Reflections on turning 50 or the 50 things I have learned in my 50 years on earth

  1. It’s not about you.
  2. Sex Is wonderful with someone who loves you and you love. I also think being desired by someone you love is incredibly special. Don’t take it for granted. 
  3. Friendship requires cultivation. If you love someone, you have to be willing to devote energy to them. You have to work at your friendships. Friendship isn’t free. I have lost friendships because I wasn’t careful with them. It’s one of the things I regret most.
  4. Dogs are easier to love than people. It’s a fact. But we can learn from our dogs how to love people better. Pet them, say nice to things to them, feed them, pet them again…humans can learn from how we love our pets if we just pay attention to it. 
  5. I think one of the worst things a leader can do for their team is to allow someone to get away with being a bad employee. I think the fastest way to lose great people is to subject them to a bad employee not being held accountable. Holding people accountable is hard, particularly for conflict avoiders like me, but you have to do it. 
  6. A new couch can change your life. Until this fucking pandemic began I wouldn’t have believed this. Since our new couch arrived, life has improved in so many ways. This is a fact. 
  7. Things hold energy for me. I know. I know they shouldn’t but they do. I can’t stop wanting to hold on to my mother’s things, my brothers’ things. I like taking them out and holding them. I know they don’t exist inside these material symbols but I feel them there and that’s just the way it is. I also connect to pieces of clothing I wore at special moments. It’s hard for me to let them go. And if you hurt me deeply, I will toss everything you gave me without a single thought. 
  8. I am pretty sure there is no heartache that a plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans won’t cure. And if that doesn’t work, chocolate cake will. Whatever your food is, treat yourself when you are feeling down.
  9. Evaleen, my dog, is the best sentient being I have ever known. As I write this, she is dying of cancer. For eleven years, she has made it her job to keep an eye on me in a way I have never experienced before. The connection we have is unexplainable and honestly, I am so incredibly grateful for this four-legged creature’s love. It is beautiful. I hope that every person can bond with an animal the way I have bonded with this sweet girl. She has taught me how to love with abandon and that is one of the most important lessons I have learned so far. 
  10. I think humans too often deny their instincts. For example, I am a bit psychic. I have spent the first 50 years denying the evidence of my connection to something we cannot always make sense of. Sometimes I feel the energy of people who are not living around me. I just do.  I also believe I have spirit guides, the hawk and the owl. The proof of the existence of these guides and my connection to something “other” makes complete sense to me if I stop trying to talk myself out of it. Like Dorethea in the Lee Blessing play Eleemosynary, I have decided in the last half of my life to embrace my eccentricity. Soon, I will wear crystals, long flowing linen dresses, braid my long grey hair down my back, and hold sister circles. Meh, just kidding about the sister circles. Ok, maybe I am not. Who wants to have a sister circle with me? 
  11. Insomnia sucks. I have had a lot of insomnia this year. This year has taught me that the worst form of insomnia is insomnia in a room filled with four snoring dogs and one human sleeping soundly. The best cure I have found for insomnia is changing locations. Try it. It works for me!
  12. Donald Trump is a horrible human being. Fact.
  13. Self-awareness is important and really, really hard. But you have to keep working at it. Every single day you have to keep working at understanding how you show up with others in order to connect more authentically. Not because you should CHANGE who you are to please others but so that you can have better relationships.  Also, there is a difference between self awareness and beating yourself up. Self-awareness makes your life better. Beating yourself up is never a good idea. It’s ruminating and unhealthy. Conquer the difference so you can have a more peaceful life.
  14. This year I have been really become aware of the moment when my partner is reaching out to me and I am not there. I have certainly been aware of my own tendency to get lost inside myself for many years. But this year, thanks to 2020 and all the absurdity of this pandemic, I have become aware of the moment when my partner is reaching for me and I am not present. Which brings me to number 15.  
  15. I really am not a good listener. I think recognizing how difficult it is for me to listen deeply has been a hard lesson for me to accept because this truth is in direct opposition to how I see myself. But really, we don’t always see the truth about ourselves because it’s hard. My wife is a talker and I want so badly to be her best friend and really hear her. So I have been working on my listening skills. I have been recognizing the moment when I am not listening and acknowledging it and coming back to listening again. I know why I am not a good listener and it’s important to understand the WHY of things but it’s also important to keep working towards improving on the things about ourselves that are problematic. So that’s the lesson I want to share, figure out what’s problematic about yourself and take steps to improve. That’s the best you can do. Perfection isn’t the goal. Recognition and determination toward change is the goal. 
  16. Therapy works. Everyone should get some.
  17. I don’t think love ever goes away. At least for me it doesn’t. Once I love, it’s forever. I think love is energy created and that energy lives forever. I suspect this is where hate comes from, unresolved love has to go somewhere and that energy becomes hate. I think we have the power to take the energy created by love and use it some other way. Hate is poison and why would we want to walk around with poison in our bodies?
  18. Someone I dated briefly told me that I was closed and that until I opened up I would never find the love I wanted. Well, at the time I told her that she was full of shit because people open as they discover it’s safe to do so. I am happy to report that my three years with Stefanie has proven to me how right I was in my response to her demands that I open up. Trust is essential and then love grows deeper and partners are safe to be vulnerable with each other. I think that’s the right order of things. I am so grateful to my wife for giving us the time we needed to open up and build that trust. Also, I was right, that chick was wrong. I win. So there.
  19. I struggle with anxiety and I have worked hard to control it. I mean, I have made great strides. But there are a few occasions when my anxiety takes over and they include:
    1. Oil changes where you are expected to drive into the bay without allowing your vehicle to fall into the pit. I mean, does anyone else have a panic attack when asked to perform this impossible skill with a room of jiffy lube employees watching you and smirking? I had to have my inspection done and my oil changed the other day. I started getting anxiety when I saw the Valvoline sign in the distance. Once I managed to pull into the bay, I was so relieved I almost cried. And then the words I fear most were uttered, “I am going to need you to pull out and pull in again, your vehicle isn’t lined up properly”. What the actual fuck? But I did it. I worked through that almost panic attack and pulled out and back in, while being watched by a Valvoline employee peering at me and munching a breakfast taco. Then they began firing questions at me, turn on your breaks, your right blinker, then your left. I couldn’t remember where my turn signals were located. I actually COULD NOT REMEMBER. I kept turning my windshield wipers instead of my turn signals. They had to come show me where the turn signals on the car I have been driving for over two years were located. It was a great day.
    2. Anytime I can’t reach one of my children I get so anxious. This is most common with my middle child who often goes off the mommy grid for days at a time. It makes me crazy. Ironically, he is also the child with the worst anxiety. More proof that the universe gives you the children you need, not the ones you want.
    3. I’m not sure this counts as anxiety but when I really do not like being tail gated and it sends me into a complete emotional rage. I am not sure there is anything that can send me into my crazy place quite as quickly as a person riding too close behind me. My 50-year-old self is so much more chill than all my former selves. But seriously, tail gate me and I lose all of the work I have done and turn immediately into a screaming two-year-old who’s favorite toy has been taken away. Don’t tailgate people. It’s not ok.
  20. You can’t know something until you get there. People often try to convince others to “learn from their mistakes”. I do that with my kids. People do it all the time…women do it to other women about raising kids. So much of this happens and it feels like judgement. Sometimes you sound like a know it all when you try to share your wisdom with others. But wisdom comes from experience. It just does. I think we should spend less time telling people how to avoid mistakes and more time supporting others when they make mistakes and are trying to recover. 
  21. I struggle with the statement “everything will be ok in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end” because how do we define “the end”? Is death the end? Not sure I want to wait to find out. The last several years have been filled with change for me. Ending a 20-year relationship, trying to support my children as they navigated the difference in family and childhood in two separate households and a gay parent, building a career from 16 years as an occasional worker/stay at home mom. It’s been a lot and there have certainly been days when I wanted to transport back into some historical day in the journey to avoid the hardships that my choices have forced me to navigate. But if we decide that today is “the end”, it is certainly ok now. The deep friendships I have, the children who are growing into wonderful, strong, capable adults, a job where I feel valued and appreciated in, and this woman, Stefanie, who is my beautiful, supportive, incredible life partner and wife…well if this is the end, It’s a pretty perfect end. In spite of the stress we have been under lately, in spite of the pandemic and all the change and weirdness of 2020, if we define today, my 50thbirthday as “the end”…it really is ok. It’s more than ok. It’s everything I have ever wanted and more. 
  22. It’s not about you. I realize I said this earlier but I think it’s important enough to repeat it. I think we often judge in others what we dislike most about ourselves. SO when you are being judged, it’s important to recognize that the judgement, even if it’s directed at you, isn’t actually about you. It’s about them. Whew, embracing this makes life so much nicer.
  23. Which brings me to another thought I have been having a lot lately, not everyone will like you. You just have to be ok with that and it’s so hard for me because I am a pleaser and I want everyone to like me and that is just not realistic. Some people, they just won’t like you. It’s not your problem…just keep being you and the people who matter will like you and those that don’t, oh well. (It’s not about you. LOL)
  24. There are some fucked up people in the world. I mean, I do not understand it, I have and always will struggle deeply with this truth. But it’s true. There are people who are so broken and damaged that they will intentionally be cruel and manipulate and emotionally abuse others. I am not talking about murderers and raptists here…that’s a different, awful thing. I am talking about people who actually TRY to hurt others as a means to eliminate the emotional pain they are in. People accidentally hurt each all the time. I do and have done that. I did today, as a matter of a fact. That’s not what I struggle with. I struggle with cruel people who do and say cruel things with the intention of hurting others emotionally. I think my people pleasing and my own inability to recognize this truth has drawn me toward these types of people. Man, I don’t get it but I do see it now. It’s important to see it if you want to avoid it. And I do…want to avoid it. 
  25. I think people who struggle with vulnerability tend to get angry when they feel vulnerable. So I have been trying to respond to anger with that lens. It’s very helpful in avoiding getting triggered into a pointless battle. It helps you respond in a less confrontational way. Now, the hard part is recognizing the same in myself when I feel angry. Maybe by my 60thbirthday. 
  26. Life is fragile. By 50 most everyone will have lost someone they love deeply. In the best cases it’s very few losses by 50. But none of us get here without losing someone we love. Sometimes it’s sudden. Sometimes you know it’s coming. Either way, it is final and there is not another chance to make amends, to say the thing you haven’t said, to apologize, or to kiss one more time, hug one more time, to laugh with that person, to look into their eyes again. One minute they are here and the next minute they are not. We almost lost my former spouse Jeff recently in a terrible accident. I am, once again, shattered by the fragile existence we have and the limited nature of our lives. I had the opportunity yesterday to look into his eyes and tell him how much I care for him, how much he matters to our family, and how much we need him to just get better. I am so grateful I got that chance. At 50, I am definitely getting better at cherishing each moment, at connecting in simple ways every chance I can with the people I care for the most. We can’t fuck around with the fragile nature of life. We have to take it seriously. I am not sure anything is more important.
  27. I really like comfy clothes. I like pajamas and soft sweatshirts and t-shirts and slippers. I like coming home and putting on the softest clothes I own. OMG I really like taking my bra off. I just can’t stand to wear high heels all day anymore. I now understand why old people wear baggy, soft clothing. I am 100% sold on this old age reality. I don’t even feel bad about it. Hello 50, welcome to the club, here is your new wardrobe of moat leather clogs and long cotton pants and t-shirts, Welcome to the “lounge wear, all the time” CLUB.
  28. I think Halloween is under rated as a holiday. Granted, I have shared my birthday with Halloween for 50 years now and that may influence my opinion a bit. But seriously, we play dress up, we all get out of our houses and interact with our neighbors and there is candy. I mean, what better holiday is there, I ask you?
  29. There is a lot of sadness in life. There is trauma and unexpected crappiness and failure and job loss and it sometimes sucks. That’s just the way it is. Life is a mixture of hard stuff and boring stuff and amazing stuff too. I think that’s why we just have to stay as present as possible as we navigate it all. We have to realize that every moment of connection, every time we get to laugh with our whole bodies or love with our whole hearts is magical and important. And, we have to be more forgiving of others because we don’t know what’s going on inside other people’s lives, in their heads, in their hearts. We just have to be less judgmental and more kind. That has to be the goal. And we have to remind ourselves over and over and over again.

So that’s it. I know I said it was going to be 50 things I have learned in my 50 years on earth. But here is the most important thing I have learned in this lifetime, I don’t know much. I am not that smart. I am not smarter or wiser than other people. The older I get, the less certain I am about things. I thought I knew everything but the real wisdom of aging, I believe, is the recognition that we actually don’t really know much at all and what we know to be true today, could very well change as we get older. So my biggest reflection on 50 years is the realization of how little I know, how much I have left to learn, and that it really is ok to be imperfect and not know things. I only know 29 things and I suspect by my 55th birthday, that number will be down below 20.

Cheers to 50 years.