Well, whether I liked it or not, I turned 60 at the beginning of November.
I’ve never really had an issue with big birthdays or age in general but this one definitely felt different. It was the first “decade birthday” celebration since I turned 20 that I was not in a relationship but trust me, I am very content with my current single status despite many people constantly saying things like “Aren’t you lonely?” or “Don’t you want companionship?”. If you happen to follow my personal social media accounts you know I am far from lonely or in need of male companionship to complete me. I have an extremely fulfilling personal and professional life and am never lacking for things to do or people to share experiences with.
Nevertheless, this birthday had me reflecting back on past decade crossing birthdays including when I met my first husband at 19. We were in college and we actually discovered we had the exact same birthday (same year, born 5 hours apart) on our first date. Ten months later we celebrated our 20th birthday with him giving me a Mont Blanc pen and me giving him a Members Only jacket. Yes, these were popular gifts in the 1980s. Not particularly romantic but definitely practical.
Is it weird that I remember those details?
Nope…I kind of pride myself on remembering things from the past, albeit sometimes useless things. My clients rely on me to remember where I put everything in their homes so it’s just the way I’ve always functioned. I am aware that I probably allow some details to take up way too much of my memory but as long as they don’t ultimately cause me to be sad, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed, whatever, I am good with this, dare I say, superpower.
Anyway, when husband #1 and I were turning 30, we were married 4 years at that point and went to France to celebrate, discussing that it was time to consider starting a family over an amazing meal and drinking some local wine at a quaint cafe along the southern shore of the Brittany coast.
But by my 39th birthday we were getting divorced and I decided I didn’t want to wait until 40 for another big celebration. So I threw myself a party and the man I was dating at the time was there. He was still around when I turned 40 and we celebrated in NYC by seeing several Broadway shows, walked through the various neighborhoods I used to love exploring when I lived there throughout my 20s and early 30s and enjoyed so much fantastic food, something I repeated (sans the husband or any other man for that matter) mid-November as part of my 60th birthday celebration.
My daughter now lives there and I still have several friends I love visiting as well. Suffice it to say, NYC will always be a very happy place for me. I thrive on the energy and even when I find myself not enjoying a particular Broadway show as was the case during this recent trip, I still cannot get enough of everything the city has to offer.
But I digress…
When I reached 50, I wasn’t thinking of it as “over the hill” and had another big party. I was still married at that point to husband #2 who was the same guy that was around at 39 and 40 and remember feeling so loved surrounded by friends and family.
Why should I feel stressed about reaching another birthday milestone?
I was living the dream, married to a man I was deeply in love with, had a baked goods company I was building that was driven by so much passion for my craft not to mention the world of entrepreneurship, and felt overall safe and secure. I had nothing to complain about that is for sure.
But turning 60 as a twice-divorced woman who is building yet another business that I am also extremely passionate about but without any safety net to speak of after having my entire life turned upside down 7 years ago going through divorce #2 and ultimately made the decision to move from Florida to Colorado???
Yeah, this birthday felt a little scary I have to admit.
Nevertheless, I have been working through whatever fear creeps into my thoughts and I am just going to embrace it.
I mean, what’s the alternative?
Crawling into a ball until I shrivel up and die?
Not an option.
So what does any of this have to do with being a professional organizer?
I am OWNING…MY…STUFF!
I preach this to clients each and every day when it comes to the external stuff in their lives but the internal stuff is a lot harder to let go of yet must be dealt with simultaneously when letting go of external stuff too.
As I reached the halfway point between 59 and 60 this past spring, I was already contemplating what turning 60 really meant to me. When my mom turned 60 she was 6 months into intensive cancer treatments so that was definitely weighing heavily on my mind despite the fact that I have tried to take really good care of myself and be very proactive regarding my health and well-being through the years. When husband #2 turned 60 I was only 46 and it seemed soooooooooooooo far away. He did seem kind of old-ish…sorry but my perception was my reality at the time.
Now I am here crossing into a new decade of life and despite people saying things to me like “You don’t look 60” which should be comforting as well as flattering, I still don’t really like the idea that I am presumably entering my “golden years”. I am hustling harder than ever to maintain a comfortable lifestyle as society is trying to force old age down my throat.
And, yes, I am doing it alone…by choice…and there is no reason to feel sorry for me.
There is no man that I can rely on to catch me if I fall but then again I wasn’t raised to think a man should “save” me so, again, I’m good. My independence is more important to me now than ever and I when I do fall these days…sometimes literally thanks to what appears to be one of those signs of getting old aka balance issues…I pick myself up, dust myself off and carry on.
There was, however, a group of adults that I was able to rely on in October when I was volunteering at a retreat for Elevating Connections, a nonprofit based in Denver that advocates for foster siblings' rights as well as help adults who were in the foster care system as minors navigate a life that no one really prepared them for. I literally fell into their arms participating in a trust fall exercise. But before I did, I turned to them and told them, “Listen, I have major relationship trust issues so don’t drop me”.
And then I proceeded to fall backward reminding myself not to open my arms up to try to break the fall.
And yet I did…open my arms, that is…and I, of course, clocked someone in the forehead with my hand.
Hey, at least I keep putting myself out there…that’s my story and I will stick to it.
Anyway, I suppose, in my own slightly twisted mind, that is part of how I own my stuff. I take ownership and responsibility for everything I do and say and apologize profusely to anyone I may have affected by my actions if necessary. I have had clients that ultimately were not a good fit and after what usually becomes a series of messages back and forth with me offering to either come back to do what they think I didn’t do or refund them some or all of the cost, I always look back on the transaction as a learning experience and do my best to grow from it.
Right before I was on the previously mentioned retreat I was actually in Sayulita Mexico for a yoga retreat. It was a gift to myself similar to deciding to go on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica for my 50th birthday. I knew I wasn’t going to be replicating that same experience…different location, different instructor, different participants all being the primary reasons. But I myself am different…really different than I was at 50. And as a previous workmate from Turkey used to say, “Thanks Gods” I am different because 50-year-old Beth as it turns out wasn’t as happy as I thought.
I was going through a lot of motions being a mom, wife, business owner, friend, sister, daughter and any other role I felt I was responsible to perform. I inserted myself into way too much drama, took on the weight of the world trying to fix things I couldn’t fix, and never felt at peace.
I definitely wasn’t owning my stuff.
I arrived at this year's yoga retreat, though, promising myself that I was going to take the week to be very intentional. I would normally have planned out every minute of every day out of fear that I would miss out on doing something I…MUST…DO…she says in all caps for emphasis. I am fully aware that I have imposed my need to be active at all times mindset on far too many people in the past but traveling as a single person in recent years I don’t have to negotiate with anyone else how I want to spend my hard-earned vacation days and, equally important, dollars.
After truly sweating my ass off in yoga every morning (yes, the woman that hates heat and humidity volunteered to go to Mexico but OMG I have never sweated like I did in there), I took my first of 5-7 daily showers and then sat down to do a few hours of work because no entrepreneur can ever go away for a week and not have some work to do. My team was back in Colorado working with clients that needed to be invoiced and I was still getting leads that needed follow-up, not to mention getting dozens of emails and text messages that required responses. And just to make sure I didn’t get completely lost in too much work, I set an alarm for 2 hours and whatever I didn’t get done would just have to wait.
The afternoons in Sayulita were far from action-packed…meandering through the town center and Hippie Market, walking the beach, taking in a massage on the beach or back at the hotel, enjoying a margarita or two…ok maybe three but truly spaced out over many hours although I wasn’t driving anywhere and there was always a lounge chair nearby to crash on while listening to the waves crashing on shore. Seriously, I am not a beach person but I found a rhythm to each day that required very little effort and yet still felt extremely fulfilling.
My zen headspace no doubt had a lot to do with our fabulous yoga instructor. I’m pretty sure I have mentioned in a previous blog how I stumbled upon his Full Throttle Yoga classes that he does at local breweries in the Greater Boulder area last spring and it took all of I think two classes for me to decide I was signing up for the retreat. I didn’t know anyone but really didn’t care. As is always the case, my vibe attracted my tribe and I came home with many more friends than when I left.
Every day there was a theme for the class just like back home. And every day I would do my best to embrace the theme. But when the theme “own your stuff” was announced it clearly resonated with me both personally and professionally. I’m not sure I wanted to “own” getting Montezuma’s Revenge by the end of the trip but like with everything in life, I took the risk of going to a foreign country known for unsafe water and despite trying to be uber careful I had to own the fact that crossing my fingers wasn’t ever going to prevent me from getting sick. I was just glad that the 36 hours of pure misery happened for the most part after I returned home and not while I was still in Mexico like most of the other participants experienced.
And then a few weeks later on the Friday before becoming a sexagenarian, when I was just about to begin celebrating what became a month-long series of birthday events, my little bubble of happiness burst temporarily after receiving a voicemail from, of all places, a jail. Someone from my past had apparently been arrested and for whatever reason called me. I haven't seen or spoken to this person in many years but, suffice it to say, I didn’t return the call because if there is one thing I have learned after distancing myself from some of my past and letting go of what no longer serves me in life, nothing good would come from me getting engaged with that person again.
And before I go any further, I am not sharing this to embarrass anyone that may actually know who I am talking about. It is public knowledge. I am sharing this because I think it is so important for me to own my reaction to getting this news. It was unnerving and unsettling and while that may have been exactly what the person wanted, I have spent the past few weeks processing it. Obviously it brought up so much of the past and I had to figure out how to shake it off.
I have no idea what the person may have wanted and truly don’t care. This cannot become my monkey or my circus. I mean, it is very sad and I want to have compassion for what all parties involved are going through but I can’t be involved.
Correction…I won’t be involved.
The past is the past…and I am in a very happy place and won’t let anyone or anything take it away from me. But putting it out here is the one thing I need to do for myself to make sure no one ever says to me again “What are you worried about now? This person has been out of your life for years and isn’t thinking about you anymore.”
Ummmm…yeah…screw all those people.
Obviously, those kinds of statements are naive especially if you have never been threatened by someone who is mentally ill which I was multiple times. And to know the system wasn’t going to protect me moving forward, I have done what I thought I needed to do through the years to make sure I am as safe as possible including moving across the country, maintaining a confidential address and now it seems filing a request with the penal system in another state to be notified of any changes to the incarceration status.
This all could have been avoided had certain individuals and agencies actually taken the necessary steps to make sure this person would not ultimately become a danger to society. The fact that there have been multiple charges filed against a mentally ill person that continued to be able to roam freely without anyone taking any ownership or responsibility for their care is one of the biggest tragedies regarding mental health in our country. The options for long-term care are limited and loved ones must jump through so many hoops to get a family member involuntarily committed.
I have said repeatedly, especially since relaunching It’s Just Stuff a few years ago and having had many clients coping with various degrees of mental illness, no one wakes up wanting to be mentally ill any more than they want to wake up with the news they have cancer or any other debilitating disease.
Mental illness sucks…period…but by no means should that be the end of the story.
Managing another person with mental illness REALLY SUCKS too and even though I was involved for many years, I had to make that story end. Having it come back to smack me in the face, though? It sucked as well but I am owning my stuff in a way I never imagined at the beginning of November and this too shall pass.
That said, my desire to be advocating on behalf of anyone with any degree of mental limitations to help them own their emotional stuff and get the State of Colorado to be the first in the nation to require insurance companies to cover my type of services so they can actually let go of their physical stuff in the hopes it will set them up for a much healthier and productive life would be the best birthday gift I could possibly ask for this year and every year that follows.
I have no idea what the future holds for the person currently sitting in jail awaiting trial. I do know, however, you can only use mental illness as an excuse for so long. A crime was committed and no matter what role one may play, it is definitely not to ever be excused and I do hope somehow some way, everyone involved including those that enabled this person for so many years, can learn to own their stuff.
For the record, I may remember what someone gave me for my 20th birthday, but I honestly had blocked out so much of what happened in my past related to this person. I learned to own the role I played years ago and will never let it happen to me again. The memories came flooding back a few Fridays ago, though, and suffice it to say, that is stuff that will get put back in the proverbial box and back on the proverbial shelf. It isn’t something I will probably ever forget completely, but I have to forgive yet again and carry on.
And also for the record, if you are wondering how I got past the shock of the phone call and really enjoy my actual birthday a few days later, I decided to inflict a different kind of pain on myself...I hiked the Manitou Incline, an incredibly steep, almost 2800 step, 2000 foot ascent in about a mile climb that literally had me on my hands and knees at one point to avoid falling backward. It was definitely a good kind of pain, but I'm not sure it is something I ever need to inflict upon myself again...and yes, I will own that statement!
Oh and I also threw myself a 60th birthday party surrounded yet again by so many friends and felt so loved and supported but in a completely different place both physically and mentally. My vibe most definitely attracted my birthday celebration tribe!
Be well…be safe…and, remember, always be kind and, yes, OWN YOUR STUFF!
And of course, if you need help getting rid of your physical stuff/clutter, by all means CLICK HERE and we can schedule a free 30-minute virtual consult about your specific needs.