I have a close relative who hates having a birthday. She always has. Even when she turned 30 — over 30 years ago — she greeted her special day not with smiles and happy anticipation of the year to come but with a crankily snarled “Don’t even mention that number”.
I never understood that.
Until this past Spring. When I turned 50-something. I won’t even mention the number.
When I realized in early May that I wasn’t looking forward to my birthday, I began contemplating why I was not only dreading the day but even feeling downright depressed about it.
It didn’t take me long to figure it out.
First, I’m aging. There, I’ve said it. No matter what the upbeat Facebook memes declare about the glories of the senior years, my “best years” are no doubt behind me. My knees ache, my shoulder hurts, the wrinkles grow more pronounced every day, and don’t even get me started on the state of my upper arms.
Another reason is that I felt as though I’ve lost the last almost-8 years. I was alive and productive, yes. But I was in a fog or depressed or just putting one foot in front of the other. I wasn’t living fully and or with any sincere enthusiasm. It’s nobody’s fault, Heaven knows, but it saddens me to think that such a large chunk of my life was spent merely going through the motions.
Try as I might, I couldn’t stop time. My birthday came and went. But the dissatisfaction with the state of my existence didn’t lessen when May 22 passed into the history books.
It lasted a few more weeks until one morning when I was on my 45-minute cardio walk, a once-familiar but now almost-forgotten emotion gripped me: determination.
The intensity of the sudden commitment to change the status quo literally caused me to stop where I was. Which was pretty ironic, given that I decided right then to stop going through the motions and start making things, positive things, happen.
It felt pretty heady, actually.
I went home and spent hours, that day and the next, taking stock of where I was, every single thing I spent time on, and how I felt physically and emotionally. A whole-life check-up, if you will.
The results weren’t pretty.
I came to the conclusion that I had been doing far too many things for the wrong reasons. I’d been doing things because this or that expert said I should. Trying one thing and then shifting direction when someone else said I should be doing something else. Not living true to myself.
But no more. Gripped with my new-found sense of determination to change my life and to live authentically, I pulled out a single large piece of unlined paper. At the top, I wrote, “What do I really want? What do I want to accomplish?”
Answering those questions was easy.
The next part was not only easy, it was also fun.
I chucked everything. All the advice and admonishments of experts. All the hoops I was clumsily trying to jump through. All the shoulds and musts.
And on that large piece of paper, I wrote what I instinctively knew was right for me to do.
That large piece of paper now hangs on the bulletin board above the desk in my home office. A photo of it is the wallpaper on my iPhone. I look at it every day, and I ponder it every Saturday before I plan the coming week.
I deleted my electronic to-do app. Almost three years of using an electronic planner because that’s the “efficient” thing to do was gone with a few taps on my phone screen.
I’ve stopped mindlessly watching television.
I’ve stopped reading books just to read them. If they aren’t well-written or don’t contribute positively to my life, back to the library or off my kindle app they go.
I’ve stopped reaching out to individuals — friends and family — who have made it crystal clear that relationship with me isn’t important to them.
I won’t be blogging every Monday with a “52 Lists Challenge” post or (nearly) every Friday as part of the Five Minute Friday community.
But I haven’t just discarded things. I’m revamping some things, adding others.
I’m back in a paper planner. That’s —————————————–>
a stock photo (courtesy erincondren.com) — isn’t it gorgeous?!
I’m getting up at least an hour earlier and walking first thing every morning.
I’m participating every Monday evening in a Fight Back With Joy women’s study at my church. Oh, and I changed church membership to the church in which I was baptized, confirmed, and raised.