whim and misfortune of others. My life, at least the physical manifestation of it, is in the hands of yet another power greater than myself. But – as usual – that just pushes me to find a deeper, more spiritual life for which only I’m responsible. Me and the good old universe. What’s the opposite of fear and anxiety? Comfort and balance, maybe. And if I’ve learned anything at all in life, it’s that those only come from the inside. Homes and jobs and things like that certainly help, but I can be a wreck with all of that – quite frequently am. So – no hilarious road trip this weekend, but there’s still plenty to enjoy. I’m going to go enjoy house work and try to remember that anywhere I go, there I am so I better be glad to see me.
Three of the people very closest to my heart just hate it here: my daughter, my boyfriend and my dear friend Kerry. I don’t really blame them and all three of them make valid points. It is a very small town and there’s absolutely nothing to do if you’re between the ages of 12 and 72. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone you wish you didn’t know. Everything’s always closed. On those rare occasions when the sun comes out, it’s too windy to enjoy it. Anything that goes wrong, they blame on poor old Fort Bragg. And you know what? I’d like nothing better than to jump on that crabby little band wagon with them.
But that wouldn’t help my “bloom where you’re planted” philosophy at all. Mainly because this philosophy is a relatively new one and I am clinging to it most tenuously. Dissatisfaction with the hand I’ve been dealt is a hard habit to break. For one thing, you can’t feel sorry for yourself anymore. I mean, you can’t be the victim of circumstances you embrace. You can’t cry over milk you’re happy you spilt. I have to tell you, though, thinking this way has made my life so much more bearable for the forty to forty-five minutes a day I’m actually able to master it. Try it! My three little nay-sayers are beyond help, but that’s okay. Not only do I love them anyway, they make me look so spirtually superior! Life is good.
As my very dear and also very wise friend Kate said, you can’t wish your self thinner. Evidently the law af attraction works on all sorts of things like money and matrimony and success – but if you want to lose a few pounds, you actually have to exercise and put that cookie down. I mean – believe it or not – ever since I put that “cash” in my wallet, we’ve been the happy recipients of all sorts of unexpected money. So, I actually thought if I just wished hard enough, I could lose a few pounds. Evidently not.
Body image is a weird thing. It takes a really balanced person to see themselves as they are, let alone accept what they see. I mean – let’s face it – if you can’t button your jeans anymore you’ve obviously put on some weight. But is that always a bad thing? I don’t think so. I’ve been pretty obsessed with my weight lately,though, whipping up a real midlife eating disorder. But of course, the issue isn’t the extra pounds. It’s my old friend self-esteem. And here in midlife, I know if I wake up twenty pounds lighter tomorrow I won’t actually feel any happier until I get myself back to a place of confidence, gratitude and inner peace. If I felt better about myself, I wouldn’t be all that concerned about a few pounds, and now that I think about it – would probably lose them, too. So – wait a minute – maybe I can wish those pounds away…