Finally, in my seventh decade, I know myself.
I know I enjoy foreign accents, black gum drops, and mountain meadows swarmed by strong-willed wildflowers. I believe in public schools, owning too many shoes, and doubling the garlic. I also tend to interrupt others, ignore the phone, and think the world is ending when I can’t sleep.
I admit, when alone, I eat cake for breakfast, scratch my head, sing in vibrato, and two-step. I hate to polish shoes, run for planes, and shop. And I would never, ever, pierce my nose or boil a lobster alive.
Fortunately, I also have more important, rock-solid, life-molding values that define me; and though I sometimes question or modify these principles, I would neither abandon nor deny them.
I believe I should nurture my body. Shortly after turning fifty — overweight and stressed by my recent move to a new state, new job, and new marriage — I sat in my doctor’s office, hoping to learn the cause of my neck, arm, and back pain. He said my CT scan had revealed a herniated disc in my neck, so I’d need to see a specialist for treatment options.
“And, Janet,” he continued, “ you’ve put on a little weight. You might want to lose it. If you’re riding around on bald tires, you don’t want a load of sand in your trunk.”
I laughed. Then I made a plan that included more exercise and fewer snacks, followed it, and lost weight. And when the specialist recommended physical therapy, I doggedly followed the therapist’s instructions as well. I am protective of my health; I do my best to take care of it, and when something goes wrong, I do my best to fix it As a result, I am honest with my doctors and follow their orders.
I also believe in laughter. I cherish those in my life who make me laugh: fellow bloggers, long-time friends, my husband, my family, casual acquaintances. Recently a good friend and I began making fun of our husbands who were being obstinate and unsuccessful in their pursuit of a particular restaurant in an unfamiliar city. As we enjoyed one another’s harassing comments, our giggles escalated into a wonderful dose of laughter; we threw back our heads, clutched our sides, rocked back and forth, snorted, spluttered, gained control momentarily, then succumbed to laughter again. Meanwhile, our husbands, driver and navigator, continued screeching around corners, cursing one-way streets, repeatedly driving the same unproductive route, and expressing amazement each time the restaurant didn’t appear. It was glorious fun.
I believe I should be financially sound. My dad worked in the depths of the Hoover Dam, the gold mines of California, and the iron-ore tunnels of Utah. At 35, fearing miner’s lung, he went to work at an iron mill in the fiery heat of a blast furnace. When laid-off or on strike, he took any job he could to prevent “going on the dole,” which he considered more demeaning than bucking bales in another man’s field or cleaning coops at a neighbor’s chicken farm. And always, he saved, avoided debt, and made double house payments when possible. I learned at his knee, and I am grateful for his example.
Beliefs like these enrich my life. And for these values, I thank those who raised me and interacted with me as I struggled toward maturity.