Friday, April 22, 2016

Be Grateful

I am participating in a writing group and as part of our weekly session we work with writing prompts. This past session we read a piece on advice to the author's 22 year old self and we were then asked to write our advice to who we were at that age.

It is an interesting exercise. Many advised their youthful self to appreciate the package of youth that they took for granted. Others cautioned about upcoming bad relationships. I thought what I wrote was interesting in what I left out as much as what I put in and I began to consider what I omitted and why. For some reason I didn't pick up on the appearance aspect although I have often been surprised as I look at photos of that pretty girl I barely recognize. And it is not that I didn't have my share of bad relationships in which I stayed too long. I am a bit older than many in the group and I think that might color my perspective. I've had more time to come to terms with my history and the changes we go through as we age.

I am someone who needs to find things out for herself and I think I needed those relationships to learn lessons I needed to know. To wish them away might leave a lesson unfinished, me unfinished. I also have found getting older freeing. There is a certain sass that one has when you are young and look good and know it. You have a sense of power, but you find that it doesn't stand up well under pressure. The problem is you still care too much about what other people think, especially men. Your power is predicated on their approval of something over which you have little control. There is so much more power in no longer caring what people think and that comes with age.

A little background...When I was 22 I was newly married in what proved to be a starter marriage. I had kept my own name at a time when people didn't and I chaffed at the idea of restrictions on my independence. Balancing independence with marriage was a tough balancing act. I was in my first real job and reveling in it, discovering talents I didn't know I possessed. And yes, I was a little full of myself.

So this is what I wrote.

I think back to you, that twenty-two year old, newly married, struggling to preserve your independence, delighting in the discovery of your own power and creativity. What I would tell you has much to do with preserving who you are today. Surprisingly, it is easy to forget when the world begins to impinge. Right now you have nothing to lose so you can take risks. You don't know the things you can't do so you do them anyway. Those are enormous gifts. Soon you will worry about looking foolish, about whether you know enough. You will become fearful and constrained.

Don't let those fears gain a foothold. Take risks, don't impose limits, trust your gut. Don't let anyone else control you and your choices. Believe that all is possible if you put one foot in front of the other. An amazing amount will be. Remember that work should be entertaining. When you look in the mirror in the morning and wonder if you will always delight in your work as you do in this moment, know that it is possible. Maybe not with the pure joy that comes with newness, but with the deep pleasure of using your talents and making a difference in your piece of the world. Take that piece of the world and make it shine.

There are some things you don't yet know. The world is not black and white. Your father will tell you one day when you fail that "It was about time you landed on your ass, you were entirely too smug". He will be right.You will succeed and you will fail and out of loss will come insight and understanding and compassion. The world will become much more gray. You will become kinder and less judgmental.

Get out of your own way. Don't be afraid of failing, don't be afraid of the world. Just move forward and say yes to the unknown. It will open up opportunities you could never imagine. Don't tell yourself you are too busy as an excuse for not welcoming something new. Use your time wisely, but leave space for surprises. Don't plan so much order into your life that you don't leave a doorway for the unknown.

Love your mother and let her know it. She won't always be there. You are very fortunate to have such a wise woman as a guide in life. Pay attention. Live your life so that you have no regrets. You will find a capacity for love in giving to another, something you don't yet know. It will bring a richness into your life.

Use your creative talents and imagination throughout your life, read, write, paint. Those talents will be your old friends when others are wondering what to do in the next phase of life. Be grateful. You have so much: talents, choices, time. Be grateful.


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