Thursday, March 28, 2013
SOLC 2013 Day 28: To widen the circle...or begin to circle the wagons
I was not enthused about turning eighteen. For weeks leading up to that milestone birthday, I would lie awake at night and unsuccessfully try to quell my fears over becoming an adult. Being a grownup did not equate to freedom for me; instead, it meant huge responsibilities. Deciding where to go to college and what to study, managing money and bills, becoming an informed citizen so I could make an educated vote in the ballot booth that fall...it all seemed daunting, not carefree and fun as many of my friends saw eighteen to be. I literally cried over the loss of legal childhood status, and the only thing that snapped me out of it was getting snow for my birthday, an unusual event for March in El Paso, Texas. For whatever reason, it lightened my mood enough to get me out of my funk and let me celebrate.
When I turned forty, I was over the moon. I was in a good place; my family was strong, I was in good health, and I was happy in my job. My life was fairly in balance. I felt gratitude for many people in my life and the experiences they had shared with me, and so I wrote forty letters to both the living and the dead to thank them. I bought flowers for myself every month that year. Above all, I finally felt empowered. I had lived through all that decision-making as an eighteen year old. I had graduated from college, held a few jobs, married a wonderful man, borne children, buried a parent. I had lived through losses and gains, and not just in my pants size. I finally felt like I had enough life experience to completely own my opinions. Don't get me wrong--my thirst for knowledge is still huge--but I knew that I had something to contribute, too.
What does this have to do with widening circles or gathering the wagons? As I get older, I love the fact that my circles are widening, both in learning and influencing. I have reconnected with old friends and made new ones, and their numbers span the globe. The world wide web has opened up a treasure trove of information and connections with others that excites me to no end.
But when I find myself up against opinions that are so diametrically opposite, I am quick to entertain the thought of circling the wagons. And I'm not talking politics; as long as you appreciate the freedoms we have in this country, I'll pleasantly (and passionately) debate opposing views without crying foul on our friendship. When it comes to matters of social justice and equality, when others' opinions weigh down my heart because they smack of discrimination, or blame and shame on victims--that's when I entertain thoughts of backing out of their circles. But then I question myself; am I being too judgmental? Should I seek to understand the others' opinions, and continue to try to maintain the connections? Can I just agree to disagree on these matters and move on? Or should I follow a popular line of advice to surround myself with those who lift my spirits and add joy to my life, forgetting the rest, because life is just too short for more drama?
So much for being the self-assured forty-something...guess it's back to being eighteen again.