Musings and Mirth

What I’ve Learned in my 49th Year

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I have spent too much of my time online. There was a time when I wanted to be nowhere else. The comfort of being able to control what people see was just too alluring.  I was able to protect myself from pain to a certain degree but you know, it can’t really protect you from the big things – love, rejection, heartbreak, rage, humiliation, In some ways, those things beam around as alive as ever, heightening our sensory intake, worsening the pain.  Now, we are all so close together, even if we can sometimes create barriers that prevent us from others – unfriending on Facebook, blocking, ignoring, not looking. But if you want to look you can find. So no one ever really goes away. Even when they die, their footprints remain, caught in amber on the day their lives ended, still attached to places they left comments, their purchase history, their friends and “friends”. I know that I am leaving a permanent record every day I’m online. I’m doing it for my daughter, and perhaps to live forever by leaving something of me behind. This blog. My Facebook. My Flickr. These are living records of my life up to now.

I learn new things still, though one can get caught in an endless loop if you expect that learning to lead you somewhere. We are all still here waiting to die. We have time and that’s all we have. We can waste it or use it, that’s our choice. I know now that very few things REALLY matter to your own life, but much matters to the lives of others. Your life, this centered happiness we’re all supposed to attain, has to be secondary because trust me, it has nowhere to go. You can suck in life, you can seek pleasure, you can reach for the intensity of sexual gratification, or the bliss of falling in love, or the contentment of parenthood, the relief of great wealth – but none of that will bring you closer to any kind of achieved happiness.

I know that as I get older I drink in the pleasures of the flesh.  Sunshine is a mood lifter. The brain is still the most underrated organ (contrary to what Woody Allen thinks).  There is nothing more pleasurable than being wrapped up in your lovers arms and feeling their sleeping breath in and out on the back of your neck.  Why are relationships hard? I don’t know the answer to that one. Perhaps we aren’t really built to be in them, not anymore.  To want someone else means they have to want you back and if they don’t want you back you are destined to suffer.  Life is suffering anyway, say the Buddhists, so there is no point in avoiding love, in avoiding giving yourself over to it, just to avoid suffering.  Simply find a way to redirect the pain when/if you lose it.  This seems to be my own fate, 50% of the time. But I’m learning how to feel it, and how to stop fearing it. Otherwise you can’t get to the good stuff.

I have learned that success is about hard work.  It, too, is about taking risks. You have to dive into failure in all aspects of life but especially in business/work. You have to be willing to be humiliated  — just like being rejected by love. You’re humiliated for a while because you failed. It hurts for a while. But it goes away – and you start over.  You have to put in the work. Always. Pick something you love to do because otherwise the last thing you’re going to want to do is work.  We all need it to survive but also, the work we do is shaping the world for better or worse in one direction or another.  We’re really just here to have babies, take care of each other and ourselves.  It’s as simple as all that, really.  The work you do should, in some ways, take care of  others. Remember what you’re putting out there. If your daily life includes being a troll?  You are a waste of good oxygen and resources. Don’t be a waste of good oxygen resources.

Finally, my life changed when I became a mommy. It felt pointless before that, now it has meaning. That isn’t a reason anyone should have a kid. But for me, it really was. Part of that was redefining my own past, my own childhood. The healing in that colored the joy in motherhood.  But I also am so proud of the daughter I’ve raised. She is such a good person, so fun to be around, so insightful, sensitive and intelligent – I have done the world good by bringing her into it. I invested a lot of time being there for her because it really did mean everything to me. That is something, THE THING, I’m most proud of. Nothing will ever top it.

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My daughter, becoming a mother, taught me how to love. Now I love passionately, deeply – and though it’s hard to find a place for all of that love now, there is nothing better a human being can do. This is what mammals do: we love. We are born to love. Love should not mean you own another person – it should be freely given and welcomed with open arms.

To that end, get out and love. It will crush you. It will make you hate humanity sometimes. It will make you cry more than you’d like to. But it’s the blooming of the human heart, never to be dismissed or squandered. As I enter the age of 50 I am hoping to do more of it. That, and make something of my life to leave behind.  

My life in PJ Harvey songs:

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My Funny Valentine

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How nice to get flowers on Valentine’s Day by my beloved. They smell so fresh and clean. Too clean for a tawdry fake holiday like Valentine’s Day….I wish that I could live the fake tawdry day over.

A Rich Life – Patti Smith

A Rich Life – Patti Smith

Patti Smith’s life gives me hope that there is so much more to do with your time than spend it trying not to age. You can try to maintain the male gaze as long as possible. You can feel emptied out when it’s gone. You can value your worth by how desirable a tribe member you are. Or you can say, fuck all that. I’m human first. A real whole thing. So Patti Smith does that. There isn’t enough of her out there to remind you of another road out of what seems like your expiration date. There is nowhere near enough of Patti Smith period. How does she fit in with the Buzzfeed and Flavorwire and Huffington Post of it all? She is never going to be a throbbing headline designed for maximum hits. Isn’t strange how the desperation of online media has begun to shape media? Instead of it being a calm way to interpret the happenings of the day it’s become all about drawing traffic – which you can’t really do right now unless you either have something big or shape the news to BE something big. Kind of a conundrum we’re in.

Myself, Younger

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A friend recently sent me old photos of myself. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had not yet had a baby and was spending most of my time online. It was the early 90s — there was barely a “world wide web.” I remember thinking that I looked good in the pictures but I really would have had no way of knowing that aging hits you kind of hard. When you see your face change and then look back at it it can do crazy things to your psyche. Who was that girl, I wonder. I didn’t realize that time was about to rush by so fast I’d hardly notice it until twenty years or so later. And that becomes your life. The choices you made haphazardly while “busy making other plans” turn out to be your life.

Back then I would have been too embarrassed to put these photos online. It’s funny how, as your time starts to tick down, how little any of that matters.

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