Thursday, May 3, 2012

My 33rd Year

I read an article a few weeks ago that said that a study found that 33 is the "happiest" age.

My first reaction?  Well, crap.  I'm 33.  And this year has pretty much sucked.  Am I wasting what is supposed to be the happiest year of my life?

It's just a stupid article.  But it got me thinking.

About myself.  About happiness.  About control.  About letting go.  About life.

(Warning, this is going to be a deep one.)

What is happiness?  Does it come from a compilation of circumstances all lining up in just the right way?  So that BOOM - here it is.  33.  Everything in place.  The pinnacle of happiness.

That seems like a scary way to think of things.  Because it depends so much on external factors. On things you can't control.  It almost makes it seem like happiness hinges on luck - on things going according to plan.

What I have learned in my 33rd year so far is that there is no such things as plans.  And no such thing as control.  So if I can't plan for happiness and can't control the circumstances leading to it, where does that leave me?

Maybe my 33rd year is about learning some lessons.

I have spent the majority of my adult life trying to keep everything under control.  Trying to manage my surroundings.  Trying to plan.  Trying to make sure that everyone is happy, and doing whatever must be done to ensure that.

It has affected all of my life decisions.  Law school, marriage, children, career - the choice to opt out of a career.

Always trying to control.  Always trying to please.

And always beating myself up when I failed at doing both.

Maybe it's time for a paradigm shift.

Maybe it's time to really learn - to really internalize - that nothing really is in my control.  I can plan, I can micromanage, and I can cling to the notion that I can make everything right - that I can make everyone happy.  But at the end of the day, it's futile.

Because things always seem to blow up in my face anyway.

I've been toying with the idea lately that there is no certainty in life.  And when I really think about it, it's terrifying.

You mean you can't guarantee me that we will all be okay?  That we will all be healthy?  And happy?  And prosperous?  And live a fairy tale ending?  

But that's not fair!  I've done everything right!

It doesn't matter.

Someone reminded me the other day that every time that I drive in my car, it could be the end.

And for some reason, it really made me feel better to think of that.

It was liberating.

It's true.

Maybe I can put my hands up.

And stop trying so hard.

Maybe instead of focusing so much on controlling my circumstances, I can focus on the one - the only - thing I can control.  Me.

Maybe my 33rd year is all about becoming a better person.  About channeling all of that energy and effort and frustration into me - which will in turn make me into a better wife, a better daughter, a better mother, a better friend.

And that means I'm going to have to step out of my comfort zone.

It means I'm going to have to stand by and watch other people make mistakes.  Without intervening.  Without trying to fix it.  Because at the end of the day, I can't save anyone from themselves.  And everyone, including my own children, need to learn from their own mistakes.

It means I'm going to have to disappoint people.  And be at peace with that.  Because I can't control how people view me or how people understand me.  I can only be myself.  And not everyone will like me or the things I have to say.

It means I'm going to have to accept that maybe life isn't going to go exactly as I planned.  That maybe things won't have the outcome I want.  And maybe that's okay.

It means I have to accept the things that I can't control.

And focus on the things I can.

As I was talking some of this through with a friend last week, she mentioned a poem she had read once about being on the back of God's bicycle.  If you've read this blog, you know that I am the farthest thing from religious.  FARTHEST THING.  So the fact that I'm about to post a religious poem is kind of weird and out of character.  (And it's all about Jesus.  And I'm Jewish.  But I digress).

But I love the message from it.  That we are all on a ride in this life.  And eventually, we all just have to learn to let life take over the pedals.  And maybe that's what my 33rd year is all about. Maybe, in the most unexpected way, that is what will bring me real happiness.

A Tandem Ride with God

I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.  He was out there, sort of like a president.  I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know Him.  

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal.  I didn't know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat.  He makes life exciting.  When I had control, I thought I knew the way.  It was rather boring, but predictable.  It was the shortest distance between two points.  But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on!  Even though it often looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!"  I was worried and anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?"  He laughed and didn't answer and I started to learn to trust.  I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure.  And when I'd say, "I'm scared," He'd lean back and touch my hand. 

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy.  They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey.  And we were off again.  He said, "Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight."  So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.  

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life.  I thought He'd wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages.  And I'm learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion.  

And when I'm sure I just can't do anymore, He just smiles and says. . . "Pedal." 

- Author unknown.  


  1. P.S. I love your corresponding "labels" below the post.

  2. What Kate said--in both comments!

  3. I don't even remember 33. That article is crap.

  4. Wow - love the poem. And the message behind it.

  5. A friend just told me about your blog because we have a lot in common. I'm also a former big law lawyer turned stay at home mom to 16 month old twin girls, and I'm married to a lawyer. AND I'm 33. Oh and I think a lot too.

    I blog at, and I hope you'll check me out.


  6. I agree. Realizing we have no real control over anything significant in our lives is scary as hell. I'm glad this gives you a sense of freedom...I hope you find more of that, a greater sense of self-absolution, and meaning in the madness in your 33rd year.

  7. I just turned 34 so I feel like I can still comment. Last year was personally a year of huge transition -- my father died, I left my biglaw job, and I have been majorly sick most of the year. Although I had been married for seven years and had two kids it was only last year that I felt like an adult because I faced the scary and survived.

  8. I personally believe that you can be happy at whatever age you are in. It is a state of mind. I enjoyed this post.

  9. This is my favorite post of yours. Good for you.

  10. I'm 34, so I hope I didn't miss my best year... Ha. Anyway, it is true that there's actually so little we can control in life. And focusing on that can both absolutely terrifying and unnerving. But it is so comforting to focus on the fact that we can make certain choices ourselves. I guess the hard part is letting go of the expected results, if that makes sense? Maybe I've had too much wine. Ha. Have missed a few blog posts of yours and am just catching up now. I like this one.

  11. PS, I also think that realizing you are not in control really, really makes you grateful for so much--for each day. At least that's how I felt when I made certain plans and God laughed in my face.


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