It seems as though something profound should be said on a birthday--as though this one day in a series of days older should impart some new wisdom. But nope. No real wisdom here.
As I grow older I spend more time thinking about what is truly important to me, and less time trying to impress others. I can be hopelessly self-conscious, to the point of not trying things for fear of failure. Looking back on my twenties I see most of my decisions as tentative, non-committed and superficial. I knew who I wanted to be but was afraid to try. But days turn into years and young people around me become ill and I have begun to feel some urgency in life. If I don't learn it now, I may never know it; if we don't plant it, it shan't grow, and so on. I want to be, today, the woman that my boys will remember in the future. And so it goes.
As I get older I am more comfortable in my own skin. I have stopped trying to be what I am not. I choose to focus my energy on what interests me and more and more I retreat from relationships that require me to be anything but authentic. When I feel pressure or when I become uncomfortable with a decision before me, I recall one of the most important and life-changing things I have read in years. It is a brief blog post from Zen Presence and if I may be so bold, I'll break it down into what it has meant for me:
Whenever I am faced with feeling uncertain, fearing judgement, or lacking confidence, I ask myself if I seek meaning in my life or do I seek the approval of others? This immediately breaks the situation down into two clear paths. Down one path I see an image that someone else approves of but that does not fit me and does not make me happy, and that I can not long sustain. It makes me feel anxious and that I can not measure up for long. Down the other, I see enrichment; I see truth, authenticity, purpose. When I seek meaningful things and experiences I see artifice fall away and I am relieved. Asking myself this one question "approval or meaning?" cuts to the heart of the matter, setting aside the many details that often cause unnecessary stress and sleepless nights. I feel like I am doing better at this than I used to but I remind myself continually to try again. Like I say to my son, we will try again tomorrow. We can do better if we keep trying. It is true. That is what I have learned in 37 years. To keep on trying.