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It’s been said that “life is short,” but, what if it turns out it’s long?

I looked in the mirror as I was smiling one day and realized I had a dimple. Oh! That’s nice. Always wanted to have dimples. Two weeks went by before I realized that it wasn’t a dimple. It was a wrinkle! 

Horrors!

It’s actually a laugh line. Hmm. That’s not a bad thing, is it? To have laughed in life. And to have lived a while. Both good things. After a moment, I shrugged. You know what? It’s okay to wear your life on your person. Some may choose to erase their lines with a nip and tuck or an injection, and that’s their choice. I wouldn’t judge them for it. If I had the means, I might even make the same choice.

But self-acceptance is a life-long process. When I was younger, I was always self-conscious about my appearance. Wanted my make-up just so. Clothes to be in style. But as your body changes, your outlook changes. 

Just as you’ve got a favorite comfy armchair, a lived-in body can be a comfort. You know how to adjust as you bend to lift up a package as you get older. You’re grateful that, despite health conditions, you can still get around reasonably well and take care of yourself.

The true wake-up call is that you’re still you. It’s hard to explain to younger people, but you feel like the same person you always were on the inside, even as your features change with age. The fact is, there’s still so much to look forward to in life, and, God willing, you may live to a ripe old age. You might as well become your own best friend.

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Psychiatrist: Let me teach you how to be yourself.

Oprah: Live your best life! Be your authentic self.

Peers: Whatever you do, don’t be yourself. 

The US RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) of “Being Yourself-ness” has been determined to be: 10%. So, feel free to be yourself for just ten (10) percent of the day.

For the rest of the day, it is suggested that you conform to societal expectations. That way, you’ll be in the habit of conforming when we offer you these BS (Uhhh…“Being Scientific.” Prayer blog, mind you) studies that tell you how to live.

We’re a government agency and always have your best interests at (automated, robot-like) heart. You can trust us! Check in daily with our conformity mechanisms (social media) to make sure you’re in line with everyone else. 

Okay. Let’s just press the “Eject” button on all of this bunk.

As your Virtual Kindly-Auntie (patent pending), dear readers, I’d like to remind you that you’re okay just as you are. Sure, there are things you’d like to improve about yourself and your situation, but start here: you’re okay. There are those who will try to make you feel like you’re not okay. Shut out all that noise as best you can. Later on, when you look back on your life, at least you’ll know you showed up as yourself. Godspeed, dear hearts!

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.

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.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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