I ticked over into a new decade a few months ago. It was a strange thing turning 40. It seemed such an ANCIENT age when I was younger. But now that I'm here? 40 is good. It's the new 20. It's cool. Or something like that if you believe what the latest magazines will tell you.
I can say for certain that I actually like 40. I'm out of the brain fog of the early years of motherhood. I'm settled (sort of....) in my career. I'm pursuing some life-long goals and I have a confidence and acceptance of myself now, that just didn't exist 20 years ago. (Although, to be honest, I look at 20-somethings now and wonder where the heck their exuberant confidence and self-assurance comes from. I certainly didn't have that ego at their age.)
I honestly don't feel like I thought I would at 40. I thought I would be this wise, mature person with my *stuff* together. Ha! For the most part, I am content. (Do we ever have it all together?!) But there are times I still struggle with insecurities, even if only for a fleeting moment. One thing though, time has given me enough wisdom to realise that life is far too short to be consumed with worrying about the 'what-ifs'.
Quite the one to contemplate (perhaps over-think...), I thought I'd share my thoughts on some of what I've learned in 40 years of life...
1. Focus on your own path. We're all at different stages on life's journey and our lives are unique to us. There's no point comparing to others, because it will only bring grief and disappointment. Focus on your own journey and be grateful for the blessings in front of you.
2. Keep your circle open. Don't be cliquey. Cliques are ugly. People have so much to offer. And while having a few close friends is one of life's valuable gifts, don't be so closed off to meeting new people and inviting them into your circle. You don't know how they will impact your life, or what you can offer someone else.
3. Don't worry about what others think of you. This was a difficult lesson for me to learn. Having grown up in an environment where perfectionism was valued, and people's opinions mattered, it was a difficult cycle to break. People don't think about us as often as we are inclined to think they do. We never truly know their thoughts, and what they think of us is THEIR problem, not ours.
4. Challenge yourself. A comfort zone, while nice and safe, is no place to live. Growth never happens there and we won't fully reach our potential unless we take a step of faith outside it. Challenge yourself in ways you've only dreamed about. Punch fear in the face. It's a great feeling to step out of your comfort zone and know you can accomplish the amazing.
5. A sense of humour is a valuable thing to have. Take a step back from the situation and find the lighter side. Yes, there is a time to weep, but there's also a time to laugh, and it really helps if you can find the humour in life. Not everything has to be so serious all the time.
6. Embrace imperfections. I am a perfectionist at heart. For years, I was never brave to do things for fear of failure, and for fear that it would be less than perfect. Guess what? There is no such thing as perfect in this world. Imperfections breathe authenticity. They break down barriers and grow us. And if life was perfect all the time, there would never be great stories to tell.
7. Authenticity is hard to come by. Just be real, people. Don't put on a front to impress someone. Be yourself. Life is too short for fake.
8. Use your talents and gifts for helping others. We're all given unique talents and gifts, but we're not meant to hide them away. We all have something to contribute to this world.
Shine your light, give of yourself to bless others.
9. Self-care is not selfish. As a mum, and also working in a profession that drains me physically and emotionally, I have realised the importance of taking time for myself in order to function effectively in all roles in my life. I have previously been hospitalised due to not looking out for myself, and there have been a few other occasions where burn-out was breathing fiercely down my neck. It's not selfish to look after yourself. By doing so, you're also able to give your best self to others.
10. Pick your battles. This not only applies to raising children, but in all relationships. You don't have to win every argument. Be mature and agree to disagree. Or, just smile and nod. Some people will not budge, and engaging in a disagreement doesn't improve any relationship.
11. Family is a priority. Sacrifices have been made (and will continue to be made) in order to commit to the people in my life that I have been blessed with. There will be time for many other pursuits throughout life, but my focus for now is on building and maintaining the relationships with the family around me.
12. Take a step back. When I've been overwhelmed by a situation, it has helped me to take a step back from it to gain a different perspective. Often asking myself, "What really matters here?" is enough to give me a better understanding and take away the worry.
13. We are loved unconditionally. It took me a long time to accept this truth. The One who made me, who knit me together in my mother's womb, loves me - scars and all. No exceptions. He doesn't hold grudges over something I did 20 years ago. He doesn't take offense when I've spoken in the wrong tone of voice. He doesn't get angry when I don't call. There is nothing that can separate me from His love - and that alone gives me the freedom to live the life I was created to.
14. Do your best. Don't do things half-arsed. Give everything your best shot. I'm still learning this one. Some days I'm just too darn tired to be bothered, and I don't always give things 100%. But I'm learning and I'm getting there. I'm probably sitting at about a 90% average ;)
15. It's okay to say 'No.' But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes'. You don't have to please everyone by saying 'yes' to everything. If you don't feel like doing something, if it's going to over-commit you, if it doesn't sit right with you - just say 'no'. But, if you do say 'yes', follow through.
16. Fake it till you make it. I used to think this was so cliche.....until I found myself in situations that required me to fake it. And guess what? By faking it, and by also admitting that I didn't know everything, I got to learn what I needed to, and I 'made' it. Faking it requires stepping out of your comfort zone and overcoming the fear of uncertainty and self-doubt.
17. Let go and Let God. God has proven time and time again that He is in control of my life. Worrying adds absolutely nothing to my life. Letting go and letting God allows for the miraculous. It's amazing to watch pieces of life's puzzle fall into place when I let go.
18. Be grateful. Count your blessings. It's amazing the difference an attitude of gratitude can make.
19. Slow down. Take the time to enjoy life. Life is so busy, and we often overlook the simple things that bring so much joy. I have made a habit to indulge in the things that make my heart sing: a sunrise, a beach walk, a swim in the sea, a coffee...Slowing down recharges me and gives me a renewed perspective on life.
20. Nanna naps are part of my survival kit. I'm not ashamed to admit I've been nanna-napping for many, many years. A sneaky (or not-so-sneaky when you have kids) afternoon nap is the.best.thing.
Here's to the next 40 years.