On September 3rd, I turn 50.
Y’all, it’s weird as hell. It’s a number that doesn’t feel like it fits but I know I’ve been through a lot.
In an effort to be somewhat introspective, I sat down to make a list of what I know so far. I don’t know if it will make sense to you, but if it helps someone, it’s worth the work.
1. Own your stuff (And don’t take on other people’s shit)
One of the best things you can do for yourself is learn your own shortcomings. Me? I really don’t want anyone talking to me until I have had my first cup of coffee. I don’t think if I cook the meal, I should have to wash the dishes. I think if I go out of my way for everyone, they should go out of the way for me part of the time. I don’t respect people who ghost/freeze you out/stop talking to you for short or long periods of time deserve it because that’s pretty damn disrespectful. Fuck that. Most every fight I have ever had can probably be boiled down to one of these things. It’s not that hard yet it’s taken me fifty years to figure that out. But I did, and you should too. This is how you can figure out what is YOUR thing and what is someone else’s thing. Don’t take responsibility for them or for them fixing it. They have to give a shit. Which leads me to the next thing:
2. Boundaries are GOOD (Even when used on the people we love)
That is worth repeating, say it with me…even if its someone you love! Why does love mean it is ok to hurt someone? To abuse someone? To betray someone? To be belittled and discounted? NO. STOP DOING THIS. If someone is an energy vampire, stop spending so much time around them. Period. Limit a visit to an hour. If you live with them, go do other things that feed your soul. You have to take the steps for yourself before you can ask for what you need.
3. Self-care is more important than anything (I mean anything)
The fact that I am still standing on 50-year-old feet is a miracle. I have been suicidal more times than I can count and the common denominator every single time was not paying attention to 1 & 2 and definitely not practicing 3. Self-care can be three minutes of meditation while doing the laundry (a great option is the 10-day class from Carrie Anne Moss that has been a life changer for me) or a run, a bubble bath, a really excellent cheeseburger. Maybe it’s none of these things or a combination of others. For me, it’s walking a 5k a minimum of four days a week, daily meditation with a group meditation on Wednesday and taking the time to do whatever needs done for me before I take care of everyone else. I switched out breakfast meats for a vegetarian option. I read a new self-help book every month. I’m signing up for the Turkey Trot. Also, I stopped making excuses for other people and stopped taking their shit. (That’s probably the important part.)
4. Learn something new every day (And find new ways to use that info)
Learning does cool things for your brain. Aside from the obvious addition to your skill set, evidence suggests it can make you happier. Why wouldn’t you do it then? There are tons of cool ways to learn that won’t cost you a dime. Get a library card. You can check out books, movies, music, etc. there for free. If you have a smart phone, most libraries participate in an audiobook app where you can get access to thousands of audio books without paying a dime. Both Duolingo and Rosetta Stone have apps that allow you a free option to learn a language or two. Every year I put a skill on my intentions list for the year. I have learned to make pasta, bread and can fruits and vegetables. I make collages and recreate wooden Diagon Alley signs. I am always adding something else because my brain needs it but so does my soul.
5. Make a yearly list of INTENTIONS (Screw resolutions on NYE)
Make a list of things you intend to do for the year. Resolutions don’t work. It can be as easy as cleaning out the garage or as aspirational as writing a novel. It is just a way to be accountable to yourself for things that mean something to you. Want to finish your degree? Put it on the list and work backwards to figure out what that looks like. Where do you want to go to school? Have you completed your FAFSA for the year? Do you have all your transcripts? APPLY! You can’t pick a class until you apply and are accepted so apply! Once you get that answer go from there. Mark it off that list when you start the process and move on to the next thing. Need to clear the clutter? Check out Fly Lady, that’s how I did it. Want to write a novel? Block out November and participate in NaNoWriMo, that’s how I did it. I don’t finish the list every year, but I roll them over to the next year and keep going. I have a pretty good track record on actually accomplishing some hopes and dreams instead of waiting for a Bucket List at the end of my life.
6. Embrace your brand of sexy (Gender is irrelevant here)
This is a tough one. Also, not exclusive to any gender. Self-esteem is inextricably linked to someone’s ability to feel sexy. This can also be affected by depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt and even some medications that are prescribed for various diagnosis can intensify the feelings rather than subdue them. Our body issues and self-worth are constantly diminished in a society that doesn’t yet embrace intersectional inclusivity. How do you work to fix this? First up, what’s your brand of sexy? I know that is a weird question but think about it. What is the quality that previous love interests have told you they were most attracted to? For me, my brand is a little bit of aggressive lust mixed with a whole lot of ridiculous. That means sliding into the bathroom, a la Risky Business style, expect naked, just for a laugh. Ridiculous right? Hey, people are into what they are into! You have something, just remember where it is. This year, in my quest for all things sexy, I am planning this fall to take both a pole dancing class and a fighting style class. Take that pin ups!
7. Find art that inspires you (And create your own!)
Visit a museum, go to a concert, head to church. Find the thing that makes you feel on fire and then make the thing. If its decorating your home, writing a poem, crafting the perfect Instagram photo, painting, music, baking a cake, do that thing! It doesn’t have to be Martha Stewart perfect, but it will make you feel so GREAT. Being creative give something back to yourself that no one else can quite duplicate. Maybe you share it, maybe you don’t. Beautiful means many different things.
8. Love deeply (Its ok if it’s not returned)
Sometimes people we love hurt us. Sometimes it is in unforgivable ways. That never means you just stop loving a person. They may not deserve it but seeing someone clearly and still loving them is powerful. You can see their sickness and still love them completely. Love deeply and freely. It may not be up close, it might have to be from a far, but don’t close off the ability to love. It is the foundation of our own self-preservation. When you cut yourself off from others, your soul starts to wither.
9. Be of service to others (Your soul will sing)
Do something for someone else for no other reason than you could. This may be surprising a coworker with coffee in the morning or an employee with the afternoon off. This could be volunteering at a shelter to serve meals or a senior center just to talk to someone who needs it. Maybe its checking in with a friend via text message. You never know the difference you have made on that day to those people, but it will help you feel a sense of gratitude for life that is hard to get any other way.
10. Splurge when it makes sense (Its always worth it) food, travel, shoes
Most families don’t have money to spare. I understand this better than ANYONE because I have never had a time that there wasn’t a struggle. I have learned that I can get something once a month for me, even if it is a candy bar, and it’s not going to break the bank. I have learned to use couponing to my advantage and double up with apps like Ibota and eBates. I am the master of the clearance section and I love hunting through Goodwill for that one THING. I pick up stuff on the side of the road like it’s my god damn job. Me and Coinstar are on a first name basis. Whatever it is that makes your eyes shine, go get that thing. There is a way. You got this.
Peace and Chicken Grease!