By Todd Lieman
I’m turning 50 in three months and I have a confession to make.
Now, before the chorus of “age is just a number” comments start in, I assure you that I’m completely aware of that. My confession has nothing to do with age. Turning 50 simply provides the perch from which to inspect the view of passing time. And that’s where my confession lives. On that perch. Inspecting that view.
I haven’t lived my best life. I haven’t lived the life of which I’m capable. I haven’t achieved the things I’ve wanted to achieve. I haven’t stretched and challenged and clawed. I haven’t been the man I know I can be and I really haven’t even lived a life of which I’m particularly proud. I’ve done some stuff, sure. Cool stuff even. But, for the most part, I’ve watched time pass when I should have been part of it. For the most part I feel the shame of the hurt I’ve caused more than the celebrations from the good.
Now, before the chorus of “you’ve still got plenty of time” or “stop being so hard on yourself,” comments start in, I assure you that I’m completely aware of these truths. My confession isn’t a plea for support or an invitation to give myself and out/excuses. It’s a declaration. A personal cry to learn from the first 50 and start living by feel. According to soul.
I know that I haven’t lived my best life because, as I type, I’m a good 30 pounds overweight. The same 30 pounds that I’ve gained and lost more times than I can count. In fact, I’ve gained and lost this weight so many times that I’ve taken to joking about it, “Oh, I don’t lose weight. I just misplace it for a while. I’ll find it again.” I know I haven’t lived my best life because last night I ate tater tots, cheese, crackers and apple pie a la mode for dinner. All washed down with booze. That’s easy to laugh off, but that’s not living by feel, in love, according to soul.
I woke up this morning, jumped out of bed and went for a slow run. It hurt. Still I managed to run through the discomfort. I managed to get on the other side of the pain and find, at least for a short time, a kind of bliss. I won’t go so far as to say it was a runner’s high because I’ve experienced that and this wasn’t that. But it was something. It was a change.
As I was exploring this change, a friend posted a magnificent thought that poetically took the feelings I’m having and put them into words:
Time to be
Now before the chorus of “wow, this reeks of a midlife crisis,” please know that I’ve faced that one already (perhaps multiple times). I had my crash. My crisis of faith. I’ve already faced the army of fears and doubts and judgments that made it a brutal task to simply get out of bed. And I’ve come through it. This was the feeling on the other side of the discomfort on my run. That I’ve come through it. I’m left with what feels very much like the first “today” I’ve had in a very, very long time. An actual today. Not a yesterday or tomorrow wearing the disguise of today. But an actual today.
Another friend of mine once sent me a note titled, “I love myself when.” The attachment was a beautiful list of the things she did when she loved herself. It included things like eating whole foods or making her bed. When she loved herself, she read, exercised and traveled. It was a spectacular list that would be easy to dismiss as being too ambitious. The thing is . . . It wasn’t ambitious at all. The things on that list were all very simple. They only seem difficult or overly ambitious when we don’t actually love ourselves enough to do them. Love is such a dichotomy. It is the ultimate armor. It protects. And yet it can only protect us when we reveal ourselves wholly. Completely naked. We can only love ourselves by exposing ourselves to the things we think can hurt us.
Intention is expressed through actions. And my intention is to live a life I love. To love myself enough to risk everything. I haven’t ever really done that. Not if I’m completely honest. My temper, the masks, the choices and, yes, the 30-pound yo-yo are all indications that I’ve lived perched above my life, watching, instead of living my life. I haven't acted according to the life I profess to want to live. I confess to all of this.
It’s time to make some changes. Real changes. The first 50 may have been good enough, but, frankly, that’s not good enough. Cue the chorus.