Tag Archive | acceptance

I’m at that Age

dandelionI’m at that age, fifty-one as of yesterday, where two main things are in play. First, I gained a lot of perspective. I’ve been through so many situations, met so many people, and have failed more times than I can count, that I finally get it. I understand life, and what we’re supposed to do, and how I can maneuver through it in a relatively peaceful existence, helping others find peace, steering clear of conflict. I’ve managed to gain the confidence needed to push away people who upset me, be it those I’m close to, or those on social media whose sole purpose seems to be crying out at the injustices of the world. I’m a glass half full type, and will always see humanity and the U.S. and the world at large, as inhabited by good people with good intentions. And I try to push that agenda: be nice. I’m in a good place. A happy place. Perspective has a lot to do with it but it’s also where my choices have landed me. I feel like I’m coasting, drifting along happy on the river of life, a leaf on its waters, enjoying the sun’s warmth, and the ebb and flow of the current.

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The second thing that I am encountering, is that at fifty-one I’m at the age where people around me are dying. In February my ex mother-in-law passed away. A couple of weeks ago my ex father-in-law followed suit. He’d been sick for sometime but still. They were only on their seventies which is not old, and not too far fifty-one. A couple of months ago I was shocked and saddened to discover one of my best friends from middle and high school, and early twenties, died suddenly. I don’t know how, or what happened but her husband passed just a year before and she left behind a daughter Ivy’s age and another in high school. Others I know have been diagnosed with cancer, others have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, pre-diabetes. Or all those things. It’s scary knowing that at this juncture, the people I know now may not be here forever.

Lots of people, most probably, have experienced death in loved ones. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid it mostly except for grandparents and a few others. My parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends…they’re all still here. The people who have passed in the last year, the in-laws and a friend of ours in his seventies had long-term health issues made worse or caused by smoking. But when my high school friend passed away, a woman just a few months older than me, it was a shock. That could be me. Could be any of us.

At fifty-one, though I’m healthy, I feel like any day could be the last day. I’m not being maudlin, just realistic. I could have choked to death on a piece of candy as a young child, or been electrocuted, but someone saved me. I could have died in a head on collision on the freeway at twenty-three, but even with no seatbelts I walked away with chipped teeth. With all the shootings and car accidents and illnesses, on the one hand I am grateful every day to have another day to cruise down the river and enjoy the sunshine. On the other hand, I know I don’t have forever.

I think Ryan went through something like this when he turned fifty-five. That was his age of reckoning. We met up with a friend recently who said because she and her husband didn’t have kids, they wondered what to do with all their expensive books when they someday passed. At twenty and thirty and forty years old, you’re in acquisition mode. Filling your life with things that bring you joy. And then you get here and start wondering what will happen to everything when you go, and you start thinking maybe you can stop adding more stuff and start taking away, or at the very least, accept that when you go, others may not treasure your treasures the way you did.

It may seem like I’m writing this, terrified of death, or the end, or questioning what it all meant. Not at all. I really like life. I’ve always liked it but it’s only the last year or two that it’s…dare I say, easy. Seamless.

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When I used to picture how I’d end up, it was like this. I’ve got a loving partner, a wonderful daughter, good, genuine friends, a cozy house, a reliable car, a job that I miss doing when I’m on vacation, a colorful yard filled with bright greens and reds and yellows that epitomize vibrancy and life.

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My dogs and old cat gather around for their handfuls of heart and blood pressure and dementia pills. But they too are filled with love and life and not thinking of when it’ll be over, just really excited every day that they get to wake up and run around and cuddle. It’s a simple and a good philosophy. When I was younger, I was always questioning everything, digging deep into what was really there, what could happen. Now I see life with all its beauty, as it is. Today.

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You can look at a garden and see wildflowers swaying in the wind, picturing gophers below the surface chomping grass to feed their families, and worms, spiders, and caterpillars all cohabitating, all part of the process that makes the garden. You can smell the flowers and listen to the buzzing of the bees. You can touch the velvety smooth petals, and feel the powdery dirt between your toes. The sky is bright blue and the blazing sun warms you, just enough. And you can be thankful that you get to be a part of it all, that you are lucky enough to be immersed in such a perfect existence.

Or you can obsess about why others don’t think like you, or worship the same God/god or vote the same way, or discipline their children the same or eat meat or not eat meat. And you can tear yourself apart with anger at how different everyone is from you, and agonize over what will happen if everyone isn’t like you, if they choose other paths or love differently.

I choose option one. To just live as I am, in the company of others who are not like I am. To seek peace and those who are peaceful, or those who strive for peace.

At fifty-one, I appreciate every moment, every raindrop, every ant in the cat food, every gopher hole, and artist who has tried and succeeded or tried and failed because it’s all part of life. And this life is a good one. I hope I get a lot more years, and that those around me do too. But mostly I hope that everyone around me can see that indeed, it is a wonderful world, that time must be cherished, and that the best we can do is to see the beauty in everything. Ivy has a tattoo that says Dwell on the beauty of life. There’s no simpler way to say it than that. Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them. Thank you, Marcus Aurelius, and thank you to the universe for giving me another year.

Happy birthday to me,

Carly G.

What Could Have Been

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Ivy sent me a meme the other day. It was in block colorful letters and said “Remember that once you dreamed of being where you are now.” This made me smile. There’s something dreamlike about how our lives have turned out. Ivy said she feels the same and suggested looking at my hands to make sure I’m awake. That’s the telltale test which seems to have replaced “pinch yourself.”

It’s not that we have perfect lives. My job entails a ton of brain activity, and hot flashes and too many pets in the bed rob me of a good night’s sleep. I switch between being exhausted and overly energetic. I’m overweight and drowning in credit card and student loan debt. My Five-Year, Debt-Free plan keeps getting extended. The animals are old, most of them, and very costly. Ivy has chronic pain and a future filled with medical uncertainties. Will her disease progress? Will she have a stroke, or need a new kidney? Will her future baby inherit her disease? What if she never lands a high-paying job that will allow me to stop paying her bills?

But beneath all those external situations and possibilities, there’s a tangible sense that we belong exactly where we are, a certainty that’s plunked us into an unwavering state of contentment.

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Opportunities are appearing and falling into place with inexplicable swiftness.  I’m writing fiction again after a hiatus of what feels like a year. Ryan’s friend, now my friend, Debbie, has been nudging me to write a web series for a couple of years. I’ve been saying no, resistant for reasons I can’t defend, but she finally pushed me hard enough until I conceded. It helped that only a week or two before, I got to “act” on a reality show/ courtroom drama, a last-minute opportunity that popped up. It was surprisingly fun, and being in the studio, getting “hair and makeup” and improvising lines was alluring. I finally grasped the “acting bug” phenomenon people talk about. When Debbie took me to a studio later, and we brainstormed the series idea with another friend, I left in an exhilarated, manic state, suddenly back to writing, for better or worse, with chronic excitement and boundless energy.

Everything I wanted is finally coming to fruition.

Ivy just got grades for her second semester, the end of her junior year. All As, all year. In her spare time, she joined a band and has been recording with them; and her summer job will be co-manager of a theater camp for kids. All endeavors that feel more fantasy than reality. She meditates every day, does yoga, often by the ocean as waves crash just beyond her.  She has found an inner peace and quiet she never imagined possible. It’s all clicking into place. 11227039_960513267303604_3426904505297736836_n

Yet sometimes I have neurotic panic moments when I worry I’ll wake up and be back in another part of my life, where none of this happened. I made so many choices over the years and my life could have turned out differently. This fear grips me sometimes, and despite the inner voice that talks me off the ledge and convinces me this is real, it’s an irrational dread I live with.

When I was in high school, I was dating a boy from Maine. Mean Guy was still with us then and I was about as miserable and hopeless as I ever have been. At one point I came home and told my mother that I was going to quit school and move to Maine. Thankfully she told me no and I listened. But if I had done that, where would I be now? Not in Southern California with Ryan, pets, Ivy, and this life.

When I was a senior in high school, I signed papers to join the Air Force. It was settled. I’d go to boot camp in the summer, get free college, and serve my time at the end. I was going into Military Intelligence because I had a flair for languages. But my mother said no and since I was only seventeen, that was that. She would NOT sign the consent form. She was correct in that by the time I was eighteen that following September I no longer wanted to join the military. But what if I had? I could have been killed. Or maybe I’d have excelled and found myself in a nice little life. I’d have a degree and solid career, maybe a military husband and a rigid, ordered life. But it wouldn’t be this life.

After I graduated from high school, I was supposed to go to college but canceled last minute, which has been mentioned before. I often regret that I didn’t get my degree. I have remorse over this I can’t get past no matter how old I get. But if I had gone, I wouldn’t be here now. Maybe I would have gotten the psychology degree I was pursuing and then gotten a Masters. Maybe a PHD. Maybe I’d have gotten a nice husband and a big house and several kids. Maybe I would have been happy. But I wouldn’t be where I am now and I wouldn’t have Ivy or Ryan or the experiences that make me who I am.

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When Ivy was four-years-old, I almost moved to Canada, to Prince Edward Island. I honestly think I would have loved it as I still maintain it’s a magical place that always felt perfect. I would have been happy there, no doubt, but I would have been away from the family that helped me so much when I was raising Ivy. Even so, if I had to pick an alternate life to wake up to, it would be that path. But if I had moved to Canada, Ivy and wouldn’t have ended up here, in this life. I get grief-stricken just thinking about it.

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There were a thousand other choices I’ve made over the years, ones I looked back on and regretted. Ones that seemed pointless and foolish, and that derailed advancement in my company or in my writing career. I think of the tears I shed over boys or men who broke up with me, or friends or family members who left me behind.

But those missteps and tears led me here. If I had made even one different decision, I would not be where I am now. In this life where Ivy and I belong, a life that despite its often-ethereal quality filled with uncanny coincidences, is evidently not too good to be true.

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If you’ve ever done a jigsaw puzzle, you know the exhilarating feeling you get when after countless hours and days of adding one piece at a time, first the edges, then the middle and connecting pieces, you get to the point where there are only a handful of pieces left. And your excitement is overwhelming because every piece you pick up fits exactly where you think it should. It’s effortless.  You forget the frustration of the time you spent picking the wrong pieces, the drudgery of working toward something whose completion seemed an impossibility.  Instead you rejoice in the thrill of adding one piece after another with no guess work. It all flows perfectly and each little click into place brings you one step closer to finishing. You know finally, you have achieved exactly what you set out to do.

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I know this is all real because I just looked at my hands. My life’s path could have led anywhere, but I’m relieved that I ended up exactly where I needed to be.

To finding all the pieces,

-Carly G.

 

On Building a Dollhouse

Ryan bought me a dollhouse for Christmas. I never had one as a child, except for a folding vinyl one we got at a flea market. Though I liked that one very much at the time, it was not a real dollhouse. I always wanted a big wooden house that I could decorate with wallpaper and paint and tiny furniture. I never managed to get one, and when I had Ivy I vowed that she would have a grand dollhouse. For some reason, her childhood went by too fast and I never managed to get her one either.  She says she was just as happy with her multi-level grand Barbie house with an elevator but to me that does not count.

So on Christmas I opened a real dollhouse and was thrilled. It was a kit with a lot of pieces but that made it all the more fun, right? Well, yes and no. It took a week before I had time to open the box and pour out the pieces, which seemed to multiply before my eyes. I had only a grainy picture on the box to guide me as to the final result, and some simple directions. Simple here means not that they made it simple for me to assemble but that the manufacturer simplified his process by putting everything in basic, poorly drawn sketches and covered all the instructions in about ten pages.

To say I was intimidated is an understatement. For one, I expected to snap it together, paint it, furnish it, and display it in record time. It took a whole day just to dry fit the base together because I didn’t understand the picture and kept taking it apart and putting it back together, second guessing every step. On the third try, I gave up and Ryan came out and took it apart and put it back together the exact same way and said the instructions were not confusing at all. But they were. I then watched YouTube Videos and read blogs about dollhouses. Most say you should paint the pieces first.

For a bit I sat, stunned, realizing that before I could build this I had to decide on colors, buy the paint and supplies, dry fit everything to make sure I had the right pieces in the right places, paint them, then glue them. With a lot of waiting in between. This would take forever!

Then I took a mental step back. So it takes forever. The point of the house, I understood then, was not to have something to display, but something to do, to experience. When the next weekend rolled around, I had my supplies, plenty of time, and a different attitude. All day Sunday, I painstakingly painted all the window frames on the first floor. I stained and polyurethaned the grand front door and porch railings. I thought ahead to paint the second floor piece white on one side for ceilings. I felt very clever and excited about my newfound dollhouse skills.

Then I started gluing. I forced a little window in and the wall itself got loose. Okay, I should have put the windows in before I put the walls up. Check. Lesson learned.

I glued all the window frames in and taped them up to hold them until the glue dried. I glued the front door in. I glued in the porch railings. And a few minutes later I realized the back of the railings were unstained. It was too late to take it all apart so I used a Q-tip dipped in stain and mostly covered everything.

Wow the first floor looked great, I thought. And I was thoroughly enjoying the process, learning what to do and what not to do. Like life, it’s about the experience. It’s about not making the same mistakes. I am sure that by the time I’m working on the top floor I will have this all figured out and hopefully no one will notice the errors on the first two floors.

With life, I am hoping people just focus on the NOW me, on my NOW life, not all the foolish, inept things I did when I was younger and just learning.

I looked at the grainy sketch of the house from the outside of the box. Life is very much like building a dollhouse. You see a picture of a grandparent or distant relative, someone the family speaks of with reverence. You wonder how to be like that, how to achieve what she did. There are no good instructions, just the bare bones you may hear about. She worked hard, got a degree, got married…

No one supplies the details of how she became successful. How she became an incredible matriarch that everyone looked up to. I am sure that if you were to see the details of such a life, you would find mistakes she made along the way. But we only look at the finished product. We remember the final person, and tend not to dwell on what she was before, unless we are resentful and hateful people (which I am not).

When I went to take pictures of my house in progress I was miffed to discover that my forgetting to paint the backsides of the window frames mattered. From the inside, they were unpainted and wood burned in some areas. It was too late to start over. I hadn’t thought about the inside of the house. Alas, another metaphor for life. We do not think about the insides, what we assume people cannot see. We strive for the outside appearance. The paint and stain and what the structure looks like. We tend not to focus on how we feel, the guilt we have, the sacrifices we’ve made, the compromises, the triumphs. We focus on what people will see. And there is no starting over.

In the end my dollhouse will look beautiful, because of what I’ve learned, because of the time I spent, and the enjoyment and frustrations I poured into it. Because only I know the errors I made and how hard I worked to get things right, and how proud I was when I did get things right. To someone on the outside, it may look a little flawed. Perhaps I’ll hang tiny wallpaper that isn’t the right scale, or I’ll use lavender paint in the living room that a miniature expert will think looks gaudy. But to me it will be just right, because at the end of the day I am supposed to make my own happiness. What others think should not penetrate the walls of this little house that is crafted with love and hope and dreams. This little house that symbolizes me, my struggles, and my pride in building a life.

Perhaps my foundation was shaky and I had subpar instructions, but in the end, I think me and my house will turn out just fine.

To building a life-

-Carly G.