I laughed....these were the words that came from my 8 year old son when I told him I was turning 41 this year. I explained to him that actually I enjoy getting older, just like he does. So to hear his condolences for my recent birthday really made me take pause and question how I speak around my son about getting older as well as societies perception of aging. As we age, especially over 40 we are taught to greet our birthday with a sense of loss, lost chances, loss of youth, beauty, prowess.... the list goes on. I'm finding it to be the opposite though (ok maybe except for those pesky wrinkles) I find each year and each gray hair is a badge of honor, that I've made it this far. Growing up I struggled with an eating disorder & I didn't think I'd ever make it past 20 let alone 40. So each day that I am able to gain more clarity into what makes me thrive and continually refine my habits to support a more grounded, connected and joyful existence, it fills me with incredible gratitude to be on this journey.
My son's comment came only 2 days before I was to run my first 1/2 marathon in 9 years, since before my first son was born. I had only trained to run 3 miles (let alone 13) so I was just along for the ride and wanted to try and enjoy the experience. I had to let go of any expectations, judgement or comparison.... I was amazed at my experience. During my run I found that I was filled with the absolute deepest sense of gratitude, so much so that I found myself tearing up many times during my run. As I ran, I was able to reflect and honestly assess and appreciate how far I have come in the past 20 years. My husband is usually the one that has to do this for me as I can tend to be a bit critical of myself and short sighted. The days that I feel frustrated and stuck he reminds me of how far I have come. I truly feel like I have lived many lives in these past 41 years, burning down like a phoenix only to rise again and reinvent myself. During my run I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my body and its ability to adapt to stressful situation, not only during the run but also during times of emotional stress. That I've learned HOW to care for my body and mind & even though I may still trip and fall... the holes aren't as deep and it doesn't take me as long to pick myself up again. I used to feel guilty for needing to take time for myself to sit in silence, to eat a certain way, take time for yoga & exercise. I would fight all the signs, the exhaustion, short temper, restless nights, back pain, headaches.... and I would eventually crash. Each time I had to drag myself out of the deep pit of exhaustion & overwhelm, it felt just as hard as the first time.
It wasn't until I made my health a priority and took a hard honest look at myself and my environment that lasting change was able to happen. By taking time to step back and honor my natural tendencies (rather than ignore or berate myself for having them) I've been able to learn how to skillfully navigate the terrain of my life. Knowing that I am prone to anxiety, am highly sensitive and am a bit of an introvert I can easily get overwhelmed by what others would consider a normal environment. If I want to thrive I have to make sure that sleep, nourishing cooked meals, exercise and quiet time are a MUST in my daily life. I've watched my cycles and know that if I skip one or more of these for more than 3 days, my system crashes. The time it takes to reboot and recover takes much longer (a week or so) than maintaining this consistent self care. It used to feel like an extravagance to expect so much and these accommodations certainly don't come easy. Especially for me when I live on a sailboat with my husband and 2 young, wild and crazy boys. Through conscious choices , dedication, compromise & incredible partner support I'm able to keep myself afloat. The saying "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." resonates deeply here on our boat! Living in a small space tends to illuminate both positives and negatives. I have a responsibility not only to myself but also to my family to stay healthy and happy. I have learned the importance of reaching out for help, clearly stating my needs, asking for time away and blocking time on the calendar for things that are important to me. Luckily I have an incredibly supportive husband who knows my tendencies & how important my daily self care is, he gently nudges me in the right direction when he notices that I'm struggling. I am surrounded by family and friends that have always supported my growth, challenged my b.s. and held my hand and gave me a big hug in the moments when it all just felt like too much. So as I enter into my 40's and reflect on the journey I've been on so far it is with deep sense of gratitude, love & compassion that I look forward to the journey ahead.