You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
--Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese"
Today is my birthday, and I'm actually 45, which is kind of hard to believe, because I distinctly remember celebrating when I turned 40, and it seems highly unlikely that the decade would already be half over.
But that appears to be the case.
I'm going to be on a train to Boston today and then spend the evening celebrating with friends, so I'm trying to get this written and posted before I have to go do all of that.
I've been thinking a lot about the last year and how busy it's been for me, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad. As I've said many times, I like being busy when it means being productive, but I don't like being busy when it means I'm overscheduled.
And over the past year, I've overscheduled myself in ways that have meant I haven't had time to pause and reflect and blog. That's important to me, so I want to make sure I reintegrate that into my life.
So, as I think about the upcoming year, that's what I think about: pacing myself. Making sure that I do the things that I want to do and that the things that other people may want me to do--no matter how well-intentioned--don't take center-stage all the time.
When I think back over what it means to be in my 40's, I realize that one great advantage is that you lose all kinds of fear that you had in your 20's and 30's. Or at least, I did.
I look at conversations and episodes and events that would have floored--or at least seriously intimidated--me a decade ago, and I chuckle and shrug. I think that, as Janis Joplin sang, freedom might very well be just another word for nothing left to lose.
I think that kind of freedom gives me the ability to weigh and value what's important to me in a way that's very different from the way I looked at things several years ago.
So that's been my gift for this birthday: the realization that, in the eyes of others, you really do not have to be "good." You can simply be... you. And 45.
Have a wonderful day, everyone.