When I was in college I always wanted the best grade. If somebody got a 100% on a test then I wanted to have done the extra-credit essay to get 106%. I can’t say with any certainty why I was this way, it simply is how it was, and I found myself not only competing with my classmates but with my own self…”this time I will do two extra credit assignments” I might say to myself before a test or an opportunity to improve. More than several times over the years a professor would look at me oddly and ask me why I wanted an extra credit assignment as I already had the highest average in the class, and I never had an answer…for whatever reason I THRIVED on winning at college! So it’s a bit of a mystery to me, why in middle age, over this last decade or so, in a number of ways, I have “let myself go.” This is not a personal pity party but rather a recognition that I have some work to do on me. I want to focus on wellness and get to be the welliest version of myself thus far. Thriving on winning at being is my new goal…it’s sounds silly but it’s absolutely true.

There are parts of my life and my body and my current situation that need improvement. Some parts need considerably more attention than others and I think it’s important to be honest about it all…I recognize that there are things that could be better and I want to do the work to make them better. Period. I have wasted decades of my life feeling like something was “wrong” with me…all of my friends got the “dream” of a husband. I did not. Hours of journal writing, dozens of books of blank paper and miles of ink from pens, was wasted over more than 30 years with me wondering why I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to marry, and why all of my girlfriends “got” something that I was always told I should strive for but never managed to obtain. WASTED TIME WONDERING. When I graduated college there were almost 1,900 of us in that class, and only twelve of us had a 4.0 GPA. THIS was, for me, a major goal and HUGE accomplishment…I worked full time and raised a child while going to college at night and on my days off and graduated in the tippy-top of the class. A BIG DEAL in every way…but I kid you not, A huge part of my brain, even then on that very day of graduation, felt that it paled in big deal-ness to a proposal, a diamond, a wedding, and a new chapter of life as a Mr. and Mrs. What the heck??!! Talk about therapist worthy inner-dialogue???!!! WASTED TIME WONDERING. I don’t want to compare myself to any of these women, or anybody for that matter, anymore ever again. I am tired of feeling like other people “won” at life and I lost. I am tired of it all.

I want only to compare myself right now to the me of yesterday, or the me of last week. I want to improve me every day and not care about what other people are doing and why they are doing it, or what they have and I don’t. I have spent decades feeling “less than” because all of my friends got the “dream” of a husband and I did not. I spent decades feeling like I lacked important qualities that made me valuable enough to be a wife. I turned 55 earlier this month and at a yoga retreat the following weekend I decided, for the last time, F**K that. F**K all of that. I wrote it in my journal just like that. During some of the group discussion and meditation it became abundantly clear to me that we all have goals and problems and wishes and regrets and that they are just thoughts that come into our minds and we have to just let them go…pass by like clouds. These are the last chapters of my life and I am going to work very hard to make them the best chapters. I simply don’t want to waste any more time wondering about stuff that I can’t control, or that already happened, or is never going to happen…I have to just be present, live in this present moment, and do the work to make my present tense THE WELLIEST that I can.

The only extra credit that I need or want anymore is “what did I do today that was better for me than what I did yesterday?” The only winning I need anymore is the competition with myself, “how did you make better choices today than you did last week?” I might ask myself at bedtime…Did I bend deeper at yoga, did I balance with less wobble, did I breathe fully?? Did I make my purchases at the grocery store sensibly? Did I show kindness to someone who needed kindness? Was I compassionate to somebody who is struggling? I would never be mean on purpose to someone going through a hard time, yet for decades I beat myself up with negative self-talk and yet the person I should be most kind to is my own damn self! Wellness is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and to my mind it means simply a well-rounded life…nutrition, sleep, fitness, friendship, fulfilling work, enjoyable relaxation when necessary, finding beauty in the life we are living…these don’t seem like major hurdles one needs to jump over…it seems to me that with calm and deliberate changes to my own behaviors, my own choices, and most importantly my own self talk, I can be, and we all can be, our welliest selves yet!

Half time in mid life

I am well aware that I am well past mid-life, but at the moment I feel like my life has had a “before” and is now going to have an “after,” much like a football game…before half-time and after half-time, and I’ve seen with my own eyes over many seasons, after having an EAGLES fan move into my world a decade ago, how the two halves can be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from one another, and from any game ever played before, even with all of the same players involved! I am in state of flux…it feels like it’s half-time in my mid-life and the 2nd half of my “game” is, I think, going to be very different from the first half.

Remember LIFE, “you can learn about LIFE when you play the game of LIFE” was the jingle on the television commercial…I always chose the orange car and most of the time I ended up with twins. Life does not always turn out the way you think it’s going to, we ALL KNOW THIS, but why do so many of us, okay, me, I am talking about myself, of course! …why do I seem so shocked or sad or annoyed when life does not turn out as I thought it was going to??!! It’s no secret that I like to control things, I like planning, I like order, I loathe chaos and uncertainty and abhor clutter or messes or anything out of place…so when the way life is going to go in MY MIND crashes into reality, you know what IS, I find myself flailing, drowning, struggling, fighting madly to bring this uncertainty and unruliness into a state of calm…SERENITY NOW!!! screams my brain…when my present tense crashes into the way it’s supposed to be going according to my dreams and thoughts…I sometimes have to really pause and regroup, because the way things are in my life for real, are seldom, if ever the way things are in my life in my brain…if you get me, you get me…

I think when you have spent years, decades, caring for and providing for a person, whether it is your child or a spouse or an elder, whatever, you realize at some point that you yourself have been put on the back burner so to speak…your needs, your desires, your wants had become secondary to the needs, desires, and wants of others. It’s a rather extraordinary place to be, having only just turned 55, this morning actually, and finding I am, for the most part only in charge of myself…nobody else…I have no spouse I need to tend to or answer to, I have no young children or small grandchildren I need to tend to or guide or manage, and my parents are quite well, physically/mentally/financially, and certainly did better at this game of life than I did, and so at this time they do not need my tending or care either.

The ONLY person I really have to take care of or tend to right now is ME…my half-time show coming up feels like I’ll have analysts discussing every play from every other game and describing what made me win or what made me lose each time, and where I could have made one quick move and changed the direction of a quarter, where I should have run and when I should have passed, where I could have zigged instead of zagged and changed the entire outcome of a game…if I only had…I am in life limbo in a way, my rose colored glasses got smashed, again, a little more than a year ago, and while I have put them back together with tape and super glue, the reality is that my future became, yet again, uncertain…when you have been horrifically disappointed and oh so terribly let down, even if you put things back together, there is still healing to take place, and the fact of the matter is, when someone quashes your dreams and your plans and your vision, and your big picture gets erased through no fault of your own, a reboot is in order, no matter the circumstance, and in my circumstance, my dreams and plans had to take a really big time out, and my big chalkboard of my game play got erased, totally and completely erased, so last year became like a lost season…too many losses and not enough wins…I felt like the most let down a person could possibly feel, and now I have the chalk ready in my hand to draw out my next plays for the seasons ahead of me, the slate certainly got wiped clean last year, but my hand sometimes shakes as I try to decide where to begin…A big blank board can be daunting.

I recently started to make random lists of what matters to me…I started a list of places I want to go and hope to see before I die; The Grand Canyon, Las Vegas strip, Ghost Ranch, the olive groves of Tuscany, the lavender fields of Provence, a castle in Scotland, a cliff in Ireland, Catalina Island…it’s possible I won’t see any of these things before I die, but I like the list. I think I’d like to learn a foreign language, I think I would like to take tap dance classes again, I think I would like to take a sushi or knife skills class. I like to read, I like to write, I like to crochet, I like to clean, I almost always have music playing and hardly ever have the tv on…and yoga, oh how yoga has saved me from my own thoughts time and time again, and how yoga has made me stronger and more limber than I think I have ever been…I may be perceived as boring or not fun to some, but I don’t feel like I am a dull person, I feel like I am a sensible and peaceful person. The things that bring me pleasure and joy are rather gentle and not Type A sorts of things at all…

I also started a list of words that I want to describe my life in the coming months; words like calm, stable, content, secure, open, cheerful…this is who I think I am. I don’t need bright lights and big city, I don’t need lots of crowds or action or outings or material things to make me feel any of those words…I don’t need lots of stimuli to feel stimulated or satisfied…I get a rush from the morning breeze and chirping birds and wind chimes, I get a rush from the laughter of my granddaughters, I get a rush from good times spent with my daughter…my heart used to literally skip a beat every time my boyfriend smiled or grinned at me across a room…the things that really always have made me happy were never really things… I have a lust for life I guess, and I feel like this half-time show has not yet started, like when you press pause during a movie so you can go pee, add ice to your glass, and grab a snack and check your email…and then once you tended to those bits, you sit back down, get your feet where you want them, and THEN you press play again…I feel rather like I have had to sit out a bit, got benched for a while, to come to terms with how the first-half has moved along, and I can contemplate my present tense and think about what the future might hold for me…I have a game to finish, I can’t quit. I can’t give up any chances of winning and just throw in the towel. I can’t say, “I’ve had enough!” I have to finish out the game, but I feel strongly that the next half is going to be remarkably different than the first half because, now that I have come to terms with many of the things that have changed in me, over the last couple of years and indeed during the first half, I am remarkably different now than then…

I can’t say that I always learn my lessons and I can’t say that I always gain wisdom from my losses or clarity of any kind from my kerfuffles, but I can say that I always remain hopeful that there is something pure, and good, and right coming my way…I have spent enough time at the beach to know that no matter how dark some of my nights have been, the sun still rises…I feel like this is how my mid-life half-time is going to go…so SO So dark for a bit, but just on the edge of the horizon line there was the light…that glimmer, that shimmer, that shine, to know a new day is coming and I am in charge of how I feel in it, how I live in it, and how I will thrive…One morning back in August the yoga teacher said we should set an intention for the class that sticks with us and I said to myself, I want to be fit, fierce, and fabulous at 55. I made, at that moment on my mat, some decisions. I think about who and how I want to be every day and when I have started to stray I reign myself right back in…I don’t have a coach or a playbook, but I have determination, and in mid-life at half-time, that is, I think, the only way to win.