Wednesday, December 4, 2013

For the Better

As I focused on the negative changes in my psyche in my last post (so many thoughtful and wise comments by the way!), I would like to dwell a bit on the positives. And yes, I noticed that some of these are contradictory to what I discussed yesterday, I am complex.

I really have noticed myself maturing in the past few years. This may seem a little late to some of you, given that I'm in my mid-to-late 30s (where are those cut-offs anyways, I guess I just reached the last quarter of my 30s last week, so late-30s it is). But I definitely extended my young-adult status by schooling and training forever (until I was 33. Or 35 if you count the Masters), marrying late (29), and having children late (33 and 35). Here's a few things I've noticed that I consider improvements:

Empathy. I used to be quick to judge on the basis of one decision or action. I'm much more likely to look for all sides of the story now, to realize that most everyone is struggling with something whether it is apparent on the surface or not. When I think about all that goes into a decision or behavior, the past, present, and future that is held within each of our minds and hearts, it is easier to understand how one may choose differently than me...and still be a good, reasonable, intelligent person. I also don't let my own mood be ruined by others' rudeness the way I used to; telling myself that there may be a good reason behind it helps me let it go and move on. Being able to put myself into someone else's shoes makes my job both easier and harder (oh the tears I can barely hold back with some sad patient circumstances).

Confidence in my choices. After years of trying desperately to fit in, I've decided to forge my own way. It's not that I never care what others think. But I care a lot lot less. I don't have a smidgeon of guilt or insecurity about the vast majority of my parenting choices or many other lifestyle choices that I've made. I will freely admit I don't like things the majority of the world seems to love or that I love things that are so uncool they are not even cool in an ironic way.

Owning it.  This may be a big "duh" for most of you, but the notion that I control my own happiness was a game changer. For years my happiness was dependent on some combination of life circumstances, which was a very passive (and shallow) mindset. I expected to suddenly "be happy" when all these things came together (they didn't, I wasn't). To realize that I could make myself happier by changing my mindset and even certain behaviors was extremely empowering. Parallel to this, I also realized that I was not in charge of anyone else's happiness nor could I change them by sheer force of will.

Efficiency (and experience). At work and at home, I find the straightest point from A to B and get. it. done. Done is better than perfect. I can knock out a grant proposal,  a patient encounter and a casserole faster than I could've imagined. I don't fret the details, I prioritize the big things and gloss over the rest.

Satisficing It used to be well known in certain circles that Ana could not make a decision to save her life. No more. Any reasonable solution will do. We spent 15 minutes hashing out paint colors for our entire house this weekend because I just went with G's suggestions---they were fine. When we originally painted? Weeks of angst and perusing magazines and multiple trips to the store to look at swatches. My kids' wardrobes are purchased in 15 minutes online each season. (my clothes take way longer, because I enjoy shopping). Where to go to brunch? One of the two places we've been to 5 times last year. I'd rather BE at brunch eating my home fries than waste 45 minutes looking up every available brunch spot in town and hem and haw over the menu, the kid-appropriateness of it, the cost.

Gratitude This somewhat relates to the first two points, but I do realize how very lucky I am in all aspects of life. I no longer envy other people for anything they have or achieve, because I have and have achieved so much.

Focus on the present. Now that I'm no longer looking to "when this happens", I am much better able to revel in the present. Sure, I look forward to the future, but I also realize that these years right here? This is good stuff. I couldn't exactly say that as an adolescent or a 20-something trying to find her way. Because what I was waiting for? Was this.

So, while I may wish I could regain some of the carefree, spontaneous, laughter-filled attitude of my youth, I'm also pretty excited about the good stuff up ahead.


  1. Yes, there's lots of good stuff in this post and lots to look forward to up ahead.

    Balance, I've found, in all things, is key. You take the bad with the good and it all evens out. Imagine how ungrateful we'd be if we never failed, never struggled, never gained perspective about how far we'd come?

  2. All good things! And yes, caring less about small things seems to be one of the best parts of getting older...

  3. These are all wonderful qualities and ones I wish I had more of! And I think we're all contradictory (um, complex) sometimes.

    I cannot imagine being in school until I was 35, though! I loved college, but during my Masters I couldn't wait to be done forever.

  4. i seriously could have written this. except for the satisficing part - never had to transition, born satisficer here :)

  5. I was old(er) when I became a parent (36), and even older when I married (37), and I've noticed many of the same changes that you have noticed. Except the satisficing- that's something I still need to work on. :)

  6. These are some really admirable, beautiful things. I applaud you for taking some time to think through them. It's nice to know that even if we're getting older, at least we're getting something from it, huh?

  7. There you are! Now I recognise you.
    Honestly now, how can you reconcile responsibility and maturity with giggling haplessly over some stupid shit? Of course, there ARE moments when one suddenly reverts to adolescence and collapses in fits of laughter, but thank god they are often enough to rememebr how it hurts to laugh so much, and seldom enough to not be qualified as loony.