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May 4, 2021

At 62, I’m Finally Done with “Waste.”

I’m done with waste. 

Such a sad word. Wasted time. Wasted opportunity. Wasted talent. A word infused with the regret of opportunities and experiences unappreciated. 

I’m 62 years old. Not yet ancient, but a time for reflection, a time to see what lessons I can learn from my past to carry into my future. Having an illness that reduces my life expectancy has infused this process with a sense of urgency.

I don’t want to fritter away my remaining years. I want them to count.

As I look back over my life, I am struck by the accumulation of wasted anguish. How I agonised over trivialities and not-so-trivialities, without the wisdom to know the difference—the size of my body; the love of a man not right for me; the colour of my hair; the state of my bank balance; my position on an orchestra list.  

Cancer clarifies the vision. As I look back and reflect, I see just how much of my energy I invested in trying to please. To become different, better, prettier, funnier—a person who was not, in fact, me at all. And through all this striving, all this creating of a false self, I became less pretty, less funny, and importantly, less authentic.

The longing to be different led me to addictions: work, alcohol, food, shopping, men—the list goes on. I was running, running away—terrified at the thought of putting my unmasked self into the world. Terrified that someone might come close, and find out who I really was. Terrified that I might not find love. Terrified that I might.

My heart breaks for that young woman who was me.

I don’t think I knew my real self—I was so busy trying to change her, remaking her over and over, that I forgot to appreciate her. Imagine if I had spent my whole life wearing my “Self” with pride! Enjoying my Self. Even—perish the thought—liking her. Imagine if trying on clothes was just that, rather than the frenetic trying-on of new personalities, always looking for the one. Imagine if I experienced myself as enough.

Actually, my Self is enough. She has been with me since birth. She has stuck steadfastly by me through thick and thin. Now she is sticking by me through cancer, lighting the way, and showing me that opportunities abound, even with a disobliging body. My Self has looked after me through all the false starts, wasted time, missed opportunities, and heartbreak. She has waited patiently until such time that I was ready to stop wasting life and start listening. 

That time is now. I follow the guidance of my Self and feel both peaceful and purposeful. My days are full and fulfilling. Every day filled with learning, leisure, and pleasure, and boundless appreciation.

What a joy, to finally be able to say, “I am happy with myself. Life is good.”


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Jo St Leon  |  Contribution: 43,525

author: Jo St Leon

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