On my smartphone, I’ve got a countdown app. I have it set up to count down days to significant events in the future. One is set for June 1, 2017, which is currently 3 days away. Why? That marks the beginning of my life as a non-smoker. The next is 46 days , a marker of 2 simultaneous goals. It’s my target to be able to run 5k, and it’s also my target to be able to do 200 pushups, 200 situps, and 200 squats in one sitting. After that comes 81, my target date to run 10k.
Next up is 117, and that’s one of the more special ones. It’s the Run for Mental health, held in a nearby town. I’ve never gone, although I’ve often considered it. This year I am going, and I am going to run the whole 5k. For me it’s significant in a few ways. It will be my first “official” organized run that I’ll be participating in. While it’s not a race per se, it will be neat to do an “official” 5k run with other experienced runners. As well, since my diagnosis of anxiety, depression, and most recently ADHD, I want to participate. I want to show support for mental health programs and initiatives here in Manitoba, to meet fellow people who struggle with mental health issues. I also want to show support for those people who have been impacted by mental health — be it a friend or family member who struggles, or maybe they’ve lost a loved one in their battle. I think it will be a challenge, but also somewhat cathartic…another step towards wholeness, and showing myself and others that we’re just normal people facing the world that (unfortunately) still holds a whole lot of stigma against these invisible illnesses.
The newest countdown I’ve added is probably the most significant. Today it’s sitting at 287. Why 287? What happens in 287 days? It’s my birthday. I’ll be 40. 4 decades. While I won’t spill my entire life story here (although I keep getting told i need to write that at some point), the short version is I’ve really struggled to love myself, and see myself as valuable, of someone worthy of love. Most of the time I’ve just existed. Coasted. Lived life out of habit or mindless repetition. No intentionality whatsoever. Never really jeopardizing my health in overt ways (well, aside from smoking), but never really fully living a healthy life either. I’ve never really taken a lot of pride in myself, either appearances, skills, or talents. Most of the time, if I do receive praise, I brush it off in embarrassment — I feel like a fraud, like I’m deceiving people, and that I’m really NOT gifted at anything.
Sometime earlier this year, I’ve suddenly realized I want to get in shape. Not to have a body to brag about (although that certainly doesn’t hurt, and I do want to get there!) but to be healthy, to enjoy both getting healthy (the journey) and living healthy (the goal). Yes, physical health is my focus right now, but that’s because even though I’m not in bad shape, I want to be in GREAT shape. I also know that the healthier my physical body is (due to healthy habits and healthy diet), the easier it is to manage my mental illnesses. A healthy body does contribute to a healthy mind, which in turn helps the body stay healthy. They go hand in hand, for better or worse.
However, I don’t want to hit that 10k and stop trying. I want to find new goals to hit physically. I also want to learn. I want to find me, because somewhere in the last 15ish years I kinda lost me. I know he’s still around, and I catch glimpses of him…but I want to find me, or I guess more accurately, learn to be ok with who I am now, and simultaneously find ways to improve me, learn new skills, expand and grow my current ones. I want to dig down and explore my faith (or lack of) and find what really matters. I think if I’m going to do it, this is the prime time to get some good habits established and to do some healthy introspection.
I had a few “life coaching” sessions over a year ago. I remember one session, my coach asked me several questions. It starts with WHAT you do (be it business, personal, hobbies, or whatever), next comes HOW you do it. But the next question is the most critical. WHY. Why do you do what you do? What makes you “sing” (or feel really full and alive)? What makes you cry (or, what deeply hurts and frustrates your spirit — and not just day to day life. The deep stuff is the point here). But he’s right. I’ve “wasted” a good chunk of the first 40 years, which is a bit of a bummer. But the good news is I don’t have to stay that way, and I certainly don’t need to continue to view it as “wasted time”. I don’t want to look back at the last 40 years and see all the “Coulda, shoulda, woulda”. I want to look at the last 40 years and learn from it, and use those as stepping stones to the next 40 and beyond. Will I succeed? I don’t know. I don’t know if I can benchmark this as a pass/fail. I do know that I’ve lived too many years with eyes barely open. Its time to open my eyes, both to the past and the future.
So in 288 days, I want to hit that magic 40 at a full-on run (metaphorically, but maybe physically too). I want to hit 40 in better shape physically, mentally, and spiritually than I’ve ever been. I want to start laying the groundwork so that I can just keep building for the next 40 years, or however many years I’ve got left. Part of me wants to have specific goals and markers, and targets so I know when I’ve “made it” or so I can look at specifics and see tangible progress and markers that I’ve surpassed or missed…but I know that this journey will be a lot of intangibles. A lot of pressing forward without worrying about meeting or staying within (or beyond) specific set parameters. It’s also not going to be linear….there are going to be setbacks, or detours, or backtracking to try a different approach, because that’s life in the real world. The real world is never perfectly charted, nor does life go 100% according to plans. The best laid plans of mice and men, and that sort of thing.
287 days. I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then. The last 365 days have been quite the ride, and I don’t know where the next 365 will lead. I’ve certainly grown over the last 30, 60, 90, and 120 days. I can look back to where I was at those points and see overall growth. What I do know is that for the first time in a long time I feel like I want more from life and from myself. What better way to celebrate my 40th birthday than by being the best version of Andrew the world has ever seen?
Epilogue: I wrote most of this yesterday. I wanted to finish it but I wasn’t able to, which is not a big deal. But I’ve also been thinking, both last night and as I edit this today, maybe this is the ‘dreaded’ midlife crisis. The point at which a lot of males tend to attempt to rework themselves. Maybe I’m becoming more aware of my mortality. The body doesn’t live forever. This basket of skin, muscle and bone is gonna break down on me sooner or later. It might be a rapid or instant decline, or it may be spread over several months or years. But I know that it’s just that. A body. Whatever makes me “me”, my emotional being, my spiritual being, my “soul” will live on. Heaven, hell, purgatory, incarnation, whatever….there’s something within me that will never die. And while my body deserves to be taken care of and maintained, it’s the inner me that I really need to learn to love and grow and develop. Take care of my body now so it will hopefully last longer, that makes sense. But to ignore the inner parts of me that will live forever, that’s foolishness. And while I don’t know where that specific journey will lead me, I know that it’s likely going to be the most rewarding.