While filling out paperwork the other day, I was made painfully aware of the fact that I am already ¾ of the way through my 40th year. Yikes! Leading up to 40, I had put a lot of pressure on the birthday. There were things I wanted very much to be able to say I had accomplished. Things I planned to do for myself, like my birthday celebration On Planning My Own. Then there was the one that was intended not to mark 40, but to carry me forward from there. The learnings, the insights, the promises and the ambitions. I had thought long and hard about making 40 pledges to myself — my gift to myself and myself alone. No pressure!
I set out very intentionally. They needed to be realistic but aspirational. They needed to reflect the real me and where I am in my life. They needed to be sunshine, silver lining and a few kicks in the ass. There needed to be things I could consider daily and others that were bigger, more global and long term. My self-esteem has taken a beating over the last few years, so they needed to avoid adding to that. Then there was the question of whether or not they made it on paper. Are they kept in my mind? Written down? Said out loud? Oh my — published?
On a daily basis I am reminded that I could be better, do better and feel better so that seemed like a good place to start, right? As the mom of two tween girls, my number one job is to make sure that my girls have self-respect. Yes, there’s feeding, clothing and loving, too. I assure you though, as I look back at the best lesson I got from my own mother it was that “I was the boss of me.” No one could force me to drink or do drugs, no one could coerce me into thinking that sex was no big deal or to jump off the bridge because everyone else was. Of course I struggled, like all teens. But I trusted my parents to be true to their word — they would be there NO MATTER WHAT and I was the boss of me.
It’s a lesson even as divorced parents, I know my ex and I are on the same page about. We might go about it differently, but the take away for my kids is the same. So I started there and 40 pledges later I ended.
- I will stop beating myself up. The world will do it enough for me.
- I will eat cheesecake, it makes me happy.
- I will listen to hear and not to respond.
- I will breathe before I scream. If I must scream, I will open the door to the basement and scream until I can’t breathe.
- I will kiss my children every time I say hello and goodbye.
- I will say I love you without hesitation. By now I am a good judge of who has earned that.
- I will mean what I say and say what I mean.
- I will listen to my mommy and always do my best work, clean up after myself, be the boss of me and believe that I can.
- I will listen to my daddy and smell the roses, think hard, love harder and be silly.
- I will listen to my children as they teach me how they need to be themselves, how fast time really passes, the importance of family dinner, bedtime cuddles and that being a mom is equal parts holding on and letting go. Helicopter who?
- I will let myself feel even when it scares the shit out of me.
- I will be open and honest about the things that make me, me.
- I will fight tooth and nail against injustice, even when it makes me unpopular.
- I will be willing to be wrong and say so.
- I will be willing to learn, to see and to absorb from those who know more or differently than I do.
- I will eat cheesecake, it makes me happy.
- I will be willing to give up even when I don’t want to, when it becomes clear that that is the only choice.
- I will learn from my mistakes and avoid making them again. When I screw up and make the same mistake again, I will be gentle with myself.
- I will love with 100% of myself. It is the only way I know how.
- I will be generous with my time, my resources and my energy.
- I will forgive those who hurt me, wronged me and spoke ill of me. Unless it had to do with my kids and in that case, they are dead to me.
- I will work hard.
- I will play hard.
- I will travel more.
- I will give up certain dreams if it’s for the greater good of my family.
- I will be grateful.
- I will have a lot of sex. It too makes me happy.
- I will smile a real smile in pictures and worry less about how I look.
- I will take care of my body.
- I will eat better (except for cheesecake, obviously).
- I will exercise my body and my mind and embrace activities that do both at the same time (like sex).
- I will honor those I have lost in the last few years. Each of them took a part of me with them when they left and that is ok.
- I will laugh. Loudly. Loud enough to embarrass my children and to fill my soul with the light only laughter can.
- I will put myself first when I can. When I can’t, I will eat cheesecake.
- I will guard my heart less, knowing that means I’m likely to get hurt. If I don’t, I will miss humans and experiences that will change my entire being.
- I will refuse to be labeled or defined by ANYONE but me and I will teach my daughters the same.
- I will dance. Sometimes nothing in the world feels as good (well…maybe cheesecake).
- I will learn new things on a regular basis and make them part of my being.
- I will read. For work, for pleasure, for my children. It doesn’t matter. I simply love to read.
- I will write. More.
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