Happy Birthday to Me

Birthdays are only unpleasant if you are aren’t doing in life what you want to be doing. Even though yesterday was my first step into the second half of a century, which could be depressing, this was a very happy birthday. The increasing number means little right now.

The first half century of my life was pretty remarkable. I often think about myself as someone kind of boring. I’m just a middle-aged woman living alone with my cats. Then I think back on all my adventures and realize I have not lived an ordinary life. Running off to Hawaii at 20. A summer in Yellowstone. A winter at the Grand Canyon. Teaching city kids about nature. Showing up in LA with no experience and still managing to have a 25 year career in television – working with the biggest celebrities, sports figures, and government officials on the planet. I’ve gone caving, had the Phantom of the Opera sing to me backstage, seen Renoirs and Van Goghs in person, attended several Super Bowls, gone ghost hunting overnight on an old ship, made John Candy laugh, ridden the London Eye, chatted backstage with the VP of the United States, gone whale watching, and so much more. I’ve done things I never could have imagined I would do when I was young. It has been a remarkable ride, and I’ve said that if I die today, I wouldn’t be eligible for a refund. I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

However, most of those events happened years ago. For the past few years there has been very little adventure in my life. I went to work. I recovered from work. I went back to work. That was life. Daydreams, which were the power behind most of my adventures, stopped completely. Being a square peg in round Hollywood left me more and more insecure. I built higher and thicker walls, sure I would be rejected anyway. I collapsed in on myself, not sure who I was anymore. For the first time in my life, I understood the term, “soul sick.” No dreams, no joy, no me.

Thankfully, the soul is a resilient thing. Since leaving LA and finding myself in a strong community of friends and coworkers, my soul has returned to life. I find myself more comfortable in my skin. Confidence is growing, laughter comes easily, but most importantly, I can dream about my future again. I can imagine all sorts of exciting adventures happening… even falling in love. Anyone who knows me well is probably picking themselves up off the floor after that comment.

I feel like I’ve received so many wonderful gifts this year. My house in LA was beautiful inside, but had no view other than my neighbor’s houses and a sliver of busy street. Right now I look out across an expanse of field bordered by trees that are just starting to change into a beautiful mix of reds, golds, and greens. I’m have the time and mental clarity to be working on a novel. My commute went from an hour and a half battling LA traffic to 10 minutes on side streets of a small city. My dead-end job is dead, and I’m now doing work that matters, is appreciated, and provides new challenges every day. I went from working in a toxic soup, to one of mutual support and encouragment. What might I have accomplished in Hollywood with this support system? I went from worrying I had no future, to being able to dream of fantastic futures. A completely 180. I am so blessed.

Through a bit of planning, hard work, and a great deal of real estate luck, I have recieved the best birthday present I may have ever been given. I’ve gotten myself and my dreams back. Happy birthday to me.

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Torn Between Two Memes

Yes, I’m a couple days late with this. I’ve had a topic in mind for a while, but could never quite make sense of it. Finally, things got sorted out the other night.

In the run up to my leap, I had a great deal of self doubt. Actually, self doubt is a pretty deep seated trait for me, regardless of leaping or sitting safely on my living room couch. So, the memes people post on Facebook often having me re-examining myself to see if I measure up. It can get pretty tough when the memes start contradicting themselves.

For instance, there I was, happily contemplating perhaps the biggest change in my life – a whole new part of the country I’d never lived in before, a new job, and new friends – when what meme comes along? This one:

Destination-addiction

I was imagining so much happiness in my new life. I saw myself taking long walks in my suburban neighborhood. There was a job without stress and worry. Being part of a team.  I saw slow days writing in front of a fire. There were good friends to share laughter with who were minutes away. There would be thunder storms and fall leaves. It all seemed so wonderful until I read that quote. After all, I knew my flaws and bad habits weren’t going to get left behind in California. I would still be me. So, was I falling into destination addiction?

Not long after that, somebody posted this:

il_570xN.717512541_41sc

So which wise internet meme was I to follow? I had remarked to a friend that perhaps I needed to stay so I could learn to be happy even when I was in miserable conditions. She pointed out I’d been there a long time and tried many methods. It was time to move on.

Ultimately I agreed and chose to leap my chasm, however the doubt has never left me. It should have faded when I arrived at my new destination and found life was as good, or better, than I had been imagining all those months. My walks don’t exactly take me through a suburban neighborhood, but they do take me through a more beautiful greenways trail. The open field I saw in my imagination was to the south of my south-facing house, and instead it’s to the east of my east-facing house. My job has a little more responsibility than I had envisioned, but I enjoy it so much that I actually sort of wish I was going in on my days off. Sort of. It is an environment that is providing physical and emotional healing. The friendships are lovely. And the thunderstorms… just wonderful. I’ll give you a report on the fall leaves in a few months. It truly is everything my soul was looking for that I couldn’t seem to find in LA.

Still, I worried I had become a destination addict. Would these feelings of joy and contentment wear off once the newness of the place wore off.

But the other night, the right analogy hit me. LA and Hollywood were like shoes. At some point in my life I saw these gorgeous shoes and just knew they were for me. I wanted those shoes more than anything I’d ever wanted. I risked everything I knew, left family and friends behind, in order to get those shoes. Once I had them, they were even more amazing and I loved how I looked in them. I was never taking those shoes off!

Then I started to walk in those shoes. Sure, they pinched here and there. Sure they caused blisters. But they were gorgeous and I could take it. It was worth it to be wearing those shoes, because I believed there would be a payoff for the pain.

However, the longer I lived in those shoes, and realized there was no payoff, the harder it became to ignore the pain they were causing. There were more and more raw spots. There were blisters on blisters. Every step became excruciating and made me angry. Finally i wanted to take the shoes off but didn’t, because I was worried I had nothing else to wear. Now not only was I in terrible pain, but I began to resent those shoes I had once loved.

What to do in that situation? Stay and learn to love the shoes causing so much pain or take them off and find another pair that fit better. It seems quite obvious, and thankfully I chose option two. And oh, the blessed relief of taking off shoes that don’t fit after wearing them all day. (imagine 20 years of wear!) That freeing-of-the-tootsies relief is exactly how my move to Missouri has felt. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

So I’ve found my peace with the memes, because sometimes if you are in an over-crowded, loud, hyper-competitive, stress-inducing environment, in a job that limits your future and your potential, and with equally stressed-out friends so scattered across a large city that you have to use a day planner to schedule “play dates,” maybe then it really is a new destination, a new job, and new relationships that will make you happy. Maybe all you really need is change.

Maybe you just need to find a pair of shoes that fit and not worry about internet memes.

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