Birthdays and Black Clouds

It’s almost my birthday. I know that’s not terribly exciting news, or even something that you care about. Frankly, I’m at the age where I don’t really care about it very much myself.

It’s almost my birthday, though, and this year that feels pretty monumental.

I remember when I turned thirty. It was a dark, horrible day. (I’m not referring to the weather, but my state of mind.) It wasn’t the number I cared about, or the age – no, all I kept thinking about is what I had hoped to accomplish by the time I was that age, and the things I hadn’t done. It wasn’t my fault, really – I didn’t have time for them.

“I’ll do that as soon as the kids are a little older.”

“Maybe when I’m not quite so busy.”

That was still my state of mind about this time last year when it was almost my birthday. Maybe that’s you, too, and each new day will be a new excuse for not doing that thing.

The thing you desperately want to pursue.

The thing that makes your heart ache.

The thing that is your passion.

You see, last year on my birthday, something inside me came alive. A little fire that started as almost nothing, but held a promise. I could settle into the comfort of my excuses and feel the same dark clouds at forty, fifty, and beyond. I could sit and dream about what would happen in the future, when I finally had time to pursue my dreams. Or, I could give it my best shot and have no regrets.

That birthday started a journey. As I’m sitting here thinking about the events of the previous year, it’s easy to be grateful for the road I’ve walked, or the progress I made, or the end results. Those aren’t the things I’m most thankful for, though. In my heart, I know the absolute, most important thing was the instant I looked out over the horizon at the great distance ahead, with fear at the uncertainties, but chose to say, “It begins here.”

Stepping out is terrifying – I can attest to that fact. I well remember how nervous I felt a couple months later, sending that email to the wonderful friend who is now my editor: “Can I ask you for a huge favor? I’ve written a novel…” There will be people who want you to fail – not because you’re doing something they wish they could do, but simply because you’re doing something. Period. They will want you to fail because they’re sitting on the couch, staring at the dark end of their own magic number, telling themselves they don’t have time.

You want to know a secret? I don’t have time, either. I work forty hours a week and have two beautiful children. We have ball practice, and birthday parties to attend, and laundry that piles up for weekend folding smorgasbords. I do most of my writing with some kind of macho shooting movie playing on TV in the background, or with loud guitar riffs coming from another room. I wrote the last pages of my third book while my son was farting in his hand and throwing it at me. Do you know how difficult it is to try to portray your hero in a romantic light while someone is farting on you?

None of it has been easy. “This year, I’m going to publish a novel,” I vowed. One year later…

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Think about your “thing” – think about it really hard. You don’t need a magic number on the calendar. All you need is a starting point and a little pinch of courage. If you need somebody to give you a push – I’m all ears and would be happy to shove you. 🙂

Dare to live a life without regrets. I promise, you won’t be sorry.

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