The snow may still be on the ground here in Bend, but the spring birdsong fills the area in the garden at Le Papillon and during my walks amongst the pine trees with regularity. Spring is coming. A new year is coming, and perhaps that is why I have come to view my birthday which occurs at the end of February as the start of a new year; however, no matter when our birthday falls on the 12-month calendar, our birthday, the one and only date on the calendar that will never change because we were born on that date, can be the start of our personal New Year.
Each year, since 2010 I have posted a list or thoughts pondering all that I have learned and discovered with the arrival of my birthday (I have included them all below at the end of this post). There is an intentionality of pausing to reflect on our special date on the calendar, a date that is ours and nobody else’s (unless we are a twin or we share it randomly with someone we know) but even so, we were born on this date and that reality cannot be altered or changed – it is our date. And so, while it may not be on any official calendar or holidays of note, we have a day that is ours to remember and to remind ourselves of the growth and the awareness and the strength or skills or courage we have gained over the past twelve years as we moved through whatever came our way or we met halfway.
Today, along with the four life truths I share below, I wanted to also share reasons to consider turning your birthday into the day on the calendar that your new year begins and why marking this date in this way can be powerful to living more fully a life that brings us deep contentment and enjoyment.
- Undistracted – for most of us, our birthday is not a day off, the rest of the country or world is not recognizing this date and there is no expectation of what ‘has to be done”. This is a gift. Of course, we know our birthday is approaching, so we can make plans, send invitations, schedule a day off, buy plane tickets, book a getaway, etc., but again, we hold the keys, we make the decisions and there are no expectations from anyone else as to what we do.
- A conscious awareness that you matter, you are enough, and you have something special that resides within you that will never go away and that wants to be tapped and shared.
- Take time to reflect — whether reading back through your journals or taking a mental pause to recall all that occurred during the past twelve months, whether on the day of your birthday or days prior, (1) make a list of the events that to you were of note, (2a) how you felt then on those dates and (2b) how you feel now, (3) what occurred that you didn’t expect but are delighted it did; (4) what unexpected and unwanted events happened, what did you learn and how are you going to apply that knowledge moving forward; (5) what moments made you absolutely giddy and feel most at peace and content within yourself; and (6) what invaluable ahas did you discover/learn that you will carry forward with you.
- Celebrate how most will bring you joy and enjoyment. This will likely change from year to year based on a long-list of varying factors, but however you wish to celebrate, do your best to honor this knowledge about yourself and what you need to make this particular birthday special and honored.
- Don’t limit yourself to one day. Give yourself a week to step into the new chapter, your new year. Especially on significant birthdays – however you define them, but even each year, regardless of the number of years, I encourage you to continue to consciously celebrate your special time of year. Nobody needs to necessarily know about it, but as the week unfolds, give yourself grace, deepen your self-love and self-care practices as a reminder of what to do regularly throughout the year because as you do this you begin to gain clarity about how to proceed into your new year. Because after all, if you are consciously reflecting on each of the six points above, it takes time to process, to understand what you discover and then to make conscious decisions, potentially changes, as to how you will move forward.
With all of that said, my birthday this year falls on a Tuesday and to the outsider how I will be spending it will appear non-eventful, but to me it will be abundant with celebration. The two munchkins you see above will be my companions, and after a half-a-day of work (I worked through the weekend to give myself the ability of a half-a-day off in the middle of my regular work week), we will go outdoors for a couple of hours to meander, walk, ski or snowshoe, I will pick up favorite ingredients for a meal that suits my tastebuds when I wake up that morning and also either buy a favorite dessert (one serving) or the ingredients to make something special, with books to read, a house I love spending time in and gratitude for good health regarding myself and those I love (pups included!), I will return home to settle in for a lovely evening of cooking, dancing in the kitchen (something Nelle has begun joining me in doing ☺️ – Norman joins a bit too, but in his own way) and chatting with loved ones or reading notes that arrived in the post. Later in the week I may be going out to dinner with a friend, but with the new year having kicked off on Tuesday, each day that follows is a gift to live with even more intention and clarity applying all that I have learned so far over the past 44 years and now include the four discoveries I share below . . .
1.Letting go of tasks merely tended to out of expectation, not enjoyment or curiosity leaves room for more life to savor.
Let me start with something that may sound trivial: I stopped painting my toenails. Don’t worry, I still give myself pedicures and keep my nails trim, but I don’t paint them anymore and my nails are healthier, I have more minutes in my day, there is now two fewer regular beauty products (nail polish and polish remover) to purchase, and I can clearly see when my nails need attention and doing so is simple.
On a larger scale, I stopped (almost entirely) wondering about tomorrow and sank into savoring each day, every moment, each task, each season and what it offers without clinging or wanting more than what is proffered. Don’t worry, I am still saving for retirement, pay my insurance, etc., etc., but instead of having expectations, I set intentions, I point myself in the direction I want to go as it aligns with what I value and what brings me contentment, and I then nestle into the everydays and tend to them fully. Less stress, the elimination of angst and worry and more enjoyment, more smiles, more giggles and a deeply satisfying life of connections not only with others, but with my pups, myself and the world that is constantly changing.
2. Unwanted or uncomfortable feelings and situations often iron themselves out and dissipate without lasting negative effects so long as we don’t react, but rather respond once we compose ourselves, or compose ourselves to then realize, no response is necessary.
Don’t get me wrong, after reading #1 on today’s list, it may at first appear that no headaches or hiccups arise. Au contraire! However, by being more fully present, by having strengthened the ‘letting go’ muscle, it is easier to move with these situations and let them unfold as they naturally would after I do what I can and then get about my day and let the situations work themselves out beyond what I can contribute to. Before I know it, more times than not, the next day I receive an email that all has been fixed, or the situation is more doable or easily manageable moreso than the worse case scenario my old self would have entertained in my mind.
As well, immediate unwanted feelings have time to settle, perspective is gained, and often, engaging at all is unnecessary (you don’t make the call, send the email, write the text) and you move on, realizing you hackles initially arose based on old patterns that were not constructive, and then, approaching the situation with more consciousness and awareness, you move forward and pay it no mind, learning and applying the knowledge in a future situation about a person, an experience, an event, etc..
3. Being able to be fully present, not distracted by the past or tomorrow’s tasks enables more clarity about all the people and events you cross paths with.
With strengthened awareness and mindfulness, I am less ‘in my head’ when I am with others or in a situation that involves many different moving parts. Being fully present in the situation, I am a better listener, a more acute observer and bring a clear slate no longer seeking acceptance or approval or applause and instead taking in the situation as it wholly is, fully engaging as my true self, therefore being at peace with how I engage, and taking note of what and who I met/experienced.
Again, instead of reacting, I give myself time to respond, and as well, determine if responding is necessary at all. Do I take advantage of what is offered and say yes? Well, we’ll see. I am going to take time to mull this over. How do I feel when I am around this person? I give myself space to be honest with myself and understand my feelings and where they came from, what caused them, etc. And as well, to collect myself to ensure I am responding (if I do) with integrity and loving-kindness – no expectations of what the response from others ‘must-be’, but making sure I feel at peace with how I engage regardless of the response it may or may not prompt.
4. My old self would find it hard to fathom, but it is true: not knowing is a very peaceful place to reside when it comes to wondering about what tomorrow (i.e. next week, month, year) will bring.
Each morning, I wake up, and the daily ritual of feeding the pups, starting my steel-cut oats on the stovetop and pouring myself a hot cup of lemon water begins the day. Taking my lemon-infused cuppa to the reading nook, I prepare to meditate, giving Norman and Nelle their daily dental treat, and for ten minutes or so, I am still.
This grounding activity, something I have been doing every single day for over a year now, intermittently for 13+ years (learn more about my journey with meditation here) grounds the day and reminds me to be fully present as I move through it, even during moments that may be unwanted; however, because after years of intentionally cultivating a life that offers nourishment, even when such unwanted moments arise, I have more readily accessible the skills and resources to navigate well and without unnecessary stress.
Yes, stress can and indeed does arise, but in far smaller amounts and intensities than it used to because I would exacerbate these unwanted situations by not knowing how to approach the situation in a more constructive way; I didn’t know how or why my mind was jumping or leaping unnecessarily to worry and doubt; I didn’t know how to bring my mind back to the Sage mind, instead I would let it run wild in the state of mind that is often called the Lizard mind (something talked about in my 3rd book – see April’s chapter, and also in these posts/episodes – here, here and here).
And ultimately, I stopped forcing and started to savor all that is going well instead of feeling as I though there was lack in any one or many arenas of my life. Because when the idea of lack enters our minds, that is all we see, when in fact, life is quite sweet, quite wonderful and when we choose how we view our lives, our days, when we choose to see all that is going well, this feeling, this reality multiples (just as it would if we focused on what we lack), so it is a choice really. To live consciously and to make the conscious choice to see all that is amazing, going well and quite awesome.
And now to begin a new year, not anew necessarily, but wiser and hopefully carrying with me even more gratitude along with a deepened curiosity to see all that this year holds and wishes to share. I am ready to dance!
Past Birthday Posts/Episodes
episode #302, 21 Lessons Learned in my 42nd Year (2021)
episode #279, 15 Life Lessons Learned during My First Year in my 40s
~All previous years, 2009-2015 can be seen at the end of the above post (2016)