settle for more

Settle for More (April 1, 2015)

A friend and I were chatting one night, catching up on things and the conversation turned to our usual wistful, wishful discussion of how life was really going.

You know, the real conversation that occurs when we get beyond the superficial stuff.

And once we had the stuff about our hair, makeup, latest diet out of the way, we got down to the nitty gritty.

“How are you? Really?” we asked each other.

When you’ve been friends a while you know there are often things that go unsaid.

“I just thought,” she began, “I don’t know…that life would somehow be….”

Her voice trailed off.

I understood exactly what she meant.

Different. She thought by the time she hit 40, life would be different.

More settled, more secure.

More exciting, more fabulous.

I had thought so myself.

In fact, when I was younger, I thought by the time I hit my 40’s – which, when I was younger, I thought was some ancient age – I would have acquired all the success I could handle and would be sitting somewhere, content with life.

No, I wasn’t drinking, either. I was in my late teens when I had this delusion.

A professor once told me frustration is when our expectations and our realities are not jelling.

If that is the case, consider me frustrated.

Make that a lot of us.

When I graduated college, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do.

I was going to do great things, set the world on fire.

I see that hope, inspiration, motivation in young people now when they graduate, thinking it will be them that change the world.

But life happens.

Not that life is bad.

It’s not – life has a wonderful, beautiful way of putting us where we need to be sometimes.

It’s just that somehow along the journey, we realize we get off track towards our hopes and dreams.

Those things we thought we’d achieve, do, accomplish – the great American novel, the rock n’ roll album, the wild, crazy dreams – never get fulfilled.

And we settle for things that are far less than those dreams.

We settle for jobs that pay the bills instead of feed our souls.

We settle for situations that really don’t make us happy.

We settle for lives of quiet desperation, fueled by unfulfilled dreams that leave us yearning for things we think are so out of reach.

The great secret, I told my friend, was that really no one’s life has gone the way they wanted – for the most part, anyway. There may be a few that did but more than likely, they all had something that wasn’t perfect, some area of their life that didn’t turn out quite how they wanted.

“And that doesn’t mean life is bad,” I reminded her. “It just means that sometimes, we get sidetracked from our dreams. We stop focusing on what we want, and we just…”

“Settle,” we said in unison.

Someone posed the question in a group over the weekend: “What would you like to change about your life?”

I thought long and hard before I responded.

Other than having some issues with forgiveness or my inability thereof, I wouldn’t change anything.

Sure, there were mistakes. I learned from them.

Yes, there were opportunities I didn’t take that would have been really, really incredible – and would have maybe given something more substantial towards retirement than the $1.75 I have lingering somewhere.

And sure, a lot the experiences and circumstances brought heart ache, disappointment, and made me feel devastated. They didn’t all get me closer to my dreams, or even put that much money in my bank account.

But they all made me me.

Just like the detours and experiences in my friend’s life had made her beautifully her.

We had grown up and thought we deserved the mediocre jobs and the fake relationships.

We thought we deserved to be talked to harshly and treated poorly and even worse, thought it was okay.

“So how do we change this?” she asked. We both were out of wine and the conversation had gotten far more serious than Malbec can handle.

“We settle again,” I said, hearing her sigh. “But this time, we settle for more.”

We start acting like we do deserve better and go after it with the same optimism and foolish belief we can do anything we set our minds to. We take the life we have, and we make it the very best it can be.

Because just because life doesn’t turn into the fairy tale we thought it would be, doesn’t mean it is still not something amazing.

If I had known then what I know now (12/18/2013)


I turn 41 this week.

Tomorrow actually.

All I can say is, I hope this coming year brings better things than this last year – 40 was a total bust. Of course, I blame Jennifer Aniston for the great 40 let down. She made it look effortless and graceful and of course, looked better at 40 than she did at 20.

This past year had been one full of loss, heartache and great personal disappointment. I had lost three beloved dogs within a month, and half a dozen people I had considered friends.

Losing the dogs still hurts— the so-called friends, not so much.

“What do you want for your birthday?” Mama asked.

“For it and this year to be over,” was my reply.

I had thought life – my life, that is – would be so much different by the time I hit my 40s.

Of course, I thought that same thing when I turned 30 and thought I was having a mid-life crisis. I hadn’t accomplished the things I thought I should have by 30, so what did I do? I whacked my hair off and had a pity party.

What did I do this year? Whacked my hair off and had an even bigger pity party.

Those turn of the decade birthdays seem to really fry my tater.

“Too bad you can’t time travel, you could always go back and do stuff differently,” was Cole’s advice one day.

Hmm. There’s a thought.

If I could travel back in time, I thought what I would tell a younger me: Don’t buy cheap shoes. Ever. They may look cute but after about an hour, you will be cussing, crying and bleeding.

Don’t smoke. Yes, I smoked. It was my dirty little secret that only a few close to me knew about. I am now battling the wrinkles around my mouth as bad as Laura Bush’s. I don’t care who told me one day I looked glamorous sitting outside of the coffee shop, with my hair up and sunglasses on, it was gross and smelly and icky.

Don’t ever let some boy dictate what you do with your life and determine the choices you make. Unless it’s a boy you carried for nine months and gave birth to. Enough said.

Get that Master’s degree, go to law school, medical school – whatever advanced degree you want to do while you are young. Especially when living at home with Mama and she’s paying the chunk of your bills. If Mama says she will help support you as long as you’re in school, take her up on it! You are never too old to learn or go back to school, but it makes it much easier if you do it when you’re younger and have more tolerance for the buckjiving.

Find the jobs with the benefits and the perks and don’t be so quick to quit. Or as a former boss said “no more job-hopping for you!” If I had stayed at some of my earlier jobs, I would have over 15 years vested and maybe have one of those mysterious 401(k) thingys.

Don’t ever get a credit card. I don’t care if you tell yourself you will only use it in emergencies. Clinique Bonus Time seems like an emergency as does 30 percent off of boots.

Love the people and pets in your life and be mindful of the things you say to them. One day, they won’t be here and you will be left with regret for what you did or didn’t say. All the times I fussed about the dogs being on my side of the bed, I regret. I would cry happy tears to find my pillow covered with fur or drool or any mixture thereof again.

I know she’s crazy, I know she drives you crazy and was one of the reasons you smoked, but listen to your Mama. She is one of the few people, if not the only person, who has your back and loves you and is looking out for you.

All those things I just wrote, they’re things she had told me, but I never listened because I thought she was silly or wrong or just trying to control me. Had I listened, those decade launching birthdays may not have been so difficult to face.

Mama was usually right, just don’t ever tell her that or you will never hear the end of it.

As I thought of the things I would tell a younger me, Cole’s question broke my reverie: “But wait…if you traveled back in time, I may not be here right? One little different thing could change the course of destiny forever.”

Which brought me back to what I knew – no matter the mistakes, even the super-foolish, the beyond ridiculous, the ones that made me even question my sanity, I didn’t regret one bit of it.

Sure, there’s things I coulda shoulda woulda done differently. But I wouldn’t change one second if it didn’t put me right where I was, at that moment, looking at that precious face.

“Very true, young grasshopper,” I said. “But I also believe that things eventually end up just the way they are supposed to.”

And I do. Somewhere beyond 40, things will end up the way they should.