xxxi : day four

This year has been a year of many firsts. Case in point, I have never posted my annual birthday post a whole day late – let alone four. But this year, I think that very action goes to show what I’ve learned to admit:

It’s okay that this post is late, and the time I allowed for myself to write it only enhances its worth. The words are right, not rushed.

My 30th year placed a lot of focus on setting boundaries and accepting rest – even when that period of downtime continues to last a little too long. In a world of constant hustle and growth, I’ve become increasingly aware of how terrified we are to take pause – to disappear from networks and obligations that seem to require our constant attention.

But when all our minds and bodies crave is rest, maybe we should think about what those signs are telling us….and maybe, even if it feels like we’ve been resting for months, we need to take it a little more seriously.

I had a lot of BIG intentions for my birthday this year. Somehow, through a series of rituals I’d concocted, I was going to get “better” within the passing of one single, momentous day. But here’s the problem: that very phrasing? “Get better”?? It implies that what I am is not good enough. Because getting to a point in which one wants to be better most often entails a lot of unnecessarily cruel self-talk. And that’s what a lot of this past year has looked and sounded like for me.

It’s been exhausting. And it’s done more harm than good.

Which is why, instead of candle rituals and crystals and writing and exercising on my birthday, I just let myself be. I got my free venti Starbucks PSL, I re-potted a cactus, I enjoyed a home-grilled steak dinner with my hubby and a beautiful cake with my in-laws, and maybe – just maybe – had a little 10 PM cry about not doing all the things I’d meant to, like writing this post. (Because of course, all that negative self talk telling me to ‘work harder or I’d never be better’ wasn’t just going to disappear with a snap of my fingers.)

And so that’s why, if there’s anything I’m striving for in my 31st year, it’s to challenge this notion of what better is going to mean for the rest of my life…and understand that true rest can only exist when I learn to let go of planning for what I “should” be doing when that rest is over.

For years, the quest for better has run me ragged to the point of constant incompletion and general unhappiness – i.e. when things always need to be more, they are never enough. Enough to be present, to be content, to be productive in a natural, flowing state. Better has always set unreachable goals and expectations that make the entire process unappealing and force it to lose its well-intentioned meaning.

Better has not been my partner, but my enemy. And now, better needs to back the f– down.

In this new “perfect” world I’m devising, better will no longer equate to skinnier or happier or prettier or more outgoing or writing more often or being more successful. Better will be obsolete, because I will be practicing the art of accepting things as they are and making do with what I have and who I am on my best and worst days. I will be striving towards contentment, towards what fulfills ME. I will be doing the best that I can and making peace with the times in which my best isn’t much to talk about.

I’m not arguing for complacency or inaction, but for acceptance. Acceptance and faith that every little step I’m taking – in progress or in rest – is for a reason, and because of that, it is good, not something to be fought over or made to feel inferior. Especially on my birthday.

“Better” can come in its own time.