On the morning of my 42nd birthday, I don't mean to ask what 42 looks like, as in, do I have more wrinkles now than I did when I was 22? (Yes.) Or am I more or less physically fit, or do I look "better" now than I did back then. None of this is of interest to me. And this is exactly why I love, love, love being 42 and would not trade it for a second, to go back to who I was two decades ago.
What I mean to ask is How does my life look now? How does it look inside the landscape of my heart? It is a kind of question often asked in coaching conversations. What would your life look like... if you had what you really wanted?... if you were living your dreams?
At 22 I was still trying to gain the attention of men and prove I was right about certain things rather than just accepting how I felt, and saw the world, and extending the same to others. At 22 I was still afraid of conflict, having been part of a Conflict Avoidance family pattern for my entire upbringing. At 22 I was still spending time with people whose being didn’t glow with the same fire and power I longed for in my own soul.
Life at 42 looks like fire, earth, water and a succulent dose of blood all mixed up into a stupendous stew of personal power that 22 had no idea was coming.
And just as two 5-year-olds will feel and express a lot of variety in their ways, two 42-year-olds will too. This is how life is for me at 42. Being “over the hill” might look completely different for others at my age.
This piece of writing intends to encourage some of the 22- and 16- and 14- and 32-year-olds who I know and love, to relieve their own suffering and fear of aging. You didn’t make up that “rule” — the Youth Is Better Rule — but chances are, you’ve bought into it. Good thing, you don’t have to “buy” yourself out. You’ve just got to be your own best friend, live your truth like your joy depends on it — because it does — and accept that nothing of real and lasting value comes from “outside” of you.
For two nights I’m on a solo retreat at a nearby Airbnb. Every moment is seeping with the value of the essential act of getting “away.” Or rather, back to our centered sense of self.
And why? When we refuel ourselves from within, everyone and everything we value benefits, including our art and our bodies, our dearest relationships. By getting away, by taking time and space to recharge ourselves, we role model self-care for our children. We show them we value us for us, not just for them. Balance returns. We know this, yet so many moms find ourselves deficient in self-care and patience.
Patience, the virtue that prevents things like...
Yelling. Yelling feels awful. So, so not what we are about. Yet it happens! Most of the parents I know come from a gentle parenting worldview, one that sees a child’s innocence and deserving-ness above all. One that addresses the call for love when behavior is unpleasant, tending to what they’re calling for rather than reacting defensively and labeling their behavior as bad or wrong. We see our children as equals, even more brilliant than we are in many ways. We love them for who they are, with gentleness and fiercely protective devotion. Yet even with all these ‘gentle’ parenting intentions, sometimes we yell. Not all of us, but many of us have yelled at least once. Then we usually feel terrible, confused and ashamed afterward.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a writer, mother, coach and big fan of Sesame Street. Her lifelong art is letter writing. This deeply personal blog and our online workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.