NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic.
Last Thursday was my birthday. One thing about birthdays and holidays is that we tend to remember how we spent those occasions last year and what our lives were like at the time. We have a tendency to make comparisons and reflect upon how we have progressed or regressed in the preceding year. Sometimes these reflections make us happy, while other times they leave us feeling melancholy or perplexed.
In today’s post, I share some of my reflections upon turning the page on yet another year.
A Difficult Birthday and All Too Familiar Feelings
Thursday’s birthday marked my passage into my late forties, as I turned 47. For many people, such a revelation would prompt a shoulder shrug or a “so what?” response. But for some reason, this was a difficult birthday for me. I found myself feeling old and was again plagued by the all too familiar feeling of not having done enough with the precious gift of my life. Self-doubt didn’t just creep into my awareness; it was more like a veritable waterfall dumping on my head!
Although none of us knows how long he or she will have on this earth, the statistics tell me I’m deeply entrenched in the realm of “middle-aged.” If I’m incredibly fortunate, I may be at the halfway point of my life. But if actuarial tables are any indication, I’m well into my life’s second act. This realization troubles me more than it should…
In the days leading up to my birthday, I felt overwhelmingly melancholy and depleted of energy. At first, I didn’t know why and I chalked it up to lack of sleep and the unpredictable fluctuation of peri-menopausal hormones. But as the calendar inched closer to 8/8, I realized the actual genesis of my low mood.
Don’t Get Me Wrong About Birthdays…
Don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy birthdays. My husband and I make a point of spending the day together doing many of the birthday person’s favorite activities. This year, we enjoyed brunch at a French bistro, a showing of a new movie, and some shopping at an outdoor mall (yes, shopping is still one of my favorite activities, although I’m working on expanding my horizons). We hoped to fit in a walk by the bay as well, but we got a later start and weren’t able to work that activity into the mix.
I spoke with my mother and brother and received calls, cards, emails, Facebook posts, and text messages from my father and a number of friends. Although I’ve often written about my hunger for deeper connections, I know there are many out there who care about me and wish me well. I was appreciative of the good wishes I received on my birthday from those near and far.
It was an enjoyable day overall and I am grateful to be able to add another candle to my proverbial birthday cake (in actuality, my husband and I shared a piece of cake and no candles were blown out). Yet I couldn’t escape thinking about last year’s birthday and the hopes and dreams I had for the year to come.
Flash Back, Flash Forward
At the time, I was doing reasonably well with my wardrobe styling business and was hopeful that perhaps I’d finally found a career for which I was well-suited and would prosper in. Fast forward a year and I’m now on the verge of closing that business or at least radically transforming it. I am once again in a time of transition, a 47 year-old woman who still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.
I am much more socially isolated than I was last year, as I was then working with clients and attending numerous networking events to promote my business. I have struggled with a number of health challenges and continue to feel below par much of the time.
Although I frequently feel lonely and sick, I remain hopeful that I can turn things around with both my health and my professional life. I even feel at least a glimmer of hope that I’ll be a late bloomer in the career realm and finally find vocational bliss as I edge closer to my fifties. I am not one to give up hope, but I do feel discouraged and overwhelmed at times.
Getting Off My “Pity Pot” – Highlighting Some Positives
Lest it seem like I’m sitting upon an extra-large “pity pot,” there are some positives to highlight when I engage in comparisons with last year. One significant bright point is this blog. Not only is it reigniting my love of writing and helping to heal my shopping addiction, it’s also enabled me to connect with people all over the world.
When I started “Recovering Shopaholic,” I had no idea how many people would even read my words, but I am delighted to know my sentiments have touched a number of women who share my struggles. While most of my readers remain anonymous – and that’s okay – some have reached out to let me know I’ve helped them through my sharing, insights, and tips. I’m grateful for all of my readers and I’m so happy my blog has been well-received.
Shopaholic Reflections – 2012 to 2013
Last August, I was a full-fledged shopaholic whose main hobby was trolling the malls and online stores for clothes, shoes, and accessories I “had to have” but forgot about soon after they reached my closet. I hid my purchases from my husband and even out and out lied about what I bought and how much I spent. I had already exceeded my clothing budget for the entire year but had no intention of curtailing my shopping practices. My closet was overflowing with “wardrobe benchwarmers” I didn’t love and rarely wore, yet that didn’t stop me from wanting more, more, more!
This August, I’m on track with my shopping budget for the first time in at least ten years. I’m much more conscious of what I have and I wear and appreciate a far larger percentage of what I own. I’ve pared down my wardrobe to a much more manageable level and am on target to address all of my wardrobe benchwarmers by the end of this month (by either embracing and wearing them or letting them go). While I still struggle with my shopping “dragons” (my June over-shopping is an example of that), I am steadfastly dedicated to the process of trading my full closet for a full life and helping others to do the same.
Setting Melancholy and Self-Recrimination Aside
I may not have a successful and lucrative career and a large circle of friends, but I’m a better and stronger person than I was a year ago. I’m less selfish, more mature, more mindful, and more introspective. My life isn’t perfect (whose is?), but I actually am in a better place now than I was last year at this time. What’s more, if I continue on the path I embarked upon this January with this blog and my other positive resolutions, I will be in an even better place as my 48th birthday looms large.
So with that realization, I cast the melancholy, regret, and self-recrimination aside and get back to the business of living and transforming my life. I may not always feel and believe this, but the truth is that I am good enough. I can make a positive difference in the world even if I don’t have a lofty job title or a six-figure income. I don’t need to compare myself to other women my age, the me of the past, or the me I thought I would be or should be. I am good enough just as I am and I’m on the path to be even better!
For Those with Upcoming Birthdays
I know many of you have birthdays inching around the corner, and you may find yourself feeling blue or comparing how things are to how you expected or wished they would be. I know the desire to compare is incredibly difficult to resist, so if you do decide to indulge in comparison, at least broaden your scope.
Don’t just look at what you didn’t achieve or what’s missing from your life. Look inside as well as outside. Consider:
- How have you grown as a person?
- Who have you touched with your kindness and unique take on the world?
- Who would be lost without you in their lives?
We all have unique gifts and talents to share with the world. We are all valuable, no matter what we look like, what clothes we wear, what job we have (or don’t), and how much money we make (or don’t). Most of us will never become household names or receive public accolades, but that doesn’t make us any less important. I write this as much to remind myself as to remind you. We are enough.
26 thoughts on “Turning the Page – Birthday Reflections”
you read my mind this week. my birthday is tomorrow and i have almost the exact same post going up. I’m glad you can see the bright side though!
Happy Birthday, Erin! I just read your post and loved it – yes, great minds think alike 🙂 Congrats on making all of your childhood wishes come true!
Debbie – Happy Birthday! I like to think that everyday above ground is a good day! You and I may be “glass half empty” people, whether by nature or nurture. Fortunately, both my dh and my tennis partner are the opposite and would have easily come up with those questions you wrote at the end:). I know that getting out and about, socializing a bit, makes me feel much better, just like you recognized about yourself…however, you needed this past year to retreat in order to make big philosophical changes. Your not knowing what you’ll b when you grow up shows great flexibility in your thinking. Find some decisive, insightful people to help you nail down a “career” but maybe that will be a multifaceted job, or several part time ones. I wish i could wave my magic wand and make it all happen, hee-hee;). My bday is next month, and I am starting to enjoy my forgetfulness, as I forgot my exact age and only remembered that I was forty-something, like you! This decade, “I choose to laugh, for I must not cry ,” as Lincoln said. My bday wish for you, is that you’ll discover more of the activities/people/things-about-yourself that help you to do the same. Lotsa positive vibes going your way today!!!
Thanks for your comment and good wishes, Lil! I appreciate the positive vibes. Sometimes I start with “glass half empty” thinking, but writing really helps me to come around to a more positive place. I am hopeful for the future and I am open to a multi-faceted job/career. I am okay with making things up as they go along. Somehow all of my past experience is coming together to create something wonderful, I think, I hope… Wishing you the best for your birthday next month!
Happy Birthday Debbie! You most certainly are enough. I hope that you don’t underestimate the impact that your blog has had on others. I know that I look forward to seeing your posts in my inbox and it really helps to keep me on track. I had been working on getting my over spending in check for about two years before I discovered your blog. I had cut down my buying and we had paid off our credit card debt, but it was here that I started questioning the why. I have made many changes and feel that it is truely possible to have more than a temporary reprieve from overspending. I am pretty sure that I would still be thinking more about the number of dollars spent rather than the reason I was spending them if I hadn’t been reading here. I know after I turned 40 I started getting the same feelings that you were describing. I left my position in sales 12 years ago and I now think it is a very good decision. Having less money and more free time forced me to see my issues. Since I have started dealing with things I feel like my life is more complete than it ever was and I also anticipate that it will keep getting better with time if I stay on this path. I’ll bet that #47 will be a great year for you!
Thanks for your birthday wishes, Tonya! I appreciate your telling me how my blog has positively impacted you. I am honored to be playing a role in your recovery from compulsive shopping. You and my other readers are playing a powerful role in my recovery, too. It’s wonderful how we are able to help each other! It seems like you have made some really great changes and continue to do so. I think the forties can be a tough time for many women (men, too), but they can also be a time of lots of growth. Here’s to more of the latter for both of us and for everyone reading this!
I am glad to receive your honest posts. I have not taken a full-blown plunge into Project 333, but I have started my journey. I’ve had to take stock of many things in my own life of late as I am nearing the end of my teaching career–the public attacks and hostility towards my profession are making it harder to stay positive in a sea of negativity. I still love the high school kids I get to work with every day, but the grown-ups who are part of the mix throw a monkey wrench into an otherwise ideal situation. I am contemplating leaving a profession I love and am quite good at, but I don’t want to be retired at my age which is 45. I am hoping I will also find another career in the second act of my life. I’ve been feeling pretty down about the whole situation and wishing I wasn’t the “only one” in life who was feeling this way. Your honesty in your post lets me know I am not in this alone, and I am enough, too. Thank you for being bold enough to share with others.
Welcome, Shelley, and thanks for your comment. I’m glad my post helped you to feel less alone and more “enough.” I understand the challenges in teaching, as my brother is a teacher and experiences some of what you wrote about. Transition is really hard, especially when it isn’t really what we want. I hope you will have clarity and positive resolution soon.
Happy Birthday Debbie! (I always wondered when your birthday is.) Your story about how you feel on you birthday and the days leading up to it, are so familiar to me. I go through a variation of the same thing every year, it seems, and it varies in intensity from year to year.
The first time I ever felt morose on my birthday was when I turned 26 and I realized I was almost in my late twenties instead of my early twenties and I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much besides go to college. It seems so ridiculous to have such worries when I look back on that time now!
When I was in my mid-to-late 40’s, I had sad feelings around birthdays because I was getting too old to have any more children and I felt bad because my son was an only child, that I was divorced with no significant other on the horizon. (Yes, I was one of those people who was willing to give birth up to the age of 50.) I was also terrified of menopause and each year inched me closer to what I imagined to be accelerated cronedom (which has not happened at all).
Despite the big deal that everyone seems to make over turning 50, my birthday that year was a bit of a yawn. To my curiosity, I didn’t feel any different about myself at all. In fact, throughout my 50’s so far I have paid so little attention to my actual age that I usually feel like I am in my early forties except that I am going through menopause, which hasn’t been very bad at all.
In February I will turn 60. It seems amusing in a way, as I remember my parents and my grandparents when they were in their 60’s, they seemed so much older than I seem to myself. I can’t imagine my mom wearing leggings and listening to Lady Gaga. My grandmother would be aghast at how we dress and act today. I look in the mirror and the person who looks back does not look 59, she looks maybe in her 40’s but mostly she looks ageless and contemporary.
So I have come to see that age is just a number that some people use to try and make you feel you ought to be doing certain things by a certain time. Maybe you are a late bloomer, Debbie, but so what? The point is to bloom, period.
Today I am sitting here trying to teach myself WordPress and gnashing my teeth at it, but I am determined because I have an idea for a business and in order to make it happen, I need to be conversant in WordPress. It doesn’t matter that I am pushing 60 and “should” be planning my retirement. It doesn’t matter that a lot of my friends are contemplating retirement and they wonder why I’m worried about it as well. I’m not them and I still have goals. I doubt I will ever really retire because I would be bored. I know I’m a late bloomer, but I’m happy about it! It beats the alternative.
I always love your comments, Deby. I both learn from them and get some good chuckles as well. I love the part about wearing leggings and listening to Lady Gaga 🙂 You’re right in that the point is to bloom, period. Congrats on taking on the challenge of learning WordPress! It can definitely be a hill to climb, but there are lots of great resources out there to help. I hope you will start blogging because you are an excellent writer with lots of good things to say! Like you, I will probably never really retire. I like having goals and projects to work on and I hope to be doing such things into my eighties and nineties, if I am lucky enough to live that long and enjoy good health. Best of luck to you with your new project!
Happy birthday! May your next one be brighter.
My thoughts as to that goal: if you don’t know what your passion is (I don’t why your personal shopping endeavor failed–was it lack of passion?) you might try talking to a career coach. They have tools available to tease out repressed passion. I had 2 boys, the younger one autistic. We moms had grown so accustomed to subsuming our needs and interests to those of the family, when the kids didn’t need us full time anymore and we wanted to find our passion, it was so deeply buried we couldn’t articulate it. I consulted a career coach to figure out what I wanted to do once my guys didn’t need so much of me. With the coach’s help,I figured out what I wanted to do and managed to find a job doing it. I started that job on my 55th birthday working for the FDA regulation food labeling. Many counties have low cost career aptitude/interest testing.
Earlier, pre-kids, transitioning from being an art teacher (too physically exhausting) I found my passion through volunteer work which led to a paying job as a consumer affairs professional, which led to law school. Perhaps you could volunteer to help women transitioning into work that demands a professional look. Working with a group like Dress for Success might be fulfilling unless you completely want to get away from fashion. In that case, try something completely different.
It is okay to take a break and tell the world I’m healing. That’s what I am doing now, post-divorce, post mom’s death from lung cancer, post 3 moves. Right now my priority is rebuilding my endurance which is at an all time low. I take a pool cardio class 3x week and I am getting to know my pool buddies. I am exhausted after the class.
It is also okay to let your birthday slip by without celebration if you are not up to it. Last year I threw myself a party to celebrate my 65th. This year I am just too tired to do anything extra.
It helps to be part of a community. The easiest is to engage in religious activities. The congregants you get to know offer options for belonging and friendship, as well as volunteering opportunities.
Writing a blog that helps your readers — you’ve helped me — is enough. When you are ready, if you want more, life will offer you options. The suggestions above are only if you want to push the process.
I hope this is helpful.
Thanks for sharing more of your story and offering me so many helpful suggestions, Sandra! You’ve definitely been through a lot of challenges, but you seem to be navigating them quite well. Congrats on reinventing yourself at age 55! There is hope for me yet 🙂 You are a newer reader, so you probably didn’t read some of what I wrote about my business and its status (check out the post “Stay True to Yourself,” as I shared quite a bit there). I still enjoy some aspects of my wardrobe consulting business, but I want to veer away from the shopping and focus on consumerism, both for myself and in my work. I hope to still be able to help women with their wardrobe, style, and confidence. This blog is part of that, but I will likely do other things as well. I would like to be able to help more women than I could do on a one on one basis. It’s all still evolving, as am I, but I will definitely keep you all posted on what unfolds. I wish you continued healing and health!
Happy birthday, Debbie — many happy returns to you. What struck me about your post was how lucky you are to have someone to spend the day with: “My husband and I make a point of spending the day together doing many of the birthday person’s favorite activities.” Not sure you realize how rare this is — you are blessed to have a companion.
Which doesn’t mean aging is easy. Or that other people’s lives are not more glamorous. Or that we’re not lonely and sick, or we haven’t accomplished our dreams.
I am reminded of the great line (wish I could attribute it) that, when Bill Clinton was elected President, the sighs of baby boomers from around our nation could be heard in DC, as all suddenly, collectively, realized, “I’m not going to grow up to be President.” LOL!
From your post, I’d say you have grown by leaps and bounds this year. It’s pretty incredible what you have accomplished.
I loved your comment, Elizabeth. I DO realize how lucky I am to have my wonderful husband and that we are able to share so much time together, including our birthdays. I try to stay in gratitude for the positive aspects of my life while working to transform the less glowing areas. I don’t remember the line you mentioned after President Clinton’s election, but it gave me a good chuckle. I never wanted to be President, but I did have some lofty goals that have yet to be achieved. There is still time, though! Thanks for your praise of my accomplishments. It really means a lot!
Debbie – Happy Birthday! I think you are exactly where you are supposed to be at this time in your life. You are learning so much about yourself and have so much to share with others. I would second the idea of seeing a career counselor. I have worked as one for about 15 years. I love to get clients like you – those who have insight into themselves. I personally like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a tool to help my clients. You might find someone in your area who gives that.
You are never to old to figure out what you want to do in life! And everything that you have done has led you to where you are right now. A good career counselor should be able to help you find a career that utilizes the great skills you have. Good luck!
Thank you for your comment and encouragement, Anne! Deep down, I know I’m not too old and it’s not too late. I have had some career counseling in the past and even considered BECOMING a career counselor. I would have lots of empathy for my clients, that’s for sure! I actually worked in a career center years ago and got to do a lot of the assessments, including the Myers-Briggs (I’m an INFJ). I feel I am edging closer to my path and passion. This blog has been very fulfilling for me and I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. I think a combination of writing, counseling/coaching, and speaking could be a good mix for me. We’ll see what unfolds, but for now, I am grateful to have the platform of this blog – and for all of you!
I think you would be a great career counselor!
Your being an INFJ makes perfect sense – especially your love of order and systems. I love this description of people with your preferences http://www.personalitypage.com/INFJ.html
My daughter is an INFJ. I remember a line from the most recent film version of Little Women, where Jo’s mother tells her, “How could anyone with such extraordinary talents have an ordinary life?” This helped me put into words what I had always known about her. Maybe you will find it helpful, too.
I often tell my clients who have rare Myers-Briggs types, that they are orchids in a field of daisies. We work to find them a place where they can flourish as orchids. I hope the same for you!
Thanks, Anne! I appreciate the link. The description really sounds like me. I am on the cusp of “J” and “P” and have tested as INFP in the past, but I think INFJ rings more true for me now. I love the Little Women line. I don’t know that I’ve thought of myself as having “extraordinary talents,” but I do know that I’ve never particularly wanted an ordinary life. I love the “orchids in a field of daisies” characterization, too! I think I’m still trying to find the places where I’ll flourish, both personally and professionally.
Happy Birthday for August 8 Debbie!
Each day is an opportunity to learn and grow and it seems you are doing well in that department. The successes you are having with your recovering shopaholic journey and the help you are giving others is cause for celebration and may well lead to giving the satisfaction you crave. Based on what you write here I believe you would make an excellent counsellor/coach.
Thanks so much, Megan! You are so right about every day presenting an opportunity to learn and grow. Those have always been priorities for me and I feel I’m doing quite well in both respects this year. So, yes, there is cause for celebration! I used to be a life coach and I enjoyed that work. But when I did it, hardly anyone knew what that was, so it was difficult to get clients. Perhaps things would be different now. I like to think I use some of my coaching skills with this blog, but there is definitely room to do more as well.
You have many friends on this blog Debbie even if you may not meet us. We do actually care about how you are and appreciate what you write. I’d like to suggest when you’re feeling down that you ring a friend to meet for coffee. It’s funny how just going out and doing something simple lifts your spirits. And maybe it’s time to put into action some of your ideas about meeting new people and trying new ideas. You don’t have to turn everything into a huge success – just try it and see. And …you are a very young looking 47!
Thanks Katy, for the suggestions and the compliment! I do feel that I have friends on this blog and I very much appreciate all of you! You’re right that getting out helps when one is feeling blue. I do need to implement my ideas and the suggestions for meeting new people. I have been focused on dealing with health issues, but soon I will hopefully be able to get out and interact more. I will definitely write about my efforts to cultivate a fuller life here!
Have you considered that maybe the “real” work of a life time is the deep introspection and self love you are creating for yourself right now? What we do for a “job” is far less important that what we learn, forgive and release about ourselves.
Excellent point, Sue – thank you! I do think people (including me) often focus too much on “work for money” when there are other types of work that are also valuable and often more valuable. I know I need to be less hard on my self about how much income I make, as I know I provide value in other ways and am doing a lot of important work on myself, as you mentioned. Thank you for offering this valuable perspective!
Gosh Debbie, such profound and insightful self-reflection. Reading what you wrote here, I felt like sharing something I stumbled across recently that explained a lot to me about my introspective intensity, sensitive nature, and delicate constitution. I wonder if you think this could describe you, or if you’ve perhaps already run across the concept (which I think I’ve read can accompany the “late-bloomer” phenomenon) given your background:
On a personal note, I also find myself in a place where I am processing a considerable amount of loss and isolation. At 37, I’ve been dealing with multiple health challenges since college and it has profoundly affected my sense of identity. While I wouldn’t characterize myself as a compulsive shopper, I’ve always enjoyed shopping and I do think dressing and all it’s trappings have been a potent proxy for my struggle in this identity search. Like you, I am lucky to have an extremely supportive husband. His career has been in flux resulting in several difficult moves, this last one to Phoenix being the hardest yet. I wish I could somehow pop over to San Diego (I think that’s where you are?) so that we could commiserate and encourage one another over a drink. I’m buying 🙂 Anyway, I guess I’ll just offer you a virtual happy bd toast and thank you kindly for allowing us all to share in your journey! cheers
Welcome, Claire, and thanks for your comment and the link you provided. I have heard of the HSP characterization before but have never seen a test about it. I actually answered “yes” to most of the statements on the test. I look forward to reading more on the site you referenced!
The health challenges really can affect our identity, can’t they? I’ve had quite a few myself and am dealing with some difficulties in that area right now. You’re right, I am in San Diego, so not too close to Phoenix. I appreciate the virtual toast and your kind words. Best wishes to you in all respects!
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