On My 37th Birthday

I turned 37 today, and I feel a bit overwhelmed. Not because I’m getting older, or because life is going too fast, or because it’s time to admit that I’ll never be a professional gymnast (though all of those things are true). And not because we hopped from Ayyám-i-Há Party to Ayyám-i-Há party this weekend, and I’m so done with fun that I could lay down here on the carpet and fall asleep in precisely 2.7 seconds (also true).

No, I feel overwhelmed because I’m so completely surrounded by love and goodness that sometimes I don’t know what to do with it all.

Do you ever feel like you’ve been privy to more happiness and joy in life than you really have a right to? I feel like a blessings hog sometimes. I know SO MANY good people. I mean truly, deeply, honestly good people. I do know some fools and some nutjobs as well, but the quality of people in my life is, for the most part, ridiculously awesome.

And life itself is source of constant amazement to me. I’m lucky enough to enjoy a life of freedom and choice and comfort. I never have to question whether I am loved. I’ve served as the primary instrument in the creation of life. I see God and beauty and wonder everywhere I turn. I’ve known very little suffering (which may or may not be a good thing when all is said and done). I have more friends than I can keep up with. I have more interests than I have time for. I laugh every day. I am never ever bored.

I’m not bragging, honestly. I’m just blown over by how good life is. I have my own struggles and challenges of course, but in the larger scheme of things they’re pretty small. And it may not always be this way. Perhaps there’s some major catastrophe over the next hill. That’s true for any of us. I’m just happy that I can say that I’ve appreciated the life I’ve had so far, and that I’m not taking it for granted.

I used to keep a card with a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson on my desk. It got lost in one of our many moves, and in re-looking it up I’ve found that it was actually misattributed to him. Gotta love the Internet. 🙂 The poem so often attributed to Emerson appears to be an adaptation of a 1905 poem by Bessie Stanley called “What Constitutes Success.” Here it is:

He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

What a lovely definition of success. I hope my 37 years have brought me closer to it, and I hope I have many more to strive for it.

Lots of love to all, wherever you are. Be happy. Live well. Hug your loved ones. Good night. 🙂

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 4

  1. Do you know that actively practicing the feelings of gratitude and compassion will physically change the structure of your brain?!? Learned that from Dr. Weil 🙂 I started keeping a Gratitude Journal for expressly that purpose. I was on anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drugs for years and was “fine”. Then my youngest was diagnosed with moderate anxiety, which cause pretty severe heart palpitations, and I had a visceral reaction about putting him on drugs for it. Started doing Gratitude Journals, Prayer Lists, (for practicing compassion), and fish oils with him and it has made such a difference! You can tell, just being around you Annie, that you are grateful for your life 🙂 You exude happiness and joy and make other feel that way around you. I feel so lucky be your friend <3 Happy Birthday, again, and thanks for posting that poem. It’s going on the wall by my desk. (I promise I’ll stop posting these novel-length replies now!)

  2. I’m sure that’s true. That’s probably why Oprah wanted everyone to start a gratitude journal. 🙂 I’ve never really felt the need, since I feel pretty darn grateful most of the time.

    I actually thought of you when the catastrophe sentence came out. I knew you wouldn’t like it, but it’s true. Sorry P-Dids. But I did say PERHAPS. 🙂

  3. This is lovely…but you know I hate it when you say things like “Perhaps there’s some major catastrophe over the next hill.”

    Perhaps it is not that you receive more blessings than others, but that you are more aware that they are blessings and show such gratitude for them.

    1. Ya know, I kinda think of it like knocking on wood; she had to say that about the catastrophe to show “karma” that she was aware of that possibility and therefore ensure it didn’t happen 🙂

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