On the day of my 39th birthday I was in an interesting place. I was dealing with panic attacks, exhaustion, and wondering where life would lead. My goal on that day was to try to figure out what part of the girl in this picture remains.
On the eve of my 40th birthday, the panic attacks and exhaustion are gone but the wondering goes on. When I look at the intervening days, I am proud of the year that has just passed in ways that I couldn’t have predicted and that little girl and I have found one another again.
Here’s what I learned (or learned again) while I was 39:
- Always always always get enough sleep. You can’t “catch up” on sleep. You also can’t undo the damage to your body, mind, and spirit that lack of sleep can bring. There are no extra credit life points for losing sleep over work or life.
- Get a good therapist. Oh…and a good acupuncturist, massage therapist, doctor, and chiropractor. And then go see them REGULARLY. These are things that are good for your body and mind. If you live in Seattle and need a recommendation, I have one for all of these specialties.
- When your doctor looks you in the face and says “Your job is killing you,” it’s time to get a new fucking job. A if you take a new job and the “your job is killing you” symptoms re-appear, do something about it. No job is worth your mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual health.
- Some people will hurt you and then show up looking for more of the good they got from you. When they do, shut them down. Send them on their way. And then smile as they disappear back into the past.
- When you love something, make time for it. For me that has meant that when the call of the writer comes, I answer it. When the class at the gym makes me laugh, I go to it. When my yoga mat whispers my name each time I walk by, I find myself on it. When drinking wine with my girlfriends is all I can imagine will fix whatever it is, I get my friends and drink wine.
- Being excited about turning 40 will make a lot of people look at you strangely. And when they realize you mean it, they will wonder why you are wired this way. Some won’t ask because they’ll think you are lying to yourself. Others will ask. Always tell them why. Always.
- Never ever change your mind about a vacation by yourself. You will wonder right up until the last minute if it is a waste of time…it’s not. It’s never ever a waste of time!
- Choose your friends wisely. Let go of the ones who no longer value you. And do not hang out with people who want to compete with you, talk down to you, or are just generally jerks to you. They might be lovely friends for someone else but chemistry in friendship is a must-have. (I learn this one over and over!)
- Remember to not take things personally. It’s one of the four agreements on purpose. Always assume the best intent from people and then when they don’t demonstrate it, just smile and move through it. Don’t take it on. Don’t take it in. It’s not yours to carry and it almost certainly isn’t about you. If it IS about you, it is up to that other person to say so. Otherwise, you just move the hell on!
- When you get home and your kittens want you to stop what you are doing and rub their bellies…DO IT! When they want to lay in bed just 5 more minutes to purr while you talk to them and rub their ears…DO IT! When they want you to put your phone/book/laptop down and play with whatever toy they just dropped in your lap…DO THAT TOO! It’s good for your stress level and keeps them from eating your face while you are asleep.
- When you know what energizes you and makes you feel more alive, do that thing as often as you can. If you don’t know, find out. If it changes, that’s okay to. We all just need to spend more time doing the things we love and a lot less time doing stuff we’ll never remember or think about when we are 80.
Now that I think about it…I knew most of this stuff already. But at 39 I began to live it. I began to really take care of myself. I put together a “health plan” that included the right professionals, saying no to things that are a time suck, and getting rid of the vampires in my life. I’d done pieces of that through the years, but this was the year I became militant about guarding my own life and health.
I can’t wait to be 40. I’ll keep you posted on what I learn!