When I was 21…oh, forget my 20s…I was a mess!
When I was 31 I was raising my children, learning to cook and make a home. Things I knew nothing about! So I read books (a ton of books!) and talked to older and wiser women to see how they did life. I followed directions and plans, keeping everything in order. Kept my life in order. Pursued a spiritual connection through order and obedience with only a little fun thrown in. Very little fun. I played well with my own children. I didn’t know how to play by myself. My dream was to form a wonderful, secure family that loved and treasured me as much as I did them.
When I was 41 I found the part of me that did not need to fit in with others and be like them, follow their plan for order. I grew an antenna for when things weren’t right and I wanted to fix them – and me. I didn’t know how to do that, exactly, so I pursued self-help books, took classes, and began writing – a lot! I wasn’t comfortable speaking out, but I did do it. I did it quietly and gently so as not to ruffle any feathers. My dream was to make an impact for good and righteousness wherever I was.
When I was 51 My children were grown, my job became full-time helping people. I studied patterns of behavior and charted what I learned. I developed a love for taking huge amounts of material and condensing it down into something easy to teach and remember. I began to love word pictures. And my dream was to pass on what I had learned, pass it on for others to learn.
When I was 61 I had survived a year-long life-threatening illness that changed the direction of my life. I began to question not what I could accomplish but what I really wanted. And I found that I had no idea! I began exploring my world and embarked on a quest to try a bunch of new things and see if I liked them. I found many I didn’t and I had to quit. Remarkably, I didn’t feel guilty about quitting anything I’d volunteered for. These were years of exploration. I wanted to find where I could be useful because I loved it, not because I was needed. My dream was to help others find their happiness without giving up my own.
In my 70s I began to lose friends and family. Some by their choice, some by my own. And one by an early death. Now I not only wanted to find how I wanted to live the rest of my life, I needed to find peace within my own self – even in the midst of everyone else’s chaos (or even my own). My dream was to be really happy with my own self, even when other people weren’t happy their selves or with me.
It’s good I think, to take stock of ourselves, of our lives every now and then. The thing is, I think too often the looking back is discouraging because we haven’t accomplished what we thought we could. Looking back can feel like defeat.
But it’s not! Each stage of our lives, each dream that we’ve had, builds our character, teaches us things, enlightens us, moves us forward into areas we could never have gone without the preceding years and dreams. We have to try stuff in order to learn and move forward. It’s not a waste if it didn’t turn out the way we wanted.
My early years of devoting myself to building a home taught me the value of order. They also brought to me the security I had longed for my entire life, so that I could move forward.
The next years of becoming aware when something “wasn’t right” helped me to stop blaming myself for everything. These years helped me to have a voice of my own. I became confident.
From those years, I found my love of putting words to my thoughts, of finding ways to say things in a way that maybe could encourage others. I found a talent.
Those years helped me wade through the year of illness that cost me my health, my job, my church, and many of my friends. I survived it without being bitter or angry, although I was devastated and incredibly sad and did grieve the losses. But I also became strong.
And now, as I approach 77, I value my whole life and each of those past stages. I know that, although most of my dreams didn’t come true, that wasn’t the point. I can have dreams, chase them even. But when a dream becomes a roadblock to the present and future, keeping me from new things, when I’m stuck…then I have to know it is time to give up the dream. Because some dreams were meant to only move us forward, to prepare us for the next years coming. It’s not about “success”, it’s about growing.
Finally, I get it. “Being” is more important to me that “doing”, something I never understood. Something I rallied against!
Now I want to live each year to the fullest, playing, laughing, reading, serving, giving, sacrificing, changing… things I can be happy doing. And loving, above all loving!