49 +1: Digging In

I’m inching my way towards 50 and in celebration of this fact, I have decided to post a blog on the 28th of each month until my 50th birthday. I like using dates as markers, little checkpoints, moment of time to create space to take stock and reflect and plan. So here I am, thinking about who I’ve been, where I’d like to be, and where I might be headed.

To do all of this requires a fair amount of digging. At the turn of the new year, I was in a bookstore looking at everything that was just released. Armed with a list of books I knew I wanted to read, I tucked it away in an experiment to just see what came my way. I looked at all my usual haunts. I started with new nonfiction and then paperback memoirs. I headed to poetry and scanned the bestseller list and spent more time with staff recommendations. Finally, I ended up at the table display of NEW RELEASES where I spied a book called Waking Up In Winter.  

I was drawn to it for many reasons. First, it has winter in the title, the season of my birth. Second, the title is disparate; typically, I think of hibernating in winter rather than waking up. It’s written by a popular self-help author and the very nature of self help means we need to be something other than we already are and I don’t like this in theory. I cruise the store and I can’t stop going back to the book so finally, I pick it up and I scan it. The opening story is about a woman who knows what she should do but is drawn to doing something else. Is this a sign or what?

I set aside my feelings regarding self-help and forget about the list of books everyone else is going to be reading and I buy the damn book.

I am not going to tell you that much about Waking Up In Winter except to say its premise was everything I seem to be doing now. The writer went back to her journals to see how much has changed since she started keeping them and how much has not. What themes consistently emerge in my life? Am I stuck or have I moved past them? Am I in charge of writing my story or am I letting someone else control the narrative?

I’m digging through all of this right now. From some of my earliest journals, little empowerment phrases are doodled throughout. “You can!” is popular. “Do it!” is another. I have always struggled with action and how to move from point A to point B. Usually, my pattern is to think long and hard and laboriously and do nothing. And then some opportunity arises and I don’t think for a second and just do it. Might I have saved time and made more progress if I just jumped in without all the waiting?

Time, of course, is at the essence of my considering all of this anyway. I am midlife, most likely over half way, and I want my next years, however many that may be, to be full of the richest stuff. As much fun and as painful as it can be to look back, mostly why I am digging is to see- what bears addressing? What is ready to be put to rest? I bought myself this key chain as a reminder that there is so much that no longer serves me. And I want to work on letting go so that I can make space for that which does.

Here are a few things in my brain that I am trying to release:

All thoughts about how imperfect my body may be.

And with that the anger that I put this at number one. I am going to blame culture and societal expectations that create this mindf**k for more women than I care to count. It has always been an uphill battle and I AM NOT the problem. When Big Man’s cousin Andrew died and a reporter asked his sister about him being the first gay soldier to be killed after the repeal of DOMA she replied, “Being gay is the least interesting thing about Andrew.”  

This has stayed with me and I feel it is is true with how I see myself. My appearance is the least interesting thing about me. This is hard to balance in the age of social media and really, just the years of ingesting what it means to be a woman of value.

Viewing life as a checklist.

Choosing to move with intention throughout my day no matter what is in front of me. I cannot avoid what I must do, but I can do it in a different spirit. This is really a challenge as a mother and a woman who has made conscious choices to use her time to serve wherever she can. I am rethinking this idea of what it means to serve. And how. I am digging around for more answers which just leads me to more questions. But I am up for them.

Living inside my emotions.  

I have an ACE score and this has profoundly affected how I experience the world. Through my husband’s work as a family practitioner and my own reading and observations and work with compassionate listening, I’ve made some progress in how I respond to what life throws at me. It has NOT been easy. In fact, I am astounded at how much more work I have yet to do. But again, here I go digging deep, digging in. I can see the payoffs. I can see, in little ways, where I have learned not to become the emotion but see it, use it, and let it be. This is the most significant part of my wellbeing.

So I think this is enough for January. I like having all of this rattling around in my head and heart. I can tell you that in the most difficult conversations I have with my husband and my kids and even with cherished friends, I still fail. But I am learning that I am not my failures. I can still feel their love. They feel mine. And that is what makes me continue to want to wake up during this period of hibernation.