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The best years of our lives

Posted in Life & Love

Heart cookiesA few nights ago, in a moment of unvarnished realism, I found myself voicing aloud a thought that had occurred suddenly, and quite unsolicited. “I think the best years of my life are behind me; the years of excitement and adventure, and my believing otherwise is a valiant, but probably misguided, cheerleading effort on my part”.

The person I was talking to, who knows me as a sunny and curious soul, couldn’t quite fathom what to say. I then steered the conversation back onto more mundane tracks, as if nothing of importance had been said. But the thought stayed with me, quite unsure what brought it on.

There could be many reasons why I feel this way: like sofagirl, maybe I need a mental break from life in general; maybe I have been spending too much time with older people, thus dampening my usual enthusiasm to see what is around the next bend – it appears it’s illness and diminished capacities; it could be that my life, or myself, have become predictable; or the unexpected doesn’t carry exciting connotations any longer; or, then again, it’s my hormones to which I attribute all manners of mood changes.

sofagirl and I, in Athens, Georgia, a few lives ago
sofagirl and me, in Athens, Georgia, a few lives ago

I have always loved early mornings, Mondays and firsts of the month because they are so heavy with promises: another day unfolding filled with who knows what kind of bounty. That I even felt this way for my entire life is a testament to how lucky I have been: not immune from sorrows or traumas, I was nonetheless able to live my life any which way it pleased me, not bound by constrictions imposed by family, society or just bad circumstances.

Other than getting older, nothing has changed to suggest that tomorrow shouldn’t be a better or more interesting or more intriguing day than today. Just my sorry ass attitude.

My mother never allowed me to wallow in self-pity: depending on the severity of the predicament, I was given between one to five days to feel sorry for myself, and I only merited the five days pass when my husband and I split up for a couple of years. After the allotted time was up, she would administer a metaphorical kick in the butt: “dry the crocodile tears and get moving”. She still does that and, all in all, her spartan method has served me rather well.

This week, unwilling to voice my pitiful thoughts to my mother (allotted time for dark thoughts: one hour), the kick in the butt arrived courtesy of Gabourey Sidibe, the charming actress of “Precious” and “The Big C”, among others.

Gabourey-Sidibe
Gabourey Sidibe

During a speech she gave at Ms Foundation Gala, Ms. Sidibe talked about how irked she gets when asked “How are you so confident?”, the question implying that being overweight should engender a more subdued behavior on her part.
Her speech was centered on the recounting of a school party for which Gabourey baked some horrible cookies nobody ate. As a matter of fact, she wasn’t much liked by the rest of the class, who perceived her as a know-it-all and an asshole. But that party became a defining moment in the life of a girl who was acutely aware of her shortcomings:

“So, okay, we’re back in fifth grade, and I just had been rejected by 28 kids in a row. And I was sitting alone at my desk, with an empty Ziplock bag, crumbs in my lap, and I was at this great party that I had waited for all week. I waited all week for this party that I wasn’t invited to. And for some reason I got up, I sat on my desk, and I partied my ass off. I laughed loudly when something funny happened. And when Miss Lowe put on music, I was one of the first ones to get up and dance. I joined the limbo, and ate chips, and drank soda, and I enjoyed myself, even though no one wanted me there. You know why? I told you — I was an asshole! I wanted that party! And what I want trumps what 28 people want me to do, especially when what they want me to do is leave. I had a great time. I did. And if I somehow ruined my classmates’ good time, then that’s on them. “How are you so confident?” “I’m an asshole!” Okay? It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time. And my mother and my father love me. They wanted the best life for me, and they didn’t know how to verbalize it. And I get it. I really do. They were better parents to me than they had themselves. I’m grateful to them, and to my fifth grade class, because if they hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now. [Dabs tears] If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable.”

Gabourey Sidibe made a choice – maybe not consciously at the time – to be happy, and to live her life the way she wanted, whatever the outside pressures or expectations. It’s not always easy but, in the absence of physical or mental illness, it is a choice I can keep on making until I die. No excuses.

To read Gabourey Sidibe’s entire speech, click here. Well worth it. (Again, thanks to Bonnie for sending us this).

 

 

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. Beautiful post. And beautiful picture!!! (I now know which one is you:) I tend to think a lot, even if I am a little younger, that the best part is behind me. The part without responsibilities, first but also the part where you are surrounded by young, optimistic, romantic people and not middle-aged grumps. At the same time, I am less anxious about the future and I enjoy my days more. I realise I am not technically “young” anymore when I suddenly started looking at trees, leaves and flowers and started feeling the real wonder of natural things. When you’re young you look at yourself, not at the world. So…it’s not only a matter of age:)

    May 19, 2014
    |Reply
    • I actually love the part that is less focussed on “me” and more open to the outside world – I think it’s one of the great advantages of getting older. Anyway, got my period, the hormones shifted and I regained my good mood. I keep on blaming my hormones and it looks like I am partly right!

      May 19, 2014
      |Reply
      • winston moreton
        winston moreton

        Quite a post and with bonus comments
        I knocked off Mt Kili in my 60th year almost a decade ago and yesterday came off the Great NZ Walk known as the Heaphy Track. With age and the space which comes with it one can indulge in so many things. Apropos “me” the photo caption should read “Sofagirl and me!” 🙂
        # wishfulthinking

        May 21, 2014
        |Reply
        • Ok, ok, I get it. I have twenty blissful years ahead of me in which to conquer the part of the world I haven’t conquered yet. You are all worse than my mother, not allowing me to wallow in my self-pity. But I do, I really do, appreciate reading about all the positives of growing old. Above all, I love how you all keep me on my toes. And I am deeply impressed by your climbing achievements – which I wouldn’t have mastered at 30…(grammar point taken – will fix it – you know, still a foreigner)

          May 21, 2014
          |Reply
  2. Hello! you are all wittering on about being 50….poof, 50 thats young! Try being me, 64 in two months time. The number is irrelevant. We ALL go through all these different ages, let’s not make a drama about it. Life is for living. Gabourey Sidibe’s attitude is absolutely right. Accept what you are – each age has its own highs and lows (and the thought of being seventeen again makes me shudder though I enjoyed it at the time). There is a wonderful poem by Robert Browning (presumably written for his great love Elizabeth Barret Browning) which has the lines:
    “Grow old along with me,
    The best is yet to be..”

    That is my mantra…!

    May 16, 2014
    |Reply
    • My 62 year old friend B gave me a lot of flak for writing that post! As a matter of fact, many people did. In case I needed reminding how lucky I am. But, as Jackie Mellon pointed out, it takes one feeling to recognize the other. And you and B and my friend Jeannie (right now volunteering in Uganda at 62) are my role models!

      May 16, 2014
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    • Love it – and you are right. We are wittering on. Haven’t heard that phrase for ages. xx

      May 19, 2014
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  3. That is a great piece. You got it, it is our decision if to be happy and enjoy life or look at the negative side of it. It does not depend on anybody or anything else! Always keep the spirits up!

    May 15, 2014
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    • Thank you Luciana. You are actually an inspiration – like my mother, you are one most positive people I have ever met!

      May 15, 2014
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  4. I turned 50 a while back and it was a big number to swallow at first. I had a pity party and I tried to find some medication that would adjust my real age to the picture in my head. Then the big birthday happened and against all odds I felt excited. It’s just a new chapter and I am loving it. My fun is not over..neither is yours! Just adjust the image in your head..if I may say so!

    May 15, 2014
    |Reply
    • When I was about to turn 50, I also felt dismayed but then I gave myself a birthday bash in Italy and, while in Rome with Sue, this blog was born. Last night I went out with a friend who got mad at me for writing this post and, like you, she reminded me that the fun is far from over. Here is to hoping! Thank you!

      May 15, 2014
      |Reply
  5. Go Gabby! That’s the spirit. We all have our slumps though, even Ms Sidibe, I think these periods must be lived and experienced and immersed in just as much as the joyful times. You need to have seen one to recognize the other.

    May 14, 2014
    |Reply
    • I agree. I am actually pretty good at embracing sadness but I have a slight tendency to melodrama – not exactly one of my best sides.

      May 14, 2014
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  6. Maybe I’m still a dreamer, but I think it’s only going to get better–for both of us! 🙂 I look forward to our writing endeavors paying off and each of us living in a cute house in the Mediterranean with our husbands; we’ll be writing while they tend to the vineyards and sheep.

    May 14, 2014
    |Reply
    • Can you see my husband with sheep? But he will be outside, smoking a pipe, reading the history of the world or something…

      May 14, 2014
      |Reply

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