Intention. It’s kind of a loaded word, isn’t it? Used in past tense, it takes on the weight of guilt over things planned that never quite happened. I intended to organize my closet. I intended to wash the dishes. I intended to go to that seminar. Use it in present tense, and there’s a sense of what we wish to do, but already know won’t happen. I intend to run a mile today. I intend to improve my job skills. I intend to not waste all day on my phone. The word “intention” goes along with “good intentions” – as in, “He had good intentions when he made such and such mistake.”
There’s just a lot of baggage that comes with the word “intention.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about intention this week – but not the word that’s weighted down with preconceived notions or missed opportunities. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of what I intend – really intend – for my life. What am I doing now to ensure my intentions come true?
Much of this reflection has to do with the fact that this is my last week of being 36. Today is my last day at that age. Tomorrow starts a brand new year, the first day of a new age when I get to take the first step of who I will be at 37.
The other day, I had my annual freak out about getting older. Usually it’s reserved for the day before my birthday. This year, however, it came a few days early. And as I dealt with it, I did something I usually try to avoid doing – I broadcast my negativity on Facebook.
There’s something I noticed about sharing negativity. No one wants to be around it. I put my misery about getting older out for public consumption, hoping for a few virtual hugs from friends across the board. And I received that in a small dose. But for the most part, people avoided my post like the plague. And a few refused to feed into my pity party, reminding me to put things in perspective and remember all I had to be grateful for. One person even gave me a “good grief,” and mused whether I should even have birthdays at all. I came back to that last comment several times since it was posted, glaring at it for the insinuation at my ridiculousness. Of course I don’t want to celebrate birthdays. Each birthday makes me a whole year older!
There was a time when I was younger when I swore I’d be one of those women who aged gracefully. I knew of this one lady who had the most beautiful long, gray hair, and she wore it proudly. I wanted to be her when I grew up, never dyeing my hair or cutting it short like every other woman once they hit a certain age.
And then I hit my 30s.
Turning 30 wasn’t so bad. I was anxious to leave the immaturity and bad decisions of my 20s and enter a decade when I knew how to live my life and make good choices. I celebrated turning 30, and was excited to be that age. A whole year passed, and 31 stared me in the face. I didn’t think anything of it in those days before I turned 31. To celebrate, I even planned a trip with my best friend and my kids to the Happiest Place On Earth. That’s right, I turned 31 in Disneyland. It was the perfect plan…or so I thought.
The day before 31, we got to Disneyland and immediately made our way around the park to each of the rides. It’s almost like blinders came off my eyes. I suddenly became aware of all the adorable teenage girls that were surrounding us, the ones in edgy fashions, hanging on their boyfriends, all smiles and youthfulness. And me? I was the old crone with a couple of kids tagging along, sporting a pair of mom jeans because that’s what fit me in the moment. For the first time, I felt old.
The next day was my 31st birthday. I remember staring in the mirror, trying to get my hair to set right. Nothing was working. My friend wanted me to hurry. I snapped at her. She kept her cool, gently telling me she’d take the kids to breakfast while I finished getting ready. She left. And I sat in that room and cried.
It was the first year I ever cried about my birthday. And every year since, it has happened without fail. I always swear it won’t happen. I swear I will greet my birthday as a celebration of my life, a celebration of ME. It is my intention to not be bummed out about something as trivial as getting older. And each year, my intention fails.
This was one of those years that I intended not to cry about my birthday. But this year, I also expected the dark cloud to settle in. So when my bad mood struck a few days early, I celebrated THAT – my depression over turning a new number. I reveled in my misery, inviting everyone around me to partake in my pity party. And when even my own husband refused to dance in my dark corner, I plummeted even further into the depths of my despair. I was bound and determined to be pitiful. And darn it, if I didn’t succeed.
That was Thursday. Friday, I snapped out of it and recreated my intention – to NOT be pitiful. I started the day out by taking the dog for a walk in the drizzle, letting the droplets of water wash away the dark cloud. I then stopped at the store to buy a box of treats for my coworkers, and then spoiled myself with a cup of overpriced (but delicious) coffee. I got to work and sent out a mass email to everyone, letting them know that my birthday was on Sunday, and I had treats at my desk to celebrate. All day long, I had coworkers visiting me to wish me happy birthday. It felt good. My intention of choosing happiness was way better than my intention of being miserable.
This new year of my life, I have some true intentions for my life – not the kind that I hope to do, but the kind that I WILL do.
– I will be more intentional with my writing and publishing this year, taking this career path to a whole new level, and helping those writers around me through support and sharing what I know.
– I will be more intentional about getting out of debt so that I can have more freedom with my money and the plans I have for my life.
– I will be more intentional about my health, because I am much happier when I am eating right, getting exercise, and actually fitting into my clothes.
– I will be more intentional with my time, remaining focused on the plans I have for my life and deflecting distractions that serve to keep me from achieving my goals.
This year I also intend to grow out the hair I cut short last year. I miss my long hair! But I stop short at letting it go gray. I can only age gracefully one step at a time.
Goodbye 36. Hello 37.