When Gratitude Comes After 46 Trips Around the Sun

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I recently celebrated my 46th birthday.

There were a few jabs from Dave and Grace about how I was sliding closer and closer to 50. I made sure there was plenty of fanfare during the entire day. I had no problem ordering something special from the dinner menu all the while explaining to the waiter that I was entitled because it was my birthday. All of this hoopla and drama surrounding my day was met with the usual eye rolls and grunts of disapproval under the breaths of my teenage daughters. And my response to their protests? Laughter and shoulder shrugs.

Hmmmm…..yes, I think I am ok with that, actually.

It seems to me that I heard a saying once about how old age is a luxury afforded to only a few. Maybe I dreamed that; I’m not sure. Regardless, I’m ok with getting older. I have a young friend who turned 30 a few days after I turned 46. I love this young friend. I love that she was extremely anxious about this milestone birthday. If I remember correctly, I believe my 30th birthday was stressful to me as well. I’m also pretty sure that there was an older friend in my life who gave me some sort of advice on how to stop fretting and start living.

My older friends just kind of found me when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. In much the same way, my younger friends of today have found me. In my circle, I have about 3 girlfriends that are considerably younger than me.  I treasure them for a variety of reasons.

  1. They are witty. Their off-the-cuff wittiness keeps me on my toes – all the time.
  2. They have a lot of energy. Therefore, they inspire me to keep up.
  3. They are passionate about their work and their opinions. They remind me to be passionate about mine.
  4. They have young mom concerns and are often exhausted. They remind me that I value my sleep and help me to remember when my girls were toddlers.
  5. They have young wife anxieties and often worry about their future families. This reminds me that our partnerships need constant nourishment.
  6. They often seek my opinion (I hesitate to say ‘advice’). These exchanges remind me that life is certainly the best teacher and I have learned a great deal along the way.

Their friendships certainly add an extra layer of vibrancy to my life and I am forever grateful to them for that. Yet, I can’t help but be a tad envious of their youthfulness. Not for the reasons you might suspect; but because if I knew the things I know now when I was their age……

Yes.

So, after 46 times around the sun, let me impart a bit of my 40-something knowledge to all of my much younger friends.

  1. Time really does speed up the older you get. Remember when you were a kid and the thought of summer break or Christmas was just more than your little, inexperienced mind could comprehend? It seemed like time moved at a snail’s pace. Not so as you get older. In fact, I am constantly amazed at how quickly the days on my calendar disappear so suddenly. It seems like I was just adding the December events to our family calendar and mapping out all of the places we would have to go. I looked at it this morning, and to my horror, the month will end this weekend. Are you kidding me? So soon? I feel like I just put out my decorations for the holiday season….So, I say that to say this: take the time to really be present in every single moment. Whether you find yourselves with family or friends. Watch each sunrise and sunset with awe. Put the phone down and pay attention. Have a real conversation.
  2. It’s ok if your life isn’t as perfect looking as the Instagram photo you posted (after taking 25 photos before the perfect one was captured). Messy is ok because messy is what life is at times. It isn’t perfect; people will let you down; things won’t go as planned. And that is ok. That is where you truly find out who you are, what you are made of, what you will stand for and what will cause you to walk away.
  3. Don’t compare. Comparison is a killer. It is the one thing that we women do and it drives me bonkers. Your life is exactly the way that it is supposed to be. You aren’t here to live anyone else’s. Besides, if you are envious of someone else, then that is a reflection of what is going on inside of you. If you find jealousy in your heart, then push the pause button and understand why it is there. Truly, it is about you – never them.
  4. Whenever you think that life looks greener on the other side, remember that the grass still has to be watered on that side of the fence too. Look, it doesn’t matter what is on the other side that you are looking at – better job, better life, better marriage/relationship….whatever. It’s all the same on the other side as well. Trust me. I know these things. Life is hard no matter what side you are on. It all has perks and it all has tremendous let downs. Water the lawn you are standing on. Which brings me to my next point….
  5. Bloom where you are planted. God has brought you forth for a specific purpose. Use the talents that He gave you and do so without any shame or need for approval by others. Just bloom.
  6. Getting ahead in your job is wonderful. Women have broken through so many levels of the glass ceiling. However, it should never come at the expense of your partner or children. If your job calls for you to forsake being present with the ones God has entrusted to you, then your values are skewed. No one else can fill the void like a mom can. Letting husbands and grandparents raise kids while you climb the corporate ladder may seem like you are setting an example for your children, but at the end of the day, they need you. Period.
  7. Your body will change in  ways you never  imagined as you get older. You can fight it (you won’t win); you can try to trick it (plastic surgery is noticeable and it is expensive) or you can accept it (much more peaceful). Now, this doesn’t mean that you stop caring. It means that you stay real. Your body will have done many, many miraculous things in its life – be good to it.
  8. If you aren’t already doing so, start using a good moisturizer. You will thank me later.
  9. Travel. Meet new people – especially people who are different than you. They will bring a richness to your life that will truly amaze you. I have met people who share the same faith and values that I do and their testimony has been a blessing to me. I have also met people whose values and faith are on the other end of the spectrum. These relationships have blessed me as well and challenged me to dive deeper into my faith. Other cultures and traditions have helped me to see God in all of humanity. It has opened up a place in my heart for all to sit and gather. I can’t think of any richer way to view those around me.
  10. Be extra patient with the elderly. As you age, you will understand why this is so important.
  11. There is no substitute for living in the space of authenticity and vulnerability. It may mean that you feel more deeply and intensely; but it also insures that you will really, really live. Having said this, understand that not everyone will appreciate this transparency. It will make many people uncomfortable. Live that way despite what others think. I promise that you won’t regret a single moment.
  12. You can’t change people. You can’t control what they say or think about you so don’t waste your valuable time trying. The only person you  have any control over is yourself. You get to choose how you will respond to others. You get to choose who you spend time with. Therefore, forsake all forms and negativity and surround yourself with people who lift you up and don’t try to drag you down.
  13. Speaking of dragging people down. You should never look down on another human being unless you are reaching out a hand to lift them up. People don’t need your judgement and you certainly never want to place yourself on a spiritual pedestal. I have done this and then I took a very long and embarrassing tumble. Best to leave the stones on the ground.
  14. Do the best you can to sprinkle kindness out into the world each day. It costs nothing and the return for the value is immeasurable. Kindness allows us to honor the Divine in each person.
  15. Finally, life will test your faith over and over. With each loss, hurt, disappointment, victory, etc., it will expand and shrink. Don’t let that scare you. Even when you feel as if the well of your faith has run dry, pray. Have others pray. Then get real quiet and listen. He speaks, but He won’t compete with the noise that we allow in our life. When you aren’t sure what to do, do nothing. Then when you least expect it, your heart will fill to brimming with joy.

This is a short list.

By no means am I an expert of any kind on this thing called Life. I try to remember that each morning I awake is a new opportunity to do the very best that I can. I also mess up more times than not. The difference now is in the grace I try to extend myself when I do fail. I extend that grace because I am learning to take hold of the truth that I am loved by my God. Not only am I loved unconditionally by Him, I believe that He dances over me when I sleep at night.

Grace and Love are finding themselves better situated in my everyday life in recent years. Their presence has made a profound impact on me and those in my life.

Reader, it is my hope that you will find gratitude as you reflect on the lessons and experiences that you have had with each revolution around the sun. I hope that you will share the knowledge you have gained with others. And in so doing, help each person you meet, live the best version of this one wild and wonderful life.

Be blessed.

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