40-Learnings from a life lived this far

I’m turning 40 in two days and it’s a funny age.  I remember being a little girl and going into the card aisle at the drugstore and seeing all of those dark ‘Over the Hill’ balloons and decorations.  40 was the age of the Grim Reaper and buzzards.  The colors were gray and black and sometimes a little zinger of silver. 


Thankfully this is not how our culture receives this age anymore.  Old is truly a state of mind and I’m incredibly grateful that I still feel wild and vital.  Maybe not every day but more days than not. 


40 definitely feels reflective and I wanted to chronicle some bits that I’ve picked up along the way.  Most lessons are hard won.  These were for me. 


They did not come easily.  They came from walking through the fire and rising from the ashes, again and again and again.  Even when I cursed the fire and everyone involved. 


Still we rise though right?  This is what we do.  Revel in the astonishing beauty that is life.  Bow to the sheer magnificence of our spirit that we can Just.  Keep.  Doing.  It. 


You are the only permission you need.

This is your life!  So difficult to remember sometimes!  We are conditioned to bend and shape ourselves from a very early age.  This smile and dance will win me love.  This silence will win me love.  This achievement will win me love.  YOU will win you love!  Stop waiting.  Stop biting your tongue.  Stop waiting for approval.  Stop waiting for someone to give you the go ahead.  You have permission to feel, to speak, to dance, to express, to write, to love, to soar.  We have so many carefully constructed ‘no’s’ built into our existence that we might not even realize they are there.  Who are you living for?  Who says you can’t? 


Light is inextricably linked with dark. 

This was the most grind me down to the bone lesson of all.  We had a loss in our family that took us down to our knees.  Shocking, ugly and brutal.  There was a definitive before and after for each of us.  It dismantled everything and we were completely rearranged cell by cell.  But right on the heels of this big awful thing, was this deluge of love.  More kindness, recognition, honesty, warmth, truth, stories, gifts, care taking, connection, love, love and more love.  This gold was the counterbalance to the darkness.  It was joined at the hip.  There was no way that life was going to allow the scales to tip too far into the shadow without mercy.  I can see it now for everyone that is encountering their own Hard Big Thing.  The light is always attached and will show you the way out. 


Actions speak louder than words.

Pretty words without action are just…pretty words.  Actions indicate a person’s capacity or lack of capacity.  Actions tied to a person’s word equal a human being who is in integrity with you and themselves.  Quite an effective measuring stick in all human relationships. 


Relationships will be shed as you grow.

If you are reading this, I know that you are at least somewhat turned on by personal development.  So as we live and learn and grow and figure out how to take better care of ourselves, we change.  Our standards for how we are treated by others, what is acceptable for us, what we feel we deserve and whom we invite in can begin to change.  Relationships can be built on shared history or shared time or wonky power dynamics.  These can start to crumble when we realized we want to be heard or take up more space or only have mutually emotionally nourishing experiences.  The people who stood next to us when we were 18 years old won’t necessarily be able to stand next to us in our personal evolution twenty years later.  Partnerships may break apart in service of both parties and the Universe will send you new allies!


Mindset is the most powerful tool we have. 

One of my favorite yoga teachers recently said to me, “The only difference between an adventure and a disaster is your attitude.”  We get to choose how we see things.  We get to decide if we give something an empowering meaning or a ‘this just proves the world is against me’ meaning.  Even when life is feeling really difficult or you’ve received bad news, we still have so much to be grateful for.  We choose the lens that we view the world by and it will serve us up what we choose to see.  Choose to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all when it’s hard.  Find gratitude that you are still breathing and because you are alive, you can do almost anything. 


Everyone’s always got a lot going on.

In any group of one or two or more, on any given day, you will find a room of tender hearts.  We’ve all got something we are grappling with whether it is a sick parent, a recent loss, a confusing relationship, a mind steeped in anxiety or insecurity.  You will still see people smile and go on about their lives, appearing as if they are “fine.”  It usually just takes the right question or a kind inquiry to pull the thread that unravels the carefully composed self.  You are never alone even though it may feel that way.  There is another bruised heart that is longing to drop the façade just like you. 


Don’t take advice from people who aren’t living their dreams (if you want to).

There will never be any shortage of people who will tell you why it won’t work.  Your job is to find the people who are making it work and learn everything you can from them.  You have to break your own ground when doing something that is outside of the norm.  You have to stomp through the grass to create your own path.  It is wild and wooly and crazy and fun and very hard…but very worth it.  In the end you will have created a life from your own imagination. 


Receiving is hard.

This one.  Wow.  I’ve been working on this one my whole life and more pointedly in the last couple of years.  You would think this would be an easy one but there are so many layers in the way of just taking in what someone else is giving!  For me this was about not being good enough.  Like, I’m not “perfect” yet and I’m going to wait for that day when I feel worthy but I’m just going to keep moving the goal posts on that one so that I never receive anything.  Oof.  Exhausting.  The lesson repeats as needed though so this was my major end of decade life lesson.  I had to ask for help over the past few days.  It was embarrassing.  I felt silly and it was hard.  It went against my norm of being a one-woman show.  That show is closed though because she’s tired.  Not surprisingly (but surprisingly to my small self!), my people wanted to help me!  And it wasn’t a big deal!  They were happy to do it!  Be in service and receive in service.  You’re worth it.  I’m worth it.  Take the compliment.  Receive the gift and the help and the kindness.  Don’t deprive someone else the joy of making life easier for you.