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From the time we are children, it is drilled into our head that nothing in life is free. Everything has a price. You get what you pay for and vice versa. This is supposed to to teach us appreciation for things, as well as the importance of hard work (to get what we want) and success. If you want something bad enough, you’ll work for it. While this is true, it also places so much emphasis on material things and status that I think many people miss the really best things.
Ask yourself: what’s your favorite thing in the world? Most of the time, the things we come up with are free.
Reading a book, sleeping in late on the weekend, a walk on the beach, hugs or affection from children or pets….. these are things I think of and hear most often. Sure, you may have to buy the book, sleeping in may come with a sacrifice of time, if you don’t live near a beach– you have to get there, and children and pets are expensive to care for. That’s not the real point. When you look at it that way, you buy into a negative world view.
I find the things I appreciate the most; and are the most memorable to me, may be what you’d consider residuals.
I hate even using that word because depending on your comprehension of it, it may sound like I’m trivializing it.
Take going on a vacation, for example. Michael and I have found we really like to travel and have dream destinations and vacations we’d like to take in the future. Well, that’s certainly not free, you may be saying to yourself; but after it’s said and done, what was the best part of the vacation? What do you remember the most?
Yes, you probably remember: I went here, I went there; I did this, I saw that– What was really the most memorable part? Was it the plane ticket or hotel? Was it really the location or what you did? For me, I remember the planning and anticipation, and no matter how great or how bad the actual trip is; the very best part of it is time and connection Michael and I have. The experience is great but it’s the shared experience that’s the most memorable.
When the vacation is over, I always hate going back to the routine because then I feel this big disconnect… I crave that time together experiencing new things, connecting and not being easily distracted from the daily routine of life. I go through Michael withdrawal.
Our dogs have always had a good life but we really try to make it even better. Since we got Belle, our daily routine has changed, less time in front of the TV and more play time with Belle. Since I get so much time with her during the day, Michael usually plays with her while I’m writing or spending time with the boys. I’ll come down for awhile too and we play with her together. You can’t buy that quality time. Those are memories you don’t forget.
I love my quiet time too. An early morning cup of coffee before anyone else is up; feels so good and helps me start the day right. That’s free.
Those unexpected expressions of love from companions, children, pets and friends are also priceless and free.
Belle can be a real handful– then out of the blue, she calms down and crawls in my lap or licks my face. Free and priceless.
A friend messages on Facebook, calls or stops by unexpectedly— free and priceless too.
There are so many things to appreciate and cherish. The residual effects of life can be the most rewarding.
Sometimes we just have to stop, look and listen.
The best things….the free things are right there under our noses.
It’s been quite a roller coaster. I’ve had a lot of changes to get used to, a lot of decisions to make; and most of all, I’ve had to get reacquainted with parts of me I’d forgotten, locked up or ignored.
There have been a lot of feelings going on in my head and it’s not always easy.
It’s called being human.
I’m about as human as they come. I could never be accused of being a robot. I tend to wear my passion for whatever I’m doing, on my sleeve; and as a result, I may come off a little intense and dramatic.
Out in the real world it is expected that you behave with a certain amount of coldness. Sometimes you’ll hear it referred to as: professionalism and decorum. This requires you to bottle things up and not be completely honest. That lack of honesty, my friends, is one of the biggest failures in our society’s increasing isolation. Real communication is becoming obsolete.
Time and time again, I have watched people sit completely stone-faced and not express themselves– when I know they have definite opinions or feelings on the matter. It’s really hard to watch. How do you interact with that? I know, I’ve tried it– how should I say it… in the name of civility… and I usually fail miserably.
One of the biggest realizations I’ve had to face is that the feelings and responses to the things around us aren’t always going to be considered appropriate. We have to be okay with that. I think of all the people that medicate just to avoid feeling and I never want to be in that place.
We can try to ignore and avoid our feelings… even feel guilty about them but then how much are we really living? How much are we really experiencing life? It’s not always necessary to express all our feelings to other people but we at least need to acknowledge them ourselves. Appropriate or not, our feelings are real— if only to us. The people with whom we engage have those feelings too. Everyone deals with things differently… the important thing is that they are dealt with and not ignored.
It’s far too easy to become numb and go through the motions of living.
It can happen for a number of reasons:
- We’re too busy, obsessed or focused on one thing; ignoring, or refusing to deal with everything else,
- Afraid to become emotionally involved; of being used or hurt,
- Lack of self confidence and feelings of inadequacy; fear of being judged,
- Expectations of professional demeanor, void of expression; always holding your cards close,
- Purely for self preservation; protecting your self, job, relationships or image,
When we allow ourselves to fall into any of these patterns, we start living a life without. We alienate ourselves and our selves. We may find the temporary protection we need to get through any given situation but if this becomes the way we deal with every day life, something is missing. We can become lost.
Life is joy, celebration and happiness— anger, heartbreak and tears. It’s connecting and sharing those feelings with others that make us human.
It’s important to feel things.
It’s important to express things.
It’s most important that we not lose who we are in the daily routine of survival.
Take away these human traits and what do you have left?
A big blank. A life without.
Last year I celebrated my 50th birthday, December 29th– at 12:01 am (my official birth time), in my favorite city in the world: New York– standing in Times Square. This year, the moment was spent snuggled in bed with my babies, Cash and Roxie. Two vastly different scenarios but both equally appealing and memorable.
I can’t say I’ve looked forward to this birthday the way I did the last but I haven’t dreaded it either. Turning 50 was magical. Why does turning 51 feel like it just sounds so much older? I’m now officially over the half-century hump.
I’ve always said age is just a number and it’s more about how old you feel. Better put: it’s how old you act. Measured that way, I must seem pretty schizophrenic to some people. Believe me, the old adage, act your age means very little to me. Acting your age assumes that you know how someone in your shoes should act. How can you actually know that, if you haven’t already experienced it?
I think society still expects that once you reach a certain age, there are certain behaviors that should be adopted to exhibit a perceived level of maturity. As our population ages and life expectancy increases, some of those presumptions are also changing. Nevertheless, I’d prefer to be referred to as an old, crazy, creative guy than someone that acts their age. Being 50-plus may not be considered old anymore but I think it’s still considered something worse by the younger generation: boring. I hope I never fall into that category.
I’m pretty lucky. Most of the people I know– my age and older are active, adventurous mold breakers. In their seventies, my parents are extremely active and constantly on the go. One of my friends that just retired has basically traveled the world, non-stop this past year. So I have some great examples going forward.
I’ve had plenty of time to reflect and to reevaluate my ambitions over this past year. What is clear, is that there are still so many things I want to accomplish, places I want to visit and things I want to experience in this short lifetime. I want to leave my mark, my thumbprint on the world– in some way, making it a better place. I’m still not sure how I accomplish that. Whether it be through my writing, some action, or some impact through connecting with others… I guess only time will tell.
My fiftieth year was in many ways a difficult one. A big year for change. At the same time, it was year full of affirmations. So even though I may be over the half-century hump–it’s certainly not all downhill from here. Onward, upward… so much to do, to see… to create. There are many new adventures ahead.
Live life, love those around you… and above all else: Be Yourself!