I turned forty some days ago. I’ve heard that means I’m over the hill now. Not quite sure what that hill is, but I’m glad I was able to climb it.
So…forty. It doesn’t feel that much different from when I was thirty, except now I go to bed even earlier. And–I know different now, because I’ve gotten better at paying attention.
I used to be this big idealist. When college friends were busy studying for exams, I would be busy daydreaming about serving the poor all over the world and giving them a voice. [That, or I was just plain lazy. To study, that is.] So many things were happening in my head, and my outside world was not keeping up.
Here’s my thing: I didn’t fit in. I’ve never been in a place or time where I fit in perfectly. Part of me always felt like an outsider, like we’re all running a race and I’m almost catching up, but half of me is still at the starting line, or got sidetracked by something on the sidelines.
So many times, I wanted out. I wanted to backtrack and find out what’s keeping my other half from catching up, or being with everyone else. I was restless. I had to pay attention to what was going on, but I didn’t really want to. I was curious about other things, and they were more interesting to me. I always felt like I was running out of time. And I let it all get to me.
I am forty now. And what I’ve learned is that it’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay, because that’s how I am. There are so many parts of me, and my life is about getting to know which parts mean the most—keeping, discarding, loving, letting go. There are so many things I am interested in, and my life is also about exploring those things—trying, messing up, winning, losing, keeping things on repeat. So, I don’t fit in, but that’s okay. It just means I’m still growing. And so is everyone else.
Growing. If I’m over one hill, then there must be another one for me to climb. I’m ready to set out, and this time I’m better equipped, because I’ve learned to pay better attention. I’m making changes, because this hill might be the last one for me.
I’m going to start by being kinder to myself. Actually, I think we all need to learn this.
The most loving friends I have are those who take the time to love themselves first. It’s a hard thing for me to understand. Even now, I’m not quite sure I get it fully, but I watch their lives and I see that it works.
These friends are gracious people, to everyone including themselves. They dust themselves off when they stumble, and they accept second chances without question. They take time to recharge, without feeling guilty about it. They take care of themselves, without rushing through the process.
Many of us, I think, are mean to ourselves, because it’s easier to take it out on ourselves. But my friends are showing me a much better way, and I am learning.
I’m going to stop being so scared. It’s learned behavior, at least for me. I lost a lot of my recklessness after spending several years in a fishbowl. I had to dance to other peoples’ tunes, or else I would get in trouble. Trouble usually meant being talked about in some circles, and their criticism getting to me through a few who felt like it was their calling to make sure I knew what was being said about me.
I broke out of that fishbowl some years ago, but it took some time to regain my footing. And that’s okay. Jon Acuff calls it “performing for foes, not friends.” I let the voices of a few drown my own voice out, and oh how good it feels to be back at the tiller, though I’m still a bit wobbly.
I’m going to love proudly. Shauna Niequist wrote it true, “…one of the ways we grow up is by declaring what we love.” I no longer need to make apologies for who or what I love, even if I may come across as old-fashioned, or conservative, or liberal, or just plain weird. Weird is good. My people are weird.
I am a person of faith. I love Jesus, and He is my everything. Period.
I love being a wife and mother. I enjoy the company of my husband and sons the most.
I love God’s creation, and I think nature is the best this world has to offer.
I love people in the outskirts of the tribes I used to belong to. They help me make sense of my faith.
I love being different, even if it embarrasses me sometimes. I am learning to own it, and I love that I’m on a journey of grace.
I’ve been forty for almost a month now. I’ve spent most of it either sick in bed, snowed it at home, busy doing chores, or sleeping and reading. It doesn’t sound very exciting, this slow start. But I’m getting somewhere, even if some days it’s at a snail’s pace.