The big four-oh showed up last week. I am supposed to be mortified, according to society. I ought to be grasping at my quickly waning youth with my desperately aging hands. Or something like that.
But I have to say, I like forty. That isn’t to say that other times in my life were bad, but I like the view better from here. More than anything, I like me better now than I did before. I’m at peace with a lot more of life, and I’ve got a few reasons why:
- I’ve stopped hating my body. I spent a lot of time over the past decades hating my size, my chin, my complexion, my proportions, my . . . well, I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve been talking down to myself about my looks since I was about 10. After Little Bird was born in 2015, I couldn’t lose any weight for a while. I decided that I needed to be at peace with these extra 50 or 60 lbs that just wanted to be on me. I threw quite a bit of prayer at it, but the biggest change was repeatedly seeking out photos and examples of women built like me (and bigger) and intentionally looking for the beauty in them. Then I could finally find the beauty in myself.
- I’ve learned to prepare and plan. For a great deal of my youth, I didn’t want to spend the time to refine my work. I was happy to be slapdash about my work. I didn’t want to take the time to polish written works, or redo a sketch until it looked exactly as I wanted. It was laziness; I didn’t want to do practice pieces on anything, or have to adjust my course once I set it. Advice to my younger self: that’s a pretty silly and futile way to do things. I’ve learned that it is worth it to do the prep work, whether it’s an outline for a post or fiction piece, a preliminary sketch for a picture, or a plan for the business side of my week. This takes a lot focus and patience for me that I don’t naturally have. My week goes so much better if I know what’s on the menu for dinner and have the ingredients in the fridge–and it is worth the time to plan it out!
- I’ve learned to be patient for results. Very few things in adulthood happen in the course of a few weeks or months. Sure, a college course is over at the end of the semester, but the degree might be be a few years away. Things I instill in my children while they are tiny may not really take hold for many years, but the groundwork has to be laid before the results can happen. It’s the same in my business, with our home school work, even in our marriage. Seeds get planted that may not be harvested right away. I’ve learned that waiting for harvest doesn’t mean it won’t happen. And I’ve learned that I have to keep cultivating all along the way. Patience means taking the long view.
- I can say “no” to things that are bad for me. In case you’re picturing something sordid, this means I’ve kicked my sugar habit to the curb. The fact is, I don’t eat sugar (not even natural sugars like honey) or grains, not even organic grains or einkorn. They upset my digestion, but more importantly, they give me mood swings. I don’t need to eat something that will shorten my temper, make me weepy, or rev me up before making me crash. Feeling good has finally taken precedence over whatever tastes good now (and there are lots of tasty things I can still have). The delayed gratification seeps into the rest of life. I can say no to the things that damage me.
- I’m learning that procrastination creates more stress. I realize that the long time between posts might make people think I’m not addressing procrastination, but it is something that I am finally working on. I realized that if I put off writing out the bills, or following up with a prospect, or even working on a post, I started getting anxious. My sleep quality suffers, my focus suffers, and then everything suffers. No thank you! Procrastination is a deeply ingrained, bad habit I have. It is taking constant work to break it, but I am confident I can. It’s not worth living with the stress it causes.
- I’m better at extending grace to others and myself. All that negative self-talk about my body extended into the rest of my life too. I wasn’t kind or gentle with myself if I made mistakes. I wasn’t often kind or gentle with other people in my life when they messed up, either. I’m no saint, but I am learning to respond charitably first, even when I’m frustrated. I’ve also learned to keep my mouth shut if the word coming out are going to be unkind. I won’t regret unkind words I didn’t say.
In a lot of ways, I can see more areas to improve now that I did when I was younger. It would seem like that would make me feel worse. While I can see the problems now, I can also see my way to solutions. I have the confidence and capability to reach those solutions too. That is something I didn’t feel at 20, or even 30.
So, hello 40. You’re pretty fabulous. Let’s keep it up so 50 is fabulous too.