A Letter to Myself on the Occasion of My 47th Birthday

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Dear Self,

47, huh? That’s one of those totally irrelevant birthdays that you pretty much just ignore. No milestone, no novelty balloons, probably not even a cake, just you and maybe a loved one out for a nice dinner and home and in bed at a reasonable hour. You could just be easing up to the halfway mark of your life (hey, Grandma has made it to 90!), but more likely than not, you’re sort of thinking about how life is slowing down, and how you need to adjust pretty much everything in preparation for the years ahead.

This past year has not been your best. Memorable for prolonged illnesses and a traumatic event that tipped you onto a path of anxiety, 46 was mostly a year to recover from and hopefully forget, not one to note in any way.

But let’s face it, Self, even at your most depressed and anxious, you still have a fiery spark of optimism. You’re hanging in there because you live life by the motto “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. You like being angry because you see it as an impetus for change.

Well change is ahead, my friend. It’s happening whether you like it or not, so you might as well get on board and make the most of it.

Here are the rules for year 48…

Physical Health

At the moment, you are sick. It is (probably) not going to kill you, and you will (probably) get better eventually. Other people are sicker than you, and have life tougher than you. So while we are implementing a strict “no whining” policy, remember that, for the time being at least, you are one of those people with the spoons who might not be able to accomplish everything they set out to do each day and instead has to prioritize their own health and well-being.

  • stop looking up your ailments on the fucking internet – if you haven’t found the answers by now, they’re not there.
  • get enough sleep, even if it means going to bed early or taking a…
  • nap – schedule an hour each day to nap. You don’t have to sleep if you’re not tired, read a book instead, but put it on the schedule so you don’t feel guilty about it.
  • eat good, healthy food, especially if you have no appetite and are only eating half of what’s on your plate.
  • exercise – you can’t run a marathon, or even dance, but you can walk, and do tai chi and stretch.
  • seek help – you’re in pain right now because you put off treating an injury until you were better from another illness – this is dumb and only makes you feel worse, both physically and mentally.
  • don’t treat yo’ self – massage is part of your healthcare routine, not a luxury.

Mental Health

We all want to be a special snowflake, but you are one of a minuscule percentage of people who have had a rare adverse reaction to a common over the counter medication. Unfortunately that adverse reaction was panic attacks that you’re still sort of dealing with six months later. This is partly because the anxiety and panic centred around your health and you have been unwell recently, but unless you want to medicate just to be able to make it through the day, you need to do more to take care of your mental health as well.

  • do all the physical stuff, as above: eat well, exercise as much as you can, get enough sleep
  • meditate – you stopped this when you were sick because of general exhaustion (sleep was more important), but it’s time to get back on the horse because meditation really helped you get over the anxiety before.
  • journal – but not just to whine about being sick. Use that process to deal with your real anxiety.
  • be way less resentful and way more grateful for all the things at your disposal that make you feel better and ease your symptoms (both physical and mental): being pissed off that you have to take a pile of vitamins or run a humidifier, or take an unpleasant medication is just petulant and childish in light of the good those things ultimately do for you (and yes, we all know, you’re so tiiiired of being siiiick).
  • get all Homer Simpson at it. Tell your wandering and worrying brain to shut up and remind it who’s the boss. This keeps your brain in its place so you can live your life.
  • nature. Remember how it was so lovely to sit in a Victorian garden or go to the beach when you were on vacation? Yeah, do that stuff here at home, too. Go sit in a park, walk down to the lake (sure, it’s not the ocean, but it’ll do…), or just go somewhere and sit and let your mind and body rest for a bit.

Social

You might revel in being an introvert but you need other people more than you realize. And by people, I don’t just mean Greg. Sometimes it seems as if your friends are all busy and never bother to call, and sometimes you get your hackles up about this because always being the one to initiate plans makes you feel insecure and unloved, but fuck it, if you want to spend time with people, you’re going to have to make an effort.

  • volunteer somewhere, doing something that interests you.
  • make plans to get out of the house with friends, one on one, at least once a week.
  • be the person who organizes great group dinners.
  • suck it up and be the one to call if it means you get to spend time with people you like and care about.
  • do a better job at keeping in touch with family, find ways to be a part of the lives of your nieces, even from far away.
  • get cultured – go and enjoy things like theatre, galleries, movies and concerts (spoons permitting).

Work/Writing

This is a weird one, and where most of your low-level depression is probably coming from. Illness has prevented you from making more of an effort to find freelance gigs, which not only means far less income, but a reduced profile in terms of getting hired. Also, let’s be honest, you’re at that stage in life where you’ve pretty much become irrelevant. You lost a gig earlier this year to someone 20 years younger. That’s the reality of your industry. You’ve always been a punk rock, DIY, screw the establishment kind of gal, so it might be time to think about what you want to do next, because the world isn’t going to hand you anything anymore.

  • accept that the food writing you’ve been doing for the past decade isn’t what you want to do anymore, for a variety of reasons, and embrace the other project you’ve started (and are actually excited about), even though your peers and colleagues in both the food and literary scenes would probably poke fun if they knew what you were working on. Fuck ’em.
  • Stop whining about the fact that you can’t find a fun, cool, lifestyle blog aimed at fat, middle-aged, anti-mainstream, punk/goth ladies, and make your own. Quit worrying about whether anyone will read it, or whether you’ll be relevant, and especially if there’s even anyone out there who gives a shit about what you have to say. Just do it – there are other middle-aged weirdos on the internet (those people you met online in the 90s didn’t just disappear when their kids got Instagram accounts), and many of them are looking for something relevant to their interests.
  • You could have invented the Pomodoro time management system. You didn’t, but it’s how you know you should run your day in order to accomplish things, especially with fewer spoons, so use the thing. Work out your schedule every morning and stick to it. You always feel better about yourself when you’ve gotten things done.

Other Life Shit

  • listen to music more. All different kinds. Listen to new music so you’re not one of those people who only likes the music from when they were a teenager.
  • except in the super freezing cold or super stinking hot, outside is awesome, find more reasons to go there.
  • health permitting, cook more.
  • be more grateful for the awesome life you have – you are reasonably healthy, you have a caring and loving partner, a safe and comfortable home, and people who love you.
  • do more good things for others.
  • play more. Yeah, there’s that whole “colouring for adults” trend (something you did a decade ago – and got laughed at, if you recall), but just give yourself up to something light-hearted and joyful. Maybe try board games (especially with cheating 4-year olds.)
  • run the risk of sounding goofy and tell the people you care about that you love and appreciate them. Value your true friends.
  • become one of those people who jog and eat kale.

And finally, some musical inspiration for the year ahead…

4 thoughts on “A Letter to Myself on the Occasion of My 47th Birthday

  1. Sounds like an awesome list! I have a feeling that 47 is going to be a great year for you. Enjoy! Happy Birthday!

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