My 55th Birthday – The Tao of Pooh

So I have this day upcoming, tomorrow actually. That first statement is now incorrect. My birthday has come and gone. I turned 55. I avoid writing anything about my birthday because quite frankly I view it as just another day. My wife was surprised when I told her I was seeing clients in my practice that night. One of my clients also expressed surprise. I was a little confounded by their surprise especially as my birthday falls on a Tuesday. We weren’t going to do anything to celebrate. I’m not a fan of celebrations. If we do go out to eat, my wife is aware if she mentions anything to the wait staff at the restaurant, especially if it is one of those restaurants which makes a big deal about birthdays, I’m leaving. Working Monday, taking off Tuesday and then returning to work Wednesday doesn’t make a lot of sense. I could have taken Monday off, but like I said, it isn’t a big deal. I’m not one of those individuals who lets everyone know it’s not only their birthday but their birthday month. Another day on the calendar is New Year’s Day. Everyone celebrates the turn of another year. I celebrate another day off. My “New Year” begins on my birthday. My birthday is a day I look forward to when I assess where I am in my life. Where I am in the completion of both short and long-term goals.

I am, on the other hand introspective. I have been giving some thought to my life, where I am, what I’m doing and a host of other things which generally run through my head. As I continue to age I move closer to the end of my life. Now I realize this could happen at any time and I am in no way focused on death, let alone my death but let’s be honest, the lifespan of the average white male in the United States is a date which I am fast approaching. 55 also feels like one of this times or ages when it makes sense to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. We don’t normally think about ages like 32 and ask, “Where am I going in life?”

This year so far has been an interesting year. I suffered a mild stroke in April and set out to minimize the stress in my life. The drama was never a thing in my life and I have always lived by the motto “If you want drama in your life, it’s all yours but before you enter my home, check it at the door. I’m sure it’ll still be there when you leave.” I am very grateful for not having suffered any long-term effects from the stroke. I started taking blood pressure medication and have increased the time and frequency with which I meditate. I have dramatically cut back on the number of clients I see in my practice. Prior to the stroke, it was not uncommon for me to see approximately 12 clients weekly. This was on top of the 20-25 clients I saw in my day job. I now have decreased that number by a minimum of 50%.

Weeks prior to the stroke we were forced to make a difficult decision about our dog Jack. We decided that his quality of life had diminished to the point where keeping him around after 16-years was doing none of us any justice. My dad had been hospitalized for several days in March and then spent several weeks in a local nursing home rehabbing so he could return home and just for fun, I had had two very difficult crisis calls with clients one and two days prior to the stroke. I began running last November after knee surgery. I never quite found my rhythm. I was running no more than two days each week. My struggle with depression caused difficulty getting up early enough to run before work. I’ve never been a late day runner. I’m too concerned about my safety. The safety concerns caused by the distracted drivers who often pay little to no attention to their surroundings. My last run was a little over two weeks ago. I felt guilty about taking this time off and not using the summer weather to my advantage because at some point I’ll be running in temperatures which result in my beard becoming choked with ice.

This morning, I began reading a blog post from someone I had been following for the past two years. My initial attraction to Steve’s blog was his age and the fact that he rides a Vespa. While he is a few years older than I, I also ride a Vespa. Steve is also an avid photographer. I grew up with a home darkroom where I processed my own film and made my own prints. I have been an avid fan of Instagram since it arrived on the Internet. I follow many photographers whose work I admire. What has changed for me is I have not ridden the Vespa in 2-years. It sits with a dead battery in my garage having not breathed in all that time. I have also grossly neglected my photography. I used to saunter, camera in hand and now I find myself making no time for this passion. Instead, I have lived this portion of my life vicariously through the Instagram posts of other photographers. Of course, this has served only one purpose and that is to ensure I remain ripe with guilt.

The stroke, or “the incident” as it has come to be known has been causing me to sit up and assess my life. It was relatively easy for me to determine I was doing too much; moving too fast and not taking care of myself. The latter portion of that sentence was the most important. I enjoy my work both within the clinic setting and within my practice but identifying the balance which is so crucial began to erode like a badly formed foundation. I had continued to run and had stopped, with some hesitation the antidepressant which I had been prescribed. I continued to run but even that began to suffer. Sleep suffered and the desire to rise and run became a chore. Even the ability to convince myself “I’ll feel better once I get out the door” no longer worked. The desire to remain in bed more often than not won the argument in my head.

I have taken this opportunity to reassess many areas of my life. I decreased the number of private clients with whom I was meeting by more than half. My desire to run increased because the quality of my sleep also improved. The stress of always being busy, of needing to be busy also slowly evaporated. It became easier to sit outside with a book and enjoy the solitude. This was difficult at first. I “worried about finances and I worried about being judged by others when I sat and read instead of tending to chores around the house. The grass will get cut, furniture will be dusted other chores will also be completed but for whatever number of years I have remaining I have chosen to follow the “Tao of Pooh.”

As taken from Benjamin Hoff’s book, “The Tao of Pooh” in an interaction with Pooh he is asked,

“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy? I said.

“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.

“Yes, but-”

“Why ruin it? He said.

“But you could be doing something important,” I said.

“I am.” Said Pooh.

“Oh? Doing what?”

“Listening.” He said.”

“Listening to what?”

“To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”

“What are they saying?” I asked.

“That it’s a nice day.” Said Pooh.

“But you know that already.” I said.”

“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else thinks so too.”

I have written enough. You, I am sure to have arrived at the same conclusion as I. As I reflect back on the 54 years spent on this wonderful planet and the things which have happened to me and assessed my response, it is clear, I need to be more like Pooh

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