“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C. S Lewis
I love this statement, and I think it will set the theme for the rest of my life. Being a few days out from a high, double-digit birthday, I can’t deny anymore that I am, firmly and unquestionably, a senior citizen. While I’m not particularly thrilled that I inhabit a no-longer-svelte or agile body, I am pleased to find myself more at peace with both my failures and accomplishments. I no longer compare my accomplishments to those of others. Only I know where I started and what it took to get where I am today.
It’s all perspective really, isn’t it? Perspective can lead to clarity, and clarity leads to acceptance. I unapologetically accept who I am, and I am comfortable with who I am. That alone is almost worth hitting this advanced age. Acceptance has led to me incorporating some changes (personal growth) without losing my core. Nothing super major, but valuable nonetheless.
In the past year, I’ve made major strides in setting boundaries—something I have never been good at. I can now say, “No.” A big word for me. My internal lightbulb—sometimes a flashing neon sign—has clicked on. I’ve set aside a lifetime habit of being a pleaser, putting everyone else’s needs and wants before my own. I now recognize that my time and personal pursuits are as important as the next persons. Being comfortable acknowledging this simple fact, which so many others master as children, has taken me a lifetime. I’m guessing a few people will be shocked, maybe even offended, if I don’t upend my schedule to work around theirs. Something tells me this new aspect of my personality won’t be received with applause. But here’s another momentous change. I’m learning to shrug off the nagging guilt that’s kept me tethered to "pleasing" for too long. For someone brought up Anglican/Episcopalian, this is huge.
I’m also working at keeping a healthy emotional distance from histrionics. The thing is, I am a fixer at heart and somewhat of an empath, so raising a protective barrier against emotional energy has always been difficult. It’s critical to differentiate between those who are energy drainers—thriving on sucking everyone around them into their emotional black hole—and those who truly need a shoulder and a strong cup of tea. I find I am better able to back away from anyone who escalates their personal drama, searching over the footlights to expand their audience. I just get out of my seat and leave the theater.
I’ve also come to terms with my lifelong sleep pattern (non-sleep pattern really, being an insomniac) and can shrug off criticism for not being up with the chickens. The truth is, there is nothing particularly virtuous or superior in being an early riser. If getting up at the crack of dawn means being bleary-eyed and non-communicative until 10:00 a.m.; what’s the point? Why fight your circadian biorhythms when you don’t have to? My years of rising at 5:30 a.m. to get my son ready for day care/school and get myself to work are long behind me. Thank God for small blessings.
I read something a while ago that struck home. It was a statement about seasonal behavior—winter specifically. This article stated that winter, with its late sunrises and early sunsets, offers the opportunity to sleep in later in the morning and cozy by a fire in the evening. Winter should be a time of reflection and reminiscing. The writer likened winter to one’s old age. I found that line of thought appealing.
Just FYI – this was my New Year’s post on Facebook.
2023 is going to be my year to practice kindness, to myself. If I need to rest and sleep, I'm not pushing through the fatigue anymore. I WILL make time to exercise. I will clean up my diet but still enjoy the occasional indulgence. I won't feel guilty about taking time for myself, to read, to paint, to just be. I will continue to distance from those who pressure me to be who THEY think I am or should be. If you treat me with condescension, I will keep my distance. We'll both be better off. I will continue to cherish those who "get me" and just smile at those who don't. I will practice being content.
As my friend Kim (1964-2020) always used to say, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Photo - circa 1953 - 1956 Like I said, new year, same me.