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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Fear Factor: Yom Kippur 2015

I am not really an observant Jew, actually that's being generous, I am more like a completely non-observant Jew. I do usually take the day of Yom Kippur to reflect and "atone" for things that I wish I hadn't done during the year.  Or, things I did or didn't do to others throughout the year.

I am happy to say that as I have gotten older, I actually have fewer things to apologize to others for, but I am by no means where I want to be yet. I still get snarky, impatient and intolerant, though at least now I am aware of it when I do. As they say, being aware is the first step, but you actually have to change your behavior for it to count.

This year, I had planned on doing the same as I do every year: take the day for myself, walk and/or go outside in the garden or some other natural environment and write a list of things to atone for and goals that I want to set for the upcoming year and see how I am doing on those I set last year.

The first glitch in this plan was that I was scheduled to have a book meeting with our publisher and because I fear that I will not live to see this book published, I agreed to meet (see, I couldn't even go 100 words before making a snarky comment about the project that never ends). I apologize for that (whew, got that one in just in time before the atonement ends).

But, life had other plans and instead; about a week and half ago, I developed an infection in my wisdom tooth and on Monday afternoon I had it extracted and am resting and recuperating from the whole ordeal. So, while not actually fasting, being on a diet that's similar to the one you have in preparation for a colonoscopy, I feel like I am fasting.

As I have been reflecting on the year, and feeling sorry for myself because of my tooth, I found myself going further back in my reflections and I have been struck by how much I let fear rule my life. I realize just how much the things I did or didn't do when I was young have come back to bite me in the ass, or, in this case, the mouth. Too fearful to get my wisdom teeth out, because it would "hurt" too much, the pain from having that tooth infection was so much more severe than the pain from my dentist actually taking it out.

This fear factor is not a new revelation. When I turned 50 a few years ago, it's as if I had some sort of epiphany and I realized that there are so many things I missed out on because I was afraid. I was afraid to do things, to not do things, that I would make a "mistake," that I would hurt others for the decisions I made. It doesn't seem as if I made a decision based on any objective or factual basis, but only based on fear.

It was this way for most of my life, at least through my 30's. I'm not sure what the benefit of this new found knowledge is at this point. I can't beat myself up for who I was when I was young. There's nothing anybody could have told me that I would have listened to. It certainly wasn't for lack of trying on their part. And, me writing about it in the hopes that some younger person is going to listen and benefit from my "wisdom" doesn't seem likely.

But, whether I want to admit it or not, I am a writer. I write. I don't know any other way to do things. I write everything: from lists of errands and gift ideas for those I love, to book and business ideas. I even wrote down the times I took the antibiotic the dentist gave me for my tooth!

Once again, I let fear get in my own way. Maybe the benefit of this revelation is getting me past another fear, that I am not "good enough," or thinking I'm a hack because I am human and have not always done my best work when life gets in the way. But my mistakes don't make it any less true. I am a writer. I write and will continue to do so whether anybody sees what I have written or not.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Belief Can

At the risk of turning this blog into a John Mayer love fest, I am once again featuring one of his songs because the lyrics just fit, and to be honest, because I really like the song. So, if you don’t like him or his music, or don’t want to hear my personal opinion, step away from the blog. If you want to just read the lyrics, they are at the bottom of this blog post.


His Belief points out the obvious, and the not so obvious, about our preconceived notions, about what we believe, and how it can do many things. While it is a political tune, and frames belief in this context, when you think about it, everything we do, everything we are, is based on our beliefs, even things we might not be aware that we do.

We all believe that we are right; that if the other person or people would just listen closely enough or long enough, they will see how right we are. But, the truth is, we can’t all be right. It is literally impossible for us to all be right. And yet, we argue endlessly to prove our correctness even over stupid, little things that really don’t have a right or a wrong. Things that just are: is vanilla better than chocolate (NO it is not), or whether a cafĂ© mocha is better with or without whipped cream (it’s better with and I am so RIGHT on this one).

If only these beliefs stopped at the little things, life would be so much easier. But, it is usually the big things that can tear friendships and families apart. But, what’s a big thing to me, might be a little thing to you. 

While I have been working hard on “maturing” since I am “Beyond My 50th Year,” I find the one area I still struggle with the most is when I am dealing with friends and family members whose beliefs are so polar opposite. More specifically, when they can’t turn them off, when their beliefs about the world permeate everything about them and is reflected in their behavior. It’s difficult to even be around them.

This is a far cry from when I was younger. I was that person, it was hard for people to be around me because I never turned it off, and people were uncomfortable being around me. I am sure many still are. There was a time not so long ago that I would willingly and blindly walk into any and every argument I was invited to. I am passionate. I wear my heart on my sleeve. This is not new, and my sense of right and wrong, my beliefs are so strong, that it often causes me such inner turmoil that I can’t often keep it inside. I might not go off like I did when I was young, but I also can’t hide how I feel and my dislike for someone. I might not say it anymore, but it is obvious when I am not comfortable around someone.

Sadly, I also know that there are those in my life who get some satisfaction at deliberately provoking that uncomfortableness because for years I gave them so much ammunition to do it with. While I can’t control them or stop them from doing it, what I have done is simply limited any interaction or time spent with them.

An example is people that I like to call “Dr. Dooms” or “Negative Nellies.” At the risk of making this post even longer, in short, they see the world as a bad or negative place, they always see the worst in every situation and in every person, they complain about everything, and only find humor in belittling or mocking others, and they insist that they are always right...about EVERYTHING. They are so close-minded and clueless at how their behavior makes others feel, that they don’t even see it, and will counter that they are only joking or tell you to not to be so sensitive if you bring this to their attention.

About five years ago, that is the place that I found myself in. I was that Negative Nelllie. I was also the one who tried to convince others that I was always right about both the big and little things in the world. Ironically, this seems to make it harder for me to be around those that are still in that place. As hard as I have worked on trying to recognize that they are who they are, and are just as passionate as I am about what they think is right and how the world ought to run, I still feel like fleeing is my only alternative . I’m hoping that this will become easier for me the more I practice it. If you have any tips on how to do this, please let me know by sharing them in the comments section.

Belief by John Mayer

Is there anyone who ever remembers
Changing their mind
From the paint on a sign?
Is there anyone who really recalls
Ever breaking rank at all
For something someone yelled real loud
One time

Oh, everyone believes
In how they think it ought to be
Oh, everyone believes
And they're not going easily

Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you're trying for

Some need the exhibition
And some have to know they tried
It's the chemical weapon
For the war that's raging on inside

Oh, everyone believes
From emptiness to everything
Oh, everyone believes
And no one's going quietly

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this if belief is what we're fighting for

(Is there anyone who you can remember
Who ever surrendered
With their life on the line?)

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this if belief is what we're fighting for

What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand?
Belief can
Belief can
What puts the folded flag inside his mother's hand?
Belief can
Belief can