In December of this year I will turn forty.
Forty is significant for me.
I have anticipated and looked forward to turning forty since I was probably thirty-five. I can't quite explain it but I don't fear these mid-life years, I revere them.
In truth, from the time I was a girl, I've always wanted to be older than I am. When I was little I wanted to be "in the know". The adults always knew things I didn't, and I wanted that inside track.
I think my anticipation for turning forty is based on a similar desire.
I am an authority respecting and tradition-loving person and I view forty years as a measure of achievement, a significant milestone; a personal threshold that once crossed, will usher me into a new decade of wisdom, understanding, and strength.
Of course it can't be all that and I probably have higher hopes for forty than are realistic, but hey, a girl can dream.
Although I am anticipating forty I have spent a lot of time in the last few months looking back, seeking to reacquaint myself with little girl and young woman inside me, Renee at 9, 15, and 21; never afraid to stand up for herself or for others.
I was a very confident young person. I was a leader. I was opinionated, direct, and right (smile). I believed in myself. I love that girl (I loved her then also) and I want to express more of her in this last year of my thirties.
Thankfully with age comes mellowing and wisdom. I appreciate the depth of compassion I now feel for people, even though that compassion was refined in personal brokenness and pain. I am empathetic in ways I couldn't conceive in my "my way or the highway" youthful vigor.
I don't want to re-assume the mantle of the slightly arrogant and insensitive (though I never considered myself arrogant at the time) version of my younger self. But I am looking to reclaim something rightfully mine - my confidence and belief in myself.
Maybe the reason I have been looking forward to forty is because I hoped my confidence and security would return, magically, with the big four-oh. I know now that's not going to happen, the magic part at least. But I do have faith that in living and celebrating essential me elements this year I will see the return, if not in full at least in part, of my confidence, security and ease with myself.
This year I am preparing my heart, my home, and my body for a significant milestone birthday in my life. I don't recall the last time I thought so much about a birthday, especially one year in advance. But thinking one year in advance of a big birthday is not just about turning forty. It's about what I want out of life and what I'm doing this year to move in that direction.
My two life themes for 2015 are to heal and lie fallow.
fallow: land that has undergone plowing and harrowing and has been left unseeded for one or more growing seasons. (emphasis mine)
Just like everyone else I want to do cool and courageous things in the world. I have done a fair share of cool and courageous in the last few years, what needs to change moving forward is that I do those things flowing in my strengths, gifts and talents.
Because whenever you experience anything life-draining at all…
(like exhaustion, overwhelm, frazzled thinking, frumpy body, flatness of mood, disconnection to yourself or others, irritability, short temper, frustration, sluggishness, self doubt or unworthiness)
…it points to the fact that you’re (in some way) working against yourself. You’re fighting yourself. The flow is gone, there is friction and pain.
We blame it on how busy our lives are… but I know plenty of women who have very full lives and are still living them out with a vitality and joy I knew I wanted.
Lisa Grace Byrne, Replenish teacher and wellness coach
I am so done with self doubt, unworthiness, and shame. I'm done with overwhelm and frustration seething below the surface. Damien and I are done with the pain we have unintentionally caused each other.
I am fed up with fighting against myself. It's time to flow in my strengths and preferred ways of living. But first I need to remember what those are, I need to nurture them. I need to support them before they can support me.
As I enter my 40's I have big dreams, not for the things I will accomplish in the world this year but for how I will feel about myself. Because I know a return of my confidence and wellbeing is the foundation I need to build on for the work I want to do - finishing our children's home education, helping other homeschooling families (and who knows what else).
I am inspired by women who walk before me into their forties with the quiet confidence in who they are, and do work - in their homes and communities - that flows from that place.
This is the life I have been waiting for. I've let go of the guilt for creating a life that is quiet, nourishing, and peaceful. It helps to embrace the truth that our world benefits when people live life in this way... quiet, nourishing, and peaceful.
Heather Bruggeman, Time Beside Healing Waters
In my forties (hopefully sooner than later) I want to be able to say, this is the life I have been waiting for.
Don't get me wrong. I have had moments, seasons even, in the past few years that have felt that way. Mostly during periods of stability, those sweet spots in-between the moves, transitions, and upheaval (of which there has been a lot in the past few years).
In those times I have loved my life. I love having Damien home and a part of our family homeschool. I love the freedom of location-independent work for our family. I love meeting new people on a regular basis.
I love coaching homeschool families and helping them with the nitty-gritty of interest-led homeschooling. I love the friends we met on the Appalachian Trail. So many things I love and have loved about our life, and discrete situations in which I felt like "this is what I've been waiting for". But so much insecurity has plagued me also.
And not just writer's insecurity. I'm often insecure about what I publish, I've gotten used to that. What I'm talking about is an "insecurity of being" because of decision making and lifestyle choices that turned out to be good for Damien but not for me. Decisions that allowed him to operate in his strengths but cut me down at the knees. And of course we didn't realize this was happening at the time, we saw the symptoms but not the underlying cause, until we finally saw the light.
I want to be able to say this about our life:
We have, in essence, crafted the life that is just right for us.
Amanda Soule, A Project Completed
This is what we've been trying to achieve, but our approach took us down a path that was a better fit for Damien than it was for me. Which of course made it not a good fit for either of us since because we are so intimately connected what hurts me, hurts Damien and vice versa.
I want 2015 to be a quiet year, a year to lie fallow and rest the soil of my heart. But just like fallowing a field is not permanent, neither is my period of rest.
I am not a quiet person (though I'm willing to guess I have nurtured the reflective and introspective parts of myself more than the average extrovert). I am wired to lead and live loud, and although I have built (and am darn proud of it!) a peaceful, kind, and loving home I'm also feisty and fiery and I love that part of me. At my best, when I am in my zone, I am exuberant, confident, and in-charge. I want to nurture those traits into their full, beautiful forties-something expression.
I want to carry this strong sense of self in me, like a secret knowledge. Not to be something I push on other people, but an inner strength and sense of wellbeing that enables me to operate in my full capacity to bless, serve and help others.
I feel so happy, lately. A steady, almost solitary happiness, a sense of wholeness and strength inside me. Recently, I realized that I can go into a room of people carrying my knowledge like a secret and not care whether anyone sees it. I know it is there.
Beth Powning, Edge Seasons
(About that quote... having read both of Beth's memoirs, which I highly recommend, I know that this steady, solitary midlife sense-of-self did not come easy. It was hard-won and followed a period of brokenness, pain and then rest.)
I can't anticipate what my forties will bring, but I know how I want to feel when I get there - a sense of wholeness, inner strength, confidence, security.
2015 is my year of the fallowed field, organic farmer fashion, planting a cover crop that protects and nourishes the soil. A cover crop that doesn't ask for much and gives back more than it takes.
There are boundaries around this field, lichen-softened New England stone walls, feathery needled tamaracks, tall gnarled oaks. And there are some prickly brambles (you have to be careful sometimes where you tread) that in August's heat produce sweet and luscious berries whose warm juice dribbles down your chin and stains your finger tips indigo. These natural boundaries, which I maintain and honor, make the field safe and secure, a place of healing and rest.
In my field I am keeping home, my first and enduring life's work. I am tending to beauty, order and good management. In this field we are nurturing our marriage in friendship and mutual respect. In this field I am cross-country skiing in the winter and eating picnics in the summer.
I'm happy to stay in the field. I don't need to know what's beyond the horizon right now, because it will still be there when I'm ready to venture forward and discover it.
2015, my year of comfort and wellbeing on the road to recovery.