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Yesterday, on the eve of my birthday, while working out on the treadmill, I noticed something profound outside of the window: an elderly lady on a walker was slowly, gingerly, carefully making her way down a steep sidewalk. At first I was worried that she might stumble and fall, and  I contemplated running out of the hotel and across the street to rescue her (I have a soft spot for senior citizens because they always remind me of my dearly departed grandparents). But I stayed where I was, and kept my eye on her and watched every small and calculated step she took until she made it down the hill and onto the level sidewalk where she was more sure-footed and started walking more quickly.

A gift to myself

The sweet little elderly lady taking a stroll.

She’d made it. And even though I didn’t know her, I was happy.

But why?

Because watching that lady as I approached my 42nd birthday reminded me of what life is all about: continuing to move forward, regardless of what may lie ahead–whether the road is slow and steady or risky and unknown. The goal is to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, no matter the terrain, until we reach steady ground.

That’s how I’m going to live my life–starting right now, in this 42nd year that God has blessed me to experience.

Birthdays are a great time for introspection. I view them as my personal new-year celebration, and a time to set resolutions and goals.  As I reflect on my life over the last year, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in many areas. But I’m a work in progress, and I still have a long way to go. My journey, however, is a good one, and like that sweet little elderly lady, I may sometimes travel down (or up) a steep hill, but I’m determined to embrace everything that comes my way. Everything is an opportunity for growth, change, improvement and that’s how I look at my life now.  I’m constantly evaluating what I have done, what I can do better, and what I need to transform completely. Self-awareness has become a dear companion of mine because it’s the first step in living consciously. And living consciously is the first step in living the absolute best life.

Speaking of living the absolute best life, my husband and I recently attended the funeral of a dear friend’s mother. We’d never had the pleasure of meeting her, but those who spoke at the service painted the most beautiful picture.  Each person spoke about a life that had overflowed with countless acts of kindness, gestures of love, lighthearted fun, and, most importantly her very existence had penetrated the hearts and souls of the people around her. I’d never met her, but I was moved to tears. Listening to the tributes I felt as if I’d known our friend’s mom, and I loved her just because of the beautiful person she was and the way she’d affected and influenced others. I was sad for our friends and deeply touched that they had shared their lives with such an extraordinary woman.

To me, this is what life is all about: what we do with our existence, how we help and touch others; how folks will remember us, and how our lives will matter once we’re no longer on this earth.  At this stage in my life it’s hard to go to a funeral and not think about my own funeral (sorry to sound morbid on my birthday, but just follow me for a minute).  What will people say about me? How will I be remembered? How will my existence matter? How did I use the talents and blessings that God had bestowed upon me so graciously? And most of all, after I’m gone, what will God, my children and family think of me and the life I lived? These questions serve as a daily reminder to get up and keep going–just like the elderly lady– even when the road isn’t straight. KEEP GOING. GIVE LIFE YOUR ALL.

So today, on my 42nd birthday, I am gifting myself with a renewed mindset: I’m going to keep going and give life my all. I am going to continue my journey of focusing on my health and improving it in all aspects: physically (with my trainer and vegan diet); mentally (with meditation); and spiritually (with yoga). I’m going to continue helping others every single day, as I believe this is part of my purpose on earth. Day by day I’m going to continue finding ways to be the best mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, Godmother and friend. I am going to pour my all into my life while I am blessed to have it.

In the last year, I have lost a dear uncle; a very dear friend to breast cancer at age 45; and a childhood friend to breast cancer at 40.  Another friend was diagnosed with a debilitating disease at 43; two relatives of a close friend suffered a mild heart attack and a stroke respectively; and several college classmates and friends died in their early 40’s. So I’ve learned not to take life for granted because it isn’t promised.  Today I vow to God that every day I’ll do the absolute most with the wonderful life He’s blessed me with.  I’ll let go of the small things and minor annoyances and focus instead on the things that matter.

Today on my birthday, I’m well aware that life is the greatest blessing of all!  I’m filled with gratitude; I have no complaints.  I have a renewed sense of determination and resolve to keep walking up (or down) the hills of life with tenacity, vigor, zest, faith and love.

Cheers to life!