At my birthday last year, I had started working out and lost some weight. I was feeling good. I was excited about life and where it might take me in the next year. I was feeling bold and brassy and ready to try all kinds of stuff. I put away once and for all my worries about what other people thought.
My motto for the year was, "What would you do if you had no fear?"
Here's what happened.
I put my writing out there and for the first time, submitted an essay to another site and it was published!
I bought a bikini. For the first time since 1987. I wore it, in public, jiggly middle and all, and you know what? No one laughed. In fact, I don't think anyone really cared.
I took off said bikini on a nude beach. It was awesome. I went back the next day and did it again. I felt breezes in places I have never felt breezes and I guarantee I'll do it again.
I attended my first pagan, witchy fire circle. It was inspiring and heart-opening.
I rode the wave-rider at Kalahari. I made a spectacle of myself and laughed and laughed and laughed.
I sent my baby girl to her first winter formal, shaking my head that this could be happening.
I had a poem and photo published.
I entered a poetry contest. I did not win. Not even honorable mention. I lived.
I watched with pride and tears as my eldest child soared to new heights in Science Olympiad, earning medals at both the regional and state levels.
I became a Master Gardener after attending 72 hours of classes, performing 50 hours of volunteer work and taking a gazillion question test. I remembered a bit of high school Latin in the process.
I was diagnosed with skin cancer and had a chunk of my back removed.
I gave myself a black eye trying to launch into crow in yoga class. More importantly, I went back after that and tried again.
I quit coloring my hair. I discovered just how much silver was lurking in there. (A LOT.)
I had lunch in Quebec, visited three new states and the Almanzo Wilder homestead with my wonderful family.
I enjoyed the hell out of my girlfriends.
I paddle-boarded for the first time.
I started running again for the first time since 1998 and completed a 5k with my daughter and good friends.
I went rock climbing for the first time.
I wrote a novel.
I got my first free-lance writing gig.
And then there was all the normal stuff, the bits of everyday life that glued these highlights together. The mortar between the big bricks I laid down this year.
As I stand back and look at my 50th year, a couple of things stand out.
First, we really are the architects of our own lives. We make choices every day about not just what we do but how we do it: with enthusiasm and verve or with obligation and dread. Laundry is never fun, but with loud music to sing to, it becomes infinitely more tolerable. Life is a lot more fun when you just put yourself out there. I had forgotten that.
Second, our lives impact others in ways we can't even imagine. I thought I was just trucking along, doing the best I could, until my daughters expressed their admiration for me. Sure, I wanted to set a good example, but that wasn't my main intent this past year. The surprise result was that they became emboldened, too, and sought out new challenges for themselves: Power of the Pen and the high school bowling team. The high ropes course and the paddle board. The 5k. They are cooking meals for the family and learned how to do the laundry to support my writing schedule.
The support and positive comments I received from friends and family regarding my adventures all year long were so humbling. I use Facebook as sort of journal of what I'm up to. I try to be a little witty and entertaining, but I'm not fishing for anything when I post. Nothing surprised me as much as the enthusiastic support I received as I posted my daily word counts during NaNoWriMo. I was doing it to hold myself accountable. I learned that my friends were paying attention and they cared.
I'm digging this mid-century modern thing. I think 51 will be just as awesome as 50 was. I'm never looking back to those days when I listened to the shoulds and the ought-tos ever again.