Yes, today is my birthday. I’m 45 years young! For me, my birthday is a time to reflect on the past year and speculate on the one to come. It’s a time to regroup, reinvent and rediscover who I am and what makes me tick. Most people prefer New Years Day amidst hangovers and swollen bodies suffering from too much holiday goodness. I prefer to take stock when the world is coming alive again; when the buds on the trees seem to open before my eyes. It reminds me that life is a constant cycle of change. What I saw when I looked out the window three months ago is very different than what I see now. Our lives are very similar; there’s no reason to stay the same. For me, the changing seasons are more than just taking out one wardrobe and packing another away. A new piece of my personality emerges as well.
I love to reinvent myself. You never know what I’ll be next! British Punk with Converses and Dr. Who tee shirts. Hippy hiker chick (also my twitter alias) in Northface pants, hiking boots and a “peace” tee. Trail Runner with my muddy New Balance sneakers and Columbia running shirt. Guru with yoga pants, flip flops, and a “strength” tee. Author with thick rimmed glasses and turtleneck sweaters. Classic Country with Levi jeans, cowboy boots and silver belt buckle. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just confused. But in reality, all these styles represent the whole of who I am.
While I’ve done a lot this past year, something was missing. An element that is THE most important piece in being alive. Joy. Not that I’m not happy, because I’m truly happy and content in my life. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends. That’s not what I mean. I mean I am going through the motions of being ME without keeping joy in my heart. I climbed Mt. Washington, something I not only trained for but anticipated with so much JOY. But the act was a chore. I allowed those around me to dictate my experience. I allowed others to influence what was in my heart. At work, I hit a new sales record! I did it with no expectations other than making more money and proving I could do it. I was so proud! When no recognition came, I allowed the joy to be stripped from my work; it became a chore again. What really changed? Nothing. Only I expected something from my hard work that I hadn’t given consideration to before. Recognition from above. It didn’t dawn on me that I needed it until it wasn’t there. Since then I’ve been lackluster at best…all because I have forgotten the joy of what I want to accomplish for me and my family.
Lately I’ve been going through the motions in my own growth. When I hike or work out on the elliptical machine, I have one goal in mind. To get in the best shape of my life. When I eat clean I do it for the purpose of cleaning out processed foods and feeding my body only healthy foods so I can lose weight and get in the best shape of my life. When I go to yoga I practice only to stretch out my sore legs and strained muscles, forgetting the true purpose of practice. I’m doing everything without the JOY I used to have. I used to hike because I love to be in the woods and spend time with my dogs. I used to eat healthy to feel better whether I lost weight or not. I used to do yoga to get in touch with who I am and remind myself my body is more than a thing to manipulate. It is what it was meant to be. Sure, I’m overweight. Sure, I don’t fit into the jeans I have hanging in my closet (that I have NEVER been able to get into but I still set the bar to achieve the impossible). Sure, I’m not as beautiful as I want to be…I hate seeing my fat face in pictures. I hate seeing the double chin and the chipmunk cheeks. Somewhere along the way I have forgotten why I do the things I love. I need to regain the act of enjoying the simplicity of life.
I started asking myself, why won’t diets work for me? Why can’t I lose weight no matter how hard I try or despite the hours I spend working out? Because I’m not really doing it for the right reasons. No matter what I tell myself (and others) I want to be thin. I want to be in shape, be strong and be wearing those jeans. I don’t want to have a roll around my middle. I don’t want to be middle-aged. Every once in a while it hits me from out of nowhere. I’m 45 years old! I’m middle-aged. I’ll never be young again.
And this, my friends, is how I must reinvent myself this year. I must dig deep inside and come to terms with what it means to be middle-aged and love it. To find joy in who I am at this very moment, at this age. I have no regrets. I have no expectations. It’s not that I really mind being middle-aged, not really. it’s just that it happened so damned fast I’m ill-prepared. When I limp down the stairs in the mornings I’m reminded just how old I am. My ankles hurt, my feet hurt, my head hurts. I pulled a muscle over three months ago and I still can’t do a forward bend without pain. I can’t sit in one place for long periods without hurting somewhere. Age has crept in while I wasn’t paying attention!
So, what does this mean? Should I crawl up in my big comfy chair, sip on some tea and watch Masterpiece Theater for the rest of my life? No! That’s only for Sundays! However, it does mean I need to accept a few things about myself:
1. It’s okay to take a day or two off from exercise and not feel guilty.
2. I am NOT a runner. Never have been, never will be. I need to stop trying. Sure, a slow jog on the trail from time to time is fine, but I need to stop trying to be something I’m not.
3. Eating cake and ice cream occasionally is fine. Eating it days in a row just makes me feel like shit.
4. I like being vegetarian (although it’s really pescaterian as I eat fish) and I’m sorry if that offends you. I don’t care if you eat meat so please don’t care if I don’t.
5. I like labels. I find comfort in giving a name to what I’m doing. Whether I’m “eating clean” or following some other program, I love self-help books. I really enjoy “Clean Eating” and “Running and Walking programs for Women over 40”. BUT it’s up to me whether I listen to them. I’m not a failure if I decide it’s not for me. Tosca’s cookbooks are the only ones I use on a regular basis because I love the simple goodness of them. Not to mention, they are easy! Running…not for me.
6. I’m lazy. Sure, I work full time, hike every day, take care of my family, but ultimately, I am lazy. My house is a mess. I prefer not to cook if I can get away with it. I like to sit on the couch and watch tv (Leverage, Supernatural, Grimm) with my kids when I get home at night. Does this make me a bad person? Hell no. It just makes my butt sore from sitting in one place too long because I’m middle-aged!
7. Hello, my name is Julie and I’m a Twitter-aholic. Yup. I love Twitter. I LIKE the snap shots into my favorite celebrity’s lives. And when the tweet me back, it makes me feel special. I spend the quiet of every morning sipping coffee and reading Twitter. I like it. And that’s okay.
8. I’m also a shop-aholic. I spend way too much money on things I don’t need or ultimately want. Just because I get them at the thrift shop doesn’t make it better.
9. I’m not a good friend. I don’t write. I don’t remember birthdays, I don’t visit. But I do love with all my heart and think of you often.
10. I loved the Avengers Movie. Robert Downey Jr is just the hottest thing since sliced bread. I loved ALL the Harry Potter movies and I LIKE daydreaming of parallel universes. I think that’s what makes me a great writer—even if I don’t take the time to write. An active imagination is the cornerstone of who I am. Like it or leave it, it’s the biggest, most uncontrollable piece of my collective puzzle.
So what is in store for me in 2012? Who will I become? As I lay in shivasna yesterday, I asked myself just this. Who shall I be now? Will I recycle a persona? Shall I mix and mingle them together? Shall I become Buddhist? What will emerge in 2012? I really don’t know. The only thing I DO know is that I will do it with joy and acceptance. Only then will it be true.