There comes a time in one’s life when we realize that we’ve spent more time on this earth than we are likely to get going forward. For me, that became glaringly apparent after celebrating my 39th birthday a couple of months ago.
While, of course, I intend to live to the ripe old age of 139, I had a moment of clarity when Bea Arthur died. If a tough broad like ‘Maude’ couldn’t make it past the age of 86, I probably needed to rethink my plan to outlive tortoises.
I forced myself to make an honest assessment of my life rather than viewing it through the rose-colored glasses of which I am so fond. There are accomplishments of which I am quite proud and colossal mistakes for which I’d like a do-over. Yet, what I regret most are missed opportunities and abandoned dreams.
My first response was typical. I would string together a huge list of things I’d accomplish over the next year. Lose weight. Take classes. Be a better person. Get out of the house more. Be more patient. Make a bazillion dollars in twelve months. Yet, in a moment of complete honesty, I realized that I had about as much of a chance of achieving those goals as I did of finally winning the HGTV Green House. Probably less.
It isn’t that I can’t achieve those goals (okay, maybe the bazillion dollars is just a tad out of reach). I simply knew I couldn’t achieve those goals, or any other, by employing the same techniques (and I use that term loosely) that I relied on in the past. I needed to start with the real obstacle to achieving my goals. That is, quite simply, me.
I have spent nearly 20 years “comforting” myself with the blame game. I absolved myself of fault for my situation or failure to achieve my goals. After all, I was a victim of circumstances over which I had no control. I thought, ‘If only this or that… Then I’d be wonderful, perfect, taller, thinner, richer, whatever.’ Inevitably those feelings would wrap a warm blanket around my shoulders and pat me on the head, telling me I’d done the very best I could ‘under the circumstances’ and wouldn’t I feel better if I made a nice, warm batch of cookies?
Just like that, my drive and inspiration dwindled to complacency. More time wasted. More missed opportunities. Another year passing. Another set of empty resolutions. Each trip down resolution lane ending with more disappointing results than the last.
Our lives are what we make of them. Nothing more. Nothing less. Despite the circumstances in which we were born or the situations in which we find ourselves there is always reason to hope for more if we truly want it and are willing to work for it. That means getting over ourselves and our many issues: fear, insecurity, lack of confidence, or whatever they might be.
Whether we are 20, 40, or 140, there is much we can accomplish – if we have the courage to do so. For me that means putting on my big girl pants and dealing with it. Dealing with the mistakes that I made and the opportunities I’ve missed. Not for the purpose of dwelling on negativity, but to learn from past missteps and avoid them in the future. To remind myself of the consequence of not pushing past the fear and taking the risks required if I am to achieve my dreams. While the idea of failure can be scary, the reality of still standing in the same spot, year after year, is far more frightening.