There are vital things, like self-reflection, that I think have been lost over the years. It seems in America especially, we have become a culture of paradox: on one side lies the drudgery of living that seems to pervade our very cells. We work so hard to maintain less opportunity than almost any other generation. Parenting even has been moved to being this task that worthy only of gods like Hercules or Atlas. And yet…
We also seem to be surrounded by constant messages to tell us to me grateful for our struggle. Live. Laugh. Love. Oprah. You know, the whole idea that we need to be glad for our hardship. Be grateful for our sometimes bleak futures that rob us of the opportunity for personal growth, interest, and knowledge and are replaced with longer work hours, commutes, and a whole plethora of people reminding us that “happiness is a choice”.
Someone recently told me in a moment of honestly that they love their life and hated all they had to drudge themselves through to get that life. That, to me, seems like the realest assessment of a lot of us that I have heard in a very long time.
That brings me to here and now. Four months before my 40th birthday. Aging doesn’t bother me at all, especially in contrast to the alternative. But at some point I feel a person needs to decide how they will be as they get older. Now to me, seems like a good time to decide, or at least to lay out the basic framework of what is important to me for the future.
So here is my plan:
I am going to dedicate the next four months to figuring this out. My meditation, movement, reading, reflection, and primary amount of writing is going to be focused on this. I am going to jump in, with both feet, to figuring out what I want to do, feel, see, and be with my tomorrows. With any luck I have got another 50 years left so I feel like now is a good time to explore how exactly it is I want to proceed. I feel like I would rather make the choices consciously then accidently fall into whomever I become.
Here is what I am not doing…yet. Worrying about how I will figure out the logistics. That is for later. Now is for those other sorts of bigger decisions that can make the shape of my next years. This does not mean I am not considering my people or planning to jump ship to Cuba, but that this is the time for me to set the trajectory for myself first. Then I will figure out how feasible, possible, or kind that is and adjust my decisions accordingly. I just need to make sure that I realize the “how do I” is not for right now.
I am going to use this blog as a way to write about what I am figuring out on this journey to my next decade. There are some things I have already worked out. These are the things you probably won’t be hearing about from me these months:
Kindness: I truly feel that this is one of those most critical aspects of life. I also feel like I have done a good deal of personal work in this area and I don’t know it will be time to rehash this right now. That road is laid. While it may occasionally need maintenance this is likely not the time for that.
Money: I have got a lot to say about money and professionalism especially as it pertains to yoga. But a close person to me recently said “when is that last time you did anything only for money’s sake?” . Good point. I am honestly remiss to find one example. That just is not me, and really never has been. Right now I am looking to frame my future not to reinvent myself.
Letting go of “stuff”: This is my job. I hold space that allows people let go of their “stuff” (tension, tightness, emotional baggage, resentment, etc.) to better their present lives. While I am very clear that I do not want to be a bitter and closed old woman, and I also realize that happens by not letting go of that “stuff”, this is also a road I know quite well. Consider it like one of those major thoroughfares through a city. Don’t worry, this road has a huge repair and maintenance budget already. I’ll revisit it now, later, always. This just is not the moment where I will focus on that particular aspect of me.
What you will hear about from me that may surprise you:
How you change physically as you age. Not just your mobility, a subject I have been passionately been working on for a couple years now. I even started an 8 week class this summer teaching just the basics of being mobile your whole life. Find the link to the event right here.
But dare I say it? How your looks change and “fade”. <gasp!> How can a free thinking feminist of the 21st century possibly say this as if it matters? Well, I don’t know if it does, but it is true. There are mutil-billion dollar industries out there ready to sell youth in a bottle to me and all my 40 something friends. I am curious about this for a couple reasons. Firstly, because I really hate this dialogue we women have about our bodies, and we are doing a lot of this one to ourselves. We either feed into the self/body shaming culture that we grew up with or we are forced to buy into the self/body love/positive culture that is hitting us ladies over the head like Thor’s hammer.
Now nobody wants to say that they feel body shame. Usually it only comes out as “I felt body shame for a long time now I am changing that”. Ergo, the whole hearted jump onto the body positivity bandwagon, which also may feel uncomfortable. Once we are on that wagon we realize we still don’t like our thighs, hair, skin, nails, breasts, bottom, <fill in whatever you relate to>. Then we feel guilty and fraudulent about not really being “body positive”. I think both sides of this dialogue are rooted in an incredibly dangerous assumption that I want nothing to do with. That assumption is that absolutely anything a woman brings to the table has even one iota of anything to do with what they look like. That is blatantly false. What women contribute to the world, like men, has not one thing to do with their looks. It never has. So let’s have some real talk about our bodies what it means to age inside them.
I am also curious about this because I see some truly freeing aspects to the aging process. I recently took up the motto of only doing my “best work” on things I care deeply about. Things that I feel are less important or satisfying I do less than my best on; consider it my C work. For example, I do C work on the laundry every week. I don’t want to have time to do even B level work on this. We are not naked in my house, or dirty (mostly) and that is what counts. So I am wondering , could the physical changes that come with aging offer more “C work” opportunities? Do I sacrifice myself in some way by doing that? I am willing to explore this a bit because there is a ton of stuff I would rather be doing so I am always on the hunt for a bit more time.
Self-worth exploration: This may surprise some people because I am aware I come off as a generally confident person. Self-assured were the words used to describe me in high-school conferences, almost as often as “not living or working up to her potential”. So I am going to do some work on this. I feel like my own sense of self –worth; you know, the deep down one that lives near the dark back entrance of our inner house, she needs some feeding. She needs the opportunity for a hot shower and to see herself in the flattering light of the bathroom.
Personal career talk: This I think may really surprise people because I live and breathe yoga, and am almost always grateful that it is both my job and my passion. Seriously, I am weirdly passionate about it, I think. But do I have 30 more years of passion in me? Maybe…maybe not. I am going to take these four months to explore that much more deeply.
So why am I doing all this? Especially when it sounds pretty uncomfortable? Well partly because this is the kind of stuff I do, have always done. I take on personal projects, think and reflect about them, and allow them to sort themselves out or not. Then I usually teach about them later, which I may or may not do with this depending on the whole career thing.
Also I feel as if life has offered me some options right now. Some are tied to my relationships with other people, some are not. I need to make absolutely sure that I proceed by stepping forward into my future, not into someone else’s hopes, dreams, or past.
What I would love to hear from you all is your feedback! Have you done something like this before? Was your experience powerful? Positive? Where there books, blogs, voices that you found helpful? Share them please please please!! Either leave a comment or email me and connect at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for my newsletter here and you will get to read about what I have or haven’t figured out a couple days before everyone else gets to.
Happiest of Weeks, Friends! I am, as always, grateful you are here.