Initially when I thought of the title for this post, there was no question mark at the end. And in spite of my growing ambivalence about making a declarative statement, I had decided to keep the title: “Forty-six and Feeling Fabulous! Why? Because I liked the way it fell off my tongue, the cadence of it, and the verve and vivacity it suggested. “Hey, I am 46 and feeling fabulous!” Wahoo!
The fact is though, that at the moment of writing this, I do not feel anything like fabulous. Truth be told, this post is one year late. I had intended to write it for my forty-fifth birthday, but I wasn’t feeling very celebratory this time last year. Mom (my mother-in-law) had just passed away and we were dealing with so much. Well, guess what? It is one year later and I am still dealing with so much — new joys but also new challenges. So I got to thinking, that perhaps this is a more authentic title — mirrors more realistically the ups and downs of life. In fact, as I get ready to celebrate my 46th birthday on Thanksgiving Day, I think it is a question I would like to pose to you the reader whatever age you are. Fill in the blank: “_______ and feeling fabulous?” Well, are you?
My answer is: “At 46 I am choosing to be fabulous!” To be clear that is not a boast, and it’s not a feeling. It’s a choice. If like me, you have been blessed with a few decades behind you, chances are you have made a few mistakes (In my case a lot!). You’ve had lots of laughter and good times, shed some tears, achieved some major milestones, and watched some dreams die. You’ve witnessed a few marriages, graduations, and births; but you’ve probably also lived through a few deaths, broken relationships, and tragedies. Some of these experiences have nurtured you, inspired you and been like a good shot of adrenaline in your arm. Other experiences have perhaps left you wondering if you could make it through another minute, another day.
As I reflect on my life experience, I am choosing to be happy, to be amazing, to be FABULOUS– recognizing that both tragedies and triumphs are shaping me into the person I am—stronger, wiser, and I hope a more compassionate individual. So, how do I feel about aging? I’m not even going to pretend on that one. I DO NOT rejoice at each new grey hair, or wrinkle, ache and pain, or extra pound that refuses to go away; in fact, they are all tangible reminders that this party WILL end. BUT, I am choosing to accept them graciously—recognizing that length of life is indeed a precious gift. More to the point, I am learning to be appreciative of who I am becoming through this life journey and the lessons I am learning along the way. And though I feel like I could write a book about these (actually, there’s a thought), if you have a couple of minutes, I’d like to share four of these lessons with you.
Become an Author. I am learning to be an author of my own life story. If you don’t like something about your life, change the script. So the circumstances of your birth weren’t ideal. I hear you. But don’t choose to be stuck in “woe-is-me land”. Let me tell you, the first time I met my mother, I was probably seven. She came to visit us one day, years after she had dropped us off at my grandmother’s house. Long story short—it was a quick visit; she did not stay. Talk about a rotten script! I did not like it, and though I struggled with the thought that perhaps it would define me, I chose to write the storyline that I had imagined. Now, here I am married with two kids and I have to say a GREAT mom! And though residuals sometimes overwhelm me, and I think “What if..,” or “Perhaps, I may still get this thing all wrong…” Guess what? I keep my pen in hand, and I just keep right on working at that new script that I am writing.
Dress the Spirit: I am not beyond moments of sheer exhilaration at finding that perfect pair of shoes. But the older I get, the more I realize the value of dressing the spirit. You will outgrow shoes and clothes, and throw out pocket books, but your spirit is with you for the long haul. No escaping it. Might as well make it beautiful, FABULOUS even! So I am choosing to invest the time in giving my spirit—the person I am on the inside- a workout, a makeover if you will. Because I’ve got to tell you– this “life stuff” can really do a number on you. Injustices can harden you. Make you bitter, even resentful until you may not even recognize the person you are becoming. Choose to dress the spirit! Work on those old insecurities, attitudes and habits that are keeping you back from being your best self. Just learn to wear the bad stuff like a loose garment, and let it drop.
And on that note—can we all just lose the pretension and impression management for a minute! In the age of selfies, just keep it real that your life is not always great or that your photos are not all AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL and youthful looking. In sum, be authentic–show people what you really look like inside and out! In choosing to dress the spirit and present an unpretentious picture of ourselves to others, we offer them an unfiltered view of their own imperfect humanity. And that my friend is what makes us truly beautiful.
Get Connected: Make time to nurture three important relationships in your life: your relationship with yourself, others, and your God. And I have to say, “Don’t believe all the hype. Social media is not all that!” Now I will admit that technology does offer some pretty cool stuff to keep us connected. Like I am blogging right now, and I will share this post on my Facebook page, so far be it for me to bite the hand that feeds me. However, value the importance of connecting with others the old-fashioned way. Interrupt your schedule and your digital calendar if you will to talk to someone face-to-face, look into their eyes, hug them close, cry on their shoulder, send or receive a handwritten card or share a simple meal. Choose to get unplugged for a day or more and spend time with yourself and your God. When we get connected in this way, we nurture our spirit; we feed that part of ourselves that has the potential to energize us, spark our creativity and help us live more fully.
Be Gentle with Yourself: I used to be my own worst critic. My husband, Mark has been an equalizing force in my life to help me focus not so much on the things I did wrong or what remains undone on my “to do list”, but to also celebrate the accomplishments, even small ones; to help me recognize that my worst mistakes do not define me, but can be assets in pushing me on to greatness if I value them correctly. In choosing to be gentle with myself, I am choosing to be my number one cheerleader. It is also teaching me to be gentle with others. To acknowledge the frailty of our humanity– that we are all flawed individuals—capable of great and noble things but we do have cracks and rough spots. In sum, we are both broken AND beautiful and most deserving of the instruction: “Fragile, handle with care.”
Before you leave this blog with the mistaken impression that I “have it all together!” Nothing is farther from the truth. These life lessons are ongoing, and they are aspirational. In fact, when I shared a draft of the last lesson on this list with Mark, he just looked at me with an expression on his face that said without words: “Are you kidding me?” Then he asked bluntly: “Are you gentle with yourself?” To which I responded, “Hey, I’m still learning! Okay!”
So here’s to 46 years of life! I am looking forward to more lessons in days and years to come. Happy birthday to me! And here’s to you, whatever age you are: Choose to be FABULOUS!