Inside: I’m turning 48 and each year as I approach my birthday I pause to reflect and redirect. This year I chose to craft a list of happy things that I want to acknowledge and express gratitude for. This post contains some referral links.
I’m turning 48 tomorrow.
Birthdays are a lovely time for self-reflection. A time to reflect and redirect.
Three years ago during a visit to Montréal, I wrote this:
Two years ago as I neared my birthday I was thinking about this:
Last year I identified some habits to help me live with renewed intention:
And this year – a truly hard, painful, stretching year – all I want to do is reflect on the beauty or joy in my imperfect and beautiful life. I don’t deny the hurt and uncertainty but I choose to direct my focus to the gifts.
My mantra for this year of my life is “Say yes to life: dive in heart-first”
Perhaps my list will inspire you to craft a list of happy things of your own.
48 Happy Things in this Imperfect & Beautiful Life of Mine
1. My grey and red mugs special ordered by my three children off Etsy, for last year’s birthday.
2. All the artwork in my house made by my kids and other artists, near and far.
3. A trip to New Orleans, booked for my 25th anniversary this summer.
4. My husband and I have both been walking pain-free (yay!) after years of difficulty.
5. Friendship and learning the strength in vulnerability as we take turns lifting each other up.
6. Beginning the process of growing old together – it’s fun to realize I’ve been with my husband more than half my life. We’ve had rocky moments but have walked each other through the most beautiful and the most heart-wrenching moments.
7. I self-published something – I didn’t let imperfection or fear derail this desire.
8. Learning to set healthier and healthier boundaries and doing so calmly and confidently.
9. My craggy old apple tree out front – how I love this tree and the birds and deer (plus occasional moose) it attracts to my yard all year round.
10. Learning to rest. Permission to just be and opt out of “the race.” Doing work I love because it is on purpose – but not needing to prove myself, compete, or even force anything to happen.
11. Acknowledging that I’ve always had to consciously manage my mental health – including suicidal ideation. Releasing shame and feeling incredibly proud of myself for owning who I am and advocating persistently for my health.
12. Learning what it means to love without expectation and holding space for people without trying to fix or control the outcome.
15. Four years of A Life in Progress (nearing four years of writing) and choosing to show up slow and steady, quieting the noise of comparison, perfectionism, and fear to offer my mission and message.
16. The joy of funny looking succulents.
17. My son who teaches me to listen and see differently.
18. My oldest daughter who teaches me to say yes to life and who is always willing to join me on adventures.
19. My youngest daughter who taught me to tell the truth about my anger, and who inspires me daily to own who I am, love myself, and offer my gifts.
20. Being on the home stretch of paying off a mortgage and gratitude for living simply and frugally for years even when it didn’t feel that fun.
21. Spending several days in Nashville last fall with bloggers/writers I respect and enjoy.
23. The public library! Right?!
24. Delight that all three of our kids are artists in their own right. This is just one facet of who they are but it’s such a happy thing.
25. Simple good food – much of it locally grown.
26. Learning the power in taking consistent, imperfect action.
27. Learning how much light affects my mood and gratitude for a fake birch tree in my living room with little twinkly lights, my happy lamp, beeswax candles, and salt lamps.
28. Living in such a beautiful country with issues of its own but also safety, freedom, health care.
29. My laptop. One of my favorite possessions (I don’t care too much about things) because it allows (introverted) me to write, connect, learn, and also shop online in my pj’s.
30. Choosing years ago to embrace a minimalist wardrobe mostly in black and grey. Saves money, time, and no more feeling like I “should” dress like anyone else.
31. My cute husband – he drives me crazy often but he is definitely my best friend and a good man.
32. Getting to know my brothers and sisters as adults. Building friendships, gratitude that though we wouldn’t have known to choose each other had we not been family, we get to learn from, enjoy, and be there for each other.
33. CBD oil which has made a significant positive difference to my anxiety and chronic pain.
34. Loosening my grip on trying to do it all perfectly – nutrition, parenting, a perfectly ordered home – making peace with messy.
35. Choosing travel over things – opportunity to travel more in my 40’s and beyond.
36. A hip replacement (7 years ago now) and synthetic thyroid hormone. I’m so grateful for science/medicine.
37. Laughter. And tears. And this year deciding that I can own my anger – and stop judging myself for it or trying to suppress it.
38. Forgiveness. Grace. Learning to give and receive generously.
39. Not knowing how many days I get but choosing to fully receive the gift of each ordinary day and not wishing any away.
40. Hope. Remembering that in the dark seasons life feels bleak but I’ve always found light again. I can sit with the hard truths today and make room for joyful possibility, for healing, and for restoration.
41. I love the space I have in this season of life to do work that lights me up, to read, think, and rest. Parenting little people and building a nest was amazing but mid-life is pretty good too.
42. I’m so grateful for my husband’s employment – and for the people who welcomed him here years ago. He found where he fit and could offer his gifts and this stability trickled down and helped create a stable home.
43. Women’s voices – women using words to share story or speak life, women building businesses and letting us see how they do things, women telling the truth about injustice and having the courage to fight for change, women raising healthy families and pouring out to build strong communities, the women who raised us and sacrificed for the freedom we have today.
44. Fish tacos heavy on the cilantro;)
45. Every single season of life comes bearing gifts and knowing this chapter is only part of my story not the fullness of it.
46. The beauty of long-term friendships – watching each other’s kids grow up, knowing the sorrows we each carry, cheering each other on, working through conflict, not giving up on each other.
47. The online world including social media. I may have opted out forever if I didn’t want to write and build a business – but the online space has been a gift in my life. Writing helps me work through murky emotions and process, it makes space for me to encourage and offer light, it allowed me to make friends I truly love and wouldn’t have met otherwise, and it lets me build community with beautiful people from different corners of the world. This is huge.
48. No more deferring happiness. This imperfect day is my real life – I choose to be all in. I choose to be happy now.
Writing this list of happy things feels self-indulgent – it really is – but it also reflects honestly my stubborn determination to fully live. To dive in to life, heart-first, with abandon. To say yes to life and growth and being fully present in every season, moment by moment.
I’m grateful for another year.
MY MANTRAS FROM THE PAST FEW YEARS
2020 Mantra: Tell the Truth
2019 Mantra: Say yes to life: Dive in heart-first
2018 Mantra: Listen to Your Life Speak
2017 Mantra: Don’t try so hard; Just enjoy yourself
2016 Mantra: Choose Joy
2015 Mantra: Just offer your small gifts (I didn’t write for this birthday)