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As I walked into the furniture store, the salesman waved me over, smiling.

“Did you get your free gift?!?”

I asked him what the gift was, and he said, “Oh, it’s a secret! But I’m sure you’ll love it! Just fill out this quick survey.”

I completed the survey and he handed me my free gift.

An amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind….welcome mat.

“This is my free gift?” I asked, disappointed.

“Yeah!” he said. “Isn’t it something?”

“Oh, it’s something, all right,” I said, and wafted off to look at futons.

Not everything lives up to its hype.

People may let us down, but perhaps the most persistent critic in our lives is the voice in our own heads. You know the voice I mean – the Negative Naysayer.

Not so much a voice-over as a voice-under of sorts.

That voice just under the surface that gets under your skin. On your case. On your nerves.

Perhaps somewhere in the ether, there’s a Negative Naysayer Voice-Under Artists’ Union. I imagine them all getting together, glowering, to give each other a hard time.

The things they say inside your head never add anything positive to your life:

  • Took you long enough!
  • That’s not how it’s supposed to be done.
  • Sure wasn’t your finest hour, was it?

There are times when things don’t go as planned, but there’s no Litmus Test of Life. I’ll have to check the law books, but I do believe that you still get to be in the human race, even if your socks don’t match.

As far as I know,  you’re allowed to walk the earth despite the spinach stuck in your teeth.

Perfect people are boring to be around, anyway, don’t you think?

Babe Ruth said it best: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

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cardigan of comfort picture

So, I just read an article that tells me, “It’s Official: Women Are Invisible After 49!” I think the author must have gotten some blowback, because later, the title was softened to, “It’s Official: Many Women Become Invisible After 49.” Gasp! I’ll be 50 (God willing!) in August.

But I had to really mull that over. That’s okay; God’s invisible too. Miraculously, He still gets the job done!  And in a way, I feel that I’m on God’s payroll. The salary is negligible, the job requirements vary, but the retirement benefits are out of this world!

Some of my best work really is invisible to the human eye. Praying. Encouraging. Offering a kind word to a stranger. Writing for this blog. I’ve realized that what I really write about is “the good life.” Well, not in the way the world might think of it. It’s not partying till dawn and getting into a limo to go to the secret rave.

When I was up and at ‘em, hale and hearty, ready to party… well, that wasn’t me anyway. I believe I squandered the gift of good health in my younger years, and didn’t realize that stress leads to illness. Even the stress of, where’s the party? What is everybody doing tonight? Having to be in the group, keeping up with the gang, it really never led me to peace. Nor even a sense of belonging. It seemed to be someone else’s idea of what “the good life” was.

It was the stress of a terrible job that led me to believe that going out with friends all the time after work was a relief valve, and that it was actually good for me.

Like so many people, I was looking for the right thing in the wrong direction.

It wasn’t until I left that life and became a Freelance Writer – and, more importantly, found faith again – that I realized we are all trying to fill a void, feel a sense of peace, of purpose, of community. Find those who share interests that are meaningful to us. Connect with the divine.

So I worked to create a home in which all those who enter (save burglars, tax collectors and sundry miscreants) feel welcomed, appreciated, even loved.  Remembered the joy of reading a poem that stopped me in my tracks (like, well, Marge Piercy’s “Tracks”) as I marveled at the power of words. Sat in the sunroom with a good book and a steaming cup of coffee and basked in the stillness, grateful to my bones for God’s grace.

So you say, cloak of invisibility. I say, cardigan of comfort. Tomato, tomah-to. It doesn’t make a difference if the world doesn’t recognize me. I know who I am. I know whose I am. Believe me. This is the good life. And I’m still here.

A dear family member came by to see me the other day and we had a nice visit. But I noticed that, three or four times during our time together, she was furiously texting.

Some would be offended by someone texting while in their presence, but I’m really not offended.  I just wonder.  Where are they?

I mean, in a sense, they’re not really… anywhere.  They’re not visiting with me.  They’re not in the presence of the friend they’re texting.  It’s almost as if – for that moment, at least – they don’t really exist.  They don’t have a “present” as such, just a kind of in-between.  Not really here, but not there either.

It’s kind of how I feel about turning forty-nine years old.  Yep, today is my birthday, so of course, I’ll be sitting in front of a chocolate cake and chilling all the day long. Diets will be on hiatus, of course.  All other obligations will be on auto-pilot.  It’s going to be a “me day,” for sure!

So I hear tell that “life begins at fifty.” Well… what do I till then? I’ve got a year before life begins?  How am I gonna spend my time, waiting for life to begin? It’s like I’m in limbo!  Life is on hold till next year!  Aah!

Okay, I’m back now.  That’s just a saying, you tell me.  Well thank you.  Life begins right where you are, doesn’t it?

So now that I’ve reached this almost-milestone, part of me wants to say, “yikes!” But the truth is, getting older is a blessing.  Sure, I’d like to have more energy, but I don’t really know that I had that much energy, even in my twenties.  It seemed there was so much to be done.  So much I wanted out of life.  I didn’t realize that I had choices, and that, if I’d looked around me, I really had the whole world in front of me.

It didn’t feel that way.  It felt like I had to go, do, move, get out there, get things done, get on the right track.  It may well have all been pressure I put on myself, but I never felt relaxed and positive.  I felt stressed and my soul felt squashed.

Now that I’m older, and have effectively taken myself out of the “rat race,” I feel so much more hopeful. I get to be myself, knowing God loves me as I am and I don’t have to be anyone but me. My faith is a huge part of that sense of optimism, and I’m grateful to God every day for keeping hold of my hand. It’s been quite a journey, and looking ahead, all I see are blue skies. I’d say I’m ready for the next chapter to begin.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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