Lessons Learned in Birthday Month

A2 Birth Announcement 26 July 1957

My birth announcement in the hometown paper. Still seeking front-page, above the fold since three days old.

July 8, 2017 — This month I’ll start my seventh decade.  People keep asking me what it feels like to turn 60.  It’s better than the alternative, I say.

Turning 60 feels different than reaching 50.  Ten years ago, I hosted a party called “The Phenomenal Women” party.  I invited 50 friends to Biaggi’s back room and asked everyone to make a donation to Easter Seals, a favorite charity of mine. We raised nearly 5k for playground equipment.

Those of us turning 50 in 2007 celebrated our half centuries at the party. I told every guest what they’ve meant to me, starting with a new friend and ending with my Mom. She was somewhat lucid that day, mostly free of dementia. Mom died in 2012.

Photo by Nelson Rivers

People ask if I’m repeating the party. Not this time.  Some days are so special and meaningful that they should foster in my memory.

Turning fifty was great.  I felt something lift off my shoulders that day.  It’s ethereal, but I think I can describe it in more earthbound terms.  Let’s call it “not giving a rat’s ass.

What’s important became more important, and everything else frittered away into dust bunnies. I don’t care much if people are offended that I wear socks with sandals. Since age 50, I’m also going to tell you I’m offended by certain jokes and the “N” word.  When I was younger, I was too afraid to upset the apple cart.  Not anymore.

Now it is a decade later, and I am surprised by some developments. For example, it raises my hackles that I have to learn lessons now I’ve needed all along.  Youth is wasted on the young.

  1. Every day I learn I don’t know much. Or that what I learned before is irrelevant. Or that I need to think about life from a different perspective. Or that I’m wrong.

Every. Single. Day

The only solution to this is opening my mind and heart to new ideas, and not losing it because I’m wrong or outdated or incorrect.

  1. I’ve discovered that it is plain stupid to be offended over situations in which you have no control. Frankly, someone should have beaten this into my brain about fifty years ago.

I don’t have to be offended by everything.  Most of life is not about me.  Wow.  That’s hard to realize since I’ve been the center of my life for so long. I am not the center of the univBy Cyril Davenport (1848 – 1941) - G. Younghusband; C. Davenport (1919). The Crown Jewels of England. London: Cassell & Co. p. 6. (See also The Jewel House (1921) frontispiece.), Public Domain, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37624150">Link</a>erse (well, except on my birthday, and birthday week, and birthday month.)

Most of the time I am not in charge of the universe.  I’m a spectator for most of the games, in the stands watching and not on the field.

My crown stays in its black velvet case most of the time.

This realization is hard to implement.  I’m wired to respond to everything.  That trait held me in good stead during my marketing career.  How freeing is it to learn that I don’t have to explain everything, be in charge of everything, worry about everyone else, and release judgment with that control.

My husband and I were chewing over this concept, and we came up with a great analogy.  Our favorite vacations have been with Collette Tours.  While I’m sure there are other excellent tour companies, we’ve enjoyed six overseas trips with Collette.  The tour managers worry about everything, so we’re released from figuring out where to stand in line at the Vatican or Edinburgh Castle. We are much more relaxed when we don’t have to worry about the logistics.

Why can’t this principle be applied to real life apart from an escorted tour?  Because I try to explain everything, choose to attempt control, and worry about everyone else. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for ya?”  In Texas parlance, it ain’t. I’m giving it a rest. If I focus on my little corner of the world and my responsibilities, everybody wins!

  1. I have also learned I do not need to give advice. Offering unsolicited advice is the twin of explaining everything. It dovetails with being the Center of the Universe because at some level I foolishly believe I know better than anyone else.

I’m the world’s expert on your family, your children, your vacation, your retirement, your home repairs, and the color you should paint your bedroom.  Why have you not sought me out for advice before?  I am the world’s expert on everything, and I make relevant and helpful, not pithy,  suggestions.

And damn me for being so well-read.  On everything. I’m happy to advise you on any aspect of the state of the world, even if I know nearly nothing bout it. Just try to beat me at Jeopardy on history and politics and art history and poetry.  Can you?  Seriously.  I didn’t know.

This advice and expertise business has to stop.  So, I’m giving it up for my sixtieth birthday. I gave up drama for my fiftieth natal day. That worked out well.

So, here’s the big birthday announcement:

  • I’m accepting my lack of knowledge.
  • I’m no longer seeking control.
  • I’m no longer giving advice.

The world is full of competent therapists.  If you ask me my opinion, I may answer.  But you have to ask.

Happy birthday to me. I will accept my advice on this special day and open my mind and heart more and my mouth less.  Moving forward, I’m going to enjoy the journey and worry less about the logistics.

Here’s what is important to me…just in case you wondered.