Ten life lessons from 2014

Source: shop.nordstrom.com
Source: shop.nordstrom.com

1  Not all heels are created equal

         It was the Duchess of Cambridge that did it, believe it or not. Looking at her photos online and reading about how she was wedded to her wedges even while pregnant, I heard my heels begging to be taken out of their boxes. Correction. Actually, I realized that my youngest is already seven years old and I did not have to carry a crying child while inside a mall or lug around a huge baby bag when shopping. Which meant I’m finally free to wear heels and wear them I did.

         With a vengeance, you might say, after I realized that my age will pass the half-century mark in less than five years . I wore them to church, to the dentist, to trips to the city, to parties, even to a company affair at the park. Along the way I discovered that stilletos are not equal to platforms, that slingbacks make one feel sexy all the time and that heels force one to act more ladylike as in walk in a straight line instead of swagger around. Not bad, huh? Now if only the hubby would appreciate my sudden ladylike gait instead of suggesting that – instead of new shoes – maybe I should consider buying new lingerie … at my age – gasp!!

2  Some expensive handbags are created equal

         Living in a desert town doesn’t mean we’re immune to the peccadilloes of fashionistas in Dubai. As in Dubai, bling is king here and a designer bag is a must-have accessory. But. I chafe at paying so much for just a label.

        So I investigated. I looked at the bags sold by Kate Spade in Abu Dhabi Mall and the bags in the shop window of DKNY at Yas Mall. I didn’t have to enter Michael Kors’ boutique – nearly every woman in a mall is sporting an MK bag (I am really wondering why MK is the new ‘it’ bag nowadays).

        Know what? Take out the label and one type of bag was comparable to the Aldo bag I bought (at a much lower price) last June for my sister. In fact, minus the label, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference!

3  60 isn’t the new 30 – at least not for common folks like me

         Ugh. Sometimes I hate watching aged celebrities discuss life. But. I can’t help it. Just as I couldn’t help flipping through a fashion magazine featuring Christy Turlington at the airport even though I gave up reading fashion magazines a long time ago for my peace of mind. In this case, I was watching Jane Seymour (remember Somewhere in Time?) discuss her divorce when she uttered “Sixty is the new thirty.”

         Duh. How can one do at sixty what one did at thirty? And I’m not talking about sex only here. I’m less than fifty and already, I can feel my body complaining when I push it (so okay, I don’t push it that much).

         Unlike celebrities who can look young for their age with the help of a cosmetic surgeon, I opt to feel young by exercising and eating right and not aspiring to do at fifty what I was not able to do at twenty (and I was a dancer who could contort her body into different angles). Because. How can your body do something at sixty that it couldn’t do at thirty?

4  Life does begin at 40 (in my case, it was somewhere between 45 and 46)

         Hmmm. This should be self-explanatory. But for the benefit of younger readers who might feel irritated at hearing this bon mot from older friends, here’s my take based on my very limited existence on Planet Earth.

         Age brings experience. Experience brings wisdom – at least it’s supposed to be. If you haven’t learned from your mistakes, then you’re a hopeless case. Assuming you’ve built up experience, you’ll have a better chance of knowing what you want from life or what life has to offer. And. Gaining that perspective – of knowing yourself better – cannot be had without aging, unless you live in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Sudan. It is a given with growing old.

         Knowing oneself intimately, one ultimately gets to the point where one attains enough confidence to stay true to oneself and do things one wants to do. Not because you want to please someone. Not because of others’ expectations. But because you want to use your God-given talents to fulfill yourself. Honestly, I don’t know nor even recognize the girl I was twenty-five years ago. Her choices then puzzle me now. Really.

5  Life can be simpler

         This year, I decided to make my Christmas season simpler by deliberately doing two things. First, I opted to buy a present for close family friends instead of their children. Second, I staggered the cooking of food instead of preparing a big feast for Christmas Day.

         Like millions, I usually squeeze in Christmas shopping in between medical appointments, parties, grocery shopping, etc, in addition to the normal household chores. This left me literally frazzled, what with all the cooking and baking that I undertake each year to make my children’s Christmas memorable (the hubby does not demand a feast but we don’t do any tradition, not even gift-giving though we may shop for new clothes out of necessity).

         Not having to shop for individual children translated to a shorter shopping list which meant less time in the mall. Plus, my friends reciprocated and we received food in return. Meanwhile, staggering the cooking and baking over a span of more than a week meant that less food was thrown away. Plus, I did not have to work in the kitchen for more than two to three hours (I remember one Christmas I worked seven straight hours in the kitchen!).

        In return, I was able to spend more time with friends whom I seldom chat with.

6  You can have your cake but eating it might mean sacrificing the icing

        Life is all about choices. One can have one’s cake but time demands might mean one won’t be able to enjoy it. In my case, there are so many things I want to do – sew, read, bake, putter around the garden, paint and write. Unlike years ago when we didn’t have children, I can now buy fabrics of my choice to sew, purchase all the new books I want to read, buy all the ingredients for baking a calorie-sinful cake and even have a wide front yard to contain a garden. But. I don’t have much time to do everything since I am a homeschooling mother with assignments to plan, work to check, etc … Thus, none of the activities mentioned above can be done without sacrificing something. For me, that is usually time with the children.

7  Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it when you least expect it

         After nearly 20 years of marriage, I finally decided my children won’t get cancer (at least not while they’re living with me) or become obese if I feed them the occasional junk food. In other words, my children will be happy to eat junk food if I am not in the mood to prepare a wholesome meal. Translated, that means sometimes our meals nowadays consist of instant noodles or plain bread and jam. That’s only when the hubby is at work, of course.

        But. Just when I relaxed my standards, the hubby goes health conscious. Well, maybe it’s a good development. Because it gets tiring to chop vegetables and blend them in a juicer. And having the hubby prepare cleansing juices – which I’ve been doing for years without receiving any thanks from him – is a respite that I welcome not only because it means he’s getting nutrition into his body but also because it’s good for my waistline, ha,ha, ha!

        So. Now I have a Vitamix (with its own transformer, mind you) in the kitchen next to my Braun blender. The hubby says I can store away the Braun blender. The Vitamix, according to him, can do anything and it seems like it. To date, he has made peanut butter, sorbet, ice-cream, almond milk, vegetable smoothies, etc … But. How can you just put away something that has been a faithful companion for close to ten years?

8  Beauty fades, intellect grows

        This year I made a conscious decision to grow my mind. But. The decision was made only after I debated the wisdom of staying up late at night and making my already-sagging eyebags sag even more. Now if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to depress middle-aged women, eyebags are it. So okay, this may sound trivial in the light of missing airplanes and school bombings and kidnapped girls in Africa. But. Believe me, eyebags were the only obstacle to my decision to read and write more. In short, it was a choice between developing my intellectual side and getting more (beauty) sleep.

        Then I looked at my friends, some of whom are older than I am. They all looked beautiful even though they all had eyebags as deep as mine. I mean. Real people have eyebags. I’m real as you are. So I’ve got eyebags. Perhaps what enabled me to let go of my hang-up over my eyebags was hearing the hubby declare again and again (with ardor, mind you) “You look so beautiful!” despite my looking like a hag in the morning (so okay, maybe he’s a liar but what the heck!)

         Beauty fades but intellect remains.  When youth is gone and the mind is not developed, then all that’s left will be a shell. And that’s something I don’t want to happen to me. Not because the hubby looks at the external only but because he still treats me as his intellectual equal even though I’ve been a SAHM for more than ten years. (Sample: while driving to the city, he opined “I’m trying to understand why America’s economy will take a hit with plunging oil prices.” I begged off from a discussion since I had yet to read up on the subject extensively)

         And really, when you get to be my age, you get to appreciate it more when a man admires your mind rather than your face/body. At least I do.

9  The best anti-aging prescription is a combination of sleep, staying out of the sun, eating healthily, regular exercise and lots of laughter.

         Earlier this year, I was shocked to learn that the wives of hubby’s work colleagues – women younger than I am by more than ten years – are using Obagi, a prescription beauty treatment. Hmm. And what was I doing to make hubby proud that he had a respectable-looking wife in a town notorious for its ladies who brunch? Nothing. That information immediately sent me online to look for the best beauty products to buy without a visit to a dermatologist.

        Ahem! So. Now I have several eye and beauty creams – none of which I use on a regular basis. It sucks, developing a bedtime beauty ritual when I’d much rather write. I mean, I don’t even take off makeup before going to sleep so all these beauty products stay on my bathroom counter for months, sometimes even years, past their expiration date.

        After reflecting about our pursuit of youth for a long time, I returned to my old convictions: the best beauty regimen combines enough sleep (something I seldom get), staying out of the sun, eating vegetables and fruits and other food moderately, regular exercise and laughter. Actually, lots of laughter. Ssshh. I’ll tell you a secret. The youngest-looking female seniors I know are all in full-time ministry. Seems like serving God renders people joyful, serene and young-looking, eh?

The first sunflower to bloom in my garden this autumn (photo taken November 22, 2014)
The first sunflower to bloom in my garden this autumn (photo taken November 22, 2014)

10  The best things in life are still free

         Some things just cannot be bought. Friendship. A child’s hug. Loyalty. Trust. A husband’s devotion. The kindness of strangers. Respect. A promise kept. Honesty. The beauty of words that paint an image as vivid as a stereoscopic 3D movie. Freedom. Grace.

         The ‘terrible beauty’ of sunset over the dunes. Salvation. Van Gogh’s sunflowers. After-dinner conversations over endless cups of coffee. YouTube – where one can hear Joni Mitchell sing “Both Sides Now.” Kitty Meijering paintings that throb with movement. Roots. Reunions with old friends ….

          Laughter. Love. Always, everything reverts back to love. Have faith, please – the best things in life remain free.


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