40 is the new 40
I just turned 40. For weeks leading up to my big birthday, I’ve had a knot in my stomach every time I’ve thought about it. I’ve tried to ignore this feeling with distractions (over-eating, smoking hookah…), but it has played havoc on my holidays. So much so that I’ve been distant from loved ones and my motivation to do just about anything has been pretty low.
The thing is that I know better than to let this state of existence fester. I’ve wrestled with it enough to know that if I don’t address my feelings consciously, they will hang over my head, lurk behind every decision and suck the joy out of life. I know how to handle this, but I have to tell you that it is HARD to face it. So Hard.
Knowing what I know, I made myself take action. I got my trusted journal out and started jotting down every thought that was flashing in my head. No filtering. No judgment. No worries about spelling and grammar, just writing.
I started to realize that I’ve been afraid to take full measure of what this big milestone means to me because I’m afraid of the things that I ‘should’ve’ accomplished by now. Chief among them is that I ‘should’ be married with kids and be settled into a well-oiled, comfortable, routine life. I’m not.
As soon as I realized this, my dread turned into anger. So what do I do? Just live with the shame of this perceived-shortcoming? Somehow keep myself feeling like I haven’t done enough despite having accomplished so much in life? NO.
So I started making a list of all of the things I’ve accomplished so far (with my work, my friendships, my family). I made an inventory of everything I like in my life and taking stock in this released me from my anger. I started to feel peace because I realized that I’ve earned where I am and I actually like it. I am better off now than I was when I was in an unhappy marriage and headed for kids. I realized that I don’t have to have those things to be happy. I want them, don’t get me wrong. I really do and I will, but not having them now is not all that defines me. Phew. The shame I was feeling about my unconscious self-judgment started to lift. I started to open up to the people that love me about what I was going through and they made my healing complete by the support that they gave me. I felt lighter and more connected. I felt good.
I could’ve stayed in an emotional jail and continued to distance myself from the things that make me happy, but by dealing with my fear, I was able to knock it out. In fact, I felt a mound of personal power.
I want to share with you the experience of handling this fear and my shame around what was hidden behind it because I know that I’m not alone in having fears like this. I want you to know that you don’t have to suffer unnecessarily.
If you feel stuck like I did, you can work through it. You have to take the risk of diving in, getting conscious about it, and addressing it where it needs to be addressed. We tend to think that it’s easier to hide from what we’re feeling, but if you really think about the misery that doing so creates – is it really easier?
I know that working through emotions is hard, but we all need it. This is why I’ve founded Rooted. At Rooted, people have a safe space and tools to work through emotions like these while they are surrounded by supporting people. The creative endeavors at Rooted are other ways into finding out what’s going on for you. I used journaling to work through my ‘stuck’ and it is a part of every session at Rooted.
I will leave you with this: I’m looking forward to my 40s. I have so much more to learn about myself and those around me and I’m ready for the adventure.