Apparently when you are about to turn 40 people like to ask you how you feel about it. Hmmmm.
I feel f-ing amazing!
I feel like I’ve lived a huge full, mountainous life in my 40 years. There’s been so much childhood pain that I’ve sorted out and growth that has come from the years of hard work in therapy and self-love. I’ve had three children that have flipped my world and priorities and perspective upside-down. They tore me apart and put me back together again as babyhood, toddlerhood and childhood tends to do to a mom. I’ve lived the last 20 years with a man that is the best man I’ve ever met. I tell my kids that I’ve never met anyone that I’ve liked and loved, respected and been connected to like Brent. He is everything.
All this. But also, I’m taking turning 40 as a great big gift to myself. I want to it to be a permission slip to myself to say that I am now a big girl and can say and be and do things without worrying about disappointing people around me. I don’t have to minister to those I want love and acceptance from. I am an adult that makes adult decision and is smart and decisive and responsible and empathetic and discerning and opinionated and unrelenting and open-minded and self-assured and strong. I’ve always wanted to be strong. In this 5ft nothing body, sprinkled with freckles and tiny feet, I’ve always wanted to be taken seriously. I know that this comes from me and has nothing to do with the outside world. These are the things that I want for me at 40.
Oprah used to always ask her guests what they knew to be true. Love that. I thought I’d share my list of things that I’ve learned so far.
1. Empathy is EVERYTHING.
If you cannot empathize with someone, everyone, then try harder. To put yourself in someone else’s shoes is to feel their pain and not live totally in the confounds of your own personal life and experience. It is the greatest gift you can give to a stranger, your children, your friends, the UPS guy, the waitress, the grocery clerk. It is respect, it is seeing outside of yourself for just that brief interaction or long conversation and nodding your head as you listen and imagine what it’s like to be that person. Imagining their pain, their day, they joy, their disappointments. If we are all made for connection as Brene Brown states, then empathy is the thing that ties us together. Without empathy, we are judgmental, critical or apathetic. Without empathy it’s easy to count people out, easy to be self-centered and consumed with our own personal circumstances. To truly love as Jesus loved is to be empathetic. It is the piece that was missing from my own childhood and the thing that I desperately require in my relationships with friends and families.
2. “Doubt means don’t.” – Maya Angelou
I love this Maya Angelou quote. There are so many forks in the road of my life that I just am not sure where I should go at times. Where do I go, what do I say yes to – whether it’s going out to dinner when I’d rather be in my pjs watching Netflix or if I should take on a new client. If I am struggling with a decision, I think of this quote. It’s black and white and ends the mental anguish right there. It basically means, you need more time. You need to let things evolve or play out a bit more. You are not ready to make that decision. It means stop. There are so many crossroads and if there are red flags that we are not ready to admit are flaming, bold, red flags because we are not ready to see them waving at us – then just don’t. Don’t make the decision. Sit, slow down. Pray. Breathe. And don’t.
I think one of the secrets of life and healing that we haven’t quiet taken seriously enough is stillness. We’ve heard this before, we can repeat it, but do we know what it means? I think there is a call to all of us for quiet. Literally sitting still with ourselves. Isn’t it the greatest challenge when you try to do it on your own? But, I do believe it’s where healing starts. I have learned that it’s where the brain can make new, healing pathways and the nervous system can take a break from over-functioning. I think stillness is the one goal that we have not achieved and we are not sure how because to be still is to stop what we are doing and what we are doing seems too important and is important and there’s just never any time! Sigh.
I think of how much we would learn about ourselves if we sat still with ourselves. I think of the people that say it’s impossible and how desperate their bodies and minds are for that very thing. I think of how I try to check things off a list so I can eventually sit down and relax when what I need from the very beginning is just 5 minutes of quiet breathing. Just 5 minutes to recenter myself. I’m a total believer that this activity could cure illness and our own mental anguish if we learned how to do it and made it a practice.
I think we (and me) take ourselves so seriously. We hussel for approval and worthiness (another Brene Brown nugget of truth) and we don’t leave enough time to play. For me, decorating has been play. Setting tea for a tea party and buying vintage tea cups and saucers and all those cute glass candy dishes. I found such joy in this activity and my Dear Therapist told me what I was doing was playing. And it was. It was childlike and joyful. It was a feeling that I don’t feel every day and one that I want to capture and recreate. Playing feels elusive. I think it is different for everyone, for all our unique personalities. What is play to Brent is fixing something or building. What is play to Fiona is turning the music up really loud and dancing. It’s unbridled and something we create for ourselves. It’s unstructured and creative even if we are not creative people. It makes us smile and fills us up. We need more play.
5. Kindness Matters.
Kindness matters. Period.
I turn 40 on September 29th and I am excited. I am excited, optimistic that i can stand a little straighter in the wisdom that I’ve accumulated. I realize I have so much more to learn. I get that. But, I’m on a little higher mountain and it is different than 39 or 35 or 30 or all those fun years of being in the 20s. It’s not as painful as the teenage years or childhood years. I know more. I used to think I knew so much, but it’s nothing like what comes with time and children and age. Duh, Christen.
I always say a little prayer out loud when I’m feeling filled, “God, I don’t know why you’ve always taken care of me. I don’t know what made me special to You that you gave me All. Of. This. But, thank you.” I’m really not sure why I’ve been so blessed. I don’t get it, but I see it. I see it in the little girl that found a way to comfort herself in her bedroom by making it beautiful. I saw it the the pregnancy test of my first child when I had died a million deaths every time I found I was not pregnant. I see it in my marriage when I tingle touching Brent’s hand after 15 years. I have so much more to learn and I am grateful that I am made open to all of it.
I am so open and ready to be more of me and let people see more of me. I think this is where my freedom lies.