Wishing Our Lives Away

Remember how, during our school years, we couldn’t wait for summer? How we’d keep wishing time would move faster so we could get out of school and be able to sleep in late, play outside (the pre-technology days) and go on family vacations and all of the fun things we couldn’t do during the school year?

Remember how, during our senior high school years, we couldn’t wait for schooling just to be over? We wanted to turn “eighteen” – the magic age when we legally became adults and had rights?

Remember how (if we went to college) we couldn’t wait for weekends home and semester breaks?

Remember how, when we finally found “the one”, we couldn’t wait to get married and start sharing our new and proud adult life with another?

Back in the early days of life – as a child and as a young adult – we all tended to wish for time to move faster. We all wanted to rush on towards the next best thing that we’d laid out for our lives in our brain. Most of us imagined the spouse, the house with the white-picket fence, children, family pets, consistent paychecks that allowed us to pay our bills and buy more stuff. We didn’t think – to be honest, didn’t know – about the drudgery of daily life once we’d settled into being adult. For some, the picture turned out just like we’d imagined and for some, it did not – but either way, we stopped looking forward to the next best thing and let ourselves become slaves to the routine of the “thing” where we were. We became – most of us, anyhow – mature, responsible adults, doing what needed to be done in order to make our way successfully through whatever was put before us. What was put before us wasn’t some wish of something we’d looked forward to, but something that needed to be done in order to sustain ourselves exactly where we were.

And at some point, in our 40s or 50s, we started wishing time would pass again – this time to when we could retire from work and be allowed to have time to enjoy life as we wished again. Whether it was to travel, or garden, or just be lazy, we realized that adulthood wasn’t exactly the bright shining orb we’d wished ourselves into all of those years ago. We were at one time excited to earn money and thought it was the answer to fulfilling every dream and desire we had.

We were wrong.

We were wrong about a lot of things. But most of all, we were wrong seeing our future through rose-colored glasses when we were young. We didn’t know about the stress of mortgages or car loans, the costs of medical, home and vehicle insurances. We didn’t know how much of the money we worked for would be taken by the government instead of being in our paychecks.

And we didn’t know that we might possibly reach a time in our lives where the days would seem to drag on forever but the years would pass by far too quickly. We didn’t know that there was a possibility that, once we’d reached the ‘golden age’ of retirement, we might well not be physically capable of all of those things we thought we could do once our time was ours again. We become intent of making memories with our loved ones, because for all of us, our biological clocks begin ticking. Chronologically, we’ve somehow scraped and clawed our ways to the top of the hill and have started the downhill slide. All of those tangible things we craved in order to show ourselves and others our stature no longer take precedence if our physical stature prohibits us from enjoying them. The vacation home, the boat and jet skis, the planned trips around the country in our motorhome, the planned trips around the world to visit other cultures – all of them become the “work” in our lives that we craved while we were “working”.

And we stop – we stop wishing our lives away. We’re melancholy about turning the calendar over to the next month, wondering where that month went… wondering if we’d done anything constructive or created any lasting memories, or if we just let the days slip by to be filled with doctor’s appointments and errands like grocery shopping. If we have a bucket list, we occasionally look at it and see more things we’ve never done that we’re most likely never going to do.

When we get to this new age of enlightenment, we may finally understand why our elders told us not to “wish your life away”. We may also wonder why parents and grandparents weren’t more forthcoming and honest about what we could expect from life. To protect us, as children, their struggles were kept from our eyes and ears – and we remained clueless.

I heard someone lament recently about an approaching 32nd birthday and I had to bite my tongue. I’m tired of telling people in their 30s who complain about “being old” that they have no idea what “old” feels like. I wonder if it’s my duty to inform them – forewarn them – about what’s to come. I feel bad for them for feeling so “old” at that age (already).

But, we all got what we asked for. We spent all of those years wishing for time to fly by, looking forward to the next chapter in our life story. But here’s what I know about the story of life. We should read it from end to beginning. I know if I’d have seen this part of my life before I’d lived it, I’d sure have lived it differently!

Would you?

(P.S. I wrote this article because I’ve found myself wishing that time would fly again. Not for years, but for months. I’m ready to see the end of the political BS by a November election here in the US. I’m ready for the pandemic to have some solid move to overcoming.)

What is your happiest memory?

Readers: I know I haven’t been writing much lately, having given in to being a domestic goddess while the energy to do so is present. Of course, some of that time has been in the kitchen, but I’ve also been cleaning out closets and purging my life once again of unnecessary and meaningless objects. Most of it has been, however, doing a bit of organizing of what I am not willing to part with.

However, I was reading another’s blog which listed the 20 questions that you need to ask yourself – and answer – in order to promote self-awareness. Some of them made me struggle quite a bit! One would think that, at my ripe-old age, I’d have come higher to the peak of self-awareness than I am!

One of the questions that was asked was, “What is your happiest memory?” Again, at my ripe-old age, I have a plethora of happy memories. But the first thing that came to mind was a visual of a photograph I have of parents opening a Christmas present from all of the children. My parents, in many ways, lived with ‘hand-me-downs’ and luggage pieces were a testament to that. When we found out that they were planning a European trip with our aunt and uncle, we (probably the older brother’s idea) decided that they needed matching luggage. And that’s what we did – bought them an entire set of 5 pieces of matching luggage! We’re talking old-school and a long time ago, when Samsonite hard luggage was the best of the best. I can still see that photograph in my head and the look on their faces when they kept opening the pieces, from the biggest to the smallest, and finding another piece tucked inside! No doubt, though they could have afforded to buy them for themselves, they never would have splurged on it themselves.

Of course, my most recent happy memory was seeing Phil Vassar in concert and getting to meet him personally for the first time. But it seems interesting to me to recognize that my first thought was about a gift to another, not something for myself. And I’m reminded again that joy is a greater gift than happiness, and in giving to another, we experience that something greater.

Now I’m curious to know what other people’s favorite happy memory is. And I’m curious to know if something came to mind immediately or if you had to think about it. Please share with me in the reply section!

Tent Dresses and Nancy Drew

For those if you not old enough to know or remember this, a tent dress is an A-line garment with the capital letter “A” shape being the narrowest at the neckline and the widest at the hem. It is shaped like a typical A-frame tent, hence the name. The tent dress was first made popular in the 1960s when women’s dresses became much less structured in style than the cinch-waist, much more tailored dresses of the 1950s.

What does that have to do with Nancy Drew books? I realize there is no real similarity, yet both items co-habitated for many years in my childhood bedroom closet.

My mother was never a ‘fashionista’, but she bought good clothing with classic lines that stood the test of time. She always took very good care of her clothing, so it stayed around. My mother was also a school teacher and started her children early on appreciating books. Birthdays and Christmas always included Nancy Drew (and the occasional Bobbsey Twin) books for me, and Hardy Boy books for my brothers. I credit her for developing my love of reading and Nancy Drew for developing my enjoyment of mystery stores, which remains my favorite genre.

My mother had a philosophy that, if you didn’t use something for six months, you probably could do without it. Old toys, games and books were passed on into the hands of children who would use them once we outgrew them. And thus, when I was just hitting my teens, those Nancy Drew books (I’d developed quite a collection) made it into the hands of younger children to enjoy. But, the tent dresses stayed tucked away in my the back of my closet. They’d gone “out of style” in less than 10 years, but my mother was certain that they would come back in style again. (Out of respect, I will say that her belief was correct, as they did make a very short reprieve in 2007.)

Meanwhile, only as an adult did I understand that, while she denied us the right to hoard things, she didn’t apply this rule to herself. There was sheet music that was tattered and yellowed with age kept tucked away; there were rows and rows of shelves my dad put up in our basement family room so she could store all of her books, there were big fat photo albums that held photos numbering in the thousands that she carefully put on those old sticky pages and stacked on a lower shelf of her bookshelf, and there were those tent dresses, covered in plastic bags from the dry cleaners and nestled in that corner of my closet.

When my dad finally retired and my parents made the decision to move to Florida, I was already grown and out of the house. Though I didn’t help with packing for their move, I suspect those dresses finally made their way to the Goodwill store, along with many other things from the household. After years of hand-me-down and ‘functional’ furniture, they were taking only their bed – which would be put in the second bedroom as an homage to Pennsylvania – and everything else would be new. Even the books, or most of them, didn’t make the cut when it came to packing to move.

By the time the short reprieve of the tent dress happened in 2007, my mother had passed away. I think, were she still living, she’d have been unhappy with making the choice to let them go. I never really understood her commitment to this style of dress, because she didn’t have a figure that needed to be hidden (mom was 5’0″ tall and, when she hit 120 on the scale, she dieted).

Or maybe I would have understood. Even though my reading has matured to a level that is beyond the storyline of Nancy Drew books, I still wish I had them. There purpose and significance in my life hold a full childhood of memories, and I know just looking at them all lined up would bring back those memories in more vivid detail. Perhaps there was a significance in my mom’s life that coincided with the trend of tent dresses, and that’s the reason she held on to them for so long?

I’ll never know and wish she were still here so I could ask her. Meanwhile, I still miss my Nancy Drew books…..