Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thirties: Part 1

I've never been one to dread birthdays.  Turning a year older just meant, I turned a year older.  A few years ago, when I hit 31, I became the cliche.  I noticed my body began to change and it was no longer "easy" to lose those extra pounds.  Suddenly, having nachos for dinner, three nights in a row, wasn't a good idea.

Recently, a student of mine wrote about the moment she realized her luck in life had run out.  I was immediately drawn to the piece because of the place I'm at in my own life.  In my mid-thirties, my perspectives, goals and realities have changed in a way I didn't expect.  My twenties, although there  were moments of distress, sadness or frustration, were seemingly smooth. I earned two master's degrees, moved to a different state, found work easily and moved along the days.  I spent time with good friends, ate good food, drank good beer and rarely worried about my future health or my future in general. Things would work out, they always did.

As time passed, I found out a loved one was sick and life's continuum seemed to no longer go on and on.  I began to stare, a little bit longer, at the fresh cut flowers on the crowded shelf.  I started to review all of the things I wanted my loved ones to see me accomplish.  All of a sudden, time felt limited, even mean.

This abrupt feeling, that there is an end to everything, is an idea I intellectually knew but never fully embraced in my heart.  I took stock of what mattered most to me.  Material goods, although nice and comfy, weren't my priority.  What began to matter was having a calm and compassionate heart, taking better care of myself, and going home to MI, for even a short visit, so that I could eat breakfast with my nephew.  Sitting outside with my family, watching the sun turn from yellow to orange, making imprints on my heart of the good times became a focus.

A good friend of mine talked of how for most of his life he wanted to leave behind a good obituary for when he was gone.  Having a sweet eulogy wasn't what mattered at the time.  He needed tangible accomplishments for others to see in an effort to prove his time here was productive.  After some big changes in his life he realized that the eulogy was what mattered most. Success based on societal values, business ideals and monetary rewards wasn't important. A loved one reading a eulogy of love, memories and laughter was what would leave the biggest impact on the world.  A eulogy that evoked a good heart, a peaceful existence and a heart that loved deeply was what mattered.

These ideas are in my mind everyday.  I remind myself to look at individual moments as they come and hold them close.  Whether it's my boyfriend making me a cup of tea because he thought I might need it, my nephew leaving me a message about losing his tooth, my brother calling me to talk about his days, sharing wine with my sister or getting notes of support from my parents, these are the moments that matter.

Days can be messy, scary and overwhelming.  I still lose focus, but I always remind myself where I need to be in order to gain clarity.  And, the remedy usually consists of a yoga mat, a pen and some paper and a little piece of time to breathe.