Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turning Forty

In just under two weeks, I will turn forty. More than once during the past year, I have heard myself say, "Age doesn't bother me at all. Turning forty is no big deal." I still stand by those words, although, in the last day or two, I have come to understand that turning forty is a right of passage in a person's life. It's a time of reflection...a time of taking stock of where you've been and where you're going.

While I am typically quite satisfied with my state of being in the world, yesterday, I was reading a favorite blog of mine, and it got me thinking that maybe I shouldn't be so content. The blog is called Beginner's Mind. It's a yoga blog written by Kristin Shepherd. Her posts are usually quite short, but they always make me think. The post I'm referring to here was titled Yoga and Energy Management. In the post, Shepherd sets up a sort of dichotomy in regards to managing energy. She writes...

Some people have a strong sense of their own power. They're generally unafraid of their bodies, other people, and life events. They trust. They're the optimists, the resilient ones who know that even when things look bad, they're headed in a great direction. They act out of confident joy. They are motivated by fun, happiness, feeling good. ("It makes me feel fantastic," they say about traveling, about new careers, about highland dancing, photography, about going back to school.)

At the other end of the spectrum are those who are afraid of life, of their own bodies, of viruses and bacteria ("Of course I'll get that cold, I get all the colds"), of the unknown, of scarcity, of the future. They don't trust--they suffer. They act out of fear. Their choices are based on just-in-case scenarios and preventing bad things from happening. They're all about anti-cancer, anti-poverty, anti-aging, anti-heart disease ("My mother had it, my father had it, my brother's going to get it, he eats so badly, god, I might as get on the transplant list now."), and on and on.  

This post spoke to my "about-to-turn-forty-taking-stock" mindset. After reading it, I found myself asking, "How do I manage my energy? Do I have a strong sense of my own power or am I afraid of life?"

I decided to convert the dichotomy into a continuum because I see myself, at times, in both of the descriptions Shepherd puts forth. Naturally, I began to call up experiences where I could see myself on a point of the continuum. For example, last weekend Fonda and I were camping (not necessarily a super high/positive energy activity for me). We were sitting in the camper with our pups in the heat of the day and we were reading (again, not a super high/positive energy activity). It was in that moment that I stopped reading to recognize how happy I was in that moment. The feeling was so strong that I looked over to Fonda and told her how incredibly happy I felt.

Obviously, I want to manage my energy in a way that allows me to spend more of my time with the level of energy I experienced in the camper that day. I'd like to be the optimist, always acting out of "confident joy". But I'm a realist. I understand that it's most likely not possible to be in that state of existence 100% of the time, though I think that presently, more often than I would prefer, I find myself acting from a place of fear or low/negative energy. 

The researcher in me saw an opportunity to learn something about myself. So, for the next week-and-a-half (before I turn forty), I will be paying attention to my energy. I will consciously recognize times when I feel positive energy/confident joy and times when I feel negative energy/tension/stress. Then, I will take note of the activities and conditions that evoke these feelings (even as I construct a plan for paying attention to my energy levels, I'm wondering if stress and tension always correlate with negative energy...so much to learn). I believe, with this data, I will be in a position to make more time for the things that produce positive energy while limiting those things that create negative energy - a worthwhile goal for someone turning forty, don't you think?


  1. Welcome back. Your energy is needed here.

    I am imagining you with a checklist or spreadsheet charting this very moment. You are thinking, "I blogged! Positive!" Then you think, "It's Meesh! Super Positive Plus!" Or some similar rating scale...

    Cheese? Super Positive Plus.

    Cleaning? Depends. Can be Positive, or can be Pissy.

    Packing? Perfectly Putrid.

    Thinking about unpacking in a new world? Possibilty-prone positive.

    Mammogram? Preventive.

    CMM celebration this Thursday? Priceless.

    Do share your system when you develop it. I would like to recommend using as many p-words as possible.

    Love you, friend. Glad you are hitting the four-oh first. See you before then.

  2. What an awesome way to reflectively take stock! First, I'm curious to know where the change in mindset from somewhat unbothered to milestone originated. I'm a "yes please" vote for your sharing of the system and possible spreadsheets of data when collected.

    So, I read this first this morning and went through my day just a little more aware than normal. It was cool. I noticed that driving to go take care of errands was a bummer unless I was singing/jammin to my tunes. I noticed that reading after dinner as the sun set felt awesome. I'm not sure if my mini study will be nearly as comprehensive and official as your week-and-a-half-er but it has been fun to notice.

    I think making the choice to do these happier/higher energy things might be easier now that I am consciously paying attention my participation and energy within them. I'm also wondering about balance. Even though high/positive energy feels better and I could see it being more productive, I can also see there being times when the extreme would have me way high and off balance for the choices to come. Maybe this is where the continuum idea comes in...I don't think I want to incorporate a great deal of negative/low energy, so I'm thinking there is something between the two for me...You definitely have me thinking.

  3. Wow, you really ARE a researcher!

    I just celebrated my 37th birthday so I have a couple more years before thinking about 40. Like you, at this point it doesn't really seem like that big of a deal. Another number among what, I hope, will be many. But until the day comes I guess this is speculative at best. Tricia is two months younger than I am so I know I'll get about eight weeks of grief between June and August.

    I hope you're doing well and that your house situation is showing promise. Ours definitely is NOT but we'll continue to be patient and hope for the best. I'm sure it'll work out. How's that for positive energy?!

  4. The thing that kept me from blogging was that I didn't know what to say. I know that you probably aren't on here because you just don't have time. I'm going to do this anyway, JUST IN CASE it is that you aren't sure of what to write. I am going to list the things that you could blog about right now. (Yes, I should be working...I'll get back to that in a moment...it is much easier to give you ideas than to write about my own)
    1. Heater adventures
    2. Ducks and Crackly Ice: A Poem
    3. Your dream home on the lake (a virtual word-based tour with photos)
    4. A short annotated description of all the projects you are working on
    5. Midwestern Skies
    6. Wise Women Book Thoughts
    7. Favorite Foods (yeah, I don't know, just go with it)
    8. Awesome things that are happening in your classes (i.e. multicultural literature talks)
    9. A positive energy update from this blog
    10. A top 10 list of the best _______________ (coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, parks, trees, waterfowl, etc.) of Illinois.
    11. Things you hate/love/are neutral about (ala C. Hass)
    I'll add more when they hit me. Until then, enjoy!

  5. 12. A better last chapter for the Mockingjay book.
    13. If you could be any animal...
    14. One time at the mailbox...An OWL...yeah the kind that "WHO"s...flew over my head
    15. The worst/best present you've ever received
    16. A "How to" of procrastination tips...(wait...maybe that mine...)

  6. Oh I have more now since visiting you...

    17. Eve and Bishop: A Love Story
    18. No Sleeve Steve: A commentary on the most awesome neighborhood in the midwest
    19. Adventures in Swing Construction
    20. Picking Weeds: It's just what we do
    21. Corn and Soy (and a port-a-jon or two): A Tour
    22. A series on the best and worst pizza joints in the Mahomet, Bloomington-Normal, and Champagne-Urbana Area
    23. A post about people you know who bike to work--bc of the flatness. (that way you'd have a reason to add that video from Wizard of Oz that I posted of Mrs. Gulch on a bike in a dress...)