The Other Direction

12 Jul

cancun sunriseAs I approach my fifty-first birthday, it crossed my mind that I’m now heading in that “other” direction—you know, the one where we picture ourselves at the top of the mountain, standing tall and strong, basking in the knowledge that we finally got there. And then we think: Well, that’s it then. I made it. From here on out, it’s just slip-sliding all the way back down to the bottom.

I understand that this is a ridiculous notion on my part because for me, life has really just begun at the halfway mark. This past year has been the best year of my life, and just keeps getting better all the time. I’m happier than I ever was at age thirty-five, or twenty-one, or even sixteen. I’ve finally let go of the notion that I have to prove to the world that I’m good enough, and I’ve got to say it’s quite liberating! I finally like being me.

The very best part of aging is that I’m wise enough to realize that we’re all basically the same. It turns out that the woman sitting next to me at the dinner party (whom I used to worry was smarter, funnier and better dressed than I was) was actually thinking the same things about me (well, maybe not the better dressed part.) It’s just a fact that no matter how much money each of us has in our checking account, or what type of car we drive, or where our children attend college (or don’t), inside our minds and hearts we are often scared and vulnerable and too terrified to admit it. Now that I get this about people, I just love them so much more.

The other good thing about heading in that other direction is that I value my moments so much more now. It used to be that washing the dishes and folding the laundry took precedence over getting down on the living room rug to play with my young children. I live five minutes from the beach, but it used to be that I wouldn’t swim in the ocean because my body was too fat or my skin too fair. I didn’t want to get sunburned or track sand into the house or have to be bothered with cleaning the tar from my feet. I’ll go to the beach when the house is clean, or after the grocery shopping, or when I lose twenty pounds….

I had it all wrong. In my attempt to try to control my environment I denied myself the little pleasures in life. I see now that I only wasted precious time! How did I not notice the whisper of a cool evening breeze after a sultry day, or the fresh scent of sheets just pulled from the dryer? Why did I worry so much about how many calories were in that slice of peach pie that I didn’t take the time to savor the sweetness of each delicious bite?

church in Oaxaca

A few weeks ago I returned from a trip with my family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and I can truly say that it was the best vacation of my life. It’s not that I hadn’t been to Mexico before—over the years we’ve been several times to visit my husband’s family. But it used to be that after only a week there, I was more than ready to come home. There were too many bugs, or it was too humid, or the poverty made me uncomfortable. I had a whole list of excuses for not wanting to be there.

hammockThis time though, I allowed myself to just let go and find the beauty in every moment. I didn’t worry about getting sick from the water, or getting stranded in the mountains on the way to my husband’s village. I put on a bathing suit, slathered on the sunscreen, and even though my thighs jiggled and I was the whitest person on the beach, I didn’t care! I visited ruins, went snorkeling with my kids, and ate fried bananas while swinging in a hammock. I walked the cobblestoned streets of downtown Oaxaca City with my husband’s family and spoke a ton of Spanish. I ate mole negro and handmade tortillas every chance I got and I spent more money than I should have. I thoroughly enjoyed my husband and my children. I laughed more often than not.under the umbrella

I lived.


So it may very well be true that I’m now headed down the mountain in that other direction— the very one I spent so many years trying to climb up, but hey—I’m just fine with that—going down is so much more fun. And I’m kind of tired after all those years of struggling.

Besides, it’s always so much easier going back down, and the view is spectacular.view of Yalalag

17 Responses to “The Other Direction”

  1. Sharlae July 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    LOVE this, Jessica!! Thanks for sharing a little about your adventure…and for the good reminders!

    • Allegro non tanto July 12, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Just another little kick in the pants to remind myself to appreciate every detail of every moment! It’s hard work, but worth it!

  2. Eleanor Winters July 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    Jess, This is so Nice. I really enjoy the “Other Direction.” Good on you. Mom

  3. July 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Loved this! Thanks for bearing your soul. It’s refreshing, and REAL. I’m also looking forward to spending time with that lovely Isa of yours! Don’t forget to round up that apron from last year. See you at 9 on Monday.


  4. injaynesworld July 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    And I’m here to tell you it just keeps getting better! So beautifully expressed, Jessica.

  5. Deborah Batterman July 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Oh,to be ‘in the moment’ every moment of the day, with full appreciation of oneself and what is, in contrast to how we’d like things to be — isn’t that the gift? Isn’t it something, too, that those marker years — 50 especially — make us reflect on what it is that gets in the way of a fully lived life. And, yes, letting go. Btw, You look like a mermaid in the hammock. ;-).

  6. Rossandra White July 13, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    How did you get “there” so fast? I’m 100 years older than you and it’s only in the last five years or so (and ever so much more with each passing day) that I’m letting go of all, well, most of that self sh*t talk. You, lady, are the bomb!!! xoxoxo

    • Allegro non tanto July 13, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

      The point is, we figured it out and can enjoy the rest of our lives to the fullest!

  7. Becky Green Aaronson July 13, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    Such a beautiful and inspiring post!

  8. Danielle July 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    I am approaching 50 and hope to gain the serenity and wisdom you have by then. Thank you for sharing your insights in such a lovely, eloquent way.

    • Allegro non tanto July 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      Thank you, Danielle, for reading. I really hope that my words (of wisdom, perhaps?) help others avoid the unhappiness that I faced for so many years. It’s much more fun being happy!

  9. Mary Darragh July 23, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Jessica, so pleased to have re-discovered your Blog. Your mom & now Jenny have sent me your writings in the past. I read “La Muerta” after the loss of our beloved son, the understanding of your beautiful writing was cathartic for me..
    This blog too was wonderful to read…I am waaay past that age, but will share your words with my 50ish children….You are an amazing writer and I hope life keeps you inspired with beautiful experiences to share.

    • Allegro non tanto July 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog, Mary! I was so sad to hear about your son’s passing. Mom has kept me updated throughout the years and I know that you and Jack were there for him the entire time. No matter what the situation, death always affects us so deeply. Love to you and your family!

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