When I was in my twenties, many decades ago, I envisioned my future through rose-colored glasses: I would return to school, earn graduate degrees, join the hallowed world of academia as a distinguished professor, and in my spare time write stories and give time and energy to causes I espoused. My offspring would become successful professionals; in the fullness of time I would have grandchildren nearby to enjoy. The years stretched ahead of me full of promise and hope.
However, along the path to that shining time life got in the way. Nothing happened quite as I had imagined it would. I ended one bad marriage and began a good one, had a career as a teacher but not the one I had pictured, became a grandmother (to my joy) to two young girls living on the other side of the country, and only late in life achieved success as a writer. Along the way I experienced setbacks both physical and emotional, loss, sorrow and disappointment, as well as happiness, fulfilment, love and contentment.
Now here I am, turning 82 this month and wondering where the years went. Now I take each day as it comes. Now I look back not with regret but with pleasure, choosing to remember the good times and the lessons I learned from missteps I made, forgiving those who hurt me and hoping those I hurt have done the same. Now, having made necessary preparations, I think not about the end of life but about the dailiness of it, the breathtaking beauty of the world around me, and the pleasures of simply being alive.
Over the years, I learned more about myself and about human nature. Here is some of what I learned:
- The most important part of being alive is giving and receiving love, a warm blanket that enables us to get through the days.
- No one is flawless; we are all imperfect. The secret to successful relationships is choosing what imperfections we can abide—ours and those of loved ones. We may strive to improve, but we will never attain complete success, and that is all right, it’s part of what makes us human.
- Relationships only work when both parties invest in them, sharing time, openness, honesty and fairness, but most of all respect.
- Hatred is a damaging emotion, not worth nurturing. There are and have been monstrous people in the world, but hating them only hurts the one who hates. For me, a far better response is indifference, or dislike, sometimes abhorrence, but not hate. Hating intensely might even shorten one’s life.
- The vast majority of people are good at heart. They mean well, they wish no one harm, they live their lives as well as they can, and they interact with others without hostility. Sometimes, people are rude, selfish, thoughtless or unkind; sometimes, people are stingy, critical or crass, but they really don’t want to be that way all the time. I find it useful to start by seeking the good in people; it’s usually there somewhere. I certainly don’t love everybody unconditionally, but I try to approach individuals one at a time rather than as someone belonging to a certain segment of
Barbara Fleming is a local author and editor. Her most recent book, Hidden History of Fort Collins, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon.com. You can visit her at her website https://www.authorbarbarafleming.com