Let me begin by saying you will never master life. You may master cooking the perfect pot roast, the art of knitting perfect stitches or baking the perfect cake, but never life. You can improve your life through self examination, by releasing your intentions out into the universe, a healthier diet or yoga certainly, but I’m not sure any of us will ever master it.
Why I Struggled to Write This Piece
My friend approached over a month ago to submit a piece to her website dedicated to women Mastering Their 40s. Eager to please and flattered she asked I embarked on something more than I expected. I was stumped. Me? I haven’t mastered anything. I have been disabled for a few years now and unable to work. I struggle every day to get out of bed as I never feel rested from constant pain and restless sleep frequently filled with PTSD nightmares. I am 43 but have the body (inside, biologically) of a 65-70 year old woman. I have been plagued with illness my entire life and now I am constantly exhausted, it creates what they call “brain fog” so different days I am cognitively impaired, stiff and very sore. It makes me miserable. Illness, pain and depression stole and is slowly consuming my life. I can’t do what others expect of me which frustrates me as well as them and leaves me burdened with a tremendous amount of guilt and self deprecation. I thought to myself, “Who am I to give advice?” and, “I’m not that interesting or fabulous”
I Am Neurotic. I Apologize
I’m not one of these broads that have it all together. I don’t have a husband; I’m a gay woman, I have no children; I have a dog. I will never own a home and I don’t have a vehicle. I am poor. Not, I can’t afford a cruise poor, but sometimes I can’t afford tampons poor. I still drink sometimes, I smoke marijuana, and I curse a lot. My idea of a fancy meal is delivery from Boston Pizza on pasta Tuesday with maybe a $15 dollar wine if it’s a special night. I am more apt to drop my food on my shirt than to drop cash on something I don’t really need. I have to be extremely frugal. I am more apt to have a peanut butter and jam sandwich for dinner than orchestrate a full meal. I am more likely to exchange delicious and inventive curse words with someone who cut me off in the crosswalk than to exchange delicious and inventive recipes with a friend. Martha Stewart I am not. I worry. That’s what I do. I worry about everything. I stress about everything. I get nervous about everything. I fart when I’m nervous. I am … a neurotic mess.
So instead of writing advice or listing things that has helped me I’ve put together a few things that illustrate where I am as a woman in her forties.
Finding My Niche
Once I hit my forties, I threw out my thong underwear. All of them. Not because I was planning on giving up intimacy, not because I wasn’t concerned about VPL (visible panty line) but because I wanted to be comfortable. My comfort comes before you seeing my panty creases in my pants. For the first time I started to become more comfortable in my own skin. I don’t have the body of a 25 year old; I never will, I am 43. I have flabby arms, a big round bum and less than perky breasts. So what? So does every other 43 year old woman unless you’ve had surgery or live in Hollywood. Now leave me alone with my bacon cheeseburger. I also enjoy my food a lot more than I used to. I take the time to taste each bite and savour flavours without worrying how long I need to spend on the stair climber to burn it off.
I also learned that working a 9-5 office job wasn’t for me. I had to accept that and learn to be okay with that. I needed to find ways to earn money from home and focus on writing more instead. Writing has always been a passion of mine since I was a child and I take a lot of pleasure in completing and publishing a piece.
Taking Time to See the Beauty
We spend so much of our youth speeding to hit adulthood that we find ourselves in our forties thinking, “I missed so much.” Then we spend our midlife and beyond trying to recapture our youth. Enough of that. Now I just try to savour moments like I savour food. Take mental pictures of things that make you smile. Remember details of the things you enjoy so you can revisit those moments on your bad days or store them in your brain locker for when you’re in your old age. Whenever I encounter beauty, I breath it in, I fully immerse myself in that moment and remember every detail. A breathtaking view overlooking the serenely sapphire Atlantic ocean on a sunny day when it seems the sun is dancing amongst the waves, the only sounds are the waves hitting the rocks and racing to the shoreline. A peaceful swim on a quiet lake at midnight, the only light is that of the moonlight that reflects upon the still lake, the only sound being that of your own heartbeat as you float on your back, effortlessly breathing in the brilliant moon. That delicious meal you’ve been waiting for and it’s finally arrived; the aromas, the colors, the textures, that perfect sear on a meaty juicy buttery steak; that first bite as it pleasures your palette with delicacy and satisfaction.
People can be so removed from the moment, thinking of something else, worrying, stressing. These actions do not serve us at all. All they do is distract us from things we should be enjoying. When you’re with your family or close friends- BE with them. Put your phones down, talk and really listen to one another.
This was a big thing for me to do. Struggling with illness and depression for so many years and not having the support I truly needed left me with the sour taste of bitterness throughout my thirties. Sure I sometimes took time out to express gratitude to God, but I felt pretty jaded and cheated. It wasn’t until my latter thirties early forties I really tried to take time out daily to think about what I was grateful for in my life and to come to terms with my sexuality despite my faith and beliefs. Through prayer I determined that God knew what was best, that I should live my life genuinely and honestly. I spend a few moments each night reflecting on that day and I thank God for putting certain people in my life, providing food and clothing and shelter in addition to His love and forgiveness.
I Couldn’t Care Less About Gossip
There’s an old adage that says,
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I have tried to move away from paying attention to things like gossip for example which seems to not only require a lot of time and energy that in the end benefits no one. So why waste the energy? Let’s talk instead about I don’t know… Changes in our society and how to adapt, because I don’t know about you but, doesn’t it seem there are far more important things to talk about right now? There’s that impending war, or the changes in our laws that affect everyone or how our food has become practically toxic to most people? Hey, those bees are still dying. There’s an increasing rise of violence and crime? The fact that respect and courtesy are dying attributes in our society? I don’t know about you but I am ready to pop those snotty kids at the drive thru windows these days… But hey, I digress.
Writing Notes For Myself
I have several notebooks that I have stored all over my apartment, my purse, my nightstand and by my couch. Each notebook serves a purpose. I have one for short stories, one for poetry, one for writing ideas, one for organization- listing things I need to do or take care of, one for hopes and one for prayers. Writing is a great tool for self discovery. It allows you the freedom of emptying your heart without judgement. It’s therapeutic to put into writing how you feel, how you’ve grown and the things you’ve learned about yourself, the world and others. It allows you to be present in that moment and experience those feelings. I find even spending just a few minutes a day with just myself and my words leaves me with a small sense of peace and accomplishment.
This is still fairly a new concept to me but I am taking it in stride. As we get older and get bogged down by every day life: Work, children, spouses, finances, illness, it becomes crucial that we take moments out for ourselves. Even if it’s a long hot bath or a solo shopping trip. Taking care of ourselves and our health allows us to put our best selves forward. If we are healthy, happy and strong we can be better spouses, parents, employees and friends. We can be more supportive of others and lead by example.
Meaning What You Say/Saying What You Mean
I spent a lot of my thirties searching for inner peace, immersing myself in my faith, reading a lot of self help books and I even went back to school for Nutrition and Wellness, Personal Training and Fitness Instruction. I guess I spent a lot of my thirties trying to become a better version of myself. Along this journey I stumbled across a little book called The Four Agreements you may have heard about it through a friend or through the original lady’s guru Oprah. Admit it, you watched it, we all did. One of the agreements is to Say What You Mean and Mean what you say. That resonated with me simply because as a Customer Service/Sales person for years, I had heard A LOT and what always frustrated me was people who beat around the bush. Just say what you mean but only say it if you really mean it. Words can easily be thrown around like monkey feces at a zoo and sometimes words can hurt people. So think about what you’re going to say before you say it. I have a checklist:
- Is it important?
- Will it make an impact?
- Is what I am going to say going to possibly hurt someone’s feelings?
- Is it really necessary?
If it’s not necessary and if it’s just a matter of pride to speak up and voice your opinion, like just to prove you’re right for example then I say nothing. Whatever little quip or sarcastic remark I may be thinking, I refrain from saying it out loud. It takes a lot of practice and I have the bite marks on my tongue to prove it, but think of how much nicer the world would be if people considered these things before speaking?
I don’t know, I’m no expert in anything as I previously stated. I’m just a broad with a potty mouth who is trying desperately to just be a good person.
Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,