I’m finally blowing the candles out on my 50th birthday after nearly two months of solid celebrating (more on that later), and thought it was a good idea to stop and reflect, as I do each year at this time. I look back on all the things I’ve done in the last twelve months; the places I’ve seen, lessons I’ve learned, things I want to change, and the things I don’t.
I would like to believe it’s a common theme among women that with each passing year, we get a little easier on ourselves. Hopefully, we don’t care so much what other people think of us anymore. Self-doubt, fear, and judgment creep in less, while forgiveness, patience, and perspective take their place.
I was listening to Kelly Corrigan’s podcast a few days ago, in which she was pondering the meaning of the phrase, “never give up“, and it got me thinking. Often a young mother’s mantra, we tell our kids, “never give up!” and “finish what you started!” If my kid despised violin or had a terrible time at soccer camp, is it so wrong to let him “quit” or walk away from a “commitment”? I’ve always had a hard time with this mentality, for my kids as well as myself, but as I get older, I’m gaining new perspective and acceptance to own my own mantra that, “If I decide to give up it’s the right decision for me and I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it”. Goddamnit.
It may sound benign, but I used to sort of beat myself up if I gave up on a book. If I quit midway because I wasn’t enjoying it, or slogged through a boring read because of some ridiculous “Ugh! I bought this book and now I’m going to finish it!” attitude, I felt bad. Seriously. Because life isn’t hard enough, I needed to mentally flog myself because I shelved a bad book after fifty pages? No more.
Over the years, I’ve learned to walk away from many things I realized I either did not enjoy or simply sucked at and felt no need to commit to their improvement. Years ago, I quit room parenting. I could no longer tolerate the Mom-petition that erupted over who could be most creative with their games or Pinterest worthy gluten, peanut, sugar, therefore flavor-free “treats” for a room full of wound up third graders. I’ve completely sworn off any unnecessary math in my life. I gave up deleting emails and my inbox currently sits at a whopping, very untidy count of 226,680. I pretty much quit driving over bridges after a monster panic attack smack in the middle of the Golden Gate seven years ago, which when you live in the Bay Area, is no simple decision. I’ve pretty much given up undergarments. What’s the point? And I can no longer tolerate sub-par denim, opting to spring for the “expensive” jeans finally. I’m 50, for God sake. And then there’s shoes. I LOVE shoes, but will no longer teeter atop something that acts as a medieval torture device and inevitably causes me to topple over mid conversation at a party. I no longer carry guilt over the fact that my kids never learned to properly make a bed, memorize Bible verses, or speak fluent Latin. I think they’re pretty incredible humans with their small selection of Spanish, solid moral compasses, and cozy, rumpled beds. I felt it was finally time to get over all that.
But other things aren’t so easy to move on from. A failed marriage, that time you weren’t there for someone when they needed you most, that “outlandish” opinion you blurted out at a cocktail party without knowing your audience and they all looked at you cross eyed, and it wasn’t from the amount of Fireball being passed around. Or a toxic friendship you painfully had to walk away from. Sometimes that “never give up” mentality just doesn’t apply, and it’s okay to reframe “failed” as finished and complete, permanently shelved for the rest of time.
One lesson I’ve learned at 50.2 years old, and I believe it’s a very important one moving forward- own the decisions you need to make. You’re the only one that knows the difference between “failure” and “finished” and your chapters aren’t complete until you say they are. Whether it’s a relationship with food, forgiveness, or a stale friendship, make sure you write the story that’s right for you.