Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
Milestones are important. They frame a lifetime. Whether you are taking your first steps, graduating high school, getting married, or retiring, these life events symbolize where we are at on our journey. Personally, I am at that mid-life crossroad we call 40. For some just a number, for others a crisis, or a time to pause, reflect and make a new plan for the next four decades. For me this is a bit of both. If 40 is the new 30 I have nothing to complain about. In fact I think I might be at the top of my game as I turn this corner. But the transition comes with thoughts, feelings and emotions that have taken time to process.
I started planning 40 at 35. I wrote a bucket list, developed a five year plan, and started looking forward to this event. But as it approached my feelings varied between “so what” (who cares) and “so what” (what will I do to celebrate that is memorable and meaningful). I wanted to celebrate then I didn’t. I wanted to go away then I wanted to be alone. At one point I just thought “I am going to own this mid-life crisis and stop perseverating on what it all means”. Then I got clarity reading the wonderful book “Be Happy”.
One of the exercises in this exceptional book is called 100 Gratitude’s. Simple but effective, you write down 100 things you are grateful for. After all, being grateful is above all else on the list of ways to live a happy life. So I made my list of the things I am thankful for and realized a theme: it included people, experiences, and simple life pleasures. Nothing material, vain or things I bought. Just things I have lived, valued and appreciated in my 40 years.
This gave me an idea. For my 40th I would write 40 letters of gratitude to those people in my life that I truly cherish. These letters would be nothing but a positive reflection of how important that person is to me and what it is about them that I am grateful for. It was important to me that these were “letters” – the old fashioned hand-written and mailed with pen and crafty lined paper. I am not sure why, but there is something personal and ageless about our handwriting – sloppy or legible.
I did decide to vacation for my birthday. I had a strong urge to have my feet in the sand and my eyes on the ocean while soaking in the sights, smells and sensations of being alive. I will be disconnected from the hectic virtual world we all now occupy and will savour the mental clarity this will offer. Maybe I will make a new bucket list, or a new 5 or 10 year plan, or maybe I won’t. Perhaps I don’t always have to be so driven and this milestone is about slowing down. I will mail my letters before I leave so these become special surprises to those that know I have reached this milestone with their love surrounding me.
Whether you are over or under the magical number of 40, perhaps consider creative and impactful ways to make life events truly meaningful for both you and the people around you. After all, the best way to feel grateful is to be grateful. My exercise of 40 Years and 40 Gratitude’s will cost me some paper, ink, stamps and my time. Priceless if you ask me.