I have been suffering from the worst case of writer’s block for more than a month. I feel uninspired and have not been able to pull a few sentences together to develop a meaningful, interesting blog post. It’s not as if I have not had interesting things going on in my life but I have struggled with connecting the words to the experiences. I am not one of those people who jot down a few sentences and post them to maintain their connection to their blog. I must tell a story – with a beginning, middle and end – and provide some poignant insights that help to move my readers in some way or another. I pressure myself to not be redundant and I try not to be corny or trite. Ultimately, it has left me sitting with a burning passion to put pen to paper without a proper connection from my brain to my hand.
I ultimately decided, after this unwelcome hiatus, that I needed to simply write and let the chips fall where they may. I have done this long enough to know that sometimes that is where the magic comes from. Sometimes allowing myself the freedom of being unstructured without pressuring myself to tie my writing to a meaningful plot, yields some surprising and, often, inspired results.
It has been an interesting few months. I turned 45 a few weeks ago and that was certainly momentous. While I embraced turning 40 with open arms, 45 came with a bit less of a friendly welcome. I began to experience a surprising anxiety about my own mortality. Suddenly the reality that more of my life was behind me than ahead of me became clear and scared me. I started thinking about all of the things that I could have done in my life and the paths I had chosen and wondered, trying not to focus on regret, if I could have made better choices and if I would be able to look back and feel good about the life I had created for myself.
Several years ago I went to a conference and had the pleasure of attending a workshop featuring John Izzo, the author of The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die. He shared stories of the individuals he interviewed, all of whom were at the very late stages of their lives, and tried to boil down their wisdom into five key themes. One of the stories he shared with us has stuck with me after many years. He talked about a woman who was well into her 80s who said that when she was in her midlife she developed a guiding principle to help navigate the choices she made in her life. Her barometer was whether or not she could sit in her rocking chair on her porch when she was near the end of her life and look back on her younger self feeling proud and satisfied with the decisions she made. Throughout her life she would channel her older self and imagine how she would evaluate each of the major milestones in her life. If she felt that she would look back with satisfaction, she assured herself it was the right move. If she was afraid of doing something, she would ask herself is she would look back with regret that she chose not to do it. Over the years, I have thought about this woman and tried to apply some of her thinking to my own life. Of course, it is impossible to have the foresight that she suggested but it is an interesting exercise to imagine how your older self, with all its wisdom and insight, might reflect on the pathway you take, with all its winding ways.
As my 45th birthday approached, I was actually pretty excited because I decided to celebrate what was likely the turn of midlife (let’s hope that I have 45 more years!) and embrace it thoroughly. The last time I threw myself a birthday party was when I was 40 and I really did not want to have to wait until I turned 50 to celebrate again so I decided, months ago, to throw myself a party and invite all of the people I love to come and celebrate with me. The anticipation of the party definitely softened the blow of the reality of my age – the fact that I really was entering a new phase of life and only 5 years away from an AARP membership. It distracted me from the fact that most of the adults I knew growing up were now dead and that some of my own peers were nearing the point where illnesses and disease were beginning to impact their lives. It made it easier for me to look around at my friends and see how our children were all reaching adolescence or beyond and that we were no longer young parents with babies whose lives were still balls of clay that needed to be molded. Suddenly we had children with distinct personalities, their own personal challenges, raging hormones, and who were beginning to embark on their own journeys to navigate through the struggles of nearing adulthood. It seemed hard to believe that all of this could have happened in the short time I was alive but, in fact, nearly a half century had passed since I took my first breath. Time was marching on and I was not ready to absorb that.
I decided to host a Hawaiian luau because I wanted to do something fun and different and I knew that my group of friends always enjoy a good theme party and will do everything they can to embrace it and push it right over the top. And, they did not let me down. The 50 or so friends that came to celebrate with me all have a special place in my heart which made the party enormously fun and poignant. Each and every attendee has touched me in some meaningful way which is why I asked them to be a part of it. One of my friends, days after the party, reached out to tell me how much she enjoyed the party and said that it felt like a big love fest. What more could I have asked for? I was showered with love and surprises. While I made the decision to host the party, my husband and several very dear friends jumped in and took care of everything, showing me love in ways that I would never have imagined. Not only did it take the pain out of turning 45, it made me realize that when I am old and looking back on my life, I will have a lot of beautiful memories that will warm my heart. There is a saying that I cannot recall clearly but it is something about how the people around you are a direct reflection of what you put into the world. What I interpret that to mean is that you will be surrounded by people who give to you what you put out into the world. I hope that I am actually giving out as much love as is coming back at me because I feel loved and that feels great.
It’s been an interesting few years for me and with each passing day, week, month and year, I continue to reflect on where I have come from and try to carve out a clear path of where I am heading. I am trying to be present and enjoy each moment rather than anticipate what’s around the corner (that is certainly a challenge for me and a discipline that needs some development) so that I can be sure that my older self will not wince and sit in her rocker wishing that I had spent a bit more time soaking in the happiness and joy rather than worrying about the pain and sadness that will inevitably arrive. I want her to feel like she left even a small legacy and was able to see it and appreciate it and feel the power of it. I want her to have deep laugh lines around her eyes because she has laughed through tears and smiled big. I want her heart to be filled and bursting because there has been so much love in her life that it is almost more than she can accommodate. I want her to look at her children and see that they have grown into beautiful men who have love in their joyful, meaningful lives. I want her to reminisce on the love affair with her husband that never waned. I want her to know that, no matter when she leaves the earth, that she lived, loved, was loved and had an extraordinary life that touched many. I want her to feel fulfilled and at peace. I want her to be surrounded by others who have shared the journey with her and can smile and laugh with her as they remember the highs and the lows, the joy and the pain, all of which made up their deeply textured, meaningful lives.
And, hopefully, she won’t remember the days that were uninspired.