How I Use My Birthday to Plan Life and Death

It’s my birthday month. I know a few people that make it a month long celebration but I’m not that person. I might be too intense for those shenanigans.

I spend a couple of weeks looking for my perfect birthday gift. I don’t plan what I’ll do. It doesn’t usually work out the way I want it to when I do. It didn’t work out with my ex, and now my kids are set in what they will and will not do.

February is the month when I celebrate my next lap around the sun, rather than the last one I just completed. It’s an opportunity to jump into this next year with a sense of direction and excitement.

I spend a few days dreaming big. It’s a time to think of the ways the year felt amazing and the ways I wanted more than I experienced. The thing about a dream is it hasn’t happened yet. No matter how big or small you dream, you get to create what you imagine. Why not dream big? It’s the difference between dreaming of a slice of cheesecake and owning the shop that makes them all day. You don’t have either in front of you and you get to create the steps to get the goal you’re after. It sounds silly until you imagine the ways you stop yourself from dreaming big. I didn’t dream big as a child. My only life goal was to make enough money to hire someone to clean up after me. It’s a gift I’ve handed onto my kids. At Christmas I saw how I have been living in scarcity to the point where my kids asked for permission to dream of a wish list. I get to dream big so they can see we limit ourselves and we don’t have to.

My first big goal is a trip to Canada. Kid1 wants to go to Canada and I would love to take my boys. That means getting passports and there are steps and documents I need for that. I need to figure out where he wants to go which is hard right now. He’s not talking to me. He hates the idea I have a boyfriend that I want him to get to know. I’m giving him space for a few days, but Canada is about him so we have to find space to make amends. I get to figure out the finances when the single parent rodeo is a difficult and expensive ride and I’m a temp that hops from agency to agency when opportunities present themselves. And permission. I get to see if their Dad will allow me to travel out of the state, let alone the country. There are goals and steps and I get to figure them out and step into each task.

I work out the kinks in my planner. My planner is really just a 3 ring binder with months broken up. Rather than a budget, I set up what is due and when it’s due because bills are my reality. I have goals set to tackle certain things as a priority. I have things listed I want to experience, and I have steps broken down. It outlines my goals, but also my 18-month plan. I have sections for my kids, and finances, goals, what I need to do, field trips and reading lists. The hard part for me is deciding what I can do each day to work toward those goals. It’s easy to procrastinate.

Normally my Christmas task is to write letters but I didn’t get to it at Christmas, so I’m doing that this month as well. I write letters to my loved ones so they have my final words if I unexpectedly die. I keep track of things I would add to my obituary, so it’s easier for whoever gets to arrange that, but I also write letters to my siblings and nieces. Unlike the times when I’ve been depressed and suicidal, writing this out (in it’s morbid glory) is the one way I’m thinking of others.  When suicidal, I was incapable of thinking about others or beyond the next hour.

What is amazing is how the thought of dying really makes you appreciate what you have in living and it often makes me have conversations I would normally put off. It’s a way to force myself to clear the air and be present in my relationships. It’s a way to show my family how much I love them, even when I don’t make time for them in my selfishness.

February is my month to shoot forward into the next year and it looks like a month of planning.

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