Soon Enough

fullsizeoutput_aaWe’ve had lovely weather for the past few days, comfortably warm in the daytime and cool at night.  It’s the kind of weather that makes it a joy to be outside. You’d think I’d be enjoying this break from Summer’s usual heat and humidity, and I am.  Sort of.  But the problem is, all the forecasts say this beautiful weather is going to be over far too soon.  By the end of the week, we’re supposed to have temperatures in the high nineties, heat indexes over one-hundred degrees, and very high humidity levels.  Which means that while I’m trying to enjoy the cool temperatures we’re experiencing now, I’m mostly dreading the horrible weather that’s coming.

I know that sounds silly, but it’s not just me.  Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about the weather and they’re all saying the same thing.  “Isn’t this great?  But it’s not going to last.  It’s supposed to be one hundred degrees by Thursday!”  The logical thing to do when we have a lovely, Spring-like day in late June would be to simply enjoy it.  But for some of us, that’s a hard thing to do.

These days, there seems to be many things that can cause us to worry and fret.  In my more cynical moments, I almost believe that the real goal of the news media is to keep us in a constant state of outrage and fear.  And that’s just what’s going on in the world around me.  I always have a few personal worries as well, such as the mild but persistent pain in the right side of my face.  I want to believe it’s nothing more than my usual jaw and sinus problems, but I also worry that I’ve got another bad tooth that’s going to need treatment.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to simply enjoy ourselves when something good comes along, and why it is so easy to worry about the bad things that we think might be coming our way.  Being prepared is one thing, but endlessly worrying about something that may or may not even happen is nothing more than a waste of time and energy.  And I don’t know of a single situation where worrying about something has made it easier to deal with when it actually happens.  (Often, it’s the reverse.  When I worry too much about upcoming dental work, I end up walking into the dentist’s office so tense and fearful that it’s all I can do not to run for the nearest exit.)

But this is not how I want to live my life.  If I’m eating dinner with my family on a Sunday evening, I want to simply enjoy the experience rather than worrying about whether or not we’re going to have enough volunteers the next morning to get all the shelter dogs walked.  When I feel pain somewhere, I want to just make an appointment to get it checked out, rather than fret about all the possible causes and what it will take to get it fixed.  Even better, I’d like to remember to be thankful that I have access to medical and dental care at all.

I know the only thing I can truly predict about the future is that it will always bring me a few things that I’d much rather avoid.  But that doesn’t mean I have to dwell on those things, worrying about what could happen or even what I know will happen.  I want to learn to deal with tomorrow’s problems…..tomorrow.   That way, I can actually enjoy and appreciate whatever good stuff is happening today.

Just Say No

When I was young, I was taught that obedience was a good thing.  If a teacher or one of my parents asked me to do something, I knew without a doubt that I was supposed to actually do it.  Life was better when I did what was expected of me, and failure to comply often brought unpleasant repercussions. So I learned early on to complete those classroom assignments, to do my chores at home, and in general, and to help out when I was asked to do so.  And to one degree or another, that lesson has stuck with me throughout my life.

In most ways, it’s been a good thing.  I had no problem accepting assignments from my bosses or my editors, and never felt any resentment at being “told what to do,” especially in situations where I was being paid to do it.  I believe it also instilled a sense of responsibility to others, which meant donating my time and money to worthy causes and helping people (and animals) as much as I possibly could.  It gave me a sense of duty, and I’m thankful for that.

But there’s a downside to being so quick to accept tasks and shoulder responsibility, and it’s called burn-out.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m feeling particularly stressed and overburdened, it’s usually because I have said “yes” when I really should have said “no,” or at the very least, “maybe later.” And that usually happens when I forget that the only person who truly knows exactly how much I can and cannot do is me.

All too often, I find myself taking on far more than I can reasonably handle.  And when it finally does sink in that I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew, I actually find myself getting angry with the people who have asked me to do the items on my to-do list that are stressing me out.  I act as if it was someone else’s fault that I didn’t have the good sense to recognize and respect my own limits, which is just plain silly.

The fact is that it’s up to me to set my own personal boundaries and to make good decisions about how I spend my time.  I’m the one who knows what my daily obligations are, and I’m the one who knows how much free time I have to devote to other causes.  Which means I’m the one whose job it is to make sure I’m not freaking out because I’ve over-committed my time, or forgotten that there are only twenty-four hours in a day.

Knowing where to draw the line between taking care of ourselves and meeting other people’s expectations and needs is a difficult thing.  It can take us a long time to learn how to establish our own personal boundaries.  But I think it’s important to remember that a big part of being a responsible adult is realizing that we can’t take care of anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves while we’re at it.

Waiting for things to be “right”

I have far too many bad habits to list in this blog (I would have to change the blog’s name to “Stupid Things I Do On A Regular Basis” and who would want to read that?), but I think my worst habit is my tendency to wait to enjoy myself until whatever current crisis I am dealing with is over, and my life is flowing smoothly.  I’ve been on this earth for over 56 years, and my life has never been without some problem or another.  Yet for some silly reason, sometimes I think that I have to wait for everything to be perfect before I can be happy.

When my children were very young, I remember thinking that life was going to be just fine once they were potty trained, able to sleep through the night, and weaned off the bottle.  They accomplished all that, and yet our family life was still very chaotic as they grew older and we juggled school schedules, sports activities, church activities, etc.  And through it all, I waited for that magic moment when things would “calm down” and life would be the way I thought it was supposed to be.

As an aspiring author, I thought that I would finally feel successful just as soon as I published something.  Then I sold my first article to a neighborhood newspaper (called, I kid you not, “The Zip-0-Nine News”) and I realized that didn’t quite cut it.  So I slogged away, selling articles to other, more professional, regional newspapers and magazines, and finally to a national magazine, followed by the sale of a short book to an educational publisher.  It wasn’t much, but I still wish I had been wise enough to take more joy in those accomplishments rather than always focusing on the next sale, which I was quite sure would finally launch my real writing career.

Between my family, my husband’s job, my writing, my friends, and just plain old life in general, there is always going to be some problem that needs to be solved, some crisis that needs to be dealt with and some event that needs to be planned.  And finally, in my middle age, I am starting to figure out that this is how my life is always going to be.  I’m never going to cross that final item off my “to-do list,” or feel as if I have finally “succeeded.”

It may sound corny, but life really is a journey, and learning to enjoy it through all the mess and imperfections is absolutely essential.  I’m not sure why I had the horrible habit of waiting for things to be perfect, or why I still find myself slipping into that mindset every once in a while.  But I do know that it is a habit I need to break if I want to really appreciate the gifts I have in my life.  The road on my particular journey may not always be smooth, but I’m finally realizing that doesn’t mean it can’t be good, right now, even with all the bumps and potholes.  I just have to be smart enough to know it.

My Middle-Age Resolutions

It’s 2015, which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions.  Here’s what I came up with:

1)   I will deal with change more gracefully.  I will accept that now there are dogs at the Humane Society that are simply too strong for me to walk, and find someone younger and stronger than me to walk the ninety-pound Mastiff that is bouncing off the walls of his run.  And I will stop being intimidated by the cosmetics counter at department stores. (My usual routine is to get in, get the product and get out before the twenty-something salesperson has the chance to get a good look at my face, and God forbid, feel the need to comment on it.)  Now I will just march right up to the cosmetics counter and take my time looking over the new products.  And when the sales person suggests I need a stronger concealer, I’ll just smile, thank her, and buy it.

2)  I will work harder at learning to master new technology, and be patient with myself as I learn how to do that.  Remember how I was going to change the ugly header of this blog right away?  It’s been almost a month now, and I still haven’t figured out how to do that.  But I will.  It might take me the better part of 2015, but I will figure out how to do it!

3)  I will offer more sympathy and understanding, and less opinion and advice.  I have a tendency to think that when someone is telling me about a problem, they are also expecting me to provide a solution to their problem.  Which means that all too often, I find myself telling people what they should do, when all they really want is someone to listen to them and validate what they are thinking and feeling.  That doesn’t come naturally to me, but I promise to work on it.

4) I will take better care of myself.  I may not always be happy with my aging face and body (why, and how, do the hairs that are disappearing from my eyebrows manage to reappear on my upper lip?  Seriously, what’s up with that?), but that’s no excuse not to take care of myself.  Middle age means getting a good night’s sleep, regular exercise, and eating healthy food is more important than ever.  And so is taking the time to read a really good book now and then.

5)  I will be open to all the wonderful opportunities and possibilities of this new year.  And that’s the most important resolution of all…..Happy New Year!!!!