Sunday, April 12, 2015

"more fully yourself"

One of the comments-in-passing in today's sermon that stuck with me was, "Typically, as a person gets older [he later clarified, meaning "as in over 40 or so"] a person becomes more fully themselves; you see who they really are more clearly." He gave the example of his grandmother, who was a sweet and loving woman; even as she started to lose some of her faculties, she remained much the same, still sweet and loving. And he also referenced someone (did not hint who it was) who started out ornery and only got more so as time went on.

I think there's a lot of truth to that. For one thing, I think some people, as they get older, lose some of their concern about what other people think of them (Well, except for people who have "people pleaser" as part of their fully-themselves make up, which I fear I do). But I also think there is....not exactly a "fossilization" process, but something where you drop some of the non-essential things and focus more on what is important to you. If you're lucky, the things you focus on are good things.

I think of some of the ways I've changed in recent years (not that I think I have changed greatly):

For one thing, I have been more embracing of my understanding that I need quiet downtime, that I don't always need to be social, that too much time around other people exhausts me (and therefore, I need at least half a weekend day every week to be totally alone and quiet). I've embraced that I am a true introvert and that not only will I not change but that there is no need for me to change, never mind that the majority of the population are extroverts who think recharging by being alone is maybe a little weird.

Related to this is my coming to an acceptance that I probably will never marry, and may never even really date much again - and I am okay with that, totally okay with it. And I realize now a lot of my not-okayness when I was younger was "But people will think I'm weird; most people think everyone needs to be coupled." I'm not saying I WOULDN'T date if the right guy came along or I would say "no" if I were asked or would even be not-open to someone setting me up with someone if they thought he and I might be's just, I'm not gonna go out seeking it. I'm okay being alone. (Though I do also wonder a little bit about what a person with no spouse, no kids, and no close family do if they have to be hospitalized or something; there's such a push for "You need someone to advocate for you when you cannot" that it does worry me a little. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.)

I've also become a bit more accepting of the fact that I just NEED downtime. And that I seem to need more downtime (in the sense of, I can't work seven days a week without a break like I did when I was in grad school or a beginning prof). And I feel less guilty about this than I once did. I'm also coming to an acceptance of the fact that it's okay some biologists/scientists are super extra productive with research and stuff and crank out multiple papers in a year, and spend their evenings and weekends in the lab and the field, but that it's also okay that I'm doing well if I get one paper out a year - that I have a different focus in my life and as much as I'd like it to be, I'll never see my research as being my sole "hobby equivalent." (There are a few people I know who do NOTHING but teach, research, and do the ordinary life-maintenance tasks like laundry. Well, okay, maybe they listen to a ball game now and again. But I know a few people who don't have deeply absorbing hobbies - or who are not deeply absorbed in hobbies - like I am. And I'm coming to an acceptance that I NEED to make quilts or knit, almost more than I NEED to do more research, in terms of a quality-of-life thing)

I've become more okay with my body type and my looks. I'll never be a 5'10", 130 pound model-type. I'll never be little enough to curl up in a regular armchair or small enough that a (hypotheticial) boyfriend could lift me off the ground. And I'll never look like the current flavor of magazine cover-models -  my looks are more pre-Raphaelite or something, and I'm becoming more okay with that.

Probably most of all, I think, is I've come totally to embrace what I will call, for lack of a better term, my "girliness." I like pink. I like purple. I like pale yellow. I like cute things. I still like stuffed animals and have accepted that I will never outgrow them (My bed, it looks like a very spoiled six-year-old girl's. It really does.) My favorite fabrics to quilt with are super-cute or funny novelty fabrics. I like Japanese-Cute and Moomin stuff.  I like dresses and wear more dresses than anything, even when in some cases slacks might be more practical. I'm coming to like shoes more and want pretty shoes even though I have foot and knee problems that make high heels an impossibility. I see nothing wrong with making and using pillowcases of a funny cartoon novelty fabric - they make me happy so where's the harm?

And I watch cartoons. I even watch cartoons I might have rolled my eyes about a few years ago. I like "Sarah and Duck," which is an *extremely* juvenile-oriented cartoon. Of course, I love Ponies, Ponies are my favorite pop-cultural thing right now (and have been so since perhaps the summer of 2011*). I don't watch any of the shows ("The Good Wife" was a big one) that my friends watch so I can't really discuss episodes with them. If I am tired and looking for entertainment, I will go for a cartoon or a fantasy/cartoon movie probably 90% of the time.

(*I was thinking about it the other day - I think summer 2011 was when I first really got hooked on the cartoon equines. Season 1 had ended and was in re-runs. Hub (may it rest in peace, though I'm not as unhappy with Discovery Family as I feared I would be) was re-running it around noonish. And I wasn't teaching that summer; I was doing research - my students and I would go out around 7 am (or some days even earlier) and work for several hours; I'd be home, showered, and ready for lunch right around noon - and so I put the Ponies on. And it became a nice routine)

And routine - that's another thing. I'm giving up feeling bad that I live in routines. I need routines; they give my life structure and they help me keep the illusion that the world isn't sometimes a frighteningly random place where you have no control over things. So for me, doing the same thing for breaks, or stuff like food-jags (my standard lunch these days: a cup of plain Greek yogurt, a string cheese, a tangerine, a small thing of applesauce and some kind of a cereal or fruit bar) doesn't bother me. I don't always crave novelty. (I'm not QUITE to the point of  "Four o'clock, time for Judge Wapner" but I do have my routines I like to stick to and I am open about the fact that I get unhappy when someone decides to mess with my schedule.)

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