Every Tuesday I download the newest episode of This is Fifty with Sheri and Nancy. “Sher and Nance” are on a quest to rebrand midlife and they are doing it in grand style. Every week they talk about how your thoughts create your reality and how the stories you tell yourself are what make your dreams come true. THAT kind of stuff makes me think. It makes me think about stories I HAVE told myself and stories I tell myself today.
My mother used to say, “You came like this. I tried everything I could to teach you and mold you but I couldn’t.” She would say this with an exasperated humpf and sigh and kind of roll her eyes at me. She directed it at me as if I would somehow be offended and be motivated to change. Except here’s the thing, I didn’t want to change. I liked who I was. It was only when I put other people’s expectations on myself that I was unhappy. It took me a while to realize this but when I did, my world changed.
Here are examples of where our paths diverged when I was growing up.
- My mother’s vision for me: Be girlie – wear dresses, get a perm, wear lipstick and keep my shirttail tucked in.
- My Vision: Build tree houses, play tackle football, have straight hair and wear pants plus shoes with rubber soles.
- My mother wanted me to keep my thoughts to myself (especially the radical ones) and be more like her.
- I wanted to know about the world, meet new people and learn new perspectives and be nothing like her.
- My mother wanted me to put others’ needs first no matter the consequences to my own well being.
- I wanted to live my own life under my terms no matter what that meant.
- My mother wanted me to fit in socially with the right people – people of our class and color and stay away from those that didn’t treat me well.
- I just liked to click with people -usually over oddities and even when I wasn’t treated well by people, I wanted to hang in it to figure out the root of our disagreements and if we could reach a common ground.
As you can see, there was a wide divide and had I let my mother write my story, my life would have turned out very differently. I might be in therapy today trying to find my way back to myself. Instead, I find that I act more as therapist to many in my life.
I want to be clear – I don’t fault my mother for any of her hopes and dreams for me. Having hopes and dreams for your child is what great parents do. The only problem is when the hopes and dreams for your child are counter to who your child is. You should want them to be the best that THEY can be given their natural talents and personality and not who YOU think they are or how you wish they would be. I think what you should want for your child when they are different from you can be found in the great words of Temple Grandin’s mother, “Different not less.” There are many paths to happiness but you must forge your own.
I think when other people put their ideas on you, it is never with mal intent. In fact, I believe it is with the greatest of intent. They want you to be happy. I think the challenge is that often THEY are not happy and think if they had done things differently, they would be so they try to guide you to make choices that they should have made for themselves. Those choices may or may not be the right ones for you.
All this is a long way to get to where I have found myself. I truly believe Sheri and Nancy’s idea that you create your reality. It is a universal truth after all. I am in charge of my story. Here’s how I live and dream it today.
I Try to Be A Good Samaritan Whenever I Can
When I was about four years old, I was in a Sunday school class where we acted out the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We were ushered into the sanctuary and we were given our roles – the beggar, the people who ignored the beggar’s pleas and finally the Samaritan who stopped and gave aid. We took turns playing the roles and in the last rotation, I was the Good Samaritan. I remember you had to wrap your arm around the beggar and help him down the road/aisle as he hobbled along. He thanked you and praised you for your help. Boy was that a great feeling. I realized in that moment, I wanted more of that feeling. It took getting out on my own before I figured out ways to really do that well but the point is it is a touchstone and a spark and a principle that guides me still today. I believe you should help others whenever you can even in the smallest of ways. I set my intention each day with a thought – how can I help others, the world, my community TODAY? I find I am happiest when doing that.
I Try to Stay True to My Ideals (To Thine Own Self Be True.):
I never went along with the crowd. I listened to different music than my peers. I didn’t drink. I told the truth to the detriment of myself (and friendships sometimes) and I refused to change my mind on things simply because someone wanted me to. If something didn’t resonate with me, I didn’t do it. It didn’t matter the consequences. If it wasn’t going to be something I felt good about later, it wasn’t worth doing. We all have a moral compass and it is guiding us all the time. We can try to go against it will keep trying to pull us back into alignment. When we veer off course, we might have to take a bumpy road and debris riddled path to get back on track. It’s easier to stay the course.
I Choose to Be a Giver, Not a Taker, in Life
I love giving gifts – small things, silly things, simple things. I love a good gag or funny and will spend hours crafting one just for the reaction I’ll get. Nothing brings me more joy than giving someone something I think shows I know them. I keep little notes when people comment on things they like or want and somewhere/some time I find a way to use that information. I like the surprise show of compassion as a gift too. When you see someone in need and you can give them something that would make a moment brighter, I try to find a way to do it.
I Live in the Moment
I remember in childhood – maybe around my middle school years, realizing that there seemed to be two paths in life.
On one path, you scrimped and saved and were a work-a-holic. You worked through lunch, you didn’t take vacations, you got every bonus, every incentive and did everything to reach the corner office and you socked away all that money so that one day you could travel the world, drive the fanciest car and live in the biggest house or houses. That was one path.
The other path involved working hard but it also meant taking little vacations, taking time off for special moments, working jobs that were fulfilling in and of themselves without regard to salary and living near and seeing frequently the people that make life worth living. When you retired, if you ever did, you could still have a nice nest egg but there would be no around-the-world cruises or weeks in the Bahamas. It would be a simple life. I remember thinking I’d rather have this life. I have found that of those that have chosen the other, though certainly MANY have risen to the life they aspired to have, most are unhappy and many stressed themselves into an early grave and never reached their dream life.
My parents died 5 years into their retirement without realizing many of the dreams they had for their lives. I don’t want that to be me so I do what I want when I can. No regrets. I’m not foolish with my spending or extravagant with my travel. I set goals for my trips – seeing the people and things that matter most and then I find a way to do it. I realize at any moment, life could change and make this impossible so I live in the moment and make the most of it.
My story is still being written. Follow my blog to see how it unfolds.