LESSON THREE – GOOD ENOUGH

LESSON THREE – GOOD ENOUGH

“Stop worrying about being good enough. You are good. And you are enough.”

 atelphobia

 

Congratulations! You’ve arrived at the place where it is time to take your inner critic off the clock.

I’m not talking about your inner Wise-Her—she tells you things you need to know, like you really should check the air pressure in your tires before you get on the road.  I’m talking about your Inner Harpy with her little negative barbs aimed squarely at your self-confidence.harpy Like the Harpies of mythology, she is fierce, bad-tempered and relentless. She’s the one who makes you wonder if you’re good enough. By now her nagging little voice has been whispering bits and pieces of self doubt into your psychic ear for decades, so long in fact, that at this juncture it seems like harmless white noise—you aren’t even aware of her presence any more. But she’s anything but harmless and she needs to go.  Now.

Your Inner Harpy probably uttered her barbie book bagfirst words back when you were a little girl and she was just a little Harpy in Training (H.I.T.). You hadn’t begun to “develop” yet—as they used to say, much less develop any anti-Harpy skills. So she went to work on your young, defenseless, happy little self. “How blue book bagcome you don’t have a Barbie book bag?” (Translation: The CUTE girls all have Barbie book bags while you have the practical blue one your mother insisted would last a couple of years.)  “Why don’t you have streamers on your bike?” (Translation: But even if you get streamers what if bike with streamersthey’re not the right color?)  b grade“Only a B in geography?” (Translation:  Not quite as smart as Melissa huh?)  “If you could jump higher you would have made the volleyball team.” (Translation: You’re too tall/short/fat/awkward— what ever gave you the idea you could be an athlete?)

And there you are, all of eight or nine years old and already the seeds of insecurity, of not being good enough are starting to germinate, and you don’t even know it.

The persistent little H.I.T. was good at her job and you weren’t trained to deflect her slings and arrows—so she grew stronger. By the time you were in your teens, traveling the harrowing hallways of high school, when the desire to fit in is at its most virulent, your Harpy really came into her own.PHI+hallway+lockers

You name the area of vulnerability and she found a way to attack you there. Her voice became insistent, shrill, unrelenting and far more direct than it had ever been before. Her words poked whatever spot was most tender and she reminded you in a non-stop barrage that you were not smart enough, pretty enough, tall enough, skinny enough, curvy enough, popular enough. Others were. You were not. It didn’t matter WHAT they were that you were not.  Whatever it was, they possessed, in abundance, all the qualities that you lacked.  Tsk. Tsk. How sad. Too bad for you.

comparison-fitnessAnd so the plague begins. Its most telling symptom is unconscious comparison—almost always to other women. We compare ourselves to our friends, sisters, mothers, cousins, co-workers, neighbors, strangers, bosses, movie stars, and sadly even to our daughters. Sometimes we know we’re doing it, but mostly we’re unaware of how many times a day we think of ourselves in terms of how we measure up to someone else, or someone else’s expectations. Those expectations are, more often than not, a presumption on our part—flawedbecause if we don’t think we’re good enough, how can anyone else possibly miss the bright flashing neon marquee on our forehead announcing our long list of shortcomings to all the world?  Believe me, despite the fact that it blinds YOU nearly every time you look at yourself, THEY don’t see it until you point it out. Why? Because they’re far too busy worrying if you are scrutinizing their list of personal inadequacies.

Now of course I’m not saying we’re all perfect—far from it. And I’m not advocating the “good enough for government work” standard here. Nor am I endorsing complacency or mediocrity as acceptable. We should all try to improve, to be the best we can be—to live the best lives we possibly can. But what that best is should not be determined by a comparison to an unfair and often impossible to achieve standard we have imposed on ourselves.

It’s time to stop being so self-critical. Give yourself some slack.i-am-enough

You know, or you should know, there will always be someone more beautiful, smarter, thinner, richer. And she may even appear more successful and happier, but so what? What she has or is, in no way adds to, or diminishes you. And you my friend, with your flaws, blemishes, frailties and peccadilloes are good enough.

 

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

 

1) The next time you go to the movies, buy yourself a BIG box of Good & Plenty. You remember the Day-Glo pink, and white candy from days of yore? ChooChoo Charlie and that train? They may even still sell it in stores, but the movies are probably a pretty good source.good and plenty

 

2) Put the Good & Plenty wherever you keep your vitamins and have one piece every day along with your multi-vitamin. Even if the black licorice flavor isn’t to your liking, eat it anyway. This isn’t candy, or dessert. It’s to remind you that not only are you good enough–you are good. AND you are enough.

 

3) If you’re not convinced when the box is finished. Buy another one.

LESSON TWO – YOU ARE ENTITLED

LESSON TWO –  YOU ARE ENTITLED

 

“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 invest_defenjoy it! Just thinkyou’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 old fashioned girlwe 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 clay-gumby-twistedonce 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 back-ache-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 mind readerintuit 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—”. no way not me

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 sacrificeshould. 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 fire breathing womananima 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 notwomen doing too much 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 outyou did. (This will be addressed in a future lesson entitled: “NO KIDDING”)

You done good girl! gold star 1You 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.airplane-oxygen-masks

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.

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

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. ListCome 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—congratulationsyou have earned the right to give martyrdom a rest and enjoy your life!

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE

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.

LESSON ONE – DON’T SWEAT MENOPAUSE                   

LESSON ONE – DON’T SWEAT MENOPAUSE                   

 

  “It’s the pause that refreshes, part of the cycle—without the spin…”

menopause imageFORGET Menopause. If you think that’s what growing older (and this blog) are about, I’m going to disappoint you. I’m not going to address this subject in the way you might be expecting because that’s a health book, a psychology book, but not this little lesson about growing older. Every woman goes through menopause… we have since the beginning of time. It’s part of the cycle of life and it’s not gonna go away. Don’t let it become a crutch and a catchall excuse to be lazy and evil about everything else.

Way back before the dreaded “M-word” was used in polite society, (do not confuse polite with politically correct) they called it The Change.  You know–in the same way your menses are called your “Friend,” “Auntie Flo,” or “Cousin Red.”All terms that is completely spineless and namby pamby and quite honestly-stupid!

BUT “Change” it pretty apropos…because things definitely change.Lydia_Pinkham

For some lucky ones of us The Change is gentle—a gradual, barely perceptible physical transition and one day you realize you haven’t had to make a trip down the “Feminine Hygiene” aisle (why our natural bodily functions are still acquainted with lack of cleanliness in the 21st century is still a puzzlement to me) in the drug store for months. Since you haven’t had sex in equally as long, you know you’re not pregnant and presto! You are done. Changed. Finito! TaDa! Adios!

For others, which includes most women I know, it’s a hard, hot slog through bad moods, the blueswet sheets, underwear ruined by a “visitor” you thought long-gone.  meno6And then there is the ever popular, unexpected  “change-of-life-9-month- surprise.” I personally witnessed the latter when I was in high school and to their everlasting embarrassment, during our senior year, three of my friends’ mothers got pregnant, well past the time when anyone thought they would, or could.pregnant and 50 Even worse it meant these middle-aged mothers were—you guessed it—having S.E.X., also well past the time when anyone thought they would or could. Egads! It didn’t matter that the S.E.X. was with their fathers—no that only made matters worse and implicated both parents in this untoward, inappropriate, appalling behavior. And at the end of nine months, each of my three friends had a brand new baby sister to wave “Bye-Bye” to as they headed off to college. My own parents, younger than I am now by a couple of decades, were quite probably also having S.E.X. (at least I hope so), but thank goodness, I had no new siblings to show for it.

Yep, life is full of surprises, but menopause isn’t one of them.

So after 30 or 40 years of monthly bleeding, deducting time off for good behavior, the occasional missing monthly and pregnancy, that’s roughly somewhere between 350 and 500 periods. Don’t you think that’s enough?! Look at the end of your menses as a reward— and think of all the money you’ll save in THAT aisle. feminie hygiene aisle Don’t get hung up on some outdated notion that your womanhood is something you’ll lose if you’re not reminded of it every 28 days. Or, that no longer being able to bear a child diminishes your femininity in some way. Even with the departing red sea, you are still you. And the only way you can lose you is to GIVE UP. Surrender yourself to a self-fulfilling prophecy that you allow to steal the “girl” in you right from under your own nose? Why would you let that happen just because your period stopped?

Because of some serious medical issues which I began battling at 19, my menopause was surgically imposed and started when I was only 32 years old . Forty plus years later, it’s still not over, that’s a lot of years—and I’m still counting folks.  I admit it gave me pause when my doctor patiently explained what would be happening to me. But I didn’t let early menopause stop me then, and it’s apparent endlessness (for me) doesn’t stop me now.  (My mom was still having hot flashes well into her 80’s!) Like many other life stages, this is a transition from your past to your future. Yes believe me you still have a FUTURE. Besides, you know what they say about one monkey not stopping the show!

So—

Stop complaining.

See your doctor and discuss treatment options—drugs, herbs, exercise, nothing.

Talk to your friends.

Complaint department

Stop complaining.

Talk to yourself.

Come up with a plan and with your physician’s guidance—follow it.

Stop complaining.

Then forget the M word get on with life–YOUR LIFE!

 

 

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

Buy yourself something red.

Wear it when you feel lonely without your period.

Wear it when you don’t.

I practice what I preach!

Me wearing red  (but not missing my period!) at various ages and weights…

 

 

 

Why Me?…Why not me?!

Why Me?…Why not me?!

For most of my adult life, particularly in the last twenty years, friends and strangers—younger, older and contemporaries—have come to me for advice about everything from hairstyles and vacation ideas to whether they should dump “him,” quit their job or lie to their mother. And quite by accident, I found myself an unofficial, middle-aged, new millennium guru. Now don’t pretend you don’t remember the ethereal, otherworldly, Zen seeking, sandal wearing 70’s spirit guides in their gauzy, diaphanous garb. MaharishiMaheshYogiThey wafted down from some exotic, contemplative mountain retreat on a cloud of inner peace to scatter their long-considered wisdom on us—the unguided and uncentered masses with our misaligned chakras and road-blocked chi. And if you don’t remember gurus, Google will.

While my mission and even my audience, may be similar to these seventies masters of serenity, worry not, my delivery (more tough love than love beads) and my wardrobe are decidedly different although a floaty white dress and a pair of strappy Manolo sandals are, in my book, perfect garden party attire.jimmy-choo-flynn-gold-strappy-sandalswhite EternityMaxiBlack1344_1_white

 

But lest I delve too deeply into matters that will be addressed in a future lesson, I’ll return to the subject at hand.

My particular seekers of enlightenment marvel at my inexplicably upbeat attitude about aging — about my lack of worry about being fat and single—about my absolute conviction that I’m as deserving of a good life as Oprah, Gaga or Beyoncé or any other members of our pop culture royalty. What I figured out, is that what those who ask my advice, AND those who think I’m “full of it” and secretly miserable, really want to know, is what I know—what’s my secret?

“You’re unmarried, overweight and overfifty!”  (I don’t know which of these three happiness-defying adjectives is perceived as the most pitiable.) Now of course they never actually say that (out loud) but I see the fleeting consternation on their faces as the questions cross their minds.  “Can you possibly be that happy?” “How can you be so positive so convinced that life is wonderful? How can you be so thrilled to be here—or anywhere for that matter when everyone knows (because the media never stops reminding us) that the best part of your life is over and done?” “Why aren’t you home in fuzzy-slippers-for-women-fwngwfuqcyour fuzzy slippers with a magnifying mirror examining your wrinkles, removing chin hairs and watching the life you wish was magnifying-glass-clipart-transparent-background-9i4LRa6iEyours on the tube, like any other respectable middle-aged woman?”

 

Thanks to genetics and attitude, I don’t look, or act my age—or the way folks think “my age” should look and behave. My weight isn’t (nor has it ever been) a problem for me—I’m healthy, active and I have more male attention than I can handle (Not true—I actually handle it quite well, thank you.)photo 4

Yes, I am happy.

Yes, life is wonderful (mostly).

Yes, I still think my future holds wonderful promises, joy, love and adventure.

I don’t own fuzzy slippers.

And while I may not live as large as the aforementioned Oprah, Gaga and Beyoncé, my life is rich, full and extraordinary.

From the moment I turned 48, when the subject of my age arose, I would gleefully say “I’m almost FIFTY.”

I was fifty when Donna Grant (my writing partner and long time best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world) and I had a book, Far From the Tree, our third novel, on the New York Times Bestseller List…yes it was the “extended list” —but our book was still there. Hot damn! Fifty was looking pretty good!

me dark hair tryin tour
Me at 49

Because of a brutally honest and accurate comment from my bestie, Donna, I cut my shoulder length dark brown hair into a very short

far from tree v&d-cover
Me at 49

style and dyed it blonde. Fifty was getting better and I was feeling adventurous.

At forty-nine, and long before the term “cougar” wormed its way into our daily lexicon, I started dating a man 16 years my junior. He was my second younger beau, and not only was he even younger than the first—he was not American and he was of a different race. Together we traveled—a lot and to my delight he taught me much about myself and about perceptions—and I hope I taught him a few things as well. Fifty was definitely not feeling old.

I decided to celebrate my FIFTIETH year from 49 to 51—and did. Taking the lead from those advertising strategies with wording like “in our fiftieth year,” (which 49 actually is) or “after fifty years in business,” (which took care of 50-51).  I wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to celebrate for two solid years

At my fiftieth birthday party, a young friend who was all of twenty-two hugged me and giggling said, “I want to be just like you!” The “when I’m your age” was not spoken, but I heard it loud and clear.  Champagne glass firmly in hand, the bottle in the other, I responded “Darling you can be! But you can’t start at forty nine!”

Over the years since that fiftieth birthday, as I’ve talked with friends and strangers about aging (mine and theirs), those words have come back to haunt me. I started to realize as I listened to myself spew wisdom, that if my big 5-0 birthday declaration was indeed correct, the advice I was so earnestly dispensing to my friends nearing the “F” decade, was in a word, useless. And that if I was right, it was too late for them to embrace their advancing years with grace, style and good humor. So now that I’ve landed in the  “S” decade, I’ve decided that I was wrong… It is never too late (or too early for that matter) to change your outlook and you really don’t have to be beautiful, rich, thin, or YOUNG to live a life you love and love the life you live.

These lessons are “little” intentionally. I’m not preaching a sermon, trying to stress you out, or give you a beat downalthough 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.

These are bits of wisdom that have served me well. Some were passed on to me from my mother. Some came from other women who have been an influence in my life. Some I learned on my own. And several of these lessons are about doing exactly the opposite of what I have observed too many women doing. But these lessons are my only secret weapon, my answer to aging and being sexier, more joyful and more graceful than you’ve ever been. They work for me, and if you’re as smart as I think you are, they can do the same for you.

 

 

Cute Will Always Count

Don’t let them fool you one more day. You DON’T have to be beautiful, rich, thin, or YOUNG to live a life you love and love the life you live!

The “lessons” I will share here, and the homework that goes along with them, are intended to help you learn how to enjoy the best time of your life NOW.

In spite of yourself…In spite of sagging breasts and jiggly thighs…In spite of ads that depict the golden, glittering, happy, hard-bodied glory of “X/Y/Z” generation as the zenith of life and the sad, achy, wrinkled, dried up, incontinent, constipated, impotent woes of the “OLDER” generation, as life’s nadir.

Be SEVENTY, SIXTY, FIFTY, Free, and Fabulous………..Even if you’re Old, Fat or Single or…horror of horrors—all three!!