Never mind what the haters have to say about the trappings of turning 40. Mid-life and over the hill, my ass! And yes, I did just say ass, TWICE!
From where I stand, 40 seems to be the exact right number of years needed to walk the earth, facing trials and triumphs and learning how to appreciate the polarities at both ends of the spectrum. That’s right, the real gifts of this milestone have everything to do with a 40-years-in-the-making perspective on life that I’m in awe of being able to call mine.
To me, turning 40 represents a surprising sense of freedom, the likes of which I’ve not experienced since my youth, but with the added bonus of a broader perspective, more experience, and whole lot more wisdom.
I’m talking about the freedom of shedding layers and feeling safe enough to take off the façade of perfection.
Freedom from falsehoods and limiting beliefs I’ve finally been able to set down like bags of garbage.
Freedom from the fallacies and rigid definitions of what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother.
Freedom from the heaviness of all the expectations, including both the ones I accepted from others and the ones I imposed upon myself.
Freedom from the need to derive my sense of belonging and worth by putting the needs of others ahead of my own.
Freedom from the sick and twisted compulsion to continually sell my ideas, and myself, short.
Freedom from unnecessary guilt and shame, about…you name it. (Not sure if there even is such a thing as necessary guilt, but you catch my drift.)
Freedom from playing the role of the victim.
Freedom in the realization that there are absolutely no guarantees and I have no control.
Freedom from caring too much what others think about me. (Okay, maybe I’m not totally there yet, but I am working on it.)
I’m not sure exactly what it is about 40, but it feels as though all the jigsaw pieces are finally beginning to click into place. The shapes and patterns and colours are starting to interlock and fit together just right. The outlines of each individual piece dissolve and reveal one breathtaking composite image. The vivid watercolours continue to bleed into each other to create a beautiful mess infused with the grace and love of both the darkness and the light.
And while I’m on the subject of light, just last week I had the honour of attending the Step Into Your Starring Role retreat, led by the mesmerizing Tanya Geisler. About midway through the afternoon during a break, with her unique brand of sincerity and shoot from the hip candor, the luminous Tanya, whom I had only just met the same day, remarked that I really have my “stuff” together. My ego jumped up and down with the giddiness of a young child and squealed with delight, as she was a genuine and unbiased witness to the work I’ve being doing on myself.
But this simple exchange did so much more than stroke my ego, it marked an important point in my continued evolution, my liberation from the shackles that have kept me frozen with fear and paralyzed by perfection. I know this is true because the ‘me’ from five years ago wouldn’t have been able to sit with her words. The ‘me’ from five years ago would have squirmed with discomfort. The ‘me’ from five years ago would have refuted Tanya’s observation, handing over the reigns to my imposter complex with a string of nonsense about how she must be mistaken and I must just be good at faking it. But in another surprising twist of fate, that’s actually not what happened at all.
Do you want to know what really happened? In a sense, I stepped into my starring role, and I got bold. After taking a moment to collect my thoughts and let Tanya’s words settle into my soul, I took a deep breath in and simply said “thank you”. I had allowed myself to be seen AND accepted a compliment in one fell swoop. And you know what? It felt really good.
So as I sit here on my birthday eve, reflecting on this step and the many others that have brought me to this point, I’m excited to finally be showing up for the party that is my life. I am grateful for all my blessings, as well as the struggles, knowing each one has brought me to now. There’s been a lot of toiling and trudging to reach this place, and yet I know the real big and meaningful work of my life is likely just getting started.
But I’m really curious to see what lies on the other side of this proverbial hill. And I am wearing a smile about a mile wide because I know I’ve finally arrived, right where I need to be. 40 is here and it’s right on time.
Signing off with an amazing song lyric from The Strumbellas that couldn’t be more apropos for the occasion.
“I don’t want a never-ending life. I just want to be alive while I’m here.”
Check out the video for this great song here.