Friday, October 10, 2008

Wisdom of the Aged - Part III

On change

A wise woman once told me, “You can change.” So, I did! It’s harder than hell but it can be done. The most difficult part is convincing people you’ve known for years that you have actually changed. Many people don’t like change and don’t deal with it well. They cling to the past as if to a lifebuoy, afraid of what’s ahead even if what’s behind was worse.

People try to keep you in the past, or continue to make references to how you were instead of letting you move forward. It isn’t always malicious. They may not realize what they’re saying or how they’re acting is hurtful. They haven’t come to terms with their past experiences and allowing you to move forward would force them to deal with their own issues. I understand this and am happy to have found a way out of the maze. I try to live in the present, not the past or the future - to live every day as if it’s the only day that matters because it just may be.

Changing is a constant struggle and requires unwavering attention and introspection. Sometimes to accomplish it, you have to distance yourself from your past. You have to put space between yourself and the memories of who you were. Sometimes that space requires a physical move – far away where you can start fresh without all the people around to remind you of how completely you screwed up your life. It can be emotionally isolating but also liberating. It requires making a decision about what’s most important – placating other people, or making yourself happy.

I don’t blame anyone for my bad choices. That’s the easy thing to do and shifts responsibility for my decisions to others. Once I left home my decisions were all mine. No one forced me to do anything. Some people influenced me more than others but no one controlled my mind. I accept full responsibility for everything that happened to me. I live every day with the knowledge of my past mistakes but I don’t suffer from them anymore. I learned from them and moved on to a much happier life.

I don’t see myself as selling out for not taking my family and others to task for what they did or said to me years ago. I see it more as me taking back control of my life. They no longer have the ability to make me feel bad or inadequate because I won’t let them. They have no more power over me and what I do or how I feel. My choices in life are no longer dictated by what they might think or feel about me.

People who aren’t content with themselves will never be content with another person. Dragging another person into my issues isn’t going to solve them. It’s just going to make two people miserable.

I haven’t forgotten anything from my past. That’s both a problem and an advantage of having a good memory. I remember everything – good and bad, funny and sad, except for a few hours in Haiti, I remember it all. I remember the situations, the emotions that accompanied them and the pain they caused. However, I no longer feel the pain or suffer from the memories. I learned how to put the pain away and replaced it with the comfort of knowing I not only survived it, I grew and prospered.

I’ll never forget. I don’t want to. It keeps me humble and in touch with what’s important. I’m not just a survivor. I thrive. I made a conscious choice to live my life happy. I may be temporarily affected by what people say or do but I have no intention of allowing anyone to permanently change my choice to enjoy life.

I did some pretty stupid things in my past but don’t do them anymore and I don’t allow others to make me wallow in them either. Holding on to memories of how you were wronged is not going to make things right again. Forgiving (or at least forgetting) will. We have to move forward and leave the wrongdoers in our past where they belong.

Choices can be proactive or reactive. You can live life from the outside in, always focusing on external things to provide you with stimulus and meaning, or you can live life from the inside out by giving external things stimulus and meaning. You can live by your own decisions or you can live based on the decisions of others. You can live your dreams or you can live the dreams of others. It’s your choice. You have to define yourself not allow others to do it for you.

I haven’t resolved all the issues in my life, but most things that were so important and urgent 25 years ago are now either non-issues or under control. I appreciate life and have something a lot of people who had cancer or any serious disease will never have - the opportunity to continue working on my issues and looking for solutions.

I have hope for the future and a present full of good friends, a wonderful job, several “families” and a darling dog who thinks I am the greatest – especially when I give her treats. And best of all, I no longer aspire to be a drama queen. I’m very fond of my easy, comfortable, low trauma way of life. If I wasn’t me, I might just envy me!

I have lots of love in my life but not the love of my life. That’s okay. One of those unresolved issues is a fear of relationships. I don’t want to be a hotel again and I don’t want to check into any more hotels. I have too much self esteem now to do that again. There’s a real difference between being alone and being lonely. I recognize the difference and am happier alone than I ever was in a relationship. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up the idea of finding true love, just that without it, it’s still good.

Writing this gives me another opportunity to maintain my perspective. I can focus on the fact I had this health issue – cancer - that overwhelmed me and redirected my life for over twenty five years, or remember that the health issue was my catalyst for change and brought me where I am today. What an interesting conundrum. Did I have the disease, or did I allow it to have me? Or, both? And does it really matter?

Life should be a blessing. Always maintain your perspective. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Never give up hope. You can change.

Happy Birthday to me!


Stephen Parrish said...

I still think you have a memoir in you. Okay, okay, I'll shut up about it, but I'd buy it for the author photo alone.

Erica Ridley said...

Happy Birthday!!!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Anti-Wife!! Warmest wishes for the years to come. :)

Polly Kahl said...

Happy Happy Happy to you AW! May this day be full of smiles and laughter, with many more happy days to follow.

Robin said...

Aw...Happy Birthday, Anti! Love the black balloons! Did you make a deal with the devil or something? You look about 12.

May you have good health and happiness for ever and ever.

John Elder Robison said...

Woof! Happy birthday

Lin Neiswender said...

Dig the headgear! Happy Birthday from someone else who doesn't think being alone means being lonely! Woo Hoo!

Maya Reynolds said...

AW: Happy, Happy Birthday!!!!

Hope the coming year will bring you health, happiness and much success!!

Colleen said...

Happy Birthday Anti-Wife! My wish for you is that you will have enough. Enough of everything/anything that makes you happy! C

McKoala said...

Happy birthday anti-wife!

laughingwolf said...

happy day, again!

i'm so poor... i hardly have room to change my mind! :O lol

Demon Hunter said...

Okay, I agree with Stephen. When you write your memoir, I want a signed copy. :-)

Thank you for sharing. We all go through a lot, and it's good to know that change can come. :-)

Ello said...

That is a beautiful post - actually had me a little teary because there is so much of it I can relate to.

I hope you had a wonderful birthday. You look beautiful!

stephe said...

An amazing post that I can truly learn from. Thank you.

And Happy (belated) Birthday. When I hit the Big 6-0 (in about a decade, give or take), I plan to be just as fabulous as you are. *fingers crossed* :)

Cat said...

What an absolutely beautifully written post about change - and life and happy belated birthday to you! I really needed this post today - Thank you! Cat