For more years than I care to remember, I’ve celebrated my birthday by making a list of ten intentions for the upcoming year. It was a ritual inspired by my friend Jules back in my early twenties. Once I had a list of ten things I wanted to focus my attention on, I’d write myself a letter acknowledging the accomplishments of the previous year and how I’d grown personally as a result.
When I look back over my birthday lists I have to admit that the power of intention is evident in so many of the accomplishments I was able to achieve, and it’s a process I highly recommend, especially for the earlier stages of life.
This year is different. As I’ve gotten older, my modus operandi has shifted. I’ve retired my list (but not the letter) and replaced it with a couple of daily practices that are more fitting for the current stage of my life.
First, I’m doing my best to let go of control in little ways every day, and having two new kittens is giving me plenty of opportunities to practice. Just last night, while watching TV with Michael, I looked up to see Berty strolling across the thin ledge above the kitchen sink. The shelf is a good ten feet off the floor and well beyond my reach. As I made my way into the room to figure out how to get him down, I stopped and regrouped. He’s a cat, I told myself, and they’re made for heights like this.
So I let him go and watched as he safely reached the other side.
The second practice that has become a priority is daily meditation. Sitting for ten minutes or more, a few times a day has had a profound impact on my quality of life. I know I must sound like a broken record because I mention this a lot, but I do so intentionally because it’s the kind of self-care habit that makes every part of life better. Much better.
The ability to sit quietly and comfortably with oneself is a superpower. For years I used a variety of things – work, food, caretaking, etc., to distract myself from the mean voice in my head that seemed to monitor my every move with a critical eye. It’s what made meditation so unappealing and stressful. I had to confront that voice. Now, having stuck with a daily practice, I actually look forward to spending time alone with my mind.
Not only that, but if something upsets me, or I’m hit with an unexpected wave of pandemic anxiety, I can rely on my mind and body to relax within seconds, not minutes, when I close my eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths through the nose.
Turns out the mind and body can be taught to follow simple cues with a little patience and practice. Creating a calm inner state is so much easier this year and that’s been the best birthday gift of all.
I’m not going to lie to you. Learning to let go of control and to sit quietly with myself are some of the hardest things I’ve ever worked on in my life. Well, that and becoming more patient but at this point in my life, I figure why not go for the gold.
You don’t need to wait for your birthday to give yourself the gift of a new ritual. Why not go for the gold now, too? If we’re going to be hunkered down for a while, we might as well use it to our self-care advantage. So, light a candle, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and celebrate your sweet self.
Let’s make these moments count.