Monday, June 18, 2012
"Non, je ne regrette rien" (Statement made famous in a song by the incomparable Edith Piaf.)
It's been pointed out that we learn from our mistakes - certainly far more than from our good moves - and that energy and emotion is wasted on regret. And while I agree with that in theory, I think we have to make a couple distinctions here.
Do I regret, *for myself*, the idiotic things I've done in the past half century or so (yeah, I started young, playing "who can jump out of the tree the highest")? No, because I believe/agree that the happenings and doings and decisions that we've made have in turn made us who we are today, and I think that I've turned out rather well. It took a good deal of patience on the Good Lord's part, but all in all I wouldn't trade me for someone else.
What I do regret, and what I think we all need to come to terms with and pardon ourselves for, is the harm we have inadvertently (or..what's the opposite..."advertently", I suppose) done to others.
Let me think of an example....okay. In high school, my boyfriend and some other buddies broke into the old Philadelphia Armory and stole two cases of soda. Then we drove down by the airport and drank Seven Up all night, watching the planes take off. (From there, I think we set off some cherry bombs, but it doesn't matter for our story here.) At the time, it was just one of those adventures that, as we said, make us who we are today.
But with grown-up hindsight, what about the security guard (assuming there was one.) Did he lose his job? Did the money lost in soda make a difference? Did the Armory have to make a new, expensive alarm system? We can't just assume there's no fallout.
The regret doesn't come from my own experiences, it comes from the "collateral damage" caused by recklessness, ignorance and arrogance. I suspect I left a pretty wide path of destruction. And *that*, my friends, is what I found I had to forgive myself for.
It just doesn't make as good a song.
(Hey, I did pretty well with "short"!)
Sunday, June 17, 2012
I'm 57 years old, and looking back over that last half century, I can honestly say that I have made some of the dumbest, most reckless, self-destructive, self-serving, bone-headed, and just downright stupid maneuvers and decisions I have ever seen any one person make.
(Yes, I've done - perhaps accidentally - some pretty decent things, too, and had a few remarkably clever moments, but if you're at all like me, you know those aren't the ones we focus on. Nooo, we only pay attention to the other ones - the roads not taken, the balls dropped - the ones that bring us, at 3:00 a.m., grief, shame, horror, regret, remorse and all the other horsemen of our personal apocalypses. )
It's taken me a along time, and I'm still not perfect at it, but I've come to understand that having done something idiotic decades ago is not the same as doing the same idiotic thing now. At twenty, you don't appreciate that accursed ripple effect; you don't see how a harmless flirtation with a married man could cause a divorce (not saying that happened), or how a night spent carousing instead of studying could drop one's GPA the tenth of a point that kept one out of grad school (not saying...etc.) When you're young and do something ill-thought-out, it's because you just don't *get it*; if you do it now, though, you should be feeling the guilts because you have the understanding that comes with time, with simple miles under he wheels.
I'm learning to forgive myself for all those things I listed in the first paragraph. Not to ignore having made certain mistakes, or forget that I made them, but to stop toting around the burden of embarrassment, of regret, or those especially heavy "what ifs".
(As an aside, here's a memorable pardon, the culmination of wheels within wheels that started forty years ago today: http://watergate.info/pardon/ford-pardons-
So, yeah. I'm pardoning myself. It's first cousin to forgiving. It doesn't mean all is forgotten, or that the fallout never happened or mattered. It does mean accepting that what's done is done, there's no do-over, and to go on carrying around yesterday is cheating today and tomorrow. Instead, be gentle to yourself, and speak to yourself and your own past with the love and patience you'd unhesitatingly use when speaking to someone else. Then step up and use your new-found knowledge to improve life for yourself and those around you.
The quote is:
"We do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better" - Maya Angelou.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
(If anyone is wondering how I got in this position in the first place, it's in the intro and in the blogs. Regular readers - including this one - can't stand yet another recitation.)
So now I've got a 5000 square foot, 200 year old farmhouse that is totally clogged with Other People's Stuff - either people who have passed on to the other side or daughters who have passed on to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, a lot of their Stuff is getting wet, because I really need a new roof. It's not good, lying in bed at night listening to water dripping...in the hallway. Especially with plaster ceilings.
That and a bunch of other, ground-level repairs have taught me to address things whether I know much about them or not. I've discovered that a basic tool kit, a good DIY book (I like Reader's Digest) and a little common sense will get you a long way in home repair. It isn't brain surgery, and if it gets too icky, you can always call a repairman - except in my current experience, the only thing they have going for them that I lack is not having a stupid fear of spiders. (I don't mess with electricity - if you screw up plumbing, you won't drown in the night no matter how much the faucet leaks. Electricity, though....)
I've learned to mow the lawn *before* it gets to be a foot high. And I sprung for an electric start mower because I can never get the string-pulling kind to go. I've also figured out that one of the joys of living out in the country is that nobody gets after you if your lawn gets knee-high. In fact, instead of criticizing, they're liable to volunteer to mow for you.
I've learned that, just because I bought bread at the grocery every week for thirty years, now that I live alone, if I don't want to eat something, *I don't have to buy it*! If i don't think I should be eating something, all I have to do is skip purchasing it. Now, if I really want bread, I have to bake it. It's come to that a couple times, but not often. I belong to a CSA, so I have fresh vegetables coming in every week, and whatever I can't use I freeze for the winter. I get two big heads of lettuce right now, plus leaf spinach, so I'm eating a ton of salad. Yay!
No one checks to be sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink when I go to bed - and no one notices if I make that bed in the morning. Not that I'm turning into a horrible slob (I make the bed anyway, just because I like it that way) but I'm the only one who knows if I vacuum carefully, moving the furniture, or if I just do what my mother called "vacuuming up the big lumps."
I can handle the Other People's Stuff however I wish - and whenever I wish. I got rid of a ton of my husband's clothing a year ago, but I'm not ready to get rid of his Hawaiian shirts yet. Maybe next week, maybe never. Nobody's business but my own. In a perfect world, kids come home and deal with their own Stuff - in my world, they won't. I check with them before I jettison anything of theirs, but if they don't want it, it goes to the Salvation Army. I'm also learning that its better to give a lot of stuff to the Salvation Army (or whomever) than to try to sell it on eBay - sometimes that's the way to go, but it's time consuming and the profit isn't always worth the effort.
I don't especially care what I eat, and no one is going to fuss if the same thing is for dinner three or four nights in a row (a big crock of chili, or a turkey breast in all its various manifestations.)
If I'm the only one living here, I can decorate to suit myself, not the Better Homes and Gardens people that I always expected to show up at any moment. I can paint the walls the color I want, no matter how odd, and use the rooms for whatever purpose I see fit (family room is now art studio!) if there are people I feel would Judge Me, (and if I care), I simply don't invite them over.
In short, instead of being all lonesome and out of control, I'm learning that I can handle what absolutely needs to be done, delegate (as in hire someone) some things, and ignore the rest without guilt. I can do what *I* want to do, when I want to do it. I can get up at 3:00 a.m. to read or paint (and have done so, many times) without anyone giving me grief. I don't have to keep doing things in a certain way, just because I've "always done it that way."
I've also discovered that no one is standing over me watching what - or when - I eat or insisting that I exercise, so it's totally up to me whether or not I'm successful on this weight loss/health gain adventure.
All these things seem so obvious to someone outside the situation, but when it's you, it's different. I've had to learn to be my own therapist, housekeeper, gardener, home-repair person, decorator, mechanic, organizer, accountant, secretary/assistant and exercise buddy - and realize that if I don't do it, it won't get done - and maybe that's okay, too. It's been quite a revelation so far, and I'm still learning.
Monday, May 28, 2012
I've been called on my meaning of this, making it sound so simple, so I'll try to explain. It's not "simple" so much as just where you put your head during the process.
Perhaps "not trying" gives the wrong impression. The thing I hate about dieting is the constant obsessing over every bite, labeling and tracking and planning and being constantly vigilant. Some people find comfort and stability in that, and I'm glad that works for them. For me, it hits the rebellion switch. I think in some ways it's the same dynamic as people who find comfort and stability in working for others, while I find that absolutely loathsome and would much rather succeed - or crash and burn - on my own than "do as I'm told", regular paycheck and benefits be damned.
For me, it's too much diddly@#$% work, and all it really succeeds in doing is focusing my brain *constantly* on food, which isn't helpful or useful for me personally. What works for me is to decide, "This is what I shall be eating for breakfast - and no cream in the coffee." "I shall have a salad for lunch - largely greenery, with bits of interesting cheese, maybe a few dried fruits and nuts, with a splash of straight up aged balsamic, washed down with lots of water." "For dinner I shall have a nice piece of something, usually fish, with plenty of non-starchy vegetables (until corn comes in season, then all bets are off.)
Then I have a nightcap and go to bed before I get hungry again. I hit the ground running, because that is my basic nature, (at this time of year, between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m.) and have the dogs walked and most of the cooking done before 9:00 a.m., because that's how I was raised to operate in the summer.
If I can manage to lay off the alcoholic drinks and keep reasonably busy (which out here in the country is easy - there's always something that wants doing), then yes, the extra weight does tend to go away - not by next week, but over time. And since I weight myself about once every month, if that, I'm usually pleasantly surprised.
This week, I'm getting back to my old friend weight lifting. As always, the main problem in weight lifting, for me, is finding a place to put the weights that is visible enough to remind me, but not in a place where I continually fall over them. A large source of conflict with my late husband was his tendency to leave his 35 pound dummies lying around - I invariably tripped over them. I've also purchased a FitBit, which I would love to use but keep losing - I think a daily goal of 10,000 steps sound totally do-able and is the sort of thing I could incorporate into my "losing without trying" thing.
So I guess it's not really, "not trying", it's just doing what I need to do while putting my mental focus elsewhere. I habituate to things like meals and exercise routines relatively rapidly. I don't care too much what I eat as long as it's reasonably good and doesn't require much work - ditto exercise. If I have to have special togs and drive to a gym, it won't get done. If all ("all") I have to do is throw a thousand small bales of hay out a window, that I can accomplish, because that's just my life.
I don't know. I just try to live simply, the way my grandparents lived. I eat healthy but whatever I want as long as it's organic, in season, and raised by my neighbors, work hard at what needs doing, sleep the sleep of the righteous most nights, and try to leave the rest up to the good Lord (whichever Lord that is for you.). I say, "thank you" a lot, try to focus on what good things I can make happen in the future instead of the not-so-good ones that happened in the past.
If I lose weight, fabulous. If I don't, my conscience is still clear. Believe me, there are a lot worse things in life than being a little chubby.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Who said that, anyway? I was thinking Yogi Berra, but that's pretty deep for him...maybe someone more along the lines of Napoleon, or maybe Robert Louis Stevenson...
Anyway, I've been trundling along, trying half-heartedly to lose a couple pounds, using the other half of my heart to get some sort of life going for myself. This week the "life" half did a dramatic sort of crash and burn (although, honestly, considering the kinds of people I had to deal with every day, I should be on my knees thanking God for this turn of events - I'm well out of that situation) but, oddly, the discovery that I'd lost a few pounds while I wasn't looking had a buoying effect on everything.
Despite continuous disasters (some of my own doing, some, like the real estate market, totally out of my hands), my weight loss has given me a feeling of, well, like i just might have some degree of control over my life. And that I'm not "doomed" to complete failure in anything I might try. Before, I'd try really hard and concentrate all my efforts on losing weight and lose maybe, *maybe* lose two pounds in a month (usually because I'd only do the program for a week, then wander off), and then throw in the dieting towel for another few months, thinking, "failfailfailfailfailfail." And that sense of failure was very pervasive, especially when other areas of my life weren't going so well - people dying, fortunes lost, businesses in bankruptcy, etc.
It's odd, because I honestly don't care all that much about my weight. I do care very much about my health, but I'm not here because of some beauty issue - once you're over fifty, if you think losing a few pounds will allow you to knock-'em-dead that way you did thirty years ago, well, you're probably kidding yourself. But maybe not - who am I to judge? Anyway, that's why you don't usually hear much from me on the topic of weight loss - I've been sort of "if it happens, great, if it doesn't, yeah well." about the whole deal.
Yet here's this 30 pound loss looking at me - that's close to half (or is half, depending up on how it feels when we get there) of the way to my goal. And that unrealized success is a gift that is having the effect of making me optimistic about the next phase of my life, whatever form it takes. Who'd a thunk that one, eh?
So now I feel like, if I could lose that weight without even paying all that much attention, what could I do if I laid down an actual program that lasted more than a few days or a week? That feeling of success, of, "Hey, you know, I think I can do this" carries over into other areas of life, too, I've just noticed.
More failure (and if you don't like my use of that term, insert one of your choosing) is just a reason to stay stuck in place, wistfully thinking, "If only...", but a little success promotes a whole different outlook on life. More resilient, more optimistic, more in control.
I'm a lousy cheerleader - that whole "We can do this!!!" always feels like the crowd at the final thirty seconds when the team is down fifteen points. Sure, it's theoretically possible we can do this, but not too likely. But now I'm starting to think, "You know, it's looking like we really *can* do this" and that's a great feeling.
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