I turned 41 years old today. Turning 41 is infinitely better than turning 10. Or 20. Or 35. Thirty five was a very stupid year for me. Also incredibly painful what with breaking my acetabulum (first bone I ever broke) and then getting a colposcopy immediately followed by a biopsy.
I have to say that while 40 has had some pretty intense challenges it has also been a year of breaking through, pulling up, lightening up, growing strength, and some real fun. I am physically stronger than I was a year ago by quite a lot- I’m not much thinner (I gained back some of what I lost 6 months ago) but I can do full push-ups for the first time in years. I can kick higher and stronger, I can punch harder and tighter, I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was 35. I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was 84 pounds lighter.
That’s another great choke-hold released this year: changing my medications last June was absolutely one of the best things I did all year and I can thank my family physician for taking such good and thoughtful care of me. Proper medication for people with lifelong clinical depression and anxiety is essential to overall health.
The result is that now when I take care of my body and stop drinking so much beer and eating so much damn cheese and get my ass moving with exercise- my body actually responds, just as it should. I lost 20 pounds last year and then in the last few months of slacking off on in my self discipline I gained back 12 pounds. I’m not panicking. I’m not depressed. I am responsible for that weight gain. Me. Not my medications. I have gone without beer for three days, no cheese besides a modest amount of feta, eaten really well, no snacking that wasn’t a piece of fruit… the result is that in three days I lost 2 pounds.
That’s how my body used to react before Paxil. If I put in the effort and the time exercising, eating well, and not snacking on cheese and crackers late at night, I lose weight. For the last three years this was not true. I would work hard and see NO results. In fact, I would work hard and then gain weight. I would give up for a while, and gain weight. Then I would pull myself up again and work even harder, and gain weight. Never lose.
It’s difficult to maintain your energy, your motivation, and your will to even try when you see NO results. I didn’t expect anything spectacular at any point. Just that I would see some small progress.
Now my body is doing exactly what it should be doing when I reduce my daily calories for three days by about a thousand a day and get a total of two hours of exercise in that same time- shedding a couple of pounds.
This, my peoples, this is an incredible thing to me.
Can you imagine how amazing and strong my kicks could be if I wasn’t lugging around this extra 84 pounds?
My intention for this year is to get down to 200 pounds and get my blue belt in Kung Fu. This year I actually have a chance of achieving that goal.
I’m going to finish my first novel this year too. There is a contest going on between Penguin Books, Creative Space, and Amazon for a breakout novel and I’m going to enter it. I have nothing to lose and it will at the very least start preparing me for the other thing I have to do this year: start querying publishers and literary agents.
I really truly deeply suck at making pitches so if anyone can coach me on that I will not say no to help. I need to learn to make a fantastic pitch. This is the equivalent of selling stuff and you all know my mad selling skills.
I know a lot of people have ideas about what they’re going to have accomplished by certain ages but I think that might be too much pressure. There are no time limits on what you can accomplish in your life, except for death itself. As long as you’re not dead you can achieve amazing things at almost any age. I know people perceive time limits such as having to have children before the egg factory closes up, but if you really truly want children because you want them in your life you can adopt a child at almost any age provided you can show you can care for them. You might want to become a marathon runner but then you aged and got rheumatoid arthritis, it’s not too late. Did you know that? You can race in wheel chairs. You can do sports in wheel chairs.
My cousin Nick is a paraplegic from a snow boarding accident. A lot of people would just give the hell up on themselves. He was only in his early twenties. The Christmas letter I got from my cousins this year had a picture of Nick skiing in his wheel chair.
For the person who is willing to let their desires change shape to fit with reality, there is no limit to what you can do.
Most unhappiness, I think, comes from expectations we develop about who we’re supposed to be, what we should be able to accomplish, and not being willing to find creative ways to fulfill our desires and dreams when life has changed us irrevocably. I don’t believe in miracles. I do believe in determination and flexibility.
Today is also my 18th wedding anniversary. I am going to share with you all my number one tip for a good relationship:
Don’t keep score. If you’re keeping score on hurts, insults, annoyances, inadequacies, arguments, bad decisions, or anything else- you’re relationship is corrosive. You may not think so now, but it is and eventually it will either implode or slowly sicken you both with unhappiness.
So don’t do it.
Who said what or did what last year doesn’t matter. If you care that much about who said what last year or last month or last week then you are stuck in a ditch and need to get the hell out. Let go of it. What matters is what YOU say or do next. Those bad moments need to be dealt with within a very short period of time and then let go of.
If you keep bringing up how your spouse disappointed you in the past it’s like sticking a needle in their heart over and over. You have not got over things and if you haven’t it means you haven’t got what you need from your spouse and that needs to be addressed. If your spouse is incapable of giving you what you need, then you need to end the relationship.
What I’ve noticed is that a lot of couples who keep score don’t ever really tell each other what they need in the first place. Most people cannot read each other’s minds. What I’ve noticed a lot of couples do is to drag their mutual baggage around for years and assume that if their spouse can’t SEE what the matter is without being told then they are just that much deeper in the shit-hole they’ve both spent so much time digging.
Score-keeping is toxic.
A lot of people do it. A lot of couples I know do it.
Another thing is that it really does take two to make a relationship either good or bad. If it’s good then it’s because both of you are working at it, maintaining it, and putting your best into it. If it’s bad it’s both of you. If you are constantly complaining about your spouse and every day are annoyed and finding them not living up to your standards then either your standards are for fictional people only, OR (and this is way more likely) you aren’t living up to theirs either. If you are deeply unhappy with your marriage it is absolutely just as much your responsibility as theirs. You contribute to it just the same.
The only situation in which I see anything even slightly skewed from what I have said above is in an abusive relationship. But here the hard truth is hardest of all and always sounds unkind but the truth is that adults who are in abusive relationships and stay in them are contributing to that relationship as well. Allowing someone to abuse you continually is giving them permission, it is being complicit. Children have no power to leave abusive situations but adults do. If you’re in an abusive situation then you have to get out. And then you need to stop choosing abusive partnerships. To be clear: I’m not saying there is ever a situation where a person DESERVES to be abused. I am only saying that everyone is personally responsible for the relationship choices they make. If you find you were mistaken in your partner and didn’t know they were abusive, you must get out. Staying in the relationship will not fix the abuser and it will only further hurt yourself. You most likely need therapy to work on your self esteem and to learn what a healthy relationship is. But mostly you need to not stay because staying is being complicit with abuse.
I have learned a lot about maintaining a relationship and one of the biggest things I’ve learned and continue to work on all the time is looking at myself every time I point a finger at Philip. I may be unhappy with something he’s done but a lot of the time there is something I’ve done that has contributed to a misunderstanding or a piece of unhappiness. I have to be willing to honestly look at how I’m treating him all the time because what I do, how I treat him, and what kind of spouse I’m being is what I have the most control over.
Listening is also very very important. Talking to each other. And listening.
People say I’m lucky to have “found” Philip. There really wasn’t a lot of luck involved so I always get annoyed. Good partners don’t drop into your lap from the sky. You have to be able to see a person beyond your hormonal reaction to them. “Finding” a good partner is about recognizing one when you see one and going for it.
So I’m 41 and been married 18 years and have a 10 year old son and am writing the second draft of my first novel.
Plus I have a great right hook.
If I die today I will be happy with what I’ve accomplished and not worry about all the things I haven’t yet achieved like: being really rich, being published, living in Scotland, becoming a Canadian, keeping my house, getting my old pink house back, or being a black belt in Kung Fu.
Those are the things I will keep working at until my time runs out or I achieve them and have new goals and hopes.
I can’t know how this next year is going to unfold but I’m not scared.