As I neared my 40s, so many of the women around me who were already 40 were proclaiming a newfound sense of self.
They spoke about how they didn’t care what others thought of them anymore—sharing that it was as if some sort of epiphany suddenly released them from the burdensome weight of other people’s opinions once they reached the magical age of 40.
Hallelujah! Bring on 40! That sounds fabulous!
But, here I am, already 16 months into my 40s, and I can’t find the promised life-changing insight anywhere. There were no epiphanies that greeted me on my 40th birthday. There has been no increase in self-confidence. None of the magic I was promised has kicked in.
This isn’t how 40 was supposed to be.
I expected to roll up to my 40s, throw on some fabulous shades, and be able to let all the crap others might sling my way simply roll off my shoulders. At least, that’s the idea I was sold by so many of the women around me.
I want my money back.
Even at the age of 41, I am still crushed to the core by other’s negative opinions of me. Essentially, I am still the 14-year-old version of me. Yes, behind the wrinkles in my forehead, the crow’s feet around my eyes, and the sparkly grey hairs that frame my face is a girl who just wants everyone to understand she is a good person. She doesn’t need everyone to like her, approve of her, or even want to spend time with her, but man, does she need others to believe she is a good person — one who does not lie, steal, cheat, or deliberately hurt others.
Surely those insecurities were supposed to fade once I hit the age of 40, right? But, they are still there, sometimes louder than ever.
I keep telling that teenager inside my brain to ask herself So what if someone misunderstands you, talks about you negatively behind your back, accuses you of something you simply did not do, or even posts completely false information about you online? But my inner teenager always rolls her eyes at me, sighs, and gets stuck. She gets stuck on wondering if there is anything she can do to convince people of who she really is or to convince them the information they received about her is wrong. She gets stuck wondering how many other people believe she isn’t a good person.
This isn’t how 40 was supposed to be.
Life was supposed to change drastically for the better, leaving a fresher and more confident version of myself, poised to tackle my 40s like a boss. But, it really doesn’t feel much different here in my 40s, aside from increased joint pain and needing to cover my greys more frequently.
This can’t be it. There must be more. I must be missing something or doing my 40s all wrong.
I watch in awe as my youngest son navigates the world with confidence, able to brush off other people’s views of him swiftly and effortlessly. It’s an ability I thought I would find for myself once I turned 40. Somehow he has already mastered what it means to be 40 at the ripe old age of 11. He lives fully, without holding back. He is who he is and if people don’t like it, he doesn’t care.
I thought the theme of my 40s would be pretty similar to how my 11-year-old lives his life: I am who I am and if people don’t like it, I don’t care. How can I make that my mantra? How can I find for myself the changes I thought would come with last year’s birthday?
Perhaps my 40s haven’t gone the way I thought they would because I’m still holding back. Maybe I am still holding back who I really am, afraid to just let the real me be free for all to see. Perhaps I am holding back what I really want to say, do, or even be. Could I be holding back pieces of myself so there is less of me to be unfairly judged?
I’ve had 41 years to figure all this out, and I suppose if I want my 40s to be the way I envisioned them, it’s up to me to do something about it.
I have to be more like my 11-year-old and less like my inner 14-year-old. I have to stop holding back. I have to put the real me out there and learn to be a fabulous version of myself who just lets negativity roll off me. After all, the people who matter are the people who know me, the people who have my back, the people who see the real me, and the people who believe in me. If others choose to misunderstand me, that’s on them.
So, today I’ll go buy some fabulous shades, toss my sparkly hair back, and begin facing the world like the 40-something-year-old boss I know I can be.
Watch out world, I’m in my 40s now, and I’m going to start living my life for me.
This piece was originally published on 12/3/20 on Her View From Home.
As I was listening to my sons tell me all about their impromptu baseball practice session at the field the other day, critiquing each other’s stance, swing and follow through, I realized that life is a lot like getting up to bat in baseball.
Behind you are your friends. They are the people in the crowd who are there for you and want you to do your best. They know when you need to be cheered on and when you need them to be quiet. They get you.
Fans of the other team
Behind you may also be some people who are not your friends. They wouldn’t mind seeing you strike out because they are there to root for someone else.
People only there for the snacks
Then there are the people that are just acquaintances. They are the people behind you who are totally uninterested in what you are doing — they are taking selfies on their phones and carrying on about something totally unrelated to your at-bat. Even though they are neutral, you still might not want to make an error in front of them.
Then there are your role models. They are your coaches. You look to them for guidance and advice. They motivate and push you.
Let’s not forget about the authority figures in your life. Perhaps they are bosses or others who are quick to judge you. They are the Umps, ready to call you “out.”
But, as you make your way to the plate, you also feel the presence of your team. Your success is their success. Your failure will also be felt by them. Maybe they are cheering you on, chanting your name, reminding you that they believe in you.
Then there is the other team — waiting in the outfield, watching your every move. Willing you to strike out and send them a nice pop fly.
Does any of that seem a bit like how real life goes?
It does for me.
I can identify people in each of those roles: fans for my team, fans for the other team, neutral acquaintances, people quick to judge or point out my errors and also my team who has my back.
Once you are in the batter’s box, all that other stuff fades away as you face off with the pitcher.
I have seen countless batters step into that box throughout my years as a baseball mom. One single bad experience can set some kids into an incredible slump. Great hitters suddenly freeze, afraid to swing the bat. Some confident batters suddenly find themselves jumping out of the box because they have grown afraid of being hit by a ball again. Others lose their focus and can no longer seem to make contact with the ball. I have spent many seasons cheering on my sons, hearing coaches remind them that baseball is in large part about confidence, focus and staying in the box.
Look around. What is it like in your batter’s box of life now?
1. Who is cheering you on?
2. Who wants you to strike out?
3. Who is part of your team?
4. How are they supporting and encouraging you?
5. Who are your coaches and how do they motivate and bring out the best in you?
6. How does it feel in your batter’s box?
7. Do you need to make some changes to your stance?
8. What are you thinking when you step into the batter’s box?
9. Is your fear of striking out so great that you just stand there, frozen, as the pitched balls fly by you, hoping they are called balls and not strikes?
10. Are you so scared of being hurt that you back out of the box on each pitch?
11. Do you lack confidence in yourself so you find yourself closing your eyes and swinging wildly at any pitch?
As you move through this week, notice all of the children who are taking to the fields with their gloves, bats and balls. Let those images be a reminder to you to take some time to reflect on your life and what it is like in your batter’s box.
How can you regain your confidence, drown out the negative noise behind you, lean in, keep your eye on the ball and smash it out of the park?
To the mama who didn’t get to have a normal childhood,
I see you.
I see your daily pain as you move through the journey of parenthood, realizing over and over again just how much you were mistreated and abused by your own caregivers.
Your heart breaks almost daily for all the things you missed or had taken away from you during what was supposed to be your childhood.
YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS:
You didn’t deserve any of the abuse, neglect, and mistreatment that happened to you.
None of it.
It was the job of your caregivers to keep you safe, make you feel loved, and allow you to be a child.
They failed you.
You didn’t fail.
None of it was your fault.
You need to believe this - in your core.
And now look at you - making the decision every day that the cycle of abuse will stop with you.
Every day you make the active choice to give your children and yourself a better life.
Each time you tell your children that you love them so they don’t go to sleep at night wondering what they have to do to earn your love - you continue to break the cycle.
Each time your child feels safe coming to you for advice after they have made a mistake instead of cowering in fear - you continue to break the cycle.
Each time you spend time with your children at their sporting events, extracurricular activities, or just snuggling on the sofa, reminding them that you not only love them but you LIKE them too - you continue to break the cycle.
Each time you apologize and take ownership for your mistakes as a parent and clarify that your child is not responsible for your emotional well-being - you continue to break the cycle.
Each time you set a boundary and protect your child from people that do not respect them or cannot be trusted - you continue to break the cycle.
Each time you seek support for yourself so that you can be a better version of yourself - you continue to break the cycle.
I see your efforts and I know that the work you are doing is hard.
You are tired.
You doubt yourself.
You fight daily to prevent those negative thoughts and messages from your own childhood from coming to the surface.
Keep going. Keep moving forward, building the life your children so deserve - the life you never got to have as a child.
But be sure to also take time to think about all the ways your children will never have to experience what you experienced.
Take time to be proud of the parent that you have chosen to be.
Your children are lucky to have you as their mama.
Love yourself just as fiercely as you love your children.
You deserve it.
You are worthy of love and compassion - especially from yourself.
Ladies, I have an important message for you.
You know that voice in your head — the not so nice one?
The one that tells you all the ways other people are better than you.
The one that tells you that you aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, skinny enough, nice enough, rich enough, talented enough, popular enough.
The one that tells you that you are a bad mother, bad friend, bad sister, bad employee, bad wife.
Yes, that voice.
She’s become too comfortable in your brain.
She’s become too familiar.
You don’t need to listen to her.
You don’t have to be perfect. No one is perfect.
You don’t have to have it all figured out. No one does.
You don’t have to be able to do it all. No one can.
When that voice starts ringing in your head, picture yourself turning down her volume, like you would on the tv or radio.
Remind yourself that she lies.
Turn up the volume on all the good things about yourself.
You ARE enough.
You DO matter.
You ARE loved.
That’s the only voice that you should listen to — the kind one.
That’s the truth.
Sometimes you will be too much for people.
Sometimes you won’t be enough.
Sometimes they will find you too sensitive
Sometimes they’ll say you are too insensitive.
Sometimes you will make decisions that hurt others.
Sometimes the decisions of others will hurt you.
Sometimes you will be lonely.
Sometimes you will wish for solitude.
Sometimes you will feel like all eyes are on you.
Sometimes you will feel invisible.
Sometimes the people you need to cheer you on won’t be there.
Sometimes people around you will shout things that aren’t true.
Sometimes you will feel too focused on a goal.
Sometimes you will feel lost and directionless.
Sometimes you will lie awake at night unable to find sleep.
Sometimes you will crawl under the covers, afraid to face the world.
Not all the time.
Sometimes you will feel valued, seen, and appreciated, despite your flawed parts.
Sometimes you will find your confidence, support, and direction.
Sometimes you will be at peace and rest easily at night.
Through all the sometimes, there will be constants to hold on to.
Your life has meaning.
You are not alone.
Tomorrow is always a new day.
Sometimes you just need to hold on.
A Beautiful Mess
Life is messy today.
Right now from my home office window, I can see the first snow of the season as it drifts gently down into my backyard — a backyard that still is somehow straddling not just summer and fall but now also winter.
The hammock that I like to lounge in on hot summer days is still sitting under my favorite tree.
That favorite tree is still in the process of shedding its vibrant orange and red leaves, many of which now cover my backyard.
Summer, fall, and winter are alive in my backyard-all at once.
My yard is in the space between. The space where nothing is clear. The space of messy overlap.
My life feels like it is in that messy space too.
My kids are remote learners but also attend school in person a few days each week.
I am working full time but I haven’t seen the inside of my actual office in months.
I am exhausted but also cannot sleep.
I am content but also cry at the drop of a hat.
I am hopeful but also anxious.
I feel loved but also lonely.
I long for the warmth of summer but also enjoy the forced hibernation winter brings.
I crave connection but also need time to be alone.
I am like my backyard — messy, unclear, and clinging to different seasons all at once.
Today I will embrace the beauty that this in-between space brings.
Today I will marvel at the scene of summer, fall, and winter co-existing in one messy space. One beautiful messy space.
Sometimes there is beauty in the mess.
Even my mess.
Even yours too.
I Lost It Today
I lost it this morning.
The weight of the past 6 months caught up with me.
My favorite time of the year — the reset provided by fall and back to school — finally made it to my house, albeit 3 weeks later than usual.
It’s my annual chance to reorganize my life, my routines, my systems, and my brain. New clothes for the boys for back to school, expanded hours for my clients, new classes for me to teach at the college level, and evenings spent on a sports field watching my boys play their favorite game usually fill my life this time of year.
Of course, none of that happened this year.
But today did mark the start of the in-person portion of the school year for my boys — the first time my oldest would step foot inside the high school as a student, not a visitor, and the same for my youngest at the middle school. It was kind of a big deal.
But, I lost it.
I slept through my first alarm and spent the rest of the morning playing catch up, racing through our morning to do list with one eye on the clock because they couldn’t be late — not on their first day.
Then the negative thoughts started.
I felt the weight and guilt of having to turn yet another handful of interested clients away because I cannot increase my hours this fall due to at-home schooling 3 days/week.
The state of disarray that is my house with backpacks, school supplies, masks, half-finished projects, dog toys, and a weird blend of clean and dirty clothes was all I could see everywhere I turned.
The bickering on social media flashed before my eyes as I absentmindedly scrolled through my feed while waiting for my tea to steep. Negativity and stress was everywhere this morning.
When I went to wake up my now middle schooler for his first day of school, I found the grumpy, moody, developmentally appropriate but patience-testing version of him before me.
I lost it.
Everything boiled over.
The doubts about whether this hybrid model is the right choice for him, whether this school was the right choice for him, whether this town was the right choice for him, it all rushed to the surface and I yelled.
I lost it.
I imposed an early bedtime, said I would take away all electronics, took away his option to walk home from school today, and I cried.
Today was our big day as a family and I lost it.
I failed to see that everything I was feeling, he probably was also feeling.
Six long months without being in school. Six long months of hearing about this virus. Six long months without the routine and structure that had filled most of his 12 years on this planet.
He doesn’t want this. He wants the world back to the way it was. He wants to play football. He wants to go to school full time with ALL of his friends. He wants to ride the bus while sharing a seat with his friend. He wants to sit across from his friends at a lunch table.
I failed to recognize all of that this morning and instead focused on how he wanted to wear ratty sweatpants with a hole in the knee to school and had a negative, grumpy attitude.
We were sure to say I love you and hug goodbye after our meltdowns but there were no cheerful first day of school photos for him.
Because I lost it.
We all have mornings like I had today — mornings where everything feels rushed and wrong and the choices you make are just the wrong ones. The guilt from those wrong choices is heavy and thick and can stick with us long after the bad moments have passed.
The truth is, no amount of “hold onto hope,” “be patient,” “give it time,” or “find the bright spot” memes or stories can actually take the stress of reality away. Sometimes life is just hard and it all catches up to you, washing over you like a gigantic rogue wave. Sometimes you just have to feel your feelings. I guess this morning was one of those times for him and for me.
So, what do you do after you lose it? What do you do when you regret the choices you have made as a parent, a partner, a friend, a worker?
Sure, I could sit in this guilt and negativity all day but that will probably only set off a whole big chain of further negativity. Today I choose to reflect on it, learn from it, take ownership for my actions, and reset.
Tomorrow is another day and I will try my best to do better, to be better.
Also, maybe I will set a back up alarm.
Sometimes the silence is so loud, it is deafening.
Sometimes in life you expect to hear from certain people, the people that are closest to you.
You assume you will hear things like “I miss you” or “I love you” or “Way to go, I’m so proud of you!”You think that surely they will call you, message you, text you, email you, post on your social media.
But, sometimes, the people closest to you are nowhere to be found.
The silence left in the wake of their absence is so loud that it rings in your ears.
The silence is all you can hear.
Their missing presence is all you can see.
But in focusing on the silence, you miss out on all the things that ARE there.
Sometimes you need to step away from the noisy silence and open your ears to what else is around you.
Maybe it’s not the people you thought it would be, but I bet you will find people there for you — reaching out to you, acknowledging you, appreciating you, needing your presence.
Turn down the volume on the people who are silent so that you can turn up the volume on the people who are present.
Most importantly, turn up the volume on your own inner cheerleader. Be the person that applauds your successes, that encourages you to keep going, that makes you feel like you are enough.
Be the voice that drowns out the silence.
Battling Self Doubt
Tonight the feelings of self doubt are big.
That negative voice in my head is loud.
It shouts at me:
“You are a fraud”
“Your kids deserve a better mother.”
“Your friends deserve a better friend.”
“Your husband deserve a better wife.”
“Your family deserves a better version of you.”
“Your neighbors deserve a better neighbor.”
I know all the skills to use to drown out the negative thoughts.
I know how to poke holes in what I am saying to myself; how to find lack of evidence to support the negative thoughts; how to find evidence to support the opposing thoughts; how to identify the faulty thought patterns.
I know that the voice I am hearing does not have to dictate how and what I actually feel and believe about myself.
I know that I am loved, I am worthy, I am good enough, I am deserving of the good in my life.
But, some nights the depression and anxiety are just so damn loud.
Tonight is one of those nights.
So, tonight I write as a way to push those thoughts away.
Tonight I write to tell those thoughts to beat it.
Tonight I write to remind myself that I would never let a friend believe these things about themselves, would never let my children believe these things about themselves, would never let me clients believe these things about themselves, and so I’m not going to allow myself to believe these things about myself either.
Tonight I write because I know tomorrow will bring a new day.
Tonight I write because I know I’m not alone.
Tonight I write so others can know they are not alone
Now, more than ever, we all need a little support to help get us through the rough spots. With all the pressures of life, it can be a challenge to find time to not only take care of yourself but also to truly understand who you even are anymore.