Instructions Not Included

Middle age is a barrel of laughs. Except it’s not, sometimes. I think if you can get past the anxiety of being halfway through your life, you should be able to enjoy most of it. I am trying, and it goes pretty well most of the time. The only advantage of having lost so many people I love so early in life is that I know that life is short, and if you stress too much about things, you are going to miss the good parts.

I feel like an adult teenager most of the time. Like, I know I am 50 years old, I know it. But I still feel the 15 year old Carol inside, the young soul still keeping it real in my heart. She didn’t know much about life yet, despite a few tough situations, but it was still all out there for her. And I feel that sometimes. But a couple of people reminded me recently, by way of their stories, about how much road I have covered. By listening to them, I look at how I made it this far, and I am more bewildered than ever. Nobody tells you how to get through some of the tougher spots.

Losing my parents young, well, that has been my biggest hurdle. I still feel like I got cheated, that they really got cheated. A raw deal. But I still have friends who have their folks, and they are dealing with them and the things that come with their advancing age. My best friend lost her mom a little over a month ago, and another friend’s mom had a pretty serious medical scare, and she was the person who dealt with the majority of the decisions involving her care, and what comes next. Another good friend is concerned her mom has dementia advancing pretty quickly, and that is hard on her, and her family. Nobody can really explain to you how to deal with it. What steps follow, especially as it pertains to your own heart. People with good intentions will tell you how they get through, recommend some resources they may know about, and they will listen. But they can’t tell your heart how to handle it. It’s stressful, it’s heartbreaking, and there isn’t any one right way to handle any of it. Get through it, and use the people around you for some support, that’s what I can give for advice, and that’s the best way I found my way through.

The mystical world of relationships, I hear so much about it, but don’t have a lot of practical applications of my own. I have never done too well, romantically speaking. So any advice I give out is the cumulation of what I have seen others go through. The funniest thing is, people come to me all the time for relationship advice. Can’t say for sure why, but I usually listen, and tell them they deserve better than that. Because 90% of the time, it’s true. If you are complaining about your partner, because of some way they treated you, acted or something they did that was disrespectful, you deserve better. Fights and disagreements happen, that is just normal, you cannot agree on everything. But the things that go deeper, that dig at the foundation of your soul, that’s a problem. You deserve better. There are ways you can save that relationship, by communicating and working things out together, but if one of you is unwilling to participate? You deserve better. The reason you stay in it, is that you don’t believe me or anyone who tells you that you deserve better. That is where the instruction manual is missing too. You can’t look it up and see where things malfunctioned. It must be soul crushing to realize your partner does not have your back. It has to be even more devastating to believe you don’t deserve better, that this is as good as it gets. I always hope for those individuals that nothing catastrophic happens to save them, that they awake someday just knowing that the instructions say you do not have to live a miserable life.

People like to have a plan, to have the map that gets you from point A to point B. But it isn’t always there. It’s a struggle sometimes. The good news is that usually someone else has traveled it, and can give a little guidance. It is like Google maps. If you look, there are usually two or more ways to get to the destination, you only looked at the first one that came up on the search. You have to be able to navigate things if you hit a construction zone, be a little resourceful. If you tossed the instructions and ended up with more parts than there should be, you can still get it all together. You are not the first or the last who messed it up a little. Life will be messy, there are times it will work out, and times it’s more like a dumpster fire. Keep the right people in your corner, with a fire extinguisher, and listen when they whisper “you can do it, you deserve the best” because they have usually roasted marshmallows over their own dumpster fire and enjoyed the s’mores on the other side. They want to see you assemble the best life you can, even if a couple of the parts weren’t in the little package and the instruction book is missing a page or two.

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