Aging Gracefully or Why I Won’t Be Learning to Tap Dance


genfablogoIt’s almost Easter! Could there be a more perfect time for a Blog Hop? I think not!

The subject of this month’s blog hop, sponsored by the fabulous folks over at GenFab, is “Aging Gracefully”. After much soul-searching and countless fruitless and inarticulate attempts, I give you my take on a subject that is near and dear to my heart. So, get to hoppin’, my friends — and read more about it!


Before I began this piece, I looked up the word graceful. It is defined by dictionary.com as [that which is] characterized by beauty of movement, style, form, etc., which is exactly what I was afraid it meant. I can’t think of a single thing that I do or the way in which I do it that could be described as graceful. I sincerely doubt that this tiger will suddenly change her stripes by uncharacteristically approaching aging with anything resembling grace. More likely, I’ll just stumble in, headlong, like Kramer entering Jerry’s apartment on Seinfeld.

I do not now, nor have I ever, moved beautifully. Truth be told, I kind of lumber, rather loudly, through life. I could never be a spy. Or a cat burglar. I can’t even sneak up on my own rather large fourteen-year-old tabby while he is sleeping! I know this begs the question, “Why ever would you want to do a thing like that?” It’s not about “want”, so much as it’s about “need”. In order to clean his ears, brush his teeth, or put him in the carrier for his annual veterinary examination, it is necessary that he be captured. Captured! It’s a process that requires careful planning and, well, grace.

Everyone knows that catching a cat off guard is the only proven method for ensnaring, with skin intact, your average feline. My attempts are, owing to my lack of physical grace, both frustrating and unsuccessful. I have learned, through experience, to assign this unpleasant task to my far more stealthy daughter. She’s good at it. In fact, if college doesn’t work out for her, I’m thinking of apprenticing her out to some gypsies — she has the makings of a fine pickpocket.

There is a certain amount of grace, borne of experience, in knowing what we’re good at — and, conversely, in accepting what we’re not. I spent the first half of my life beating my head against proverbial brick walls. Trying to be someone I wasn’t. Fighting against failure. Recoiling from rejection. Chasing after the meaningless. Making feeble attempts at cat wrangling.

Forcing myself to be who other people wanted me to be — quieter, neater, calmer, more ambitious — messed with my self-esteem with a ferocity that I can finally recognize. It was a burden, living that life. A burden that contributed greatly to an addiction problem. Having struggled with, accepted, and ultimately embraced recovery from said addiction, I am able now to recognize, if not with grace, at least with clarity, that letting go of the unrealistic expectations of others is one of the most liberating things I will ever do.

In my younger days, I thought that success was the opposite of failure. It’s not. Success is doing the best you can with what you’ve got. Success is making peace with being unable to catch the cat, recognizing that it still has to be done, and figuring out the best way to achieve the desired result without driving yourself crazy. That there can be as much success in letting go as there is in hanging on is an empowering realization.

I may never understand my deep-seated fear of rejection. I stopped writing and acting — things that I truly loved — because I was terrified of being rejected. And, let’s face it, these are two of the most rejection-filled professions in the world. What I’ve come to realize, what I wish I had known sooner, is that life is full of rejection. Unfortunately, it took me many years to recognize that I needed to put my big girl panties on and just plow ahead. What I know now is that not everyone is going to like you, agree with you, or share your passions. On the flip side, there will be plenty of folks that love you, quite a few that will respect your beliefs — even if they don’t agree with them — and a handful who will, if not share, at least support your dreams.

There is grace in acknowledging who I am and in accepting that some things simply do not matter at all. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never learn to tap dance. This is not solely because my hips are shot or because I have no rhythm, which they are and I don’t. What age and experience has taught me is that if I don’t want to tap dance badly enough to spend hour after frustrating hour learning to do so, then guess what? I don’t have to. It’s just plain silly to invest my limited time and energies into any new skill that I’m not 100% committed to — even if that skill requires fabulous footwear and gives me an excuse to wear leg warmers again. I’ll just go ahead and buy the shoes. I’ll put them on and dance around my kitchen. I’m sure the neighbors won’t mind.

I have also given up on becoming a fluent Spanish speaker. I know enough to get by. I can even read it a little. I used to beat myself up about my inability to grasp the maddening syntax of Romance languages. Not anymore. I have accepted that I’ve gone as far as I can go with it. And I’m okay with that. The same holds true for other things. Things like higher math, Joyce, and Twitter.

I have decided that I want to spend whatever time I have left engaged in activities that fulfill me. In doing things that bring me joy and happiness. At the end of the day I want to feel a sense of accomplishment, rather than the exhaustion — both mental and physical — that is the by-product of failure (and, one would imagine, tap dancing).

I’m not talking about giving up the job that I’m not thrilled with, but is necessary for paying the bills. I understand that I’ll still have to do the dishes, the laundry, and the grocery shopping. Living on the street or in squalor are not options. They are not conditions conducive to happiness.

It’s my spare time that I want to spend more wisely. More judiciously. I want to write more than just the grocery list every single day. I want to paint some furniture, maybe even for profit. I want to interact meaningfully with people who share my passions. I want to more fully prepare my adolescent to leave the nest. I want to enjoy, rather than be annoyed by, my husband’s company. I want to learn to build and to maintain a website.

Whether I will do any of these things with beauty or with grace remains to be seen. I am, however, committed to doing them with fervor and enthusiasm, which is more than I can say about the attitude that I would have brought to tap dancing. If, at the end of the day, I decide that I don’t like, need, or want to do them, I’ll recognize that. The world will not come to a screeching halt — even my little corner of it — if I wind up being no good at painting a chest of drawers.


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49 thoughts on “Aging Gracefully or Why I Won’t Be Learning to Tap Dance

  1. […] Aging Gracefully, or Why I Won’t Be Learning to Tapdance (ambling&rambling.com) […]

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  2. szyana13 says:

    Wow! It is awesome!! 🙂

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  3. Beautifully done! Love, love, love. And THIS is the key: “There is a certain amount of grace, borne of experience, in knowing what we’re good at — and, conversely, in accepting what we’re not.” So true, so important to remember. Thank you for the reminder!

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    • javaj240 says:

      High praise indeed, coming from you. I love the way you write!

      And, yes, I believe every word I said about “knowing what we’re good at — and, conversely, in accepting what we’re not.” It’s the “accepting” that is truly the key!

      Thank you!

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  4. You made me think of the saying .. .what would you do if you knew you could not fail … and then I think, well, maybe just try it anyway. Great post, and if there is ever a GenFab conference, we will take the floor together … I cannot dance, but with you, I shall give it a whirl 😉

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    • javaj240 says:

      Yes! That is a great saying!

      I’ll dance with you. I will warn you that I look like “Elaine”, but I do it anyway!

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  5. vishalbheeroo says:

    hey, amazing post::)
    Vishal
    http://www.vishalbheeroo.wordpress.com

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  6. sheilamariegrimes says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your writings. I’d like to nominate you for the Liebster Award. I hope you accept. Here’s a link explaining the award: http://sheilamariegrimes.com/liebster-award-nominations/

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thank you so much. I have to tell you that I always have the best intentions with these awards, but hardly ever do them. I will try. I promise you that I will try. I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy my writing. That’s the best award!

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  7. Lidia says:

    BRAVO! Well said, girlfriend! I still have that fear of rejection and worry about what people think of me and my ideas… something I clearly need to work through. I am going to print this and pin it to the side of my night-table so the last thing I see at night before falling asleep will be your very inspirational words. Apparently, falling asleep to positive thinking does help. And if not for myself, I need to teach my daughters to be confident in themselves and not pay any heed to what others expect of them. Thank you!

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    • javaj240 says:

      That’s so nice. To think that someone would read something that I’ve written and use it as an affirmation — Wow! Thanks!

      Teaching our daughters to be confident is, I think, one of the most important things we can teach them! It really is.

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  8. That has been one of the big lessons of life for me–that it’s important to fail. And I love the ‘big girl panties’ comment.

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  9. Pat says:

    You may never tap dance and I will never be a ballerina, which was about the only sporting option available to girls when I was growing up.
    As you said, “success is about doing the best you can with what you got.” Learning to recognize and use one’s gifts is the secret to a life of contentment.

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  10. javaj240 says:

    Sometimes it’s in the falling down that we learn the most —- that’s what the first half of life is for — the second half? Putting those lessons to use.

    “Dabbled” is all I ever did with the acting following high school. There’s really not much to tell. I loved it, though. Still do. And, I was good at it. I simply did not recognize that one “yes” would negate the thousand “no’s” — same thing with the writing. Blogging and all the support that I have been given from folks such as yourself — it’s made me realize that whether it brings me success outside of this little world or not, that the writing is something I’d like to get better at, stick with — not because it will make me successful, but because I love it. Because it brings me joy and, sometimes, frustration — but, that’s okay, too.

    I don’t remember how old you are, but you strike me as a person who spends some time attending to the larger picture — once your children are all in school and you have some small amount of free time, you’ll find something or some things that will bring you joy. I am confident that you will!

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  11. Wow! Wow! Wow! This was one amazing piece! I will be waiting for the announcement that this one got FP’d too! I loved the 4th paragraph…it really grabbed me because it describes my 20’s so well and in many ways still does. I fluctuate between being okay with my differences from so many people my age to wanting to fit in more. I hope my moment of clarity and making peace with downfalls comes soon! Also, I had no idea that you dabbled in acting…you’ll have to fill us in on that someday!

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  12. shalilah2002 says:

    You have the right idea. I think I’ll try harder to attain that dream of writing an article and getting a magazine to publish it. I really don’t want to be the definition of growing old gracefully. I am forever changing.

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    • javaj240 says:

      Good for you!

      Forever changing is a good thing. The one thing we can count on is that things won’t stay the same. For me, part of the whole idea of graceful aging is coming to terms with and being open to tossing the things that don’t work and hanging on to the things that do. I think, I hope, that we do that more quickly — recognize that which doesn’t work — as we age and mature than we did when we were younger. I think it has to do with the fact that we more fully understand that life is, altogether, way too short.

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  13. joyweesemoll says:

    Love this: “There is grace in acknowledging who I am and in accepting that some things simply do not matter at all.” I think you display a lot of grace in this post.

    I tried tap dancing when I was younger a couple of times and always sucked at it. I eventually realized it was the music I liked — now I put on the music and dance in my living room!

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thank you!

      There are few things I enjoy more than the odd solo dance in the comfort (and privacy) of my own home, LOL!

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  14. javaj240 says:

    You said it, Sister!

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  15. Ginger Kay says:

    It’s crazy the things we think we “should” learn to enjoy. As if the things we actually enjoy aren’t good enough? Bah! I’ll ride my bike to the grocery store, slowly, watching the birds and prairie dogs. Others can train for races and ride up mountains.

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  16. Your writing captured my thoughts and desires to a “t”. Thanks–do what you have a passion for as long as you have that passion!

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  17. lori says:

    i REALLY love your definition of success. great post.

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  18. beverlydiehl says:

    Love that you’re cutting out the garbage and focusing on what you love and brings you joy. Yes, sometimes I wish I could tap dance, but that ain’t gonna happen in this lifetime. My post is here: http://writinginflow.blogspot.com/2013/03/nobody-propositions-my-feet-anymore.html

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    • javaj240 says:

      It’s a challenge…. but well worth it!

      Someone far more technologically savvy than I, over at generationfabulous.com was able to work out how to make the Linky Tools work on WordPress.com — yay!

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  19. Ellen Dolgen says:

    “Success is doing the best you can with what you’ve got.” RIght on! And so glad to hear you’re doing what makes YOU happy in your spare time – and recognizing what’s most important to you! Also – here’s my blog, if you can please add it to the bloghop list: http://www.ellendolgen.com, just called “Ellen Dolgen.”
    Thanks much!

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thanks, Ellen — it’s a definition I can live with, LOL! Also, the Linky Tools thingy finally works for WordPress.com…. YAY!!!

      Like

  20. Seriously, you are so fabulous it kills me. The image of you Kramering it into old age actually made me laugh out loud. (Also, I am still laughing.)

    Thanks for sharing this. I hope you continue to write and paint and partake in all the things that make you happy. You most certainly deserve it! x

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    • javaj240 says:

      Imagine how hard you’d laugh if you actually saw me do it… today at work I brought a garbage can (very large, very heavy magnetic lid) down onto my ankle. Some choice words escaped my mouth. Luckily, I remained upright. OMG! I was a sight!

      I will continue to write and the painting thing is on the agenda, too! Thanks for confirming that I deserve it… I feel the same way. You, too, deserve to get all the good things that you want out of life! That much is for sure!

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  21. The one thing I can take away from this Blog Hop is we are all sisters’ at a certain level. I identify with your post, your feelings about yourself, and the challenges you have dealt with that make you uniquely you. I realize they are not all that different from my struggles. I am tired of beating myself up, and it sounds like you are too. The only logical thing for us to is to lie back, and enjoy the show!

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    • javaj240 says:

      Yes… but I want to choose the show… know what I mean?

      We are all sisters on a certain level. That’s a great point! Thanks for making it! I love GenFab because although we all come from different places, the things we have in common trump all of that.

      I’m sooooo done beating myself up. So. Done.

      Like

  22. Lois says:

    One thing you are good at, for sure, is writing. This is a beautiful piece — very empowering, especially for those of us who relate to the Kramer-like way to enter a room!

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  23. […] Ambling And Rambling – Aging Gracefully or Why I Won’t Be Learning To Tap Dance […]

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  24. Great insights about how to bracket rejection and plow ahead to follow your bliss. Oh, if we could know at 20 what we learn by 50! Thanks for telling it like it is! You are so diligent to build links on your own. My post is up here: http://thegenerationaboveme.blogspot.com/2013/03/aging-disgracefully.html

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thank you!

      I’ve never been able to do a blog hop any other way, due to the restrictions of wordpress.com. I am nothing if I’m not diligent, LOL!

      I linked to your piece!

      Like

  25. […] Aging Gracefully, or Why I Won’t Be Learning to Tapdance (ambling&rambling.com) […]

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  26. Amanda Fox says:

    I agree, this is total grace in knowing what you are good at and who you are and also knowing the opposite. And I’ll never be able to wear beige without looking dead. So we’re even. 😉

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  27. I think you just negated your claim that you lack grace. Reading this, I’m thinking, “Maybe she can’t dance, but she can sure as hell write!”
    Karen

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thank you, Karen. I cannot tell you the time and energy I expended writing this one. I probably could have mastered pointillism in the time this post took me to write — of course I have no interest in pointillism (can you even imagine how long something like “Sunday in the Park with George” took to paint? I’d never have the patience!) — so, I won’t be doing that! LOL

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  28. Love your to-do list and thanks for the inclusion!

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    • javaj240 says:

      Thank you and you’re welcome.

      I have to do it manually (I say that as if I’m out in the backyard digging a large ditch, don’t I?), so It’s more difficult for me to keep up with all of the posts, especially if folks don’t promote them on the FB page.

      Like

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