Letters to Women

Learned Lessons from One Woman to Another

Month: May, 2014

Life

The greatest burden in life is knowing that you will die.  It is my greatest fear.  I have no idea what happens after. Religion and science are at odds when it comes to death.  I watched a woman die last year.  I was a hospice volunteer, and the woman I was visiting died while I was there.  I didn’t even realize she had died at first.  Being present at the moment of death is a transforming experience.  It raised religious doubts I had suppressed for years.  I’m still struggling with them, but something more tangible came from that night.

 Seeing a person die deepened my understanding of life.  In one breath it’s over.  Finished. It made me question the decisions I was making.  Was I listening to myself?  How was I reacting and interacting with the world I have been given? Months passed before I was able to process all this.  Hell, I’m still processing it.  But one thing is certain.  The way I view the world is different.  I am a human being.  Capable of inflicting pain on others and myself.  I am also able to contribute something to my environment.  Myself.  I choose to make that contribution a positive one.  It is a work in process.  And when my day comes, I hope to feel complete in my decisions.  We all want to imagine that death is a far off concept.  It is how we stay sane.  There is no benefit to dwelling on death.  The real focus should be on living. Life by definition is the capacity for growth and continual change.  The saying goes ‘live each day as though it’s your last’.  I disagree.  Live each day as though it is your first.  Grab hold of it and never let go. 

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Liberate

A few years ago I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that it was okay to go out and do things by myself. Now, this may not seem like an epiphany. In fact, it’s one of those things that we all know to be true, but when push comes shove, do we really believe it in our core? I didn’t, until after college. My college boyfriend and I had broken up two weeks before graduation, my friends were heading back to their respective hometowns and I was left alone. At first, I stayed home most nights and weekends. I didn’t want to go places alone. It was a scary prospect. Then something miraculous happened. The realization came that if I did not go out and do the things that I wanted to do, I never would. Again, sounds like common sense right? But think about it. Take a moment and think about all the times you’ve stayed home or decided to do something less fun because no one was available to join you. All that time adds up. That time equals the life that you wanted for yourself. So spend it doing what you want. I made a promise to myself at that time to never let my own fear keep me from doing something I truly desired.

In the time since that decision I have gone on vacation, tried new restaurants and bars, visited local festivals, seen movies and more, alone. And I’ve had a great time doing it. I know I’ve previously written about the importance of living on your own, especially as a woman, but the ability to go out on your own is equally vital to becoming an individual. You no longer need to abide by anyone’s schedule but your own. It’s liberating! Want to see a live comedy show? Go! No one’s free to check out that band playing Saturday? Their loss. Your gain. There’s a commercial currently using the slogan “life opens up when you do” and it’s absolutely true. Don’t close yourself off in your apartment/room/house. Open yourself to experiences that interest you.

I’m aware that this can be an intimidating proposition for many of you, so let me give you some suggestions on how to start out small and build your way up to full-fledged solo experiences like traveling. For starters, the best way to ease into it is to check out a local coffee shop. It’s great. You can get your regular cup of coffee, bring a book and just sit and read while enjoying your caffeine fix. This is great if you’re wary of interacting with strangers. The book keeps you engaged while you’re out partaking in the world around you. For more of a time commitment, you can choose a seat at the bar at any restaurant. Again, you could bring a book, or if you’re feeling up to it, you can engage the bartender or fellow patrons. It’s all at your comfort level. I know it can be scary at first, but like anything, it gets easier. I promise.

Once you’ve decided that you don’t need anyone to go with you places, you’re free. No barriers stand between you and experiencing all that life has to offer. So go on that brewery tour, check out that festival, or get a cup of coffee at that café you’ve been eyeing. It’s a brave new world and so are you…so what are you waiting for?

Naysayer

No one ever tells you just how difficult life will be.  At least, no one ever told me.  And even if they had, would I have believed them?  Probably not.  Sure, TV shows and movies give you an idea that life is not all sunshine and gumdrops, but the one thing you’re never quite prepared for are the naysayers.  You know who I mean.  The people who say you can’t do it, that you won’t succeed, that you aren’t cut out for it; whatever ‘it’ is.  And so, as an adult, you encounter these ‘negative Nancy’s’ one at a time, but sometimes, you let them win, because it’s easy.  You give up, give in, or convince yourself that whatever it was isn’t what you want anymore.  Most of the time however, you’re strong enough to just tune them out.  But sometimes, that voice is a bit closer to home. That’s when it’s the worst; when the voice telling you that you can’t make it, is your own.  Whether it related to your career, an athletic endeavor or relationship; we’ve all been there.  We’ve all won some of those battles and lost some. 

There were people who told me that I was entering a male dominated field of study but I didn’t let that deter me.  Every time someone told me I couldn’t do something, it made me work that much harder to prove them wrong.  As easy as it was, and is, for me to rally my energy against an external force; it’s that much harder to do the same when I am the one telling myself I can’t/I shouldn’t/I’ll fail.  I quit a lot of activities back when I was in High School.  It wasn’t until I graduated from college and started to listening to myself that I began to follow things through to the conclusion that I had envisioned at the start. 

The ability to listen to yourself and trust your judgment is one of the greatest lessons you can ever learn.  I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m certainly not claiming to have mastered it.  What I am claiming however, is that you will feel stronger than you ever have, if you don’t give in to yourself.  That little inside voice filling your head with negativity will only grow if you don’t stamp it out.  Don’t be your own obstacle; there are enough of those in life already.  Stay positive.  Remember the passion and energy that got you started in the first place.  Don’t lose sight of that.  It’s your greatest weapon against your greatest enemy; yourself.   Replace “I can’t” with “I WILL”, because it’s true.  Believe in the power you already possess and you will succeed.  I promise.