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What do You Really Want now that You’re Almost Old?

June 15, 2011

Photo by D Sander

The only way to get what you really want is to let go of what you don’t want. ~ Iyanla Vanzant

Getting what we want in life not only seems possible when we are young, but inevitable. Even in my darkest moments I believed with utter fervor and commitment that if I worked hard enough, did the right things, and followed the right path, I would have a fulfilling and meaningful life. I knew it would not be perfect, but it would be good enough.

Little did I know that I would be trapped by a mindset, passed down for generations, that would keep me bound and guided by forces that I could not see. Driven by a combination of habit, ego, and an immature idea of love and caring, I plowed through the first half of my life as if my days on earth were endless. Though that may sound extreme, it is crystal-clear to me (now that I have really “come of age”), that life is not what it seems when we are young!

When I woke up from a life, that upon reflection seems like a bad dream, I was nearly paralyzed by the awareness that in spite of the fifty years of effort and determination I was no nearer my original destination than I had been thirty years earlier. I felt as though I had wasted my life and that I had given it all away, keeping very little for myself.

My immediate response was to announce to myself and to anyone who would listen, “I’m done doing for everyone else. I’m done living my life for my children, my parents, my husband, my friends, my animals, my job! It’s time for me!” Those who bothered to listen undoubtedly heard the panic in my voice, and heard what I was really saying, “I’m running out of time! I need to pick up the pace!”

It has been almost ten years since my “mid-life crisis”. I still battle some of the same false beliefs that had pre-programmed my life, but the battle is fought with a little more wisdom…and compassion. One of  my most important lessons can be summed up by the quote by Lyanla Vanzant. “The only way to get what you really want is to let go of what you don’t want”.  We cling tenaciously to so many things in life, many of which have no real meaning or purpose in the overall scheme of things. These “things” keep us trapped, bound, and unhappy, whether they are material possessions, jobs, ideas or concepts.

The “letting go” is not always simple, or easy, and it isn’t a once and done kind of thing. In order to find a life of joy and meaning we must let go, over and over again. It is the only way to keep moving forward toward the life we were meant to live. The minute we begin to cling to something that does not bring joy and meaning to our lives, we can be certain that we are going away from our true selves instead of toward them. What drives us then is not passion but fear or insecurity. As we cling tenaciously to what we are doing, we use up the emotional and practical space we need available for something better. Sometimes we heap another layer on top trying to kill the pain and discomfort of living our wrong choices, by dousing ourselves in alcohol, material things, vacations, a new romance and a myriad of other escape tools. By filling our days with placebos, from the hedonistic to quasi-spiritual, we simply muffle our fear and accomplish only temporary escape from a life of true joy and inner peace.

Gradually, one by one, day by day, we can let go of those things that do not make us happy and create space for those things that do. If you do not know what to put in the empty space, consider embracing the silence. Sit with the discomfort. You will discover new and exciting possibilities that lie in wait just beyond your current awareness. They will move in to fill the void when you are ready.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2011 8:32 pm

    I really enjoyed this story. Letting go has been a practice in my life for some time. It is not always easy but for enter peace it is necessary. Grown children are the hardest but there are times that we even have to do this. To remain in a state of fear where we have no control wastes moments of our precious life. Thank you for your story. I hope that you visit my blog and I will be looking forward to reading more of your valuable insite.

    • January 22, 2011 8:49 pm

      Thanks for stopping by! You have some wonderful thoughts and insights and I will look forward to reading your blog. Life is an ever evolving process, isn’t it!

    • Estela permalink
      January 23, 2011 9:05 pm

      loved this story. Thank you for sharing your wisdom It is difficult to let go of things or relationships that are not fulfilling. We need more spiritual mothers around .

  2. January 22, 2011 10:31 pm

    Its amazing how our mindset changes like a light switch was turned on when we reach a certain age but then we still hold tight to the things that got us to the wrong place.

    I enjoyed, Thank you!

  3. January 22, 2011 11:48 pm

    Hey Scott! So glad you stopped by! Always welcome your thoughts and insights. D

  4. January 23, 2011 1:17 am

    You got me thinking about the mental energy I give to my fears and worries vs my desires and happy places! Nicely written with a wonderful use of the quote.

  5. January 23, 2011 7:27 pm

    Great post, Dorothy! I’ve been going through a metamorphosis of my own where I’m letting go of the stuff that really has no meaning to me.

    Every 20-year-old needs to read this! 🙂

    • January 23, 2011 7:36 pm

      The problem with 20-year-olds is that they don’t think they need to read this! 🙂 Thanks for your comment Karen. DS

  6. Caroline permalink
    June 15, 2011 9:01 pm

    Thank you so much for this essay. I, too, am aware that I’ve still got a long way to go to become the woman I’m meant to be. It’s the ‘letting go’ that’s so difficult, mostly because most of the time I’m not even aware of what I’m holding on to! Life is tough. Life can also become so satisfying and beautiful and that’s what I’m aiming for.

    Best of luck to all of us!

    • June 15, 2011 9:46 pm

      I think the letting go is easier than we think it is ~ or at least easier than trying to force ourselves to do something we were not meant to do. Stepping back, taking a deep breath and listening to what we know is true for ourselves is a place to start. The answers that come may not come as quickly or as obviously as we would like, but they are there and finding them feels like a sigh of relief. Even on a day, like today, when I have more questions than answers, I believe that it is possible to feel connected with our true selves. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Caroline, and you are so right, we all in this together and sharing our thoughts and concerns here gives me hope. I hope it gives others hope as well.

  7. June 15, 2011 9:34 pm

    I think that you have to go with the flow and realize we cannot control all things. My dad passed away recently and he told me don’t stay at a job you hate, take trips while you are in good health and can hike if you need to, spend your time around people that you love. I am trying to heed this good advice.

    • June 15, 2011 9:50 pm

      Your Dad gave you wonderful advice. I am sorry for your loss. You must miss him terribly. Death teaches us the deepest meaning of letting go, often a heart wrenching lesson. I will always miss my parents but my perspective on myself has changed as a result of their passing. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  8. Ellen Rosenberg permalink
    June 17, 2011 12:43 am

    thank you for sharing your wisdom. I too have been on this new journey for about 10 years. My family called it a mid live crisis.. I knew i was not “in crisis”. I knew down to my toes that i was trying to find my way back to me. Along the way, i did let go of that which i no longer wanted, including some people. But because of my “travels” at a later time in my life, my grown children, 27 and 30, are better able to learn these lessons at an early time in their lives. That for me is a wonderful gift i have given them. Now heading into my 60th year of the gift of life, I skip lightly.. thank you again

    • July 25, 2011 8:07 am

      Ellen, it seems that you and I are passing into this marvelous decade together! Let’s compare notes as we go!

      Isn’t it wonderful to feel things down to your toes??!! To know that what you are doing is absolutely the right thing for you no matter what anyone else says? Those peek moments are the guideposts in life.

  9. June 28, 2011 5:51 pm

    this has been wonderful to read and try to soak in…..i recently lost my only Sister and feel quite lost at times…she was my mentor i am leaving my email…can someone please respond linda

  10. July 5, 2011 7:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I have come to the realization as well that after hitting the 50 mark, I am not only feeling some of the same things you mentioned, but also realizing there is an old saying that we should take time to smell the roses. Life starts to slow down, and when you actually slow down with it and think things through, you might actually make some good solid decisions. I had a big family that I ended up raising by myself due to not thinking things through or acting on something when I first felt like I had made a mistake and the result was lost time. Some people do not understand how I did it and it says something to me that I have been stronger than I give myself credit for. That is not to say that I did not make major mistakes that I have paid for as well or the struggles I might have in front of me as I rally to find the strength to forge on. I am trying currently to go back to school after only one semester in 30 years. I still have 2 young children at home and 5 who have half heartily left the nest…and keep dropping in….
    I wanted to thank you especially for the “letting things go” if they add nothing to the quality of our lives; a really valuable lesson here as it deals with regret and getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of life which sometimes is the very cause of us failing. As far as 20 year olds go and sharing this with them…I remember that I knew everything and felt that I had the world by the most of them feel now. I say that this is something we have earned and I get some comfort in knowing that there are stil some prescious gifts that come with age. Wisdom is priceless.

    • July 25, 2011 7:40 am

      Susan, thank you for your heartfelt response. You have had your hands full, and sounds like you still do! All of life is a lesson. We learn from each choice we make, each event that occurs, each person, place or thing that passes through our lives. It is in the living that we gain wisdom and it is indeed priceless. Good luck with school! How exciting for you!

  11. July 24, 2011 11:26 pm

    Your posts are truly wonderful. I identify with so much of what you write! Love your photo of the hydrangeas, by the way. My favorite flowers!

    • July 25, 2011 8:00 am

      Thank you Cindy! Every year I take dozens of pictures of the hydrangeas in my yard trying to capture their beauty. One of my shrubs I fertilize on one side with Miracid and the other side with Miracle-Grow. I love to see the combination of colors that result. This year I had a beautiful pink blossom with blue centers. Sadly I did not get a picture of it before it wilted. Flowers are one of life’s blessings that I would find hard to live without!

  12. Debby permalink
    August 29, 2011 12:25 pm

    Dorothy . . . Everything you’ve said makes sense and I’ve been simplifying too . . . making room to enjoy intellectual pursuits, swimming and the joy of solitude. I feel content with life and see beauty in so many things. I’m enjoying my fifties!

    Residing in Jacksonville, FL

  13. January 19, 2012 3:24 pm

    Yes. You said it so well. What do I want? I want to be me again!


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