Today I celebrate my 41st birthday. It doesn’t carry all the punch that the BIG 4-0 does, but I’m not sure I could handle all that extra excitement right now anyway. I’m content to quietly ring in another year with some morning cuddles and breakfast in bed.
In the reflections that come with birthdays, I was thinking back to 2002, the summer I was 25. That summer I did a program called the Landmark Forum. The mission of their work is to empower humans to “live a life you love and live it powerfully.” Their courses helped me to transform my life. The months leading up to my participation in the Landmark Forum were extremely challenging. I felt trapped in a business that I didn’t enjoy, and wasn’t doing well at. To put it frankly, I was miserable and life kind of sucked. I was negative $12,000 for the year in income. I worked from home and felt lonely and isolated. I was failing but I felt like giving up would be a bigger failure, so I just kept plodding along. Although Jerry had proposed marriage to me in April of that year, we became distant as these challenges continued and our relationship was deteriorating. Thankfully I had some wonderful friends in Boston, Miriam Hawley and Noah and Jeffrey McIntyre, who had the cure for what ailed me. That weekend and the tools I gained had a lasting impact on my life. I still use those tools daily.
One of the conversations we had over the course of the weekend was around our problems. The message I took away from this conversation was to “get a bigger problem.” The idea was that if you aren’t currently satisfied in your life, if you spend time obsessing over your life’s problems, go take on some bigger problems. If you make it your mission to solve world hunger, that dining room table that you just can’t seem to keep clean just doesn’t seem all that important anymore.
What my Landmark Forum weekend gave me was a profound shift in perspective. Before that weekend, I remember spending chunks of time deleting all the “missed calls” on the caller ID of our bedroom phone (remember landlines?). The phone held up to 99 missed calls, and in this time of deep frustration in my life I would occasionally turn my wrath on the delete button on that phone and purge away. My success was always short-lived however, since the damn phone would just start gathering missed calls again, and soon enough it would be back up to the cursed 99. After my Landmark weekend, I stopped paying so much attention to that phone. I chose some bigger problems. I revamped my business, stopped bleeding out money, started facing our finances. I got a cat. Jerry and I dealt with the challenges facing our relationship. The next year I got a second cat to keep Mr. Sass company. Although Mr. Sass ran away right around his 1st birthday (I like to think he went to Vegas), we still have Lady 14 years later; she much prefers a life where she isn’t dominated by a wild alpha male. Within two years we had paid off $17,000 in credit card debt and bought a condo. The next year we were married, and so the story continues. Bigger problems.
As I sit here on my 41st birthday, I feel a deep sense of peace—it’s the peace that comes with facing down some of life’s bigger problems. The stonework in front of my house needs attention. The weeds in my yard are out of control (sorry neighbors!). I still can’t get a handle on that dining room table clutter. You don’t even want to know how many unread messages I consistently have in my 6 or so Gmail accounts. But I am alive. My children are well. Jerry is still by my side, 19 ½ years after our first date. Lady’s still with us. My parents and brothers are doing well. I have an incredibly supportive extended family (including Jerry’s), both Stateside and in England. Although this past year has brought me to some of my darkest moments, it has also given me incredible clarity. I have so many people from different stages of my life cheering me on and sending love and healing energy my family’s way. There are people I’ve never met who have been praying for me this year, who have been willing to guide me and support me through some of the most difficult choices and months of my life. Thank you for the many gifts you all have given me. I am incredibly grateful and humbled by the company I keep.
For more information about the Landmark Forum visit their website https://www.landmarkworldwide.com