No. Not that 45. I turned 45 today. 🎉🎂
There's a lot on my mind as I contemplate my past and think about the future (and spending way too little time in the present). So, no, I don't have forty-five lessons to share with you. However, I have a stream of consciousness of thoughts that have been at the top of my mind of late!
There are things about myself that I'm proud of, and there are things that need work. Case in point…
I wish I were better at planning restroom breaks when out on a run. But, of course, 90% of the time, it's not a problem. It's just that other 10% that's really shitty (pun intended), and it's only a matter of time before I have to explain myself to a judge. Anyways…
h/t Chris Ford on this timely retweet
Over the past couple of years, it's become clear that my ability to cope with conflict, relationships (attachment), setting personal boundaries, and being kind to myself is… lacking. These issues in and of themselves are not the direct cause for the choices I make but symptoms of things that require repair, deep work, and introspection on my part.
Time is a flat circle. “It means that the effects of actions lead people back to those original actions, again and again. The choices that we make reverberate through time.”
The lack of attention to repairing these aspects of myself sees me replaying an endless loop of scenarios and decisions. If I don't do anything about it, then I'm going to keep repeating the same things over and over again. I've caused enough emotional harm over the years, and I don't want to continue perpetuating that. So I have committed to prioritizing my mental health journey and repair, and I'm on my way.
I've focused my energies on growing my business, getting my finances in order, and prioritizing those things. And those things are in good shape, but it's time to work on the rest. I want to say I came to this conclusion on my own. I didn't. It took a healthy dose of consequences and accountability to get me to stop and look inward and take action. I didn't see this for the opportunity it presented at first, but now I do. I'm lucky.
While I'm a work-in-progress, there are several things I think are worth celebrating, however.
Now, I haven't decided where I'm going to buy, but I would like to stay in or around LA—paying a mortgage in LA is definitely a weird choice of hobby, honestly. We'll see. I'm just excited to know that I could get my stuff in order so that I could be here in the first place. If I can do this, I can work out the above stuff with perseverance.
I'm also proud of my resilience. A lot has happened in my life, and it could have gone several ways, and things could have gone wrong. They didn't. Not all of my choices have been the right ones, but some of them have been gems.
I'm a better business owner than I give myself credit for. I've created a sustainable business that pays me and five other people (employees and contractors).
I appreciate that I'm able to be introspective and look within; it's helpful for those times when I fall short or win big. Being able to ask myself difficult questions and take action is a trait I'm happy to have.
Elusive life lessons
I know I said I wasn't going to provide a huge list of life lessons. And I won't, but I have a few things worth mentioning, and I would say these are more aspirational than lessons I've actually implemented successfully in my life.
Breathing. As you read this, when was the last time you took a nice deep long breath? Maybe it's been a minute. But I am prone to anxiety and negative self-talk. When I am in those states, I can feel the frequent short bursts that make up my breath, and when I stop myself and ask, what are you feeling? What are you thinking about? Once I know what I'm feeling and why I can work back from that. It's usually something from the past I'm agonizing over, or I'm engaging in some imaginary argument or scenario with no basis for reality. Realizing this, slowing down my breathing, sounds silly but has been a small game changer for me.
It's also amazing to know how breathing affects so many aspects and activities in one's life. Breathing well while running is vital to an enjoyable run, it makes things easier. Take time and learn to breathe and pay attention to your breathing. Slow it down, notice, and focus. Just breathe.
Flexibility. I have Ankylosing spondylitis, which, in short, impairs spinal mobility. I take meds for it, but I don't do much with stretching, and yoga would help immensely, my rheumatologist says. I am building this practice out now. In general, I need to take better care of my health. Being consistent in being more flexible (yoga or otherwise) is something I'm committed to, as it will help with my Anko-stuff.
Being kind to oneself. I'm getting better at this, and it turns out breathing helps. Like I said, negative self-talk is a thing I've done for as long as I can remember, even as a child. Talking down to myself, sabotaging myself, passing up opportunities because I wasn't good enough or I didn't deserve it. I pulled that just a month ago, in fact! I was invited to speak at a conference, and I chose not to reply. I didn't think I deserved to take part, so I didn't. Everyone fucks up and makes poor decisions, but we still have to live our lives, we still get to enjoy life, we still get to participate. That's how it works. I'm punishing myself for things I can no longer change and I need to stop that. This leads me to…
Pay attention to the signals. When on an airplane, they tell you in an emergency to put your own oxygen mask on first. That's an extreme situation, but it doesn't represent real life. Our bodies, thoughts, and loved ones usually tell us there's a problem, often before we admit it to ourselves and decide to do something about it. My body has had to scream out for me to take action to fix it; I had to abandon or destroy my romantic relationships before I could admit there was a problem. Identifying these signals has been part of my mental health practice of late.
Everyone would benefit from a life well examined. I've talked to therapists over the years, and it's been beneficial. In 2020, I needed a therapist the most, and I didn't keep up with it. I let it lapse, and I suffered; my relationship suffered. If nothing else, therapy provides a space to share your thoughts and those things that you're unraveling, providing perspective, and is judgment-free. Restarting therapy has been so far helpful. Even if you don't think you need it, I recommend a couple of sessions to get all the things out that are lying around in the ol' noggin there.
Check-in on yo relationships. I'm guilty of not doing this. At one point, I maintained a fairly large social circle, and then I got burned out on the maintenance. Specifically, I got burned out holding candles for folks who don't make an effort to keep those connections, so I stopped. This shrunk my circle significantly of folks I stayed in contact with. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Relationships, whether romantic, or platonic, or familial, take time and energy to nurture. So make time for friends and family.
Play. Engaging in something fun, whether it's art or physical activity, or something else, is essential to keeping anxiety at bay for me. I recently re-engaged with a local Improv troupe and have a boxing class coming up next week that I'm excited for (I never did that one).
Self Care is the shit. So I took myself to a spa, got a massage, went to a steam room, and a few other things. And you know what? It was f*cking great! I've never done that. Ever! It was amazing, and I don't know why I didn't do it sooner!
Boundaries. It's okay to set healthy boundaries for yourself and to tell others about them! As a person prone to being a people-pleaser or peacemaker, I try to keep people happy to avoid potential conflict or discomfort. I've learned it's important to speak up when something bothers you. Boundaries are for yourself and not for others. It's your way of communicating what you're feeling and what you're willing to engage with (or not). If you don't establish boundaries for yourself, you're not showing up as well for others as you could, you retain resentment; at least, that's been the case for me. It could be saying no to things you're not excited about, despite disappointing people. It could be telling someone what behavior you don't want to deal with any longer. There's a lot there. I'm working on this practice.
Mind the present; that's where the good ol' days are. There's this quote from Lao Tzu (who I know very little about) that I find myself thinking about occasionally: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Being self-employed, I'm prone to thinking about the next project, our billables, etc. Aka owner brain. You know what? They come. They always come. Business, like nature, has an ebb and flow; I have to learn to trust that and know that things will work out. I've spoken enough about regrets here, but I do spend a lot of time agonizing over particular aspects of it. I'm not sure how to let go of those things or if I should. I feel like the past provides necessary guideposts to find your way in life.
Finally, when I started thinking of all the work I had to do, I was reminded of something one of my good friends likes to say:
If you're coasting through life, you're going downhill
My friend, Mehrdad, said that to me maybe fifteen or twenty years ago. It still resonates with me. It means that: if the times are tough and things are difficult to keep going, to persevere. I think things would be much easier for me if I didn't have regrets or agonize over the things I've done.
I think things would be easier if I didn't see a need to do the work and improve myself. If I were like that, I would be going downhill. And I'm not. I'm persevering; I'm working. In short, I'm trying.
I'll see ya next year!