Better Off than Four Years Ago

Every fourth Autumn, right about when the leaves turn rich shades of fall colors and there’s a delicious, crisp snap in the air that sends me running for my turtlenecks, a frenzied storm of presidential campaign ads, phone calls, speeches, emails and commentaries arrives that spews myriad promises, proclamations and propositions into that same air, making heads spin and stomachs turn. And inevitably lurking within the very eye of this storm is a simple question that’s posed and pondered time and again by pundits and pub goers alike, no matter the party or platform to which they pledge their allegiance:

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

As a rule, I tend to skirt all questions political, particularly with those whom I know openly endorse anything I passionately oppose (such as any form of discrimination or telling me what I can or cannot do with my own girl parts). But this question tugs at me on a personal level – not a political one. Mostly because of timing.

For the past four or so years, I’ve been on a personal campaign to become a better person. I saw myself approaching fifty and I didn’t like the person I was. More to the point: I knew I could do better with myself. I wanted to be more content, more grateful, more happy, more confident. More comfortable being ME. Throughout the course of this campaign, monitoring my own moral pulse has been foundational. So considering this question at this moment seems delectably symbiotic.

AM I better off now than I was four years ago?
If so, how?
What have I learned, and how has it made me better?

After careful thought, it turns out that I’ve learned quite a bit…

I have learned that it is usually not people who disappoint and hurt me, but rather my own expectations of these people. Readjusting those expectations has changed me for the better.

I have learned that I’ve spent too much of my money and time on possessions and not enough on people or experiences. That’s different now. As a result I give more, get more, see and do more, and I’ve grown more.

I have learned that I am the keeper of my own heart, my own happiness. It’s helped me become more accountable to myself and less dependent on others.

I have learned that the length of a friendship has nothing to do with the quality of it – and not to assume that these characteristics are interchangeable. This has helped me hold some friends closer and gently let go of others.

I have learned to release my own inhibitions regarding my physical self; they were getting in the way of not only liking me, but being me.

I have learned to appreciate the blessed gift of laughter. Especially in cases when I need to laugh at my own, silly self.

I have learned to trust in the divinity of timing; that things meant to be will happen on their own time, and not mine. With this lesson came such a wave of optimism and release, it initially overwhelmed me.

I have learned to stop focusing on waiting.  Waiting for something to be over, waiting for something (or someone) to get better. To look around. To pay attention to where I am in moments of beauty, sadness and difficulty, and to harvest what I can from where I am – even if it’s not where I want to be. The line is part of the ride…

I have learned that staying open about trying new things may not make me good at them, but there’s so much fun when the focus is on the trying, the doing, the learning.

I have learned that I need to stop comparing and judging.  The former is a crime against me, the latter a crime against others.

I have learned when to listen to my inner voice, when to question her, and when to tell her to shut the fuck up. Ironically, this has helped me trust myself more than ever before.

I have learned that saying nothing is always better than saying the wrong thing and that – in the absence of the right words – a loving hug of support speaks for itself.

I have learned that when mean things are spoken by others, they have more to do with the person saying them – and that I need not take it so personally as a result. I am now less prone to anger and snide reactions –  and more prone to forgiveness.

I have learned that no matter how bad I think things are, someone else is wishing for what I have. This thought has been life-changing.

I have learned that I am not perfect and will never be. But I am better. And I like that.

So politics aside, I have determined that I am indeed better off than I was four years ago. And I pledge (only to myself, of course) to be far better off in four more years.

Thanks to my own personal campaign of ME.