Tag Archives: growing up

I want a “do over”…

Just back from watching The Great Gatsby. It astonishes me how different all these books are from what I thought they were when I was forced to read them in high school. The whole feeling of Gatsby was so different than what I remembered (truth is I just lived for Robert Redford (still do) and dreamed of being his Daisy). I never understood the significance of the damn green light at the end of the pier.
I didn’t have the life context to even begin to understand the story. The endless striving for a dream only to find that the dream had changed while you strove, and hey, it wasn’t worth the striving anyway…you need life context for that. You need to have lost a few dreams enroute in order to understand the terrible terrible innocence of Gatsby, the horribleness of the people who used him.
If only we had the chance to redo our lives with the information we know now. Think of how much easier it would be if you knew the bumps ahead?
I was at the mall today, marvelling at the amazingly intricate strollers people were carrying their kids around in, and wincing at tired parents yelling at tired kids.
If I had it to do over, I’d be more patient. I’d enjoy my kids more. I’d force their dad to enjoy them more, too. What’s work, anyway? I’d have fought for our marriage, too, and forced him to be present in it. Even if I had to sit on him. I’d have sat on him more often, in a different way…
If I had it to do over, I’d have fought more to stay in the same place, to form lasting friendships with people. My friendships now are what sustain me. I don’t think I was always as good a friend as I could have been, and I’ve been lonely a great deal of my life. If I had it to do over, I’d work harder at being a friend, less hard at being a career success. I’d spend more time with my cousins. They’re like family bright – not as competitive as siblings, easier to just love.
I’d exercise more, if I had another chance. I’d spend lots more time enjoying the freedom of moving my body, of walking and running and flinging my muscles around while I could, before MS made every such exertion a guessing game, subject to sudden limitations. I’d tell my ballet instructor at Harriet Hoctor’s school to take her flat shoes and stuff ’em and demand to be on point even if I was shorter than everyone else.
I’d spend more time on creative pursuits: writing, music, art. They are truly the only things of value in this cynical depressing world. Well, those and chocolate and ice cream and single malt. And full-on laughter.
I’d travel more. I’d stop spending money on stuff and spend it on seeing other places while I still could. I’d go volunteer in Africa or something, where my skills could be some use and where the kids (I’d take them with me) could see that I had value to others. They already know how privileged they are and do good things, but I have this irrational urge to make them proud of me.
Probably cos I’m so proud of them.
Yep, a do-over would be great. I might even be able to protect my kids from things that hurt them as they grew up – I’d know to be aware that some people were not to be trusted, that school was nastier than it was when I grew up, that drugs were so present.
Probably not. It’s hard to be everywhere, and I always valued my kids’ right to privacy. I still do. I just wish I could try it all over again.
Maybe do it just the teensiest bit better.
Or, at the very least, appreciate it more.

So, who defines you?

I had someone ask me today what I would tell a younger version of myself, if I had it to do over again.
I told her I would tell myself to not let other people define me.
We are all socialized from such a young age to be that person others want to see in us – this girl is “sweet”, that boy is “active”, this girl is “angry and uncooperative”, that boy is “sullen” or “shy”. We get told what we like to do, what we should be when we grow up, who we should like and not like, how we should behave.
Sure, a lot of this is part of being civilized from our basic uncivilized monster ways as children. A lot of it, though, is being made into a vision of what someone else wants.
I used to want to be a vet, but was talked out of that, a career that would have made me happy. I wanted to be a scientist, but got talked out of that. I wanted to have a lifelong career, but got thrust out of that. Now I write stories that inevitably turn out murderous or sad, yet I’m a happy, cheerful person. People tell me I should write funny stuff. I can’t. I feel badly for disappointing them.
Others tell me I should do this or that and even here, in my 50’s, and knowing better, I find myself trying to meet their requests. Or feeling badly when I cannot.
My whole life I’ve been a bit of an outlier, always a bit on the side of oddness. Doesn’t help that I’m unusually short and a bit round, have a twisted sense of humour, and dress for comfort, not speed. Not your average girl, I spent a lot of my time on the side of dance floors and waiting out events. I learned to push myself hard, but I cheated myself out of so many adventures after the years of being outside, for fear of being totally alone.
If I could talk to younger me, I’d say – hey, fitting in doesn’t really matter. It’ll kill you in the end. Be who you are and people will gather around you –
if only to point and laugh.
But you’ll still be the centre.
Lately, my MS has forced me to make changes in my life, changes that seem odd or unpredictable or outright strange to others. One person told me I made choices out of fear; another that I made choices out of optimism. I of course prefer the latter view. I like to think that I choose paths based on overly optimistic views of my capabilities and then have to readjust them as my disease intrudes, dang it.
The fact remains that I make choices, I change the things I don’t like, I cut away dead branches, I fertilize growing ones. There may not seem to be a plan, but I’m planning around earthquakes. I have to be flexible.
And I guess I need to say, though I talk about my plans, unless I ask for your advice, I don’t want it. We are all trying to define ourselves within our realities, and I’ll respect your choices if you respect mine. I just can’t waste any more time being defined by others.
Fair warning: I plan to become eccentric. Stand back.

Give it up, already!

When do you give up? When do you decide that the effort just isn’t worth it anymore, that you’ve wasted enough time, that you should cut your losses and move on?

I’ve struggled with writing for some time now, beaten back by fatigue, depression, and that damned autocorrect. Occasionally I think to myself – hey, why not just give it up? You’ve given it your best try. You’ve sent things out, you’ve been rebuffed and rewarded about equally – surely that’s enough for now.

I’ve given up other things. Big things. Once I gave up my marriage. Other times I’ve given up friends, romances, volunteer responsibilities, pets, even tickets to an Elton John/Billy Joel concert (though I was glad I gave them to one of my best friends ever).

I’ve got a virtual room full of hangers-on that demand I give them up and move on – odd dust bunnies of objects, a piece of my heart, chunks of things I love but realize aren’t good for me, like far too much chocolate…

And yet there are other things I stick with. I am going to the gym three times a week, despite the exhaustion this causes my MS and despite the lack of any recognizable change in my form. I follow religion in my own wobbly way, despite questions and the everlasting silence from above (which is, I suppose, better than malevolent laughter). I’m persisting in learning to play the ukulele, in learning to felt and knit and make things. I keep on trying to write, even when it doesn’t come.

This week I started to wonder why I continue to work at some things, and not others, and I think it comes down to this – I persist with the things that make me feel better inside. The things that fit with my inner ethical self, my inner creative self, the self I think I am supposed to be. The things that seem congruent.

When I left my marriage, I left because I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. It wasn’t so much about my ex as it was about how I behaved when I was with him. The other things I’ve left for similar reasons. I didn’t like who they made me be.

I continue to write because I see the world better when I write – I am more observant as I seek words to describe my environment, I treasure others’ writing more, I wallow in words. I feel more interesting, diverse, mentally strong.

I exercise because my lungs feel open, my back is straighter, my joints move more smoothly. And even though I have to stagger off the machines as my MS makes its presence noted, for a few moments I feel normal again.

I guess, as I grow up, I am trying to fit things into the internal picture I have of myself at my best. I’m not there yet. I still have bumpy protuberances poking out of my ethical self, my self self. I still have some pruning and shaping to do.

But I’m not pruning the writing. The truth is in there. Or under there. Somewhere.

PS: CL – I’m not giving up on you. Ever.