Monthly Archives: July 2009

Getting older — free at last

You can say what you’d like about middle age. But for me it has been an eye-opening, exciting time of life.  If I were to describe all that I have learned since age 40, the memory capacity on my computer would fail me.

It is true that I have had some dramatic life changes along the way, including the loss of both my parents, the end of a two decades-long marriage, the beginning of a wonderful new life with my soul mate, and the spectacle of my only child going alternative on me for a while and then returning to the real world with a vengeance and drive to succeed.

I can lament about the thickening of my middle, the graying of my hair, the ache in my right knee, and the wrinkles around my eyes, all of which can be masked cosmetically or medicinally.

But the greatest midlife gift of all is the ‘I-don’t-give-a-damn’ factor when it comes to how others see me.  Middle age for me brought with it a comfort and acceptance of self that is difficult to describe. It is knowing that I can focus on new dreams with greater depth while leaving behind all the shallower ones.    It’s a grasp on how much I DON’T know about my spiritual side, but will spend the rest of my days exploring.

But most of all, it is the reigniting of my passion for life.  Being able to write a real-life book for other women (in the past, all my books were real estate related) is an indescribably gratifying feeling.  Using words to evoke memory, emotion or action while in the service of others is becoming an addiction for me, whether in the form of giving seminars, writing my book or creating my Examiner columns.

You may surmise by now that my glass has always been half full, no matter what life has thrown at me.  That outlook, however, is not borne of DNA, self-help books or Tony Robbins seminars.  It is, rather, a kind of muscle memory that was formed over the years when I made a conscious decision to focus on the positive instead of the negative no matter how bleak things appeared on the surface.  It was helped along by a concerted effort to find meaning in some of the most trivial events and conversations and permit them to push me forward to new realities.

There is no such thing as a ‘status quo.’  There is each new day, unique in its ability to inspire, progress and teach.  And it is that one-day-at-a-time approach that is so very liberating.

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Going with the flow

Worry isn’t a huge part of my persona, but it remains as a little buzz at the back of my head.  When it begins to surface and dominate my thoughts, I realize it can zap my energy, making me less productive as well as bad company to those around me.

We are a worrying lot.  The economy, our jobs, our kids, our health, global warming, Iran, Korea –  to recite a list would inflict anguish for days.  We can try to take steps to influence outcomes as some sort of therapy and as a way to look back and say that we did all we could, but in the end we can’t truly control what will happen next.

One evening last week my car was broken into in the parking lot of a popular restaurant near home.  I felt helpless, angry, and dumb all at the same time. Although the car was locked, my briefcase was the target, having been left on the front seat in plain view. The thief simply smashed in the passenger side window and quickly absconded with my goods, which included my precious iPhone, a wallet chock full of credit cards and, of course, my pride.

We made every phone call we could think of within the first few hours of the police report, trying to leave no stone unturned.  In the meantime, I felt utterly violated, vulnerable and fraught with – worry.  The ‘what-ifs’ began popping up at every turn and before I realized it, an entire night went by with no sleep.

The next day we left for a long weekend, planned from months ago. The purpose of the trip was a conference of church choir singers to gather at one parish, as we do each year. The Byzantine-style church hosting this event, perched at the edge of a nature preserve in stunningly beautiful north coastal San Diego, was to echo our mystical liturgical hymns. As I entered through the sanctuary’s tall wooden doors, I took in the splendor of mosaic icons, crowned by a dome overhead that filtered the day’s sunshine through its small porticoes.  I breathed in the slight aroma of incense left over from a recent service.  My worries began to melt away as I raised my voice over and over again in an attempt to perfect sounds that reverberated off the images of saints and stucco.

After two days of rehearsal and fellowship, Sunday morning arrived, when we would be called upon as a 180-member choir to respond to the priest’s supplications in song. The sound was magnificent as our voices rose and fell, hushed and trumpeted the ancient liturgical music.  When it came time for the sermon, the priest spoke of the lilies of the field, which do not reap nor sow, yet are endowed more beautifully than any of Joseph’s magnificent coats of yore.  His words comforted me, making me realize that worrying about the aftermath of my material dilemma would make not one iota of difference in the long run.

As we made our way home, traveling through mountains, vineyards and arid summer fields, my eye caught the glimpse of a stalled vehicle by the side of the freeway. The car hood was raised, as if a signal to a friend or road service who might be on the way. Off to the side, in a shallow ravine, I saw the car’s owner, sitting on a lounge chair under an umbrella, beverage in hand.  The man was literally in the middle of nowhere, yet the image could double as one in a vacation brochure.  He could have been pacing nervously or crouching over his car engine, but he no doubt knew that all that was left to him was to wait for help.  And help would come.

The lessons learned here may not ward off worry from future disasters that befall me in years to come, but life, as they say, is what you make of it. I could have taken no meaning from the events of the past few days, or I could, as I did, take them as comforting signs that indeed, all is not lost.  Credit cards will reappear in my wallet, but they will not offer the solace given to me by these simple experiences.

And as some ancient sage once said,  “This, too, shall pass.”

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