Mindset

Birthdaze: Coming to Terms with the Passage of Time

My birthday has always been weird for me. From the beginning of July, I start feeling strange. A little restless. Concerned by the fact that another year of my life is about to be over.
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I don’t really like my birthday. It tends to be a stressful day for me. I feel like I have to have the perfect day. Every moment of every activity needs to be perfect. It’s supposed to be a special day! I’ve had tears on many birthdays because of this pressure. The slightest mishap will throw me off. Even nice things, like a call from a friend, makes me sad for one reason or another.
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It’s hard to get out of this mindset.
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It’s almost like I examine my whole life each birthday.
I have such high expectations and always feel like I’m not living up to my potential. My birthday makes me feel this all the more as it marks a full year. A total of 365 days. And where am I now? Am I where I wanted to be this time last year? What did I want last year? How much closer have I come? What do I really want? How am I taking steps to reach those goals?
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It all boils down to the same question I ask myself every day. Am I using my time effectively?
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To focus on how I’ve spent my time in the last year, I decided to make a list.
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The prompt was “When I was 27 I…” and then I listed all the things that I felt were important that happened in the last year.
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There were way more than 27 things! And most of them were major improvements I made to my life. Things that I identified as not being beneficial to my goals and worked hard to move away from and do less. Or things I realized I wanted more of and made a concerted effort to bring into my life. Overcoming insecurities and other challenges to make it possible.
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When I read the list I see all the amazing things I’ve accomplished in the last year. Things I never thought I would be able to do. Like getting my yoga teacher certification and being able to talk in front of a group of people without feeling sick to my stomach. I am comfortable in yoga poses that used to be super painful and difficult. I’ve had serious and uncomfortable but important conversations with people close to me. I’ve opened up to strangers who have become close friends. Most of all I’ve become better at letting go of things I can’t control. And I’m a lot happier for it.
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Clearly, I’m not all the way there. It’s hard to let go of everything and one thing I can never control is the passing of time. A birthday is such a huge reminder of this and it’s a real struggle for me to let it go.
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My partner has a great theory on why people lament getting older. He says it’s because they aren’t happy with where they are in their lives and what they’ve accomplished. I think he’s right and I completely identify with that.
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I recognize that I’m a work in progress. I may never be totally happy with where I am. That is the nature of the mind, to always want more. But I get closer and closer every day. Every year I feel more content. Every birthday gets better. No matter where in the world I am or what I’m doing, I’m learning to embrace the present moment and let go. Make plans to enjoy the day but not freak out if something goes wrong and not put immense pressure on myself to plan a perfect day, minute by minute.
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One day I will look forward to my birthday. Today, I’m just going to enjoy it.

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