Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘wisdom’

Lessons Learned: Setting Limits

Did you miss me? Well, shame on you if you didn’t notice that it’s been four long months since I sat at a computer and thought about my blog. Hey – I’ve been busy, okay? 

I’ve already told you about my relocation project, otherwise known as the longest-lasting move in history, and my complete disgust with packing and unpacking boxes. Unfortunately, I wrote that a bit too soon, because the moving process (from NY to NC) had been dragging on and on. It may sound whiney of me, but I frankly just couldn’t deal with blogging on top of everything else. Topics floated by, and I thought about writing about lots of things: living in a different state than your husband, living in temporary quarters that are more like your first apartment (borrowed furniture and all) than that contemporary, professionally-decorated home you just sold at a loss, friends helping out in a pinch, exhaustion, changing careers, the importance of a creative inspiring environment to write in, exhaustion, planning the future when you don’t know what’s coming, saying good-bye to old friends, saying hello to new ones, exhaustion, becoming southern, road trips, exhaustion, exhaustion, exhaustion, and exhaustion. 

At 54, I’m not old (just sliding into it…). But I’ve decided I’m definitely too old for the chaos I’ve been dealing with for more than two years. 

Should we move? Let’s move! Wow – a buyer’s market! We found a great southern house at a great price – let’s buy it! What do you mean the vacation condo won’t sell? What do you mean our northern house won’t sell? The market collapsed? We own three houses? The condo sold – move our stuff out of that. The house FINALLY sold. Yay!

But…I can’t afford to leave my job right now to start all over again. So let’s move all of our furniture there, and rent a partially-furnished northern house at a great price from a pal. A house on a busy, noisy street. A house that’s attached to a professional office, and we share the kitchen with the office staff during the day. It’s fine. Tiny desk crammed into a corner of the living room that doesn’t inspire. Retired Hubby moves to the south on his own and golfs while I stay here and work all winter. No problem. Take the dog. Leave me here. It’s fine. Really.

Okay, time to make a job decision. I can’t live 750 miles away from my husband any longer. Negotiate a deal with the boss – they’ll let me try to work remotely. Say good-bye to life-long friends and family. Drive my remaining belongings south. Hi, Hubby, remember me? Drive back north to work a few weeks on an enormous work project, stay with a gracious friend, and drive a borrowed company vehicle that has 163,000 miles and a duct-taped hood.

How in the world did I become that loser that drives around in a beat-up old van begging friends for a place to stay for a few weeks? I’m a 54-year-old professional woman in a high-level position with a prestigious company, for heaven’s sake. And here I am, camping out on a borrowed bed, with a duffel bag of assorted clothes and a dresser covered with wine bottles.

Yeah, I’m exhausted.

But at least I was mature enough (a/k/a old enough) to know that I would surely give myself a nervous break-down if I didn’t set some limits. Dial back on volunteer work. Dial back on hobbies. Dial back on the blog.  I had to let some things go. Like this blog. Deal with it.

One benefit of being older and wiser is that you recognize when you’re over-committed, and you do something about it… like say “no”.  There’s only so much energy to go around, and I had to recognize that I was adding too much unnecessary stress to my life by trying to be everything to everybody. It’s one of those lessons that tends to come with age and experience. In other words, we (especially women) usually have to learn this lesson the hard way, by over-extending and finding ourselves tired, bitchy, sick and ineffective at everything we’re trying to juggle.

But the move is winding down, and I’ve missed the blog (even if you haven’t missed me, you ungrateful -_ _ _ _s!).  So I’m going to gradually step it up and see how it goes.  My generous friend has a lovely extra space for me to use that is soothing and inspring, and I can definitely feel my creativity crawling back to life in these surroundings as I tap-tap-tap on my new laptop.  So I’ll give it a shot, and you can let me know how I’m doing. 

Just be kind.  Because I’m still really very tired….

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Tempting Flying Fate

I just returned from a week in North Carolina.  It was ridiculously lovely weather, and we had a great time.  Since Hubby had been there for more than a month with his truck, I planned on flying down and then driving back with him.  Seven hundred sixty-three miles from door to door.  We drove it in eleven hours and fifty-five minutes yesterday.  Last weekend, it took me twenty-two hours to fly there.  Not a misprint, folks.  Half a day to drive.  Nearly a full day to fly.  What’s wrong with this picture? 

“Traveling adventures” are drawn to me like moths to the light.  Think of something that can go wrong, and it surely will when I’m flying.  Missed connections.  Freak storms.  Presidential visits that close down airports.  More freak storms.  Getting to Boston from Kansas City via Minneapolis.  Did I mention freak storms?

But it wasn’t an act of God that waylaid me last week.  It was a brutal combination of mechanical problems and holiday travel.  And, most importantly, a jinx.  I jinxed myself.  I knew it as soon as the words were out of my mouth – I invited disaster, and disaster accepted the invitation. 

You know how that works – like when someone says “wow, we’ve painted the whole room without getting a drop of paint on the carpet!”  Jinx!  Within five minutes, you are guaranteed to spill half a can of paint, or drop a loaded paint brush, on the carpet.  “I can’t believe we got the baby to sleep so easily!”  Jinx!  Two minutes later, the little one will be screaming non-stop.  “The last few times we’ve left the dog alone, she’s been great – I think she’s over that anxiety problem she had.”  Jinx!  Half the sofa and most of the door frame will be destroyed when you get home.  And, of course, the ultimate jinx question… “What could possibly go wrong?”  Just dive under your desk when you hear that one – fate will be happy to provide the answers fairly quickly to anyone foolish enough to ask.

So what did I say that stretched a two-stop flight into an ordeal?  While being driven to the airport by a great friend, I mentioned that I had a couple of hours of layover time in both DC and Charlotte, making for a long commute.  That was safe.  And then it happened – before I realized it, I was saying the words “but the good thing about the extra time is that if there are any delays anywhere, I’ll have plenty of time and I won’t have to stress about it.  And the weather’s gorgeous.  Gee, I hope I didn’t just jinx myself!”  So, not only did I invite fate with my bragging about all my spare time, I also said the “j-word” out loud, and laughed.  I can’t believe I was that stupid. 

But I forgot about my carelessness after an easy flight to DC.  I spent a relaxing few hours in the US Airways Club enjoying free coffee and snacks and a great magazine (how does Cher manage to look so hot at our age?).  All was calm.  I leisurely strolled to my gate, priding myself on the wisdom of purchasing that day pass to the Club, and I was looking forward to seeing Hubby after four long, long weeks.  I felt just a slight chill when I saw that the flight was delayed an hour, but I wasn’t too concerned – after all, I had all that buffer time in Charlotte before my next flight.  Still feeling smug, I walked back to the Club room for some more free coffee.  By the time I got there, the flight had been canceled. 

Canceled?!?  What do you mean, canceled?  There’s no weather anywhere.  How can the flight be canceled?  Excuse me, did you just say there are no more flights tonight?  It’s only 7:30 – how can there be no flights to your hub in Charlotte?  Oh, there are flights, just no seats? Thanksgiving travel.  College students.  DC emptying for the week.  Yeah, I get it.  So, first thing in the morning, right?  Excuse me, did you just say I can’t get to Charlotte until tomorrow night?  And can’t get to my final destination until almost midnight tomorrow?  What the hell?!  Okay, how about the next closest airport?  No good.  How about the next one past that?  No good.  How about Raleigh, almost two hours away?  Nope.  But you can get me to Greensboro.  220 miles from Hubby.  And you still can’t get me there until tomorrow morning.  Well, isn’t that special.  The tears mount, but they don’t fall.  No sense crying over something I can’t fight.  And I know the whole mess is my fault for incurring the jinx.

The advantage of being over 50 is that you have a firm understanding of how to tell the difference between things we can change and things we can’t.  May as well make the best of it.  I take my meal voucher to Five Guys at the airport and order up a fabulous cheeseburger with grilled mushrooms and A-1 sauce.  I take it with me to the shuttle that whisks me to the Sheraton Suites in Alexandria, Va.  The burger is still toasty warm after waiting in a long line of Charlotte-bound travelers trying to get rooms. 

My beautiful room at Sheraton Suites in Alexandria, Va. And I deserved it.

And the room is a delight.  A true suite, with a couple of flat-screen TV’s, french doors opening to the fluffy, white, down-comforted bed.  Off go the shoes, on goes the TV, and down goes the best burger in the world.  Lemonade out of the lemon I handed myself.  Morning wake-up call is on time.  Morning flight is on time.  Hubby made the true sacrifice, skipping a golf tournament and driving more than two hours to be there as I walk off the plane in Greensboro at 9:30.  We take a leisurely drive across half the state to our NC house, with a stop for breakfast.  At long last, I reach my destination. 

And the trip home to NY yesterday?  In a four-wheeled vehicle on America’s highways?  We pulled out of the driveway in NC right at 5AM.  At 4:55PM, we pulled into our garage in NY.  Two gas stops and a couple of rest area stops to change drivers.  No hassles.  Minimal construction.  No traffic to speak of.  Great weather.  Why?  Because I was smart enough not to say anything stupid before we left that might have jinxed us.  Lesson learned, mouth wisely shut (for now).

The Autumn of Our Lives?

To my loyal readers and subscribers, let me apologize for the lost month of October.  Only two posts – after months of posts every week.  Shameful.  I’m sorry about that lapse.  Somehow, October got away from me.  Business trip.  Vacation.  Another paid writing job (yea!).  Stressful hours at work (yuk).  Hubby in a different part of the country temporarily (it’s a work thing – part of the “plan”). 

But it’s a new month.  November.  My least favorite month of the year weather-wise, with March running a close second.  In Upstate New York, November is a cold, damp, cloudy, dreary, raw, rainy month.  It’s the month when the sun starts going down before we even get out of work.  The colorful foliage falls to the ground and lingers in big, wet, brown piles in the yard.  People start hibernating – I haven’t seen a neighbor’s face in days. 

Heading toward my mid-fifties, I am facing what has often been called the autumn of my life.  Makes sense, I guess.  Youth is obviously the Spring of life – noisy and boisterous and colorful and unruly.  Those are the years of growth.  The colors may be pastel, but they are everywhere – from the audacious crocus that thrusts its head up above the snow, to the showy, crowd-loving daffodils that burst forth in bunches of sunny color.  The tulips follow.  They are a bit more “grown-up” and organized…perhaps the tulips reflect our teen years.  Diverse, but structured.  Growing in groups, they are showy, but no one blossom is the center of attention. 

Summer is clearly supposed to represent our “prime” years.  The pastels give way to deeper shades as trees leaf out and the landscape turns to various shades of emerald.  The colors, like our lives, have matured, become deeper.  We are fruitful – if not in the family sense, then in the career sense.  We establish ourselves, sinking our roots and staking our claim.  There’s still plenty of room for growth – ever watch corn grow in July and August?  Or tomatoes go from blossom to green to red and ripe in August?  Yup – the summer years are when we “ripen”, alright. 

So what does that leave for our later years?  Autumn and winter.  Yippee. 

I guess I’m in autumn.  I have to work my way past thinking of the autumn that’s outside my windows right now – cold, gray, barren November.  After all, autumn starts in September, and that includes the jewel-toned colors of October, when the whole world seems to be on fire.  The trees are ablaze in reds and golds, and the air is crisp and refreshing.  That’s the autumn I want to celebrate.  But let’s face it – when someone is in the autumn of their lives, we’re thinking November.  Graying, dreary, cold, unfriendly territory.  And what’s next?  Well, let’s leave that one alone for now.

Here’s my theory.  Yes, our autumn years have the blaze of October, and also the misery of November.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  You know why?  Those youngsters in spring and summer aren’t ready for November.  They get a couple rainy days and they’re whining.  Give them a cold snap in July, or snow on Mother’s Day (it happened here this year), and they’re traumatized.  Seriously, the last time it snowed on Mother’s Day, a young co-worker packed it up in tears and ran home to California, convinced she’d moved to Hell when she settled in our little corner of the world.  Wimp.

Yes, we may be headed into the autumnal years.  But we can take it.  We’re raking up the fallen leaves and enjoying the harvest.  It was fun playing around on the beach all summer long, but now we’re back home and turning those wild grapes in the red wine of wisdom.  Okay, maybe I took that analogy just a bit too far…  But I’ve earned the right to go over the top if I so choose.   

After all, I’m an autumn person.  I survived spring and summer, which is an accomplishment.  Sadly, not everyone does.  And in the autumn, I can be wild and colorful.  I can be cool and brisk.   I can wear warm Irish sweaters and sensible shoes.   I can dress up for Halloween.  Youngsters are racing through time without stopping to enjoy the treats along the way.  In spring and summer, every day is a treat, and we take them for granted as we rush along.  But when we reach autumn, we celebrate it when that rare 70 degree day comes along and the sun kisses our face.  That’s our wisdom talking.

The gilded skies of November

Yup, it’s November.  Raw and bone-chilling cold…with brilliant blue skies and clouds shimmering with the autumn sun.  Wet and windy…a great time to break out the hot cocoa and whiskey toddies.  Dark evenings…perfect for enjoying a great book while snuggling under a cozy blanket.  Those of us moving into the autumn of our lives have earned the right to enjoy every minute of it (it’s even okay to be smug about it).  And when the dreariness seems overwhelming, we know that “this too shall pass” and that the spring really will come again – if not in the seasons our lives, then at least in the seasons of the earth.   And we’ll be smart enough to enjoy its wonder.

The Joys of Smugness

Growing older (not “old”, mind you, but older) has its advantages.  Sure, I can sigh over the physical changes I see in the mirror on a regular basis, but there are a lot other things I end up embracing.  Wisdom is certainly one of them. 

Many people talk about their new-found “wisdom” as they grow older.  They make it sound very zen-like – becoming an elder is a sign of honor.  Elders are respected and revered because they have gained the wisdom of life.  We are the beautiful wise ones.  Light the candles and honor us with your gifts and praise.  If we are suitably impressed, we may even impart some of our wisdom upon you.    

Wisdom’s cool, I guess.  It’s earned with years and experiences that the younger folks just don’t have, and after all we’ve been through, if we haven’t gained some knowledge along the way, what’s the point?  When asked, we can definitely share this wisdom.  The problem is, no one asks.

It reminds me of a summer ten years ago, when we had our boat docked at a marina that faced a water area that included a deep channel bordered with a very shallow, rocky area along the shoreline.  Although clearly marked with buoys to warn of danger, and plainly indicated on nautical charts, people with smaller boats inevitably thought they could take a short cut.  Those short cuts always ended with the bang of a propeller smacking into the rocky bottom.  There was a picnic area behind our boat docks, and we would all sit and watch.  Early in the season, we would see the occasional small power boat approaching the rocky shallows, and we would stand and try to wave them out to the deeper water.  The response was one of two extremes:  they would smile and wave back us, assuming we were just being friendly; or they’d flip us a finger gesture, apparently assuming that we were snobs who didn’t want their pesky boat near our beautiful marina.  Despite our best efforts, we never managed to get a boat to avoid problems.  After a month or so of trying to be good Samaritans, and watching boaters ding their props on the rocks anyway, we finally gave up.  Instead of leaping to our feet in warning, we’d quietly say “here comes another one” and we’d wait and watch, shaking our heads is wise sadness when someone disregarded the warnings and encountered the clearly marked shallows.  We no longer accepted responsibility for their careless actions.  Right or wrong…it was a nice feeling.  [disclaimer:  there was no danger of physical harm in this example – that would clearly be a different matter]

I feel that same sense more and more often these days.  The young and foolish dive into dangerous waters that we could definitely tell them to avoid.  But would they listen?  Probably not.  And should they?  Probably not.  After all, how will they gain their own worldly wisdom without learning a few lessons along the paths of their own lives? 

And so we watch, and smile.  Or perhaps shake our heads sadly, knowing we’re viewing a potential train wreck, and knowing that, unless asked for, our advice is unwanted. 

There’s a certain feeling I get when I listen to someone in their twenties telling me of their plans for their lives.  I’m feeling my own life experience just dying to burst forth with advice, and yet I know they don’t care.  I’m mentally sitting back and quietly thinking “there goes another one.”  I’m being smug.  It’s kinda cool.  I just smile and listen.  You know that old saying – “Life is what happens while you’re making plans”?  Well, that old saying surely came from someone in their fifties who had learned the folly of making plans first-hand.  It came from someone who was confident, wise, and smug.  And at the time they said it, no one under forty paid attention.

“Well, first I’ll finish my degree, then I think I’ll spend a year in Europe just bumming around (maybe I’ll find a sexy Italian!), I’ll spend some time in Monaco, and then I’ll come home and get serious, get a job and get married.  I don’t want children until after I’ve gotten my masters degree, established my career and we have a house in suburbs.  Thirty-two would be a good time to start a family.  We’ll have two boys and girl, and they’ll be athletic/artistic/scholarly…. blah blah blah….  Uh-huh.

I like being smug.  I like watching girls pick up magazines like Cosmopolitan, with articles  such as “15 Ways to Amaze Him in Bed.”  Honey, after a few years together, just showing up in bed interested in sex will amaze him, trust me.  There are no tricks required.  And if a guy requires tricks, walk away.  It simply isn’t worth the effort, because he’s more interested in experimenting than he is in pleasing you.

I enjoy listening to younger women talking about their guys from my smugness perch.   “He’s so obsessed with playing basketball right now, but he’ll settle down after the wedding.”  NOT!   “His mom gave him money to pay off his college loans, but he bought a new snowmobile instead – it’s awesome.”  RUN!  “Oh, my God!  We went to Myrtle Beach on vacation, and all he wanted to do was GOLF!  That’ll never happen again.”  OH YES IT WILL.  “He thinks he’s getting a big screen TV for Christmas, but I’m getting us a new bedroom suite instead.”  YEAH, HE’LL THINK THAT’S A MUCH BETTER IDEA…  “There’s just no room in the driveway for that old wreck of a hot rod he’s been fixing for years, so I told him yesterday that he has to sell it.”  CAN YOU SAY ‘DIVORCE COURT’? 

And fashion?  Oh, boy.  The ups and downs of hemlines, haircuts, bathing suits – – – yup, seen it all.  What goes up will come down, and vice versa.  “Stick with the classics, kiddies,” I think smugly.  But of course they won’t do that anymore than we did.  Raise your hands if you wore miniskirts with a maxicoat!  Hot pants?  Goucho pants (horrors!)?  Peasant tops?  Spandex and leg warmers?  Those ’80s power suits with five-inch shoulder pads?  A wise woman told me that if we wore something  the first time it was in style (hip-huggers, hot pants, etc.), then we are automatically too old to wear them the second time they come back in style. 

In the office?  I’ve been patronized, I’ve been bullied, I’ve had the best mentors, and the worst (and best) bosses.  I’ve been given incredible opportunities, and gone further than I probably “should have” without a college degree.  I do my best to mentor my employees and co-workers.  I’ve played all the corporate games through the years, and it always amuses me to see someone trying to “out-play” me.  Mind you, I don’t like playing silly games, but if I’m forced to do so against some fresh-out-of-college whipper-snapper, I’ll break ‘em like a twig.  Seriously.  And I’ll do it with a full and satisfying sense of smugness.

Let’s face it – we’re looking at the world through the lenses of vast experience, and yes, wisdom.  We should enjoy our hard-earned smugness as we watch the youngsters learn their way.  We’re not smug because we were any smarter then.  We’re smug because we made fools of ourselves just like they will, and we know that one day they’ll look back and cringe just like us.  We can’t, and shouldn’t, stop them.   Just smile and wish them luck.  Smugly.

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