It never ceases to amaze me what different people we are between being 20, 30 and 40. I had always heard that at 40, you are finally at the point where you discover who you really are, what you want in life, how to go about it, and, perhaps most importantly, how little superfluous things and people mean to your life. You realize that the clock on life is ticking and you're not going to waste your energy on those things and people.
So these are some things I've learned, and just want to share them. I've read over the handwritten words of this list I've made several times, to serve as a reminder. I may be 40, but I'm just getting started!
Things I know at 40:
1. Age REALLY IS just a number. It is all in how you care for yourself, physically, emotionally and spiritually that matters. I have, as a nurse, seen people in their early 20's who look like they could get the senior discount at the movies, and 80 year olds who look like are rocking their 50's well.
2. Traveling will heal your soul. After one of the worst experiences of my life, I recall saying, "I need to get out of here. I need to see something new and I can't keep doing this. Pack it up." And after that, I spent a year (think Eat, Pray, Love style) on the east coast, a completely different environment than I was accustomed to. I just WENT. And it was amazing! I met some of my favorite people in the world between living in Maine, Maryland and Florida. And what I found at the end of that journey was that I had cleared my head to the point I could make the tough decisions I needed to make, and was stronger than ever.
3. Pain will grow you. Society tells us to AVOID pain, go AROUND it. If we want to grow, we FACE it and walk THROUGH it. And it can be the most challenging thing in the world. BUT, suddenly you're a new person with the ability to do things you didn't think you ever could. (I spent a year alone, spent two a single mom, and completed Tough Mudder during that time). After all that, I was a new person, in the best way. I knew the only way was through it and though I fought that truth, I did it anyway, scared.
4. I can, potentially, do everything, but that doesn't mean I should. And I don't want to. Then stumbled on this on Elizabeth Gilbert's Facebook page this week. Enough said.
5. Learn to say "no" for yourself. Don't be afraid to ruffle feathers. If people don't like your "no", so what? Really! SO WHAT? We answer to no one but God and ourselves/spouses. Own your "No"!
6. EVERYTHING feels better after a good sleep. Nothing heals emotional heebie-jeebies, a crying jag, fear, sadness better than a solid 8. Your mind is clearer to make good decisions. Forget the all-nighters of yore.
7. Things will not ALL be ok, but most will. And the ones that aren't ok, will eventually feel ok, or at least able to be dealt with. If time takes care of it, don't stress it.
8. Happiness is not attainable, but joy is. Happiness is a constant striving for something that is as fleeting as our emotional state of the day. Joy is intrinsic, developed inside and radiating outwardly. It is a result of a spirit of gratefulness, even for the tiny little things of each day. (Today I'm thankful for my iced green tea, a good hike and a chill coffee house where I am writing next to the other writer in my life, my husband. Therefore, JOY).
9. I really don't care what people think of me anymore. This isn't Kingman High School. Don't like me, something I say, something I believe, the way I live? Don't care. I will live my creative life and truth as I see fit. I have a right to be here.
10. I am a writer. You are a ___________. What is it? Name it! I am not a writer because I am published (yet), or making a living off of it. I am a writer because it was placed inside me, I chose not to ignore it, and it won't leave me alone. I have spent so much time saying "when I'm a writer, I'm not a writer, I can't do this" and on and on....but that's a LIE. I think about it many times a day. I observe things on a level that a lot of people don't get, and can't ignore it. It will never go away, nor do I want it to. I have to feed it and cultivate it until it blossoms into that THING, that thing that makes me breathe.
What won't leave you alone? Pick up that paintbrush, that pencil, whatever it is, and CREATE.
11. Church, and the relationships in them, are not a building or a formula to be followed. I learned a lot through some rough experiences, and realize now that the church is the PEOPLE, and it is dependent on real, open and heart-level relationships. Not scripture spouting and legalism. "Do this and this works out". There is no formula. God is simply love, whether our version of "happy love" or tough love. All that matters is being that to other people. The end.
12. Sex is better. Just saying, no details required. We've finally figured things out. Get it, girl!
13. Be authentic. Don't be fake, people see through it and won't trust you or share with you. You won't have deep friendships and your marriage will be surface level. No one wants fake butter, cheese or people in their lives.
14. Speaking of, have a few close girlfriends (or guy friends, guys) that know just about everything. You will need them. They will support you, cry with you and celebrate with you. And be there for them. You don't need 6,000 facebook friends. You just need your girl tribe. (Or guy tribe). Equal opportunity blogger here.
15. No one knows everything or has all the answers. Choose your counsel wisely. Run from shitty advice.
16. Moisturizing is EVERYTHING at 40. So however you can, buy the good stuff to slather on your face. (I'm slightly addicted to the Philosophy skin care line, and LOVE YouthCode by L'oreal). I started using Oil of Olay at 13 (thanks Mom!), and I have never been told I look older than 30. So far. And use shea butter for your skin. that's all.
17. Get your yearly pap smear and mammogram. And DO your monthly breast exams and testicular exams. Because they will potentially save your life. Period. Don't ever ignore your body when there are signs that something is amiss. I've taken care of loads of ER patients who came in too late.
18. At 40, hopefully, you have lost the ability to willingly engage in drama. And if you're starting it, STOP IT. Let the 22 year olds corner that market. Be a big girl (or boy) and mind your business. Simple.
19. You will have to cut some people out of your life, for your own self preservation. You have to do this for your sanity, your marriage, your family, your work.....whatever it is. Don't let people outside of your tribe suck the life out of you. Put up your border fence and stand guard, baby.
20. See a counselor when you go through rough patches. It's ok, really. They will give you tools and insight to deal with the people and situations you are encountering.
21. I am not my children's entertainer or enabler. My son and daughter know how to entertain themselves and fuel their creativity. They don't need me constantly hovering. They also know that in some situations, I won't bail them out. They have to suffer their own consequences. Because that will teach them how to respond when they realize the world will not cater to their expectations. Reality will be a lot less harsh.
22. Eating healthy and being active, however speaks to you, is much more important than looks. But that doesn't mean I'm not going out with fabulous hair and makeup and kick-ass shoes. There is a balance. But I won't stress my body with toxic habits, chemicals or lack of activity. I want to be here a while.
23. Husbands are worthy of being built up and cherished just as much as wives are. They have fragile egos and need our respect, adoration and love as much as we do. Check yo'self.
24. Realize that everyone is screwed up somehow. Offer them grace with that in mind. Don't make life harder for them, like the quote says, we are all fighting a tough battle. Proceed with caution.
25. Accept your past. You don't have to hide what you've been through or what's happened to you. You can say it. It's yours to talk about, and it's brought you to your exact place right now. Own it.
26. Appreciate nature that surrounds you. We are hooked on hiking. It is as much a spiritual journey and quality time together as it is exercise. Notice the beauty in it. Take a screen break. God is a much better artist than any of us. Go outside and BREATHE. Enjoy. Listen to the QUIET. At 40, shutting out the noise can feel like the most rejuvenating thing in the world.
27. The smart guys, the introverted and quiet ones, are the real catches. If there is one thing I can vouch for, it's THIS! Tell your daughters. Like, NOW.
28. Your parents retiring will terrify you, as will your child turning 13. Especially if they happen close together. That's when you realize, "Oh sweet Jesus, I'm THAT generation. The in-between one."
29. Relationships will be deeper, if you've thrown off pretentious fake-ness left over from your 20's. You will have a voice, and your real friends will tell you the truth. In theory. If they know they can. Otherwise you're a 19 year old in a 43 year old body. Not cute.
30. Your relationship with your mother should be better. You're not the brat she once wanted to strangle, she's not yet the old lady who tells you about her last bowel movement. With any luck. Win-win.
31. Regret is an absolute waste of time. It's done, over. Maybe it should have never happened. But it's behind you. Regret is a time and energy waster. Look up, and before you. Not behind. Unless there's a murderer.
32. Just accept people, people. They're not going to listen to your diatribe on who you think they should be. Just extend love and get over yourself. And don't listen to anyone who doesn't accept you or tells you who you are supposed to be or how you should act, either. You are an adult capable or your own thoughts and decisions and no one has the ownership over you to tell you what you should be. Give them the one finger salute and move on.
33. Make your relationship/marriage the one you want your children to model. My daughter now knows how a man should love and treat his wife, and my son can see how a wife should respect and honor a husband. They are watching and will become who you are.
34. Celebrities know NOTHING and shouldn't be held up as the authority in our lives. Seek older and wiser people around you. Oh, and READ. Figure things out for yourself.
35. You read, watch and listen to whatever you feel like. (Well, with some obvious exceptions). But read the books you love, watch the shows and movies that make you feel alive and inspired, laugh and cry. I missed so many seasons of Sex and the City! That's just sad.
36. Forgiveness is freedom. Not for someone else, but for you. Let go of it, because they just remain control of you if you're bitter. Don't give people the satisfaction. Cross that bridge and cut that rope, honey.
37. Your gifts, your dreams, they really are THAT BIG! We spend so much time disconnected from our creative selves! Partly with facebook, tv overload, staring at our phones that we are starving our creativity. Maybe what we create won't be world changing, like my high-school acquaintance and now deceased NYT Bestselling Author Paul Kalanithi's book is--but it will kill us a little every time we ignore it or put it off. By the way, READ THIS BOOK. Get it like, TODAY.
38. Toxic people don't belong in your life or your brain, period.
39. Keep up with technology. It's ok to love the things you knew back when, or that you thought worked so great, but technology keeps moving forward, so keep up with the things that may make your life easier! Learn new things, check out new apps, take advantage of the great things we have at our fingertips! (I have a suggestion for a new blog to follow for that very purpose, that will launch this week....I'll share, I promise!). Keep learning!
40. Radical self-care is the most important thing that you can do. Take your hot bath, it makes everything better. Take it easy on yourself. Give yourself grace that you give others. Love the ones who are close. Feed your soul. Take care of your body. Drink your water. Take naps. Go on a bike ride. Call your parents. Have some ice cream. Connect with people. Read. Go to a stand-up comedy show. Have a cold beer. Watch your favorite sport. Act like a kid sometimes. Get one of those grown-up coloring books and give your mind a rest. Don't give up on you. Kiss your spouse out of the blue. Do all the things that take care of you! Stay here a while!
And that's what I have learned at 40. Thanks for reading along. Love you for that.