This past weekend I did yoga with goats, smoked a cigar at a cigar bar, drank beer (maybe two), and ate all kinds of glutenous things (and enjoyed it!). Those who know me might ask what the freak is going on with me!? And some might even call me a hypocrite after all my healthy, wellness ways.
Today I'm 35. For the past few months I've dreaded this birthday. Somehow 35 seemed catastrophic. And maybe you can understand why...
35 and divorced. 35 with no kids. 35 with a genetic mutation that makes childbearing difficult and already risky. 35 and still chasing my dreams. 35 and still struggling to stand on my feet as a single woman. 35 and not where I had hoped to be at this age. My life looks NOTHING like I thought it would. Not. At. All. Do ya get me?
34 was rough + tough. To be brutally honest, the past several years have been. I was hit at every angle. You name it, I've probably endured it. And while I tried to model grace, it wasn't pretty every day. Some days I would come home fatigued and allow myself to crumble at the foot of God. I would cry, I would feel weak, I would feel discouraged, angry, and maybe even question Him. Lord, what the heck are you doing??? Why do I feel like I am being stripped?
But you know what? Those raw moments of vulnerability--I wouldn't take them back. The past few years have tested me, yet somehow my faith has remained, and I have smiled the whole way through it. Because those were the very precise precious moments when I felt God draw so near. And as He peeled back layer after layer of my being, I felt more "me" than ever before. Stronger knowing His power reigns within me. More confident in my walk with Him. Peace even when life felt unsteady. Joy even in the moments of despair. Hope in the goodness I know life has yet to bring. And all of it - ALL OF IT - absolute beauty. I credit my faith in God for giving me my warrior spirit - He who loves me so purely and tenderly even in my weaknesses + imperfections, and even when I stumble and lose sight of Him.
I have learned so much. I have grown so much. And because of it...because of all that I have lost...I can now regain and fully experience life. Each cherished moment of it. As I dreadfully approached 35, I realized that I was allowing an age to label me. I was permitting a # to define my life. And then it hit me how silly I was being. Because through all the ups + downs, I am so appreciative of WHO God has made me. And how even though my life looks differently than I had envisioned, I love my life! I love the journey. I love the people. I love God. And I love ME!
So, if you’re feeling a little down and you aren’t quite where you wish to be, I want to share 10 quick tips that I’ve acquired to help embrace this thing called life.
1. Remember to breathe. Close your eyes. Drop your shoulders away from your ears. Open your chest and inhale deeply into your belly through your nose. Feel your rib cage expand with air. Hold your breath for a moment. And exhale completely. Wow, does that feel good or what!? I remember when I first started to practice Pilates, the teacher would have to remind me repeatedly – drop your shoulders, drop your shoulders, drop your shoulders. Remember to breathe, remember to breathe, remember to breathe. Those are the same shoulders that carried my daily stress. And I began to realize that when I hiked my shoulders up to my ears and forgot to breathe, I wasn’t allowing space for oxygen-rich nutrients to enter my cells. I literally had to practice the act of breathing. And with time, and focus, and maybe a little Pilates, I began to breathe with more ease. My shoulders felt lighter. I gained strength in my core. My mind and body felt more relaxed. And I began to carry myself with more confidence. Remember to breathe deep, cleansing breaths! It calms the central nervous system, lowers blood pressure, decreases the effects of stress, and aids in better sleep! Drop your shoulders. Remember to breathe.
2. Remind yourself to be present. Stop worrying about yesterday. Stop worrying about tomorrow. And as you remember to breathe (see above), take in this exact moment. Because this, this right here, is all that you are guaranteed. Fully experience the now. Who are you with? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? Be mindful to breathe it all in. Press the pause button and sit in this very moment for a little while. Appreciate it. Love it. Be thankful for it.
3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. This is hard. As a recovering perfectionist, I always say that I used to have my life in a box wrapped in pretty, sparkly wrapping paper with the most perfect bow on top. That was the image I put before the world. I have all my sh$t together. My life is perfect. I am perfect. And it was exhausting and couldn’t be further from the truth. When I began to deepen my love relationship with God, He helped me to see with His eyes that my imperfections were beautiful. They gave me character. They made me human. And that by being open and honest, sharing my story with others was darn liberating. And now I can walk in confidence accepting myself as perfectly imperfect. Allow yourself to be vulnerable – your life is a magnificent story to be told. And you’ll see that people appreciate your vulnerabilities and love you just the same.
4. Ask for help when you need it. Be open with the people that love you. Talk to them. Cry with them. Allow them to help you. As a therapist and wellness coach, I’ve always struggled to admit when I need encouragement, confrontation, and help myself! But my life circumstances have humbled me so much. And if I am asking for people to let me help them daily, I too must be open to letting others help me. I began to see just how deeply I am loved by my family and friends. They believed in me. They pushed me. And my heart was so moved by their love for me. Let others help you when you need it. And may your heart be touched like mine. For those who have helped me, in whatever capacity, you know who you are. Thank you.
5. You can reframe any situation. A shift in perspective; it’s all you need. I swear. Try it. Label yourself a victim. Then label yourself a victor. Label yourself as alone, lost, and abandoned. Then label yourself as loved, found, and never alone. Remind yourself of the truth of God. It will never fail you. And it will give you life.
6. Have fun. Get out and do something new. I don’t care what it is. I am not an opera fan, but it’s not about the opera. It’s about the experience. Go with someone you love and care about, have fun, and enjoy the EXPERIENCE. Make memories. Now that’s what I call living.
7. Look for the glimmers of beauty. I know, sometimes we fall into moments of hopelessness. When finding “the good” seems like a feat. But I promise, glimmers of beauty lie underneath. Look for them. A smile. An encounter. A conversation. People that care. The breath of life in your lungs at this very moment. Trust me, beauty is always here in the midst. Open your eyes. Open your ears. Open your heart.
8. Laugh. Laughing heals. Stop taking everything so seriously. Be silly. Loosen up. Find the humor even in the serious things of life. Roll around. Dance around. Joke around. Just freaking laugh!
9. Believe. Trust that your Creator has a plan for you. A plan to prosper you and not harm you. A plan to give you hope and a future. Set your intention on that which is good. And believe. Believe in abundance. Believe in opportunity. Believe in greatness. Believe in love. When you believe, you open yourself up to receiving. Be ready for it.
10. Show yourself love + grace. You are an exquisite masterpiece. You are worthy and valuable. God loves you. God forgives you. God sets your free. So how about you stop all forms of self-sabotage and show yourself some love and compassion. Honor your body. Rest. Pamper yourself. Surround yourself with good people. Pray. And pleeeeaaaasssseee show yourself some love and grace.
So yeah, what the freak is going on with me!? An awakening. that's what! I want to squeeze every drop outta this life. And maybe living well is about balance and actually LIVING! So if I want to get dirty in the field with some goats, so be it. If I want to have a cigar every once in a great while, I will. If I want to celebrate with a rare beer, cheers! If I want to indulge in gluten today...maybe I will deal with some consequences, but for today, it tasted good. I am all about healthy living; with my occasional autoimmune challenges, I most definitely have to be. But my birthday is about my gratitude for life. And boy am I grateful for it all. My life might not look like I wanted it to today, but I am joyful and hopeful for the greatness yet to come. And here I wait with anticipation and open arms. Happy 35.