It’s 5:00 a.m. in the morning. Dawn is just beginning to break and I’m sitting alone in my back-yard while the rest of the house is still asleep.
I’ve found, it doesn’t matter how little I have slept the night before, I am always up at this hour. It’s like my body knows I need the solitude more than the sleep. This is my quiet time.
In 90 minutes my 3 children and husband will wake up and chaos will reign.
There will be breakfasts to make, lunches to pack, uniforms to put on and teeth to brush. This all usually occurs within one frantic hour. I swear, sometimes it is just sheer luck that we all make it out alive.
But right now, this tiny slither of quite is all mine. I cherish this solitude.
Today I find myself contemplating my 40th birthday. In just one week I will be celebrating the big 40.
It has surprised me the number of women who have reiterated its “all downhill from here.” I understand we live in a world where anti-aging is a billion-dollar industry, but personally I just don’t resonate with this message.
I am genuinely excited to be reaching this milestone. Many people I loved dearly have not been so lucky. I cannot help but feel deeply grateful to have survived my own demons.
For starters, I have spent nearly 30 years battling my body and only recently realised it was actually my best friend. The size or shape really become irrelevant the day I personally modelled a perineal suture for a group of 10 trainee Obstetricians. From that angle, there is no room for self-consciousness, nothing looks great.
I realised in that moment, that this beautiful strong body, who I had starved, binged, poisoned, hated and disrespected was nothing short of an incredibly efficient and highly functioning work of art. It deserved my respect, some good nutrition and lots of self-care. What it did not deserve was my constant criticism because it did not fit into size 10 jeans!
As someone who has always been an “old soul”, it’s like my age is starting to match how I have always felt on the inside.
I feel wiser, stronger and no longer scared to speak my truth. It’s like the weight of other people’s opinions seems to exponentially decrease with every new wrinkle. I find myself wondering why as women we would not teach each other to celebrate this glorious freedom? The crone is calling and I am not scared! Instead, all I feel is the warm embrace of returning home.
I feel more beautiful than ever, like I am just getting started. But this time, I am a truly formidable force. I am best friends with my body, my past and the beautiful little girl who I spent most of the previous 40 years trying to forget. I have no tolerance for ignorance and for the first time in my life, do not care what others think of me. It is liberating!
I find myself reflecting on my life to date. I keep asking myself, is this what I thought my life would be? Am I as successful as I hoped?
When I was a young girl, like most, I thought success was measured by external factors. Someone who had acquired great wealth and celebrity was my definition of truly successful. I can remember idolising River Phoenix and dreaming about our perfect marriage. (I was addicted to “Stand by me.”)
Sitting here contemplating my own accomplishments, I realised just how deeply my perception of success has changed.
40 year old me, would give River a hug and remind him he is deserving of genuine friendship. I would hold space for him, so that he felt a little less alone. I would share my story and remind him his traumas do not define him, his resilience does.
With maturity, I now understand that true success is never found externally. Success can be as simple as learning to practice gratitude for your sparkling moments or as complicated as finding freedom from the relentless pressure of your own inner critic. True success could never be defined by money or status, but rather by the moments that leave you feeling loved and deeply connected.
As I silently watch the awakening dawn, I am not thinking of my bank account or professional awards. I am not thinking about how big my friends list is (as I always say, we only need enough true friends to fill a combi).
Rather, my mind keeps coming back to just one thought, “does my existence make the world a kinder place?” I realise success for me is measured by the positive impact I bring to the world around me.
When I imagine my funeral, something I morbidly do quite often, it is no longer filled with celebrities, but rather with my wonderful, very ordinary and authentically flawed family and friends.
They speak about how my unconditional love made them feel deeply appreciated. That because of me, they felt a little less isolated and a lot less crazy. That through my example, they also felt worthy of their own self-care.
I realise that age comes with an irreplaceable gift, wisdom. This gift is rarely found in the young, because It is forged through hardships and trauma. It is a resilience that is built on time spent surviving through tough times and learning to joyfully surrender to the good times. I think it is time we all stopped idolising our “lost youth.”
Our most glorious days are not behind us, but rather, they are just up ahead…