A Different Kind of Birthday Gift

My birthday was last week. It was a significant one: I turned 50. That number feels unreal to me. It doesn’t seem possible that I have already lived 50 years, and that even if I live to be 100 (which is a goal), my life is halfway over. Yikes. This brought up all sorts of anxious and fearful thoughts for me, so I went looking for something positive to counteract them.

A friend told me that she has heard of 50 as a birthday when we start over fresh, the slate wiped clean. There’s a lot on my slate that I don’t want to erase, but I like the idea of leaving old baggage behind, and of finding new pathways to joy.  I’ve always thought that one of the keys to a successful life is to keep growing.

I recently re-read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, in which she tries out a variety of ways “to change [her] life without changing [her] life, by finding more happiness in [her] own kitchen.” I was struck by the resolutions she created to help her stay on track each month. They included many that resonated with me, such as “Exercise better, enjoy the fun of failure, go off the path, be generous, stimulate the mind in new ways, and laugh out loud.”

As a birthday gift to myself, for something positive to focus on, I think I’m going to try crafting some resolutions of my own. I will create a set of intentions to keep me on the path of increased growth and happiness; guidelines to give me more direction as I go about my daily life.

Rubin drew up a chart listing all of her resolutions, and she checked off the ones she managed to accomplish each day. I’m not sure about the checklist; with my tendency toward self-judgment that might make me a little nuts. But I like the idea of listing them all prominently so that I can remind myself of them each morning. Often when I learn something helpful—a new way of thinking or behaving—it will stay top of mind for a few days, then it gets buried beneath the clutter of everyday life and I revert back to my old ways. A written list will keep those intentions front and center.

Creating the list will be a long-term project requiring a great deal of thought, but there are a few topics I already know will be on there. First, about that self-judgment…I want to LET THAT GO. I’m ready to stop holding myself to impossibly high standards, and beating myself up when I don’t meet them. It’s not a crime to make a mistake, so mistakes don’t need to be punished. We are human, and by definition imperfect and fallible.

Other areas of focus will be lightening up and having more fun, saying yes more often and seeking out adventure, and being fully present in the moment as much as possible. One of Rubin’s resolutions was to “enjoy now.” I tend to live in my head, and it feels like sometimes I go through much of the day on autopilot. I want to slow down and savor the good parts.

I also want to learn how to accept and allow the not-so-good parts. As I’ve talked about before, I don’t like being uncomfortable. But resisting what is just leads to unhappiness. I’d like to master the ability to take life as it comes.

As I come up with more resolutions—and as I attempt to follow them—I’ll keep you posted!

Something else I may try, and incorporate into future birthdays, is a practice my friend Wendy Battino, a life coach featured in chapter 14 of my book, recently posted on her Facebook page. She said, “I have an annual practice on my birthday; I go outside and build a fire and I write for the year ahead. Here are my prompts:

·         What wonderful things happened this year?

·         What shall I carry forward from these events?

·         What hard things happened this year?

·         What shall I let go? (Write it down and burn it)

·         What love can I give the world this year?

·         How shall I give it? (Seal it with fire)”

This seems like a beautiful practice. One of the women who commented on her page said that she writes a letter to herself each birthday covering some of these topics, and that it’s really interesting and helpful to read them each year.

What do you think? Does this practice, or the idea of creating resolutions, appeal to you? Do you have any special birthday rituals that you follow? And, how do you feel about milestone birthdays? Feel free to comment below or email me at Ashley@joydetectives.com!