This morning I realized my 45th birthday is coming up. 45. Sheesh. Are you kidding me?
Anyway, after a little head shake of disbelief, (after all, I’m pretty sure I’m still 10, waiting on my friend’s swing set for her to come home from CCD or 14, trying to figure out to make Shad Swanstrom kiss me or 22, moving to Manhattan with a futon and a shrieking cockatiel or 33, squeezing an entire human boy from my loins), I wondered what, if anything, I should do on this auspicious day.
There’s a lot of buzz lately of “loving ourselves” and “self care”, with advice running to the comic extreme: “Find someone to love you as much as Kanye loves Kanye.” Our ego-centricity is at record highs and our ability to tolerate self doubt or honest criticism is at an equally all time low. I’m no different—notoriously thin skinned and hell bent on treating myself like the queen I wish I believed I am.
So when I think about things like birthdays, I immediately think of self indulgence and I think of it unapologetically. I mean, I’m fairly self indulgent on a daily basis, but a birthday is the one day I get to be so guilt free.
Visions of deep dish pizzas dance in my head. Manis, pedis, unhurried phone conversations with friends, leaving the dishes for someone else to do, taking an extra long walk in the woods and even eating an ice cream cone all seem like perfect birthday celebrating pastimes.
But the truth is, I do all of these things already with predictable regularity. And while they are, to some extent, nurturing, I think I could go deeper. What would that look like? What would me lavishing myself with meaningful care actually involve?
Here is my “I’m gonna be 45 and I need to take it up a notch” birthday resolution/celebration/wish list. Perhaps it will resonate with you, too.
1. Respect my limits.
I have to realize that while deep dish pizzas are all fine and well, I feel super sick after I eat them.
The lesson? Celebrating isn’t about just hitting the pause on impulse control and acting like a kid whose parents are out of town for the weekend. It’s about taking the time to learn what our body, mind and heart needs and providing that on a routine basis.
For me, that means acknowledging that gluttonous monster inside of me without letting her do things that will ruin me for the next few days. Waking up the day after my birthday without a food or alcohol hangover? Priceless.
On the other hand, when I find myself on occasion succumbing to the gluttonous, I must refer point number 2.
2. Observe more, judge less.
I spend a lot of time either telling myself I suck or figuring out how to stop sucking. That time would be much more wisely spent in observation of the feelings that motivate me to think these ways.
If I can lean into the waves of emotion and need that ebb and flow within me, and just feel what they are made of instead of freaking out every time they come, they won’t have the power to plunge me to the bottom of the ocean.
3. Take responsibility for what I love.
I always have the sense that I am obligated to do stuff I, in fact, want to do. I think I’ve secretly cultivated these feelings so if I crap out on something, I can pretend I wasn’t that into it in the first place.
I’ve felt that way about yoga teacher training, veganism, motherhood, even writing. If I begin to look at these things, not as obligations, but as opportunities I have purposefully created for myself, my experience of them will be immeasurably richer.
4. Stop counting calories, for real.
A calorie is a tiny measurement of one part of a food’s profile. Food is, and should be, more than about calories.
Instead of wondering if the food I am about to eat will make me fat, I would like to start wondering if it is medicine my body needs, if it was made with love and if it delights all of my senses—not just the ole taste buds—and if so, am I using all of my five senses to enjoy it?
5. Forget fear.
Ah, fear. Sometimes I am so small and mean in myself that I am like a wiry little spider trying to hide in any corner I can find.
Well, f*ck that.
I want to cultivate courage. I want to laugh in the face of fear. I want to do all sorts of things that should frighten me, but don’t, because I’ve decided to do them anyway like going back to school, doing headstands with funky legs, smiling at people nicely even when I’m in a bad mood, not wearing make up and still believing in that smile, keep pushing forward with my writing, daring to dream of living in a house on a creek or a lake or a mountaintop and most of all—expecting life to offer me more and more rather than less than less.
6. Celebrate every damn day.
Why should I wait until April 24th every year to proclaim that I am thankful to be alive? In the truest sense, every day is our birthday—we are newly born the minute our feet hit the ground.
I don’t need to celebrate with pizzas and pedicures, I need to celebrate with gratitude. Even on days when the darkness is creeping in, I can find hidden spaces to fill with gratitude, shadow breaths. I can always be grateful that I am alive.
So, happy birthday to me! I hope this year finds me wiser, braver and kinder—to myself and everyone around me—than any year before.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Nick Crawford on Pixoto