Calling a Do-Over: Would You If You Could?

backspace delete do over

Editor’s Note: TV isn’t the only thing this summer with repeats. This was one of the first posts I wrote when I launched this blog and it still holds true today. Thanks to Instagram, Twitter, and cell phone photos, this generation’s stupid mistakes are immortalized. Ours are etched in our minds for only as long as we hold on to them.  So, would you call a do-over if you could?

I remember when correcting mistakes wasn’t as easy as tapping a couple of keys on a keyboard.  Today, hitting the backspace or delete key can save the day by pulling you over before you shoot off that irate email you’ll regret later, it can create a seemingly flawless page of text, and undo that thing you just did that’s the exact opposite of what you meant to do.

If you’re a member of the Women at Forty club you remember correcting tape (vaguely?), white out, and trashcans full of crumpled paper. You remember a time when you’d have to think things over a hundred times before committing them to paper once. As a rule, we spent more time developing and preparing everything prior to putting it out there because it was hard to correct our mistakes and harder still to live with them once they’d been made.

I think the same holds true in other areas of our lives as well. Relationships, career choices, family. As we get older, we tend to make choices and decisions at a different pace. Today, women in their twenties start dating and break up in a matter of weeks, all by text message, tweets or status updates.  They’re making major decisions and mistakes quicker than ever.

When it comes to mistakes, I’ve made some big ones (one was at least 6’2 ”.) And none of them, sadly, came with a backspace button or delete key. I had to live through the consequences of making every one of my bad decisions – big and small. And while it’s really Zen to say we wouldn’t change a thing about our past, given the opportunity I would gladly delete and backspace some of mine with a vengeance.  6’2″ for one, burning my eyebrows off in a tragic but comical barbeque grill lighting fiasco for another, and remind me to tell you about “The Catfish” someday. In fact, I’d much rather have learned many of my life lessons the easy way, less intent on trying to thwart the I told you so’s and more interested in paying attention to the voices of the women who’d been there, done that, and saw the likely outcome from a mile away.

I’m grateful for backspace and delete keys. God knows I use them both every day.  But while even I would call a do-over on some of my stupider younger woman moves, I think that just as in writing, overusing the backspace key can stifle us, causing us to constantly edit and overanalyze ourselves – preventing us from living full, authentic lives, mistakes and all.

Would you call a do-over if you could? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.

 

I am a 44 year old woman and I’m single

00255382_thumb.jpgEditors Note: Today’s guest post captures what many single women in their 40s feel. If you’ve been there, or are there now, this post will probably resonate with you. Whether it’s the off-side comments, the incredulous looks, or “the poor her” side-eyes that get thrown by the happily (and sometimes unhappily) coupled up, it all can be overwhelming at times. But there’s something this writer wants people to know about many single women (and men) in their 40s…

I am a 44 year old woman and I’m single by M.R. Wiggins

I am a 44 year old woman and I’m single. Never been married. No kids. Living life solo. I don’t say this to elicit pity and I also don’t wear it as some sort of badge of honor. I’m just stating a fact. It is a reality that many people live with daily. I stress the word live because that is what many of us are doing – living. We’re not cowering in a corner, weeping because we haven’t started families. We live. Oddly, many around us don’t see it this way.

If one has managed to get to 40 and not become a spouse or is not in a committed relationship, they’re often looked upon as damaged in some way. Something must be wrong with her if she’s still single. Sometimes people’s reactions are subtle, while others are blatant and in your face. For instance, I might attend a family reunion where I’m asked “So, do you plan to settle down soon?” Really, I don’t think that I could get any more settled than I am now. Or, I might run into a friend that I haven’t seen in years whereupon I’m asked if I’m married. “No.” “Are you seeing anyone?” “No.” This is usually followed by the ‘that’s-so-sad-what-a-shame’ look. I don’t think that most are aware of the small pangs that they’re inflicting with such comments, which is why I don’t generally address it with them. However, my passive stance goes out the window when I’m incredulously asked “Why don’t you have a special someone in your life?” My rote response is “I just don’t.” Simple.

The older I get, I notice some people giving me the occasional side-eye when asking about my personal status, as if something is wrong with me. Trust me, I’m a together woman. I’m intelligent, kind, witty, mature, mild-tempered, independent, cultured, ambitious, educated and attractive. I’ve been called “the total package” on more than a few occasions. I’m merely single. I’ve gotten used to the looks, the head tilts, the pity pats on my hand and shoulder. It’s almost comical.

I understand that we live in a culture where people are expected to be coupled up by a certain age and if this hasn’t happened, then there must be a problem with you as a single person. What I don’t understand is why singleness at a certain age is viewed as a flaw. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I love my life and I’ve always tried to live it to the fullest. I have a wonderful family and loving friends. I’ve had an interesting and varied career. I’ve literally traveled all over the world. I’ve even dated here and there. I am not unique. This is the life of countless post-40 women (and men for that matter) that I know. None of us have side-stepped life waiting on our ideal mate. We embrace life and all of its wondrous experiences.

While I believe that as humans, we all need human connections, I don’t think that everyone should be in a committed relationship. Some people just aren’t emotionally equipped for it. Others have no desire for such a relationship. To each his own. I, myself, am not against committed, monogamous relationships. Quite the opposite, in fact. I think that marriage is a wonderful institution. The idea of building a life with someone and loving them (and being loved) unconditionally is heart-warming and comforting. Who knows, I may even get married one day. However, I refuse to believe that my life is any less rich and eventful than anyone else because I’m on life’s journey by myself. I will continue to explore the world, to learn new hobbies, to develop new skills, to surround myself with things that make me happy and to love those in my life to the fullest.

I am a 44 year old woman and I’m (happily) single, living life.

Share your thoughts about being single, married, or somewhere in between in our comment section or on the Women at Forty Facebook page.

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.

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