31 December 2014

The Measure of Years: Reflections on Turning 40

It’s this freedom that’s the key to becoming visible again. Not caring what others think is freeing. Expressing yourself any way you want is freeing. Having opinions, emotional wisdom, spiritual understanding…these things free you. And in freedom, we find power.
~ Jane Tara, The Happy Endings Book Club

 his December I turned 40.

Forty.  A supposedly significant number, but what exactly is it supposed to signify?

In a society that values money, production, , utility, doing and acting, it is easy to look at the past forty years and wonder, What have I done with my life so far?

If I use society’s rule book and compare myself to others, I come up with a depressing list of did nots and do nots:

I don’t earn a six digit income.
I didn’t get a promotion.
I don’t own a company.
I’ve never lived out of my home state.
I don’t have a Masters, much less a PhD.
I don’t own a fancy car.
I don’t own any designer clothes.
I didn’t publish a book.
I didn’t consistently write 500 words a day.
I didn’t publish as many blog posts as I planned.

But as an Idealist (INFP) and an Inspirer (ENFP), these particular "failures" didn’t bother me for long (except the writing, but we’ll get to that later).  That means I value being over doing, reflecting over acting, creating over producing, and relationships over money.

It doesn’t mean I sat and dreamt my dreams and then did nothing to realize them.  Just that my dreams differ greatly from the majority of society.

You matter....embrace and express yourself!
Image: © Sergey Nivens
Some dreams you don’t know you have until you have a chance to live them.  My week long trip to Kodiak, Alaska in September 2014 was a dream; one I walked away from inexplicably changed.  On the surface, you wouldn’t know it.  

But inside….the interior landscape of my soul and my psyche were drastically altered. And that trip allowed me to give the proverbial finger to society’s (and familial) expectations and judgments of where I should be at forty.  

So now my list looks like this:

I have a decent paying job.
My position is low-stress.
I have money and time to support other small business owners.
I read voraciously and care more about learning than earning letters after my name.
I have a car that runs and gets me from point A to point B.
I have more clothes than I actually wear. (And I do own designer, vintage hats!)
I may live in my childhood home, but I have visited Alaska twice and stood six and half feet from a Kodiak grizzly.

Most importantly, I learned to let go of a couple of my most damaging fears.

But I’m human.  And I suffer from depression.  So I’m not going to clean this post up and tell you that everything was peachy keen and I triumphed glamorously through adversity and lived a positive, healthy life the rest of the year.

I made a lot of mistakes and I failed a lot ~ sometimes spectacularly.  The temptation to give up, to despair, to wallow was overwhelming at times and I gave in more than I care to admit.  And I’m still struggling.  To listen to the supportive, loving voices and to ignore and block out the judgmental, critical ones.  To embrace both my light and my dark side.  To regain lost ground.

Especially when it comes to following my passion for the written word. 

There’s no way around that one.  I failed consistently at being consistent with my writing.  And as writers know, the most important aspect of being a writer is to show up, sit down, and put words on a page.  My failure to do this is directly tied to both my depression and a deep-rooted fear of rejection and indifference.  And both of those fears are directly tied to family of origin issues.  Not an excuse, just something I need to stay aware of.

Which means there is no easy solution, no magic potion, no “just do it” way to overcome it.  I do have excellent help and loving support, and a firm belief that healing is possible and attainable.  Still, it's going to take more hard work, openness, and suffering.  Something that I need to allow to bleed onto the page.

That's raw.  That's real.  That's honest.  That’s life.

That’s a significant forty years.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

How do you measure the worth of your years? 

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Diane McElwain said...

Hey, I didn't know the birthday was #40. We Americans make such a big deal of these birthdays!
About the writing thing: Don't fear rejection, give it all you've got. It's God in you and be free!
The reason I am writing a blog at all is because of daughters who told me to stop being trapped by my fear of rejection. It was a healing thing for me.
Write on, dear friend!

Daniel said...

Happy Birthday Mikaela! I appreciate your insights, admire your love of language, and am envious of your use of Latin. Write on! ~dancin

Unknown said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Dan and Diane!