In spite of my age, I can’t keep my old body still when I listen to Doo Wop music. For me, Doo Wop can be summed up in one song and that is Reflections by Diana Ross and The Supremes. But ~ and this is a BIG BUT ~ then I begin to reflect on things best left in the past. Some of my reflections come with regrets, others with deep sadness. I can’t have a past do-over, but I can certainly reflect on my present and future actions.
According to national average for life expectancy, I am most likely within 15-20 years of my own death. I don’t know exactly when that occurred to me, but it has been creeping into my mind long enough for me to look up average life expectancy on the internet. I took a few on-line life expectancy quizzes. Results vary – sometimes greatly. I think I wasted my time with the quizzes and also with even thinking about how long I will live. If Edgar Cayce were still alive, he would probably tell me that I should not be concerned with how LONG I will live, but with how WELL I live my life.
Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), also known as the Sleeping Prophet, was a psychic who made medical diagnoses while asleep. I learned of him in my teens and became fascinated with his life history and reported successes in curing people with medical conditions. This fascination lasted into my 20’s. I don’t know how I feel about him now, but I can tell you that he left 2 really great impressions on me. The first is that he read his Bible from cover to cover once for every year of his life. He made this decision at the age of 12, so he read his Bible 12 times in his 12th year of life and once a year thereafter. Even being an avid Bible reader myself, I am certain that I have not read the Bible from cover to cover – straight through from Genesis to Revelations – as I would a novel. I’ve read Books of the Bible straight through and in one sitting, but not cover to cover. So, yes, that made a great impression on me.
The second great impression I gained from my early fascination with Edgar Cayce was something he said that struck a chord deep in my spirit. People often took their questions about their futures to him. One man, concerned that he was living in the end times, wanted to know the best place where he and his family could live where they would be safe from calamity preceding the end of time. Edgar Cayce’s answer to that man was this: I should not be so concerned about WHERE to live as to HOW to live. That is what I remember, however, is not a direct quote. I read this in one of his books more than 40 years ago. I never forgot this little nugget of truth.
I suppose I didn’t “get” the entire message until later in life. It would take another several years to establish my priorities in a more acceptable order, which is a nice way of saying “to take my eyes off of my own self”. I will never hide the fact that I was a very selfish young person. That very selfishness cost me dearly. I need the reminder at times. And I need to keep it close enough to draw humility when I need it.
My Mother warned me as a teen that I would lose all of my friends if I didn’t start treating people like they mattered. I didn’t see that at the time. I’ve lost many friends in my life. I’m not sure I quite have it right yet. I haven’t lost any friends lately, but I did lose 2 online friends last year. I have, however, reflected on my friendship issues over many years and the best I can do is explain where I fall into the scheme of things.
I can tell you in a nutshell what my “problem” is. I want the whole world to be emotionally responsible. I can’t deal with the emotionally needy for long. I love my friends who know how to have a life, but I have low to no tolerance for people who need attention, drama or center stage. To those people I say, do not try to cling to me because I will shed you at the first opportunity. “Poor me” will only work on me for a little while. Then I expect the person to grow a backbone and deal with their own issues because I’m not going to solve their problems for them.
OK…I know that sounds harsh, but it is what it is. And I can explain…
I regret very little from my school days. I think I was a nice enough kid and I certainly wasn’t a “mean girl” like some of these kids today. I couldn’t afford to be because I really can’t say that I had any real friends until my last 2 years of high school. Before that, my name was “The New Girl”. People drifted in and out or on the fringes of my life. I had little practice at being a friend. It seemed that I was never in one place long enough for that.
My Dad’s job took us to a small country town in the summer before my 8th grade. We lived there for 5 years. It was monumental considering how often my Dad’s job moved us in my younger years. If I spent a whole year in one school, I don’t remember. What I do remember is lots of new places, new schools, new faces and feeling on the outside because everyone had a friend and I had none. I NEVER had a real friend until we moved to that small town. I grew comfortable with making friendships in those 5 years and I thought I was where I would be for life. Of course, my classmates had post graduation plans and we shared our plans and dreams with each other. I know what many of those dreams were, but I didn’t know the endings for almost a lifetime. But, I am getting away from topic…so…
My future was already in place… Or so I thought. I and several of my classmates would attend the closest Community College. My high school sweetheart and I made longer term plans. Life was a dream. BUT, within a week of high school graduation, I was successfully torn away from the only real friends I ever had and my high school sweetheart entered the service. Suddenly, I was uprooted and thrown back to a time when I only had family and no friends. I was forced to attend a college where I knew no one. I did stumble upon a former classmate who looked as lost as I was, but I only saw him during registration and never again.
I was miserable and I tried on the “poor me” cap when I saw that it seemed like everybody already had friends carried over from high school in that locale. I don’t think that I was ever so lonely in my life as I was right then. I never made one single friend in college….NOT ONE. So I quit… Eventually, after about 8 years, I did go back, but that’s another story... That was my first selfish decision. There would be many more over the next 15 years or so. You could say that I grabbed the reins and grew a backbone. I would never allow myself to be a puppet to dance to another person’s tune… I built a wall around my heart and vowed I would never hurt again. I managed to convince myself that I didn’t need any friends. I stayed in that posture for many, many years.
Probably every decision I made over the next many years involved what *I* wanted. I married and divorced 3 times. I cared only about what *I* wanted. (Yes…I am ashamed) I hurt people while I pursued *my* dreams and desires. I was accused of turning my emotions on and off like hot and cold water. (Sorry… Yes, I did and I can still do that) I was independent and needed no one. I made my own way in life. Nobody could make me do anything I didn’t want to do. I convinced myself that I didn’t need any friends…just my family. And I assigned little or no value to other people. It was just me against the world – picking and choosing only a few to venture into my little world.
I wish I could tell you exactly what changed me. It was actually a growing process that began in 1980 when I, once more, found myself alone. I learned to like being alone and lonely did not factor in ~ at all. In my time alone, I “discovered” myself. I was able to look at myself as if a reflection in a mirror. I began to examine myself. I did not like what I saw. Oh, I was attractive enough, dressed well and not an inch to pinch. I had a successful career and most people liked me…that is the people who I allowed only on the fringes of my life, but not inside ~ really… But it was the inside of me that I looked at, probed, dissected and examined. It was not pretty. No…not at all. I often recalled a dream I had as a teen. In the dream, I looked in a mirror and right before my eyes; my face cracked all over and fell off. I’m pretty sure that meant something in my psyche… And I wondered….
Then, I began to change. My self-examination gave me a new awareness of myself and then, later, people around me. I discovered that I was, for the most part, cold and emotionless where other people were concerned. Well…all except family. I didn’t want to be that way anymore. I learned to look past appearances and directly at the person inside. I looked for virtue, not faults. I discovered that a little kindness went a long, LONG way towards validating another person. You see…I am ashamed to admit this, but I really did not value other people as I should have. If someone I knew died, I was like…”Oh well…” How sad is that?
Most of all, I learned that when I took my eyes off of myself and put them on high, things happened…beautiful things. I always thought I knew exactly what I wanted out of life, but sadly, I didn’t know anything that would lead me to a happiness that I sometimes think I don’t deserve.
My life now is quite different. My marriage is solid now that I no longer critique everything my husband does. He’s pretty wonderful after all. I enjoy simplicity, the small things. There is more value in the enjoyment of the small things in life than there is in big houses, big cars and big toys. I’m a happy person and I want to share my happiness with other people. Often, it only takes a word or a gesture to show someone that there is at least one other person in the world who cares about them. People still come and go in my life, but it is without regrets. Because I love them while they are in my life and I don’t cling when they are ready to go.
So, as I listen and bob my head and tap my toes to the magic of Doo Wop, I can let the hurtful memories go and simply enjoy the moment. I may not have been at my best at other points in my life, but I have peace in knowing that I have grown to a point where I value people without judgments.
As I reflect on my life and the people in it, I think I am finally happy with my life, family, friends and acquaintances… And it feels good…
Written by Darlene Cirinna
Copyright: April 17, 2011
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