By Tanya Tiger
There is something about the “big 0” birthdays (20, 30, 40, etc.) that make me take pause and reassess where I am in my life and where I want to go moving forward.
I’m not really sure why these particular birthdays hit home more than others. Maybe it’s the feeling of entering a new decade of life? Maybe it’s the natural recognition that I’m closer to the middle of my life than the beginning? Maybe it’s just me. Who knows? Anyway, I’m turning 40 on February 3, 2019, and it feels like an important moment in time to take stock of what really matters—what parts I want to keep and what’s ready for a change.
As I drove to work this morning I thought about life and how finite it really is.
None of us know how much time we have left and I think many of us spend most of it living in the past, ruminating over the “what ifs” and “should haves” or worrying about the future and what could happen. I know I’ve spent more than my fair share living in the not present. This train of thought led me to ask how I want to be remembered when I die.
I asked it out loud, “How do I want to be remembered when I die?” I imagined someone getting up and reading a eulogy, briefly summarizing my life on this blue dot in space.
Once I allowed that image to come and go I asked myself a more difficult question, “Am I living as that person now?” What I mean by that is, am I living up to the kind of person I want people to remember?
I think I’d like people to remember me as someone with a kind heart, sharp wit and good sense of humor; someone who loves learning about people’s stories, who enjoys being in nature, who loves animals and who tries to find the beauty in everything. I’d like to be remembered as someone always trying to grow and who tries to be the best version of myself every day. Someone who is not perfect—not even close—fully aware of my faults, but willing to love myself anyway.
I want to be remembered as a loving mother and wife, someone who gave it all in the name of love. I want to be remembered as a good person who did their best to leave the world a better place than I found it. I want to be remembered as never giving up, always dreaming and hoping, always fighting for the underdog.
I want to be remembered well in the hearts of my loved ones.
So, am I living my life as that person? Is that how people will remember me when I am gone? I’d like to think so but I am also fully aware of my shortcomings. I can be selfish with my time, closed off and aloof. I can be harsh and judgmental, especially when I feel cornered or ignored. I can be gloomy and lethargic, wanting only to curl up under the blankets and sleep the day away rather than play.
I can spit venom when I’m wounded and turn cold as ice when I feel betrayed. I’m far from the ideal person I’d like to paint as myself. Yet, I also recognize that I am utterly human and will never be “perfect.”
I do know that, despite my shortcomings, I have a good heart. I genuinely care about the world and its inhabitants. I want people to be happy and live in peace. I want our earth to be healed. I want my daughter to grow up in a world that is wide open, where she can really and truly be whatever and whomever she wants. I know that I try, every day, to be and do better while also allowing myself to stumble and make mistakes. I’m learning… forever learning about myself, and about life.
Being human is complicated.
Life can, at times, be overwhelming. I know that I have felt pushed and pulled over the years to be a certain way, think a certain way…be “nice,” be “good,” be what others deem “acceptable.” As I thought about time, and life, and being remembered, I realized that there are specific questions I need to ask myself in order to get clear on who I am and how I will live my life going forward so that I am in alignment with how I want to be remembered.
What do I choose to leave behind?
In order to be the person I want to be, I choose to leave behind my tendency to allow fear to take the wheel. Fear has, for most of life, dictated how I behave, who I associate with, how I spend my free time and pretty much everything in between.
I’m not sure exactly when it started but at some point in time I went from being a gregarious and joyful child, to an anxiety ridden human being afraid of, well, virtually everything. I know I am stronger and more resilient than I was so I’d like to give courage a chance. I like the quote about true courage not being the absence of fear but of being afraid and doing it anyway. I want to walk into my 40s with my head held high, scared but willing to move forward anyway.
May I be remembered as someone with a warrior’s spirit.
What do I choose to carry forward?
I choose to carry forward my curiosity and optimism, as well as my new found inner-strength. In my 30s I overcame one of the most profound losses a person can experience—the death of my youngest child. Knowing that I could withstand such a traumatic blow and keep going tells me that I am made of far more than even I realize.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
I know, no matter what life brings to my door, I am fully capable of handling it and will grow stronger and better for it because that is how I choose to live my life going forward. Rather than allow pain to bend me to its will, I will take that pain and I will learn from it, grow from it and use it to make the world a better place in whatever way I can.
May I be remembered as resilient.
What new beginnings do I choose to pursue?
Going forward, I choose to rekindle my love affair with creativity. While I have continued to dabble here and there with writing and sculpting I can feel a cauldron of creative juices bubbling within me. Sometimes the urge to create is so intense that it nearly drives me mad. No matter what I am doing in the moment if I don’t pause and write, sketch, or otherwise do something creative, I explode with negativity or implode into a melancholic funk. It’s like going to labor and trying not to give birth…that baby is coming and there’s no going back. You better push!
I’ve held back a lot, mostly out of fear of judgment as well as self-doubt. I’m tired of hiding parts of myself from the world simply because people might not “get me.” Instead of trying to cage my creative and quirky energy I am going to let it out to play. If it wants to paint then I will paint. If it wants to sculpt then I will sculpt. If it wants to dance a blue streak across the lawn in the middle of winter, well then, look out because I’m dancing—icy toes and all. Anyway, I think you get the point.
I’m only 40. I have, what I hope, is a lot of life left to live. I want my life to be a work of art.
May I be remembered as a creative force full of love for life.
So, my questions for you:
How do you want to be remembered? Are you living as that person now? If not, what changes can you make, starting today, to come into alignment with that person?
Editor: Dana Gornall
Did you like this post? You might also like:
- Dealing with Social Anxiety: Getting Comfortable with Myself - July 20, 2019
- How the Act of Art Therapy Helped Me with PTSD and Grief - February 11, 2019
- Am I That Person in My Eulogy? Thoughts on Facing Mid-Life: - January 31, 2019