My friend had a neighbor who liked the fancy things in life. She would wear ball gowns and put elegant jewelry on her cats instead of the expected cat collars. And no, she wasn’t going to a special event, ball or elegant soiree. These beauties were everyday wear for her and her felines.
Some of you reading this are probably thinking, “Good for her! She might be labeled ‘eccentric’ but look at the fun she is having!” And I would have to agree. But honestly my mind went to a different place first. To me, she seemed a perfect character in a movie or TV show. Because of course, Hollywood shows us “characters” who embody ALL the various meanings of the word.
The longer I live, the more I realize that the writers and story tellers of the world aren’t just thinking people up: they are typically real, in some form or fashion, and I don’t have to watch them on a screen to encounter them. As Shakespeare noted, “All the world’s a stage.”
It’s people, rich with different quirks, personalities, and mannerisms that add such a dimension to life and make life what it is: fun, silly, interesting, entertaining, and even scary, uncertain, and stressful. Oh, and did I mention complicated? Really, the list of adjectives are never ending.
The older I get, and the more I do this thing called adulting, the more I realize I have my own “character” traits to contend with.
And then I ask myself deeper questions:
How about you?
I’m not a counselor, so this is far from professional advice: but there is something so encouraging about music that I find healing. Something about it can lift my spirits in a special way. Especially music from my past that reminds me of “the good old days.”
I wrote in a previous blog entry how encountering something like a song from our past can really remind us of the part of us that was made/created during those good times. The part of us that learned to smile a little broader, laugh a little harder, and notice beauty in life that we hadn’t seen before.
Listening to enjoyable music from years ago can be so deeply personal. It’s as if the music comes along beside me like a friend, shows me a timeline of my life, points out the good times and says, “Remember this? And this? This is your history. This is YOU.”
While adulting, I’ve found that turning up the volume on certain songs is just plain necessary. It energizes me. It moves me back in time while I stay firmly planted in the NOW, which is where I want to be, and where I should be. But, I’m feeling much more encouraged and ready to face the world.
I hope you will take a minute today to listen to a special song that you haven’t heard in a while. A song that reminds you of a fantastic time in your life.
Have you noticed that some things you only like because of the memory associated with them?
Last month during the Christmas season, I heard all types of holiday music. I’ll be honest: there are songs that I never cared for when I was little, and I still don’t now that I’m older. For instance, “Santa Baby” always freaked me out a bit. I’m just not one of those people who find Santa Claus sexy, nor do I want to sing seductively to him. The song lyrics seem incredibly greedy and manipulating. I realize this is my opinion, and everyone may not agree with me. I just don’t care for the song.
Through the years, the lyrics and the song melody for “Santa Baby” haven’t changed, but I have. Now I hear it and while the words sound just as selfish to me, I find myself humming along because the song is now accompanied by years of Christmas memories: parties it was played at, radio stations I heard it on, and even movies that used it as part of their soundtrack.
Obviously, a change of heart doesn’t just happen with Christmas songs. It might be an object from your childhood home, a movie/TV show that your family constantly watched, or that dish one of your relatives insisted on making at every gathering. No doubt, our opinion is probably the same on Auntie’s tasteless Christmas mushrooms, BUT now when we encounter them, we find ourselves getting a little sentimental and perhaps, for more than a moment, enjoying them.
Have you experienced something like this as well? I hope you will reflect on it for just a minute, taking some time to focus on another one of those interesting gifts of time: when we still dislike “something”, yet are strangely fond of it all at once.
Ironically, as I’ve aged, I’ve had to learn to breathe again. I’m not talking life giving breaths – or I wouldn’t be typing this. I’m talking about the deep breathing that helps calm the body and subdue anxiety.
I became incredibly interested in breathing when I started having panic attacks – again. And I was so tired of them and living in fear of them. They are debilitating. They make me miserable.
I scoured YouTube and listened to people talk about ways they overcame their anxiety attacks, and a common theme was breathing techniques. I narrowed my search, pairing words like “anxiety” and “breathing”. And I stumbled on a TED TALK that really was a game changer for me: “Breathe to Heal." The speaker was Max Strom.
Max Strom...to begin with, his voice is so soothing. He could have told me my toes were falling off, and I would have smiled and known everything was going to be okay. But about 14 minutes into the video (actually a little before), he shares a breathing technique that helped me endure and overcome anxiety attacks. I won’t go into the details of his technique, because you can watch the video and hear him explain it in a beautiful way that I could never type out. What really caught my attention was his assurance that the technique forced your body to calm down. There was no positive thinking involved, no special yoga pose, no fancy tools. Just me and my body doing something very natural. I grabbed hold of this like a life raft. And I clung.
And it worked.
It was not an instant solution. During my next anxiety attack, I was still very uncomfortable for a while. But I continued the deep breathing and counting my inhales and exhales, and slowly, amazingly, my body was forced to calm down (just as Max had said), and the panic attack subsided. For me, this experience was life changing.
I’ve continued doing deep breathing, and it’s absolutely not a cure all, but it’s a tool in my toolbox that I can pull out when needed. And it’s an effective tool. I can’t guarantee his breathing method will work for you, but I want to share my experience, because it might work for you, and because I want to give you hope, just like Max Strom did for me. I still sort of shake my head in disbelief that the answer was with me all along. I could be corny and cliché and even say, “right under my nose”, and it would be true.
When I was younger, I was so fascinated by fake versions of real things. Fake snow for your Christmas tree? Awesome… because it never melted. A hair clip with a fabric butterfly on it? Indescribably cute, and the critter won’t die. Nylon flowers that won’t wilt? Count me in.
I don’t know when it happened really, but now I appreciate the flip side: I tend to prefer the real, the original.
Maybe it was one too many faux leather purses that cracked, but I slowly began to see that often the original of an item, not its imitation, is more valuable and better quality. Its very essence is much more pleasing and luxurious.
Take those nylon flowers, for instance. I can have a group of plastic buds in a vase. They may need dusting every now and then, so the care is easy and quick. But the flowers are missing the sweet scent, the delicate feel of the petals, and the imperfections that nature makes so lovely. I also have to put more work in maintaining live plants, which creates meaning for me. Work is time, so I choose to invest my time in only the important things.
The older I get, the more I realize we live in a world of counterfeits. And while some counterfeits are harmless and serve a purpose, I need to make sure I don’t just reach for them because they are easy. Like a frozen quick “homemade” meal because I’m too tired to get into cooking.
The bottom line: I want to be aware of possible fakes in my life and limit them. I don’t normally end my blog entries with a quote, but this one sums up my thoughts:
Real is Hope,
Real is Beautiful,
Real is Tough,
But, Real is Rare!
May we treasure the “real” and let it enhance our life this coming new year.
Happy New Year!
I think one of the things that make holidays special are time honored traditions.
In a world that constantly changes, “old” can be so comforting. That ornament that has been on your tree since you were seven. Those tamales for Christmas breakfast that you’ve been eating as far back as you can remember. The silly holiday songs (“Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer”) you started singing when you were in elementary school.
I’m not naive – I know some traditions can feel heavy, not be worth the time, and even bring up terrible memories. Those are not the traditions I’m talking about. I’m talking about traditions or actions that are lovingly repeated each year. Just think of some that you cherish. Live intentionally with me for a minute.
But what if you don’t currently have any? Or any that you truly enjoy?
One thing I love about getting older is creating new traditions. For example, this year I made a point to bake homemade treats, and I’ve resolved to continue to do this at Christmas time each year. I’m making my own tradition, and I look at it as embarking on a journey. I’m already anticipating the creative baking that will take place in years to come. It fills me with hope and another reason to look forward to holidays in the future. In a sense, I’m enjoying something old before it’s even old. Which I realize is slightly ironic.
Whatever your holiday traditions, old or new, I wish you the very best. Thank you for reading my blog and experiencing the holiday season with me.
I’m thankful that I don’t wonder so much what people think of me. And I don’t say this in a way that’s harsh or bitter. I just really don’t care as much as I used to, and that’s huge, especially if you have people pleasing tendencies like myself.
I spent years always wanting to make the best impression and wanting everyone I encountered (including the lady at the grocery check-out) to like me. I’d worry I said or did the wrong thing. I knew in my heart that people were what life was all about – not possessions – but I wrongfully wanted “them” (whoever they are) to like me, and I got much of my self-esteem from interactions.
AND to be honest, I really believed that if I stopped caring about what other people thought of me, I wouldn’t look after myself. I’d let myself go, so to speak, and end up neglecting self-care and not doing some of the things I enjoy – like wearing a pretty headband or making sure I wiped the cat hair off my pants (I can’t help it – I enjoy being tidy.)
Slowly, through the years, the truth began to unfold, as I realized that not only do most people I encounter NOT even remember who I am, they just really don’t care that much. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. They have their own little worlds, and I am a stranger to them, just interacting for a few minutes. My role in their life is more minor, and their role in my life is minor.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t treat everyone with kindness and respect; that’s not to say we shouldn’t hope that even just a few minutes with someone might better their life. That’s not to say that a chance encounter with someone might lead to something more.
But it’s about establishing boundaries for ourselves. It’s about walking in the truth that the world just really doesn’t revolve around us, which is a very good thing! And the best thing of it, (though unfortunately, it took a while for me to learn it): we have the power to decide whose opinion is going to mean something to us.
Creator of Love, Auntie.