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Acting Your Age

01 Jan

I spent Christmas at my Grandma’s.

I love going to Grandma’s, which I’ve probably said about five million times.

One of the first things Grandma said to me once I got there was, “I don’t want to be in your blog.”

Sorry Grandma.

She said this right after she told me about making homemade wine when she was young and foolish, and then she asked me if I wanted to take her wine-making equipment home with me, and I said, “Grandma! I could make wine and then write a blog post entitled, “Making Wine with Grandma’s Recipe.”

So, Grandma, I will respect your wishes. No blog posts about making wine. But, you won’t be excluded from my blog entirely. You are too much a part of my life to be overlooked. You inspire me too much to not share your wit and wisdom. I love you.

The next thing Grandma said to me was this: “I have two New Year’s resolutions. One of them is to respond to e-mails more promptly. The other one is to start acting my age.”

She told me this right after she told me that she was retiring from her volunteer position as the church janitor.

When you’re in your 80s, acting your age means to cut back on responsibilities. It means you don’t get to get up on a ladder and scrape and repaint the gable over your front door. It means that when your grandkids come to visit, you get to supervise (teach) all things garden/landscape related. It means you get to accept help when you need it.

I got to thinking about how this applies to me — because what applies to an octogenarian grandmother, in some minute way, also applies to a 30 year old girl who is pretty much alone in the sense that she has no one to go home to.

The first thing I realized is that if a 30 year old girl is going to act her age, she’s got to stop seeing herself as a girl and start seeing herself as a woman. People who are 30 aren’t kids anymore.

If I’m not a kid anymore, this means that I should:
get up and go to work — on time — every day.
pay my bills — on time — all the time.
set goals.
clean my house on a regular basis.
do what I say I’m going to do.
bring a salad or something to potluck meals. Even though I hate cooking with a burning passion from deep within my soul.
stop whining about how my life isn’t what I want it to be.

Kids don’t have a lot of control over their lives. Adults don’t either. But, adults have the option to take control of what they can. They don’t have to ask Mom and Dad for permission. Adults can make choices that can help or hinder their goals.

The second thing I realized is that if I’m going to act my age, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Several years ago, I was consistently told by several people in several different contexts, in several different ways, that I couldn’t have male friends. It started out with a couple of female friends getting jealous that I had a completely platonic friendship with a male. They must have told him that I “liked” him, because shortly after I met these girls, he unceremoniously (relationally) dumped me by the side of the road and never really spoke to me again after that. (Um…. ok?) I was also told by several people who were several years older than me that I was “wet behind the ears” and I “shouldn’t go looking for a man” (or expect to find one any time soon) because…. Well, I wasn’t really given a reason why this was the case. I was also told by church leadership that I wasn’t allowed to speak to single men. (Note: I have never been one to “chase” men. I was essentially being told that I couldn’t even respond when men spoke to me.)

My life was going nowhere in that context, so I left.

But, while in the midst of all the chaos of trying to convince myself that it was ok to defy my “authority figures,” I called my grandma one day and told her about all the crap people were telling me, and her response was, “You’re 27 years old. By the time I was your age, I had been married for 8 years and was done having babies. It’s about time you got involved in a relationship.”

She wasn’t pushing me. She was telling me that it’s perfectly normal and acceptable for a woman who is 27 to talk with men, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so. She was also saying that no one — absolutely no one — has the right to tell me what I can and can’t do when I’ve demonstrated to everyone by the way I live my life that I am a responsible grownup and I’m not prone to getting myself into trouble.

Thanks Grandma. I needed that.

Actually, I need to hear those things like 50 times a day — because when you’ve been told not to do something every day for 30 years, it’s kind of hard to adjust.

Lately — like, for the past 3 years or so — I’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering what it might be like to, well, act my age. To go up to a single man and have a conversation. To perhaps go on a date. Or maybe to be in a relationship that might lead to marriage and family.

Because, at this point, the only option I really have is to wonder.

I have absolutely no skills when it comes to doing relationships. I don’t have any idea how to talk to men and I don’t know what to say. I could tell several stories like this one from last night-

It was New Year’s Eve, and my friends all got together. We were playing Apples to Apples. It was several women and two men. I think my green card said “eternal.” Or maybe it was something else. Someone played the “boyfriends” card. I said, “I would have picked ‘boyfriends’ except that boyfriends don’t exist.”

The game continued after some discussion of whether boyfriends exist or not. The guys were strangely silent.

I went home and realized that I could have made the interaction much more funny by saying “Boyfriends exist — they’re located between the unicorn and the leprechaun, and they’re driving reliable Ford trucks.” Because we ALL know that none of those things are real.

But, I’m not very funny in person, so I missed a grand opportunity to make everybody giggle.

And now, my question is, how do I begin to act my age? How do I stop being a lost, alone person and start being a person that people notice and like to hang around, talk to, and maybe even might want to…. I don’t know…. go out with? And maybe, if we stretch it, marry? What do you have to do and be to be good enough to enter the elite club called “family”? How do I act my age?

P.S. I’m not trying to have a pity party. I have a feeling I’m not the only person in the world who asks these questions, and I wish I had some answers so I could help others.

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3 Comments

Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Current Events

 

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3 responses to “Acting Your Age

  1. nellnerhegeb

    January 1, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    First of all, I can relate to your feelings. I’m 22 and have never had a real boyfriend, and sometimes I ask myself “Why does everyone else know how to do it while I’m alone?” But deep down I know the truth, that I have a social anxiety disorder and that I need to practise being around people and talking to them every day. I don’t always do it because it’s painful and it sometimes makes me feel like a failure, but it’s the only way. Practise is everything.

    My therapist gave me some good advice for this harsh, self-criticising voice in my head that pops up every now and then and makes me feel like a worthless, unlovable person. First I stop my thoughts for a moment and ask myself “What was that last thought?” I explain it to myself like I’ve never heard it before. For example, your thought could be “I’m not funny around other people and it’s boring for them to be with me.” Then you ask yourself “What evidence exists to support that statement? Is it really the truth?” Often by that point, I find that my inner voice was not only cruel, but also wrong. We are so, so hard on ourselves, harder than we would be to any other person. You most certainly are NOT a boring person that others can’t wait to get away from. Leave you judgemental view for a moment and try to look at things with the eyes of a neutral party. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: You have to learn to love and value yourself if you want others to do the same (relationships with men are the last hurdle, I think ^^)

    And don’t think about acting your age, there are so many definitions of what an adult should or shouldn’t do today. Everyone is different. Do what YOU want to do, what exites you, what fascinates you? Do that, maybe you will get to know someone with similar interests?

    Good luck & a happy new year 🙂
    Ellen

     
  2. Michael Mock

    January 2, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I’m speaking mainly for myself, because I know this isn’t true for everyone, but I have trouble talking to people for the sake of talking to people. And about half the time, when I try it, I end up feeling like a proper idiot. Which means that unless I’m in company that I’m already comfortable with, I don’t talk. Or rather, I don’t talk socially.

    Because I can talk, and even be interesting, if the talking is part of something else – or if I’m involved in something that takes enough of my attention that I can’t spare the brainpower to get stressed about trying to talk to people. Which means that I don’t do well at trying to meet people, but I’m perfectly capable of meeting people as a part of something else.

    If that sounds like it might work for you, then I’d suggest getting involved with some group activities – which could be anything from volunteering with Habitat for Humanity (learn new skills, meet people who want to help out!) to taking classes at your local recreation center, to joining a book club. You’ve got interesting things to say; I can tell, because you have interesting things to write. So put yourself in a position where you’re comfortable saying them.

     
  3. Matthew Hoffman

    January 6, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    Mari: Your story reminds me of my own. When I turned 30 (I am 42 now) I realized that I was not mature enough to be 30. My most important step towards growing up was doing what you are doing: admitting that I was not grown up, that I was not mature. In fact, I made a point of going to my friends and confessing my immaturity to them explicitly so that I couldn’t run away from the problem. You are doing that through your blog, and so I congratulate you, because you have made a first step towards becoming mature.

    I would counsel you to remember the words of St. Benedict: we should hate our faults, but hate them patiently. If you remain conscious of your faults without falling into despair, and pray for the grace to change, God will slowly change you — of course, always with your own cooperation and effort.

    I think you mentioned in a previous entry that you have a tendency to stay home and not socialize. I also have that same tendency, or did, for many years. I encourage you to fight that and to take every opportunity to go to events and engage in activities that have a social dimension. You may not feel inclined to do it at any given moment but you will be thankful later that you did, and it will help you come out of your shell.

    It is in large groups that we are likely to meet a spouse (which, by the way, is not a requirement for happiness or fulfillment of your vocation as a Christian), because in those circumstances we can get to know people without the pressure of certain implied expectations about where one’s friendship is going with that person. The most important thing, in any case, is friendship, because although we don’t have to marry to be happy in life, we do need social interaction. Simple and authentic friendship should be the fundamental basis of any relationship, including a marriage.

    Regarding talking to men: I wonder what strange things were going on in the minds of the people who told you this. There is nothing promiscuous about talking to a single man. It sounds like you were surrounded by people who were overly cautious or who belittled you. Also, I hope you don’t listen to those who say that men and women can’t be friends. Many people say this, thinking that their ugly cynicism is a form of wisdom. Can brothers and sisters have a friendship, and other family members of the opposite sex? If not, why not non-relatives? Are we all nothing but animals who only have sexual motives in our social interactions? I hope you’ll never believe this nonsense.

     

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