The Year of 40: A cold dip full of inspiration

by Christie Browning

**Author's note: This blog series is a year-long installment, which will chronicle the year that I turn 40 with some comical moments, retrospective insights and empowering calls to action.

My mother-in-law, Benita, is pretty awesome. She has to be to put up with my husband Mat... the woman is a saint! (just kidding, Mat. We both love you very much!) When I was dating Mat, he told me I would really like his mom, and he was right. We have a lot of things in common - we both like books and have the same really bad sense of cheesy humor - just to name a few.

When I first got to know Benita, I was impressed with her ability to go against labels associated with age. Although most adult women dream of going back to school, she forged through her education and gained a Master's degree. As more mature women are looking to settle in and kick back, Benita runs after life...literally! She is involved in more fun runs, 5Ks and half marathons, it would make Richard Simmons say "Girl, take a break!"

Benita Browning, my mother-in-law has pledged to make 2017 a year full of new experiences. Her first one - participating in our city's Polar Bear Plunge.

Benita Browning, my mother-in-law has pledged to make 2017 a year full of new experiences. Her first one - participating in our city's Polar Bear Plunge.

However it was when I visited Benita during the holiday season that I was really struck with inspiration. She told me that 2017 was going to be a year where she tried new things. Sitting in her apartment she rattled off a few "new" things she wanted to tackle this year such as taking a drawing class and learning to play an instrument.

There wasn't anything in that scenario that would lead me to believe Benita would truly make this a year of new things. She isn't wealthy or rich, she doesn't have a lot of idle time and she doesn't have a heap of resources like professional musicians or artists in her family. But you couldn't argue with her. Her enthusiasm made me buy all-in to this idea of new experiences. 

It really wasn't the list that impressed me, but it was the excitement that Benita displayed when she started to dream about the new things she would experience. Her whole attitude was "I don't have to be great at it. I just want to get out and try things." That's another thing I really like about Benita, she isn't really afraid of what others think of her. She follows her heart and really enjoys life.

January 1st, Benita kicked off the year with her first "new" experience. She participated in an annual event in our community, the Polar Bear Plunge. Numerous folks gather on the shoreline of our city's river to run headlong into the freezing water. Why? Well, why not? It's been a New Year's Day tradition for years and folks really go all out, wearing costumes and crazy hats even in the coldest of temps. Sure enough, Benita was right in the middle of it. The expression on her face captures so much emotion and truly says a thousand words.... among those are "Wow I'm cold!"

Benita's resolve to try new things leads me to think about my "Year of 40." I've been passionately pursuing things that are tied to my message, my success, and my significance. Now while these are all well and good, I sometimes run right past the new things that could enhance my journey. 

I wouldn't classify myself as a stay-in-my-box type of gal, but I surely haven't made time to incorporate some "newness" in my life. Maybe this "Year of 40," while filled with goals and to-dos, should be about experiencing things....really slowing down to enjoy the things around me, the sights and sounds of life, to taste and touch new things in new ways. I don't know if I will take up a drawing class or learn to play an instrument, but if Benita can work full-time and still make room in her schedule for new things, so can I.  After all, we never age-out of the learning curve.

So here's to Benita's year of experiencing new things. May we all plunge into the real zest of life this 2017. 


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