There is an expression I like- I believe it is British- to describe when something (or someone) is stealthily hanging around: “skulking about”. Well, the number 47 is skulking about my life, waiting to pounce on me as my birthday approaches. With full awareness of that skulking, I decided to share a few ruminations from an almost-47-year-old person.
1. It turns out that junk food really is junk. I no longer experience pleasure in any of it, including Ding Dongs, french fries or candy. It all tastes like chemical-infused crap. I could have never imagined a time in my life when I would have no interest in anything the local Zippee Mart has to offer. I’m not saying I don’t still eat junk food. I am saying I do not enjoy it. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Food Network, or one’s palate really does change over the years, because I used to be a huge fan.
2. I appreciate honesty so much more now. I used to be the Grand Queen of sparing someone’s feelings, sugarcoating the truth, or avoiding the hard conversations. Now I realize it is not that difficult to just say what’s on your mind and move on. Things are not the big deal we make them out to be. The tendency of youth to attach emotion to everything seems like a waste of energy to me now.
3. Listening is beautiful. Slowing down, being in the moment, looking someone in the eyes and really hearing what they are saying is awesome. Even if the subject is mundane, it is such a lovely feeling to be present and just appreciate that person for who they are. Really look at them. Hear the voice fully. It could be someone you know well, or someone you don’t know at all. Often they will say something sweet or delightful or funny, something that you would have missed if you were too busy thinking of your to-do list.
4. Sleeping in is over for me. One of my employees texted me to announce that she had slept until 11am. My reply was only one character: ! I cannot even imagine it. It’s not that I don’t want the rest; I am simply unable to pursue it. On Sundays-my one day off-I tell myself I am going to sleep in, and I’m lucky if I can slumber past 7am. It may be that I have too much I want to accomplish, or perhaps my body thinks eating breakfast is more important than dreaming. Regardless, if you see me sleeping at 11:00am, I promise you I am either gravely ill, or taking a nap after a busy morning.
5. Learning is as much fun as being entertained. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a great cat video on YouTube or a good escapist novel once in a while, but overall, I like to get something out of what I read and watch. Much to the dismay of my book club, I usually insist on reading non-fiction, preferably something enlightening. With Charity for All is the best last book I read, followed by Emperor of all Maladies: a Biography of Cancer.
6. Another formidable life lesson for me has been to grasp The Power of Habit . (Another great book.) Conquering the big goals is simply a matter of creating a habit of activities in small units. Weight loss, fitness, education, new hobbies, closer friendships, enhanced skills, new attitudes-all blossom under the care of the person who is willing to invest just a few minutes each day or each week.
7. Finally, my 47-year old self admits that the best habit I can nurture is that of gratitude. The amount of blessings that have been jammed into the past 2,444 weeks of my life are ridiculous. I am wealthy beyond measure in the treasures of friends, family, memories, experiences and perspectives. I have no doubt that if I focus on nothing else for the rest of my life, just being appreciative for those blessings, and expressing that appreciation to my loved ones, will carry me graciously through the next 47 years. It would never again even occur to me that the next birthday is skulking around a corner; rather, I would visualize the next number as a welcome new friend, to whom I look forward to becoming acquainted.