It has been a beautiful fall but this morning I woke up to swirling snow and a weather advisory warning. As I sit in my chair by the bay window, with the fireplace on and a mug of steaming coffee, I put down my book and decide to write about something that has been on my mind lately. As I fire up my laptop, I see I have posted 99 blogs over the last few years. This would be the 100th post. In my mind I thought wow… Thats quite the milestone. All thoughts of the prior idea went out of my head as I decided this had to be good. Special. The best yet. Because this is numero 100. That’s big. I need it to be profound in some way. Something my twelve followers will stop and say, “Wow. Thats’s deep.” Turns out I am not that deep. Or in any way profound. Because all I can think about is the word milestone.
I have no idea when the idea of milestones started but they are still everywhere on our roads. When I looked up the word on Wikipedia it appears that they were in use as far back as the fourth century. Apparently, the Romans erected them every 1000 paces. But it seems, everyone was doing it. Placing markers along travel-ways so people could groan aloud as they realized they still had far to go in their travels. I am sure even children back in the day were asking “Are we there yet”? The word is self-explanatory as it is literally a stone erected every mile. Plus, the markers made the travelers aware that they were indeed going the right way. Wrong turns back then were probably a much bigger issue than today. I do notice them when I am driving but the reality is I don’t actually pay attention. I could have saved a bit of time last week when my car broke down on my way home from B.C. I called AMA for a tow truck, and she asked if I knew how far I was from the city. She then asked if I could send her a pin-drop and I replied that I had no idea what she was talking about. GPS said I was 32 Km’s from the new Farmers market on the west side of the city. I asked if the dispatcher knew where that was, and she laughed. She lived in a city three hours north of Calgary. She wasn’t familiar with my local landmarks. There was an overpass a few miles back and the GPS map showed the number of the road which was a bit helpful. This helped her in her comments to the driver since he was in a small town close by. Technology up the wazoo and I couldn’t figure out where I was. But I got home and so did my car. It just took a little longer.
So when did this word take on a different meaning? I wish I could tell you but I could find very little about the origin of the actual word as opposed to the concept f the word. If that makes sense. Merriam Websters Time Traveller says the year 1662 but I can’t find an explanation or even how they know the answer to that question. I guess we have to trust them. But the term has become synonymous with attaining goals and accomplishments. Writing my hundredth blog post wasn’t really a goal. It probably isn’t an accomplishment either since it wasn’t something I aimed for. And in my mind an accomplishment is something we must work hard to achieve. I am basically writing a diary for my Grandkids so one day when I am gone, they will know me a bit better. Somewhere I can vent and spew my opinions without fear of backlash. You know I can delete any ugly comments if I want right! Blogs are cool like that.
So why do we attach such importance to things with numbers? Why must we quantify things? And why does it have to be a number ending an a 5 or a zero. Why do we make comparisons at all? Because in some deep-seated odd way we need to know we are doing better. Or getting better. Or in some way praising ourselves for going above and beyond even if we ourselves define the actual terms of above and beyond. Like today. You see, although this is the hundredth blog I will post, it is not the hundredth I have written. I currently have 19 unposted blogs. The thing is I write when I feel like writing and sometimes, I just get bored. Or there are days I feel I am going in circles. Or even the days where the idea just isn’t melding. Sometimes I am so excited about something I have seen on the news but as I write about it, I realize, I have talked myself out of the anger or excitement or happiness I felt with the original idea. I got bored with this one as well as I realized this blog coincides with the three-year anniversary of my husband’s death. That isn’t really a milestone I guess but it kind of threw me in writing because I feel in my heart that I am truly now at a place where I can be happy and content again. I miss him but I am alive still, and ready to live large again. So in a way that is a milestone. I guess.
Like the original mile markers of ancient time, we judge our progress in life by measuring how far we have come. Like my husband’s passing, I can look back and compare my grief today to the feelings I had three years ago. It helps me to understand that even on the days my crying overwhelms me, I do cry less. Over the big picture it seems I am moving forward. Sometime when we set goals, we use different markers to access how we are progressing. I have a blue dress I love. It is very snug but hides some flaws. I have worn it at my heaviest weight and when I was smaller. I gained twenty-six pounds when my husband died. It was covid a bit too. When I finally got serious about losing it, I hung that dress on the door of my closet. I try it on now and again just to see how it feels. And it feels lovely even though I have a few pounds to go. Measurements…scales… we use many ways to judge ourselves in weight loss. This is a more tangible process. We are able to see our performance. Our achievements. It is the same in school. Grades. Report cards. All used to communicate our success or failure. What if we don’t reach those goals? Pass the milestone that we have in our head? It can be a little tricky. But then again, having a moving target is good sometimes. But these are goals we set for ourselves. We still berate ourselves if we have a perceived failure, but it is a failure that we defined. When others set the rules, it can be more structured and yet it can sometimes be harder. Look at AA. Alcoholics anonymous. You stop drinking for a year. But one day you slip up and have a drink. You are now starting back at square one. It is almost like a punishment for not reaching goals set by someone else. That can be a little demoralizing. Children who learn outside of the deemed “correct” way are often not only left behind but are hurt in the process and carry feelings of unworthiness throughout the rest of their lives. Our gifts are different. Unfortunately, if your gifts are not mainstream you have little hope of reaching societies goals. Perhaps that is a sign we need to set our own.
I read something recently about negative milestones. An example given was the 9-11 attack in the United States as well as market crashes and past recessions. It all had to do with the effects on real estate specifically. While I think about it, I don’t see these things as negative milestones but more as blips in the evolution of the world. Nothing is static. There are ups and downs. Hills and valleys. Good times and bad. We must weather them as best we can. Because when so much is out of your control protecting your mental and physical health should always be number one. Interest rates going up cause a great deal of anxiety for people who live life cut close to the bone financially. Worry doesn’t make it better. Making a plan does. Health scares also cause anxiety as we immediately let our minds go to the most negative possibility. It is hard to create a positive mindset when reality can seem so negative. And that my friends, is when you need to set positive goals and make a plan to achieve that milestone.
And so, three years since my husband passed away from pancreatic cancer. One year alone. Two years alone. Three years. Alive and well without my other half. After his diagnoses I never gave up hope. Someone asked me when I would and I replied, “A month after he dies.” I honestly didn’t think he would die. And one day it hit me in the face how seriously ill he was. It was 4 p.m. on a Friday and by Saturday morning, 9 a.m., he was gone. I just never believed it to be true. And when people say the first year would be the hardest, I thought after the first year I would be great. But I wasn’t. Yet that was a milestone people told me about. They were wrong. Year two was not much better. Then I started to look at my own future. Set my own goals. Look at the trajectory of my life regardless of society and their crazy ideas. This third-year anniversary doesn’t represent how long he has been gone. It represents a snapshot of how far I have come. Last week I was at a birthday party for a friend. So many people asked how I was doing. For the first time I didn’t answer that I was fine. I thought before I answered and then from my heart, I told them this. I am doing great. And I am. I now look to the future with joy. I set goals for myself not to define failure or success but in order to have something to work towards. Whether I meet the goal or not isn’t the issue. Because no goals are set in stone for me. If I aim for 100% but only get to 70%, that isn’t a fail in my eyes. I still made great strides. I can then refocus the goal and move forward again. If I aim for 70% I will never do better than that. So, I have learned that shooting for the moon is wonderful even if you only get halfway there. Because that is a personal milestone. One you created for yourself. One you never would have achieved without first making the decision to go for it. Nothing feels better than being proud of yourself. Patting yourself on the back when you look back and think how far you have come. Or as my hubby used to say, “Take an extra attaboy out of petty cash!” You deserve it.