A Change of Philosophies

When I was young, I had two fairly insipid philosophies that I lived by.

Home is where your clothes are,” and “Being afraid of something is not a reason not to do it.”

Now they sound idiotic to me at this age but I understand my point of view at the time. I traveled around a good bit so after living out of a suitcase for awhile, I’d inevitably bask in the pleasure of having all my clothes around me. (If I was somewhere long enough to have them sent to me.) Clothes are really so much more personal than furniture for defining who you are, for comforting you and for providing familiarity.

Especially when you’re young, your clothes announce to the world how you hope to be seen: sexy or too-casual-to-care or Marian-the-librarian or what have you. Your wardrobe contains your special party clothes (the ultimate costumes for projecting how you wish to appear to others) as well as seasonal clothes. Like Christmas ornaments, when you pull a sweater out of storage after not seeing it for a year, you not only feel like it’s somewhat new again, but it has a few memories attached to it, too.

I think it interesting that I saw my clothes—something so innately portable—as the thing that attached me to a place or  made me feel at home. Because I’m not nor have I ever been much of a clotheshorse or fashionista. I certainly never invested any real money in clothing and when I finally got to a certain age (and financial level) one of the first things I told myself was that I’d never buy clothes out of season again. (So smart and frugal, but such an exercise in delayed gratification.)

The second philosophy—and the one I hope my own son never thinks of let alone follows—was no doubt created because I’d made up my mind to do something and didn’t want a little thing like better judgment or second-thoughts to derail me. (Come to think of it, this also goes along with the idea of being my own worst enemy but that is another post.)

I did things in my youth that took me waaaaaay outside my comfort zone and I did them because I knew I’d be glad somewhere down the line that I did (and I was right BTW). I likely also did them because I knew someone else had done them first (so I wasn’t totally crazy), but I knew that without that little push from myself, (the philosophy chanted like a mantra at particularly scary moments) I wouldn’t open the doors that I needed to open.

My Dad used to say when you’re on your deathbed, it won’t be the things you did in your life that you’ll regret but the ones you didn’t do. I have to say I took that way of thinking to its limits most of my life. I tend to be a tad shy (and lazy) and I’m definitely more comfortable wrapped up in an afghan in front of a gas fire with a cup of tea than I am reaching out to people or accepting invitations or pulling on my boots and going out into the chilly night.

I think a lot of the promises we make to ourselves when we’re young have to do with the idea of freedom or staying true to ourselves, even if we don’t consciously put it into exact words like that. I also think, at the end of the day, that it’s fear, generally, that keeps us from fulfilling those promises. I was always determined that I wouldn’t let being afraid—even justifiably so—get the best of me.

That whole concept pretty much came to a screeching halt the day I found out I was pregnant.

I swear I don’t think I was ever really very anxious about anything until I had a child. And then, a whole new world of things to worry about opened up to me. Forget traveling on a whim to Bahrain as a single woman with a backpack and no permanent address—try watching your sixteen year-old drive off alone in the family car for the first time.

It comes down to what you value most. I’m not saying I didn’t value my safety when I walked through Little India (in heels) alone and at dusk in Singapore in the late eighties. But the reassurance of “what are the chances?” doesn’t really give any comfort at all when it’s your own precious child whose taillights you’re watching go around the curve as he heads toward I-285.

These days, when I wave him off to wherever his road takes him (currently that’s back to his dorm room an hour and half away), I realize that my old mantras or “philosophies” were really just tools to help me go forward—to get my bite out of life without letting it pass me by (all too easily done).

Nowadays, I don’t worry about taking chances or staying open to surprises and opportunities. My current codes-to-live-by are all different variations, pretty much, of the same “please keep him safe” prayer. I know “safe” isn’t a great way to live if it’s your life. But from a mother’s point of view, it’s exactly spot-on.

Again, it comes down to what you value most. I know I’ve still got a lot to do in this life—but mostly, I don’t think it’s stuff that will require much bravery anymore. I figure I’ll deal with whatever’s coming with the tools I’ve already gathered and honed from a lifetime of living experiences.

As far as suggesting philosophies-to-live-by for my son and the world he lives in, I have to say that while I’m impressed that my own parent was brave enough to tell me I’d regret not doing things worse than doing them, I’m just not quite that unselfish –or brave—to pass the same philosophy along to my own child.

Not yet anyway.

 

7 responses to “A Change of Philosophies

  1. Well said, Susan. I think what you say about fear keeping us from fulfilling those promises to ourselves makes a lot of sense particularly.

    • Thanks, William! And more and more it seems like there’s so much to fear in this world. It’s easy to get frozen. Hard to go forward when you can’t see around the corner but you’ve heard plenty of bad things that could be around the corner! :-) Thanks for chiming in.

  2. My husband is always telling me to live life 110%. I am pretty lazy myself and love hanging at home, so it is nice that he gets me out and about. I loved reading the post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. You’re right about the experience. I guess my core philosophy hasn’t changed since I was old enough to look after myself (I left home at 18) but perhaps my attitude to it has, as I’ve gained experience. Though, in other ways – and looking back – there I things I did way back when that opened doors (like the time I became the NZ correspondent for a UK aviation/modelling magazine) which, when I think about it now, were pure cheek. I’m not sure I could do that today, necessarily. Possibly that experience intruding again….

    • That’s where youth comes in handy. We often don’t know the things we should be afraid of–or think are impossible–and so we go forward with them and take the chance it’s great. Now that we’re old enough to know about those instances where it doesn‘t work out, it’s a lot harder to feel comfortable opening some doors. (Honestly, I once heard an old Army man say, “Why do you think our troops are all in their late teens or barely out of them? Because if they were even a few years older when their CO said ‘Charge that hill, men!’ they’d say, “No way! I could get hurt doing that!” But being young, they have a different perspective.)

  4. Courtenay Davis

    I just finished all 3 of the Irish End Games in about a week. I really enjoyed them. If I didn’t have kids I would have finished them in 3 day, they are just that good. So I was wondering if you’ve put any thought into when the next book will be out. I can’t wait to read it. I’m so glad Sarah and John went back and I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble Sarah gets herself into next.

    • Thanks, Courtenay! Yes, I definitely have more in store for Sarah and John (and Mike!) but probably later in the year. Meanwhile I’m launching a brand new mystery series. But don’t worry, I won’t forget them! Thanks again for your support and kind words. :-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s