Today’s my 34st birthday.
I tend to spend birthdays quietly. Sometimes with loved ones. Sometimes in solitude on my own. Usually in a foreign place. Either way, I try not to make a fuss about turning 1 year older.
This year is no different – I’m in the Kent countryside in Southeast England with my girlfriend. But I’m rethinking my birthday slightly, inspired by a conversation between Sheryl Sandberg and Krista Tippett.
Sandberg (Facebook’s COO) recently lost her husband Dave in an instant to heart failure – he was running on a treadmill and dropped dead. In enduring that sudden loss, Sandberg developed a new relationship with birthdays. She recalls wishing her cousin a happy 50th:
“…In case you woke up this morning with that, ‘Oh my god. I’m 50. I’m getting old’ thing we all do, I want to tell you that I’m so glad you’re 50 because this is the year that Dave won’t turn 50. And it turns out — I’d never thought about this before, but there’s only two options: we either grow older, or we don’t. And it is an honor and privilege to turn 50, and I am so grateful that you are alive and in my life.
If I get to grow old, I will be so grateful. And that gratitude, with all the sadness that still lingers, makes my life deeper, richer, meaningful, and in some ways, has a different kind of meaning and joy.”
So today, instead of thinking I’m “turning 1 year older”, I’ll turn to gratitude and remind myself: I’ve lived one year longer. One more year of living a life full of love, beauty, friendship, purpose and not only being alive, but with the feeling of being alive – with all of its euphoric highs and hallow lows.
I’ve experienced loss, but never quite like Sandberg. Loss is what inspired the inception of this blog 6 years ago. In fact, that loss I consider the impetus of my re-birth of sorts. The year I began living with intention. The year I took back control of my life and began designing it deliberately. The year I began opening up, asking deeper questions of myself, daring to live differently and more authentically, and documenting it in public for all to see.
Loss is often what inspires people to take control of their lives and live with more intention, design it more consciously, to become deliberate.
Loss is a great focuser of energy. In loss, the non-essential fades away and the deeply essential guides the way forward, laser-like.
Loss reminds you to stay grateful for what you have yet to lose.
In the spirit of gratitude, two things I’d like to honor:
First – to the 24-year-old who thought I was “around his age.” Booya! You made my week.
Second – to YOU. Having an audience to write to, one that has elected to read and support my work, gives me tremendous purpose and pleasure. Thank you all for being here.
If you feel compelled to gift me a drink, a coffee, or a gift, or want to help me keep this blog up and running, you’re welcome to make a donation.
The greatest gift however is to continue reading my writing, continue sharing with others, and most importantly, if you feel inspired, to act on that inspiration. Live your one life deliberately. If we do that much, we’ll inspire those around us to do the same and generations to follow our lead as well.
And maybe, together, we’ll build a society of people who, like Thoreau, choose to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
So much love to you all.