Monday, October 26, 2009

Life Humbles Us. If We're Lucky.

The Fiance went to his 25th college reunion this weekend. Of the stories he told me and the friends he reconnected with, what stands out the most to me is his observation that everyone had been humbled by life.

25 years after college graduation, the kids who knew where they were going and were self-assured that theirs would be a life of success and privilege had evolved into people who had suffered. Loss had come to them in all manner of ways, from death, to divorce to career disappointments. The Fiance noted that even ten years ago all of these folks still had life by the tail, but now they realized that it's life that has us.

It's a humbling thing, this living. When you look back at the plans of your youth, how many of us have followed a straight path from our planned point A to our planned point B? I'm embarrassed to say that I used to tell my friends in high school that my goal was to have a "Jag by 30." This seemed a perfectly reasonable goal, and I was talented enough to get it.

Now I walk around with a banner that reads: "Busted-up Honda by 38."

I laugh to write that, and realize that could really be the banner for my life. My duct-taped Civic is a metaphor for my life. It's got 115,000 miles on it, it still runs, and hell, most of the mechanics tell me, "That's nothing for a Honda."

It's all a matter of perspective.

I may be a busted-up hooptie of a girl now, but I've got a good engine and a reputation for tenaciousness. There are all manner of things I never thought  I would do, endure, survive. I never thought I'd be divorced. You can believe at 21 that you would never get divorced and when you promised through "sickness and in health" you meant it. You meant it like religion, and you would have been quick to judge anyone who failed those vows.

But I did it.

I left him in sickness.

I never thought I'd have a child, let alone a child out of wedlock. Nice girls from Bloomfield Hills don't do such things. I used to joke that my life had become a Jerry Springer show, and the pain of that truth wasn't buried too deeply underneath my bravado.

Strong, feminist, educated women don't let their boyfriends knock them around. Strong women don't disappear under the force of some bully's might. Anyone who has known me, even from our playground days, would never imagine I would take crap from any man. I was always a tough little tomboy. I never knew I would become a cliche.

But I did.

There are all sorts of failings, losses, disappointments and heartaches I never thought I'd go through. And even the ones I have encountered, I didn't handle nearly so well as I'd hoped. I have not gone through life with the poise and grace I'd expected of myself. The rigid expectations and the cocky assurances of my youth have been weathered away by this humbling life.

Though it's taken nearly 40 years, I'd have to say I wouldn't have it any other way. What I have discovered from this life of loss is a capacity for understanding. If I have failed myself and have had to pick up and start all over again more times than I care to admit, I find I am more apt to understand how you could fall. And more likely to help you up.

Some folks don't seem to soften with age, it's true. Some may not be so humbled by life but rage against it still. In their inability to forgive themselves their failings and to recognize their own weaknesses, they'll never acquire the ability to forgive you yours.

I'd take a life riddled with imperfection and messy humanity, if it leaves me sympathetic to yours. At 38 years old, I realize this is what it is to be a good person — not living a life free from mistakes and failures. Recently I'd confided in a friend when I was scared, disappointed and on the verge of castigating myself yet again for the direction my life had taken,  she stopped me in my tracks.

"It is your life, Mandy. And you get to live it exactly how you want."

So yes, it's messy. And yes, it's not ideal. But it's mine, and I'll take it just as it is.


  1. Fiance? I think I only missed one blog. What the?! That is fricking cool Mandy!! Two warped and brilliant minds coming together - warms my heart.

  2. There was no blog to miss. This isn't about my exterior life, it's about my interior life.


    And thank you.

  3. 10/16 Boyfriend...then fiance? are congratulations in order?
    Anyway, beutifully written post and an excellent observation. Thanks for your always evocative words.

  4. Add my sincere Congrats to the rest!! What wonderful news!

    Life and age are indeed humbling. Goals change with reality seeping in.

    I like the way you think and talk about it.

  5. Yep, got it. Well sorry for leading off comments off-topic. It is always fun to scrutinize, analyze, learn from and sometimes make fun of your interior life. But you said fiance, so I couldn't let that go. Plus, fiance is a funny word.

  6. In seeing death in the context of lives lived well, I found similiarity with you here. It hasn't deviated in this in 56 years...or somewhere in there where the awarenesses began. The only ones I know who've eluded this are some of those who are very wealthy. They have deal with boredom.

  7. I've been pondering this a lot of late... this growing older and losing sight of the points I was headed. So thanks for this.

    I still find it funny that we are riding in the same car with the same mileage. There is something wonder twinny about that.

  8. Nicely written.

    I've added you to my blogroll. :-) I shoulda done it sooner.


  9. I suppose it comes down to expectations. You haven't been humbled by life if that's what you expected going in.

    Like the concept of happiness, I think a lot of us don't get that fairy tale endings are just that. I blame this on post Star Wars pop culture. American entertainment isn't allowed to write bad endings anymore because we want to live in a fairy tale world. And we just don't.

    And that's totally fine, Buddha. :-)

  10. I don't think you're a busted up hoop-dy of a lady, though (LOL), I think you are a Jag (I wanted one, too. Black...or silver) in disguise ;) I absolutely loved this post!

    Oh, and Congrats!

  11. Well, yes. And no. The problem comes of getting so used to being beaten down by life that you can't believe or acknowledge the good when it finally does come along. And that does us a disservice, too.


  12. You say busted up hooptie, I say "proudly wearing battle scars." Potato - Potahto.

    I think you nailed it . . . we spend so much time planning out our lives, only to realize one day that we're not living life. Life is living through us. Or something like.

    Congratulations again on your life. All of it.

  13. It's true that we need to experience some failures and hardships to become humble and less judgmental. I'm not perfect in that area, but I certainly am doing better than I was years ago.
    A great post.

  14. I had a lot of crap the year I turned 14 and I think it removed all illusions about what life was going to be. And now at 30 I think I'm happier for it. Now I've learned that plans are good and I work towards them but I'm not glued to only those possibilities. Some of the worst things, but more importantly some of the best things, happen when life didn't go as we planned.

    Congratulations on one of your best things. :)

  15. life is good... even when we're not particularly enjoying the moment.

  16. I've been remiss, but I saw Julie's FB update and squealed and I thought I owed you a squeal:


    So happy for you both... and so happy to have caught up on all of your blogs that I've missed. I love the "Cracky in love" blog. Love.

  17. Expectations, to a certain extent, are good. But I don't get those "this is my life planned to the minute" people. Life isn't like that. And frankly, I've made a ton of mistakes, and bad decisions, but they all got me to where I am today. And I love my life. Some of the curviest balls life throws at us, bring us the greatest joy. It's all in how you get THROUGH them, that determines your character. And babe, YOU've got character. Smooch.

  18. Beautiful & inspirational - like always. You are my favorite writer - EVER. :-)

  19. Mandy, it seems to me that both you and your fiance have figured it out. Once you do life becomes much more enjoyable. If you don't have a fiance then you should. Peace, howie

  20. Fiance is a funny word. I only wish I knew how to put the accent mark over the e.

    I'm going to use it as much as possible, because he's not going to be The Fiance for very long before he becomes The Husband.

    I also like My Betrothed. I may have to sneak that in a few times too.

  21. We're all going to die eventually.

  22. Hi Mandy,

    Thank you for sharing,
    and Congratulations.


  23. Been humbled many times! Life never turns out like we expect it...thank goodness! I'm so excited for you!!!!!

    Love from the duct-taped-hooptie-in-St. Lou!

  24. I made a similar observation this weekend. I've discovered that I prefer dating men in their forties to men in their thirties. Men in their thirties seem to still striving. They still have something to prove. The men I've dated in their forties seem to have been humbled by life and settled into their own skins.

    I'm 34 but I must be an overachiever because I've been humbled enough to be 50.

    Congrats on the Fiance.

  25. Oh Mandy.

    Very well put.

    With a birthday and a milestone coming up for me in a matter of moments it seems, I have been reflecting and forecasting and forgiving...

    And I love you. especially because your messy.

  26. Very well put, and so true. You can't be kind to others unless you can empathize and not judge. Who is anyone to say another has made mistakes, we can but offer a hand up.
    There are lots of things I wish I hadn't seen or done but they make me who I am today and it's way far off from who I was twenty years ago.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  27. I drive an old yellow 87 cadillac. It sounds like a dump truck due to a missing part of the muffler. And the windshield wipers won't always work or I can't shut them off. And I smell gas fumes sometimes. But it will crush anything in it's path. And I am thankful for that.

  28. If you're a busted up Honda, we're all hoopties.

    Anyways, you're one beautiful hooptie, inside and out. And on paper.

    Congrats on "The Fiance". Heeheehee. I'm not even big on marriage and I'm overcome with giggling. :D

  29. Congrats! I am so excited for you and your betrothed. I sooo like the sound of that.

    You clearing still rock the place.

  30. Hey, I have the hooptie Honda at 117K also. Saving up for a timing belt that I should have done a while ago. That Honda, is one of my favorite things because the airconditioning works so well in hot San Diego. I am surprised with my successes so far! I have been graced with good luck or something so far. Single Mom with two daughters....wild life.

  31. This makes me feel all soft and liking-you.

    And maybe a little more forgiving of myself.

    Thank you, Mandy. Beautifully written.

  32. I kind of had that last revelation about my body the other day. I've got a lot of "how I see myself vs how I look" stuff going on in there.

  33. And nice quick slip of "The Fiance". I congratulate you quietly, and intensely. As quietly and intensely as you slipped that in.

  34. i had to stop reading your blog mid post to come here and say congratulations before i was side tracked by what ever wonderful words follow the glorious word fiance! so, an interweb hug and my sincere best wishes... i'm now returning to your previously written wisdom. :)

  35. Life's challenges are what create understanding and comradeship among men.

    When someone hasn't been down, it just doesn't occur to them to offer anyone else a hand up.


  36. Thank you all for the well wishes.

    I feel pretty lucky to marry my best friend.


  37. Hey - you said you wanted to keep this about your interior life. Now I feel like an ass for not congratulating you earlier.

    In any event, best wishes on this new phase of your life.


  38. I'm very happy for you Mandy. Welcome to your life, it's absolutely beautiful.

  39. Oh but how lovely the mess can be, right? Where would we all be without the mess lessons?

    This post is beautiful and I wish I could be as sympathetic as you are. That is a noble attribute and one I have a very hard time cultivating.

  40. I listened to some of this on the radio this morning:

    What they could tell us about humility and living the life the way they wanted.

  41. wow...way to see and accept your life just the way it is...

  42. Congratulations! I guess this will make you The Dirty, Dirty Holy Grail?


    Humbled by life=humbled by my choices. As I believe I'm in the life I've created, not always consciously. I've tripped and stumbled and backed my way through most of my life. I haven't always been happy with the outcome, because it didn't match my expectations. But, these days I try to accept it all. After all, it was me making the choices every step along the way.

    Suddenly I'm hearing Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" playing in the background...

  43. You have love in your life. I wish the best for you Mandy. :)

  44. Don't have a clue how I found you
    but am intrigued that I did.

    I totally agree about learning so many life lessons, and believe we
    will still be saying at the end of our lives that we know 'nothing'.

    Last year, I decided after having
    a horrific car accident to buy my
    Jag. 2 years old - silver, and
    I feel safe driving (not in the winter though - that may take a few more years) but in the meantime, I live for the moment(s)
    and appreciate all I have, not what I don't. I feel very lucky,
    as I died in my car accident, so
    I am truly a person who was given
    a second chance at a new life.

    Wishing the same for you ..


  45. From someone whose life has been a trainwreck of disappointments...Thank you. i guess the one thing i am glad about is all the guys who used to beat me up in high school didn't age so well, so I got that! :-)

  46. I'm newer to your blog and just wanted to say that was a stunning and brave post. You have a real gift with words.


  47. Nicely said, and very true. I my own self think it's the crappy things in life that make us who we are far more than the good things. The crappy things shape us, hone us like a knife. The good shit also shapes us, just not to the extent that the bad stuff does.

  48. There is a dignity that comes with age, but not just the years alone but the experience through which we earn that dignity. You clearly possess the poise and intelligence to live a full and happy life. And at only age 38... well, the best is yet to come. Nicely written blog.

  49. what a beautiful post. i feel like i was meant to read it at this point in my life, and i should print it out and post it on my bathroom mirror and read it every morning. you are an amazing woman :) and congratulations!

  50. This post is fantastic...great writing and great insight. Plus you made me feel so much better about being 35 and not anywhere close to where I thought I'd be by now. I'm living my life!

  51. Only through suffering do we become whole and build character. People go on about God allowing suffering, and yet, what prats and brats would we be without it?