Tag Archives: wisdom

Dancing fool competes…..

Yes, I’ve made the decision to enter my first ballroom dance competition.  Yikes!

What’s up with that? I freaked out doing a performance at my own dance studio, so how will I handle dancing in front of lots more people? That’s a good question you’ve just asked, I must admit.

Here’s how I figure it. In my former life, I taught hundreds of teachers at any one time, so this should be easy. Right?

We’ll find out! My instructor and I will be preparing and then we’ll head on down to the Hilton here in Jacksonville on June 20th. I’m going to take all of you along on this ride, beginning with today’s dance lesson.

We talked about what dances I want to compete in at what levels (waltz and rumba), and then we danced. He talked: We can’t do that in a competition at that level, we have to be back here in 8 beats, make sure your heel is down before moving the other foot…..

And you know what? I’m in heaven…..

Stay tuned!

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Putting sand back in the hourglass……

“It’s never too late.”

Um, yes it is. I hate to add fuel to anyone’s already overactive angst, but I’ve run into this gremlin way too much this week. It hides under the bed, waiting to snap at your ankles as you get out of the bed in the morning, or huddles in your closet ready to grab your wrist as you dress for an evening out with friends.

Time is a controlled substance and a commodity that doesn’t care what you do with it. It keeps ticking away as you make decisions, no matter how valid or valuable those choices are–or not.

When we are young, the end of our life is so far away, out there in the misty future, that we waste a lot of that controlled substance. People give us advice, but we don’t listen. None of us do. Maybe we even ask people we trust for guidance, but as the decision looms closer, we do what we want, often counter to that advice. And our own best interests.

But, in reality, we presuppose that time will never run out for us. The gremlin has bitten my ankles, though, and drawn blood this week. And I never did make it to the event I was dressing for as another wizened goblin  twisted my wrist to the point of tears.

Regret is the offspring of wasted time. Wasted chances. Unfortunate choices that will never be  cleaned up, decades later, as I now recognize where the road zigged and I should have….not.

I know better now. About many things. But my biggest regret is that the sands that trickled out of the hourglass of my life–my life, for God’s sake!–can never be funneled back into that delicate vessel.

Rather than end on that desolate note, here is what I would tell young(er) people from my vantage point today:

  • Behave as if today is your last day on this spinning top. Because it might be. Think about that with dedication every morning of your life, BEFORE the goblin snaps at you.
  • Spend time now considering what kind of life you want. What kind of partner is best for you. What career fits your goals and personality. And then set your course to get those things.
  • Don’t let other people–ANYONE–live your life for you. Make choices and decisions based on what you want for you, not what will make them happy. Seeking out advice in advance is advisable, but make sure these people don’t have a stake in the outcome of their words of wisdom. Consider if they have an agenda counter to yours, and then do what is best way for you to embrace the life you want, the one you spent valuable time unearthing. (Besides, some people are idiots, let’s face it.)
  • Spend time learning to love yourself. No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs understand that the fact that you are here is all that is necessary for you to be “good enough.” Period.
  • Have more fun. Laugh, be silly, watch clouds once in a while. Dance, or paint, or write, or blow bubbles every day. Whatever. Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. To realize this near the end of your life is excruciatingly dismal.

Believe me.

Details, details….

“What’s an encyclopedia?”

The question was posed in earnest, no shame in asking, right?

What astounded me the most was that it had never occurred to me, baby boomer in full regalia, that there are  people inhabiting my  planet who had never seen one. Encyclopedia, that is.

You might have a different thought here. Why were we even discussing such a topic?

Trivia. No, the answer isn’t trivial. It was the topic of conversation that day–trivia games and our various aptitudes for bringing forth irrelevant and unimportant scraps of information, often tamped down deep in our grey matter.

I’m good at trivia. So good that many worthy combatants have gone down like a jet in a massive nosedive. Never to darken my card table again. (Yes, I do also have a problem with people disappearing from my life, but that’s a topic for another dark, vodka-steeped day.)

Anyway, I started wondering where I got all these disconnected, obscure facts. I do read–a lot–but today I devour detective novels and sappy love stories, not historical nonfiction. Even though I taught history for years, but it was to 13-year olds so it doesn’t count. I read to escape, so I know all the shades of grey and every formula for motive-means-and-opportunity.

Ah, but wait! As a kid, growing up in my house could be, well, distracting. (I was thinking of using another word, but some of those people will be reading this, so….) A therapist later told me (oops, another clue) I reverted to a soul-saving technique called “duck and cover.” And my activity while I was cowering, er, I mean covering, was to read the encyclopedia. In my room, curled up on my bed to make myself as tiny as I could be. Maybe that way they couldn’t see me, right?

I must have filed all that A-Z data in a lockbox way behind my ears. And when the trivia games heat up, the skeleton key to the box magically appears with a flourish and I WIN! I’m as surprised as my opponents when those answers fly out of me, unbidden.

Young people don’t know, have never even seen, the 24-volume set of books containing the knowledge of the world, right there for anyone–including little girls hiding under the covers–to devour.  So, how do we preserve concepts like this for today’s devotees of Google? They carry the uber-encyclopedia around with them in a pocket or their hand and don’t have any historical frame of reference for it.

Astounding. Or is it like schools that don’t teach handwriting any more? Does it really matter?

Trivia anyone? Like, aren’t there 26 letters in the alphabet?

A……Haiket?

 A Haiku*—or two:

Being older means

looking back and wondering

which wrong turn mattered.

 
 

Would it have mattered

if I had not turned away

from this road—or that?

 
 

Or if I had let

my head-strong will and my heart

have equal footing?

 
 

Would it have mattered

if I had taken control

and embraced MY dream?

 
 

Being mature means

seeing with clearer vision,

what truly matters.

 
 

It can also mean

embracing a new vision—

Embracing one’s heart.

 
 

Today, I look back

and see that multiple paths

rose up before me.

 
 

Some say “no regrets.”

I say we don’t learn the truth

by ignoring it.

 
 

Being mature means

Finding peace from knowing

My life is…as is.

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*Haiku is a very structured form of poetry that originated in Japan. I choose to write in the traditional style of Haiku for the discipline demanded from its structure:

First line = 5 (and ONLY 5) syllables

Second line = 7 (and ONLY 7) syllables

Third = 5 (and ONLY 5) syllables

Traditionally, also, Haiku is meant to be a snapshot of something in nature. A butterfly resting on a rose. The sunrise. A flower dancing in the evening breeze, awash in its mysterious scent. Any Haiku I have written to date follows this dictate for the most part.

For a writer who normally runs on and on (meaning me), this is first an exercise in being succinct and precise. I love it! In most cases, though, Haiku is simply ONE set of three lines: 5-7-5. Being me, though, I have chosen to string together a series of “Haikus” into one cohesive “Haiket.” There….I invented a new form of poetry!

I have also been indulgent here, and used this beautiful art form to reflect my soul as I move into–and through, because we are never done– the status of Active Master. We do not stop desiring or hoping or striving as we age. People who say we do are, well, boring and have probably always been that way.

We are simply more wrinkled as we do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A two way conversation……

“The good writers touch life often.”

Ray Bradbury

There are a couple of things at work here, the “here” designated as the tension created when I write and no one reads it. Or at least, I have no way of knowing if they do or not, which I guess is the same thing from my perspective.

Do writers engage in their craft to be read (and thus, appreciated) or because they are compelled to write? As in all things, I’m sure the answer varies with the person, but for the most part, the writers I know must write. It seems to be part of our DNA, this constant need to observe and then document the world around us.

For myself, writing sorts out my emotions, forces me to unravel the errant threads of life that don’t fit anywhere, until I can stitch them all in place with my words. Much of what I write is never read by anyone other than me; it would scare too many people.

How do I reconcile that, then, with the fact that it hurts when people don’t read the work I DO put out there? One of my friends, also a writer, asked me that the other night. I don’t have a ready answer, I just know that it tickles me when I look at the stats page the day after I post a blog (alright, the hour after) and I see the number of views has increased. And the best gift you can give me is to comment on what I have written.

Does that make me needy? Narcissistic, as a young friend accused when I tried to explain this aberrant behavior?

Oh, you were waiting for an answer?

I don’t have one. The best I can do is this: I must write. It is a part of who I am. But, my choice of topics to share with an audience has a purpose.

Aging in this country is not pretty, so I decided to offer my experiences, and the lessons taught through those events, with two audiences: younger people who might learn from my own struggle to remain relevant, and those my age for a good laugh at ourselves. My immediate impetus was how many times I found myself exclaiming, “Why didn’t someone tell me about this??”

There have been other topics, too, such as my journey to become complaint-free. (That one was certainly good for a laugh by all ages.)

Have you ever left a succession of voice mails on someone’s machine with no return calls….ever? Publishing one’s words with no feedback is kind of like that.

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

You’ve heard the term “needy,” right?

It makes my skin crawl now, to think of myself as needy, but I was. Maybe you have been accused of the same characteristic and don’t have a clue what was meant, someone spitting the word out as they walked (ran) away from you. I had suffered a serious blow to my ego as a woman and as a person worthy of love. Because of that devastation, I needed constant validation, I needed love, I needed attention, I needed, I needed……

I know people today who are in constant need, yet they have no idea why people scurry away from them like roaches when a light is turned on at night. So, let’s educate these folks…..since they need someone to do that, I’m sure:

You ALWAYS need something. You seem to be incapable of tackling a project, a situation, or someone else’s need without assistance. You cannot make a decision, something as simple as what to order in a restaurant. And you are exhausting to be around.

I recently asked someone to enlist a neighbor to help take my trash out to the curb each week. With working full-time right now, it is a task that would be best done by someone else. In fact, last week that monstrous bin the city insists we use did NOT get pulled out, so I have two weeks’ worth now. The plastic bags filled with this week’s garbage are now on the ground encircling the bin like supplicants surrounding a wise sage.

So, the person I asked to take care of this for me informed me when I got home from a long day at work, fighting traffic and construction that seems to never end, that a young man in the neighborhood was approached with this proposition. But rather than nail the deal down and make it happen, I was told that I must talk to him to finalize the arrangements. Really?? Now I’m involved after all, when what I needed was YOU to help me.

“How will he get the gate key every week?”

“When do you want him to take the bin out: in the morning or in the evening?”

“How much money do you want to pay him?”

It’s almost as if these people are afraid to make a move without high level clearance. I’ve had bosses like this. They were so fearful of the senior command chain that they drove the rest of us crazy with their indecision and inability to move forward without specific permission to do so.

I have come to understand that needy people are actually seeking  attention. If you are engrossed in a good book or taking care of your own projects, they are no longer your focus. One way of drawing your attention back to them is to put lots of needs in front of you. They also lack any confidence in their own ability to make decisions.

“Should I park here….or there?”

“Which way would you go from here?”

“How does this [enter any conceivable device here] work?”

“What kind of [enter anything here] do you want me to get?”

We all need help on a regular basis. It’s a good thing to be able to understand our limitations, our strengths and weaknesses, and then occasionally turn to those around us for assistance. But with these people our attention is constantly being dragged back to…..them. We can’t concentrate or get anything done that we have on our TO DO list, because of this unending stream of needs being dumped on us.

Each of these questions is innocuous in isolation (which is where we will want to be soon), but after enough time and dozens of questions, we realize that the true intent is not the get specific answers. The real motivation is to get our attention, and to put the burden of the decisions on someone else. No one can point to them later and say, “It was YOUR doing!”

Unfortunately, my personal way of dealing with needy people is to become deaf while appearing to hear all, to be somewhere else mentally even though my body is right there soaking up all that poisonous need.

And this is unfortunate because we all know what happens when the sky really does fall, right?

Climbing off the ladder……

I have managed. I have supervised. I have hired, trained, and nurtured employees. I traveled and stayed in hotels, attended company meetings and got lost in a rental car or on a subway. I did it all in the pursuit of my career, whatever that was at the time.

When we are in the fray of our careers, our days are filled with tests of our competence from one end of the clock to the other. The pressure is intense, and our personal lives and families very often suffer. We suffer. But, unless we consciously jump off the treadmill of western civilization, it happens to all of us.

Which is why I’m enjoying my last stint at a full-time job as I approach semi-retirement in about 6 weeks. As it is, I haven’t worked in an office setting, complete with a cubicle and an eye on the clock from 8-5 for….well, decades. But, life is endlessly entertaining, so here I am in front of a computer with a name badge around my neck and a wristwatch on my arm. I agreed to do this only because it is a temporary job, covering for a young woman out on maternity leave. And the paycheck, of course. I knew there would be an end and I wouldn’t have to flip too many pages on my wall calendar to reach that end. At this point, I am a little over half way through.

We seek out responsibility in the early years of a career. It proves to those above us on the ladder that we are worthy to join them up there in the corporate clouds. Today, I avoid ladders like a superstitious plague. I don’t want to be noticed and I don’t want anyone to know how much I’ve done in the past, from clerical work to teaching to becoming the VP of a company to becoming a professional mediator to writing books and owning my own company. I just want to tap on this keyboard until the new mama returns to continue her career and her own search for significance, however she defines that for herself.

This job is pressure-free because it means nothing to me, other than the source of a paycheck to fund the next stage of my life. The fun one where I will work part-time at something I love. And the rest of the time I will expand the horizons of my life into areas that interest me, like writing, reading, volunteering, checking out as many cruise ships as I can and, of course, ballroom dancing.

So, for the next six weeks I will show up, do what I’m asked to do to the best of my ability, and then leave it all behind for the next phase of my life. And not a ladder in sight.