Friday, March 2, 2012

It is a wise woman who learns from her mistakes

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
Betty Friedan

It is sad to grow old but nice to ripen.
Brigitte Bardot

While one finds company in himself and his pursuits, he cannot feel old, no matter what his years may be.

Today I received an email from one of the HR people in Seattle (the headquarters of my company) requesting an electronic copy of my employee photo for a conference that I will be attending in March. I guess that 10 years ago when I started, the only copies that HR received here actual photos which they then store in paper files. After talking to a few people here in the office, it was discovered that my old administrative assistant had an electronic copy of the photo which he sent off to headquarters. He also copied me on it.

I remember thinking at the time the photo was taken that I didn't like it at all. I critiqued it and picked out all of my flaws. My face was too fat, my eyes seemed too small and I hated the way my hair refused to curl on the left side. It wasn't a photo I remember being proud of in the least. So imagine my surprise when I opened the file and thought, "Oh my! That is a pretty young woman!" THEN I remembered it was me 10 years ago!

I remember how I was 10 years ago.  I was spending a lot of time on my appearance.  I was working out for real for the first time in my life, but the results never seemed to come fast enough or to be enough. I was sad because there were no boys that liked me and more of my Saturday nights were spent home than out doing the fun things I imagined other people my age were doing.  I just KNEW there was something fundamentally wrong (and consequently unlovable) about me and it was my job to spend every waking hour ferreting out what that could possibly be. As a result the drill sergeant in my head was very vigilant and always ready to squash the slightest bit of a thought I might have that I was funny or pretty or great to be around.

.....You know.....kinda like I do to myself today.

Oh how horrible and ashamed (and motivated) I felt when I saw that picture. I want to go back and tell the young woman in that picture that she is loved and she is worthy and she is AMAZING. I want to tell her that she has wonderful adventures ahead of her and that she will endure pain but she will also know love in a way she never has. I want to tell her to put her chin up and her chest out and to face anything that comes at her with the courage and resilience I know she has.

But I can't do that.

Or can I?

What's the old saying? If you want shade from a tree, when was the best time to plant that tree? 40 years ago. When is the second best time? Today.

I don't want to be sitting here 10 years from now chastising the 38-year-old woman in the second picture above for doing the same thing the 28-year-old woman did to herself.

So, here's the message the 48-year-old Me has for me today:

"You are loved and worthy and  AMAZING. You have wonderful adventures ahead of you. You will endure pain but you will also know love in a way you never have. Put your chin up and your chest out and face anything that comes at you with the courage and resilience that I know you have."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Finding Love - Part 1

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 

Life is a complicated thing. Often it gives the test first and the lesson afterward. There are times when we think our heart will overflow with joy. There are other times when our heart breaks into a million little pieces and we're sure it will never be able to be healed again. We bump into one another and, like the ball in a game of Pong, our paths are permanently changed. With the smallest word, we find we are loved in a way we never imagined. With the tiniest slight, we are overwhelmed with loneliness.

As anyone who is a friend of mine on Facebook knows, the last month has been a tough one for me. I am fortunate that my family members are well, I have a stable job, and my health is good. But my heart has been broken and the loneliness I feel often overtakes me. A friend, who used to be a lover, has moved onto a new love. Yes, I split up with him. While I do love him, I am not in love with him. It's not a relationship with him as a lover that I miss. Our relationship had morphed into a deep friendship. We spoke every day and saw one another at least once a week. We had wonderful conversations of a kind I've never had with anyone else. I knew that he would always be there.

And then he wasn't there anymore. He had found a new love and was steeped in the beginning parts of a relationship when life is amazing and your world and your time are centered on that person and getting to know them and spending as much time with them as possible. Time's a funny thing, you know. It's finite. It's a pie that can never get any bigger and when you give a bigger piece to one person, that means all the other pieces have to get smaller. So that's what's happened.

And I'm happy for him. But for the last month I've been trying to figure out why this change has been so devastating. Tonight I feel like I made a breakthrough. The overwhelming sadness I've been feeling is not about him and me wanting to be with him. I broke up with him for reasons and those reasons haven't changed. This sadness isn't about him. He's simply a concrete thing for me to center my pain on. No, it's not about him. It's about me.

I'm sad because I'm lonely. I have lots of friends who are wonderful and supportive and always there to sign on for whatever crazy thing I want to try next. But that's only a part of the love I think we all need in our lives. I need people to lean on and talk with and laugh with and cry with. But I also need the kind of love that can only be shown when a man takes me in his arms and kisses me deeply. The love that comes from someone who wakes up early in the morning because he can't wait to talk to me. A man who sees something he knows I will love and can barely hold in his excitement as he shares it with me. Someone who likes the curve of my hips, the feel of my skin and the way I can't help but laugh hysterically at those videos of animals doing silly things. Someone who knows that when I say I'm okay, I'm really saying, "Please drop everything and come take me in your arms, listen to me and tell me that everything is going to be okay." And that's exactly what he does.

Maybe I'm expecting too much.  Maybe I've watched too many "chick flicks". Maybe the best I can expect is someone who doesn't take up more than his half of the bed, takes out the garbage and kills all the creepy crawly things. I hope not.

But that's what it's all about, isn't it? It's about the hope. It's about the hope I have that I will find him and he will find me and we will bump into one another and change the paths of our lives in amazing ways that we had never imagined possible.

So I will probably still cry and I will still feel overwhelmingly lonely, but there will be a part of me that knows it won't always be like this. That's the part that will remind me that I am wonderful and witty and amazing and worthy of a love that is good, true and beautiful. That's the part that will remind me that I am already loved by God and the universe and my friends. That's the part that will remind me to hug more people and to tell those loved ones that I care about them more often. And with all of that love bumping into those around me, it's only a matter of time before it bumps into me again.


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