A Twist on the Gratitude Journal

I had an idea based on the idea of acting “as if” when you are trying to reach a goal, have more self-confidence, land the job and so on.  A gratitude journal is usually what you are thankful for at that moment.  Good job, healthy kids, enough money to pay the bills and you get the idea.  It’s a great idea because it gets your mind off the negatives in your life and places it square on the good.  Our minds are a very powerful tool.  Just shifting one thought process can make a huge difference in your life and outlook.

I’ve read all sorts of self-help, motivational and biographies of successful people over the years.  It started when my first husband went into sales and he was given Vincent Norman Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking”. I read the book but I don’t think my then husband did because we were barely getting by on what he was making.   Some of these books were helpful and some were not.  Some may have been more helpful if I had put their advice to work.  But I was watching a documentary and it talked about writing a gratitude journal daily but using the pretense that you had already achieved your goals.  I was skeptical but since I am a hoarder of journals and cool notebooks, I dug one out and started the process in mid December.

At first it seems a little insane to be writing things like “I am grateful and thankful for the fact that I am a best-selling author who has published dozens of books.”  Or “I am grateful and thankful that I am in the best physical shape of my life and I am no longer limited by my weight or size.”  The gratitudes have changed and evolved over the past few months though I will admit, I’m not great at doing it every day, but I write in it most days.  The sky is the limit when you write these gratitudes based on the instructions.  So if you want to have a lot of money, you write someting like “I am grateful and thankful for the five million dollars I have invested that I am living comfortably on now.”  Or whatever strikes your fancy.

The documentary gave some new age reason for the journal that it puts this positive energy out into the universe and brings your dreams to you but I really think what it does is removes the roadblocks from your mind.  If you don’t believe you can write and publish books deep down, then you will find ways to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t believe you can be a millionaire, you won’t ever be one.  It’s not that you don’t have to work hard toward your dreams and goals because you will, I doubt your dreams magically appears one day.  An agent isn’t going to show up on my doorstep saying I heard you were writing a book and I want to be your agent!  I actually have to write the book, edit it over and over and submit it.  I have to do the work.  I have to overcome the obstacles.  I have to persist.

One thing that is very important when you do this exercise is to really listen to your heart and yourself.  If you find it hard to keep writing something over and over again even though you thought it was something you truly wanted, listen to that pause.  At first I thought I was just annoyed with the process of writing essentially the same thing over and over but when I really looked at why I wasn’t wanting to write it, I ended up revising the goal.  Which I thought was a very interesting twist and a way to really fine tune your goals and dreams so you are wasting time reaching for something you think you want, or you think you should want but deep down it isn’t your heart’s true desire.

Don’t limit yourself either.  If you want something that seems completely out of reach, journal it anyway.  The sky is the limit!  You can find stories all the time about people who have achieved the impossible.  The common thread of these stories is that they believed it to be possible and they never gave up, even in the worst situations.

So grab yourself a notebook and start living your dreams, even if it is on paper first!  Believe!

Plot Twist – Your Life Dreams Change…

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a rainy foggy July 4th day.  After having family and friends over the day before, I was in no hurry to get out of bed.  A decadent lazy morning where I didn’t have to be anywhere except to pick up my dog from the kennel.  These are mornings I love to read, or scan social media or nap or maybe even daydream.

My thoughts turned to my writing. I haven’t been writing blog posts in the frequency that I once did, mostly because my life is quiet at this time, I’m not dealing with any major issues, I’ve explored all the other things I felt were relevant to share.  There is only so much one can write about their life and its challenges.  Then I thought I should work on my novel which I haven’t touched in a month.

Then I started thinking do I really want to write a novel? It took me ten years to finish my degree but I never quite quit on it.  Life’s challenges had made it more difficult but once I finally got the space and time to finish, I did it.  The one thing I understand about myself is that when I truly want something, I will keep persevering and pursuing until I finally achieve what it is that I want no matter how hard it is.  Which made me think, then if I am not really fired up and writing with all the time I have free now that my college classes have ended two months ago, is it truly something I want to do?

When you have a bit of talent to write, what do people tell you? “You should write a book and get published.” Or something to that extent.  That’s what writers do. Isn’t that the end all be all goal of a writer?  To write that bestselling novel or non-fiction book?  Make a lot of money, get famous, go on book tours, talk shows, and the like.  Sounds glamorous doesn’t it?   I used to think that I wanted that life.  I follow some of my favorite authors on social media and they post what they do during their day, their book tours, their meetings with editors and so on.  They fly here and there, go on cruises with their fans, some spend time in libraries and bookstores doing readings and book signings.  I read their posts and think well that’s nice but have no desire for that kind of life.  A good portion of being a successful writer is marketing your book.  That part bores me to death.

What would happen if I let go of the dream of becoming a best-selling author? The first question I had yesterday was is becoming a best-selling or successful book author really my dream?  I know myself, if it was, I would have pursued it and made it happen or in the process of making it happen.  I would have networked with agents, joined writing groups, writing organizations and attended writing classes or workshops at a higher level.

I used to think that I was afraid of rejection but when I read books, I find myself thinking my writing is as good or better than this writer (my opinion of course!). I’m not some great writer of prose with elegant sentences and flow but reading what is climbing up the New York Times best seller list, a lot of those authors don’t have that rare talent either.  They write what sells, what people enjoy reading.  There are books on formulas on how to write to get published, etc.  That seems to take away some of the joy of writing to me.

Obviously I’m not wanting to write to make money. Sure I wouldn’t turn money down but I write because I love writing.  If I have to write in a very specific way to sell it, then I might as well clock in at 8 a.m. and clock out at 5 p.m. just like any old job.  That’s all it would be.  The creativity and sheer joy of dreaming up an entire complex story complete with characters I bring to life would no longer exist and therefore the reason I write would be gone.  I write for my own enjoyment.  I always have.

I suppose that means that maybe the dream of being a best-selling author isn’t my dream at all. It’s just what a writer is supposed to strive for, what makes sense to everyone else.  Getting published on a large-scale is the benchmark of a good writer except I’ve read plenty of books and thought, ‘How in the hell did they get published?  This is awful’. Publishing is simply a business.  Just like any place you work, it could be who you know or what you are willing to do and bend for to get what you want.  Which is fine.  I am not criticizing it but I am starting to realize, maybe I need to rethink my dream.

When I thought about letting go of the whole publishing a fictional novel idea, I felt a weight come off of my shoulders. This doesn’t mean I may never write a book, just maybe what I am writing isn’t the right thing for me.  I get a lot of enjoyment out of writing my blog especially when I write about something particularly difficult for me and someone comments to be how it helped them or made them feel less alone or it gave them information on how to seek help.  That is way more satisfying than the few times I have become published on a smaller level.  I need to think about this, listen to this aspect.  When you first get published, even on a small-scale, it’s exciting and by the next day, the excitement for me was gone.  I don’t go around bragging that I published in this or that.  Not that I really have anything to brag about.

I don’t feel I have to prove anything to myself or anyone else any more regarding my writing. When I was younger, I used to visualize my bestselling book in the window of a book store, my name as the author in bold print and all the people who ever doubted me, made fun of me or were mean to me would then look at me at wonder and awe.  At forty-six, I really could care less about those people now.  Maybe when you are younger, you feel as if you have to prove to yourself and everyone else you are good enough, better even.  Mid-life, you generally don’t care what people think about you so much.  You know by now that everyone is about the same.  We all have the same general insecurities about ourselves even those people in high school that seemed to have it all together.

So now I need to think outside of the box. What is it I really want to do? Write about?  Write for?  It may come to me now and it may come to me later.  I’m just going to follow my heart and my gut instinct about it all.  I’ve spent way too many years ignoring it and spinning my wheels, wasting time.  That doesn’t apply to just writing but most things in my life that haven’t worked out so well.

It is a relief to just let go of something that must not really matter to me, becoming a best-selling author or at least a well-known author whose book shows up somewhere on one of those lists and bookstore shelves. I didn’t have designs on being the next Nora Roberts or James Patterson, anyway.  Which again, is proof that maybe my dream wasn’t quite right for me.  That’s the cool thing about mid-life, you start stepping back and figuring out what you’ve been doing not for yourself but because you thought you should do it for whatever reason.  You start finding the freedom to just be yourself.  Do what you want.  Do what you love.  Yes, there are still those pesky bills and responsibilities but it is truly like getting a second chance or second act.   You just may have to go about your dreams in a less traditional route.  Or find you have new dreams.  It’s actually quite exciting.

Getting older doesn’t automatically mean you have to give up and not enjoy your life. Wear polyester pants with elastic waistbands in pastel colors with a matching jacket (unless you love this look) and letting your hair go grey as you rock out your last years on the front porch or recliner watching The Price is Right.  Because your kids have grown doesn’t mean your life is over either.  It’s a bit of a shock at first when your life quiets suddenly but you will find your happiness and a new type of relationship with your children. I had a bit of an adjustment period that was not enjoyable at all.  Now, I love my girls being older.  We hang out and do things together.  It’s a lot less pressure for me because I don’t have to monitor every move they make.  They’re adults now.  It’s freeing for me.

I don’t know what my next step will be when it comes to my writing but whatever it is, I am going to make sure it is something I truly want and love. No more “should do”.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me.  Maybe something that encompasses my love of traveling locally, hiking and biking.  That is definitely something I love, I could easily incorporate my writing into maybe narrating and providing information on the places I discover and love. I love adventures.

Till next time and thank you for reading my blog! Hugs!

 

One More Thing…

It figures, I decide I’m not going to write in my blog and then all these ideas for posts start popping into my head.  Good thing it’s my blog where I get to change my mind I suppose.  I imagine I should not have been so final on the blog but it felt done at the moment, that I needed a break, a hiatus but well, here I am again.  However, I do want to take my posts into a more positive direction. 

Wednesday night was teh honors ceremony for my graduating college class.  Being 46, of course I was one of the five oldest students receiving honors awards which at first made me a bit uncomfortable but when I saw I wasn’t the only older student there, I relaxed and focused on the ceremony.  When my oldest daughter graduated college in 2014, I remember sitting in the enormous hall watching all these young people get their degrees.  At the time, I felt a sense of envy that they had their whole lives ahead of them but mostly I think I felt disappointed in myself for not finishing college.  

As I was waiting for the ceremony to conclude as I was one of the first up to receive my award, I thought back to that day and how I felt.  Here was another group of young people with their whole lives ahead of them and me half-way through my life (if I am fortunate of course).  This time however, I did not feel envy or a sense of quiet sadness about my own life.  I didn’t sit and think of the dreams I thought I had lost out on or had given up too soon.  No, over the past few years, I have sorted out this and that over my life and have embraced what my life is today rather than worry about the past so much. 

What I did notice was that I didn’t envy these kids because I had worked hard for years to be where I am today.  Not that I didn’t make a few wrong turns (ahem two bad marriage choices) and make some mistakes but I kept going.  I turned my victim mentality into a mentality of action. I had to make my life what I wanted it to be or at least try.  Though someone who is 80 may look at me and see someone who is a bit foolish because they have lived almost twice my lifetime, I embrace the life wisdom I’ve learned over the years.  Though people always try to tell you things, sometimes we have to be stubborn and bull-headed where we have to just get knocked around on our own.  

Wouldn’t it be great if we had that wisdom in our early 20’s?  But maybe it would make us play things too safe.  I took risks in my 20’s that I’m hesitant to take today which in essence means my life story wouldn’t be so rich and colorful.  I’d been downright boring.  I suppose each decade or period in our life has a purpose.  I would not want to go back to being in my early 20’s except for being in better physical shape or not having quite the health concerns you have when your older, but this is probably the trade off for having wisdom.  Not that I don’t still do stupid things or make mistakes but usually they are much more minor than before.  

I like the age I am now.   I am comfortable being 46, I own my age and am not afraid to tell people how old I am nor do I lie about my age.  I would not want to go back and start over again at 20 or so.  I still have work to do on myself, but you know what? I actually like who I am.  Sure, I have days where I feel fat and ugly (I swear it’s hormonal) but mostly, I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I’m not going to apologize for who I am as a person anymore as I’ve spent enough of my life doing so.  If someone doesn’t like something about me, well then that’s their business.  Life is too short to worry about it.  

My husband and I were recently talking before he bought his new (to him) car last week.  We had been weighing the pros and cons of buying a new car, the financial aspect and so on.  His current car, a 2013 Malibu, already had over 90k miles on it and while it was nice, it wasn’t really what he wanted to be driving.  He had recently finished a year long grueling training program for his new job.  A good chunk of the last year had been spent away from home doing training seminar after training seminar because his job is highly regulated and very specific where it requires, well at least a year of training.  When he completed the training, he got a significant and well-deserved raise as his reward for completing this difficult year. 

As we mulled it over, we both decided he should go buy what he really wanted and had been wanting since we met eight years ago.  A Cadillac.  A one-year certified model would cost us almost the same as a new car like his Malibu anyway and though his gas mileage would drop some costing us more in gas, he would have all wheel drive which would be safer for his over 1 hour commute to work.  But most of all, it was something he really wanted and well you only live once right?  YOLO bitches…  While it felt like bit of an extravagance, it makes him happy and that’s all that matters. He’s worked hard for years, going to college, working jobs until he has reached this salary point in his life that affords him nice things.  

So no, I don’t want to start all over again.  We have a very comfortable life and we can do most of the things we enjoy.  While we aren’t wealthy, we are very fortunate.  For me, I always have to stop my “survival” mode of thinking after years of barely scraping by, in other words, I tend to be cheap.   I am also finding out that my goals and the things I enjoy have changed with time.  We both have agreed, we need to enjoy ourselves more.  

Who knows how many days we have left on this earth?  Might as well buy the Cadillac  if you can.  

Time for Change…

The quandary with being mid-life is that you’ve lived a lot of years but also you (hopefully) have a lot of years ahead of you.  You also realize though that you don’t have your entire life in front of you either and that your days must start counting for more.  I think this is sometimes called a mid-life crisis but I think for most people it’s just a time to really stop and check the path they are on.  Stop running on autopilot, step back and say, is this the life I want? Is this what I should be spending my precious time doing?  It’s a self-check moreso usually than a crisis.  I have yet to want to buy a sports car, get a really young husband and well, I guess the female version to the combover is to dress and try to look like a teenager to the point you look ridiculous.  I think a lot of older women are not accepting looking like little old ladies and that’s great but you have to do it with finesse and style, not copy your 16-year old daughter.  

Yesterday, a young girl in our community died days after her attempt at suicide.  Thousands of people had been praying for her and her family but it was not enough to bring upon a miracle.  This girl is part of my family doctor’s family, his two older sons graduated with my daughters and since he’s been my doctor for ages, his kids essentially grew up with mine.  Not that we were close, they didn’t invite me over for dinner but in a small community like ours, everyone knows everything and you interact through many different channels.  

I can remember her as a baby, toddler, young girl and a teenager.  She was a beautiful sweet girl with seemingly everything a girl could want at least from the outside but yet this tragedy occurred.  Of course the rumor mill is running rampant with why she may have done it, but the only person that truly knows is gone.  People will judge her parents and make assumptions but the real truth is, this could happen in anyone’s family.   So sit down and focus on what is your life.  Say a prayer of peace and comfort for the family instead of stirring up the gossip. 

Suicide is the one thing, unless you’ve been on the verge of committing it yourself, it’s easy to stand there and say “how could she do this?” Essentially for many different reasons, you come to a point where everything feels hopeless and you feel the only way out, the only way for peace is death.  This could be from a mental cause such as depression, chemical imbalance in your brain, drugs (both prescription and illegal) and so on.  The Cherokee Indians had a saying that roughly was “Do not judge a man without walking in his moccasins” or the more modern “walk a mile in his/her shoes”.  Have some empathy, don’t just stand there and judge.  Try to see what it might have been from someone’s view. 

In my mid 30’s, I had a bought of depression so bad that I would wake up and then curse the fact I hadn’t died in my sleep.  It scared me enough to get treatment which was prescribed by this very Doctor.  He gave me Zoloft and finally that urge to die subsided.  It’s not always “just in your head”, mental illness many times is physiological and not just psychological.    You can’t “snap out of” depression.  It’s like telling someone with a broken leg to just think positive and it will heal.  Yeah it may heal but maybe not heal right. You may walk with a limp the rest of your life because it needed set.  You get the idea.

On the news yesterday that this girl passed away, I was sitting there thinking about my life.  Yesterday was also the two-year anniversary of my mom’s death.  I was feeling reflective anyway but this tragic news pushed me even deeper into thought.  The last few years especially, I have had time to work on myself, things that happened to me years ago and their effect on me today was forefront in my life.  If you read my blog consistently, you know I’ve talked about self-esteem issues, body image, mid-life, grief and a whole host of topics that are relevant to me as well as many other people’s lives.  The greatest complement I have received from my writing is when someone thanks me for being candid enough to write about a hard subject because they feel less alone and I’ve helped them in some small way. 

The thing about death is that it reminds you to live.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years working out my grief, working out issues from years ago because I either pushed it down or I simply didn’t have time for myself.  This is the first time in my life since I was a teenager that I have been able to really focus on myself because I was no longer actively taking care of someone else.  Having all this time to think was both good and bad.  Just the other day I wrote something about a traumatic experience that happened when I was 14.  It was one of those times where I started writing it in my head first and I needed to get it down on “paper”.  When I told a friend about it, they said why do you keep reliving this stuff?  Me being me, I was annoyed at first with what they said.  I am a stubborn learner at time and yesterday it finally clicked with me what they were trying to tell me.  

Yes I could use my traumatic experience to reach others and help someone else but by doing so, I was keeping the past in the present.   The beauty of youth is you don’t have years of the past to ruminate on.  You live each day looking to just that day and sometimes toward the future.  I try to be mindful of each day and live in the present but I tend to be all over the board.  I have no clue what I want in my future to be other than a happy, healthy family, be able to live comfortably, finish my degree and publish a book.  I don’t have the fiery, motivated goals of my youth and sometimes that bothers me.  I have no idea why, maybe because I feel like I am not “doing enough”.  It seems even more imperative now at the age of 46 that I should be “reaching for some big dream” before it’s too late.  

As I sat there alone thinking about my mom and this young girl’s life being cut too short, I realized I need to live for today and stop worrying so much about the future or achieving some great thing.  I simply need to follow my heart and stop worrying so damned much.  I need to let go of the past, I have worked hard to get where I am today and be the person I’ve become.  I’m proud of the person I am today even if I’m not always proud of my past life.  I’ve made many mistakes, my life was a train wreck when I was younger but so what?  As the 1000 memes going around social media say,  you get a new start every day or something to that effect.  Really all I need is a change in focus and attitude.  It’s that simple. 

In the effort to live each day to the fullest and live in the present, I’ve decided to suspend my blog for the time being.  I need some time to refocus myself and just live my life by embracing each day as a new opportunity.  Focus on spending time with the people that I love the most and make me the happiest rather than putting energy into those relationships that do not add much if anything to my life.  I am going to let go of the “should of’s” as well.  I should do this, be this or achieve this.  This is a lot of white noise that confuses me and makes it difficult for me to enjoy life.  In essence, I’m going to hit the “reset” button and start new again.   Maybe I will pick up my blog again with a different goal in my writing.  We will see.  

Go live for today, do what makes you happy and don’t look back.  Find your passion, take a chance and live your dreams.  There is never going to be the perfect day for it, do it today, start today.  Live for today, you have no guarantee there is a tomorrow.  Be prepared to fail and hear “no” many times over, but don’t give up.  The one difference between the people who achieve their dreams and the ones who don’t is usually the fact they didn’t give up and not because they nailed it right from the start.  

So in conclusion, this blog has been a wonderful journey which forced me to get myself and my writing out in the public eye.  I am grateful to all that have read it, who have commented on it and who might miss it just a little bit.  I am going to focus on my dream of publishing a novel.  Wish me luck!  Or better yet, wish me tenacity to stick it out and get over or around all the challenges I will face (mostly being too self-critical of my writing – ha…).  Deep breath and first steps…

Are You Settling in Life?

Sometimes out of the blue usually when I’m hiking, biking or even driving a thought or word will pop into my head and stick there like glue until I take the time to figure out why this has suddenly become part of my consciousness. The other day, I was driving home from shopping and I had the radio off which sometimes I do just for the quiet when a particular word came out of nowhere and struck me. Settled.

I started thinking of a commercial I saw recently where this family of “settlers” were out plowing their land except their land was a suburban home plot. The neighbors were set in the modern-day,  driving cars while the father was plowing up his land in old pioneer garments.  The pun of the commercial was why “settle” for cable when you can get satellite tv or something of the sort.  I can’t remember the company off-hand but I thought the commercial was cleverly comical.  The father states to his son “We’re settlers.”  But not in the traditional way, just in the manner that they settle for less in life and do things the hard way rather than reach out and take advantage of what is offered around them.

How many of us settle for good enough? Have you ever thought about it?  You look at people like Donald Trump and they feel they are entitled to the very best.  To me that type of attitude is strange and self-serving.  But, I considered, do I settle for less when I could reach for more?  Yes, actually I have most of my life.  A good example is my first and second husbands.  Settled for relationships that I wasn’t truly happy in but seemed “good enough”.   Not that I even wanted to get married either time, it was the result of each one of them pushing and pushing me until I finally gave in and agreed to get married.  Another time when my gut instincts were screaming “NO!” and I reasoned my way into unhappy marital unions.  Stupid, really stupid.  What if I had set my limits and said, no you’re not good enough to be my husband?  My life would have been a lot different as my current marriage has proved.

In my younger years I settled for friends who didn’t have my best interests at heart just to have more friends and seem part of the crowd. I imagine we all do that but I think of the time and heartache I could have saved myself over the years.  I settled for a life path that wasn’t really what I wanted.  When my mom shot down my desire to attend the vocational school for floral design because my ultimate goal was to eventually go to college for business and horticulture, I let go of my dream to own a floral shop/plant nursery.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and when I look back now, I think, well she didn’t have control over what I did in college, why didn’t I go?  Because I settled for the path of least resistance.  I went to school for medical assisting because at the time it was the up and coming career and paid fairly well for limited schooling.  My plan was once I finished my Medical Assisting degree, I would transfer to a four-year college in Dayton to finish my education.

Except I let my plans become derailed when I met my future husband #1. I settled for allowing his goals and plans to overshadow mine and I didn’t follow through on my education until later in life when it was much tougher.  Once children became involved in my life, my life became about supporting and raising them so little of it had to do with my goals and dreams. My life plan certainly wasn’t what I expected but I made the best of it and I have three amazing and successful daughters.

Settling isn’t always about major items in your life, it can be simple things like what clothes you buy, what food you eat, or whether or not you treat yourself well.  Maybe you need a nap or a long bath or you just don’t feel like cooking dinner that night.  Maybe it is asking for help, like I have while I finish my last semester of college.  I’ve recruited my daughters to help with household cleaning chores that I normally do so it takes some pressure off of me.  

So you’ve settled in life, now what?  First make sure you actually settled.  Sometimes we get ideas in our head based on what others are doing in life, peer pressure so to speak or what we see in media and television.  If you’ve determined you have aspects of your life that you have settled in, then make a list of those things and brainstorm how you might take steps to remedy the situation.  

For example, my youthful goal of owning my own floral/nursery business no longer applies today but maybe I could look at other options of entrepreneurship that may fulfill my desire to be more independent, my own boss.  This could be as simple as starting a small side business to complement my current work hours or maybe at some point down the road, I may get inspired to take on my own business again in a full-fledged way.  Or maybe I focus on finally writing that best-selling novel.  The point is to start today, start noting the ways you settle and find ways to make your life better.  After all this is the only life you have.  

The key is, don’t stay mired in the past or regret.  Move ahead.  Make your own happiness.  

 

Recreating Yourself aka Midlife Crisis

Do you ever have a moment where you think, wow, I’d like to halt time, recreate who I am and then start a different life?  Even if your life is good but there’s something just nagging at you, maybe you are not following a dream or trapped in a bad relationship or something your entire self is trying to tell you?  I think everyone has these moments and for me it seems to hit more now that I’m in my mid-40’s and my life is really good.  I believe the magazine writers call it “second act” or “second-half” or well, “midlife crisis”.

But is it really a crisis?  Or is it just a time you pause after being on the same track for many years.  The track of getting through your education, finding a job, forwarding your career or whatever direction you took.  Finding a mate, maybe having a few kids or a houseful of kids, acquiring the typical material possessions such as a home, vehicles, a trip to Disney or whatever it was that you wanted.  Then you reach a certain age and SCREECH.  Everything comes to a halt.

You’re standing there thinking what the hell?  Suddenly you aren’t running kids everywhere, attending twenty-three events in a week for them.  They’re off to college or maybe the older ones out of college.  You aren’t needed every moment of the day.  Then you realize you’re at a good place in your job or whatever career path you chose, maybe you own a successful business.  You’re in a groove, you got it down pat, it’s really not that challenging anymore but you’re in a comfortable place and you make a comfortable living, maybe even more than comfortable.  Your house is stuffed full of things you’ve acquired over the years, your closets are crammed full of clothing where maybe in college, you barely had enough to get by a week.  You’ve arrived.

Okay, so you’ve reached that pinnacle but the thing is, no one told you – “what next?”  or you never really thought about it.  Oh you’ve been saving hard for retirement, you’ll go fishing, travel, watch Wheel of Fortune because you know that show will still be on as Pat and Vanna come out with a wheelchair and walker, that show is never going off the air.  But in a way, you’re a bit in retirement already or it feels that way.  You have a lot more free time and you’re not quite sure what to do with it all.  I’m sure this isn’t everyone, but I’m not one that likes to commit myself to a lot of organizational activities.

You start daydreaming, what do I want to be when I grow up?  Honestly, it is much like when you were in school and you had to start thinking about this question in earnest.  When college recruiters and guidance counselors and teachers were breathing down your neck?  What are you going to do after school?  As if you were supposed to have your entire life figured out by age 17.  I laugh about that now.  Some people know exactly what they want to be by the time they are 10.  “I’m going to be a neurosurgeon.”  I always looked at these people as if they were an alien, that they were so definite in their plans.

Me, I have so many interests and likes that it was more like: “I’m going to own my own business, a florist shop but then I want to have a nursery with it and then a coffee shop where people can enjoy good drinks and pastries but then I will offer art classes and display different artists for sale but then I want o have an animal rescue on part of the property and then…”   By the time I was done, the name of my business would have had to be so long to encompass what I wanted, that no one would really understand what it was.  Actually I envied those people who were so sure of their calling because my calling felt like a career advisor on crack was trying to help me.   My biggest fear was that I would pick the wrong “calling”.

Maybe there is no one certain calling for me.  Which is why I am back to trying on hats, mentally of course, doing research, weighing the pros and cons of different avenues that I could take in my life right now.  Mostly, it’s a creative avenue that doesn’t require me to quit my job and move into another.  I am more likely to tell you what I don’t want to do rather than what I want.  Except writing.  Maybe that is my calling, to finally publish a novel.  Maybe to be a mixed media type of artist and sell my stuff (that I have in my mind and have not created) in different markets.  Or maybe I really am the crazy cat lady and will start a cat rescue where I have hundreds of cats and will then soon be divorced – ha…

In many ways, the ‘crisis’ is not that at all but a valley where you take a few moments out of your life to explore new avenues and try on new identities.  Not that you literally go to some shady guy in the city (or small town probably now) to get a fake ID and passport then disappear leaving your family to believe you are dead.  It doesn’t have to be that drastic.  Now is the time when you start thinking about the things you really enjoy and love, your passions.  There may be ways to not upheave your entire life and still try on the new “you” as you use your new free time that once was monopolized by your children or whatever it was, to focus on the things you enjoy the most.  Or maybe it is time to consider going back to school for that career you really wanted but for whatever reason you chose a different path (usually parental pressure or something just the income potential was higher).

There is so much stigma with this part of your life.  Mid-life but while it can be very challenging especially if you are dealing with sick or aging parents, layoffs, your own health issues, etc., but it can also be very exciting as you take that second breath and start looking at your new future with the wisdom of many years under your belt.  All that “I wish I had known this in my 20’s” can be applied to your 40’s and 50’s instead.  You can’t go back anyway, only be in today and look toward your future.

So don’t be afraid to recreate yourself, even if it’s just a small part of your life.  You don’t have to go hog wild crazy and disrupt everything and everyone around you like the stereotype of “mid-life crisis” demands.  Sure, there are people who do that.  Leave their long time spouse for someone younger than their kids, buy a wildly expensive sports car and start dressing ridiculous.  That is the extreme case.  I was thinking more along the lines as starting that small business on the side you always wanted, crafting jewelry or painting, traveling to those places you dreamt about, volunteering for a cause close to your heart or changing careers.

The bottom line is, life is short and you should take the time to really search your heart and follow your dreams you may have missed.  It’s never to late to recreate (okay, I have no aspirations to be a poet, you can breathe easy!).

Clues From the Dreams of Your Youth

As most people know, we bought a new house and moved out into the boonies or BFE, whichever you prefer to refer to it (hey that rhymes a bit!).  And that I wish I had moved out of the city limits years ago but was trying to be frugal and financially responsible so I didn’t dare think outside the lines.  Financially of course, it made sense to stay in our old house, after all the mortgage, with escrow, was less than most people’s apartment rent.  Plus we had done a ton of work to the place.  But none of us was really happy there anymore.  Once we fixed what we thought was wrong with the place, well things were just still ‘wrong’.

My husband drug me out looking at homes, kicking and screaming because I wanted to say financially ‘safe’ and well, I had been entrenched in that house for 15 years.  He was right and I was wrong and hell I even admitted to him.  He may have written it down in his calendar as a major life event.  “Laura admitted I was right.”  Kidding… Sorta…

So I was sitting down with a card I bought my husband for Sweetest Day trying to think of what I wanted to write inside.  I always try to write something heartfelt and poignant for that moment in our lives so he knows I didn’t just grab random card from the shelf and throw it in the grocery cart.  I actually put love and thought into the whole action.  And I want him to know how very much I appreciate him and how truly lucky I honestly am to have him in my life.  Okay, now this is starting to sound like a greeting card.

When I thought about our move, I thought about how I had given up on my dreams that I had when I was 18/19.  When I moved to the big city of Dayton, with plans to work part time for a doctor after completing college for Medical Assisting and going back to college to obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree, maybe even go for my Ph.D.  My folly was moving with the man who would become my first husband and letting all his agendas derail my plans.  In other words, I compromised so much in that relationship just to keep someone else happy (who then repeatedly cheated on and lied to me) that I lost my dreams.

Over the years, I struggled, one bad marriage and then finally another bad married until I turned 38 and said F! This is enough of this crap.  And I changed my entire life.  Except I didn’t realize that I was too afraid to reach for my dreams.  I wanted to stay safe.  Financially safe.  Everyone experienced layoffs starting in 2009 and my current husband and I put in a plan to pay off all our debt except one vehicle payment and our mortgage.  Eventually the vehicle payment will go as well when we hopefully can just start paying cash for vehicles but that’s down the road.

We reached our initial goal and had all this money left over.  We thought whoo hoo, if something happens with one of our jobs or both of our jobs we can both work at McDonalds and pay the bills.  There is something to be said for financial freedom such as that.  It makes you feel way more secure and free.   Which was part of the reason my husband had to fight me so hard to consider going into a lot more debt on a house.   Finally we agreed that we would stay within a home price range that would allow us to meet our budget requirements on his salary.  In other words, if we couldn’t pay the bills on his take home pay, the house was too much money.

Because we had paid off so much debt, we were able to allow ourselves a handsome sum for a home or so it felt to me.  This seemed to be a reasonable compromise even though the credit union said we were approved for a mortgage double with what we ended up with.  There weren’t even very many homes for sale in that upper crust price range anyway.  Not that weren’t over 6000 sq ft and so elaborate that it made my head spin.  I’m still a simple girl and a lot of homes in that price seemed to have a lot of “look at me” features more to keep up with the Khardashians than to make your life more simple or enjoyable.  I don’t need a theatre room but I may consider the heated towel racks for my current house…

So when I was writing my message to my husband in my card, I told him thank you for making my dream come true because I was too afraid to do it.  When I wrote those words, I surprised myself because I had not really considered the fact I had been afraid.  Some of it was the financial jump but we can still pay the bills on his salary easy enough so it wasn’t really the money.  I had to face the fact that I had long ago given up on my dream of a beautiful colonial home out in the country.  I had convinced myself I no longer wanted the bigger house, telling myself it was frivolous and silly and not smart financially.  I was being smart staying put in the smaller house in town with the little mortgage and neighbors looking in my windows (well not literally, it just felt closed in).

That morning I had learned a childhood friend is facing a serious and most likely terminal illness.  We are the same age, graduated the same class.  I sat with the pen still in my hand and thought about how we never know how long we really have.  When you’re young, you think nothing can hurt you, or nothing bad can happen.  Then you get mid-life and you’re losing people you love, watching people your age die.  Death isn’t that myth anymore, it is the stark reality.  You don’t know how long you have or the people you love have on this earth.

Cancer takes so many of us every day.  It’s an epidemic, not to mention all the other tragic things that can happen.  That fairy-tale bubble seems to burst for many of us when we hit a certain age.  You wonder things like how did my grandparents handle all their friends and family dying?  Do you finally just get used to it and accept it as a fact of life?  Just embrace each day and be grateful for your blessings?  I don’t know, my grandparents have been gone for years so I can’t ask them.

As I sit here on my bed, the sun has risen and I have watched the light move across the west wall of my bedroom.  It is utterly quiet and peaceful at this moment.  Just the sound of the dryer in the other room.  I can see for miles from my second-story bedroom windows over rolling fields, woods and a quarry.  My dream actually materialized better than I had first imagined all those years ago.  The question that came to mind yesterday I wrote in the card was what other dreams have I completely repressed and pushed away?  I’m going to search this out and see if there is something else I am missing in my life that I haven’t given myself permission to pursue.

Maybe the dreams of our youth don’t really die but just sit and wait until we remember we had them.  After all, back then we were more likely to follow our hearts than make excuses why we can’t make them happen.   We were allowed to dream back then.  When you grow up, you’re expected to be responsible and make practical choices but not all dreams are “practical” or even seem “wise” or even “grow-up”.   I intend to revisit my youthful dreams.  Dig them back up and really examine them.

But this time I am going to listen to my heart rather than my head…  Happy Dreaming!