India 2016 | Rickshaw Run, Day 10: Forty-Six Happy Birthdays – 13 April

As of today, I am 46. And I am in beautiful Darjeeling, near the foothills of the Himalayas in India — K-2 somewhere in the distance only masked by the fog — with two of my best friends and new friends from the Rickshaw Run dotting the day. We’re about to paint the town red, though it’s already quite colourful.

Sometimes, it’s scary for me to think of it. The number that characterized the terrifying Bears defense of the mid-1980s in Chicago, 46 seems like such a big number. Why? In my twenties, 40 seemed so old, “so far away, so far away from me”. And now that I am in my forties, 20 seems like yesterday, “when all my troubles seemed so far away”. In so many ways, I still feel so very young, that I have only just begun. It seems that there is so much that I have not done; so much for me yet to do. And then I think, there’s so much I have done. More importantly, there’s so much that I have learned.

So what have I learned? Here’s 46, one for every birthday, that I try to embody, to varying degrees of failure and success.

NUMBER 1: Be the creator of your destiny. Don’t be a victim to your circumstances. Are you someone that consistently makes things happen? Or are you someone that seems to have things happen to you?

“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.” – Garth Stein, The Art of Racing In The Rain

NUMBER 2: Choose your life. Choose happiness. Choose love. Yes it’s so very true; we all have a choice.

“To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to.” — Garth Stein, The Art of Racing In The Rain“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” —J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

NUMBER 3: Spend as much time as possible with family and friends. Those are some of the most important, loving and fulfilling relationships you will ever have.

NUMBER 4: Do not be afraid to love. Likewise, do not be afraid of being loved. True love comes from within. Love yourself, and then you will be ready to love another.

NUMBER 5: Tell (and show) the people you love that YOU LOVE THEM. Not only will they be better for it, you will too. During the course of each and every day, I try to communicate love to at least three people. I’ve found that expressing love is just as much for me as it is for them.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

NUMBER 6: Love your parents. The foundation for your future was laid by them; and that foundation was built upon many sacrifices by them. Along those lines, forgive your parents. They are only human, and did the best they could. In the end, it’s their love that will live within you onto the next generation, as the cycle continues.

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them — a mother’s approval, a father’s nod — are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all of their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.” — Mitch Albom, “The Five People You Meet In Heaven”

NUMBER 7: Be gentle with yourself. Learn to forgive yourself. You’re only human; sometimes, we can be our harshest critic. And then extend the same courtesy to others.

“I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.” — La Tzu

NUMBER 8: Keep your eyes open. Open your heart.

“Love wins. Love always wins… So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they are busy doing things they think are important. This because they are chasing after the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”* — Mitch Albom, “Tuesdays With Morrie”

NUMBER 9: Look at the world thru a child’s eye. Their eyes may be more innocent than ours, and yet they are significantly more perceptive and far more accurately cut through to the truth unencumbered by the biases bred with age.

NUMBER 10: “Root, root, root for the home team. Cos if they don’t win, it’s a shame.” Love your teams like you did when you were a kid. Notre Dame will win the college football national championship! The San Francisco 49ers will win the Super Bowl! The Cubs are going to win the World Series! (Ok, truthfully speaking, I grew up a Dodgers fan and Red Sox fan; and I still love those teams, but I fell in love with the Cubbies in 2003. This could be their year.)

NUMBER 11: Look at the world through a dog’s eye. They only know love. They only want you.

NUMBER 12: Listen. Listen. Listen. There’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth. Be the ears for those that need them. Thank those ears that you trust and respect. Those ears have helped you in more ways that you know.

NUMBER 13: Take time to thank the people in your life that should be thanked. We are standing on the shoulder of giants. Acknowledge your own accomplishments. Thank those that helped you get there.

NUMBER 14: Your attitude towards the world will shape your perspective of the world.

NUMBER 15: When you laugh, laugh with all of your heart. Laugh lines love life.

NUMBER 16: True self-confidence is infinitely attractive. Arrogance is infinitely ugly.

NUMBER 17: Travel. Travel. Travel. Travel your city. Travel your state. Travel your country. Travel the world. Meet people; meet lots of them. Put yourself out there for new adventures.

NUMBER 18: If you can paint, then paint your masterpiece. If you can write, then write the story of your life. If you can sing, then sing loudly and passionately with your heart. If you can run, run like the wind. If you can play ball, then hit it out of the park. If you can add, then invent. Don’t let your talents go to waste.

NUMBER 19: Don’t waste time or energy on regret. Regret never gives back. Ever.

NUMBER 20: Don’t waste time or energy on hate.

“Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from the inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves… No one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it.” — Mitch Albom, “The Five People You Meet In Heaven”

NUMBER 21: Don’t waste your time worrying about the things you cannot control. “Let it go. Let it go!” Cue the music.

NUMBER 22: Don’t judge others. Unless you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, you have no idea the circumstances that brought someone else to a particular situation or decision. Besides, being judgmental is being ugly.

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

NUMBER 23: Stop trying to keep up with the Jones. They are just trying to keep up with the Johnsons anyways. And the Johnsons are trying to run with the Smiths. And they’re all running after the Wangs and Kumars. It’s never-ending.

NUMBER 24: It’s ok to escape into a book or into the movies when you have a moment; we can learn from fantasy.

NUMBER 25: It’s ok to take time off. Rest is good for the mind, body, heart and soul. Slowing down can be a good thing. Just don’t slow down to the point of not moving.

NUMBER 26: Pray for love and peace.

NUMBER 27: NO is not always a bad word. YES is not always a good word.

NUMBER 28: Go outside. Go play. Enjoy nature, for its the gift that keeps on giving.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. As long as this exists and it certainly always will, I know that there will always be comfort for every sorrow. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” – read by Audrey Hepburn

NUMBER 29: Because tomorrow is not promised to anyone, take the time to enjoy the sun rise. Later, thank the day by watching the sun set, and the moon rise in its stead.

NUMBER 30: Invest in experiences not things. And when you experience it, experience it fully. Experiences will last a lifetime; things but a speck in time.

NUMBER 31: Stop to smell the roses. Appreciate all the things that you pass by in life, not just the big things but also little. They are far bigger than you think.

NUMBER 32: Stop kidding yourself when you say you don’t have the time. We all have the time; we make the time to do the things we want. If you don’t have the time, it just means that something else took priority. And that’s ok.

NUMBER 33: Don’t let politics and the media rule your world or dictate your friendships. Politicians and the media these days only serve to divide; you’re playing into their hands. They don’t know you. They do not care about you. Besides, it’s more like reality TV than reality TV.

NUMBER 34: “Allow yourself to be YoU!!! Unique is key;)” — words from a dear friend

NUMBER 35: “Find pleasure in everything you do. Mindfulness is key….” — words from the same dear friend

NUMBER 36: Don’t let candles rule your life. Don’t be confused by your age of what is “expected” of you versus what you want for yourself.

NUMBER 37: To gain trust, be trustworthy. To garner respect, be respectful. To receive love, be loving.

“You see, you closed your eyes. That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too — even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re falling.” — Mitch Albom, “Tuesdays With Morrie”

NUMBER 38: Live your life with enthusiasm. Live your life with passion.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson …“Laughing in starlight. Basking in sunlight. Dancing at midnight.” – Julia Quinn

NUMBER 39: The world needs more heroes. Be a hero.

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve

NUMBER 40: Wear your humility like a warm blanket outside your skin. Wear your confidence tucked inside it. —again my dear friend is infinitely wise

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ―C.S. Lewis

NUMBER 41: Don’t wait to tell someone what and how much they mean to you. Treat every day as if today were their funeral. Why is it that we wait until someone’s funeral to have a gathering of loved ones to say nice, wonderful things of the departed? Why wait? Wouldn’t that be too late?

NUMBER 42: Fail. Fail fast. Fail as often as you can. Every failure brings us that much closer to realizing our full potential. Those that have never failed, have never tried.

“Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” — from Batman Begins

NUMBER 43: Be honest and genuine in all your interactions with others. Doing so is a testament to your character and will build upon the foundation of your legacy.

NUMBER 44: Do something that scares you, that gets you out of your comfort zone, however big or however small.

NUMBER 45: What if today were my last day on Earth? Celebrate every day as if it were your birthday. Celebrate every day as if it were your last day. Live like you were dying.

NUMBER 46: Be nice. Be kind. Be good. These overused words are also the most underrated and undervalued. They mean so much and they are so powerful.

On my tombstone or on my urn, I want it to read

“Cecil J Puvathingal.
He wasn’t a great man.
Instead, he was a good man.”

last line
is for anything that I have yet to learn, which I am quite certain
will be a lot. TBD.

One of my closest friends reminded me that the moment you break out into the world is your first birthday, and every year after on that day the anniversary of that first birthday. With that in mind, I add number 47.

NUMBER 47: Try new things. Explore. Get outside of your comfort zone. Do something that scares you, however big or however small. It’s ok to be scared, but don’t let fear rule your world. For example, I’m scared (actually petrified) of heights, and yet I have hiked mountains, rappelled down a cliff, gone parasailing, jumped off a trapeze, and jumped out of an airplane, thinking that any one of those activities would cure my acute fear. None did. What I discovered was that I am not afraid of being afraid. 

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