56

I turned 56 yesterday.

I am now closer to 60 than I am to 50 and closer to the end of my life than to the beginning. I’m not trying to be morbid. Its just a fact. Even though my brain still thinks I’m in my thirties, and I certainly don’t feel mature (in any sense), the math doesn’t lie. And yet, the older I get, the more I enjoy my birthdays.

I used to hate my birthdays because I felt they represented all I should have accomplished but hadn’t. Now that I’m older, I don’t necessarily worry about what I have or haven’t accomplished. Instead, I celebrate all I have learned and all of the tough lessons life has taught me not because I was accomplishing something but because I was living, making mistakes, and simply being human.

Several years ago, I celebrated my birthday by listing all of the things I had learned in almost five decades. I haven’t gone back to find that post, but I have once again been thinking about what age and experience has taught me, especially in the past few years when, in the middle of the pandemic, I was also struggling to survive an unhealthy relationship.

Don’t worry – I’m not talking about my marriage. I am fairly certain I married the most patient and tolerant man in the world who, despite all of my faults, is always there for me. I’m talking about an unhealthy work relationship. It wasn’t until a co-worker told me I was in an abusive relationship that I began to recognize it for what it was. (My co-worker made the observation as I stood holding a vase of recently delivered flowers – an apology for being treated horribly the previous day, although the card didn’t say that. It said “I hope you have a better day today.” There was no acknowledgement that the sender was the reason my previous day had been so horrible.) Up to that point, I hadn’t even considered that the cycle of abuse can occur in a work relationship – not just a romantic one.

Now that I am out of that unhealthy relationship, I can look back on it as yet another experience that made me wiser, stronger and more self-aware. I guess the same thing could be said for all of my 56 years. My life has been one long continuing education program that’s provided me with the following nuggets of wisdom (five for each decade plus six for the balance of years):

  1. Don’t ever, ever, ever let anyone else define who you are. Don’t let their negative words sound louder in your head than your own self talk. No one else spends 24 hours a day with you. No one else knows all of struggles you have overcome or the tough decisions you have been forced to make.
  2. Sing out loud every single day. Trust me – it always helps. Just last week my co-workers and I broke into a random round of camp songs, and it lifted my spirits for the rest of the day.
  3. Don’t let someone else’s moral code influence yours. If you feel you are doing the right thing, don’t worry about what other people think. We are all just doing our best.
  4. Forgive others but hold them accountable. People who are abusive or controlling are reaching for something they can’t seem to obtain. They think that pulling you down will bring them closer to what they want. It won’t.
  5. Don’t confuse being kind with being a doormat. When people are wrong, call them out even if people say you being unkind. There is a difference between being mean and standing up for what right or what is best.
  6. Spend time outside every single day. I mean it. Every single day – even if it is really cold or really hot. Walk out the door, look at the sky, breathe deep, and appreciate all God has created.
  7. Don’t confuse organized religion with spirituality. Organized religion was created by men trying to make sense of a confusing world or, unfortunately, often to control others. Spirituality is about connecting to a higher power and a finding a meaning greater than ourselves in life.
  8. Learn to laugh at yourelf and forgive yourself. I do stupid things every day, which is why my motto is “the day I don’t make a mistake is the day I’m dead.” I also amuse myself every single day. My thoughts are often ridiculous, and the things I say can be completely goofy. I am a complete klutz and I regularly fall down or trip or break something. Instead of beating myself up – Wait, strike that, I’m always beating myself up because I’m uncoordinated. Instead of berating myself for my mistakes and misteps, I’ve learned to turn my life into an ongoing, and hopefully, entertaining anecdote.
  9. Don’t let other people’s desire for power be a reason to let go of yours.
  10. Surround yourself with people who don’t need anything from you other than your genuine, true self. If you are always trying to prove yourself, hide your negative attributes, cling to an entity or organization for validation, or pretend to be someone or something your aren’t, you will never be truly happy.
  11. Don’t sell yourself short or compare yourself to others. Don’t think not knowing how to do something is a reason not to learn how to do it. Don’t limit possibilities. And don’t ever, ever think getting older means you should stop dreaming.

I turned 56 yesterday, and I can’t wait to see what I learn next.

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, and a husband who works strange hours. I can generally be found wandering through the woods my dog, playing in and planting in dirt, and generally stirring things up.

Posted on February 26, 2023, in My life, people, perspective and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. PINK SKY

    From East to West,
    and North to South,
    it magically appeared.
    Like a dragon yawning,
    began today’s dawning.
    The sky in the East teased
    with a hint of pink.
    Quick as a wink, a belch
    from heaven erupted.
    The entire sky was writhing
    in a glorious pastel color.
    Billows of candy cotton
    floated over rooftops.
    The South, a wide open mouth,
    spewed a roiled effusion of wonder.
    The West was a powdery gray,
    except for the start of a rare
    solid pink rainbow, arching.
    high into the sky, stopping
    before nights faint taunting stars
    could grasp it. A signal from
    an invisible conductor
    invoked a legato crescendo.
    As quick as it came it was gone,
    The pink was taken away.
    Morning sky was again pale gray.

    1/17/2023

    for 56 years, you have been our morning
    sunrise….LOL, mom and dad

  2. Happy Birthday, great post of your life lessons

  3. I love your list, Trina. Your words are full of insight and wisdom.

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