I just love Kate’s build-up to this question and since it is short, I am going to quote it here:
As our years accumulate we have all endured our share of bumps and lumps, some more than others. Hitting 50 years of age we know that we have lived more than half our life and it’s confronting to decide what we will prioritise on our downhill run … relocate, study, change careers or travel … the decision is ours.
Our plus and minuses are pretty ingrained but we also have the choice to look inwards and see what needs to change to increase our pluses and minimise those minuses. We start to realise the value of good connections, a healthier lifestyle and trimming off the unnecessary.
The superficial holds less value and exploration of life itself seems to open up endless possibilities. How have your life values changed?
I am about to hit that 50-year mark, in 35 days to be more specific. For the majority of my adult life, I’ve lived a bohemian lifestyle, drifting from place to place, partner to partner, and carousing with artists of all sorts – painters, sculptors, writers, actors and musicians. I have worked a ton of different types of jobs, everything from a waitress to a computer tech. I was even a college student for nearly 9 years of my adult life. Since I moved around a lot, I never put down many roots, nor kept friends for very long. And because of my alternative lifestyle, I was the black sheep in my family. None of this really bothered me until the past eleven years. During nine of those eleven years, I married and moved away from everyone I ever knew to a strange and foreign place – Tulsa, Oklahoma. I won’t go into the details, but just suffice to say, while there, I was forced to put down roots, became isolated and descended into madness. It has taken me the better part of three years to recover from those bitter years of my life and it has really put a lot of things into perspective for me. Here are just a few choices and changes that I have made:
- I am now the mistress of my own destiny. This isn’t completely new to me since I’ve pretty much come and gone and done whatever I wanted in life. However, I often allowed others along the way to dictate how I lived my life. Some were during brief relationships and others, like with my ex, were for extended periods of time. No one will ever take that away from me again.
- I value time spent with family and friends. This is completely new to me. Since I never had close bonds but with just a few people, forging these bonds now take more effort. It is time well spent though.
- I am more concerned now with my future – how I will live, where I will live, if I will be able to afford it, etc. I didn’t use to concern myself with these at all. Money had no real value to me. My motto was ‘I can always earn more’ and that was how I lived my life. But I am disabled now and on a very fixed income. So it matters a whole lot more these days.
- I am more concerned with my health these days – physically, mentally and spiritually. I was never into drugs or drank excessively, but I did have reckless behaviors when it came to sex and relationships. I didn’t take care of my physical health and mentally, I was a complete mess. Although I’ve always considered myself fairly spiritual, I flitted from one religion to another constantly, never settling on just one firm set of beliefs. These days, I tend to watch my diet most of the time as I am diabetic and have chronic pain issues. I do yoga and qigong, I meditate and follow mostly Buddhist practices. All of these have benefited my physical health, but also my mental and spiritual health as well.
- I now choose a drama-free life (or as near to it as possible!). I made a decision to eliminate as much negativity from my life as I could. This not only included thoughts, but also people. I have just stopped feeding the drama monkeys. Anyone who continued to foster negativity, I stopped associating with them – friends, family and acquaintances. I try not to read news that will stir up negative emotions, listen to music that foster negativity, or watch tv or movies that feel negative to me. Now that is not to say that I have completely blocked out the world around me, but I try not to allow those things to stir up negative emotions within me and if they do, I now have comping skills to rid myself of those emotions. It really is a choice! Somethings still get through from time to time though. *coughDonaldTrumpcough*
- I spend time on things that matter. This again is not something that is new to me. I’ve always done my own thing. However, I am also a people-pleaser and would often let people talk me into doing things that would distract me from things that really mattered to me. The word ‘no’ just wasn’t in my vocabulary. It took years of therapy for me to finally learn the importance of the word ‘no’ and how to effectively use it. Surprisingly enough, what I thought would happen – people would get angry at me for saying no – hasn’t happened that often. Most of the time, people just say okay and move on. *shockshock* There are always those few though that persist and I have to keep reminding them. This happens a lot with my writing. There is only so much *extra* time available for others when I am doing writing projects. Now I tell people, ‘sorry, if you want me to spend such and such day with you or work on such and such project with you, it has to be scheduled ahead of time.’ Some people don’t mind. Others have gotten angry about it. But, I don’t care anymore. My writing has value and meaning to me. It is important and I now foster what is important to me.
- Material things hold little meaning in my life. Now that’s not to say that I have given up every material possession and become a nun or anything like that. However, I no longer spend money on a lot of material goods like I did in my past. I live very simply and tend to my basic needs – food, shelter and clothing. I do still buy books now and again, but since my space is limited, so are my purchases. I now make conscious choices. Do I really need this or is it just a want? What will I have to give up in order to have this? Generally I discover that things are merely wants and I don’t have the space for them.
I am sure there are more choices and changes that I have made in my life, but for now, these are the major ones. I intend for this down-hill ride to be a much healthier one for me all around. I do still realize though that it all happens one step and one day at a time.