Getting old sucks. There really is no way to sugar coat the aging process. You begin to sense your physical limitations and even if you stay in shape and eat well and all that stuff, you begin to creak. It’s a strange place to find yourself. The first half of your life is full of growth; physical, emotional, professional, intellectual and then one day you realize that you’re at the part of your life when you’ve begun the slide toward the sunset.
I’m there. We all get there, I guess, and some handle it better than others. So far, the physical aspects of getting older are manageable, even though they can be nagging and annoying. The emotional stuff; not so much.
I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to work out how I will move forward and it has happened to coincide with turning 50. I would encourage all of you who are younger than me, to begin your process NOW. Don’t wait to get to know yourself; that way you can grow old together gracefully.
Getting older isn’t all bad. You DO become a bit wiser, although there is always someone older and wiser to set you straight. There is a time when you can say the most outrageous things and all you get is an indulgent “bless her heart, she says what’s on her mind”. Unfortunately, I’m not quite that old, yet.
I have discovered a few things that make getting older worth the hassle. I listen to the music that I like, regardless of hipness factor. I wear what I want to wear, meaning no dresses…EVER. I’m content to be home on a Friday or Saturday night (and New Year’s Eve). I don’t know or care what’s in fashion….period. I adopt technology on my own time. I unapologetically make dinner plans for 5:30. I’m quicker to call bullshit, mostly on myself and I’ve accepted that we lose who and what we love, but that doesn’t mean you don’t commit to more love.
So, as I sit here with my stiff neck, aching back and oscillating hormones, I have to admit that there is a bit of wisdom and clarity that can come with advancing years. I’ve only got so many good years left and if I want cake and ice cream for breakfast, I’m gonna have it and if you don’t like it, you can kiss my ass! Say it with me: “Bless her heart”!
My husband and I were having an interesting discussion the other day about unintended consequences because that’s how we roll over our morning coffee. Plus, it was -10 outside and we had to talk about something.
He was telling me about a hike with a friend a few weeks ago and during the course of the hike he recounted a dream he’d had about a being shoved off a cliff. His buddy immediately altered their route to avoid any cliffs, thanks to the dream. But, I wondered what if he had still slipped and fallen on that new path? You never really know. Kind of like when you get a queasy feeling before a flight and you consider changing planes. What if you switch planes and crash or sit on the tarmac for 12 hours with no food or bathroom privileges?
Unintended consequences. We do our best to make informed choices and yet, we still have no real control over how they turn out. Say you decide to take a great new job with higher pay, better benefits and a shorter commute; in six months the company lays you off. It seemed like the right choice at the time; a no-brainer and yet you may have been better off staying put. But, how could you know?
Look back on your life. How many times did things work out exactly as you had planned? How many times did you see a fork in your proverbial road and take the ‘right’ one or the ‘wrong’ one? Hindsight is 20/20, but in the present, in the moment that you choose, you never really know where you’ll end up.
Your life could have been much worse; it could have been much better; it could have been equally satisfying, only different. Kind of fascinating when you think about it. I’ve had so many instances where I had to make a choice: this path or that one or maybe that one. What I see with that crystal clear hindsight is this: we really have no control over our lives. We think we do and we strive to make good choices about our jobs, our health, our spiritual life, our kids, our relationships. But, there are too many OTHER people and events out there, who also influence how our life plays out. It’s the pebble in the pond analogy; so many rings, intersecting with other rings. None of us are a single pebble, in a single pond.
I’m beginning to accept that I’m not in the safe, controlled little world that I thought that I’d created. What occurs to me is that over the years, I’ve rolled with what life dished out. Even though I fuss and I worry, I muddle through because I’m used to the chaos that is life. We all are; we do it, we deal, we adapt, we bitch, we complain, we get up in the morning and face it. It’s comforting to know that nobody’s in charge, yet everybody’s in charge. To me, that feels like freedom.
What happens when you aren’t who you thought you wanted to be? For me, this is one of those tossing-around-in-bed-at-2-in-the-morning revelations that can bring on instant panic, when I should be getting my beauty rest. Is the middle of the night the best time to ponder who the hell you are? Probably not, but at least there are few distractions.
I’ve spent the past 25+ years building a media career, primarily as a radio host. I’ve been a reporter, a news anchor, a talk show host on both commercial and public radio and for the past 12 years, a morning radio host in Denver on Mix 100.
The Dom and Jane Show has exceeded my wildest expectations for success, personal and professional growth and influence. My radio career has shaped and informed who I have become, which is what has kind of pulled me up short. Am I who I set out to be?
In a word, yes….and no. Nothing is simple, is it? I’ve never quite felt comfortable as ‘public figure’, although it’s part of the deal when you enter and nurture a media career. Kind of like the celebrities who whine about all of the attention they get. Look, everyone who goes into a media/entertainment career wants to be seen or heard. I’ve worked very hard to be heard for many years.
In a media career, you’re always pushed, either internally or externally to do more to expose yourself and promote yourself. (See: Ryan Secrest). I’ve never really enjoyed that aspect of my job; I just want to talk on the radio. Period. I’m good at it, I enjoy it and it’s been financially and personally fulfilling.
I believe I’m at the peak of my career right now and that it will likely wind down over the next few years. I am no longer hungry for more success, more attention, more influence. I’ve accepted and embraced my professional situation thanks to some introspection, therapy and spiritual study. And oh, yeah, turning 50 knocked some sense into me as well. I feel as if I’m in control and proceeding on my terms, which is a big deal, but I still have personal ‘stuff’ to work out.
I’ve also been exploring how much my job seeps into me; how much of “me”, is due to my job? I’ve been paid to talk….and talk….and talk for more than half of my life. I’m expected to have an opinion, a perspective, a viewpoint, a solution, a story, a comment; all of which makes it really hard to shut up, listen and learn, once I leave work. My radio persona is not welcome or healthy in my personal relationships.
When we’re young, we look at our lives spread out in front of us and begin to make choices; some good, many not so good. We envision our personal and professional lives, usually with a huge dose of fantasy tossed in. That’s the beauty of being young. The problem is that as we look back, we realize that how we got from point A, at the ripe old age of 25, to points B, C, D and beyond, is NEVER the way we plotted it out. Who you want to be at 25, is rarely a good idea at 35, 45 or 55.
So, are you who you wanted to be? Or are you better? Or different? For me, it’s time to embrace my professional success, but at the same time, step back from it in the way it has influenced my personal relationships. For 20+ hours a week, I’ll try to come up with something to say, but personally, my goal is to shut up, listen and learn.
At the beginning of 2010, I wrote a post and said that using the New Year as an excuse to work on yourself seems kind of lame; that we should be working on ourselves all year long. I’ve had a slight change of perspective as we enter 2011. That new perspective is: whatever works.
It seems that ALL of us believe that we need to work on bettering something in our lives, whether it’s personal or professional. We need to eat better, exercise more, commit more fully to our partners/God/kids/friends/job, etc. It’s never-ending and it’s always something. So, how about this: instead of telling yourself how much you have fallen short, or screwed something up or how much you suck, let’s look back at what was right in the last year. What did you accomplish, how did you grow, who did you inspire? I’ll bet if you looked, you could find just as many things about you that don’t suck, as do. But, it takes time and introspection to turn off the negative voices in our heads. We have our list of things to work on always pounding away in our brains. “Don’t eat that…I feel foolish….I’m not a good parent/spouse/friend….I have to do better….I’m a failure….I’m jealous…blah, blah, blah”. A drumbeat of how we fall short.
So, maybe slowly we could begin to intersperse our victories into that internal dialogue. I’ll go first: “I’m not a good spouse….I’m a better spouse than I was 3 months ago….I damaged my life and some of my relationships with some of my past behaviors…I can let go of my past and live in the present…I can be selfish….I’m more generous now.” Seems so simple, right?
It’s hard, I know. I beat myself up everyday about things I’ve said or done or DIDN’T say or do. It’s a constant, circulating inner dialogue that wears you down to an unhappy, paralyzed nub. And let’s be honest, most of our inner dialogue is negative; it’s about how we fall short. My plan is to start being a little nicer to myself. To stop telling me what an imperfect person I am. If we’re honest with ourselves, we probably don’t even have an idea of a what a ‘perfect me’ looks or acts like.
So, if it takes the dawning of a new year to get you to push your re-set button, that’s just fine with me. As you get older, there is definitely something about realizing that you’re another year closer to the end of your life, that focuses your mind and intention. Here’s my resolution for 2011 and onward: Jane, you’ll never be perfect, you can probably be better, but who you are is okay.