“No Regrets.” Such big words. I’ve been thinking about future regret since I was little. Parents warn us early on to do the right thing for fear of regret; the negative reinforcement we’ll feel if we don’t follow all the rules. Maybe that means don’t talk in class so we won’t get detention after school. It starts innocently enough and we all want that pat on the head a good dog deserves. No harm in that.
Unless, of course, a pile of years pass and you wake up one morning and don’t recognize your life. Unless there is a small voice in the back of your head that keeps reminding you of the path not taken; reminding you, forty years later, that there’s still a little girl inside and she still wants a pony. You gotta love a good meaty midlife crisis.
In a non-literal way, it’s almost like our parents are still telling us to clean our room before we can go out to play, but no matter how hard we try, our room just never gets clean enough. Even after our parents pass, we never get to play. It’s as if restriction is the adult thing to do.
So there we are at the intersection of “I’m being responsible” and “can I go play”. We all get there a few dozen times in our life. It’s the awareness that maturity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That’s normal. The real question is what’s next?
The ugly truth is that we are a culture of whiners. We make excuses. In defense of excuses, they are probably true. We do have to work for a living; we do have others who depend on us. But just because we have a valid excuse for not living the dream, it doesn’t go away–the inner voice doesn’t shut up.
Two weeks ago, I blogged that there was something about living here on the farm gave me permission to just stop feeling the rub of judgement, and a reader asked for more about that. It’s a great question: when do we stop trying to please our parents, metaphorically or literally, and when do we start living for ourselves. It’s the place where regret perches like a vulture on your shoulder, and the excuses are deafeningly loud. Will someone name-call you selfish? Is doing-for-yourself is a bad thing?
Somewhere inside, pretending to be asleep, is that dream too precious to name. We all have one. But what no one tells us about dreams, is that they don’t just magically come true. You have inconvenience yourself and squeeze them into reality. At first they fit like a lycra bike racing suit on a donkey. No one is impressed.
“If you want to live an authentic, meaningful life, you need to master the art of disappointing others and live with the reality that some people just won’t like you.” –Cheryl Richardson.
The great thing about a midlife crisis, in hindsight of course, is that once you come out the other side, you might still be a donkey, but you don’t care how you look in a lycra bike racing suit. The other words for that are living the dream.
Writing this book was part of my dream. Word by word, with time stolen from responsibilities, in a graceless and braying sort of way. I’m keenly aware that no one gave me permission, but I would have regretted not doing it so much more than the inconvenience of having a dream. Bottom line–wearing lycra always takes guts.
WEEKLY UPDATE: This week I got my first bad review. Someone is disappointed with the book. It was as inevitable as animal hair on my clothes and the opinion was delivered with the kind/blunt honesty a donkey like me appreciates. It was a moment I’ve been waiting for…. and it was okay. No excuses. No regrets.
But being okay with not pleasing everyone is doesn’t mean I don’t care what you think. Even cheesier than that, I care what Amazon thinks. Does that make me selfish. Well, so it goes. You all have been monsters at leaving reviews. Thank you so much; there are 56 reviews now. Pretty spectacular for a first time author, and the Amazon search engines are mumbling, “Anna Who?”
THEY SAY around 20-25 reviews, Amazon starts including the book in “also bought” and “you might like” lists. This increases your chances of someone finding your title. Around 50-70 reviews, Amazon looks at your book for spotlight positions and the newsletter.
I’m not sure when the dream of finishing my book came to include becoming a spotlight ad on Amazon, but there you have it. Still no apologies. Please, if you like this book, and even if you don’t, leave a review.
And then spend some time making friends with your own midlife crisis. I hope you have some ungainly lycra in your future.