By Paula O’kray
There are times in your life where you find yourself taking stock of things. In each decade, of our lives there’s a moment where we stop and consider if what we’re doing is the right thing for ourselves. And if it isn’t, we adjust accordingly based on what resources are available to us.
I recently came to one of those moments. It was not just one thing, but several things coming together, that made me really stop and think about where I am in my life and what I want the rest of my life to be. Of course, I’d had moments like this at 40 and 50 years of age, but it seems like the one I recently experienced at 60 was the one that really hit me right between the eyes.
Earlier this summer, a few weeks after I turned the big 6-0, a close relative of mine dropped by to let me know that he’d discovered a pre-cancerous condition. Of course, when someone mentions the C-word, it always has a dramatic effect. When it’s a relative, you sit straight up and, well, freak out a bit.
Filling me in on all the details, I came to understand that it was not actually the big C but a precursor to it. It was completely removed, and preventative medications were being administered for good measure. I also learned that it wasn’t a genetic issue whatsoever. Still, I found myself thinking very seriously about my health, my life, and a lot of things that I really haven’t thought about at all.
I thought about what I would do if it happened to me. How would I react? Who would I tell? Would I tell anyone? Is all my business in order if it was a worst case scenario? Have I done the things I wanted to do? If not, what was stopping me?
It made me realize that I may be a bit closer to the finish line than I’d like to think I am.
I spent the next several weeks sorting it all through in my head, coming up with all sorts of interesting answers. I figured that some adjustment might be needed, and I set about making up that plan.
But then I had another moment of enlightenment.
As I was sorting through my papers and ridding myself of unneeded things, I happened upon a note from quite a few years back. 2014, perhaps? Sometimes when I’m unhappy and frustrated, I write my thoughts down very quickly in a stream of consciousness sort of way, and it comes out as slam poetry. Yes, a woman of hidden talents, that’s me.
As I read this particular “poem,” it made me realize that I was still dealing with the same stressful situations that I was back in 2014. Nothing had really changed. Now there’s a wake-up call! “Ugh,” I thought, “I haven’t been dealing with or processing any of this. It’s simply being churned over and over again.” It made me sad and annoyed with myself.
So with that bright shining beam of enlightenment staring me right in the face, I decided to abandon “The Churn.”
That’s right, I just stopped.
I decided that at this point in the race, as I’m coming into the autumn of my life, without knowing how long my health will hold out, I shouldn’t have to deal with stress like this. Why am I doing this to myself? Well, I realized I didn’t have to.
So I stopped being a grandmother, a mother, a sister, an ex-wife, and all those other roles I play; forgave myself for all the mistakes I have made in those roles; and decided to wipe the slate clean and just be Paula. I stopped looking for the reasons things were happening (or not happening) and simply accepted them. I stopped digging for information to help me understand what was happening (or not happening). I stopped feeling bad about not being able to affect situations that were really not my problem to begin with.
No more why-ing, no more prying, no more crying. Done.
Of course, I still am all those things, but my emotional and mental health is my primary focus right now, and the rest of it is going on the back burner. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, this is my “Summer of George,” as it were.
I recently found a quote that expresses exactly how I feel about it. “I have decided to be happy, because it is good for my health.” I decided that I’m going to just be happy. Happy regardless.
And you know what? It’s wonderful. I can honestly say I have not been happier than I have been in the last few months since becoming a sexagenarian. (Yes, that’s a word.) Accepting the negative, but focusing on the positive. Most of the time I can’t affect it anyway, or it doesn’t affect my life directly, or not for more than a moment or two, so why let it ruin a day—or a life?
I’m not letting those things get in my way anymore. I’m going to break that tape at the finish line with a big smile on my face and a happy heart!
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