It’s my birthday today. I decided to write a love letter to myself. Stay with me for a few.
The funny thing is, as much as I am writing this to myself, it is really to all of you too. They say age is just a number, and I truly believe that. Age is a number compiled of seconds and minutes and hours and days, weeks, months and years that you and I have existed in a physical form on this earth. For some reason, on my 42nd birthday, which is about as mundane a number as they come, I feel deeply grateful for who I am and where I am in my life and everybody who is in it, whether I know you or not. Whether I love you, like you, or you drive me bonkers (my problem, not yours). Whether I have only ever waved to you or have never even seen you but you have seen me. Since I was 15 years old, staring up at my ceiling in my childhood twin sized bed, in my obnoxiously sunny bedroom, I have known that we are all connected. I called it energy. Like I could feel this energy among us, that we are something and nothing all at the same time. I’m still that 15 year old. The curiosity, the innocence and a tad of immaturity is still there just dusted over with experience and time. Yesterday when I realized that my birthday was just a day away I promised to dust off my 15 year old self and see what she had to say. My love letter is your love letter.
The alarm musically enlightened my ears at 5:50 a.m. this morning. Fine, it may not have been that magical. The truth is the alarm startled me awake out of glorious, beautiful sleep. I tried to move my legs. Nope, not today. This has become a bit of a lighthearted first morning joke I have with myself. After having spent hours dreaming that I was walking or running or skipping along I sometimes wake up and expect to be able to do just the same. Not today. Some day. And then I wonder which one is true reality? My sleeping walking, running self or my awake burdened but happy self? I guess we can ponder that one another day.
So, after a sly smile at my uncooperative legs, I lifted them out of bed and steadied myself with my walker and wished myself a happy birthday. Life gets so crammed with stuff I only thought yesterday, in literally a fleeting moment, to even spend some time this morning reflecting on the past year. So this morning I went about my new-ish routine of rolling out of bed at 5:50 a.m. The sunrise this morning was a stunner. Purples, pinks and orange although hidden by streaks of deep gray clouds peeked through enough for me to know that God was wishing me a happy birthday too. I almost dragged my bike to the window so I could watch it a little longer. I didn’t do it though, and yet I am still thinking about it hours later. And when I finished my bike ride just 23 minutes later that color was gone underneath a blanket of heavy grayness. It felt particularly important to me to acknowledge my birthday this year as both a reflection on my past and the birth of yet another year on my journey. A conscious chance to renew. If you have followed me for awhile you know that in March 2015 I made the same conscious effort to redirect my life’s path from egocentric to joy-centric. I needed breathing room and when I acknowledged that to myself, the joy began to flow in without force, in many ways. I have gained so much more peace bringing myself into alignment with this energy that I have felt since I was 15 years old. I’ve broken down self-imposed barriers that framed everything all wrong.
“Love is when you’re free from trying to constantly prove yourself, and you are able to freely be who it is that you are.” A quote borrowed from an influencer in Instagram.
In March of 2015 I stopped being something for everyone else and I started being something for myself. I
sort of defined myself by what others thought of me, and also how successful I was in my career. I kept pushing – more hours in the office, more projects on my plate, more face time with executive leadership – because I thought that this can do attitude and what I earned in return would bring me happiness. This all meant less time at home, less time with my family and less time fostering loving relationships. That was quite backwards. None of it was sustainable, the work nor the happiness. It was coming from the wrong place. And it felt all wrong too, but I thought that was just the grind. Meanwhile my husband and family and some friends were urging me otherwise. I kept saying, “I just need to do x, y and z.” I just need. And then what? Once one task was accomplished I was onto something more. Yet more never led to everlasting satisfaction. The achievements and supposed happiness were all just short circuits bursting. And I was feverish to get the circuits going again when they misfired. I put that pressure on myself – that I wasn’t good enough, and if I could just do more, be smarter, learn more I would have what I wanted. What was it that I wanted? Money? Prestige? I was so blinded by pleasing others and driving toward an achievement I couldn’t even put into form that I failed to recognize that I already have everything I need.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still bursting with an I can attitude. Fostering that attitude will take all of us far in life. It is a call to action and it is called courage. We all need that confidence to push forward. It is just that I now do it from a place that is authentically me, with no strings attached to the outcome. I can is my mantra to keep marching on, and I march on with my heart. So far I have learned that the happiness emanating from within myself is actually what makes me more successful across all facets in my life. I feel fulfilled. Fulfilled in my job, my family, my friendships, my hobbies, my writing. Imagine my surprise when I realized that doing things for everyone else was serving their interests and not mine. I felt like my joy was stolen, but really, I had stolen my own joy. Gave it up. And once I made that connection for myself, I set out to reclaim what was mine. What I knew in my heart was inherently important to me. To me. Not anyone else. Not anyone else’s expectations. My happiness was at stake.
There are two choices: what you think and what everyone else thinks. You will never know what anyone else is thinking, you will only ever guess which is aiming for a bulls eye in the dark. Thinking of yourself first, taking care of yourself first is not selfish. I at first thought that it was. In order to serve the people that I love the most, and to serve in general, I had to take care of myself first. Love yourself, accept yourself and then let your light shine. The source of your beautiful energy is loving, kind, abundant, creative and receptive. Sometimes there is a fluffy gray layer that blocks the color. When you give yourself the opportunity to gently rest with what is, your gorgeous sunrise peeks through. It’s OK that there are deep streaks of gray still hovering. Rest with the darkness and breathe out the light. Face it. Walk with it. That is authentically you, you are in control of that. You will find this peace when you live your life as it is rather than as you think it should be. This is all to say two simple words: I am.
I am joy. I am peace. I am love. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a friend. I am strong. And so on. I decide, I am.
Dear 15 year old Jodi, I wonder if this, today, is how you envisioned your life. I mean, I know you didn’t see yourself in a wheelchair by age 40. And I know waking at 5:50 a.m. wasn’t on the dream board either. When you were visualizing, what did you see? As your 42 year old self I only remember seeing light, love and happiness. I remember you lying on your bed many years ago trying to see yourself at 30, and beyond. I also remember you couldn’t quite settle into a clear cut plan. No obvious material visions of places or things. Did you know you would become a mortgage underwriter or have a successful sales career? Did you know that you’d be spilling your guts on a blog addressed to everyone and no one at the same time? I doubt it since you spent hours journaling your feelings through poetry and art that you’ve kept in sketch books throughout the years. Your passions drawn in charcoal, scribbled on scraps of paper, shaded in colored pencils. The safety of sketch books that could be closed, put in a drawer and kept close to your heart. If I could talk to you then I would have nudged you to let more people in to see your work. Did you see yourself facing a chronic illness? I know you wanted to be a photographer as you fell in love with the camera in 11th grade. I know you’ve been writing since 7th grade. I know you’ve been drawing and making art since you were in 3rd grade. I know you played with your first sewing machine in 1st grade. I see all this vividly because your love for creativity never collected the same amount of dust as everything else you had thought of when you were 15 years old. I remember you cringing when your dad sat you down and demanded to know your 5 year plan. 5 year plan? So many interests, why structure it all so soon? I also know as your 42 year old self that you’ve finally realized your purpose. You drifted throughout the last 27-ish years of adulthood loving many things but never mastering one thing. Nothing wrong with that, you grew into a beautiful woman and while you may feel you blew with the breeze on what others thought of you, you did a pretty damn good job being yourself, keeping an open mind and tapping into your strengths. You chased the dangling carrot. So what. You do not need to be forgiven for that. Whatever path you took to get here, with all the curves and forks, circles and dead ends, you’ve made it here. So today, on your 42nd birthday I am proud of you. I took all day to sit with you, to bridge the gap between us, and to see what you saw many years ago. A vibrant life with no strings attached, living in light, love and happiness. It all makes sense. I am grateful. 42, 15 or anywhere in between, I am grateful.
Happy birthday. xo, JJ