“Low Expectations Are the Secret to Success”

A friend of mine said that to me recently. It was a joke. Of course it was a joke. But in every good joke lies a kernel of truth.

Yeah, if you set the bar low enough, you’re bound to be able to get over it. If all you want from life is a hovel with a mattress, a travel radius of less than 50 miles, a minimum wage job that doesn’t challenge you, and a spouse that challenges you even less, then the odds are quite good that you’ll succeed.

And that is a form of success, I suppose, if you are happy. If you are content and have no regrets, then you are right up there at the summit of humanity. Congratulations.

But maybe we should stop focusing so much on succeeding. Humans seem to be obsessed with the concept. No one wants to be a loser.

I think, though, that epic fails are highly indicative of people who are trying the hardest. People who take risks are usually the ones who care the most. Sticking your neck out means you have a much better view of an expanded horizon. It also means you’ve learned. Oh, how you’ve learned.

I’m not suggesting that you should set the bar so high that you’ll never have a chance. We can’t all be king of the world. But stretch yourself. Dream bigger than you think you can or should. Take chances. Have adventures. Live.

mountain climbing

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The Moment My Life Changed

After yesterday’s blog entry, Chuck is on my mind quite a bit. Even more so than usual, because I recently celebrated the 7th anniversary of our first kiss, or as I like to describe it, “The Moment My Life Changed”.

I actually made the first move. We had been talking for 4 hours on this particular day. We had everything in common. And he was about to leave for the last time. He had been my roofing contractor, and his crew was finished with the job and had left. I knew that if I didn’t do something, he’d walk right out of my life and I’d never see him again. So I kissed him.

And I felt it in my knees. Which was kind of dangerous, since we were standing on my roof. But it was worth it.

I had 4 amazing years with Chuck before he died, and he really taught me a lot about what love is, and also what it isn’t. Ours was a complicated relationship. But I don’t regret any of it, and I miss so much of it.

While he was alive, I described that first kiss as the moment my life changed, but little did I know. My whole life can be divided into before that kiss and after it. That first kiss meant I experienced love, but it also meant I experienced death and grief and excruciating pain and loneliness and despair.

That kiss and that love and that death also sent me headlong across the country, to Seattle. That has also been a bit of a jumbled bag of joy and sorrow. No regrets there either, most of the time.

Every year when this anniversary rolls around, I experience very mixed emotions. Part of me thinks I should stop writing it on my calendar, because I suck at remembering dates, so if I left it off, I would stop riding this particular roller coaster. But part of me thinks, no, I should hold on to it, at least until I experience another kiss that I feel in my knees. If I ever get that lucky.

Damn. What a kiss that was. Hoo!

First Kiss

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Write Your Own Life Story

It’s not as though young people are beating a path to my door, asking me for advice. In fact, I don’t really know any young people. We move in entirely different circles. But given my rich inner landscape, I have a tendency to carry on conversations in my mind that I’ve never really had. This is one of them.

I have this fantasy that 30 years hence, some university asks me to speak at their graduation. Who knows why. But graduation speeches are the perfect forum to share what you’ve learned about life. So here’s what I’d say in this speech of a lifetime.

I stand here near the end of my life, looking at all of you, who are at the beginning of yours, and I am very excited for you. I suspect you are feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities for your future. There are so many paths you can take. How do you choose? Terrifying abundance. What a gift!

Embrace that feeling. Lean into it. And allow yourself the first-world luxury of feeling this abundance for the rest of your life. One of the worst mistakes you can make is letting yourself feel trapped. You always have choices. You may not choose them out of a sense of obligation, a fear of failure, or the comfort of the well-worn path you find yourself on, but those choices are still there, waiting for you. Therein lies your freedom.

Never forget that it is entirely up to you to write your own life story. No one else can do it for you. Every single person on this planet will take a different journey. That’s more than 7 billion unique journeys going on right this second. Isn’t that amazing? So make your journey your very own.

At least once a day, stop what you’re doing and look around you. Really, really look. You’ll be amazed at what you see.

Don’t let your family dictate your career, don’t stay married only for the sake of the children, don’t remain in a job that you hate because people are counting on your paycheck. If you do, you will have regrets. Regrets are your brain’s way of telling you that you just didn’t listen to it.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just make sure that the mistakes you make are all yours. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in life, and so will you. Most of mine have been because I didn’t follow my gut, I worried about what others thought, and I allowed myself to be talked into things that didn’t feel right. But in the end, my mistakes were just another part of the journey, and they often taught me much and sent me down paths I’d have never discovered otherwise. It’s all good. It’s life.

So live your life. Yours. Make it unique. Make it a work of art. And give others the space to create their own masterpieces.

The only other piece of advice I have, and this is very important: take a picture of your butt now. Someday you’re going to miss it.

life

Child-Free and No Regrets

I was talking to a 30 year old woman who does not want to have kids, and she was venting about the societal pressures that are placed upon her. Boy, could I relate. She said she got very sick of hearing… and we said it simultaneously… “You’ll change your mind.”

Now that I’m 50, people have finally stopped saying that to me. Obviously, definitively, I can be trusted to know my own mind, and if I haven’t changed it by now, the world can simply resign itself to the fact that I never will. Whew! That’s a load off my shoulders. I can’t tell you how annoying it has been to have to go through life defending my decision.

The thing I could never understand, and still don’t, is why it was so bloody important to people that I join the procreation club. It was as if their personal experience was somehow lessened if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon with them. Why is my lifestyle anyone’s business but my own?

Even more annoying is the general concept that if I don’t want children there must be something wrong with me; something that I need to get over or be cured of. People treat the lack of desire for rug rats as if it is some form of brain damage.

And the more extreme critics like to say that child-free people are selfish. I actually think it’s more selfish to bring a child into the world when you have no desire or ability or preparation to be a parent. If you are going to be abusive, or foist the care of your child off on the state, or are simply indifferent to the process to the point that it will negatively impact the child, then that’s what’s truly selfish. And it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of people on the planet to maintain an adequate gene pool. If anything, one more human is the last thing this earth needs. The diaper waste alone is unbelievable.

I’m sure this will shock people, but here I am at age 50, looking back at my child-free life, and I can say without hesitation that I have no regrets. I’m glad I made the choices I made. I’m quite content with the fact that I never changed my mind. So next time you talk to an independent woman (or man, for that matter) who expresses this desire, maybe rather than try and talk her out of it, you might want to consider what a pompous ass you will sound like if you do.

[Image Credit: thesocietypages.org]
[Image Credit: thesocietypages.org]

Discarded Futures

It’s ironic that I’m about to move again, because I just moved into this place a month ago. But this job offer is too good to pass up. I’m excited. I’m dreading loading up my stuff again. And I have GOT to get rid of things. I can no longer lug long playing records from pillar to post when I don’t even own a record player anymore. Why do I need reference books when I can get all the info I need on line? I’ve got so much to do.

But when I stop to catch my breath, I look around at this house and think about how much I like it. Even though I’ve only been here a month, I feel like I could really have made a nice home here. I feel safe here. I like that I can hear the neighbors roosters crowing, even though I’m in the middle of the largest city by land mass on the planet. I like playing in the yard with the dogs. I can see a future here, but I’ve chosen to forego it.

I sometimes think about the various futures I’ve chosen not to pursue. It’s not really a feeling of regret that comes over me, even though some of those futures might have been wonderful. It’s more like a feeling of awe. There are so many possibilities out there. So many paths I can take, or could have taken.

Every life on this planet is unique. Imagine that. We are each the architects of our own evolution. Every single choice you make opens up a whole new world to you. What a gift. What a precious, precious gift.

possibilities-asad.jpg w=509&h=339

Okay, as a bridgetender I just have to throw in a little editorial comment here. It’s one thing to say that nothing is impossible. It’s quite another to do something really stupid that will get you killed. People die on drawbridges all the time. Kids, seriously, do NOT do this at home, so to speak.

Don’t Hold on to Bitterness

About a year ago I got a friend request on Facebook from someone who made my life miserable in high school. I couldn’t believe it. I almost deleted it, but then I realized this was a rare opportunity for closure. So I accepted her friend request and sent her the following message:

“There are so many things I’d like to say to you. First of all, you made my life a living hell in high school. You bullied me, you harassed me, you followed me around, you destroyed my textbooks, one of which I had to pay for at a time when I was extremely poor. You broke into my locker, you humiliated me, embarrassed me, scared the hell out of me, lowered my already low self-esteem, and basically made me dread school at a point when I already dreaded being at home. I used to cry myself to sleep at night trying to figure out what I had done to deserve that. To this day I have no idea. Why on earth did you dedicate so much negative energy and time on me? What did I do?

“You have left me a lifelong legacy. I will never, EVER go to a high school reunion. I’d rather have root canal surgery than relive those days. And to this day, I have a knee-jerk reaction toward bullies. I will never understand, nor will I tolerate, people who delight in other peoples’ misery. You did that.

“I know this was long ago, and you’re probably a very different person (God, I hope so), I know I am. But give me one good reason, please, why I should be your friend now when you hated my guts then?”

Her response was quite interesting.  “I am soooo sorry if I treated you that way. I honestly don’t remember it. I can’t imagine having ever been so cruel and heartless to anyone. I am truly sorry. If you can’t forgive me then I totally understand because those are all unforgivable acts. I’m sorry.”

So I replied, “I appreciate that. It felt good to get it off my chest. I forgive you. Friendship might be a little harder, but I’m willing to give it a shot, if you are. Just goes to show one never knows the impact one makes in the world. I’m sure there are people I’ve hurt, too.”

Wow. She didn’t even have a memory of the damage she had done to me, and from what I can tell from Facebook, has turned out to be a good person, although as expected we don’t interact that much. And yet I had held onto that bitterness for decades. By doing that, I had only been damaging myself. What a waste.

This is why forgiveness is so important. Without it, you remain stuck like a mouse in a glue trap. It does you no good. And people do grow up and change and learn from their experiences. They really do.

I know someone who is still very bitter about his treatment in high school 25 years later, and he’s convinced that the kids who were so horrible to him then are still horrible people now. I’m willing to bet that most of them aren’t, and that most of them don’t even remember him or what they did to him, or if they do remember, they don’t spend a great deal of their time dwelling on it. But he holds that bitter cup of acid deep inside himself, and it punishes them not at all.

It’s time to move on.

move on

(Image credit: examiner.com)

Riding the Planet

Today is my birthday, and yesterday, my grandnephew Carter was born. Naturally, this has given me ample opportunity to compare our two situations.

Having spent almost half a century on this planet, you might think I know a thing or two, and I suppose I do. I can pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. I have memories of my travels, and of friends both present and past. I’ve had regrets, I’ve learned from at least half of my mistakes and I’m proud of my achievements.

Carter, on the other hand, after just one day of life, is simply riding the planet. That’s what I call it when you just trust that gravity will hold you to earth’s surface, and you let the planet hurtle through space without making any effort to steer. You’re not there to stress out over anything, you’re not trying to solve anything. You’re just entrusting your fate to the universe, and you’re along for the ride. I try to do this when I meditate, with mixed results. But when I achieve a full state of planet riding, I’m content. Everything seems so much easier. Carter was born with the ability to do this. He trusts that he’ll be fed and cared for. He has faith that things will work out for him. So who is wiser? Nobody’s feeding me, giving over their entire existence to make sure I’m safe, or rocking me when I cry. Lucky kid.

Unlike Carter at the moment, I seem to be in a constant state of surprise. For example, just yesterday I discovered that this creature exists:

Pink Fairy Armadillo

That’s a Pink Fairy Armadillo and it lives in central Argentina. Granted, I haven’t spent copious amounts of time wandering around the heartland of Argentina, but still, I cannot believe that I’ve shared the planet with this animal and have never known about its existence up to now.

And a few years ago, they found an entirely new Indian tribe in Brazil that has never had any contact with the outside world. The only reason they discovered it at all was that an airplane flew over their longhouse. Here was a whole group of people living their daily lives, being born, laughing, loving and dying, and yet we didn’t even know about them. How freaky is that? http://news.discovery.com/human/newly-identified-tribe-in-the-amazon.html

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that you’ll never stop learning, so Carter, even though you’re just starting out, even though I might seem comparatively wise, in the overall scheme of things, we’re really in the same boat, and we’re both just at the starting line of life.

So keep dreaming your newborn dreams, dear Carter, and let the world take care of itself. At least, for now.

Carter