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The Road To Permission

In my 20’s when friends were seeing the world, I thought it was smarter to work and make money, build a career and build savings. I denied myself adventures because I thought I couldn’t afford to spend the money or the time. I still postpone things I really want to do and instead do the things I have to do, concerned about my unknown future and the fact that I might miss an opportunity to make extra money, or something unknown or unspecified. It

took the sudden death of a 58 year old friend to remind me that health is wealth and time is fleeting. She got sick on a Tuesday and was gone that Friday. She had weekend plans, a dental appointment, and a date to meet with her accountant for her tax returns. Six months earlier, I envied her last minute mad dash to visit friends for a week and attend a play opening in NYC. She knew how to plan and enjoy life. Now she’s gone. What was I waiting for? Life is short and so was my ex-husband…the one decision I did not make carefully. A short marriage to a short man. At 56, when I announced to friends that I was taking a trip to China, more than one woman said, “You can afford to go to China?” It was as if I was being irresponsible or wrong. It’s been my experience that many Boomer women, daughters of mothers who grew up during the Great Depression, can’t or won’t allow themselves a big treat. Sure, they’re always up for retail therapy, maybe a pair of shoes or a facial, but NOT to take two weeks out of their life to explore a new culture. Like many of my friends, I was STUCK on the treadmill of struggle. I tell myself there are real and substantial challenges: not enough money, ailing parents, etc. But some of it is self imposed. I don’t have enough time. What if I leave town and that job I went on three interviews for comes though? It’s easy to focus on what I don’t have because then I can dismiss or postpone dreams and feel safe. But what if I granted myself permission? To dream? To eat a second piece of pizza or a plate of cake? What if nothing terrible happened AND my pants still zipped closed? What if instead of visiting my sick mother after work, I spent that time getting a massage, so that the following day’s visit to her I’d be more cheerful and energized? If I waited for more money or a better time, I might not have the knees or endurance to take a vacation. I planned my trip, booked it on the biggest airfare sale day of the year, budgeted my expenses accordingly, and paid it off over time. Plus it gave me something to look forward to. When I stopped dreading challenges or obsessing about why I couldn’t do things, something miraculous happened: I started thinking of ways to make things happen. “I’m giving myself permission to do this, even though I don’t know how I’ll complete it or pay for it or get there.” I remember as an eight year old, when it came time for double-dutch jump rope, I always watched, waiting for the two twirling twines to be at the perfect angle for me to jump in. It was never the right second for me. I waited too long and feared I’d do it wrong. I watched and waited, and then it was dark out. I never jumped in. At mid-life I’m peaking and no one is looking. So I’m jumping in now.

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