“You’ve earned the right to do what you damn well please—so enjoy it.”
At this point in your life, it’s “me” time. You’ve earned it and you are entitled to enjoy it! Just think—you’ve been investing in your very own personal 501K (50 for FIFTY of course, the 1 is for YOU) for a few decades and it’s now time to start enjoying some dividends!
If you’re like the majority of us women, you’ve spent most of your life taking care of the needs of others. The “you first”/“me last” frame of reference begins quite innocently—it’s just being polite after all.
More often than not, we started in girlhood, quite unconsciously observing behavior we saw exhibited by women around us—it’s the way we learned “how to be.” We barrel into our teens and twenties having acquired, mostly by osmosis, a very particular (and peculiar) skill set perfectly suited to managing relationships and keeping the peace. Women are nurturers right? And we are worthy apprentices. Years worth of subtle and not so subtle repetition have made us strong and capable, but at the same time resilient and malleable, kind of like Gumby. (I once called a friend Gumbyiesha because of the contortions she went through for a man.) We can twist into all kinds of misshapen versions of ourselves, ignoring the pain and discomfort, without becoming nonfunctional to the point where we are unable to respond quickly and efficiently to the needs of others— “Mom did you _______? Honey will you______? Where’s the ______?” We re-mold ourselves to fit the needs of those around us and keep going without even seeing how bent out of shape we’ve become. Does your back hurt? Your knees? Your shoulder? What part of yourself have you contorted for others? Sound familiar? Of course it does.
By the time we’re in the throes of our thirties we’re ready to earn our journeywoman status and once we’ve reached our forties, we are masters at the art of pleasing others—spouse or significant other, children, boss, friends, parents, siblings, church members, sorority sisters, neighbors. This talent of ours has been honed, fine-tuned and polished to a fare-thee-well. We can intuit what those around us want and need. We anticipate these desires and fulfill them—often before those around us even know what they need, we’ve taken care of it. And triumphantly, we arrive at fifty as sensei—teachers, masters, and in the long honored tradition, have been passing on what we know to the younger women in our lives. And so it goes.
I can already hear indignant huffing and the chorus sputtering “But—but—”.
And I know this sounds like a total indictment—maybe even like the trial and conviction too, but rest assured, it isn’t. Believe me I know there are those in all of our lives who require our steadfast attention and personal sacrifice for their very survival—to some extent. At the early stages of life children sit at the top of this list. But sadly, too many of us not only don’t know when to stop, we don’t even know we should. This ritual, habitual, sacrifice of tossing oneself off the cliff to assure another spring or diving headfirst into the volcano in the misguided hope of preventing another eruption now feels completely “normal.”
And so here we are at 40+/50/60 still taking care of everyone but ourselves. This long delayed gratification has caused a form of amnesia and we don’t remember what we once wanted or needed. But while we were blithely unaware of what we were doing to ourselves, the frustration, and most unfortunately, hostility (deny it if you must) have been building and building—creating a pressure greater than we could have imagined. Then one day our anima rears her pretty little dissatisfied head and explodes all over the poor and unsuspecting. And while the near and dear to us stand there, stunned and dripping with our fallout, we (who can’t believe they are really that clueless) explain our sudden eruption of self-expression to the heretofore oblivious of “what we have done for them.” That’s why you hear so many women referring to their F (40 or 50) decade by another “F”. “I turned 50 and I said FUCKit/him/them!”
But it’s not their fault. People treat you the way you’ve shown them to. They will not change until you do. And now presents a perfect opportunity re-think some of those lifelong pleasing behaviors. Apologize to your spouse/partner for years of treating them like the village idiot who was incapable of doing laundry or loading the dishwasher correctly and promise from now on things will be different. Let your grown and nearly grown children fend for themselves and work their way out of their own messes. They’ll figure it out—you did. (This will be addressed in a future lesson entitled: “NO KIDDING”)
You done good girl! You did the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Now it’s your turn. You are empowered, authorized, entitled to seek self-satisfaction. So go ahead—I know it won’t be easy, but you have to start somewhere. . . or you might end up with a really bad case of the screaming meemies.
The oxygen mask has dropped and you have to cover your own nose and mouth and begin breathing normally before you can help anyone else.
Write down at least 50 illegal, immoral, horrible, loathsome, utterly despicable things you have done in your life—hint: speeding tickets and overdue library books don’t count. Come on—THINK. How many do you have? Guess what? If you have not murdered anyone, tripped an old lady who was crossing the street, pillaged a village, stolen candy from a baby OR you cannot come up with 50 things—congratulations—you have earned the right to give martyrdom a rest and enjoy your life!
Remember: These lessons are “little” intentionally. I’m not preaching a sermon, trying to stress you out, or give you a beat down—although if some of the lessons feel like that—well then you just may have earned one! Read the lessons carefully. Read them again. Make them a part of your regular routine, like brushing your teeth, saying your prayers, taking your vitamins. Let each message sink in—into your head, into your heart, into your spirit. Do your homework—seriously, before moving on to the next lesson.