Annual Birthday Reflection, 2012 Edition

So. Yesterday marked the beginning of year No. 36. All things considered, No. 35 was refreshingly solid:

  • Nothing bad happened.
  • I experienced some lovely travel events, including vacation trips to Las Vegas and Windsor, Ont., and a business trip to San Diego.
  • I’m in (slightly) better physical shape than I was a year ago.
  • I earned my Technician license for amateur radio, which was a bucket-list item.
  • I’ve replaced most of my “lost” outdoors equipment, including hiking gear, and acquired and actually used a new kayak.
  • Tony and I have done a pretty good job keeping current on our podcasts.
  • I competed in the 2011 National Novel Writing Month and learned a bit of humility in the process.
  • I finally finished building out my home office and fully stocking my home-based “vice station” of spirits, liqueurs and cigars.
  • Gillikin Consulting has seen real profitability for the first time since 2008.
  • My circle of friends grew substantially through the WriteOn! group and our monthly cigar-and-cocktail evenings.

The observance of my birth went off without any unwelcome drama. Ronda very kindly got me a T-shirt and a scrumptious birthday cake on Friday. I got cards from my mom and grandmother. Tony, Jen, Jon and Emilie spent the weekend in Grand Rapids; at considerable expense to themselves, we had dinner yesterday at Judson’s Steakhouse then spent a fair amount of time imbibing at Cygnus27. Then back to Cygnus27 this morning for a champagne brunch. Yummy. And they got me two bottles — one of a tasty, tasty single-malt Scotch and one of a smooth bourbon.

I’ve drawn two major life lessons in the last 12 months.

First, I handle stress best when most things are moving smoothly along several different dimensions. Probably this reflects my own natural way of approximating Maslow’s Hierarchy. Those dimensions include:

  • Living in a place that you’d be happy to welcome guests into.
  • Being reliably mobile.
  • Looking and feeling healthy.
  • Having enough disposable income that you can handle sudden problems or unexpected opportunities without sweating the bank account.
  • Pursuing meaningful life goals and being able to demonstrate excellence in a self-defined niche.

When any of those broad categories fall short, I tend to obsess over them and then other things begin to destabilize, like the roving finger in the proverbial dike.  So paying attention to how things are going and being more proactive at life planning helps keep the Ship of State on course.

Second, I’m just beginning to sense the attitudinal benefits attendant to growing older. I used to genuinely fear aging; now, I’m more stoic about it and more welcoming of the experiences that influence thought patterns — not a bad trade for the occasional grey hair. I think the tipping point was noticing how my approach to problems has shifted. I’m more often approaching them with a patient “been there, done that, no big deal” mindset that reduces the drama. If some of the uncertainty at the hospital had played out a few years ago instead of now, for example, I’m pretty sure I would have responded more aggressively and, thereby, shot myself in the foot.

Put differently: More and more of the knowledge I’ve had in my head is becoming internalized in my heart. Many of the lessons I knew in an academic sense have become more “real” because I’ve accumulated enough experiences to move from knowledge to wisdom. As we remember from Gillikinism #44: “Experience puts meat on the bones of theory.”

All that having been said, I guess I’m OK being 36. Not that I have much choice. But I see more clearly now than I used to that the decisions I make today and tomorrow will decide whether next year’s birthday blog post will be positive, negative or neutral.

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