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Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. (Samuel Ullman)

If that’s true, I’ll never have a wrinkly soul. To my delight (and sometimes to my chagrin), one of the ways that people tend to describe me to someone I haven’t met yet is thus: “Carolyn? Well, she’s, um…enthusiastic.” Like a terrier (which is what they kindly leave off).

When I was a little girl, I truly remember thinking that life was going to be way too short to do all that I hoped to, to feel all that I longed to, to take part in all that I dreamed of. The result was that I ate life up with two spoons instead of one, and gobbled all that I could, whenever I could. When I start to recount where I’ve been and how I came to be standing in front of a newer friend, invariably, they say, “Just how old are you?”

Good. That means that I’ve crammed a lot in there. And all of it was fueled by enthusiasm. It was fueled by gusto. It was fueled by passion, longing, desire, and interest.

I’ve found that with each passing year, there are two things I’m most grateful for. The first is that with age, comes a refining of where I want to spend that currency. Even I possess finite amounts of energy, vigor and enthusiasm (even though I don’t like to admit it), and I become less and less inclined to waste it on things that don’t inflame me, invigorate me, invest back in me, and intrigue me. The second is that I am infinitely grateful for whatever that year held – even if it’s not right away.

I would not change a moment of what I’ve done, what I’ve said, what I’ve chosen. Not even the ugly ones, because some of them have led to the most unanticipated and beautiful outcomes.

So today is another birthday. And I’ll celebrate it in my usual fashion – quietly and without a lot of fuss. I’ll look forward to eating dinner at my folks’ on Sunday (the usual request – spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting). And I’ll make some wishes and dream some dreams.

I wish that the coming year is

Joyful

Full of new friends

Deepens relationships with treasured friends

Brings me wisdom

Brings me two scoops of life for every one I have requested

Full of passion and enthusiasm

Just as beautiful as every year that’s come before, and every year I hope to follow.

Mostly, every year I wish that I never stop loving life. I wish that I am never weary of people – but that I continue to be endlessly fascinated by them. I wish that each experience deepens me in some way. I wish that all the joy, sorrow and triumph of my days leaves its mark on my spirit. I wish for a life that is round and full and burgeoning. And, I wish to remember that (in the immortal wisdom of the Stones): You can’t always get what you want, and if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)