I just finished reading Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson. In the novel, the main character, Ursula, dies and repeats the same life over again. In one life, she lives only one second as she is strangled by her umbilical cord. In the next life, she is saved by the timely arrival of the doctor who was absent during her first birth. In each lifetime, she lives a little longer. Each time she returns, she brings back impressions from her previous lives that allow her to avoid the deaths she has experienced in her previous lives.
This novel made me think. What would I do if I repeated my life? If a genie appeared before me right now and offered me the chance to relive my life, would I take it? I know there are mistakes I have made and things I have done that I would like to change or erase, but would changing these things alter my fundamental sense of self? What would I change? Would changing one thing change the course of my life? What if I never met my husband or never had my son? The risk of not having them in my life would be too great to contemplate.
Of course, my life is as it stands. No genie is going to appear, so my mistakes are safe from correction. Everything I have done in my life, good or bad, has led me to this time or place. Every mistake has offered me an opportunity to learn and to grow as a person. Each one, no matter how mortifying, has made me who I am.
One thing I am trying to remember in my 52nd year is that fretting about everything won’t make anything better. Last year, I spent endless days worrying about my job which I ended up losing anyway. All those tears and the sadness that darkened my days didn’t change things and ruined my time when I wasn’t at work.
I am trying to learn to be a “glass is half full” kind of person, rather than looking at everything that is wrong all the time. Maybe, I can’t find a teaching job, but, on the bright side, I don’t have to deal with bratty kids or kids who don’t want to learn. I don’t have to go to work every day and face disrespect.
Each day is mine to fill as I wish and I am trying to make the most of it-to fill my days with writing and to revel in finally being able to stay home with my son.
I hate the word, “triggered.” It seems that everyone, whether they have suffered trauma or not, has something that triggers them. As much as I hate the word, it is the only word I can use to describe my reaction to Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard. Feast is Howard’s memoir about her undergraduate years and her battle with body image and eating disorders. As she described her feelings of inadequacy and shame about her body, I couldn’t help but think about my own life-long struggles with these same issues.
My stomach churning, I went to bed and almost cried. I thought of all the decisions in my life. The times I thought I should have turned left, but instead turned right. Then, I heard my son, Hunter, laugh. He and my husband like to stay up late, so I was in bed before they were. Hearing him laugh shook me out of my misery. I realized that all my decisions have lead me to this place, with my son and my husband. My life isn’t perfect and my career didn’t turn out as I thought it would, but I can still be proud of everything I accomplished.
I wanted to quit reading Feast, but I made myself finish it. By the end of the memoir, Howard learned to deal with her issues and to become a powerful advocate. I felt, if she could do it, as young as she is, I could do it, too, with all the experiences of my 52 years behind me. That is what I am trying to do. Always moving forward, never backward, like a shark, carving through the water of my present and my future.
I have been reading this series by Lillianna Blake called Single Wide Female. In the series, the main character, Samantha, has a bucket list of things she promised herself she would do when she lost weight. After losing 80 pounds, she finally decides that she is tired of waiting to explore the items on her bucket list. She is still working on weight loss, but she is tired of putting her life on hold until she is thin enough to live it.
I found this series at the right moment in my life. Something just clicked for me in my 52nd year. I finally felt ready to lose the weight that has plagued me my adult life. I started exercising a couple of weeks ago. I ignored all the little nagging doubts (and the pain in my hip) and just started. I lost five pounds. It doesn’t seem like a lot but that is the first weight I have lost in over a year. Last week, I joined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time. This time around, I was ready for the structure. I don’t view my diet as a limitation any more but as a stepping stone to a healthier life. I have now lost seven pounds.
Another dream I have always yearned for is to become a writer. Like my weight loss, I started slow. I started writing in my journal. I found a book that would help me tackle the idea I have been thinking about. I started to write more regularly, maybe not every day, but enough to keep the flow of my writing going.
While I don’t have a bucket list that compels me to skydive or walk across hot coals, I am feeling like I want to move out of my comfort zone. I want to see what is out there for me.
I have never thought of myself as a radiant person. I am more like a hide-my-light-under-a-bushel-basket person. As I grow older, however, I feel less inclined to hide behind the expectations of others. At 52, I want to be who I am with no apologies and no hiding. I am tired of apologizing for who I am.
This is the year I am going to make my life reflect who I am on my terms. My 52nd year will be the year that I make the changes I want to make. I have stopped the self-recriminations: why didn’t I do this at 32? or 42? The important thing is that I am doing it now. I am going to come out from under the bushel basket and be radiant.