I’ve had a rough week. Due to a stressful situation, there’s been tears, sleepless nights (it’s 3:30 am now), panicky-PTSD episodes, and a whole mix of feelings. I’m not a night person, so it’s been strange and new to be awake in the middle of the night so much. As hard as it’s been, I’ve been having some amazing epiphanies, so I’m embracing the silver lining in this cloud.

I’m also on the verge of turning 50 on Tuesday, so reflections and new awareness is all a part of the package right now. It’s a big milestone, half a century, and a time of great change for me as my kids are all young adults and growing into their own lives. We’re not empty-nesters quite yet, but things have shifted much at home, and soon we will be. After years of pouring my physical and emotional energy into raising kids, I’m poking my head up and looking around. What’s next? What will I do? Who do I want to be?

Tonight, after 4 hours of precious sleep (hey, I’ll take it!) I woke up and lay in bed, trying to fall back again. My problem is my mind starts thinking, and it’s hard to shut it off. Tonight I’m kind of glad it happened, though, because it was another epiphany, a big one. Let me tell you a little story about it….

Photo by Ayanna Muata of Waning Moon Photography; flower crown by Gennie Alberti

Photo by Ayanna Muata of Waning Moon Photography

On Saturday we had a 50th birthday party for me at The People’s Gallery, our gallery in St. Paul. It was a great night, and I’d requested friends bring a poem to share, something they wrote, something they loved, funny or sweet, whatever. I felt a little awkward asking at first (oh no, what if people don’t like poetry!), but then I decided to go for it, see what happened. And it was truly lovely—some friends wrote poems to and for me, some shared their favorites, I read my poem for the occasion (you can read it here), and we got to hear some wonderful stuff. It was sweet and humbling to have so many people come to help me celebrate.

Tonight as I lay in bed trying to get back to sleep, I thought about my friend Ann (hi Ann!) who came to the party. She’d had a full and busy day– she drove 3 hours south with her father and family to scatter her mother’s ashes and visit with relatives, drove 3 hours back, and then came to my party, reading the limerick she wrote for me, hanging out and visiting awhile. Wow, I thought tonight, that’s some pretty big stuff, 6 hours of driving and family visits and then making the time to come to my party. That would have sounded like Way Too Much to me. Exhausting and overwhelming are words that come up for me a lot, and I pre-judge days like that for myself. It hit me that my old habitual patterns of fear and worry and control— well-learned by circumstances in my formative years—often cause me to Say No to things in life… or if I Say Yes, I do it with a lot of anxiety, trepidation and hand-wringing.

Ann seemed to take this all in stride, a quality I’ve noticed about her before. Of course, I’m not in her head, but it seems to me that my intrinsic worry and fear are not so much a part of her process. It seems to me that Ann has a pattern of Saying Yes. Then I thought about my husband Bob, who’s been on a kick for the last several years of doing new things like performing, learning to sail, joining the Renaissance Festival, becoming a photographer… Saying Yes, being open, giving it a go and seeing what happens.

Poetry Reading at the Party

Poetry Reading at the Party

Of course, I have Said Yes to many things, but sometimes timidly, or with a process of anxiety and worry. Bob has planned several great trips for us, and I give myself credit for Saying Yes. I know enough that I wouldn’t want to miss out on adventures like these because I’m too afraid, but every time, I squeeze that Yes for dear life, because of too much worry and anxiety, needless suffering.

So today, the day before I turn 50, I realize that I want to be like Ann and Bob and many others I know—I want to Say Yes to life. I’m not sure I can just toss off worry and fear so easily, but I want excitement and a “what the heck” attitude to be a bigger part of it. Saying No or holding myself back hasn’t led to much happiness for me. It’s made my life smaller, more hunched, less fun. I want to be open.

So, thanks to another night of partial insomnia, I’m up and blown away by this new concept. I woke up and Said Yes to blogging in the wee hours; I’m Saying Yes to a new day. Despite the hard times lately, I’m looking forward to it. I’m open. We’ll see what happens.

Rainbow  During the Party (ordered and photographed by Bob Alberti)

Rainbow During the Party (ordered and photographed by Bob Alberti)