Last Thursday was my birthday. One thing about birthdays and holidays is that we tend to remember how we spent those occasions last year and what our lives were like at the time. We have a tendency to make comparisons and reflect upon how we have progressed or regressed in the preceding year. Sometimes these reflections make us happy, while other times they leave us feeling melancholy or perplexed.
In today’s post, I share some of my reflections upon turning the page on yet another year.
A Difficult Birthday and All Too Familiar Feelings
Thursday’s birthday marked my passage into my late forties, as I turned 47. For many people, such a revelation would prompt a shoulder shrug or a “so what?” response. But for some reason, this was a difficult birthday for me. I found myself feeling old and was again plagued by the all too familiar feeling of not having done enough with the precious gift of my life. Self-doubt didn’t just creep into my awareness; it was more like a veritable waterfall dumping on my head!
Although none of us knows how long he or she will have on this earth, the statistics tell me I’m deeply entrenched in the realm of “middle-aged.” If I’m incredibly fortunate, I may be at the halfway point of my life. But if actuarial tables are any indication, I’m well into my life’s second act. This realization troubles me more than it should…
In the days leading up to my birthday, I felt overwhelmingly melancholy and depleted of energy. At first, I didn’t know why and I chalked it up to lack of sleep and the unpredictable fluctuation of peri-menopausal hormones. But as the calendar inched closer to 8/8, I realized the actual genesis of my low mood.
Don’t Get Me Wrong About Birthdays…
Don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy birthdays. My husband and I make a point of spending the day together doing many of the birthday person’s favorite activities. This year, we enjoyed brunch at a French bistro, a showing of a new movie, and some shopping at an outdoor mall (yes, shopping is still one of my favorite activities, although I’m working on expanding my horizons). We hoped to fit in a walk by the bay as well, but we got a later start and weren’t able to work that activity into the mix.
I spoke with my mother and brother and received calls, cards, emails, Facebook posts, and text messages from my father and a number of friends. Although I’ve often written about my hunger for deeper connections, I know there are many out there who care about me and wish me well. I was appreciative of the good wishes I received on my birthday from those near and far.
It was an enjoyable day overall and I am grateful to be able to add another candle to my proverbial birthday cake (in actuality, my husband and I shared a piece of cake and no candles were blown out). Yet I couldn’t escape thinking about last year’s birthday and the hopes and dreams I had for the year to come.
Flash Back, Flash Forward
At the time, I was doing reasonably well with my wardrobe styling business and was hopeful that perhaps I’d finally found a career for which I was well-suited and would prosper in. Fast forward a year and I’m now on the verge of closing that business or at least radically transforming it. I am once again in a time of transition, a 47 year-old woman who still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.
I am much more socially isolated than I was last year, as I was then working with clients and attending numerous networking events to promote my business. I have struggled with a number of health challenges and continue to feel below par much of the time.
Although I frequently feel lonely and sick, I remain hopeful that I can turn things around with both my health and my professional life. I even feel at least a glimmer of hope that I’ll be a late bloomer in the career realm and finally find vocational bliss as I edge closer to my fifties. I am not one to give up hope, but I do feel discouraged and overwhelmed at times.
Getting Off My “Pity Pot” – Highlighting Some Positives
Lest it seem like I’m sitting upon an extra-large “pity pot,” there are some positives to highlight when I engage in comparisons with last year. One significant bright point is this blog. Not only is it reigniting my love of writing and helping to heal my shopping addiction, it’s also enabled me to connect with people all over the world.
When I started “Recovering Shopaholic,” I had no idea how many people would even read my words, but I am delighted to know my sentiments have touched a number of women who share my struggles. While most of my readers remain anonymous – and that’s okay – some have reached out to let me know I’ve helped them through my sharing, insights, and tips. I’m grateful for all of my readers and I’m so happy my blog has been well-received.
Shopaholic Reflections – 2012 to 2013
Last August, I was a full-fledged shopaholic whose main hobby was trolling the malls and online stores for clothes, shoes, and accessories I “had to have” but forgot about soon after they reached my closet. I hid my purchases from my husband and even out and out lied about what I bought and how much I spent. I had already exceeded my clothing budget for the entire year but had no intention of curtailing my shopping practices. My closet was overflowing with “wardrobe benchwarmers” I didn’t love and rarely wore, yet that didn’t stop me from wanting more, more, more!
This August, I’m on track with my shopping budget for the first time in at least ten years. I’m much more conscious of what I have and I wear and appreciate a far larger percentage of what I own. I’ve pared down my wardrobe to a much more manageable level and am on target to address all of my wardrobe benchwarmers by the end of this month (by either embracing and wearing them or letting them go). While I still struggle with my shopping “dragons” (my June over-shopping is an example of that), I am steadfastly dedicated to the process of trading my full closet for a full life and helping others to do the same.
Setting Melancholy and Self-Recrimination Aside
I may not have a successful and lucrative career and a large circle of friends, but I’m a better and stronger person than I was a year ago. I’m less selfish, more mature, more mindful, and more introspective. My life isn’t perfect (whose is?), but I actually am in a better place now than I was last year at this time. What’s more, if I continue on the path I embarked upon this January with this blog and my other positive resolutions, I will be in an even better place as my 48th birthday looms large.
So with that realization, I cast the melancholy, regret, and self-recrimination aside and get back to the business of living and transforming my life. I may not always feel and believe this, but the truth is that I am good enough. I can make a positive difference in the world even if I don’t have a lofty job title or a six-figure income. I don’t need to compare myself to other women my age, the me of the past, or the me I thought I would be or should be. I am good enough just as I am and I’m on the path to be even better!
For Those with Upcoming Birthdays
I know many of you have birthdays inching around the corner, and you may find yourself feeling blue or comparing how things are to how you expected or wished they would be. I know the desire to compare is incredibly difficult to resist, so if you do decide to indulge in comparison, at least broaden your scope.
Don’t just look at what you didn’t achieve or what’s missing from your life. Look inside as well as outside. Consider:
- How have you grown as a person?
- Who have you touched with your kindness and unique take on the world?
- Who would be lost without you in their lives?
We all have unique gifts and talents to share with the world. We are all valuable, no matter what we look like, what clothes we wear, what job we have (or don’t), and how much money we make (or don’t). Most of us will never become household names or receive public accolades, but that doesn’t make us any less important. I write this as much to remind myself as to remind you. We are enough.