Middle Age Mark's Year in Review

I am generally not a big fan of year-end reviews. They depress me. Time has passed, I’m a year older, my bald spot is bigger, famous people have died, it’s tax time and the days are short. I’m not a big looker-backer. Too many people refer to the past when asked how they’re doing, and begin a diatribe of struggle and glum. Makes me insane. But then I throw away old pictures, so I might not be the best litmus when it comes to wrapping up the year.

Having said that, 2019 was a wicked good year (shout out to my Maine peeps). Perhaps one of the best I’ve lived. For reasons I’ll unpack shortly, I saw more beneficial change this year than any year since. The year started in Mesa Arizona with one word, prepare, and little did I know then how that word would help usher in a new era in life.

I start every new year with one word. It’s my Word For The Year (WFTY). Nichole (daughter) created the practice. She’s a beautiful spirit-forward person, which means she senses you way before you have the chance to tell her anything. We spend just about every New Year’s with her and her husband Joey, and it’s a great environment for setting a new word-path for the year. We make drinks, have a little ceremony, and hope to see our spirit animal (ok that last part is just me). More on that in a bit, but if you want to adopt the practice, it’s kind of fun (and it really helps to focus you forward).

As I mentioned, we started 2019 at the Baby House in Mesa. Nic and Joey were down for New Year’s with Rachel and me, and we partied like it was 2099 (see what I did there?) I remember a rousing rendition of how-low-can-you-go on the dance floor and thinking how amazing it all was (I could hardly walk the next morning, but still). It was that trip that Nic first shared that she was having a change of heart, and they were thinking of getting pregnant in a year or two. We shared some very close, quiet conversations. Life stuff.

The word prepare had been on me for some time. I don’t remember where it came from or why, but I sensed something was coming and I wanted to be ready. It was on that trip that Rachel and I decided to put all efforts towards climbing out of debt; the school loans, the cars, the cards. Rachel was sick (literally) of medical management and had had a run of very tough surgeons and situations. I had been reading Dave Ramsey and Fritz Gilbert and knew the first step towards having options was removing drag. We looked at the numbers and set a date for November 2020 to have zero debt. We left there very excited.

It was in the spring that we learned of Nic’s pregnancy. Rachel made me a special martini and delivered the news. All I could repeat was, “You gotta be shittin’ me!” I cried and then I wasn’t able to talk. I’ve never seen any women be so pregnant and yet not at the same time. She said she told God that this was His deal and she didn’t have time to be sick (she’s not had even one day sick) or stop doing yoga.

The summer was wonderful. Rachel took some extra time off, and we decided to try our first July in Mesa. As July’s go there it wasn’t particularly hot. Mornings started between 75-80 and days topped about around 110. In short, we loved it. We did what we needed to do during the mornings and early afternoons, and then hit one of 3 pools with our shaker martinis. It was like our own private resort. We had the “opportunity” to replace the AC, but things like that should be expected.

It was on that trip, during one of our floating finance sessions, that Rachel dropped the bomb: “I think we should sell the house.” We had talked about it on and off for years. So we did it; we left there and went back to Boise and immediately called our realtor friend. After a few weeks of intense prep, it was on the market and sold very quickly. After some research, we used the profits from the house to advance the debt free date, and we began a new phase of life, that of no debt, minimalism, and condo living. Rachel writes a blog on living a minimalist life. The whole package is wonderful (even I’m surprised at how much I like the condo life).

On a more micro note, my approach to fitness changed this year. Although I still crave resistance training, at 58 my joints no longer always love the heavy weight. There’s a difference between good and bad pain (wink), and I knew it was smart to listen to the form. I tightened up the diet (which of course excludes martinis), shaved a bit from the weight stack, and added more cross training. I feel great and look pretty good too.

So we came into fall and the holidays. Rachel got candy in case we were visited by any trick-or-treaters (eternal optimist), and she began to plan for Thanksgiving. It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of Thanksgiving to Rachel. It was one of the challenges of becoming condo-livers; there needed to be a place with enough room for the whole family. Enter the condo clubhouse, with all the amenities for cooking, serving, and enjoying the Thanksgiving day (and 3 big screen TV’s and pool table). A better day was never had.

Christmas has come and gone, and it was wonderful as well. We got a skinny tree and decorated the front door. Rachel and I celebrated early with the kids like we do every year, so that they can be more free to relax or see other family on the actual day. Nic hosted for the first time (after a morning session of maternity yoga), and carried the mantle of easy, relaxed holiday enjoyment perfectly. It felt right, us going there, as soon Kepa will wake us with excitement about what Santa brought. Can hardly wait.

And finally, we ended the year with perhaps one of the biggest life changes in our relationship yet. Rachel tendered her resignation and departed the corporate world for an undetermined sabbatical. Already the change in her spirit is evident. A surgeon friend described her as radiant during a recent small gathering, and I could not disagree. I can see the weight being lifted more every day. She’s coming back to the surface. We both wear smiles most of the day, inside and out.

My 2019 word was prepare.
We got debt free and small.
Kepa is on his way.
My toast each night is Blessed Life.
What a year.

Could SugarDaddy be one word?

Middle Age Optimism

Now that I’m coming out of the stage of life that has been a major focus for that past several months (getting debt free), there are other things that I’ve been itching to write about. Financial rightness is certainly a component of a well-loved and well-lived life, but it is one component; it’s certainly not the end-all-be-all.

Life has foundational pillars; necessary substrates that we gather and erect to support and create a fulfilling and satisfying time here in this realm. There is no one right mix. Too much of one and not enough of another can topple the structure of our life. Each person can and will have a different life-pillar support arrangement; some smaller, some larger, but my contention is that there are some common ones. I’m on a mission to label the pillars and get them upright and justified in my life.

Health is a significant pillar. It’s not something that I paid much attention to when I was younger, for obvious reasons. I was bullet-proof when I was young(er). I ate things and drank things and did things that might put me under the covers for a day or a week now. I don’t recover as fast as I used to. I’m teaching myself new ways to maintain fitness and well-being, and as a long time trainer, weight lifter, and strong guy, it’s tough sometimes to talk myself through new (lighter) strategies. Tough, but still fun.

Purpose is another major pillar and also one that I didn’t give much thought to when I was younger. Purpose? I worked. I loved my family. I paid my bills. I went on vacation. I was the drummer. The cycle repeated. It’s not that I felt I was lacking purpose, it just wasn’t anything I thought about. It’s a major one now as I look forward to solid support for the 3rd act of life.

Faith is one of my big life-pillars. I like knowing that I’m not It, I’m not Him, He gets a big kick out of me, and I’m part of Something alot bigger than me.

Optimism has been on my mind and heart these days as a life-pillar. Among it’s definitions, it’s an overall attitude of belief or hope that life in general will be positive, favorable, fulfilling, desirable (and fun). It can be called different things: hope, expectancy, anticipation, enthusiasm, gusto, positivity, zest.

Whatever it’s labeled, I’ve met people with it and people without it. I’ve met positive people that brighten the room and cynical people that suck the light and life out of it.

Being cynical is an easy trap to fall into. We don’t want to get too far out over our skis lest the landing not go as planned. There’s drama in being cynical, and there’s power in drama. Cynicism can be a safety measure, a protection. It can create a “Hey look at me and how hard I’m battling against life; it must mean that I’m important.”

Let’s face it, “My day was blessed and fantastic,” is not nearly as dramatic or intriguing as “Oh my God, you won’t believe the day I had.”

I talked to my mom yesterday afternoon. I call my mom about 5 times a week. She’s 83 and lives in Maine and told me the cardiologist said she has “extra heartbeats.” She’s scheduled for a heart surgery this week and might need a stent. She doesn’t see the point and thinks extra heartbeats should not be a concern.

After we hung up I thought what a magnificent time to be on the planet when doctors can roto-rooter your heart and give you back quality of life.

I’m not advocating for not being honest when life becomes a bumpy ride. Serious things happen and they suck.
I am advocating for refusing to succumb to a negative perspective.

My dad was cynical. He still can be. That alone might cause extra heartbeats. Every bright hope had potential awfulness, every adventure more risk than reward, which he was quick to articulate.
I resist that with every fiber on my being.

So this morning, as the sun overtakes the foothills and the coffee is hot, I needed to write an ode to optimism. To me, optimism is like air and an absolute must-have life-pillar. It might not be in metrical form, but my ode is certainly full of enthusiastic emotion, and I might even make up a song (sorry neighbors).

I started my day at 6am in the hot tub. Rachel is home sick and I thought I’d better quick disinfect myself. While in the hot tub, I sent two emails, watched a jet with 250+ people fly overhead into a great new exciting day, ordered and started a book, watched an early morning hawk, ordered a movie for the weekend, checked my calendar, did my hot-tub-yoga-stretches, prayed, and checked the agendas for two meetings.

How awesome is life?

After I got out of the hot tub I spent a few minutes in my part-time living room. It’s a cool place and allows for a different environment while still having access to all things professional. Sometimes ideas flow better when I change environments. I can get a new perspective on a challenge that I’m overcoming. It even has a glass conference room (I sit at the head of the table).

How even awesomer is life?

After that I crossed the parking lot and came back to the condo. The sun had just crested and our little home was almost blinding in the morning sunlight.
I was suddenly overcome with gratitude.
I let it take me and thought about how much I love my life.

I have so much to be thankful for.

I love and am loved.
I have great friends that set a high bar.
I have a good bed and a good pillow.
I am warm, safe, well fed, and healthy.
I love my 30 year old mountain bike.
I love the way we give.
The Patriots are 5-0.
I love sitting on the balcony at the end of the day with a fresh martini (gin of course) and reflecting.
My phone is waterproof if I move really quickly.
The morning sunlight pours into our home and makes me emotional.
I love my work and my team and every once in awhile feel like I really made a difference.
I love Sunday nights and Al Michaels’ voice and homemade french bread pizza.
I have a new red couch and a glass coffee table and I put my feet up and watch cool things when I can get the rabbit ears right.
I love my morning chores and learning new ways to make the bed.
My garage door goes up and down with a button.
I have a garage.

I never want to miss the little things.
There are no little things.

I’m going to continue to invest in optimism and keep surrounding myself with optimistic people. Why would anyone not?

I’m standing that life-pillar up and cementing it in place for ever.
I’m willing to bet it helps support a really fantastic life.




Middle Age Actionating

I turned 58 this weekend. Happy Birthday to me! I purposely asked for it to be a very quiet, non-celebrated event. Not because I feel old, or embarrassed, or bothered by either my age or my birthday. It’s mostly because it’s 58. 58 is a boring number.

I ate alot of cake. Alot. I got a whole one and I ate alot of it until my lips went numb. And none of that cheap whippy-fake frosting either. This was the real 80 proof cane sugar right into the blood stream frosting. I really like (fantasize about) birthday cake.

I also opened the bottle of Bardenay gin that my realtor and friend Mike gave me when we closed on the House of Wales and made a top shelf martini. It’s really good gin. That night I dreamed of Genie on I Dream of Genie. She had a little yappy dog and wanted me to take it.
I said no and she was not a happy Genie.

Some people use birthdays to look back at the year that was. I’m not a person that looks back alot. I don’t see much value in it. It’s depressing. I almost hate looking back.

I threw out alot of pictures when we sold the house and downsized to the condo. Pictures are all about looking back. I’m not a big picture keeper. Mostly people look at pictures and talk about how young or thin or hairy everybody looked. Then they say things like how fast life goes by or how little little kids were or how long Grandma has been dead and get depressed. Throwing away pictures is like criticizing the Pope or Mother Teresa (and I’m not even Catholic); it’s just not done. I still remember the look on Rachel’s face. Kind of like I might be a guy that runs over kittens or pushes old ladies into traffic.

I suppose if we looked back and used the past to teach us actionable lessons there might be some good use for that. That’s if we’re actually going to actionate (yes, that’s a thing. And if it’s not it should be). But hardly anyone wants to actionate. Mostly they say something wishful or depressing and put the pictures back in the box and the box back under the bed. For year 58 I want to take less pictures and actionate more.

I don’t feel 58. I tried to think about how old I actually felt when I woke up this morning and I decided 38. 38 seems like a good age even though at 38 I think I could still see the alarm clock. I’m not sure how a 58 year old is supposed to feel because I’ve never been 58 and I don’t have any friends that are 58 and I don’t remember how my parents acted when they were 58.

I have tons of energy, tons of optimism, take the stairs to and from the 4th floor even on leg day, am pharma-free, and still gym and mountain bike every day. I don’t have as much hair as I did when I was 38. I think my feet might be bigger than when I was 38.

I felt like I wanted to go out and do something to commemorate becoming 58. When you’re 24 months away from being 60 you should make a statement about not going gently into that good night. More than eating alot of 80 proof frosting cake. I thought about a chest tattoo of a roaring Bengal tiger or going for a ride on the motorcycle while wearing an eye patch or shaving my head again. I asked Rachel about the tiger tattoo and she looked at me like I had thrown more pictures away. I decided to ride my mountain bike to the gym and do a chest workout.

I crossed on the no walky guy sign though.