It is Spring and the birthday season is in full swing. In my family, there are a whole lot of us born around this time. It starts slow, a couple in the short days of February, bringing some sunshine into that month. Then we have a couple more in March and then 5 + 1 in April. The plus one is my sister who was born in early May, but is usually lumped in with the rest of us, (because she too, is a taurus).
While I am not alone in this season of celebrating another year of life, (my Dad and I actually share the same day!), it tends to feel rather lonely. I know that it defies logic to feel alone when surrounded by people, but the brain is a strange place sometimes. There are all kinds of names for this malady, birthday depression being one of them. That seems a little strong for me. More melancholy, probably. A time to reflect and compare how I thought things should be and how they really are. When the gap between those things is too large, those years are tough.
“It is not how old you are, but how you are old.” -Jules Renard
So the funny thing about getting older is I do not feel all the typical effects of aging. In fact, for the most part, I have never felt better. This optimism may be the long-term effect of many small decisions and actions taken over the last 7 years. Back then, I decided to start a process of self-improvement. That work has taken many forms and has provided me with a very different outlook on life.
“In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest.” -Henry Miller
If I had known that what I started would take so long to play out, I might have given up. I’m no different from most people, I want things to take effect immediately, I don’t like to wait. I guess the gift of being older is to recognize that most of life happens very slowly. At a certain age you can look back and remember, small actions repeated often, really add up.
In my case, I was looking to reverse many of my habits, turning bad ones into good ones. I wanted to take a little weight off my waist, instead of adding. I wanted to think happier thoughts instead of jumping to negative conclusions. I wanted to have more positive discussions instead of debating every single thing. There are many more examples. The important thing is not the specifics, nor the magnitude. In fact, my relative success has been due to how tiny the changes were.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” -Henry Ford
I am still young enough to be kind of vain, I guess. The changes I focused on, years ago, were easily noticeable. That was meant for me. I needed to see obvious results with my own eyes. But now that these better habits are more fully entrenched, I seek the other pieces to complete a more holistic picture. I am starting to question how to keep my mind young.
“It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.” -Margaret Mead
2017 marks the year where I made a huge change in my life. I decided to retire from my first career and focus on building a new one. I began learning a new language. I committed myself and family to a year of travel. I learned how to create videos. I reduced our household spending to half of what it was previously. I came home, being more present and available to my husband and children than I have ever been.
In contrast to my previous method for changing habits, I decided to change-up the technique. Time to go big or go home. By giving myself the time to focus on these significant changes, I am finding success. Once you don’t have a corporate job to attend to, there are so many interesting ways to fill your time!
“Setting a good example for your children takes all the fun out of middle age.” -William Feather
I got a chuckle out of this quote, as today is my birthday and I’m thinking of age, aging, being old, etc. My husband and I are also smack in the middle of raising 2 teens. One girl and one boy. Each child very different from the other and uniquely challenging for us. We often feel exhausted, from the effort of parenting. The constant need to be steering the kids in the right direction, keeping the boundaries up alongside them so they don’t completely go off the rails, is a full-time job.
I’ve often wondered how it is possible to have fun and be a good parent at the same time? It seems like a teenagers job is to poke and prod in an effort to test every rule and piece of guidance which has been laid out for them. In a way, it is humorous. If I could distance myself and take an objective view, it would be like watching mice in a maze. There is a predictable pattern to which every single movement is an exploration of the surroundings in order to find the weakness and eventual escape.
“To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent – that is to triumph over old age.” -Thomas Bailey Aldrich
I’m not sure if I have achieved triumph over my age. I know, the quote says, ‘old age’. In any case, I am working on it. I find the process interesting and rewarding. It feels good to be using my daily supply of energy towards the benefit of myself and my family. Maybe a little self-indulgent. Maybe not. Time will tell.
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