An excerpt from “The Curse of Avoidance.” Used with permission.
Sometimes I sit and think about the choices we make in our youth that we would never dream of making given a few more years and a lot more wisdom. Granted a do-over, I would ignore all men while obtaining as many advanced degrees as possible to insure that I could fend for myself. I would wait until I was 30 before I even considered sharing my life with anyone. Then I would date as many good eligible men as possible and pay for a thorough background check on each of them. I would be more careful about my diet and my body and take better general care of myself. I would put enough money in savings to actually fund my retirement. I would take two vacations of at least two consecutive weeks every year and go to fun or exotic places, even if I had to travel alone.
The 20/20 clarity of hindsight is an amazing thing. The big questions are, how long do you tolerate an unhappy existence before you actually start looking back with a 20/20 lack of myopia, and are you still young enough to do something about it and make changes that actually reflect your true feelings and desires?
I got out of bed that morning, showered and inspected myself in the mirror. Faint creases around my eyes, hair graying at the temples, breasts that were nowhere close to perky and circles that betrayed not getting nearly enough sleep; I was turning into my mother. Not that resembling her was all that bad mind you; she was a very attractive woman. But she was 30 or so years older and I was starting to see the resemblance to that 70-year-old when I looked into the mirror. She had led a wonderful, fulfilling but ordinary life…housewife, mother and expert at just about anything in the kitchen or laundry. She had an eye for decorating…everything from flower arrangements to rooms and clothes. She took care of us, and our father, and our home. It was her role in life.
It was far from mine.
My dreams of going to exotic places and doing great things had fallen by the wayside as I gradually turned into her clone, a housewife and a mother, with but one saving grace; I had a job out of sheer financial necessity. In that job, no matter how tedious the work, I was exposed to other women who traveled, took vacations and did numerous things outside their homes. They were their own people, not clones of their mothers. They had broken the mold. It was time to break mine. I would be 42 in a month. I might never travel to exotic places or accomplish things of legend, but I wanted to meet the rest of my life on my terms and not leave my three daughters a legacy of doing only what is expected.
When I turned 40, I had a similar experience. I woke up and realized that I had no life of my own. I was doing the working mother-wife thing extremely well, but there was a primal urge in me to break free of it. I called my friend Bonnie, housewife, mother of six and foster mother of 20 or so over the years.
“I need to get out of Ohio,” I said to her. “Want to come along?”
“When are we leaving?” she replied.
A male friend had just recently returned from a vacation to Savannah. I had been totally enthralled by his descriptions and photographs. I did a little research about the area. Neither of us had much money, so I reserved a double room at Motel 6 in Jessup, Georgia for 4 or 5 nights and we packed our bags and drove South.
We passed the miles talking and singing along with the CDs I had in the car. It was a blast. Once in our motel room, we started roaming the area. Historic Savannah was gorgeous. The seashore was wonderful. The islands off the coast were fascinating. We went where we pleased, whenever we pleased. It didn’t matter that we weren’t in a five-star hotel. We were too busy having fun to notice.
That trip turned into the epiphany of my adulthood. I began to travel more, sometimes with Bonnie, sometimes alone. I began to write more, resulting in three published books and a pretty descent portfolio of advertising writing. I found a guitar player and began performing professionally in my spare time. I worked hard at learning new things and taking on new projects, not only at work, but also in my personal life. Some of those projects are still in the works today.
I try never to back down from a challenge, because I think that in attempting to accomplish something, one can’t help but grow, both emotionally and intellectually. I have become a different person than the woman who woke up at 40. I hope the person I have become is a new and improved version. I do know one thing…five years from now I won’t be the exact same person I am today. I’m hoping for a better me. What about you?