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Passion

Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Passion

PLEASE, Don’t Have a Nice Day!

Not my line. I would never say that to you. It wouldn’t be consistent with my temperament to say it, at least not seriously…jokingly, I could and might, but probably wouldn’t, at least not out loud!

But it is consistent with the character Shirley MacLaine plays in the movie, Last Word. In fact, this sassy, at times abrasive, old woman gets away with saying whatever comes to her mind, apparently throughout her whole life…until, she realizes she is in the final stage of life and is probably going to be remembered in a way that isn’t very complimentary, even by the people she cares about the most. So, then she sets out to change her legacy. The movie unfolds this process with a few surprises and a lot of heart.

Funny how this Gran Finale stage-of-life puts things into a different perspective! How will I be remembered is a question that pops up unprovoked at strange and curious moments. It’s a bit startling, and even haunting at times, capable of lingering in the back of our minds like a threatening rain cloud. I suspect this question is the reason I compulsively attempt to keep my underwear drawer cleaned out!

But the power of this line, in my opinion, is the follow up. “Please don’t have a nice day” Ms. MacLaine says, “Have a day that matters. Have a day that’s true, a day that means something.”

I live where the motto is Minnesota Nice. It’s a way of life to behave and be nice. But really, more often than not, it’s a way to be dishonest, to not voice our real feelings or opinions, to say what we deem is good manners whether or not it’s true. And “keeping the peace at all costs” often hinders us from learning how to be honest while being civil, kind and respectful at the same time.

My husband and I were standing in an exhibit tent in our neighborhood park during the annual art fair last summer, when a couple next to us turned to leave the tent and said to the vendor, “have a nice day”. The vendor turned to us and asked, “what is it with you Minnesotan’s always telling people what kind of day to have? What if I don’t want to have a nice day? What if I want to have a terrible, rotten, no good, horrible day?” He chuckled, quite amused at himself  but seemed to want agreement from us. So, my hubby obliged, “Yeah, I know what you mean! Sometimes it’s just no fun to have a nice day!” And the vendor kept it going with great glee, “And for sure, I don’t want someone telling me what to do with MY day!”

A fun exchange, and it left me with a bit of food-for-thought. What am I saying when I wish you to have a nice day? I want you to avoid calamity, to live in peace and be well. That’s the truth. That’s what I wish for you. And what’s in it for me if you do? I will be able to walk away from you and live my own life in peace without needing to deal with your crankiness, your illness, your need. I did my part by wishing you well. Easy.

But having a day that matters and one that is true and meaningful is a different story. It’s a lot harder than having a nice day. It requires me to be real. It requires me to be aware and receptive, to be open and generous.

How do I do it?

I do it by starting the day with gladness for another chance to get out of bed and see the sun rise, for a sweet dog who needs me and a husband who likes to be with me, for a cup of good coffee and a day with no schedule, open for possibilities.

 

How about you? How do you have a day that matters, is true and meaningful?

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Passion

One Easy Way to Kill Your Passion

I write. I write because I like to write. I write because I love words and ideas. I write because I want to connect with whomever reads what I write. I like feeling connected to a bigger world than mine. But I even like to write when no one reads what I write. I just have a passion for writing!

There are many other women my age who also like to write. I didn’t know this until I started writing for vibrantoldwoman.com and began searching the internet for resources about aging and retirement. Then I discovered there’s a lot of Vibrant Old Bloggers out there!

And I read every one of them I find. Some of them are really funny. Some of them are very practical with lots of good how-to’s and advice.  Some of them have thousands of followers and subscribers. All of them leave me entertained, inspired, challenged…and questioning…and threatened…and doubting of myself.

When I began discovering these other blogs, I started a running conversation with myself, very privately in my head.  I asked myself how they were able to get so many readers? And then tried to answer myself. Maybe I should try to be funny, maybe I should follow a how-to, 1-2-3-kind of format, maybe I should not be so spiritual, maybe my titles need to be pithier, or my design updated, or maybe I should copy their web design. Wow! Maybe I don’t know what I am doing! Maybe I should go to Blog School ( is there one?).

When my turmoil finally reached the boiling point, the private conversation became more open and I talked it over with my friend…Had she read any of the other blogs in my demographic? Did she realize how many there were? How did she think I compared? Did she think my blogs were worth reading? Should I try to be funny? Were my topics relevant? What do I need to change?

Meanwhile, the joy of writing my blog began to fade a bit. I found I had less to write about and started second-guessing my ideas. I found I had a sense of the “other blogger’s” presence as I wrote. They seemed to be looking over my shoulder. I felt a pressure I hadn’t had before. Consequently I began to accumulate a lot of unfinished drafts and fewer published pieces. My passion and motivation waned.

Thankfully, my friend is not only honest but also wise. After listening patiently, reading many blogs about aging that don’t apply to her, she gently said, “Stop it! Stop reading other bloggers and do your own…or don’t do it. No one wants to read a repeat of someone else’s writing. Stop comparing yourself. Just be you!”

I began  by noticing differences and learning and slowly slipped into “checking out the competition” and feeling threatened. How easy it is to get thrown off our course by comparing ourselves to someone else and then attempting to emulate the other, even if only in small ways. Fads and social norms get started like this!

I see another woman with grey hair, about my age, and she is wearing adorable leggings with a bright colored tunic, and suddenly I find myself longing for leggings and a tunic…or my retired neighbors are leaving on a senior cruise with Road Scholar and soon I find myself thumbing through the offerings trying to figure out if we can afford a similar cruise…or stories of retirees “going South as Snowbirds” and hearing a still-small-inner-voice saying “you should” too…and of course, EVERYONE must have a “Bucket List” they are working on before they die and I  feel the pressure. And what about grand parenting? It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other grandparents do with their grandkids and come up short. Don’t all good grandma’s bake amazing apple pies, cook lavish Thanksgiving dinners, and make beautiful scrapbooks? (Not me!)

Comparisons, by nature, usually imply one is better than the other. Someone comes out less-than the other. Holding equal value for “the same only different” is much more difficult but it’s where real freedom and joy is found.

These are my Gran Finale years. I want to live them as authentically me as possible without comparisons. There is no one grading me, no one watching. I am freer than I’ve ever been. I can create my own rhythm each day and release my own peculiar passion…or I can trap myself with my own adolescent-like comparisons and strive to compete or be someone I’m not.

My heart sings loudest when I keep the quiet rhythm of my daily tasks and write. It’s a good day when I write what’s on my mind, to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, and whether you read every word or not. But I do it just because that’s what I love to do.

Vibrancy of spirit depends on freedom to be myself, do what I am passionate about, and live the life that fits me best…no comparisons.

“Today you are You.

That is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is Youer than You.  -Dr. Seuss

Know what I mean?

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