You know what is great about our Mid Life Celebration Guest Blogger Lorie Sheffer? Everything.
You are in for a treat, as always. As I read this last night for the first time, couldn’t help but reflect on my own perceptions. Lorie has a gift for telling a great story and making us think. Hard. Take it away Lorie:
One of the best midlife celebrations I have experienced is that I no longer care what people think of me. I would prefer that they like me, but it’s no longer necessary for my own sense of well-being. I’m not sure exactly when this change occurred. I think it was a gradual evolution more than an epiphany. I do remember a line in the movie The Hours, in which Meryl Streep’s character is concerned about how she is being perceived, and her daughter gives her this sage advice: “It only matters if you think it’s true.”
A few weeks ago I was chatting with my mother on the phone and she mentioned that her knees hurt and she was tired. She usually has the energy of someone half her age, so I asked her what had happened. “I was down on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors all day.” I started to laugh. “Do people still DO that, Mom?” We then went on to have a thrilling, in depth discussion about hand scrubbing VS mopping. I told her that there is just no way I am going to crawl around on my floors like Cinderella. My house is clean, but it’s not sanitized. If the mop doesn’t get it, then it can just stay there. Why, pray tell, would someone think they had to hand scrub a floor? “Well, what if someone comes in here and thinks that I’m a bad housekeeper?” First of all, since my mother’s friends are all close to her age, I don’t think they can see how clean the floor is! That aside, if they don’t like it then they can either clean it the way they want or they can leave. A few weeks later, she called specifically to tell me that the man she and Dad hired to do the heavy yard work (what would the neighbors think if the weeds weren’t pulled and everything covered in fresh mulch?!) had come into the house while she wrote his check for the week. As he stood in her kitchen he made the comment, “This is how a house should look.” That will keep her going for years! Chances are, if he came in to my kitchen on any given day, he would ask, “What happened, and is everyone OK?” I am usually in the process of making something from scratch, which involves many bowls and kitchen tools and ingredients. On the rare occasion that the recipes flops, I have been known to react with profanity. I’m more Roseanne Conner than June Cleaver.
Housekeeping standards aside, Mom puts on makeup and dresses nicely to go to the grocery store, in case she sees anyone she knows. One time we were out to a family dinner and my aunt complimented my outfit and wanted to know where I got it. When I told her Lane Bryant, my mother almost choked on her dessert. She wanted to know why I would let someone know it came from that store. Like anyone with eyes can’t see that my curves need a size 14. “Sorry, Mom. Next time I will tell them I wear a size 2 petite. That’ll fool ‘em!” Mom’s not mean, she just notices and cares about these things.
I have come to the conclusion that no matter what you do, you will never please everyone. The best any of us can do is to be happy with ourselves and let the critical chips fall where they may. It takes so much energy to worry about what others are saying. It distracts from the joy of the moment. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think we are the topic of conversation as much as we may think. I have also found that for the most part, the more relaxed we are the more relaxed the people around us become. Usually when people are concerned with appearances, that means they not only care about how they look, they tend to assess how everyone else looks, too. I’m not concerned with what my friends are wearing but I do notice, by the tone of their voice, if they are upset about something. I think the best any of us can do is to be kind, and instead of focusing on how others view us, we can direct that energy to listening to what they are saying to us, and to make them feel comfortable. Ironically, that is why people like to spend time with us, even if there are dust bunnies hiding in the corners and we are having a bad hair day.