Friday, November 28, 2014

Be More Better!

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.
I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”

This is the latest "older women who have learned shit" quote I've seen going around. It's been attributed, apparently falsely, to Meryl Streep, but it hardly matters. It's pretty typical. "I'm a woman in her 40s, 50s or 60s, and I've learned that I'm too nice and other people suck."

From the time I was very young, I had a sinking suspicion that I was really meant to be middle-aged. This used to bother me, but I've learned it's a blessing. I am convinced that my best days are not behind me. Now I almost wish I'd always had a sinking suspicion I was meant to be 92. But I think this is better, because you never know. 

When David Rakoff articulated the way I felt about the whole thing, I almost cried with relief. But mostly I almost cried because David Rakoff had died, at the age of 47, having only just reached what he thought would be his perfect age. I never had an exact number in mind like he did, so I'll just take comfort in knowing I'm getting there, and I may live to see my entire heyday. 

I'm a bit younger than most older women who have learned things, so I suppose I could still get to the point where I believe all I need to know is that I'm better than everyone else. For now, I've learned some things, and most of them have nothing to do with other people wanting to take me down. While I am indeed less of a pleaser than I used to be, the fact that I once was can't be blamed on those I aimed to please. They're on their journey, I'm on mine, and as another old Facebook saying goes, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. 

Now that I've reached my late 30s, I'm probably not as "nice" as I was when I was younger, but that works out for everyone, because I'm kinder. I'm more forgiving and less inclined to gossip. A natural grudge-holder, nursing a grudge is now a halfhearted endeavor at best. I accept other people for who they are, and know they're doing their best. I rarely ask "why me," having come to truly accept that the question is as futile as it is self-centered and clueless. 

I know when I'm upset with someone, it's often about me, and the best way to handle that is to own my issues. Being nasty and rude is a poor imitation of strength, and I'll tell you what - strength? I have it. Did I always have it, without realizing it? Or is it a recent development? Don't know, don't care. I don't think I even knew I wanted it until the day I realized it was there. What I do know is, strength rarely looks defensive or unkind. When I'm acting that way, it's coming from a place of weakness. Strength is empathy, understanding, and, most (and, for me, most difficult) of all, patience. 

I started my 30s feeling happy with my husband and children, but not much else. I didn't feel I had close friends. Although I was just finishing grad school, I thought I'd never find my career or my passion. I'd wasted every advantage I'd been given, and now it was too late. But this decade has been the best one. Everything I thought I didn't have has grown up around me, and I hardly even had to try. 

I know I've made a million mistakes, and while I'm not one to say I have no regrets, I can honestly tell myself I have always, every day, done the best I could. I can be sad I didn't have the (usually internal) resources I needed to do things differently, but I can't be angry, because I would have had to be someone else for my past to have been dramatically different than it was. I'm making mistakes now, and I believe in my heart that Old Erin will extend me the same understanding I have for Young Erin, even if Young Erin did me many a disservice, and I'm doing the same to Old Erin. 

ADD. I have it. It sucks. There are things that, as a reasonably intelligent, able-bodied woman, I "should" be able to do, yet some of these things fall outside of my skill set. The fact that others may not understand or believe this bothers me, but I've learned that if I know in my heart I can't do something, it's better not to pretend I can. Don't make commitments I can't keep, even if the person who wants me to make said commitment will never believe it's a can't rather than a won't. It will be better for everyone in the long run. As much as I might like to make other people happy by saying "yes," only I know exactly how much follow through and organization I'm capable of. If I'm not positive I can do it, I won't pretend I can. It's not about setting boundaries, it's about knowing my limitations. I'm disorganized, and I can be unreliable. Although it turns out, my limitations are not as many and massive as I once believed they were.

Maybe you've seen me fail at any of the things I'm claiming I've learned. In my defense, I'm not even 38 years old. Very young to have learned much of anything. I'm working on it. 

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