Better with Age?

balance-110850_1280Some of you weren’t out of diapers 20 years ago.  For those of you who were adults in 1995, what were you then?  Are your views different now?  Do you think you’re a better person?  Hint:  It’s okay if 20 years of living hasn’t produced an improved version of yourself.

A friend recently asked his Facebook universe whether our life views had changed over the last 20 years and in what ways.  My mind immediately went to ways that I may have grown and somehow be better than I used to be.  And the responses my friend received (numbering well into the hundreds) were along the lines that I was thinking.  They all recited the life views that had become more accepting, less stark, more understanding, less judgmental, more thoughtful, less knee-jerky.  In other words, “better.”

We are supposed to gain great insights, enlightenment or whatever as we age, right?  Huh.  Yes, most of my views on politics, religion, friendship, marriage, career and parenting have changed over time.  How could they not?  But am I somehow better here at 47 than I was at 27?

Twenty-seven was a time where the glow of youthful ignorance and exuberance haloed everything around me.  I was certain in the rightness of my views.  I was comfortable in the knowledge I believed to be true.  I was ignorant of the ways that life’s river water would tumble my hard, this-is-the-right-answer, edges away allowing the flow of life around me to be a bit less frothy.

Twenty-seven:  married a few years, working my buns off as an associate attorney at a large firm.  No kids, but my student loan debt and a mortgage made me feel like I couldn’t run fast enough on that treadmill to keep up.  My horizon was pretty limited.  I couldn’t see past the hours upon hours and days upon days of grueling work.  The blinders were beginning to come off, though.  For the first time I experienced the raw reality of gender inequality.  I felt growing demands with less support and I watched myself become someone I didn’t much like. Short with my assistant, grumbling, exhausted.

My thoughts on the world around me then were fairly simple.  I believed hard work was a sign of strength.  I thought people generally wanted the best for each other and society.  I was quick to be critical of others’ shortcomings or apparent small-mindedness (in my own estimation, and evaluated based on my own skewed perspective).  In truth, my world was small:  working, eating, sleeping and some play.  I was still enjoying the luxury of an acceptably selfish existence.

Here at 47, my world is again fairly small.  The large career I chased has been shelved.  I am focused on home and family, perhaps to a fault.  My thoughts on the external world, the politically charged issues of the week, tend to be more based on a personal perspective than a political platform someone somewhere else dreamed up in an attempt to get somebody elected.  I recognize that very few things in life are simple or straightforward.

At 47 I am more accepting.  I am more aware of other people’s situations.  I’m less aggressive about being right.  But I’m also still trying to find my way.  For example, I now recognize that I regularly beat myself up.  At 27, I regularly beat myself up but I was not conscious of it.  So I’ve got that going for me.

Am I “better” now?  In some ways, maybe.  Still, part of me misses the simplicity of 27.   And my less-creaky joints.

How about you?  Unless you have been in deep freeze in outer space (yes, I recently watched Interstellar) you are not the same person that you were 20 years ago.  Is that a good thing?

Advertisements

You Can’t Please Everybody, Or So They Say

safety-43801_1280People pleaser.  I’m pretty sure that Wikipedia has my picture next to the term.  All my life I’ve wanted people to like me.  Always.  Everyone.  Just don’t think badly of me.  I’d rather be lame than shamed.  Or something like that.

I don’t know why I’m this way.  Midwestern roots?  Overachiever?  Protestant guilt? (Yes, contrary to popular belief, Jews and Catholics do not hold the market on guilt.)  Last child syndrome?

I thought I had made some strides in this area over the last few years.  I’ve been trying to shed old notions of good and bad, right and wrong.  Opening my perspective, accepting others and myself.  Let go and let God.  You know the drill.

And then last night I came home to an open garage and a note.  Beginning to shake this flu thing, I had gone out of the house for the second time in almost two weeks to go to a friend’s for the evening.  Bobo wouldn’t go back in the house when I was trying to leave so I left him in the garage.  He’s funny that way sometimes.  Anyway, I guess the garage door didn’t close.  And so, the note:

My dog(s?) had been outside barking AS USUAL and the neighbor had put him in the house and would appreciate it if I kept them from barking ALL THE TIME when I’m gone and took care of them LIKE RAISING CHILDREN.  Smiley face (no joke).  They didn’t sign their name.

There I was:  worn out, feeling bad about the dog being out in the cold, feeling bad about the neighbors having to put him in the house and wondering why they thought the dogs bark ALL THE TIME when I’m gone since I’m hardly ever gone and they’re always inside and, whatever, they’re dogs.  They bark.  I think normal people would be mildly annoyed with the note, grateful that the house was in one piece and go to bed.

Not me.  I was a mess.  My stomach in knots.  I don’t want to be that neighbor that everyone complains about for having a junker in the front yard or weeds up to the windows or hideous purple paint (those last couple would apply to one of my neighbors).  I just want to live our lives in peace and harmony.  Can’t we all just get along?

So, today, I’ve slinked (slunk?) around, careful to avoid eye contact with The Neighbor (although I don’t know who he/she is), keeping my dogs close by, closing the blinds so that the dogs can’t see people walking in the street to bark at them and generally feeling bad.  Why do I let some angry person I don’t even know make me feel bad?  This is not the me that I want to be on life’s adventure.

I have a friend who is slightly crazy, ok maybe a lot crazy, whom I have witnessed yelling at a random stranger, and I mean dressing him down in a huge way, because he told her slightly obnoxious kids to get off of a public beach.  Wow.  I was in awe.  Slightly horrified, but still awestruck.  I just don’t have that in me.  I wish sometimes for a little bit of Latin blood somewhere in there.  I could storm out of the house in the middle of the night, waiving The Note, screaming up and down the street and demanding to know just which ball-less moron had the audacity to abuse my pet and trespass on my property?!

Well.  Maybe next time.

How I Grew into Country Music

cowboy-boots-177193_640

Most of my life, country music lived in the margins.  My dad would listen to it as he worked around the house sometimes.  Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold ’em.”  Or, as we drove to our cabin in the Up North of Michigan, the choices on the AM radio were static, talk or country in that order.  Twangy stories of heart break and dead dogs, I couldn’t relate and wondered why anyone else would.

A few years ago my life perspective shifted.  Part of my liberation of thought included buying myself a convertible.  It was illogical and selfish and fun and just what the doctor ordered.  And with all of the music available on local and XM Radio, I found myself tuning into country as the wind blew my hair into a frenzy.

My kid and I figured out that any good country song includes the elements of a truck, a girl, beer, America and sometimes God.  Generally all within the first two lines. “Truck, Yeah.”  Unapologetic.  Free.  Grounded in hillbilly, redneck, muddy pride.  Country singers are storytellers who draw us into a different world.   For three minutes, we become a girl pissed off that her boyfriend cheated on her or a father lamenting how fast life goes by or a man honoring the memory of his friend killed in the war.

I grew into this world of country music by letting go.  I let go of pretenses and prejudices.  I realized that whatever I thought I had been or was going to be, the core of it all is this short time we share together.  And those simple themes in country’s stories capture the essence of living fully and unabashedly.  Sometimes it isn’t pretty and sometimes we make mistakes.  Sometimes we go looking for something bad to happen.  Sometimes we hang out on a pontoon and sometimes we just love the ones in our lives.

And that’s how I grew into country music.  Or maybe country music grew into me.