I am sitting alone by the window in my favorite bistro while counting down the minutes until I go and buy one movie ticket. It wasn’t long ago when I would have been too self-conscious to spend an evening like this. But a child-free opportunity presented itself at the last minute, and instead of seeing if anyone could join me, I spent the time painting my toenails blue and trimming my split ends.
There is a woman next to me having tea with a friend. I am listening to their conversation; her husband died a few months ago and they are planning a trip to Vegas together. I started eavesdropping when I heard her say, “I woke up one day and was getting dressed and I was 65. Yeah, I can get a discount on a cup of coffee, but I never did half the things I always told myself I would and now too much time has gone by.”
Oh, I hope she makes up for it. It certainly sounds like she is ready to start.
This makes me think about myself. I’ve always thought I was pretty comfortable in my skin, but now as a woman in her 40s, I have to admit something: I wasn’t all the way there, maybe like 50% there. I feel something now that was missing before — contentment. So many women reach this stage in their 30s and 40s because we realize in our younger years we didn’t fully love ourselves the way we should have. We have had phases of putting up with too much bullshit, from ourselves and other people.
Part of that bullshit is saying no to things we really want to do because we are afraid we might get hurt, fail, or maybe we are afraid that the life we know and are comfortable living will somehow change.
We’ve all said “yes” when we should have said “hell no.”
We’ve all said “no” when we really wanted to say “yes.” We’ve all wasted time being hurt about things that were none of our business and given a fuck about too many people we never should have.
And in your “older and wiser” years, you realize how precious your time really is. Putting your self-worth on the back burner is a big fuck-you to your soul. We go through the tough, painful stuff because it’s the only way we grow and learn to love ourselves the way we should.
After four decades of being alive, I’ve finally given myself permission to live my best life. In my 20s, I thought for sure my best years would be over by my mid-30s, and I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.
I believe getting to know yourself takes time. Just like a garden, our happiness needs tending. We have to do some weeding and watering to reap the rewards. We learn what we will welcome and what we need to let go of in order to be happy.
Living our best life is about the big picture. It doesn’t mean we are doing something mind-blowing every day. It means we are doing things with meaning and intent.
It means knowing no one can fill your heart and soul with the things you need except you. It’s in our nature to look outside ourselves for happiness. I catch myself doing it all the time. And now, I don’t care if Prince Charming shows up at my door promising me a lifetime of health and calorie-free chocolate cake — it won’t be enough if I don’t feel like I’m being true to myself first.
I guess I spent a lot of time believing someone else would come along and take away all the bullshit that was floating around in my head. I am grateful I’ve now learned that I am the only one responsible for making my dreams come true — no matter how big or small.
I am thankful for those who have hurt me and let me go even though it was hell at the time. They just got me closer to the life I really wanted. It’s work. It’s not always easy, and there are days when I don’t feel like putting it in.
But there comes a time when we realize life serves you the good and the bad, and you’ve gotta take it as it comes. The wonderful experiences and relationships wouldn’t be the same without all the shit mixed in. When it hits you, it can be glorious because you learn to expect it and get comfortable with the ebb and flow. You know the valleys will eventually lead you to peaks.
There’s a lesson in everything, and I can’t wait to see what the next 40 years is going to teach me.
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