I’m 55 and I’m Not Dead Yet

I’m starting a movement called I’m 55 and I’m Not Dead Yet.   When I was a child I thought that when I got to be 50 it would feel ancient.  It doesn’t, though.  In fact, I feel more like 35, only a whole lot wiser than I was at that age.  I think.  I hope.

When I was growing up children weren’t revered the way they are today, especially in America.  Which I suppose is just the pendulum swinging the other way.  It’s beautiful to see, but there’s been a kind of side effect which is a bit weird, and revolting to experience if you’re not a child any more.  It’s that as you get older your value diminishes.  Well it’s been true for a long time in principle.  Who’s ever cared about old people?

But now the years you have of value are getting less and less.  Before, in childhood the adults were the ones who had careers and worked towards success.  They had huge value in that period say from 20’s to 40’s.  But now children shed their innocence very young, and even become celebrities in their teens.  They’re the new adults.

Now by the time you’re 20 or 30 you’re over the hill already.  Spent, useless to society.  Well that can’t be right.  It means that as a being, age is what determines your worth.  So when you’re young you deserve tons of back-up and support, but when you get older you don’t.  It’s absurd.  A person’s value lies in their existence, their spirit, not in how old or young they are.

What about the adults like me?  It’s taken me all this time to work through all the crap within myself that disabled me and stopped me from making my dreams come true.  It wasn’t that I didn’t know what my dreams were, and it certainly wasn’t that I didn’t try.  I just failed a lot.  So should I just sigh and give up and shrug my shoulders?  Should I be philosophical and say at least I dreamed and at least I tried?

I think not.  At the age of 55 I could say I’ve had my chance and I blew it.  I could let myself be a victim of a social trend to discount people – especially women, I think – over the age of 40 who haven’t made it yet.  But if I accept the idea that nothing can happen for me my life is over and what will have been the point?  I will have spent my life with my dreams burning at me, wrestling with the enemy within.  Only to die and not taste anything of what I’ve craved all my life.

What a waste.  Children today are being enabled and given fabulous opportunities today and that’s as it should be.  They’re supposed to be given to.  But adults are supposed to be given to also.   It’s just that as an adult you have to make it happen for you.  You kind of have to be the parent to your creative self; to find and give yourself those opportunities.

Somebody said the other day that 40 is the new 30.  Well that was a few years ago.  Now 50 is the new 40.  It really is.  People my age are starting their lives over, standing up above the crowd, letting themselves be heard, doing what they want to do.  Maybe what they’ve always wanted to.  Not giving in to that ridiculous idea that your value has anything at all to do with age. The more of us who do it, the more we change how society views us.

So it’s quite exciting really, to be this age in this era.  At the forefront of change.  That’s a much more palatable idea than sinking slowly to my grave in ignominy.

 

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Listening to Your Heart, Believing in Yourself, Finding Fulfillment

“But the eyes are blind.  One must look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince, Chapter XXV

There was such a great episode on Being Erica last night about choices that seem logical but feel wrong.  We live in a logic-driven world, and there’s something appealing about it, it feels so safe.  But living your life doing the things that seem logically sensible isn‘t always safe.

People who work all their lives at “good” jobs that stifle them, earning safe money, aim for that day they retire and can start doing what they want.  But how many have heart attacks, strokes,   cancer and all manner of body ills by the time they retire?  Because they’ve never lived with joy, never pursued a dream.  They’ve always been practical and logical even when it went against their heart.

Suddenly one day it’s over and it’s too late.  So how safe was it all really?  Denying your heart impacts on your body in a real physical way.   We’re not built to be stifled, we’re built for the expression of joy and creativity.  When we’re out of that mode, our chemical and electrical systems are thrown out of balance.  We get dis-eased.

I was never able to do the safe thing.  It wasn’t something I actively thought about, I just was so sure in some part of myself that things would work out if I listened to my heart.  I kind of jumped off a cliff into life as a young adult.  Things didn’t work out, though, not in a natural way.  I’ve made some awful decisions, taken a lot of hard knocks.

Turns out it’s as difficult and complicated to follow your heart as it is to follow the logical safe route and be happy.  People often say all you have to do is find your passion and then doors fly open for you.  No they don’t, not always.  There’s this minor obstacle called self-esteem.  If yours is depleted, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about something, you’re unlikely to find success in it until you’ve healed on the inside.  Low self esteem means you don’t trust yourself.

Passion doesn’t make you successful.  Strong self-esteem, good entitlement, believing in yourself – those are the ingredients, I think.   Passion just keeps you on the road, because it gets difficult.  When you follow your heart you’re carving out your own path in life, and that’s a good thing.  But there are no insurance policies doing it this way, and nobody can say to you if you follow these rules you’ll be okay because there aren’t any rules.  It’s just you and your heart.

You have to have a whole lot of faith in the idea that your heart is actually the voice of life guiding you through the quagmire that is your low self-esteem and incomplete consciousness and all the misbegotten things you’ve learned from bad role models.  You have to blindly believe that your heart will lead you to what you need to learn, to overcome obstacles, and that it can guide you in material matters as well as spiritual ones.

We have the capacity to shut off our emotions and hearts and build material empires with our logical ability.  We can have huge wealth, and even stand out above the crowd.  But we’re not really individuals; our wealth is garnered off the backs of others, and fulfillment surely eludes us.

But if we pay attention to our hearts and emotions, and use our logical capacity without being ruled by it, we can have material wealth and find fulfillment.  Wealth comes from people and people respond to personal power, which comes from listening to your heart, healing your self esteem, learning from better role models and risking being an individual.  I’d say it’s at least worth the risk of trying.

Blogging – is there really a rule? Nobody puts a sheep on a pedestal

When I first started this blog, I read quite a few opinions of people who knew how to be a successful blogger – do it this way, that way, NEVER make it too long, write what’s popular, don’t be self-indulgent, be consistent, always use photographs.   The list of rules was never ending.   I junked the lot, and followed my heart.

Because there’s no point in doing my thing if I’m not doing it my way.   Plus I suspect that those who rise above the crowd are the ones who don’t follow other people’s rules, not out of rebellion, but because they’ve got something more powerful going on.   At first the babbling crowd says “WRONG, WRONG, you’ll never make it, blah blah blah”.

But they keep on doing what they want to and at some point, all those negative opinions turn.  Then one day the same people are saying “RIGHT, RIGHT.”   And it’s because the successful people didn’t listen to their negative opinions.

We revere people who have the gutspah to do their own thing, and we’re constantly looking for something new.   But we  look at somebody who’s succeeded, and we create totally superficial reasons for their success, then we try to persuade people starting out to follow those rules.   Which will make them not an individual.  Which will make us not notice them.

Seriously, it’s a circus.   I figure success doesn’t come from how many rules you follow, it comes from doing what you want to do and never giving up no matter what comes at you.   At first you may get tons of rejection.  It’s real easy to believe that means you’re no good, and to give up.   Well, then your journey’s over.   People who give up?   They find all sorts of rationalizations to support their choice.   “It wasn’t meant to be” is right at the top there.   What they won’t face is that they chose to believe their detractors, they didn’t look for solutions to obstacles, wouldn’t try to look beyond their own lack of belief in themselves.

But some people say “I don’t believe any of you” and they keep going.   What turns the tide of popular opinion?   I suspect it’s that the more you stand up to rejection, the more you believe in yourself, and the stronger you get in your creative expression.   That’s where the power lies.   That’s what people read when they see you or hear you, whether they know it or not.   I know, that’s a kind of rule, but at least it lets people be individuals, so for now it works for me.

We’re all looking for people who have that courage to believe in themselves.   We make it hard for them, but we revere them when they stand up to our negativity.   Nobody puts a sheep up on a pedestal.

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It’s Enough Of The Shame Now!

Epiphany day!

Logistical and money challenges abound.   I’ve twice had to borrow small amounts for food but it hasn’t been enough to eat properly.   Went shopping, had to make a choice between bread and toilet paper.  No brainer.   But shame prowled the corridors of my being when I got to the till, and had to count pennies, literally.  I tried to hold myself together and couldn’t, didn’t.   Not inside.   Please god don’t let anybody see what I feel like inside.

Then epilepsy medication ran out.   Okay, that’s scary.   Had to ask chemist if he’d sell me 10 –which I’ve got money for – and keep the rest of the box for when payment for work comes in.   Felt humiliated.  He said would only sell me a minimum of 15.  I had R50 in a bank account I wanted to close.   Couldn’t draw the money till the account is closed.   Probably get it next week.   Not enough money for 15 tablets.

Pressure building.   Asked my mother for rent, but couldn’t ask her for money for food or the medication.  If only I could get the shame off my back.   And I need medication.   Last night I felt trapped.   Nobody to turn to, nobody to ask, waiting on banks.   Waiting for somebody or god to tell me I’m not a bad person.   Please take the shame off my back. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Woke up this morning early.   No money for the train to get to therapy.   And something kicked in as I walked between the kitchen and the bathroom.   It’s enough torture now, enough waiting for God, it’s enough of not having enough food.  Enough terror, enough apologizing to my mother and the world. I’m not going through another night or day of terror.

The only action choice I could see in front of me was to walk to therapy.   Two hour walk, that’s easy.   On the way is a chemist who might sell me 10 tegretol.   I will let myself have solution.

It was a beautiful morning, sun rising over the ocean, the air freezing, winter cold, bracing.   I held my head up high as I marched, and said to myself, it’s enough of the terror and the debate whether it’s okay or not for me to ask for help outside of my mother – and it’s enough of the shame. It’s time to give myself the right to not be ashamed of myself, to decide what I need to be able to move forward, and to give myself permission to ask for it.

I greeted people I passed, and they greeted me back.  It was fantastic to be alive.   I walked into the chemist holding onto my dignity.   I neither begged nor pleaded nor apologized for the fact that all I could afford were 10 tablets.   She sold me what I needed.   So I got to therapy and I have the tegretol.   And I had an epiphany to boot.

Wherever I’ve come from; whatever I’ve done that I wish I had done differently; however many times I’ve failed in my purpose; no matter what my age; I know where I want to go, and I have an idea of what I need.   God or the universe or my mother or my family are never going to tell me I don’t have to apologize or that I’m okay.

I have to decide it for myself.   And I just did.