Last Tuesday I was half way to hundred, but it did not turn out as I planned or expected. I haven’t really celebrated, or wanted to celebrate, my birthday since I was twelve. However, after becoming #NOTPOISONED, I started planning my 50th birthday about fourteen months ago. I figured having saved so much on parties in the past 30 years, I could dig into my savings, and take my family to the Caribbean.
Well, that did not happen. Instead of sipping Pina Colada’s at Saint Bart, I was home, alone, in bed, sick, on my 50th birthday. A lot of things, most outside my control, had happened since I started planning to celebrate my birthday again, things that made me change my plans. I am still in the middle of a difficult break-up of my 15-year-long relationship. Two days earlier I had been robbed in London of my phone and credit cards, and – to top it off – I got sick with some sort of flu.
Laying in bed all alone, realizing this was my big day, I could not help but feel both confused and a bit sorry for myself. What had gone wrong?
In my book POISONED, I talk about when something happens to you, that you feel is bad, do not be too quick to judge. Only time will tell if it is bad for you or actually a blessing in disguise. If this had happened two years ago, when I was Poisoned, I would have felt so sorry for myself that I probably would not have gone out of bed for weeks.
Now, it’s a different story. Before my self pity managed to get a hold over me, my app kicked in with the usual annoying sound and message:
“Hi Svein Erik, take a second to tell me what you are so glad and thankful for right now.”
I immediately snapped out of my self-destructive thought pattern and said to myself:
“This is great. I am only halfway to hundred, and I can basically start with a clean slate”
So instead of going down into the dark self pity hole, I decided to make an inventory and status report on myself. I got a piece of blank paper and on top I wrote: Inventory and Status Report – Svein Erik 50 Years.
Then, I drew a line down the middle. On top left side I wrote: What I have in my life that I am glad and thankful for. On top right side I wrote: What I want in or out of my life (+in/-out).
I just started listing all the things I have in my life that I am glad and thankful for. I have three amazing children, I have my amazing #NOTPOISONED project, etc.
Very quickly I had reminded myself that I have a lot to be grateful for. I also thought of some things I want more of, like I want to do more physical activity, but I found very few things I want less of.
When I felt finished with taking inventory of myself, I drew a horizontal line across the paper and made two new headings. On the left side: My best experiences, on the right: What I would like to experience.
Well, it turned out that I had experienced quite a lot that I was happy with, like being a pilot, falling in love, travelling. So, while feeling content with what I had experienced so far, I was even more excited about my list of things I want to experience.
It made me feel the future will be even better than the past. It made me feel I was full of life, not half empty. I continued with a few more two columns lists: What do I believe (in)/ What do I not believe and What have I done right / What have I done wrong.
All excited and absorbed in my introspection, time flew and suddenly my fourteen-year-old son was home from school, standing in the door to my bedroom.
“Happy birthday dad! I didn’t forget this morning, I just wanted to say it when I had the present to give you,” he said, pulling out a pillow with a big, red heart on, that he had made.
“I even got A- on it,” he added and continued, “None of my friends believed me when I told them you were 50 years today. Everyone thinks you are like thirty one or thirty two. So, you should be happy that you look so young. I hope you have passed that to me. No I am going to the grocery store to get you a big Coke Zero…anything else you want?”
I felt an enormous gratitude filling me inside. I was not alone. I was not forgotten. All my children remembered me, all family and friends, even my ex sent me flowers and called me to wish me a happy birthday.
I felt lucky and enlightened. Enlightened about myself and what I have and want to focus on moving forward. Maybe just as important, I also know what I want to stay away from. At 20, I did not really have experience enough to say something about my life so far. At 30, I felt I was on the right track, same at 40. Now, at 50, I could – for the first time – see my actions in perspective. Maybe it is late, maybe I am slow, but for me it seems perfect.
If I had been sipping Pina Coladas at Saint Bart’s instead of being sick and alone, in bed, at home, I probably would not have done this self-assessment, that could very well turn out to be a life-changing moment for the direction of the rest of my life.
I will make it a habit to do this Personal Inventory and Status Report every birthday to come. Even though I daily work with my Thankfulness list, I found this exercise to go deeper into the very direction I am headed in.
So, thanks to everyone who remembered my anniversary, and a special thanks to Lucas who gave me my new motto: 50 is the new 30s!