On this day forty years ago I was born and this date has been wrecking havoc with me for eighteen months or so. Mid-life crisis? Seems too soon for that, and I haven’t shopped for a little red car yet. The temples have grayed and the belly has expanded a wee bit and the realization that I now enter a new demographic has been hard. Just when do those AARP newsletters start coming around? I have discovered two groups of people. Those under forty who think I’m old and those over forty who are nearly giddy about my youth.
My father told me, “thirty was the tough one, the rest are fun.” I remember my mother’s fortieth birthday party when we put forty candles on the cake. She was not happy with the inferno and disappeared for the rest of the night. I imagine forty strikes woman different.
I like the question, “How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?” That’s when the realization occurs that your age is revealed not by a number, but by an attitude.
It’s easy to get in a funk if you dwell on things that aren’t; that you wish were. It’s better to work toward the things you want. A colleague recently said with unintended wisdom, “Whatever we chose to do, let’s do that.” Indeed, it’s better to do something. So rather than wallow in the passage of time and goals not achieved by my unrealistic and self imposed clock, it strikes me that more good will come from taking stock and showing gratitude.
Here’s a great exercise for your birthday or anytime the mood strikes. Better yet, do it when you are in a foul mood because it will help turn you around. You don’t have to be hemmed in by your age; you can pick any number and just list the things you are grateful for. Here are mine.
40 Things I’m grateful for … in no particular order
1. The unconditional love, humor and strength of my wife.
2. The joy of my children, and the adventures they take me on.
3. The wisdom and humor of my parents. Unrelenting in times of trouble, curious, inquisitive, always learning and teaching; they have been and remain my heroes.
4. My siblings. I am the baby of the family so they have shown me right and wrong. They helped to teach me how to fish, to read, to drive and to laugh.
5. Running water and electricity. We take it for granted and oh how it sucks when we are without either.
6. My formal education. I seem to live the lessons I learned and practice nearly everyday to this day.
7. My college friends. Many remain and although we keep in touch too infrequently, they are thankfully always there.
8. The internet. Information, thoughts, opinions, images, answers, all available in an instant.
9. Being able to drive. I like being driven more because I can work on projects or take a snooze, but sometimes, even if gas is too expensive, the thrill and freedom of the road is unmistakable.
10. My talent for writing. Specifically my High School teachers who complimented me on my arguments, my structure, my poetry or my dialogue. (if not my spelling or my grammar)
11. Mr. H. The fact is, all but one of my math teachers were just the opposite; critical, mocking, unsupportive. Only Mr. H recognized efforts and progress, and for that I remain grateful.
12. My family heritage, although some remains a mystery, some has been laid out beautifully in my fathers’ memoir and serves as a splendid connection to the past.
13. To have been born and educated in Boston, birthplace of the nation, historic, beautiful, real and energizing.
14. To be living in paradise; it may not bring me the emphatic joy of home, but really, come January and February a sane man cannot complain.
15. To be American. I had no choice in the matter, but I’m glad others did and that their choices put me in this place at this time.
16. Mom’s Roast Beef Sunday dinners. Gravy, mashed potatoes, the dining room, mmmm mmmm. All meals are measured against these memories and none measure up.
17. That my children are healthy and smart and fun and strong of character already.
18. Working. Being employed often get’s overlooked until you aren’t. To not only be working, but to be working in a place with clear values and emotional commitment is a gift.
19. Bad bosses. I haven’t had many, but oh the things I learned about myself when I was working for them.
20. Guardian angels. I, friends and family members have, on numerous occasions, (some known, some we’ve been oblivious to) come perilously close to disaster only to be jolted to safely by miraculous intervention.
21. My spiritual journey. I am comfortable with my relationship with God and how I fit in the universe, and I’m grateful to be able to further explore it without persecution.
22. Minutemen. The real ones from Lexington and Concord and towns across New England who before the birth of this nation were ready and prepared to defend their beliefs with their own lives and without grandstanding.
23. Boston Sports Teams. The agony and ecstasy - anyone growing up with them have felt it all. They’ve helped men explore nearly every emotion.
24. My nano iPod. My wife got it for me on Valentine’s Day and it opened up a whole new world of music, podcasting and education.
25. My health. Even on the days I feel the worst, as though my world is collapsing, the systems have thankfully run properly.
26. New friends, who call me out when I am arrogant, lift me up when I am down and support me and all my endeavors.
27. That I tend to look forward more than back.
28. Suits that fit.
29. The joy family pets have brought through the years
30. Coffee….I still like tea…but over the last several years, I’ve fallen in love with coffee.
31. And almond croissants.
32. When people tell me they are touched in some way by my writing or by some counsel I provided them.
33. The Earth….I don’t do it often enough, but when you just sit and admire the place…it really is pretty cool.
34. The universe…as if the Earth wasn’t big enough; just contemplating the Universe and where we fit on it….simultaneously insignificant and all powerful.
35. The American flag. It’s a good looking flag.
36. Earl Nightingale, Denis Waitley and Ken Blanchard. I listened to tapes my father had at a young age and could have stopped there and have learned most of what I needed to know, but these authors in particular I listened to over and over again and they have directly and indirectly influenced my decisions and outlook on life.
37. All the things and people I missed mentioning. It’s easy to do if you limit yourself…but there is such abundance and opportunity to be grateful for everything.
38. The Muppet Show. Classic and guaranteed to make me laugh.
39. Music. I’m not an aficionado…but I always forget how mood altering it can be. Choose wisely.
40. You. Because you’ve taken the time to read this. Time being the greatest gift one can give another. Thank you for sharing this time with me.