Fifty Two Life Lessons

My fifty second birthday is peeking over the horizon at me. Just a few more days and it’ll be on top of me. It’s truly amazing how quickly the years fly by. Especially once you have kids. There was a time when I thought being fifty was ancient. It was so far down the road and quite frankly I just never really envisioned myself being in my fifties. That was where my parents resided. Then one day I wake up and realize with a shock that I’m there. I’m officially middle-aged.

The interesting thing is – I don’t feel like a middle-aged person. I still feel and think like I did when I was younger. I still enjoy running and being active. I still find amusement in the stupidest, little things and delight in beauty around me. Somehow I always associated middle age with boring, dour looking folks who have long outgrown fanciful things like dreams and playing. At least that was how I always saw my parents and their friends, or maybe that was just how the younger generation sees things. But, being in my fifties really isn’t bad at all.  I’ve learned a lot of things along the way and actually look forward to learning more as I get older. Every stage in life has its own level of learning and it’s not about getting old, it’s about learning and growing mentally and emotionally.

Since I’ve been doing some reflecting on life, I thought I’d try to come up with 52 life lessons that have worked for me. In no particular order… I’m just typing them up as they come to mind.

1. Smile. Smiling does wonders to change a mood. People respond positively to a genuine smile, and that positive response goes a long way in boosting your own mental state. I don’t mean walk around grinning like an idiot every second of the day. It’s just that we all have a choice… we can choose to look at the good or bad aspect of situations. Those who choose to dwell on the good things tend to be much more approachable and easy to be around.

2. Don’t marry just for the sake of getting married. There are literally billions of people on this planet. Life is too special to be wasted being with someone that isn’t quite right for you. When you meet that perfect match, you’ll know it. If you haven’t, at least have fun meeting people along the way. There’s nothing wrong with being alone when you’re comfortable and at peace with yourself. Being married to the wrong person and trying to make it work, only adds stress and unhappiness along the way. Too many times I’ve seen (I was one…) where people meet and say that they can work around the differences and change the person. Trust me, it’s not easy to change the core of who someone is.

3. Exercise. Okay, I can hear the groans already. A lot of people think exercise is overrated. It’s not. It truly does create a more positive state of mind as well as better health. I’ve gone through periods of exercising and not. Whenever I went for a while without a regular workout regime, I started feeling bad both physically and mentally. My physical feeling would be aches, pains and a feeling of being too heavy. The discomfort that I felt with myself only brought my mental state down. Then I would get back into running and always, without fail, I’d feel that boost of confidence. That positive energy would start flowing through me again. Our bodies are just like any mechanical thing we may have such as cars. If you don’t take your car in for regular tune-ups and make sure the tires, oil and other things are changed or maintained on a regular basis – it’s going to break down on you and quit. Our bodies are basically the same way. They need to be maintained and treated well to carry us through our lifetime.

4. Play. Always make time for playing. We work and spend much of our time trying to save a little money, pay bills, maintain our homes, cars and take care of our families. It’s incredibly important to make time for fun. Otherwise your mind is going to get so bogged down with responsibilities. Make time to let loose, go somewhere new, experience something fun. Just get out and clear your head of problems and really enjoy yourself.

5. Choose your battles wisely. If you’re going to get into an argument with someone, at least make sure it’s a worthwhile battle. Otherwise it’s wasted energy. If it really isn’t important and about something that isn’t going to affect your life and surroundings, then just let it go.

6. Learn something new whenever possible. Take a class, read, explore…you’ll be a much more interesting person for it.

7. Make time for animals in your life. They can teach a lot about unconditional love.

8. Try new experiences. I went snow skiing for the first time in my life last winter and had a fantastic time. I don’t want to find myself sitting in a wheelchair at eighty wondering what it would have been like if….

9. If you have kids, give them the absolute best you can. Prepare them for life and give them the tools needed to succeed. And love them unconditionally.

10. Think before you speak. Who among us hasn’t been quick with our mouths only to regret the words coming out. Maybe this is something that has to be learned over time, but it’s very true that our words can sometimes cut deep.

11. Be sensible about your finances. Money isn’t everything, but it’s nothing to brush aside either. Find a good balance where you have enough money so you don’t have to worry about your next meal or how you’ll pay your bills, but at the same time don’t let money run your life.

12. Leave a place better than when you arrived. Pick up after yourself, get rid of trash, etc. None of us want to live in a dumpster so why would we just leave trash laying around?

13. Make time for books and movies. They’re great for relaxation and entertainment, but don’t make them a focal point of your life.

14. Enjoy good food. Be open to trying different dishes and flavors.

15. When in love, love with all your heart. If the love fades then let it go and move on. Know that nothing is forever and sometimes the universe knows what we need at certain points in our lives.

16. Laugh often and laugh loud.

17. See the ocean at least once in your life.

18. Go to the mountains at least once in your life.

19. Possessions are there to enhance your life, not to encumber it. Be willing to give things away when they’ve outlived their purpose. Life is not about things, but about experiences.

20. Always treat others the way you would want to be treated.

21. Never underestimate the power of sleep. A good night sleep will do wonders to boost morale and lift spirits.

22. If you see something beautiful, stop and take it in. Don’t be in such a rush that you miss a great sunset or the glitter from the sun dancing across a lake. We’re not going to be here forever so don’t take beauty for granted.

23. Take care of the older generation. They’ve been around a long time, they deserve to be respected and cared for. These were people that were our age at one time. Always remember that we will all get to that point at one time or another and treat them how we would expect or wish to be treated ourselves.

24. When doing a job for someone, do it well. You wouldn’t appreciate paying someone to do something for you only to see that they’re putting in a half-assed attempt. Do your job well and to the best of your ability.

25. Get crazy once in a while. Let your hair down and don’t be afraid to look foolish. As long as no one gets hurt by your actions, it’s good to let loose.

26. Create something. A picture, poem, story, garden… anything. Just put something together and watch it grow.

27. Nothing’s perfect. We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people. Accept these imperfections and learn to see beauty in them.

28. Cry. Don’t be afraid to cry and show your emotions.

29. Show appreciation whenever you can. People usually respond amazingly to a simple but genuine “thank you”.

30. Take vacations. Even if you don’t have the money to travel someplace exotic, a simple drive to the beach or countryside can rejuvenate ones soul.

31. Take time for inner reflection. The world we live in is so fast-paced and hectic that it’s easy to lose touch with yourself.  Step back once in a while to take a breather and meditate. Gather your thoughts and center yourself.

32. Nothing is permanent. Sometimes someone or something that was so good for us at one time can become a source of anxiety or frustration after time. If this happens, it may be time to step back and away from that source. We don’t all go down the same paths in life. Paths intersect for periods of times and then they may divide and you find yourselves going down different paths. It’s okay to move on. Don’t hold on so tightly and refuse to let things flow.

33. Enjoy a good glass of wine.

34. Accept change. It’s inevitable in this changing world we live in. Why fight it?

35. Dress up and wear something incredibly sexy once in a while.

36. Take lots of pictures. Going back and looking at them usually puts a smile on my face.

37. Don’t procrastinate. Easier said than done, I know. But taking care of things right then and there reduces stress in your life. You’re not constantly thinking of the things that need to be taken care of when they’re done on the spot.

38. Accept people for who they are. Too many times, especially in relationships, people will find something that they’re not 100% happy with and place their focus on “fixing” that imperfection. It doesn’t work. Determine if it’s an imperfection that you can live with and leave it alone. If not, move on.

39. Eat sensibly. What we put into our bodies does have an impact on how we feel. Maybe not immediately but over time…  You wouldn’t put dirt into your gas tank, would you? It would muck it all up. Our bodies are the same way.

40. Give what you would like to receive. I’m not talking about things. I’m talking about love, gratitude, respect…

41. Don’t follow the crowd. Too often the crowd is doing things only to be accepted or to be popular and often that entails things that we may not be in agreement with. Step back and be true to yourself.

42. If you see someone being bullied or pushed around, stick up for them. Let them know they’re not alone and let the aggressors know that what they’re doing isn’t cool.

43. Spend time with a baby who is discovering the world for the first time. Seeing things through their eyes really puts things in perspective.

44. Dream. The day you stop dreaming is the day you stop living and start just existing.

45. Enjoy getting older. It may not be so much fun to see the wrinkles on the face, but really, they’re an indicator of what a person has been through. The wisdom and knowledge gained from all those years should be embraced and revered.

46. Think about the choices you make. Your kid wants to go out and play with you but the house needs cleaning….  choose the playtime with the kid over cleaning. Cleaning can be done anytime, but the playing with the kid will be gone over time.

47. Treasure the people in your life. You never know how long they will be there so enjoy every moment you can with them.

48. Bullying, stalking, threatening actions are not cool.

49. Splurge once in a while on yourself. I have a hard time with this one. I tend to want to save my money and time for my mother and daughter that I tend to forget about myself. But when I do something for myself, it’s a great morale boost.

50. Don’t be self-centered. People who are able to forget about themselves to focus on other people or tasks tend to reap more than those who spend all their time thinking of their own desires.

51. What?? We’re not done yet????

52. Live, love, laugh and just enjoy the hell out of this life. Be kind, have fun, get crazy. We only get one shot at this, why not have fun while we’re here.

Happy birthday to me!!!!  Cheers!

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Falling In Love

It’s a really strange feeling when your child starts flirting, having boyfriends (or girlfriends) and dating.

In my mind she will always be a little girl and it was just so odd to see her moving into the romance phase of her life. It seemed to happen overnight too. One minute I was worrying about mundane things like making sure she kept up with school, homework and chores and the next thing I knew, I was having to be vigilante about which guys were coming into her life. It just opens up a whole new ballgame.

I was rolling with it though. I just made sure that the communication lines were always open between us. She confided in me and we’d have talks about life, boys , dating, etc…

I can handle this, I thought. I made sure she knew that the heavy duty relationships and marriage comes after college. After she’s had a chance to figure out who she really was. She agreed and all was good. Until….

She met THE guy. They had a lot in common, had same goals of college, education and future plans. They became inseparable. Nothing I did or said deterred them from being in love and making future plans. At first I thought – Okay, they’ll probably get through this and then it’ll fizzle out. But then I remembered something that hadn’t really registered in my brain until now when I see her at sixteen.

Sixteen was when I met the guy I’d eventually marry. We did divorce after 23 years of marriage, but the point is I was only sixteen and I’d already met the guy I was going to spend the next quarter of my life with. Once that realization set into my head, I started looking at her in an entirely different light. Is it possible that this could be the one? Yea, I guess it is. Do I still think it’s too young? Absolutely. In our parents and grandparents day, meeting your future mate at sixteen was not unthinkable. Today, I think there are just too many things to experience and figure out to settle for someone at that early of an age, but I realize that the heart sometimes knows what it wants. It’s entirely possible that this could be the one for her.

I figure that the most important thing is to be there for her to bounce her ideas, thoughts and feelings off of and most of all to love her unconditionally. I’m not going to lecture her or try to keep them apart. I just need to make sure they don’t lose sight of their goals. Know that college and education comes first because it will help make life so much easier if and when they do decide to get together.

Besides, so far, I like the guy that she’s chosen. He seems to be a good fit for her at this point in their lives. I just hope they remain on track with their goals and not divert from them the way I did. I didn’t have anyone around to advise me and make sure I was making the right decisions. So I’m putting myself in that position for them.

I had forgotten how powerful love can be. It’s all encompassing and just changes ones life completely. I remember when I look at them how it had been for me. It’s an amazing feeling and I wouldn’t take it away from them. It’s just that in my mind she’s still my baby and to see her moving into romance and love is, well I wouldn’t say difficult, but it’s been challenging to figure out how much to let go and how much to pull back.

Falling in love… such an amazing experience.

A Cougar’s Tale

Am I a Cougar? I guess so – based on society’s need to categorize, package and label things.

Did I set out to be a Cougar? Absolutely not.

When I was younger, I thought it was strange to see a younger guy with an older woman. Why on earth would a young guy want to be with someone older when there were so many tight, young bodies out there. It was somewhat of a threat to think that a guy might choose an older woman over what I would have to offer which was youth. No young woman wants to “lose” to someone older, right?

My ex was very youth driven. He was one of those men who was threatened by growing older and felt that if he surrounded himself by younger women, he could stave off the “old complex”. Since I was quite young when we met and hadn’t had a chance to formulate my own ideas or feelings about things, he influenced me a lot. I would hear him making comments that he couldn’t understand why any man would want to be with someone older. He’d talk about older women as being used up and undesirable. I guess it must have affected me more than I thought at the time because I began to dread the day that I would be considered “old”.

I left him a long time ago. I finally grew up and started figuring things out for myself and realized that I didn’t share his opinions on a lot of things. But I’m getting off the point here…

The point is, I just didn’t quite understand why someone young, energetic and strong would want to be with someone older. Not to mention starting families, retiring, all those life milestones that can really only be embraced when both are of the same age. Well -it’s funny how life works. Every man that has come on to me since my divorce has been younger and I never notice the age anymore. It’s not about age, never was. It’s about the connection of the spirit. It’s about really enjoying each other’s company.

I’ve been with someone younger for a number of years now. He and I get along so well. In the beginning I actually did resist the idea of getting close romantically with him. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of “cradle-robbing”, but he was persistent. We became friends first and found the connection between each other to be strong. We’re still together to this day.

Honestly – I still don’t see how that May-December relationship can exist into the senior years when I’m sitting in a wheelchair and drooling (rolling my eyes here)… but you know what – life is way too short to spend contemplating how it will be in the future. For all I know I could die a year from now and never reach those years. So, why am I concerning myself with how it could be, may be, or should be at any point in time? Just enjoy life in the moment and if you have someone special to share it with then do so. Regardless of any differences whether it’s age, religion, race… just embrace the connection of the spirits within.