So yesterday I turned forty and I really want to be depressed about, wallow in self misery. That has been my pattern of behavior through my mid-twenties till now. As my birthday arrives I send myself into an introspective depressive spiral. I like to dwell on all the thing I haven’t accomplished. Compare myself to those around me who have achieved more and been more successful. Think about all the things that went wrong and all the things that could still go wrong. Some years it is easy, 2002 and 2003 for example were years where the birthday spiral got me down low. Other years I had to work on it, but I still managed. Down I went.
This year, try as I might I can’t do it. It isn’t that I suddenly lack introspection or that everything is perfect in my life. I think it is a combination of putting my current level of accomplishment into perspective, understanding my foibles and shortcomings, and directly caring about things greater than myself (i.e., Katie and Sara). The introspective spiral is inherently self-indulgent. It requires that you are privileged enough to buffer any effects it might have on work or personal life. It is selfish because it looks only on how the world is impacting me, as if I am the center of all things. It is also destructive because it causes me to discount those positive things that have occurred.
It is the tangible positivity and accountability that are preventing my birthday wallow. Every morning I wake up knowing that within a few feet of Sara and Katie and known that they love me. They are the tangible positivity that has infected my life. It is hard to be a jaded, cynical, pessimistic bastard when you are tickling your baby with your beard. My internal reactions to Katie’s laughter or tears or new skills (she now crawls and soon will be walking and talking) or frustrations or triumphs let me know how much greater I can love someone outside myself. In Sara I found an equal, some whom I love as equally as I love myself. In Katie I found a greater love, a love that manifests itself around our family, such that the equal love I pledged my heart to last March has progressed to something greater. That is also my accountability. This year it isn’t about dwelling on the negative, it is about how to improve. How can I be around long to enjoy what Katie will do. How can I be healthier so that when Katie wants to run I’m not sitting on a bench. How can I make sure Kate get to see the amazing world around us. To be sure it is not just Katie, I am also accountable to Sara in a way that I’ve never been with anyone else.
So now that I’m not doing my traditional birthday spiral, what I’m I going to do with my birthday? Well, I’m going to set forth in written form a set of goals for myself. Ways that I can improve myself personally, professionally, as a father, as a husband, as a man. I want to increase my accountability and reinvigorate some previous efforts. I also want to include things I want to accomplish, some meaningful, some frivolous, but all personal to me. Some of this may sound familiar as two years ago I started this blog thinking about improvements in many things. As I started writing these down I realized that they needed some categorical headings so I made some. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day I’ll get them onto paper.
As for today, Today I smile and think about what a bright and sunny day it is and how many good things are in my life. Cheers. Jason
Please let me add this caveat to my blog. Those birthday spirals almost always led to better outcomes in my life. A few days of feeling sorry for yourself go a long way to helping you realize what is important in life (e.g., family, friends, good jobs) and that while other things may not be ideal you always have the love your family to hold you up. Those spirals always led to self improvement, even if the road was hard and dangerous. JB