Trains, Planes, and Filtering Out the Noise

No Train HornDespite the title, and my fondness for travel, this post isn’t about planning my next great getaway. It’s actually about staying at home.

You see, I don’t live too far from our city’s major airport. I also live close to the railroad tracks that run through my town.

At home on any given night I’ll hear the horn of a train or the roar of an aircraft overhead. You’d think it would be terribly distracting and really irritating. It’s not. It’s like the ticking of a clock, I only hear it when I listen for it. But it wasn’t always that way.

I realized that I’d learned to filter out the noise when one evening while we were having dinner at my house my friend jumped, mid conversation, startled by the sound of the train’s horn. I’d barely registered the sound myself because I was so focused on what I was doing at the moment.

Now, if it was only that easy to do that in other areas of life.

Every new day presents us with the opportunity to be completely overwhelmed by noise. Whether it’s social media enticing us with its time-stealing non-conversations, or the media reporting “news” that would have us believing the entire world is going to hell in a hand basket, the noise can be deafening. Add to that the noise we create within ourselves like disordered talk about our bodies and appearance and doubting our own skills and abilities. The noise can sometimes get louder in our 40s as we question what we could have been, should have done, or worse, declare that it’s too late to do or be any of it. It’s a wonder we can hear ourselves think.

So today, let’s stop for a second and be conscious of the noise coming at us. Distinguish between the noises that serve to warn us ( because frankly if you’re on the tracks a train’s horn can be a lifesaver,) and those that are just noise, whether it comes from the media, “well-meaning” friends and family, or it’s the internal dialogue you assault yourself with.

Learn to push the noise into the background, filter it out, and focus on the sounds that really matter. I’ll try if you will. ❤

 

Lessons I Learned From Attending a Writers Conference – Part 2

Must Love DogsLast week I shared a few of the lessons I learned from attending my first writers conference. Today I’m sharing the final three, starting with…

Lesson 3: If you were supposed to do it at 20 (or 24 or 34), and you didn’t, it will follow you your whole life. Think back to the thing the 17 or 18 year old you wanted to do or be.  The thing you realized you loved doing and were good at.

And then life got in the way.

So you put it on the shelf for a year.

And then another.

And suddenly you’re 40. And that thing is still there, somewhat dimmed by life, but sitting in your soul. At the conference I was reminded that if it’s still in there it deserves a place in your life. It deserves your care, nurturing, and attention and it’s your responsibility to make it happen, regardless of your age. Just before one of the sessions I met a woman who’s a pharmacist by trade, but who’s wanted to write for 20 years. And now she has, self-publishing her own books  God and the Garden – Devotionals for Fruitful Living.   You can check out Lilka Raphael’s books here.

Lesson 4: Whatever you’re supposed to be doing, do it every day without the excuses.  Talk less about what you’re going to do, should do, and want to do, and just do it. The difference I saw at the conference between the writers who were manuscript ready, and those who dream of being published authors, wasn’t necessarily talent. It wasn’t age or connections, it was that the people who were there with a pitch and their own books in hand sat down and wrote every day. Every day.

Author Claire Cook, best known for her bestselling novel turned Hollywood movie, Must Love Dogs, told us that she writes two pages a day. She gets up first thing in the morning, and before emails, before Facebook and Twitter, she writes her two pages. This is an author who’s published 10 books and had one of her books turned into a movie. I was struck by the fact that even though Claire’s made it, she seems to be working just as hard to stay “made” as she did to get there. There’s no easy path to get to where you want to go, and once you get there, the path doesn’t get any easier. By the way, Claire wrote her first book at 45 years old sitting in her minivan while waiting for her kids to finish swimming practice. At 50 she was walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of ‘Must Love Dogs’. Do it everyday without excuses. Claire’s story is also a reminder that your age is not an excuse.

Lesson 5: Not everyone will be happy about your success (however you define it).  Some might question your abilities, others might secretly (or not so secretly) think you’re an idiot for even trying. Don’t let that stop you. Claire told us of seeing friends fall by the wayside as her success increased. She said she even had close family members who hadn’t read any of her books. We’re human, so the realization that some of the folks closest to us will not embrace what we’re doing might sting a little. Or a lot. I’m sure some of it bugged Claire, although maybe not so much the night she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of her New York Times best-selling book-turned-movie. So there’s that.

 

2 and a Half Lessons I Learned From Attending a Writers Conference

Palace of Versailles - Grace Wynter
I don’t like long blog posts because blah blah blah…right.  So this week you’ll read about the first two and half life lessons I learned while attending the Atlanta Writers Conference, and next week I’ll post the rest.

 

Last week I had the pleasure of attending my first writers conference. While there, I was reminded that so many of the lessons I’ve learned about writing transcend the practice of writing and apply to life in general. Sometimes these lessons aren’t new, but serve as reminders of the life we want to live. From the humbleness and approachability of a New York Times best-selling author, to the “butt in the chair” mentality of the just-published, never-been published, and everyone in between, I learned something from everyone I came across. Here are just 2.5…

 

Lesson 1: People do judge a book by its cover. When you’re the author of the book, that can be a great thing – if the cover says everything you want it to say about what’s on the inside. But as readers (and observers of life), we should be wary of judging a book by its cover alone. That judgement (the conclusions we come to about that book) is only skin deep, and we might miss out on some wonderful content just because the packaging doesn’t look the way we expect it to.
It’s a great metaphor for how we look at people who, at first glance, appear different – even very different – from us.  By focusing only on outer appearances, we bring all our history and baggage (often unfairly) into the judgment process and by so doing, miss out on potentially life-changing conversations and relationships.  Great covers are great to look at, but be prepared to value a book, not for its cover, but for its content.

Continue reading 2 and a Half Lessons I Learned From Attending a Writers Conference

On Being Alone

Alone and Loving ItEarly on in the life of this blog, I wrote several posts about dating after turning 40 and the minefield it can sometimes be. Like when I was asked out by the homeless man I was serving at a homeless shelter or the time I got hit on by a man riding a pink child’s bike.  Not to mention Facebook’s recent mission to set me up with Cowboys and/or Native Americans.

I also wrote a post, about love, fear and everything in between, which received several emotionally raw comments from women who, at 40, had never experienced real love or relationships. I turned one comment, from a woman who was turning 40 and had never been in a relationship, into a post and that post hit a nerve, becoming one of the most commented on posts on the site.

Today a member of the WAF community, Tricia, is presenting an alternative view to the theory that every woman, and certainly every woman in her 40s, wants to be in a relationship. She’s alone and thrives in it. That’s not so unusual, as I have many single female friends in their 40s and older who enjoy their single status. Where I think she’s different is, well, read for yourself…

On Being Alone – by Tricia Amiel

I come from a large family of women.  At some point in my life, around the age of 40, I realized that all of them are alone.  There are no marriages that worked out, no long term relationships.  I don’t know what it is about us as a family, and I wonder what it is about me.

I’ve been alone a long time, after a failed marriage and a long string of short affairs.  It wasn’t a decision I made at first, but I’ve grown into aloneness and am finding comfort in it.  It’s now a solid decision that I’m making every day.  I recognize that I’ve made poor choices in the past, and that this has probably influenced my decision to be alone.  But it’s more than that. I really just don’t need or want to be with anybody.  I feel alone in that too.  It seems to me that everybody wants to find the right person to be with, and I’ve wondered what it is about me that finds me in this place in my life, and what it means.

Maybe this is just a stage in my life that will change, but I can’t even imagine that.  I can imagine doing the rest of my journey through this life without a partner.  In fact, I’m comforted by the thought.  There’s a certain joy in it for me.  It’s not that I never get lonely, because I certainly do.  But not often enough to make a difference in how I feel, and it’s easily resolved by spending time with my friends, my children, even the students I am compelled to connect with a couple of times a week.  I’m filled up by working, by writing, by achieving my goals.  It’s enough for me somehow, and more satisfying than any relationship I’ve ever been in.

Although I’ve been accused of deluding myself, of being bitter,  I like to think that maybe I’ve finally learned to love myself and my life enough, that I’ve come into a state of grace after years of struggling with life and with love.  There’s nothing bitter about this…this is a kind of deep, meaningful peace, something I’ve never found in romantic relationships.  It’s about me, and having the space to come into my own way of living and being.  That way simply doesn’t require the presence of another being.  There’s just enough of me now to give myself the joy, the comfort, the love that I need.

A very important person in my life once told me that the only way I was ever going to feel complete was to be with the right person.  I can honestly say to her that I’ve found that right person, after 42 years of searching, that she is my one and only, hopefully for a lifetime.  That she is me.

What are your thoughts on being single at 40? Are you like this reader who not only enjoys it, but plans on staying that way? Share your thoughts here or on The Women at Forty Facebook page.