The Plight of 49

As I write this I am 72 hours from my 49th birthday or maybe better said, 72 hours from the completion of my 48th year on this earth. I am still searching for a lot of things but most ominous is the search for contentment.

There is something about the “9”s that get our attention as we recognize that it is the last year of a decade. It makes us think back about our 20’s, 30’s, or in my case my 40’s. What did you do? Who did you become? What changed? It also forces us to consider what is coming next. I am going to be 50 in exactly 368 days…what? 50! I am not even sure that I know what to feel, only that it is yet another place to start. Start what…well that is still to be determined because I first have to finish up the last three days of 48 and conquer 49. It is in these words that I find my greatest challenge. When will I stop conquering? When will I worry less about finishing and starting? In my mind this is likely where contentment lies; in the being and less in the doing.

I am reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss and in his concluding chapter he offers a passage from the “Zen in the Art of Archery”. It is wise so I offer it here…

I must only warn you of one thing. You have become a different person in the course of these years. For this is what the art of archery means: a profound and far-reaching contest of the archer with himself. Perhaps you have hardly noticed it yet, but you will feel it very strongly when you meet your friends and acquaintances again in your own country: things will no longer harmonize as before. You will see with other eyes and measure with other measures.

Tim Ferriss

I too have changed, but who doesn’t in 49 years. Some of those changes have been easy and adaptable and some I am still struggling with, but again who isn’t? This is likely where contentment lies. It lies in the release of the struggle, releasing the need to change and truly being content. Content with what you do, what you think, how you act and ultimately who you are…content because the only measure that you consider is your own.

I will always “seek to understand” as I am curious by nature. I will always study as I am hungry for knowledge. However to resolve what I know allows for the rest to be enjoyed and not labored. Reading, writing, running and all other things I do are not tasks that require deadlines and tracking. Instead understanding that they are what I do, when I want to do it, how I choose to do it. This applies to everything I do. This is what “49” will be about…releasing the “must do” discipline and replacing it with a more forgivable understanding of what I do because it is right, because it is me, because it fits. Wiser and content that is my goal for this year. Let’s do this thing!

Life as I have lived it for 49 years – L.

A Place for Silence

Silence. The word elicits a response regardless of the emotion. When said out loud in exclamation it will quiet a room. When said in a whisper it will quiet the brain. It is something we long for and in other times something we run from. It is a word, a state of being, an emotion, it is powerful.

I have been longing for silence in its many forms for years. I long for it in my brain that is overactive and relentless at times. I long for it in my day to simply get away from the chatter of life. I long for it in my demeanor to provide restraint in my personality and sometimes I long for it after too much has been said.

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.

Paulo Coelho

The quote from Paulo Coelho sums it up. Be what you want the world to see. Don’t state it, don’t talk about it, just be. If you want to be a runner, run. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be successful, succeed. Stop talking about it, do it. In my case, I aim to stop talking. Not in the literal sense but I find that my conversations tend to be on repeat. I say the same things I said before, I state the same goals, themes, opinions…yes opinions…but why? Am I convincing myself or others? I feel confined in these conversations that are on repeat and offer little in the drive to move forward, or even sit still, they hold me back and keep me in a place that is meant to be left behind.

By practicing silence we can resolve those things that nag at us, define us, and create angst. By practicing silence we get the gift of taking in more around us; hearing, listening, and simply being. It is when we stop announcing what we will do that we actually become.

No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.

Agnes De Mille

When I think back to the most impactful times of my life they were decisions that were made internally. They needed no external support. When I think about it, it rings so true, it is only those things that you are not resolved in that you put out for the world to weigh-in on. Those things that you KNOW and do not question you DO without applause, accolades, or validation. When I made the decision to change my life or better said every time I have made the decision to change my life, I did not ask, I did not state it, I just did it. I did it because I did not want anyone to thwart my efforts or convince me otherwise. There is not one of those life-changing decisions that I regret. This is to say there is great resolve in silence.

A close friend of mine once told me that she learned the most about silence from a mentor who when in the Boardroom would say very little, however when he spoke, the room would hush and all ears would be on him. Everyone knew that when he chose to speak, he would bring value, he would bring wisdom, and that power in his silence spoke volumes in his contemplation that was as loud as his voice. I long to be this man.

As I fall silent on this blog, I think about how to put this into practice as it is not as simple as just not speaking, that is not silence, that is something else entirely. The silence I hope to explore is what I believe it is to be wise. To allow others to share their experiences without you adding on. To allow others to try it their way if you know it will create the same result or better yet if it will cause no harm and instead stands to serve as a lesson.

The silence I hope to create for myself is to find my own resolve that will lead to contentment. The silence I hope to create will make me MORE not less; allowing me to shut down one “sense” to peak the others. The silence I hope to create will allow me to accept more, resist less, and resolve.

Silence…nothing left to say – L.

Previous post on “Silence” almost a year ago https://alwaysstarting.com/2019/07/25/silence/

Seeking Normal – Day 29

Day 29 prompt:

Iyanla Vinzant states, “There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of your that want to be healed and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken.”

What emotions does this statement evoke? What feels normal to you?

My answer:

This is a very fair question as we all know people that need to stay “in it”. Those people do not want a solution, they do not want to be saved they want to be the victim of whatever holds them down as that also defines their lives. We all know someone that despite being given solutions decides to stay in a bad situation. Hopefully we are not that person but upon further thought I guess we all are in some regard. I think of the things that I tolerate in my world that others would not and how my life could be better if I would only require change in those areas.

What feels normal is always finding solutions for others and then becoming resentful when they won’t accept that solution. This does not make those people right or wrong it simply explains the angst that I cause myself and the realization that I need to solve for myself, for my life and leave the rest behind. This is always easier to state than to do. It means I have to get uncomfortable with the things that require my effort or push those around me. Instead I find myself making excuses for myself and those around me to explain why we don’t do better or expect more.

Well there is the truth. Straight from my thoughts on to paper, unedited. It is not a “realization” for me as I have always known it. I know what I do, I know what my excuses are, I know what I need to do and I do still make a choice on what I will and won’t direct in my own life. What are those things that do not serve you well that you don’t change? Why?

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 28

Day 28 prompt:

Normal is defined by cultures, religions, experiences, and demographics.

What part of your normal is defined by these outside sources?

My answer:

My normal is defined by my experiences mostly. I belong to a mixed culture that I admire and attempt to own however as I was not raised fully “in it” I am not sure I will ever be able to truly “own it”. I was not raised with religion although I always had a strong curiosity about it. My normal in my early years was likely based on demographics as I was born to two young parents, with little money.

I have built a life around what I admire, what I have experienced and who and how I want it to be. This might explain why I have so much angst and have a hard time finding contentment. I am always wanting more because that is what built this life that never existed before me. To be content is a practice I am having to work at which seems like an oxymoron. How does one “work” on being content?? I am not sure I have the answer but I am searching for the solve.

As we are coming back from being sheltered at home and opening up our country the real lessons learned will be put to the test. Do we simply run back out and do what we were doing before all of this started? I don’t think that is possible so it is fair to believe the we are changed regardless of our own intention to do so. For me, I have always enjoyed being home so this has not been a hardship. I do miss the beach, I miss the movies and I miss my cousins. I think I can solve two out of those three misses this weekend with one invite. I think I will. 🙂

Living life as I know it – L.

My Mom, a memoir

Hall and Oates 2017

Mom’s…everyone has one. I had the best one. She was exactly what I needed and I like to think that I was exactly what she needed; it was symbiotic. She taught me more in living her life than she could teach me in parenting mine. She was my everything. …and then one day she was gone.

I never had one moment of regret after she passed because I know that everything that needed to be said and every memory I ever wanted to make with her was made despite her early departure. While I revel in all of the things she taught me it does not suggest that I emulated all of those lessons. Many of the things she modeled I did the opposite. I am very outspoken while she was tight-lipped. I am very affectionate while she was reserved. Nothing stands in my way while she treaded lightly. It was those things that made us different than served us both well. I was able to tell her all of things I would ever want to say never expecting anything in return. I was able to do things with her that she never would have considered doing because I was far more spontaneous, and she was always willing to go with my flow. It was all of our differences that made the impact. She would always laugh at my crazy life and I would stand in wonder to the beauty she created around her.

Today, I am not sad but grateful that I had a relationship with my mom that was so fulfilling. Despite the years of life I feel she was cheated, I can honestly say that she and I did not miss a thing. I will think back on the hours of laughter because this one thing is true, she and I laughed endlessly!!! I will think back on the many hours of advice, despite her knowing I would always do what I was going to do, she never stopped offering. I will think back on my favorite memories, surprising her in Nashville for her birthday and she never realizing we had both been on the same plane!!! I will think back on the many concerts we attended together, music will forever be our language. I will think back on her final year on this earth and am most blessed to have had the fortune of spending time together where our laughter would be medicinal for both of us.

Our favorite band and song – Hall and Oates – Sara Smile

I leave you with this…our favorite song. I can still remember us singing this song together; years of singing, years of laughter, years and years of memories.

Mom, I love you and I miss you more than anyone will ever know. I feel you with me, I live my life every single day to honor you. …and yea, I guess I am sad as I type these final words with tears rolling down my face, it is all in honor of you, my mom, my hero, my everything.

Life as I remember it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 27

Day 27 prompt:

Brene Brown says, “Today I will choose courage over comfort.”

What courageous thing are you doing in your own life?

My answer:

This is a great prompt today because courage can be found in the things we do that take effort. Things that go against “easy”, things that we have to “force”, but are the right thing to do despite it all. Reading it again, yes, “courage over comfort”. Wow! When I think more on this I think first about all of the things that I could do that represent “comfort” and as I think through that list they do not serve me well.

Today I will choose courage over comfort and get back to the life I know I should live despite the efforts and self-discipline. I will do it because it is right, I will do it because I want a better life and that requires courage, that requires effort. The most obvious for me is my diet and exercise as this is a matter of life and death for me and that takes courage in both doing and not doing the right thing. When I am not doing the right thing I know I am risking all that I have fought to accomplish in the last 5 years and in doing the wrong thing it is disrespectful to all of those efforts made. When I choose courage it means I choose to eat the right foods, despite my wants, I exercise every day, despite not wanting to, I choose these things because they will create the life I want; healthy and long.

What is your most obvious “courage over comfort” moment? Why does it take courage to accomplish or realize? Are you willing to be uncomfortably? Why or Why not?

Great prompt from a great thought-leader.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 26

Day 26 prompt:

How do you change your normal? Experiences? Role Models? Do you want to change it? Do you need to?

How can you know these will change your normal for the better?

Was there a time you sought or made a change that you realized was NOT for the better?

My answer:

I change my normal by researching or observing a normal that I admire and want to replicate. I search out those experiences that I can immerse myself in to go as deep as I choose to dive-in. I attempt to replicate those role models that I identify in my life as inspiration. Sometimes that inspiration is something I choose to hold high and admire rather than replicate and knowing the difference is only mine to decide.

Asking if I want to change and if I need to is about exploring if it makes a change for the better that is worth the effort. I have struggled with this most with my diet and exercise programs where I am always likely to go too deep. When I am longing for results and discipline I set rules and expectations of myself that are stringent however when I have to live by those rules I realize that that this is not the normal that I envisioned.

I think we have proven through this pandemic that enforcing a new normal is a much greater effort mentally than physically. We have been forced to change our ways physically; do not touch, stay away from each other, stay home, don’t go to work…all physical limitations however the effect of the physical has been a mental toll that is challenging.

While we will not change for the future those things that did not offer value we will be challenged to embrace those that did. I am reminded of the times during the hurricanes when without electricity our family came together to play games and read together. While we appreciated the togetherness when the lights came back on, we went back to our individual corners of life.

What will you change? Why will you change it? More importantly what part of “normal” that was will you be happy to return to in the future??

Life as I know it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 25

Day 25 prompt:

We perceive “normal” in the context of our own experiences. Someone who grew up with domestic abuse thinks that’s normal until someone who experienced a life without abuse shows you that the state you are in is not “normal”.

What about your normal have you come to realize isn’t or wasn’t “normal”?

My answer:

This prompt is too similar to ones before identifying the fact that normal for everyone of us is about our current condition, state or environment. What one calls normal another calls strange. The real-deal is living the life you want to live, how you want to live it and owning it. That does not mean that you are subscribing to norms or defined by anyone else’s normal it means that you ultimately decide what you want, how you want it and go get it.

It is our human experience and sharing those experiences that can create new norms for each other. It is sharing what we “know better” to those suffering unnecessary circumstances to help pull each other, not only out of a situation but one entire step up in your own life and others.

It doesn’t always have to be a tragic event. In my case I am finding a writer inside of me that years ago I did not know existed and then when exploring this new passion and coming to know other writers that make me realize that writing and being a writer is a norm for others. This realization means that it can also be a norm for me. I just have to give it the time.

Every single blog post has one common theme and denominator; YOU DECIDE. Every single cell in our bodies and moment in our lives exists because of a decision we made to eat, exercise or not, go to the party or not, welcome a new friend or not…it is all about decisions that we make along the way. If you are accepting a normal that is not serving you, you are deciding to live in that unfortunate state and likewise you can decide to change it. You decide.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 24

Day 24 prompt:

My husband’s favorite saying is, “nothing ever goes smooth.” That’s his response to things outside his normal.

What is your response to a disruption in your normal?

My answer:

I try to think through why something is not going right and the way to accept that fate is to believe in fate overall. This is confirmed for me when I am late getting somewhere only to realize that if I had been on time I would have been involved in an accident that I am now passing on my route. Yesterday I was sharing this reasoning as I forgot an important ingredient to a recipe at the store and had to drive back. As we were driving back to the store I said out loud, “I wonder why we are fated to be back on the road? What is going to happen?”. As it turned out the “reason” was not going to be as obvious and therefore it was just an extra errand…and that was just fine.

The difference between my husband and I is that he frequently feels a victim of his circumstance while I don’t feel as affected. Instead I am always looking for meaning and that search for meaning allows me to accept the deviations in life without harm.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 23

Day 23 prompt:

T.D. Jakes notes, “If what you see modeled in front of you is in any way deformed or deranged your concept of normalcy is defined by what you see. It is hard to be what you have not seen.”

If you believe this then how can you change your normal? Can you rise above a level-set of normal that is not modeled but dreamt of?

My answer:

I lived this but so did everyone else because our normal, as defined in our lives, was all we knew and it was only when there was something to compare against that you would be able to know something different. I lived this and have chosen a completely different path than what I knew. The start of what I changed was based on what I was able to identify as in-reach but as I have moved into different paths I have hindsight on what it could have been. While I cannot go backwards I am taking that new information to shape the world of my children and grandchildren.

The first recollection of a variation of normal for me was the idea of college. Both of my parents had attended a community college but never finished and ultimately were not in jobs that were the benefit of a formal education. My mom was a secretary and my dad a construction worker. The irony of my story is that in hindsight I think that I have benefited greatly from their careers as I have insane organization skills, learned by my mother who was the assistant to a CEO for years. As for my father, he is a dreamer which makes him a successful builder, able to bring a customer’s vision to life. It was in that learn of dreaming big that I have been able to manifest a life that I could only dream of one day and realized as a surprise once achieved.

Back to the point of college, it was not something talked about in my home or actively pursued as I was moving through high school. I only learned that it might be a consideration as I saw my high school friends considering their options. Back to the point of “normal”, my circle of friends, that would again define my normal, were in similar families and never did I recall conversations about going away to college. Our options after high school, as I recall, were finding a good job or going to our local community college. Ultimately we have all ended up in great careers however none of it through traditional norms. In some ways, I feel greater pride as our efforts were greater and therefore intentional.

This is a great thought-provoking prompt. I am still learning from other people’s norms and through the internet learning how to employ disciplines and practices into my own life. I am a life-long learner and thrive on learning new things and succeed in making those my own reality. What kind of normal defines your original knowledge of normal versus what you have since created in your own life?

Life as I know it – L.

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