Things it took me 50 years to learn

A few weeks ago it arrived.

I knew it was coming, but nothing prepares you for the day you open your mail box and…


There it is, your AARP card.


“Stuff” just got real.

Prior to this in your face reality check, I’d already been doing some serious reevaluating of my life after all of the stress, life circumstances, female issues, cancer scare and recovery from surgeries that slowly drew me away from the things that were important to me.

When faced with the possibility of ovarian cancer, my priorities became extremely clear to me. (honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me)

Some things would need to wait until I had recovered from surgery such as backpacking, hiking, cycling, running, etc…

Others, were easy fixes (OK, quitting my lousy, unfulfilling, high stress job working with miserable people when I thought I might have cancer was anything but easy, but I took the risk anyway) getting away from people with unhealthy habits/too much drama who had somehow migrated into my life when I became less physically active and getting serious again about what I was eating and drinking. (my forced sedentary lifestyle and inattention to my dietary habits whilst super stressed out and associating with those who ate like pigs and drank like fish on a daily basis created some weight gain which I worked really hard to get rid of)

I made art a priority in my life again and when I was physically able, dance… (dance, a life long love and art form for me, had been gone from my life since the marriage due to an extremely jealous husband)

The ceramics studio I’ve wanted my whole life… is now almost completely set up in the basement. I also found a new love of glass blowing (its’ a gritty Tacoma thing) and I’ve recently been considering singing again.

I’ve reclaimed virtually everything that was important to me sans one thing, my music-my fiddle and guitar. I learned late in life, despite the fact that everyone told me you can’t learn to play an instrument as difficult as the violin as an adult (I was 41) It was the instrument I was drawn to, I always picked that part out when listening to a musical selection, once I finally picked it up, it made sense (bonus, I actually have good intonation)

I was just moving to an intermediate level where I was beginning to perform. Then one of my band mates died tragically and I almost died in a car accident a few days later. Due to the fractured shoulder I sustained in that accident, I could not place the instrument on my shoulder (I did force myself through one final performance at Summer Solstice in honor of Michelle whilst heavily drugged on pain killers and grief).

Once the shoulder healed, I still had nerve damage and my fingers would not work correctly. Soon, I lost the muscle memory and then I lost the music in my head and the fiddle remained on the wall, a sad reminder of something I lost/gave up on.

The next time I started back up (even went back and took lessons) all the drama with my mothers illnesses, surgeries and suicide along with some bad work drama shut me down just as I was beginning to make progress. Then came buying, moving into and restoring the house, then came the health issues and cancer scare then recovering from all of that.

My last step of this process, the last stage is reclaiming my music and I will do it this time.

As 50 approached, I’d been talking to two of my dearest “biker scum” (aka cyclist) friends, Julie (just turned 53) and Leo (just turned 60) about a discussion they’d recently had about how you enter your 50’s sets the tone for the 2nd half of your life.

Their assertion is that the physical shape and mindset in which you enter your 50s sets the tone for the rest of your life.

I think they’re right.

In honor of turning 50, some good friends and I went on a hike. My first official act as a 50 year old was to climb a tree. (to those who know me well, this makes perfect sense)

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Part of the week long Lisa turns 50 celebration also involved running (the streets of Tacoma, in costume) with the Tacoma Runners, attending and throwing a Halloween party wearing an age inappropriate red riding hood costume with a very short skirt, and a 50 for 50 bike ride from Golden Gardens to the RedHook Brewery which still needs to be rescheduled due to weather.

Why yes, I am planning on being an extremely eccentric old lady, and I’m starting now. I come by it honesty enough, I like to joke that my maternal grandmother ran with wolves before it was fashionable to do so. Well into her 70’s she consorted with artists, writers and bohemians, keeping a sleeping bag in the back of her car for spontaneous trips to Baja; she lived alone in the desert collecting glass and digging for gemstones which she turned into works of art/jewelry.

One of the many joys of being 50 is that I don’t have to care as much about what people think I should be and do; I don’t have to worry so much about appearance. I know who I am and what I want.

Some people dread turning 50 (or 40 or 30) but for me, it’s freeing and empowering. It’s a time in my life where I can concentrate on things that are important to me.

Having been 50 for a few weeks now, I’ve had opportunity to look back at what I’ve learned (especially over the last year) and to honestly say that I think I’m in a pretty good place in my life. Yes, I’m damaged, a bit rough around the edges and will always be a work in progress (aren’t we all?) but I’m pretty happy with where I am and more importantly who I am right now.

So what has it taken me 50 years to learn? Way more than I could ever cover in a blog post or even a book, but I’m going to try to summarize some general highlights here:

Challenge yourself, try something new; step outside your comfort zone.

Take risks, big risks, small risks, take them; they help you feel alive! So what if you fail? you will have learned something and will not have those “what if” regrets (for me, stagnating and being unhappy is a much bigger failure than not trying)

Learn something. Read a book, sign up for a class, take up a new hobby, be interested in the world.

Don’t live in the past. Your past does not define you, it merely strengthens you. Learn from it, then move on and live in and enjoy the present.

LOVE, love freely. It does not have to be romantic love; there are all kinds of love; love for friends, family, pets, community…

If you are not happy with/by yourself, you won’t be happy in a relationship.

The saying that you “are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with” is true. Seek out those who are filled with passion, joy, inspiration and energy; those things are contagious (so are yucky things like negativity, jealousy, gossip, drama and being a perpetual victim)

If you don’t feel valued in a relationship, be it personal, romantic or business, it is not where you belong.

If you feel that you need to change to be loved/accepted, you are in the wrong place/situation/relationship.

If someone continually makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s not you, it’s them. RUN do not walk away.

Your body is your temple, treat it as such fill it with good food, regular exercise and adventure.

Be grateful. Every day, especially when you are sad. Think of at least one thing a day you are grateful for and say it out loud. You’d be amazed how this practice can change/improve your sense of well being.

Art, books and music are important to our sense of self, well being and the world around us.

Find some way to “give back” to the world; it doesn’t have to be an expensive or grand gesture. Sometimes the smallest kindness makes the biggest impact on someone’s life and world.

On a more personal note:

It is not my job to “fix” people. Yes, I grew up in an abusive alcoholic home and am a classic “care taker”. Put a fork in me, I’m done. Yes, I’m happy to help people in need and everyone has their bad times and needs support, but I’m done allowing myself to be treated badly/putting up with bad behavior because I somehow tied my self worth to taking care of others to my own detriment.

Being a martyr does not make me a better person. I’d like to think that I do at least one thing a day that in some way makes the world a better place or makes someone’s day a bit brighter. I don’t have to sacrifice myself and my happiness to be a good person. I deserve my own happiness and maybe, just maybe to have someone support my hopes/dreams/needs once in a while.

I am an artist, a bohemian I don’t necessarily think and act the same way everyone else in our society does (or has been told they are supposed to) and that’s OK. People can appreciate that, or they can go along their merry way. Trying to dress me up in high heels (ridiculous things for anything other than costuming) and makeup (which is fine for performances and special occasions, but really? Since when is it required to paint ones’ face in order to be able to be seen in public on a daily basis?) manicures, expensive hair treatments every two weeks, or stick me in a cubicle in the corporate world is like putting a wild creature in a small cage. Yes, I work hard, function in society and pay my mortgage, but that doesn’t make me the same as everyone else. I’m not only OK with that, I’m learning to embrace it.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention as of late to the people I am drawn to and why…

I was asking myself just the other day why I was not attracted in a romantic way to a gentleman who was a perfect match “on paper” but have found myself attracted to someone else who might fall outside of one or two of my self imposed “parameters”.

When I really cut it down to bare essence, there is a certain “spark” in a person that draws me to them… passion, joy, zest for living… a light in their eyes and on their face.

The people I want to be around (in all areas of my life), are those with that “spark”.

I hope to kindle that same spark within myself.


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