I was talking with a girlfriend today on the phone about an aging friend that seems to be losing her faculties a bit. My friend gasped as she realized that this friend was only 13 years older than her. She said she needs to get on it and take those trips she’s been wanting to take. Thirteen years … 20 years …. even 25 years is a short time. When I think of how short 50 years seemed, it makes me anxious.
I’ve talked before about “doing the math.” I do it all the time. How long before I can retire? How many years will I still be able to earn a living? How many years until I start to lose my ability to get around? The sense of urgency is much more profound at midlife. Sometime around 45 I “woke up” and realized that a lot of time had passed. It was during that time that I became acutely aware that I’d been on auto-pilot for much of my adult life. “What have I been doing for the last 20 years?” I asked myself. On my 50th birthday, I promised myself that I would live the next 50 years with intention. I would no longer let work, expectations and obligations drive my agenda. The problem was that I really didn’t know what was important to me.
Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.
They say that the biggest regret people have on their deathbeds is that they didn’t live authentic lives. They lived the lives their parents wanted them to have. They lived lives that happened on auto-pilot. They were afraid to risk and try something different. They weren’t able to say no so the needs of others drove their life agenda. I’ve done all of these things. I think most of us have to some extent. I don’t really have any regrets about my younger years. There was work to be done to put that in the past, and I’ve done it. At 50, I felt like I had a clean slate. Its blank state scared me. I had no idea what my finished slate would …. should … could … look like… if I lived authentically me.
I’m reading Einstein’s biography now. He has always fascinated me. In fact, biographies in general fascinate me. What would mine say? There are the obvious things. But what would people say about me that would describe me to readers who never knew me personally? It’s kind of scary to think about it. There was a passage that I read today that talked about how absent-minded he was. He was constantly looking for his keys. He forgot all kinds of things whenever he left somewhere, and people would have to send them back to him which was no small matter in the early 1900s. I laughed out loud because that sounds so much like me. I could hear my second husband writing about how I never turned off the lights when I left the room, and he had to follow me around to turn them off. I can imagine my co-workers writing about how I can’t take anything seriously for very long. I buck traditional office attire for boots and casual wear. I can imagine my family writing about how I always miss birthdays and get them presents 2-6 months late and how horrible I am at wrapping gifts. I used to think that these things were things I needed to fix about myself. I tried really hard. But I’ve come to know that these are my quirks. These are the things that make me authentically me.
I don’t think that I’ll regret things I didn’t do. I would love to go to Australia. I’ve wanted to go for as long as I knew it existed. I doubt I’ll ever get there. That’s an expensive trip, and I don’t have that kind of expendable income. I suppose it could happen. But what I really want is the adventure of it. I can have adventure. I can have that on the cheap. I may never look eye to eye to a platypus, but I can kayak through the Pacific in Hawaii. Lately I’ve been wishing I hadn’t taken a pay-cut to come here because I miss my Women’s Quest adventures that I took a few years ago. But I realized that those were actually the first adventures like that I’d taken. They were probably trips of a lifetime … not trips that should happen every year. I can, however, have adventures close to home and maybe even close to the homes of people I know in other areas. The key is not where I do it… it’s that I have an adventure. And if I don’t make it to Australia, it won’t be the end of the world.
What I think I would regret is that I didn’t do it the way I felt was important. Elvis’ song I Did It My Way is the perfect anthem for a life well-lived. My first 40 years I did it the world’s way… or at least my interpretation of the world’s way. I spent a lot of time trying to put together what I thought I should have. It never really worked out that way, and I guess in hindsight I’m kind of glad it didn’t. Who knows if I could have turned it around if it had been different? All I know is what happened when it happened the way it did. And, from today’s perspective, I’m pretty happy with it.
I Did It My Way – Elvis
I told my friend Michael that Albert Einstein was the same Myers Briggs personality type that I am, and I had laughed when I read that stuff that sounded so much like me. I googled it to make sure, and I was wrong. He was an INTP, and I am an ENFP. I was shattered. I adore his quotes and his thoughts about love and life. Michael had said, “Glad you didn’t pick his hairstyle!” I replied, “Did I?” I’m actually learning now that I kind of like my hair wild. I tamed it for many years thinking it was too bushy… too kinky … too out of control. Now, I’m thinking … hmmmmm …. God picked this out for me. I think I’ll go with it.
A short list of the celebrities that are my Myers Briggs type are Robin Williams, Jennifer Aniston, Hunter S. Thompson, Walt Disney, Meg Ryan and Sharon Stone. Now, granted, they are celebrities, but they lived their lives big, and I’m sure they screwed up more than a few times. My guess is they may leave the lights on when they leave a room. They may have difficulty with relationships because they idealize them and get bored. They probably have a “silly switch” that prevents them from being serious for more than 30 minutes at a time. IF they are living authentically, those are the things that are natural to their personality type. I took feedback that I needed to change these “shortcomings” that I had, and I worked really hard to do it for many years. Success was fleeting. What I’ve finally realized is that I can either spend all of my time trying to change myself to fit others’ definition of what I should be, or I can spend time sailing in my strengths… contributing from my heart … stepping into the role that God created for me. It’s so much easier. What if someone told Robin Williams he needed to quit acting so silly? What if Walt Disney had listened when somebody told him he was living in a fantasy world? I’m glad they stepped into who they were. I wish I’d done it sooner. Na noo .. Na noo..
Mork and Mindy Clip