HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

I love my birthday and I love getting older. Yep you heard me. I Love Getting Older! Click To Tweet It has been my experience that each year gets better and better. As a cognitive coach, I know that if we direct our brain to search for evidence in certain areas, it will find that evidence. If I tell my brain I’m lazy, it will look for (and find) evidence of how that is so. If I tell my brain that the future is bright, it will look for (and find!) evidence of how that is true. Your brain is powerful, make sure it’s working for you and not against you. 

And, as a cognitive coach, I believe in the importance of living consciously, i.e. being aware of how my thoughts, feelings and actions are driving the results I see in my life. I pause to bring awareness to how I’m spending individual days and every so often, I also pause to reflect on the bigger picture. Here are six main lessons I’ve learned from my past glorious 46 years.

1) Life Happens FOR me!

Look around you and listen: Everyone has faced hardships and has a story to tell. How they tell it says a lot about how they view themselves and their lives. What are you focusing on? I could tell you about my past in a way that may have you think: “Poor Susie! I can’t believe that” or I could tell you about my past that may have you think: “Wow Susie, what opportunities!”. What are you telling yourself? I choose to tell myself the latter story of my past. Why? Well I can’t change the past so why shouldn’t I think of my past and the things that happened in a way that makes me feel empowered? I truly believe that everything that’s happened to me has happened for a reason; to make me into the woman I am today. If I hadn’t had my past romantic relationships, I wouldn’t be in the out-of-this-world relationship I’m in now. If I hadn’t had the parents I had, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to examine how I want to show up as a parent. I could go on and on. My point is, your past is what you make it. You can’t argue with it. It happened. Why not remember it in a way that serves you? That puts you as the victor not the victim?

2) Parenting is more about them teaching me than me teaching them. 

My kids teach me about myself every single day. What do I want my kids to do? What do I want them to be? This is rooted in my past and my beliefs. What do they do that make me happy? What do they do that piss me off? Well, first of all, Emotional Management 101, they can’t make me happy or pissy, it’s my thoughts that make me feel that way. It’s my thoughts about what they’re doing or not doing that create my feelings and that’s all on me. I get to examine my past, how I was parented, and my views on parenting in order to be the best mom for my boys. The things that bug me about my kids are the things that bug me about me. Think of a piece of school that was uncomfortable for you: maybe you didn’t make a team or weren’t invited to a party. What did you tell yourself about that event? What you told yourself will show up in your parenting. If you believe you didn’t have a lot of friends because you weren’t on a specific team, you might push your child to try out for a team they don’t want to do. If you believe you missed out on opportunities (parties, friendships) because of an after school job, you might discourage your son from a work opportunity he’s interested in. How do you feel when you go to pick up your daughter and see her sitting and reading while the other girls are racing around? Or, how do you feel when your son says he doesn’t want to play in the band anymore? My reactions and thoughts are my responsibility. Consciously parent. When I’m aware that I want to push my son to do something he doesn’t want to do because I think it would bring him happiness, I get to choose to back off. What makes me happy might not make my kid happy. We are different beings and we will have different experiences here on earth. The more I consciously examine my past, the more intentionally I can parent in this present moment. 

3) I’m responsible for my life.

I am my knight in shining armor. I’m responsible for the energy I bring into the room. I’m responsible for the results I see in my life. I get what I put up with. How else can I say it? I choose which thoughts to focus on. The thoughts I choose to focus on make me feel a certain way. When I feel certain ways, I act certain ways. The life I live is a result of what I do (or don’t do). I told myself otherwise for a long time, looked to blame others or external circumstances. Sorry Susie – it’s on you. Which is actually great news – no “sorry” necessary. I’m living a life that I’ve created. If I don’t love my situation, I can choose to change it now, later, or never. My life is my responsibility and, in my opinion, that’s a magnificent thing. 

4) Getting Still has brought me to Life!

This October marks the second year of me meditating most days. Meditating has changed my life. How? Many ways but the most noticeable is that I’m calmer. Meditating has helped teach me that I am not what I am thinking; it’s helped me see my thoughts as what they are, sentences in my mind, not necessarily true. This has helped me step back and not react to each thought passing through my head during the day. I am more aware of how the thoughts I’m choosing to focus on drive my day. I’m calmer, less reactive, and more ’present’ in my moments. It does not happen overnight but boy can I tell the difference in me two years later. Buddha sums it up perfectly. When he was asked what he gained from meditating, he replied by saying: “Nothing. But let me tell you what I lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity….”

5) My relationship with ME is the most important relationship in my life.

Yep, you heard that right and that is not selfish. In fact, it’s completely unselfish. We can not love anyone else more than we love ourselves. If there’s something we don’t like about ourselves, we will see it in others and be critical. Only when we can see our faults and imperfections for what they are, pieces that come together to create one outstandingly magnificent whole, are we able to shine our love on others. Yes, this includes our children. My relationship with my sons comes after my relationship with my self. I lived for many years putting them first and almost killed myself. Literally. I can only care for them as well as I care for myself. I can only love them as much as I love myself (see #2!). I can only care and love my partner as well as I love myself. The more I understand and love myself the less I look to others to heal or love me. I used to look to others to validate most of what I did. I looked at others to define how good of a mother I was. I looked to others to define how I viewed my body. I looked to others to validate my work. I looked to others to recognize how I was showing up in this world. No more. Over a period of many years, I’ve learned to look to the one person who’s opinion of me really mattered. Mine! What do I think of my mothering? What do I think of my body? What do I think of how I’m showing up in this world? My answers to those questions will drive my ability to shine my light and pour my love on those around me.

6) I will never be “done”.

Just like the laundry will never truly be done, I will never reach a point in my self growth where I think: “Bam! I’m whole”. Each and every day brings the opportunity for growth. Sometimes it’s growth I welcome and sometimes it’s growth I resist. In the end, I learn from it all. There are moments when I want to climb up on my roof and cheer because I feel grand; body and soul. Then there are moments when I want to curl up on the couch and cry and complain. I have learned that both are necessary. I consciously pause to celebrate the little and big wins in my life. I also consciously pause to examine the little and big sadnesses in my life. Remember #1? Everything happens for me, good and bad. It is up to me to learn from it and grow through it. Looking back at dark periods in my life I realize that my breakdowns lead to breakthroughs. Shit happens. How I choose to learn from it is up to me. Humans either grow or shrink. Expand or contract. Sure, some days are harder than others. But if I didn’t experience the darkness, I wouldn’t appreciate the light.  As a human I am wired to grow and evolve until it is time to die. I have learned to embrace the learning, regardless of what form it comes in. 

I am overwhelmingly grateful to be able to celebrate my 46th year here on earth. I am profoundly thankful that you all are sharing a piece of that life with me. I would love to hear what you have learned from your time here on earth. What have your years taught you?