Just Talking To Myself

It’s been a very long time since I was inspired to write a post in this space and I’m not going to question why my muse suddenly made an appearance.

… but she did, and I’m going to run with it.

It happened yesterday morning in the car.

Gilles and I are on an 800 km (500 mile) road trip to Quebec City to see his mom – a visit that has been long overdue.

It was my turn to drive, and while Gilles napped in the passenger seat beside me, I found myself suddenly in conversation with 16-year-old me.

She eyed me curiously, obviously a bit disappointed in what she saw – the pudgy body, thin graying hair, wrinkles, and veiny hands. While every teenager expects to grow older, none ever expect to actually BE old.

Her expression told me I could have done better.

Yeaaah, whatever.

Obviously she was interested in knowing what was ahead of her, so I filled her in on the highlights – school, career, I pointed to the sleeping husband of 37 years, and told her about our adult sons.

Of those things she nodded with approval.

I suppose I should have been glad I wasn’t viewed as a complete loser.

She shyly asked if I was happy and I gave her a slow smile.

Ups and downs are inevitable in life. There is no Prince Charming or happily-ever-after, nor does any Cinderella ever wake up without bed-hair and bad breath.

I’ve learned that happiness is like trying to capture smoke. The harder you try, the faster it seems to dissipate around you.

And yet in the quiet moments when you least expect it, a warm feeling of contentment wraps gently around you like a blanket on a cold winter’s night.

Yes, I answered. Our life has been very good and I’m happy.

I told her that mom and dad are now both gone. Dad passed away over 20 years ago, and mom followed a dozen years later. I still miss them both and asked her to hug them for me – frequently.

… and please be more of a help to mom at every chance. It’s not easy being the matriarch of the family. By the time you figure that out, it will already be too late and it will fill you with shame that you didn’t do more in her younger years.

Of course that drifted to the topic of regrets.

I could say with confidence that I didn’t regret any of the big decisions I made in life … but I couldn’t say the same about many of the small things I said or did over the years, done in haste, without thought to how I might hurt someone else in the process.

People I thought were important turned out not to be, while others deserved better from me. I continue to be a work in progress.

She had looked at me questioningly when we passed a large road sign advising those returning to Canada of mandatory self-isolation for 14 days.

There were still so many things for us to talk about – miracles, like the internet, and not-so-great things, like pandemics.

But there was no time left to explain. Gilles was waking up from his long snooze and eager to stop soon.

We reluctantly said quick farewells, bidding each other to stay well.
In truth, our life literally depends on it.

66 comments

  1. “without thought to how I might hurt someone else in the process.” Such an important thing to think about if we are tempted to dwell on how someone has hurt us. I think people rarely do things with the intention of hurting others – I think they do or say things because it is what is best for them at the time.
    If we don’t pay enough attention to what is best for ourselves we run the danger of not being of much use to others, either.

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  2. Joanne, it is so wonderful to read your words here again! I think I detect a topic for a future buddy chat.

    I laughed reading the following:

    “ While every teenager expects to grow older, none ever expect to actually BE old. Her expression told me I could have done better.”

    Hahaha, Yep! That’s it exactly. As a younger clueless person, I used to look sideways at older people and wonder: “Why do they want to look like that?” Somehow, I was oblivious to the fact that people don’t choose to have an aging body. It happens to us in spite of ourselves.

    What a lovely, poignant piece.

    Jude

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  3. I love this and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ahhh i like the idea of having a conversation with our younger selves… I was just thinking the other day of how the weeks are flying by and how at age fourteen or so, a day felt like a year. The whole concept of time is rather strange.. But for sure when we were teenagers, even thirty was OLD…

    Great piece Joanne.

    Peta

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  4. This is a wonderful post Joanne. I’m so glad your muse decided the road trip was a good idea. There’s not much I can add to what everyone else has said, except you’ve got me thinking about your alchemy comment. Very perceptive

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  5. Oh Joanne, I absolutely loved reading this piece. So many of us can relate to your thoughts & your shared wisdom here. I hope your muse continues to inspire you my friend. Enjoy beautiful Quebec City!💕

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  6. As a relatively new follower of your blog I was wondering where you had gone. In fact I thought your VI hop might have inspired a post or two so was happy to see that a road trip did. I drive down to visit my mother (4 hours south of Saskatoon) regularly and I can’t remember a single thing I think about once I get there. I wish port keys were real and the quiet time in the vehicle seldom results in spectacular thoughts that I would later be able to capture so well done.
    As to regrets and life. I’ve been fortunate that all my big ticket items worked out (marriage and career and locations) but I was a hot mess (as the younger generation say) when it came to parenting. I made so many mistakes even though I tried so hard. I’ve also had some big friendship regrets but also some stellar 40+ friendships that are so precious and my best friend of 60+ years is still just that. So life has been pretty good but like some else said I would tell 16 year old Bernie to eat better and exercise more — oh and to enjoy those gorgeous long auburn curls because they’d be gone by 35 and turned grey.

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  7. Glad that your amusing muse entertained you on your drive and that you mustered up enough energy and enthusiasm to share her/your thoughts with us! Thanks.

    Have a great trip!

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  8. When I saw this in my email yesterday, I didn’t want to open it because I wanted to savor the idea of reading it today with my coffee in hand. What a home run you hit here because you touched on so many things that we’re all dealing with. It was artfully written, and you had me nodding my head and smiling. I have regrets that I didn’t do enough for my Mom, but there is no going back, so I try to learn from my mistakes. I had a good laugh thinking about looking at younger photos compared to the vintage woman looking back from the mirror. Who was that good looking woman with the long auburn hair. 🙂 Stay well, have a good visit, and do come back. We miss a regular dose of Joanne. 🙂

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  9. Dear Joanne,
    great that your muse kissed you again. We very much like your reflections.
    We, that is our dear Dina and our Master, feel much better now than when we were 16. Life has become easier.
    Keep well and happy
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
    P.S.
    We like Quebec City. We visited it often when living in Montreal.

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  10. Hi Joanne, I find when I am driving in a quiet car, my mind will wander in different, unexpected directions.

    A unique reversal of expectations, Joanne. The question is often what would we tell our 16-year-old selves. Not necessarily the reversal, what would our 16-year-old selves say to us.

    What?! No Prince Charming or happily-ever-after?!

    Many goosebumps in this post. Especially your closing sentence. Profound and moving.❤️

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  11. Wonderful piece, Joanne. You should go on road trips more often! 🙂 Honestly, though, having hours of quiet time while driving – or as a passenger – works wonders for the mind. Or, in my case, for thousands of thoughts fighting for attention. Enjoy your time in Quebec City. Such an amazing place.

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    • Quebec City is one of my favourite places. It really is a treasure and I’m lucky to have been here so many times … even on a very rainy day like today 🙂

      When we were younger, Gilles and I used to use this time ‘in captivity’ in the car to hash out our plans – like getting married, having children, buying a house. Now we’re happy in the quiet … but our minds still churn 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. “I continue to be a work in progress.” We all are, Joanne. What a lovely conversation. I think those conversations are good ones to have and very insightful. In a way, we are all the ages we’ve lived and there are things to learn from each one, made clearer through hindsight. We can’t go back, of course, but we can go forward. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m glad your Muse showed up to Inspire this Post. I’ve often thought about who I am now versus who I was in Youth, sometimes very different people indeed! Some old saying I once heard never made sense to me until I was a Senior… Youth is wasted on the Young! It makes me Smile now, as you start running out of Time and your Mortality confronts you, I think you begin to prioritize what is truly important and what is definitely not or shouldn’t be sweated. I’m actually more comfortable in my own skin now than back then, even tho’ looking at old pixs I probably should have been more confident and comfortable, my own skin back then looked pretty damned good in retrospect. *Winks* I’m happy with who I am, what I’ve accomplished in life, but the regrets, like yours, are more about the small stuff… some of the stuff I didn’t get around to doing that now I’d give a priority if it were still an option… more often than not it’s not anymore. Bora Bora has been No. One on the ole Bucket List too damned long already, for example.

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  14. Beautiful, Joanne. I think you captured what many of us are feeling as we get older. I would have had a similar conversation with my younger self (although I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist telling her to eat better and get plenty of exercise… the same advice I’d give my 64-year-old self). I’m so happy your muse has returned. Can you please, please ask her to stick around for a while this time. Hugs, my friend.

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    • I’m hoping my muse pops in once in a while. I’ve missed her. When she’s around, the words just seem to flow.

      I give my 64-year-old self the same advice and she doesn’t listen to it any more than my 16-year-old self. It did cross my mind though that I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again. Yeah, the energy of youth was awesome, but the confidence of senior years is SO much better.

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  15. You live a very happy and blessed life from what I can see, Joanne. Yes, we all have our regrets, but the point is not to wallow in those regrets, to keep moving forward, like you do on your hikes or bike rides. As for me, I would tell my 16 year old self to give me back my flat stomach and never mind the years that follow. It has all worked out. 😉

    Have a safe journey to Quebec City and back, and a nice visit with Gilles’ mom.

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    • And to think I actually thought I was fat when I was 16. Oh, to be that fat again 😉
      Seriously, I think I was absolutely clueless when I was a teenager. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn out half-baked.

      I think I’m doing a much better job in my older and wiser years in getting things more right than wrong. Like you said, it’s better to keep moving forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. There’s something about long car rides that lead to deep reflection and often deep conversations, too though this was unexpected. I have an extensive list of regrets and missteps but as Deb says, that’s how we learn. The missteps lead to insights and changes and personal evolution to get where we are. Lovely post, Joanne. Glad the muse pursued and caught you!

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    • Is it just me or are the insights coming with greater frequency lately? Is this just another sign of age?

      It was pointed out to me recently that in alchemy, transformation occurs when great pressure is applied to an object. So too our personal growth. We can’t do anything about the regrets … except learn from them.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m so happy to hear from you again, Joanne, and to know that things are going well and that you two are well. Your musings are some I’m sure most of us have had at one time or another. With our move to Arizona, I have a chance to be near my parents for the first time since college and to help them out as well as just spend precious time with them. At 90 and 91, the chances grow less and thus more cherished. Glad you two were able both to visit and to just get out of the house and take a trip. Stay well and don’t make a stranger of yourself.

    janet

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    • Thanks Janet. To be honest, I didn’t really think I would ever write another post on this blog. It just goes to prove you should never say never 🙂

      I know I don’t have to tell you to treasure the time you have left with your parents. Give them extra hugs from me. The fact that both of them are still here in their 90s is quite remarkable. I’m guessing you’re hoping those longevity genes have been passed down 🙂

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      • No hugging because of Covid, but they’re so happy that we’re here that it doesn’t matter. They aged a lot in the last year or so but as you say, they’re getting up there. I’m thankful they’ve been in good shape for so long (only a few years ago, my mom was setting records for javelin in the Senior Olympics) and that we’re here now to help. My brother helps also, I haste to add. 🙂

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  18. Brilliant post, Joanne! I’m so glad that you wrote down your conversation with your 16 year old self, to share with us. I am sad (and suspicious) when I hear people claim they have no regrets in life. (Really? You’ve never ever accidentally or otherwise said or did something that hurt someone?)They are either in denial, lying, or as shallow as ditchwater. Or sociopathic, I suppose…I’ve learned the most in life not from successes, but from when I’ve made a misstep, and reflected upon it. Thank you, my friend.🤗

    Deb

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  19. If we’re honest with ourselves I think we all have regrets or things we wish we could do over. Unfortunately the best we can hope for is to learn from them so we don’t make the same mistakes again. Sounds like you’ve already got that figured out pretty good.
    Be safe in Québec and stay away from the Karaoke bars 😉
    We were going to head up that way last weekend but with cases on the rise there again we decided to stay close to home.

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    • I admit I’m a bit anxious about the growing Covid numbers but Gilles’ mom has been so isolated. Hopefully time will confirm this wasn’t a bad decision.

      It’s a good thing we didn’t come for the weather though. It’s pouring rain right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sixteen was a rough year for me. I’m not surprised 16-year-old me leaped forward to take a peek at the future.
      I’ve often wished I could go back and ‘relive’ a moment in time to see how accurate my memory of it really was. Of course that will never happen – but it does make for interesting conversations with myself.

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    • A group of us were having this conversation a while back and that’s exactly the conclusion we came to. Even if we could undue a decision in the past, we wouldn’t be the same person today … and who knows, we’d probably make even worse decisions instead!

      All we can hope for is that we’ve learned from the rough spots and come out of the experience a better person.

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  20. While you were listening to your muse on that drive, did you spot any moose?

    Boy, if only we could actually speak to our younger selves and offer some advice. I’d be filling my doppelganger with all kinds wisdom to drive out the tomfoolery.

    As for the pandemic, hopefully the government will get rid of its restrictions soon, so we can all get on with our lives more easily. At least that’s my view, controversial as it may be.

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  21. Hi Joanne. I’m not a blogger myself, but I see your comments on those posts we both follow and you are always so interesting. Then I thought, “Why aren’t I following you?” Duh!

    So today I received my first post from you and I couldn’t have been rewarded with a better post. Jackpot!! What a superb piece of writing. I’ve had similar conversations with my younger self. I don’t think I came out on top!

    I too knew I would grow old but thought I would forever look 16. That, despite the fact that my mom and aunts all looked like they had attended Methuselah’s baby shower. Live and learn.

    Reflection is good. Cleans out some of the cobwebs. And can be the source of some great belly laughs!! 🤗

    Looking forward to future posts. Have a wonderful time in Quebec City and enjoy every minute with your family.
    Ginger

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh Ginger!! What a wonderful comment! I’m smiling from ear to ear 🙂

      I remember thinking that my future was going to be different. I wasn’t going to ‘let myself go’. HA! There’s no ‘letting’ involved … we all eventually learn that time alone is brutal.

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  22. Today is my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone a long time but I have regrets that I didn’t do more for her. I was the youngest so I had the closest relationship with her but it’s after someone is gone that you wish for more. I would tell my younger self to focus more on the job as being independent financially served me well but I could have done more earlier.

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  23. Such a beautifully written reflection. So glad you shared with us.

    I’m not feeling much like writing in this space either – it seems all I will do is add more angst to an already overburdened world. Thank you for a brief respite to all that.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Very well written, Joanne. Given that every decision potentially alters your future path, any of those things you might have done differently might have cause us not to “meet.” I’m glad your life went the way it did.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I very good post, Joanne. Funny thing about regrets….someone usually asks ‘what’s something you would change in your life?’ Older me has to smile at that. Nothing. I would change nothing. For every ‘I should have done that’ you could wipe out an ‘I’m so glad I did that.’ No regrets on this end. I just stay a moving target and hope I’m moving in the right direction! I hope 16-year old you was pleased with your responses; I think they were great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah – I would agree that the scales are more than balanced in favour of good decisions over regrets .. especially considering the big items must count for so much more!

      Sixteen year old me should be in awe of what’s ahead 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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