Aging? Who, Me?

agine who meAging is strange. I hear that word and immediately think of people older than me- like, much older. I feel like the word “aging” does not even apply to me. Same with middle age.

I mean, we are all aging right? Somehow though it doesn’t feel the same when talking about a 24 year old woman and a 44 year old woman.

I went through what may have been an intense midlife crisis a few years ago. I’ve called it a mental break down because that’s what it was.

During that breakdown/crisis I started to feel my “age”. I was 42 at the time, maybe 41.

I seriously started to wonder what the point of anything was. I was on the downhill. The best parts of my life were behind me. The fit and athletic body that could pick up a basketball and play a quick game without even feeling it the next day. The ability to eat whatever I wanted without consequence to my hips. Skin and a smile that wouldn’t quit. All of that was changing and I kept doing the math about how many years I might have left.

At my annual dermatology appointment that year my doctor told me the brown spot on my face was nothing to be concerned about. It was just an age spot. “My grandmother had those”, I might have mumbled out loud.

I think what made me feel the most sad during that period was that I had not lived a life I wanted. I had not done the things that, at my core, felt like me. I worked at a job out of obligation. I got married. I had two kids. I stayed home with them. I don’t regret the last 3 of these.

When I was in my early 20’s I wanted nothing more than to move to New York City. I know, I know. It’s cliche. I really wanted to though. People did it. My sister did it.

My sense of duty combined with the non-existent self worth that came with being a college drop out kept me in my small New Hampshire town. It was okay. I was lucky enough to make an incredible circle of friends, whom, all these years later I could not have done a better job of hand picking.

I started a successful blog. I got some writing published. I was interviewed for a national magazine. The woman who interviewed me was a real, honest-to-goodness, published writer. I loved her work and I was a little star struck.

I confessed to her that I had always dreamed of being a writer. I was in my early thirties at the time. “What do you mean?” she asked, “you already are”. Without her seeing, I cried.

A cross-country move, failing mental health, and other professional opportunities pulled me further away from this dream. I did not know how to pursue a freelance career. I believed that a college drop out could not be a writer, at least not today. I bought into the idea that an MFA was a pre-req for achieving your dreams. I read the words “if you can be anything besides a writer, be that.”

A couple of years later I read the words “I don’t know how I feel about that until I have had a chance to write”. Suddenly, the words my interviewer said to me swirled in my head along with the ones I was reading. As though through a time traveling machine I thought back to my many, many stacks of journals- kept from the time I was 8. I thought of all the things stored on my computers over the years, too. A piece for every major life experience; starting college, being at my grandmother’s death bed, becoming a mother, my changing views on religion.

The intention of these pieces was never publication. They were written for me, to process my thoughts.

My time spent blogging taught me that grammar is not my friend and that my eyes have a block to spelling mistakes and typos. Surely, this does not a good writer make.

But now I am 44. Almost 45. It seems all the reasons that stopped me from doing what I love matter less. A critic pokes fun at my writing? So? Someone shines a light on my flawed thinking? And? The grammar police say “and?” is not a full sentence?  Yeah?

At 44 what others think of me and what I love to do is not much more than something I glance at in my peripheral vision. This is a far cry from the thin skinned people pleaser I once was, which in part led to my mental breakdown.

I have done my work and am not just stable but thriving. Now, instead of feeling like life is over or has passed me by I am excited. I love being 40 something. I love the freedom that comes with it. I love owning my story. I love that, in so many ways, I feel like things are just beginning.

So maybe my body won’t recover so quickly after a game of pick-up. Maybe the wrinkles in my skin make me look more like 54 than 44. Maybe my hips have inched up to a number I never thought I’d see.

That’s okay. These hips have just started shaking and they don’t care who is watching.

Play: It all Starts with Yes!

it all starts wtih saying yesIt starts with saying yes.

Yes to jumping on the trampoline even though everything jiggles.

Yes to the zip line even though the harness accentuates all the “wrong” places.

Yes to putting on a suit and going for that swim. Even though our self-talk is telling us that we are a beached whale.

Yes to shooting hoops even though our belly adds a new element.

Yes to thinking it might be okay to stop thinking about how “fat” we are.

Yes to thinking it might not matter what shape our body is or how much weight we have gained since high school.

Yes to letting ourselves go for 60 seconds without reminding ourselves of how lazy we must be for “letting ourself get here.”

Yes to walking into an event excited about meeting new people instead of standing in a way that best camouflages our upper arms.

Yes to being okay that a whole day has gone by without thinking about the number on our clothing tag.

Yes to chatting and laughing with our girlfriend as we thoroughly enjoy every last bit of pasta on our plate.

Yes to being excited that we hadn’t realized we never even thought about it.

It all starts with yes, it seems.

Before we know it playing is natural again. Saying yes without considering how our ass/belly/arms/thighs will look is our default.

Before we know it, we are LIVING again, or maybe for the first time.

Before we know it we realize that the people classifying our legs as thunder thighs are not our people anyway.

Before we know it we realize how many minutes, hours, years, and decades we have WASTED not saying yes.

Before we know it, we commit to breaking this cycle. So that our daughters never have to waste a minute not saying yes.

So that our sons see what women look like. That we move and jiggle and eat and laugh and play.

So that our sons see that we are people.

Saying yes may not be easy at first. It might be really uncomfortable, in fact.

It’s worth it though. I promise, it’s worth it.

Got Moxie?

Sometimes you sit in your car wondering if you should go in. You’re late. You know nobody. You’ve never been to an event with this group. You’re sure you’ll *not* go in. But before you turn the car back on to leave you decide to use a text-a-friend.

You can either text the friend who will tell you it’s too late to go in and affirm your reasons for leaving, or you text someone else. Who you text right then is a choice.

Then you are sitting in the event and hear not only an inspiring comedian, but realize you are surrounded by a hundred women who get it. For the first time -maybe ever- but certainly since this shift.

And they talk about Oprah. Positively. They cheer her. And they say fuck. And an attorney gets up to talk about how improving life for women means improving Colorado- and she puts her money and time into achieving it. And the speakers mess up their words and don’t apologize. They just keep going.

Moxie 1

And when the event is over and you drive around the city for a while blasting P!NK, you realize that even though life’s taken a different path it’s never too late to write your own ending.

Thanks Melissa for so quickly typing back with the word “YES!”. It was an awesome night. #thisgirlsgotmoxie #itwasthereallalong

Moxie 2

This Year My Focus is Healing

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. Each year I choose a word- something to keep in my mind that will improve my life. In the past I’ve chosen words like fun, community, and travel. This year the word I’ve chosen is kind.

In my quest to recover from being a people pleaser I’ve lost some of my kindness. I’m okay with that. It needed to happen so I could learn to be authentic. But it’s time to keep it in my mind again.

This year, in addition to my word, I have a focus. It sounds kind of corny or desperate or something, but it is neither of those things. The focus I have for 2018 is healing.

focus is healing

I think we all have stuff we haven’t healed from. I’ve come to understand the importance of healing in creating the life I want.

I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve dealt with it my whole life. I never took the time or steps to heal from the trauma that’s caused. I’ve never practiced healing from my traumatic pregnancy/cancer diagnosis with Owen 10 years ago or from job loss, or from a having a partner who had to travel so much with two babies at home, or from our move cross-country or from lost friendships or smear campaigns. I haven’t taken the time or actions that are necessary to heal from these things. I haven’t ignored these realities, I just haven’t taken the steps to heal. Without healing, how can I really move forward?

Having an anxiety disorder and choosing to focus on healing this year does not make me weak. Not dealing with them does.

I have watched friends like TaraAngie, and Jennifer share their journeys publicly. Watching their journeys has had a significant impact on my life. Their journeys have changed me, challenged me, and encouraged me to learn about self compassion.

Sharing something this personal is way out of my comfort zone. But I know the gift I was given by the three women above who chose to share their journeys, so this year I’ll share some of mine. I’ve been told appropriately sharing helps with healing too.

I’m evaluating where I spend my time, which endeavors I continue, and what things bring me peace and joy. I’m taking up new hobbies and bringing back some of my favorites- like reading, writing, and listening to music. I’m moving past my anxiety to connect with people because that fills my soul most of all.

It sounds cheesy, I know. It’s also real.

I know what I’ve achieved in my life before healing. It’s fun to imagine what I’ll achieve after ❤️

Any resources or insights you are willing to share are welcome! Here’s to a year of kindness and healing!