On Turning 40

New Year’s Eve is a great time to reflect on life and the world, in general. Birthday’s are when I reflect on MY life.

And this is a big birthday. 40.

So I am reflecting a little.

I haven’t come up with much collected wisdom in my 40 years. Except this: regrets come from decisions made in fear.

Every decision I have ever made out of fear has resulted in a regret in my life.

When I was MUCH younger, I hurt someone I loved, very badly. Out of fear that a third party would hurt both of us, physically. I have always regretted the pain that I caused and most particularly because that pain was caused because I was scared. Too scared to deal with the situation.

I regret the two and a half years I spent working for a certain company, a job I didn’t want but that I took out of fear. Fear of going broke. Fear of losing our home. When I had the job, I was afraid to leave it despite horrendous circumstances. I was afraid of being unemployed again.

I almost had the biggest regret imaginable because of fear. I almost didn’t have my daughter. Out of fear of childbirth and fear of being responsible for raising a human when I couldn’t keep care of a houseplant. Luckily, biology overcame fear and she was here to celebrate with me on Saturday night:

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I was re-reading George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London” the other day and he makes a good point when he says that “It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty. You have thought so much about poverty — it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it, is all so utterly and prosaically different. You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring. It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust-wiping… For, when you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry. When you have a hundred francs in the world you are liable to the most craven panics. When you have only three francs you are quite indifferent; for three francs will feed you till tomorrow, and you cannot think further than that. You are bored, but you are not afraid. You think vaguely, ‘I shall be starving in a day or two — shocking, isn’t it?’ And then the mind wanders to other topics. A bread and margarine diet does, to some extent, provide its own anodyne. And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs — and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”

Words to remember when making decisions in fear.

The decisions I have made that I don’t regret often came from a leap of faith, which is just on the flip side of the fear coin. Buying a newspaper with my husband when neither of us had any experience in the field: that could have been a total disaster. And while it has not brought us ultimate riches and piles of diamonds, it allowed us a life that we wanted. No regrets there.

Marrying my husband in the first place. He annoys the crap out of me sometimes, as much as I annoy him, I suspect. But no regrets there.

So whether today is your birthday or not, whether you are 20 or 50, don’t let fear rule your life. You’ll regret it.

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