Tag Archives: aspire

The Key

In less than two weeks, I’ll cross the threshold from 49 to 50. This year, and this blog, have flown by. I haven’t written much of late because I’ve been fervently and joyfully working night and day on the things I intended to do to make myself ready for this new decade!

To approach my fiftieth birthday with intention and attention has been a great gift to myself. I’ve shed both the limiting habit of self-doubt, and fifteen unwanted pounds. It’s been no secret to anyone but me that I’m exceptionally smart, but for the first time *I* am fully confident that my tremendous intellect, imperfect creativity and bold curiosity have an important place in this world.

In reflection, a few things have been key to this “training up” for turning toward my decade of power.

One has been recognizing the things that drive me, and putting them to work on my own behalf. I have always been someone who carefully calculates, then takes, profitable risks. Once I recognized this, I intentionally cultivated that risk-taking into entrepreneurial savvy, creating both a successful small business and a growing social history project, right in the middle of this economic recession.

Another  key has been learning to treat my self – especially my embodied self — with kindness. This has led to greater patience with pain, and more energy. It’s also had the unusual side-effect of putting my most serious illness, a fatal tendency to take myself too seriously, into remission.

But the key that matters most isn’t metaphorical; it’s a literal key. It’s the door key to a place called The Writer’s Mill, a co-working space for serious writers. It’s a place full of people who are, in the words of Mary Heaton Vorse, “applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” every day to write  articles, and blogs, stories and books. It’s a place for people who say without mumbling “writer” when asked who they are in the world. It’s the place I’ve been too afraid to say that I belong. Until now.

I plan to unlock my fiftieth year with the key to that front door.

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Right Where You Are Now

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a trillionaire, and you are going to be right where you are now!” said an angry Zach to his dad.

How easily a seven-year-old kid can chill a grown man’s soul.

Zach’s taunt goes straight to the heart of unspeakable fear of middle age: This is it. The best you are ever going to be is right where you are now. And right where you are right now,  quickly approaching fifty, is not where you ever dreamed you’d be. Not even close.

I spent my youth cultivating dreams. What kid didn’t fantasize that she would grow up to be a millionaire (back before the wealth gap made mere billionaires irrelevant) or a famous writer, or simply well-known and better-liked than she’d been in high school? As we got older, those dreams became more modest and concrete in their intentions.  After a few glasses of wine, one friend confesses a long-held secret plan to live in Paris, at least for a little while. A peripatetic artist tells me that he dreams of coming home to a house instead of an apartment, and seeing a light on at the window because someone inside is waiting for him.

Our forties mark the last, best, chance to make those dreams come true. They are latest reasonable years for white weddings and fat babies; the last chance for promotions that say we’re still somehow climbing the corporate ladder. Our late forties are the last time we’ll get to start over in a new place with the idea that someday, here, we will have old friends.

This is sobering news. It leaves me breathless to think that my life is now composed of middles and endings, not beginnings.Forty-nine is a map of reckoning, marked with a big, red arrow that says “You Are Here.” It’s not where I imagined I would be.

And I am terrified of a life in which I might remain here, fixed but still aspiring; trapped, in Zach’s words, right where I am now.

Go Big. Be You.

The note above my desk says :

Go Big. Be You.

Step It Up.

Being Small:  Game Over.

It’s a birthday card to myself.  It helps me to remember where I am on this journey of self-knowing.

It’s there to remind me that I promised to answer The Birthday Question in public this year.  I turned 49 almost a month ago, and I promised on my birthday that I would tell you the most significant thing I’ve learned in the past year.

And then, I suddenly stopped blogging.  Funny, that.

You see, the most important thing I learned this past year is that it is time for me to renounce timidity in my life. Forty-nine is my last chance to let go of a lifelong habit of living small. I have lived a Pretty Good Life, but not nearly as bold a strong a life as there is in me. This is the year that I am called to let go of smallness of my own making; it is time to choose a big, fat, juicy life. While I still can.

There’s something about this that I find terrifying.

The Birthday Question

Thursday was my 49th birthday: my  initiation for turning Intentionally Fifty has formally begun! I have spent much of the last week reflecting on how I want to spend this year. In particular, I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish before I turn fifty, what experiences and accomplishments I want to have under my belt before I finish my forties.

But first, I need to party. One can’t properly celebrate a birthday in the middle of a busy work week, so I plan to spend this weekend celebrating. Won’t you please celebrate with me?

A Birthday Tradition: A circle of dear women in Ohio taught me celebrate with this special birthday tradition, one that I invite you to share:

  • We make a semi-circle, in birth order. Those younger than the celebrant tell the group one thing they look forward to about achieving the age of the celebrant.  Those older than the celebrant tell the one thing they remember most about being the age of the celebrant. Then, the birthday celebrant answers The Birthday Question: What is the most significant thing you have learned during the last year of your life?

So, Dear Reader, please join the circle and tell me:

  • To what do you aspire  before you turn fifty?
  • What do you remember most about your forty-ninth year?

I promise to answer The Birthday Question in return!

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