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Well, I’m at that age where I’m looking for magic potions to smooth out my skin. When I was younger, I always said, “Why can’t people just grow old gracefully?” It’s not until you’re older that you realize no one grows old gracefully. They get old and look old, unless they get plastic surgery.

So I bought some anti-aging skin cream, and on the front of the package, it said that “97% of the people who used this cream saw results in two weeks.” Oh, I saw results all right.

Results:

  • I realized I’d just thrown away twelve bucks for no reason.
  • I realized I’d spent five minutes each night faithfully applying glop to my face for no reason.
  • I realized that the sample size of those who had used this cream and seen positive results was exactly three (3) people, all of whom were related to the manufacturer. Joe Wrinklecream’s mother and two sisters said it works like a charm.

Over-Hyped and Under-Performing Broken Promise Potion would be the new name I’d give to that product. But then, does anything live up to its claims these days? Did I really expect a miracle in a jar I got on Amazon?

The true life lesson is that “aging gracefully” is another way of saying “living gratefully.” I’m glad I’m still here. I appreciate my blessings. There’s still much to look forward to, wrinkles, stray greys and all. Living in the present and an attitude of gratitude? That’s what works like a charm.

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I’ve been playing Word Chums, an online game similar to Scrabble, to improve my memory. It’s fun. Once I got the hang of it, I decided to hone my skills…so I’d play higher levels against the computer. At first, I did poorly, but noticed that I got better and better, the harder the opponent. Eventually, my personal goal was to get a score of 200 points or higher per game, even if I lost to the computer. I enjoy it and it shores up my memory banks.

Then one day, I realized that even if I never play an actual person and only played against the computer, my score was public. Because I chose those harder levels I couldn’t beat to improve my game, I was showing as 50/50, meaning I had fifty percent wins, and fifty percent losses.

What?!? People can see my numbers? Heck, no. Immediately, I changed my approach, deciding only to play games that are of lower-level difficulty. Ones I knew I could win. After a couple of weeks, I’d raised my stats and now it shows that I’ve got 68% wins and 32% losses. That’s better. But what did I win?

The minute we become aware that there’s some kind of public record, we change our behavior. We don’t want strangers to think less of us. But nobody else has skin in the game. That’s true of life, too. You’re the only you on the planet. Life’s not a dress rehearsal. Play it your own way.

The blueberries I had with breakfast this morning were so big, they could’ve been plums-in-training! I was so amazed, I took a picture of them, putting them next to other fruit for perspective.

Now, you could look at that blueberry and say, Sure, you’re big for a blueberry, but why can’t you be as big as this Mandarin orange? Or this Pink Lady apple?

Berries can’t conform to dimensions they can’t possibly live up to. Why should they? They’re perfect for what they are.

It might seem like we’re in a big race with each other, based on the fact it’s called “the human race,” but that’s not the case. We’re all running, or walking, or meandering on our own pathway.

It’s never helpful to say, “Why can’t you be like the other…”:

  • Students
  • Siblings
  • Employees
  • Believers
  • Writers
  • Runners
  • People somewhere in the world

Those others can do this thing well. Why can’t you?

Comparing is actually a passive-aggressive way of trying to control others, as well as a quick-and-dirty way of deciding how to treat people. If you believe someone is not trying their best, you feel justified in mistreating them.

Remember: it’s how you treat those you consider “the least among us” that really shows the world who you are.

You can’t possibly know God if you don’t treat people with respect. That’s across the board. Even the people you think aren’t trying.

If you’re doing your best, why not assume others are as well? It might not be your best, but it may be the best they can do right now. And who knows? One day they might catch up and even surpass you. They’ll remember you were kind to them as you raced past. Maybe they’ll even offer you a Gatorade and some freakishly large blueberries!

“Be independent of the good opinion of others.” Abraham Maslow

Would you rather be universally liked by all, or loved by a loyal few?

If we could sum up the eras of a lifetime, it might read something like this:

Childhood: you want to belong.

Early adulthood: you want to be loved.

The rest of your life will be about this: you want to be yourself.

That’s good news, if you think about it. Early on, we may look to others as we determine how to “be yourself.” It takes years to figure out that everybody else is doing the same thing.

Ancient mariners didn’t have GPS. They used the stars, sun, moon and planets to navigate. Somehow, they found their way across oceans. In modern times, we tend to use landmarks to map out the course of life. First love. First job. First child.

But that’s also the beginning of comparisons. Net worth. Number of followers. Measuring yourself against others does nothing to improve your life. It can lead to feeling insecure and envious.

What if we didn’t feel the need to compare our place in the world to others? We might find the meaningful mile markers that fly just under the radar. Doing projects you love that allow you to contribute in your own way. Helping the community with all the tools at your disposal: time, talents, teamwork. Money if you can spare it. A prayer if you’re so inclined.

Life isn’t all about being first, you know. These days, second-hand clothes are sold as “vintage.”

“On second thought” can save you a lot of heartache.

A second wind will keep you going through long days.

This is your second chance at a first chapter. Set your own course starting today, and soon it will become second nature.

Photo by Matt Collamer on UnsplashShowing up as someone other than your true self can be wearing.

As long as I can remember (!) I’ve had trouble remembering things I’ve done, people I’ve met, conversations we’d had. So I learned to make up for it with humor and this unrelenting cheerfulness that has become a lifelong habit. In my 20s, I’d use the phrase, I had a senior moment there! when I’d forget basic things. Co-workers would laugh and say, You’re too young to have those! and the infraction would be forgiven.

If I’d said, I don’t know why I can’t remember anything, and to be honest, it’s kind of upsetting, it would’ve gotten a moment of discussion or a shoulder shrug, but you could only do that so often. People would assume you weren’t applying yourself, or were just not that bright.

So most of the time I would flip a switch and turn into this upbeat version of myself, which meant I was always presenting a persona instead of being who I am. I needed to write lists of every task. Not a general to-do list, but pages of what I needed to do, checked off as I went. If it wasn’t documented there, I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d done it.

It was only after I was diagnosed with MS that I realized there was a reason for my forgetfulness.

It made me wonder: What is it we don’t know about the people with whom we interact? Is everybody grappling with something? It’s possible that someone in your life right now is feeling this way, but doesn’t know how to express it, or where to turn to make it better.

Maybe we’ll never know what others are going through. Assuming there’s a story might be enough for our collective compassion to kick in.

Sometimes I wonder how everyone else knows how we are supposed to be thinking or be dressed.  I remember showing up to a casual reunion get-together.  I don’t even remember what I was wearing  Absolutely everyone else had on cropped khaki pants, sleeveless blouses and wedges.  Well, all of the women.  It was a bit stepford.

I’d love to say that this was the only time I’ve experienced a moment where I’m out of sync but it is actually pretty common.  Fifty Shades of whatever?  Nope.  Not even interested.

And we don’t have Netflix.  We have wifi and internet.  And we check out movies from the library.

On my kitchen stove at this very moment are a percolator and a cast iron skillet.  Of course, the tablet is sitting on the breakfront.

I don’t worry about it too much.  I’ve always been this way even when my mom was trying to “doll me up.”  Poor Mom.

Just as we have many talents, we have many personalities.  Every now and again I try to be the person someone else wants.  Bad, bad decision.  So much better to be the unique, quirky person God made.  He’s got a job for me and I’m fairly certain I have to be me to pull it off.

–SueBE

 

 

I thought of Miss Ruth’s post from yesterday when I saw this quote.  We all have two choices in life.

  1.  Be a mediocre copy of someone else. This doesn’t mean you have to copy someone else but if you are constantly contemplating what they will think when you X, Y or Z?  You are more their person than you are yourself.
  2.  Be ourselves.

I was raised to be #1.  The most commonly heard chorus at home was “What will the neighbors think?”  As an adult, I realize that if the neighbors are spending that must time thinking about me, their lives are sorry indeed.  But I spent a lot of time as a teen considering every single action.  Occassionally I would break free and do my own thing, but not often enough.

Then came college.  At that point in my life there were too many neighbors to keep everyone happy.  I had to find my calling.

Whether your calling is to be a teacher, a doctor or a parent, there are others doing the same thing.  Your job?  Bring your own special way of doing things to this path that God has put you on.

Sometimes I worry that I’m a bit too myself.  Maybe just maybe I should tone it down.

Then I run into a friend I haven’t seen in years.  Before taking her Mom to chemo, she goes on Facebook to check out what the rest of us are up to.  “Keep posting, please!  You always crack me up and I need that.”

3 parts sarcasm.  2 parts irreverant lip.  What do the neighbors think?  At least some of them get it and that’s good.  Because this is the me that God made.

Find your calling.  Find your light.  God made you to be you.  Not to be me or Ruth or even Lori.

–SueBE

In a new story I’m writing, one of the characters is an older Chinese woman. I searched “older women in Chinese culture 2018,” but couldn’t find anything relevant.

Ten pages of results yielded articles about a teenager’s prom dress causing controversy and the fact that educated, professional women in China aren’t marrying these days, but nothing about what life is like today for a women of 65. On page 13 of the search results, I did find an interesting article about how a three-digit “social score” can change the course of a person’s life in China, but still, nothing about the experience of older women.

It shouldn’t take miles of search pages to find out the most basic facts about older women in China. Should it? It’s disheartening that the algorithm we all rely on to bring us the world is leaving out large chunks of humanity. At least older people and women as a group can exist online. Can’t they?

But then again, do we ever really see each other?

Last year during a MOOC about poetry, I watched a terrific video lecture from poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Despite viewing it many times, I didn’t realize that she had on a bow tie, even though it’s obviously a bow tie. My mind assumed it was a scarf. Why? Because I like scarves. I wear scarves. I knit scarves. I was wearing a scarf as I was watching the video. Later, I realized that this poet identifies as gender non-conforming. All I saw was my own worldview.

No matter how open-minded we may think we are, we always see the picture through our own frame. Like a reverse selfie of sorts. Maybe we all need to be double-exposed to new ideas to view the world as a group-photo waiting to happen.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Despite my beloved mother’s best efforts (God rest) and the hours she put in playing Bach on the piano, I’m still nowhere near as cultured and refined as she was. She’d quote Chaucer for me, in middle English. She’d school me on the origin of words.

Still, I’m just an easily-distracted, uncultured, good-natured gal from New Jersey.

Doesn’t matter if I’m looking right at you as you tell me your long-winded spiel. In my mind, I’ve gone to Carolina.

Watching this video of Hilary Hahn, I was reminded of my mother playing Bach on the piano.

I’m amazed at how beautiful even one note can sound in the right hands. At the same time, I’m also utterly distracted by the fact that her producer looks like a combination of Fred Mertz (of I Love Lucy) and Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong).

Then I realized that her conductor looks like Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel). 😎

So whilst (little faux fanciness for ya) I try to be good at culcha, alls I can really do is appreciate it in my own New Jersey way. I’ll never have tea with the queen, p’raps, but I like to spin a yarn and have a good laugh.

I noticed that when Hahn plays, her whole body moves in a particular choreography. It’s as if she knows that she can’t reach the notes with her hands unless her feet move in a certain way at the same time.

Her whole body is her instrument.

In the same way, your whole life is your testament.

Most of the people you meet would never stand still and let you convert them to your beliefs.

All of the people you meet are seeing, hearing and feeling your beliefs every time you speak.

With all that’s going on in the world, all I can do is offer you this cozy corner where you’ll always be welcomed like a friend and we can share our stories. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, kind people. You’re okay with me.

ef1h5yttmz8-annie-sprattAs they say in Vegas, “Whatever happened in 2016, stays in 2016.” We’re just days away from a brand new year. It’s your chance to decide which way to set your compass. Whatever mistakes you made during the year are in the past.

Most of our worries fall into the category of “anticipation anxiety.” I just made up that term, so if you use it, kindly send me a dollar as a royalty. 🙂 Focusing on the worst case scenario can send anyone into a panic.

So here’s what I’d like to propose for 2017. Make a vow to yourself to live in the present tense.

Think of negative emotions as volatile compounds that can burn and scar.

Guilt is like gangrene.

Regret is like rust.

So in the new year, if when you make a mistake, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. That was something you wouldn’t do if you had it to do again – even if it just happened yesterday. Give yourself a break.

Feel what you feel, but give yourself a timeframe. Say, I’ll wallow for the duration of this sad movie, then I’m getting out of the swamp. There’s a meadow over there I can meander through instead.

Don’t look back on times you weren’t yourself and say, that wasn’t me! Of course not. You’re you now. That’s good enough.

Don’t look back and say here’s another reason why that wrong ___________ was wrong for me:
□ Man
□ Job
□ Hairdo
□ Clique
□ Church

Two wrongs sometimes do make a right. That noun that left your life did you a favor. It wasn’t right for you.

Re-hashing is a drag counter-productive, because, in the first place hash is kind of gross aesthetically unpleasant, so having it again is yucky not optimal two times over.

Here’s to a new year and a new you. You’re a blessed, beloved being in all your glory. Whoever you were last year is in the past. Whoever you were a minute ago is, too. Why not take advantage of this unlimited time offer and be yourself in this moment, right where you are?  

Peace & Blessings to you and yours!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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