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Saturday, April 25, 2009

If Life Is A Highway, Then I'm Due For A Bathroom Break

I'm going to be 50 soon, and while my age has never been an Issue with me, I've been thinking a little bit about whether or not I've learned anything, really, in the half-century that I've been alive. I mean, I know I've learned things, but at the risk of becoming too introspective (my mother always chided me, "Nance, you think too much!"), I wonder if, in my later adult years, I've come to absorb any Valuable Life Lessons.
I think I have. But the thing is, I have to keep at them. They're not easy. It's not that I'm a Slow Learner, or a Special Education Student At Life. It's just that, as I've said over at my other blog, I like to think that I'm on a continuous Journey Of Self-Improvement.

One of the hardest things I've learned is to accept help. I am almost compulsive about doing things by myself, always have been. I studied by myself, paid for college by myself, and being a student by nature, read every single book about wedding planning, pregnancy, child-rearing, oh, you name the lifestage, and I researched and read about it. I made sure to be an expert so that I could implement My Plan for each one By Myself. Then, I was amazed when it didn't go exactly as The Book said it would. (Damn babies. They are the ones who should read the books!) Yet, I'd soldier on and carefully refuse anyone's assistance. Finally, after my first real bout of terrible illness several years ago, it became impossible to Do It All. It was terribly humbling. But I came to realize that the most romantic words my husband can utter are these: I'll take care of it.

The second most difficult thing I've learned is very basic: Shut Up. As you undoubtedly know, I'm a woman of strong conviction and strong opinion. But I've had to learn that it isn't necessarily important to make them known all the time. I used to think, "I have to say something! I can't let him get away with that remark or he'll think that I feel it's okay" or "How ridiculous! I have to set her straight on that immediately." Um, no, I don't. Not every social conversation is life or death; not every chat has to be momentous. I'm not the world's political or moral policeman. (Or grammar officer, for that matter! LOL.) This one is still very tough for me, almost on a daily basis. Thank goodness I have the Dept. and Stuff On Our List as outlets.

The irony of these two Lessons is this: it's also important to learn the opposite lessons. One of the things I've learned along the way (to a fault, some would say) is to rely upon myself. I have never waited in my life for someone to step up and do something for me. I still think, for the most part, that it's a pretty good way to live. I (and, of course, Rick) have tried to raise Sam and Jared that way. And as far as that second one, well, if you don't speak up and stand up for your beliefs--refusing to kowtow to others just because they wield some sort of false authority or majority--then you've lost your character and integrity. The old adage is so true: If you don't stand for something, then you'll fall for anything.

Turning 50 won't change a thing, as far as I'm concerned. I hate those fakey Milestone Birthday things--black balloons, "Over The Hill" themed cards, joke gifts like Depends and Geritol and all that crap. If I had my way, I'd buy a new pair of red high heels and go out for martinis.

18 comments:

  1. Ortizzle8:57 PM

    Sounds like me to a T. Especially learning not to proffer my unwanted opinions on all and sundry. Some of the best advice I ever got was from my first boyfriend who said, "You should learn when to shut up." At the time, I thought it an unkind remark. ;-)

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  2. If you had your way? Step up and do it for yourself!

    Your birthday's on the third, right? Mine's on the second. We should talk this weekend. But I suppose if I've learned anything from this post, I'm just gonna have to get up and call you myself ;-)

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  3. I don't know if it's the aging process, or the fact that I'm an emotional late-bloomer, but I'm with you on both the help and the shutting up thing. In fact, I had my trap open at a faculty meeting just the other day. Why can't I just sit quietly and let the morons chatter? Beats me! PS: Don't forget today's Silly Sunday Sweepstakes!

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  4. Melissa B.--Oh, faculty meetings are definitely a place where I have learned to Shut Up. I NEVER say anything during those anymore. Number one, it just prolongs the Agony. Number two, it's just not worth it anymore.

    Mikey--Yes, May 3rd. And this weekend I am flat on my back with illness. I have no idea what is wrong with me. I hate to think of it, but a dr. visit is inevitable.

    Ortizzle--That, from a first boyfriend, was unkind. Especially said that way. He might be right, but you didn't need to hear it from him that way. It's difficult enough when we find it out for ourselves, and we don't need it validated, either.

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  5. Nance, go to the doctor!

    Happy Birthday to be!

    Those are good life lessons!

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  6. Happy Birthday, and I hope there are red shoes and martinis in your near future. :) Feel better, too. May 3rd is also my husband's birthday.

    Regarding hating to ask for help, that can make for being a pain in the ass patient. My mom was always so independent, and then when she got sick, she forgot all of her manners, got bossy and rude and almost mean. I knew her well enough to know that she was that way because she was SO FRUSTRATED at having to depend on people to do every little thing for her.

    I see some of this same tendency in myself. It's not something I'm proud of.

    Oh, and regarding Shutting Up? Yeah, I've learned that one. It took awhile, though.

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  7. Happy Birthday!I'm ahead of you by a few months, and the same ideas have occurred to me. Also that no one will help or take care of me except myself so I might as well dive right into the rescue. In regard to shutting up, I frequently deliberately shut up because I am protecting my own self-worth. With certain people, if I allow a wrangle to transpire, I know their tactic is to destroy me at all costs just for the game of it, and I'm not about to give them that pleasure, so I just won't play.

    I've never learned to ask for help--only child of two only children who always said no when I asked, so what was the point. This has gotten me into trouble in both work and personal settings. Sometimes it doesn't occur to me that I need help and could ask for the white horse to ride in. This also comes from many years of necessary self-sufficiency and caregiving to OTHERS.

    Bun-bun of the day is one of the cutest yet! His future's so bright, he's gotta wear sunglasses! Here comes the sun!

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  8. I'm getting very close to mid-50's here and have found that most of the anxiety or indecisions i had about speaking up or not speaking up have dissolved. One might be because at age 50 a look can be fairly potent. But I do find myself much quieter and able to choose my battles more wisely.
    Hope you're feeling better, there's some red heels waiting on you:>)

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  9. I definitely could afford to learn both those lessons! Shut Up will be the lesson that is harder for me to learn. At least I know I need to learn it, right? Heh.

    Happy (early) Birthday! I hope you miraculously feel better by your actual birthday and can enjoy it!

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  10. After decades of perfectionism, I've learned that more often perfection yields stress, not success.

    I've learned to fail and not worry about it. To be Not the Best at some things and enjoy them anyway.

    I've learned to cut my losses and cut some people loose.

    To care less and to care more. To have compassion.

    To admit I'm not interested in many of the things people expect me to be interested in.

    To be less interested in my opinions and more interested in other viewpoints.

    To think big even when my life feels small.

    To accept that happiness will come and go and will often have little to do with my external circumstances.

    To relinquish *illusions* of control.

    To let other people be who they are, even if I don't like them.

    And that's just for starters....

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  11. V-grrrl--You've learned a LOT. Cutting people loose was a lesson that was forced upon me years ago. Tough, but liberating. I'm pondering your list seriously. The control thing...wow. That one is really getting me.

    Jenomena--welcome back to the interwebs. I had better feel better by may 3rd!

    dbso--your point about picking your battles is so SO TRUE! that one continues to be a learning experience. i think our jobs help us with that.

    sputnik--i like that bunny, too! asking for help is the toughie. for so many reasons, as you've said. another one, and see if this is one of yours, too: no one will be able to do it as well as me, so i'll just do it. sigh.

    j.@jj.--i hate being sick. i hated when my arm was unusable last summer. and i know i was a bitch about it, mostly due to frustration, so you are right on. it doesn't make it okay, you're right. i wonder how many crabby old people are just feeling betrayed by their bodies!?

    Nina--I WENT!! waited for AN HOUR and got a little irked, but i went, got meds, and feel a little better today. being sick sucks.

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  12. Your description of yourself sounds as though you're talking about me. Are you sure we're not twins separated at birth?

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  13. apathy lounge--maybe it's a certain-age woman thing. i'm glad to know it's not just me.

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  14. Nance--First thing, I'm glad you've gone to the doctor, have meds, and will be feeling better soon!

    LOL on the babies not reading the book--been there for sure.

    I'm getting slightly better about asking for help.

    Re: the other related discussions in comments, blogging and aging/brain fog are helping me combat my perfectionism. If I had to wait until a blog piece was perfect, I'd never post it. Now when I post, editorial errors jump out at me later and I just fix them. Finding errors or realizing that I could have said something much better than I did, still doesn't make me happy, but I'm focusing on the "good enough" approach and getting more used to it. And, it holds true in other areas because I don't have the desire or energy to get something completely perfect any more.

    Shutting up ... yeah, I am learning that one, too. Sometimes I'm sure I have a bit of a smirk on my face when I am somewhat amused at bizarre comments others make, but I am not saying anything. Often saying something ensures you are tasked with fixing whatever it is you are spouting off about, too. (That was certainly true at the faculty meetings I attended.) And, similar to what V said, I've found shutting up sometimes allows me to hear other viewpoints. I really don't always have to air mine. (Admittedly, I am not always good at this with my son.)

    Letting go of some people and avoiding others has been a big change for me, but I just can't hack the energy vampires. In each situation, I ask myself if any residual guilt will outweigh my need for self-preservation, and the answer is always no. Self-preservation and peace prevail. The energy vampires always move on to a new victim anyway.

    Love the bunny and the cartoon! Oh, and I agree with everyone else ... red high heels and martinis are around the corner for you. ;-)

    Shirley

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  15. Shirley--Thank you for your kind concern about my health. I am getting a little better/stronger each day.

    Regarding the perfectionism and blogposting...ha! My kids tease me about how long it takes me to do a post. It takes me...well, I don't want to say. I am, in Jared's words, batshit ridiculous. I must factcheck any references I make, I must have perfect spelling and grammar (if possible...heaven help me); I have spent countless minutes searching for the perfect picture. I'm just that way, and it makes me content.

    And the shutting up with your own kids...hmmmm...i'm not sure that "counts." LOL. but, even if mine can't tell, i have also been working on that, too.

    **when do we get to be done???**

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  16. Nance: We need your incredible Word Power over at my place today. And there's even a prize in it for ya!

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  17. Happy Birthday Nance! I hope you're feeling better, wearing some new red high heels, sipping a martini and eating a ton of really good cake. : )

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  18. Anali--Thank you, Anali! It's so nice that you remembered. I'm feeling better, too.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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