All In Good Time

Recently, I was having lunch with a young friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and we were having a nice time catching up on each other’s lives.  She told me what her plans were for the immediate future, and then added wistfully, “But I’ll be thirty soon, and I’m not exactly where I thought I would be by now.”  Now this was coming from a young woman who has already lived in several foreign countries, is bilingual, and preparing for a career in international service, so at first that remark seemed a bit odd for someone who has already accomplished so much.  But then I remembered how I felt when I was in my twenties, and I understood exactly what she meant.

I remembered when I had also thought that there were certain milestones I needed to reach by a certain age if I wanted to be successful and happy. At the time, my idea of success hinged on publishing several books of middle-grade fiction, or at the very least, working as an editor or writer for some local publication, and I wanted to accomplish this before the age of thirty.  And I remember how very disappointed and ashamed I was when that didn’t happen.

The thing is, life rarely works out according to plan.  It’s true that sometimes we just don’t work hard enough to reach our goals, but other times, circumstances we can’t control get in the way.  Industries change, economies crash, our health can fail:  all sorts of unforeseen barriers can pop up between us and what we think we want to do.  So it just doesn’t make sense to pin all our hopes and dreams, and even our very sense of self-worth, on the idea of achieving specific goals according to a specific time line.  Real life doesn’t work that way, but I think that’s a lesson that takes a while to learn.

Now I believe that life isn’t anything like a check list of accomplishments that need to be crossed off as we go along.  I believe it’s more important to follow our dreams and passions, always give our best effort, and still be ready to adapt as circumstances require.  That doesn’t mean giving up, it just means realizing that there are many, many, ways to be happy and successful, and to stop limiting ourselves to a preconceived notion of exactly what we need to accomplish and when we need to accomplish it.

I never did publish a book of middle grade fiction, but I am a published author, and I have found different ways to work as a writer.  Some of my goals may never be realized, but I have also been so lucky to experience so many wonderful things and do so many things I never thought I could.  (I still remember the total awe I felt when I first stood on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, because that was something I had never imagined I would do.) Life always holds something unexpected for us, sometimes bad, but sometimes surprisingly good.

IMG_5640I don’t remember exactly what I told my friend that day, but the gist of it was that I advised her to stop thinking in terms of timelines, and to just keep pursuing both her personal and professional dreams as best she could.  I told her she should be proud of all that she has already accomplished, and not waste time regretting the things she hasn’t been able to do.  Because life is for living, not for measuring or judging.

Happily Ever After

wedding pic 3It’s impossible to reach middle age without also reaching some rather significant milestones in life, and I’ve had my share of big ones (graduations, becoming a mother, publishing a book) and small ones (shedding the extra fifteen pounds I’d carried around for decades, starting this blog, etc.)  This weekend, I’ll be reaching another large milestone, because Sunday is my 35th wedding anniversary, and I don’t think that managing to stay happily married for over three decades is any small feat.

When I think back to my wedding day, which was memorable mostly for the record-breaking heat of 110 degrees with a heat index of 120 degrees, I honestly can’t believe that it was thirty-five years ago.  The time has just flown by, much faster than I ever could have imagined.  We had planned to celebrate with a trip to Ireland and England, but then my daughter and her boyfriend decided that this would be a good year to get married, and the thought of financing both a wedding and an overseas vacation didn’t seem like such a good idea.  (We hope to go next year, instead.  Who says you can’t make a big deal out of a 36th wedding anniversary?)

I’ve learned a lot of things in the past thirty five years, and most of it has to do with the delicate art of compromise.  I am a minimalist who gets nervous when I look around a room and see too much stuff, while my husband is what can best be described as a “keeper.”  We learned early on in our marriage that separate closets were a must.  Our child-raising styles were similar, thank goodness, but our decorating tastes were not, and that became one of the many areas where we learned to compromise.  I said “yes” to the plaid sofa and love seat combo in our first apartment, but “no” to the velvet tapestry of the dogs playing poker.  It took awhile, be we figured out how to be a part of two very different families, how to manage our finances in a way that made us both happy, and how to play to each other’s strengths in deciding who does what job.

I suppose after living, more or less peacefully, with my husband for thirty five years that’s it only natural for me to want to give my daughter a bit of marriage advice.  So far, I’ve resisted the temptation, but if I did, my advice would be simple:  be true to yourself, be loving toward your spouse, and always make your marriage your priority.  Know there will be good days and bad days.  Sometimes he will annoy you by doing nothing more than walking in the room and breathing your air, because that’s what happens when you live with someone day in and day out.  But if you have chosen your spouse well, there will be far more good days than bad, because you are sharing your life with your best friend, your strongest supporter and the person you would rather be with more than anyone else.  And trust me, the years will just fly by……

Half Way There!

I read somewhere that most people who start writing blogs abandon them within the first year.  Since I started this blog on December 3, 2014, I thought it worth noting that today marks my six-month anniversary as a blogger.  That means I’m halfway there to making it through my first year of blogging, and I have high hopes of keeping this blog going for a full year and beyond.

Before I started writing this post, I went back and re-read my first post:  And Now I Really Feel Old.  At the time, I was just proud of myself for figuring out how to actually publish a blog, and most of the details involved were still a mystery to me.  Since then, I’ve figured out a few more tricks, like how to add an archives and pictures, and how to use a photo from Sanibel as my header, but I still have so much to learn.  From what I can tell, blogs can be as detailed or as simple as we choose to make them, and I’m still struggling to find a balance that feels right to me.

It would be fun to say that I’ve got hundreds of followers and visitors to my blog page, but that would be a lie.  The last time I checked, I have exactly 60 followers, and surprisingly, not all of them are friends and family I’ve nagged into it.  In addition, each post averages about 50 visitors, but not all of those people are followers, and most followers don’t count as visitors, since they can just read my blog in their email.  I think.  But I do know that I’ve had readers from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, France, Mexico, Canada, Australia and Greece, which is pretty amazing to me, and means I can brag to everyone I know that I am an “international blogger.”

This blog has put me in touch with old friends I haven’t heard from in years, which is a tremendous gift all by itself.  Through WordPress, I’ve also connected with other bloggers who are thoughtful, interesting, and terrific writers.  I’m finally, in my middle age, back into the routine of writing regularly.  That may mean I’m even spacier than usual (I’m often thinking of what I want to say in my next post, even when I’m supposed to be paying attention to what I’m actually doing, like grocery shopping or carrying on a conversation), but I’m learning to cope with that, and so is my husband.

I’m just beginning to discover the true world of blogging, and sometimes I get frustrated by how much I still don’t know.  But I never, ever, regret starting this blog or think that it has not been worth the time and effort.  By my personal standards, my little blog has been a success and a joy to write.  And I have every confidence that in six months, I’ll be publishing my “I made it through my first year of blogging post,” and already starting to think of ideas for the post after that….