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.
The other night, my daughter and I were discussing fake hair pieces which reminded us of the hair piece that came with her American Girl doll’s Irish ensemble. This was a “my twin” doll, who she named Siobahn. I said, “Gosh – has anyone seen Siobahn lately?” and we immediately thought of the song “Siobahn” by the Tossers. From this little exchange, my daughter came up with what might be a fabulous idea: outfits and sets for the American Girl dolls of teenagers who don’t want to get rid of them but have, of course, outgrown them. But these outfits will have a dark twist. For example: a groupie set, a drug and alcohol experimentation set, a pregnancy scare set. They could come with all sorts of fun accessories like tattoos, piercings, trashy outfits. And for the historical themes, maybe the Salem witch trials? The Manson family? I think it’s a smashing idea, and just like our little girls couldn’t really be historical heroines like their dolls were, maybe they’ll be satisfied living out these teenage fantasies on plastic replicas, too.
Speaking of hair, yesterday marked four years of sobriety for me. And you know what that means? Time for my annual haircut! Yes – once a year I actually get a haircut and use my sobriety date to mark it. I like that this special day comes right as the holidays begin in earnest. (The sobriety part – not the hair cut – although who doesn’t want pretty hair for the holidays?) There’s so much to look forward to as the year winds down and I am so ready for new opportunities and attitudes! I’m excited to end the year with celebrations and food and gifts and begin 2012 with a clean slate and healthy hair!
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.
Do you know what makes me laugh every time I hear it? This: There’s only two things I can’t stand – people intolerant of other people’s cultures and nazis. It puts the whole notion of tolerance into perspective. I belong to a group who’s code is love and tolerance of others. That is one tough code to crack. I’m all good with loving my neighbor – it’s so abstract and removed from day to day life. But tolerance? Accept people and their behavior? Not so easy, unless you include the people in my life who I just barely tolerate and I don’t think that’s what it means. The goal is to make room in your heart for all people and their choices.
The trick is to have love and tolerance for yourself. It really is. This notion of having to love yourself before you can really love anyone else is one I’ve been hearing since second grade CCD and have thought was probably monkeyshine ever since. But I’m starting to actually believe it. Historically, I don’t give myself a break for anything. I’m intolerant of people who say they love me because of their obviously poor judgement. I expect myself to be better than everyone else in the world at everything. I’m way more loving and tolerant of nazis. At least I used to be. I’m getting better. And I’ve actually found that the more I can give myself a break and appreciate who I really am, the more I love the people in my life. And – I’m even a little more tolerant of others. I may be close to cracking the code!
Last night my daughter and I watched The Color Purple. It’s got to be one of the very top feel good/bad movies of all time. We missed some of the beginning, but that’s okay – now she can read the book. Anyhow – all that feeling good/bad has really put sisterhood in my mind. Where would we gals be without our women friends? I’d be a wreck. I mean, I’m absolutely head over heels in love with my boyfriend, but I don’t know that I’d have the courage and confidence to feel so strongly about him if I didn’t have the support of my women friends. And, I know I’m a better parent due to their advice and comfort. Basically, it doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, it takes one for all of us.
Left to my own devices, I can whip myself into a frenzy of self-loathing despair before I even get to work in the morning. Thankfully, I work with some of the most amazing women I’ve ever had the privilege to know. They can snap me out of it before my first cup of coffee. In fact, we’ve often laughed so hard my stupid mascara’s all drooled down my face by nine thirty. And I’m doubly blessed to have a super solid bunch of women friends outside of work as well. Life is scary. I used to combat that with alcohol. I’m happy to say I haven’t chosen to use that particular brand of courage for over three years now. I use my village.