Today is my birthday. I’m 53 and I want to share some thoughts on how to be present and what that means to me.
A few months ago, I was having an argument with someone and he said, “You know what your problem is? You’ve never had anything bad happen to you. That’s why you write about all this stupid divorce drama.”
OK… First of all, my dad died last year. I’m not sure how he thinks that’s not bad. Also, 3 years ago I had a hip replacement, and of course, a decade ago, I went through a divorce. I’m sorry, am I missing something? Aren’t those bad?
But then I thought about it, and in a way, he had a point. Yes, having your dad die is heartbreaking and beyond painful—even still the sadness doesn’t get better, but I would say other than that, I have had a pretty good life, free of a lot of “bad” stuff. (discounting the divorce and the hip.)
I have written so many articles for the Tribune on people’s “bad” stuff: a woman who is a two-time cancer survivor, a couple who lost their 3 young daughters in a car accident, a mom whose daughter is addicted to heroin, and a couple where the husband has ALS, to name a few.
And while I feel absolutely heartbroken for these people and others who have “bad” stuff happen to them, it makes me feel immense gratitude for what I do have.
Yeah, maybe the guy has a point. Maybe nothing really really really awful has happened to me in my life. Should I feel guilty about that? Hell no. I am jumping for joy in gratitude. I am thanking God every day for my wonderful life, and I am praying that it continues to be this way.
I honestly do wake up every morning and before I even get out of bed I reflect on the wonderful people who are in my life, who make me so very happy and inspired every single day.
I wouldn’t say I have an easy life, although everything is relative, so to some maybe I do. I work. A lot. Like really a lot. But that’s OK, because the people I surround myself with, who keep me motivated and who love me are what sustain my ability to produce, both in my job and in my writing for the Tribune and for Divorced Girl Smiling.
Today I feel great. I don’t look as good as I did 10 years ago—even 5 years ago, but that’s totally fine. I feel young and energetic and happy and giddy, almost. I feel truly blessed.
I’m stealing some of this from a sermon I heard at my temple a few years ago, and never forgot:
We all tend to focus on what goes wrong in a day: maybe the coffee pot broke, or we lost our cell phone, or our kid got magic marker on a wooden table, or the dog pooped on the rug (again), or we had an argument with someone at work. But we sometimes forget that there are millions of things going right all day and night. It starts with waking up and our heart is beating, getting out of bed and our legs walk us downstairs, and the coffee pot does work and makes us delicious coffee, and the kids wake up and they are healthy, and car starts so that we can drive them to school and then go to work. We go through our whole day and at night, we are home safe and our kids are safe, and we are all laughing together and it was a great day, even if some things weren’t that great or went wrong. Countless more things went right than went wrong. So when things do go wrong, why not focus on what went right to calm us down and put things in perspective?
As I get into my fifties, I focus more and more on each and every day, getting enjoyment out of it, and trying to contribute and give back to make other people’s days better. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan or have goals. That is still important. But instead of looking so much to the future, it’s important to be present, to be here and enjoy each day.
I regret when I was younger, I used to count days away: number of days till Christmas break, number of days to go back to college (during the summers), number of days till a vacation, or especially, I wished both of my pregnancies away because I was so excited for the baby. But why did I do that? I would give anything to have those days back. I would appreciate them and use them so much more wisely: again, to enjoy and to do good for others.
Even for those going through a divorce, you’re probably counting the days until it’s final, which is understandable. But while you count, don’t forget to be present and don’t waste away days in which you can find enjoyment and meaning. Every day really is a gift, no matter where we are in life.
I don’t want to be negative but this is a fact. Eventually, something bad is going to happen to me (and all of us.) It might be tomorrow or it might be several years from now, but it will happen. Maybe that brings comfort to the guy who seems bitter that it hasn’t happened to me yet.
I don’t feel scared about “bad” stuff. When it happens, we’ll see how I deal with it. I’ll worry about it then. For now, I plan to keep doing what I’m doing; enjoying my kids, my boyfriend, my dog, my mom, my sisters, my aunts and uncles, my nieces and nephew, and my wonderful friends, and continue to try to make a difference in this world, even if it’s in some small way. If I can make someone smile or temporarily feel better about their divorce or help someone feel less alone and lonely, or make someone feel important and appreciated, or make someone laugh, I feel like I used my day wisely.
Today, on my bday, I will do yoga, (with one of my favorite instructors, Trish), go out for coffee with a friend, take my dog for a long walk, work a little bit, and then have dinner with my family. In other words, birthday or not, today is a gift of another day, so instead of looking to the future and realizing that am factually closer to “bad” stuff, I’m going to smile, breathe in some fresh air, open presents and eat birthday cake.
Like this article? Check out, “Why The Serenity Prayer Should Be Required Daily Reading For Those Going Through A Divorce”