Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Birthday Wish

I’ve hit that point in life at which I don’t enjoy celebrating my birthday. I’ve also hit that point when most people suggest it’s not that bad, because the alternative is death. Somehow, I don’t find that to be a heartwarming way to embrace my inevitable decline…

When I turned 45 this week, it wasn’t fun. In fact, it was probably a fitting middle-aged birthday: I was forced to work late. My kids wished me a happy birthday, but with the obligatory tone that suggests they’d be much more excited if it were their own event. Sara was out of town because of her own career demands. Life wore me out that day and left me in bed well before ten o’clock. Wow… eesh.
This year, I felt like I was barely hanging on.
Maybe next year will be different.

It doesn’t take much reflection to conclude that 44 was a rough year. It provided many doctor’s visits, a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, and culminated with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which brings with it a lifelong pain management situation. For someone who happily lives a pretty physical life, this sucks. What’s to celebrate? Blowing out the birthday candle, it’s easy to wish for something different, or a return to the life I was enjoying.

Where will life
take me next?
Like New Year’s, a birthday is a chance to take stock of the last year and to ponder what the next year may hold, or to articulate the wishes for the next year.  I don’t know what the year ahead may have in store, but I know that whatever happens, it will unfold at its own pace. Maybe my pain is exacerbated; maybe I have the first day in well over a year in which the pain doesn’t forcibly alter that day’s trajectory. Maybe I can again indulge in some favorite activities; maybe I remain “on the shelf”. Maybe I find some new activities to love; maybe I find myself taking on new ways of challenging myself and being horrified to discover that trying my hand at being a street performer of interpretive dance was an extremely poor self-assessment of my capabilities… OK, maybe I should start smaller.

The point is, life doesn’t allow me to hit a pause button. The band keeps playing, the stone keeps rolling, the wheel keeps turning. It’s fair to need to grieve for a loss, to allow yourself the emotions that come with an involuntary life change – particularly one painfully imposed upon you. But it doesn’t change your reality.

The paths in life are rarely easy. Nevertheless,
you've gotta choose one eventually.
As I begin accumulating some days as a 45-year-old, my more immediate focus is to not waste the time. So, my priority is about allowing myself to process the emotions of a rough situation. But, it’s also to figure out how to maximize my remaining time and capabilities that this stage of my life affords me. I need to pointedly push myself out of my comfort zone and experiment, but not force a lifestyle that isn’t authentic and genuinely fulfilling. While not an easy task, it nevertheless is the task at hand. I believe that whatever your lot in life, the best aspiration and focus is to try to maximize the potential of your situation.

My last year was one spent amidst uncertainty, negativity, repeated setbacks, and stuck in a painful limbo. Given where I landed and the clarity I received, my wish for my next year is to begin climbing out of that hole; to begin to figure out how to be passionately engaged with a life and with relationships that fulfill me, and to allow me to somehow positively impact the lives of those around me.
As a new year of life dawns, it's my wish to live it fully and to squeeze the most out of it.

One step at a time,

Jay Bell

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