Letter to my (almost) 40 year old self

Dear Me,

You are embarking on a new journey in a few months.  One that will take you places many others have gone before you.  One that takes you on paths you never dreamed of.  One that will challenge you, make you question yourself, make you laugh, cry, and want to scream.  One that will ultimately be the most defining chapter in your life.  You will be part of a great crowd of people – those that have experienced heartbreak, suffered incomprehensible loss, made bad choices, suffered the consequences of their actions, started a family with the love of their life, watched their children grow into almost adults, realized what their body can (or can’t) do, had friendships end for good reasons and bad reasons and no reason at all, been successful, been a total and complete failure, watched with pride as their children have achieved something they worked so hard for, had their heart break for their child when something they worked hard for didn’t work out they way they wanted, been judged, have judged, been angry at God, and been grateful to God.

This a good crowd of people.  This over 40 group.  They get it.  They’ve experienced it all.  You’re in good company.  Strangely, the list of what-if’s will get shorter and less weird.  The comparisons among others will diminish.  You will be happy for others when they have successes, you won’t push yourself on others.  You will be genuine.  Get it?  GENUINE!  Be you.  You’ve earned the right to finally be yourself.  Quit caring so much what everyone else thinks…because, really, they don’t care; they don’t!  You have friends, not hundreds or thousands, but a good handful and that’s okay; in fact, it’s probably ideal.  You know those who really love you and care for you.  Those that speak truth when you need it and still love you.  Those that love your quirks and your obnoxious laughter.  Those are your real people.  That’s your personal army.

life begins at 40 quote40 is a good number.  You’re ready.  You’ve jumped out of an airplane, you’ve bungee jumped, you’ve climbed a mountain (well, part of one, and it was more like hugging the side of it because you were so afraid you were going to fall to your premature death, but whatever), you’ve white-water rafted, you’ve snorkeled (if you want to call sticking your head in the ocean for 10 seconds and then getting back on the boat because you were afraid of sharks and barracuda eating you alive ‘snorkeling’), you’ve tattooed your body, you’ve lived some crazy adventures.  Appreciate this journey, this number.  It’s going to be fun, promise.

That marathon dream you’re chasing?  Keep chasing it.  We get it, once upon a time you were a fast runner and now you’re not.  Big deal.  Seriously.  We all have “once upon a time’s” and you know what?  No one really cares anymore.  Live in the now.  Run that marathon – complete it on your own schedule.  If it takes you 7 hours, so what!  (but, now that you’re getting older, do it safely – stretch, warm up, drink plenty of fluids, eat right, stretch some more, drink more water, etc.  Safety first at your age!)

cs lewis quote on getting older

Those people you once called friends who no longer are a part of your life?  Delete them from facebook, instagram and twitter.  If these people attend your church or they send their children to the same school as your children attend, you can still be courteous and respectful in person, but there is absolutely no reason why you need to see their lives through social media.  They hurt you unapologetically and didn’t think twice.  It’s the right move to move on.  What benefit is there in being reminded of the hurt?  Besides, life is too short to care what they think.  Obviously they didn’t care about you in the first place or they wouldn’t have hurt you and not looked back.  On that note, the same goes for the two-faced people in your life.  If someone is only nice to you when it’s convenient for them, move on.  MOVE ON!  People will enter and leave your life for a variety of reasons.  You can’t make someone want to be your friend.  You cannot be everything to everyone.

Mistakes you’ve made?  Those are in the past.  Move on.  Seriously. GET.OVER.IT.  Everyone does stupid stuff; sometimes the stupid stuff is REALLY stupid, but everyone has regrets.  Every single person in the world makes mistakes.  We all mess up, screw up, and are ashamed of ourselves at some point.  Forgive yourself.  Ask forgiveness of those you’ve hurt.  Be the adult.  The past is the past.  If someone can’t forgive you when you’ve asked for forgiveness, that’s their problem – not yours.  There is nothing wrong with owning your mistakes, acknowledging the junk, and moving forward; in fact, it shows maturity…and 40 year olds are supposed to be mature, right??

That body you see in the mirror?  The one you hate, the one you think is old?  Guess what – it is almost 40.  So, yep, there are saggy parts, wrinkly parts, broken and bruised and damaged parts.  There are scars – visible and invisible.  There is a muffin top that drives you crazy and stretch marks from pregnancy (newsflash: those stretchmarks are the most beautiful of all the marks on your body).  There are no longer the muscles or the tone you had when you were 18.  Know why?  BECAUSE YOU’RE ALMOST 40!  Be healthy.  Eat healthy (ok, healthy-er), exercise regularly, laugh daily (yes, daily), and embrace this body that scares you when you look at it in the mirror.  Get over the idea that you need to be perfect.  You don’t.  You aren’t.  You never will be.  Just be the perfect you (as cliche as that sounds).

mark twain quote wrinkles

Those children you and your husband are raising?  They are turning out to be pretty amazing humans.  They have their own personalities, their own hopes and dreams, and you are allowing them to pursue those things while gently nudging them to keep working hard and not give up just because once in a while life is really really hard.  You’re a good mama.  You ARE!  You are teaching those children to be genuine and not apologize for it.  That’s good stuff.

That husband you have – well, he’s a looker.  Handsome as ever and a great example of a Christian man that others only wish to be.  He loves you more now than he did 20 years ago and will tell everyone as much.  He will do absolutely anything for you.  He’s rather smitten with you.  And your eyes that change color, your quirks, bad moods, wrinkles, stretch marks and cellulite and scars?  He loves it all…know why?  Because they tell a story…your story, which, coincidently, completely intertwines with his story.  You’ve got a genuine man.  (see the theme here?)

A few character traits that will serve you well as you face your forties – learning to listen, patience, love, forgiveness, and the ability to see other peoples’ perspective.  Not everyone has the same upbringing, the same income, the same lifestyle.  Be open to other ideas and processes.  Not everyone has the capacity to deal with things the same way you do and vice versa.  Quit comparing yourself to everyone else.  There isn’t anything wrong with their way, it’s just different than yours.  No.big.deal.

Now, some advice and none of this will be easy – keep improving a little more each day.  But, don’t lose yourself in the process.  Love the woman you’ve become.  Spread that love and confidence to those around you.  Make decisions and stick with them, even when others don’t like your decision.   Don’t gossip.  Take a stand.  Learn to say no.  Forgive – especially when it’s hard.  Be genuine, don’t apologize for who you are – some will love you for it, others will leave you for it, and many will want to copy it.  40 is not the new 30.  40 is 40 and it’s not something to be afraid of.  (Bring it, 40).  Finish 39 with your head up and do 40 proud.  You are an amazing, kind, beautiful, loving, forgiving, caring, fun-loving, passionate, hilarious, tender-hearted, spirit-filled woman.  Your sparkly personality is one of your best character traits.  Don’t be fake; be you.

Be a strong woman; be genuinely YOU.

Much love,

Me


p.s.  you will likely adjust and change this letter as time goes by.  Good!  If you are never changing or making yourself better, you’re missing the point.

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Being a Good Samaritan

Do you know what’s not hard?  Doing the right thing.

Teddy Roosevelt quote 1

Two winters ago (this one is pretty much over, so two it is), I witnessed a horrific roll-over accident on the highway directly in front of me.  I slammed on my brakes, put my flashers on, put my car in park (in the middle of the highway, mind you – rather stupid, but whatever), got out and superhumanly (seriously, I do not know how I did it) opened a crunched up car door on an upside down car and pulled two young women out of the car.  I was joined by another person in the scene, a man.  I never got his name, but he, too superhumanly opened a crunched up car door, laid on his stomach on the highway, and helped pull out two young women.  He had to have hurt himself scooting through the broken glass and mangled car (the side he was on was in much worse shape than the side I was on).  Yet, he reacted similarly.  We both made sure the young women were safely by the side of the highway and then he disappeared; he left the scene and went on his way.  It took 5, maybe 10 minutes of his time, to help save the lives of those young women.  I stayed, gave my statement to the police because I witnessed the entire accident, and then left to head home and hug my children 500 million times, especially my then 15 year old daughter who had her learners permit.

Fast forward to a few days ago, my oldest son and I were at the grocery store.  We were minding our own business and walking down the main aisle of the store when we saw a woman slip and fall about 40 feet away.  She landed hard on her hip.

In a split second here’s what I saw: a man right next to her who looked at her and then looked away and continued doing what he was doing; 2 other people in the same section of the store who also ignored the situation (even though she was obviously crying out in pain); numerous people walk by her to use the bathroom and just glancing at her as though she didn’t matter.

In a split second here’s what I did: told my son we have to see if she’s okay and ran to her side.  I was able to determine that she was significantly hurt and that she had two grandchildren with her (who happened to be in the bathroom).  I stayed at her side until another woman joined me, about 30 seconds later, who was a medical assistant (which is definitely someone more knowledgeable than me with regard to medical situations) and then I asked her if I could go get her grandchildren from the bathroom.  My son, thankfully, grabbed our shopping cart (with my purse!) and parked himself out of the way.  I retrieved her two granddaughters who, scarily, came with me without hesitation.  At this point a store employee was on site and was making a phone call.  I asked the woman who fell if there was someone I could call to get her grandchildren and make aware of the situation.  I then called her daughter.  Then I told her that I would take her grandchildren to go look at the fish in the pet department.  At this point, she was in the care of the store employees and there was nothing more I could do.  I simply didn’t want her grandchildren to see her in so much pain.  For the next 20 minutes, my son and I entertained two little girls with fish, cat food (?), and kitchen utensils.  Not for a moment did I question my decision to help.  (Obviously some details are left out, but hopefully you get the general idea of the situation).

I have no idea what ended up happening with that woman other than she was taken out of the store on a stretcher, but I do know how disappointed I was in my fellow humans.  I could not believe how many people ignored this woman’s pain!  It took me less than 2 seconds to respond.  If she had been okay, I would have let her be.   She was definitely NOT okay and the only problem I had was that it took me 25 minutes longer to grocery shop than I had planned.  Big stinkin’ deal.

Why were people so afraid to intervene?  Are we so jaded as a society that the mantra “Not my problem” comes into play when someone is injured?  Are we so afraid that someone will sue us for helping them?  What is the big deal?  I, seriously, do not understand it.  Is the community I live in so snooty that most of our residents only do for themselves (this is a generalization)?  I was embarrassed for my town and for that woman’s family having to be on the receiving end of such selfishness. Something is seriously flawed, people.

My son, who is 14, said to me when we got in the car, “The worst part of the entire thing is that you were the first person to help and you were not even near that lady.”  I just nodded because I couldn’t have agreed more.   I do realize that sometimes, there is nothing we can do.  Some situations aren’t safe for us to intervene or to help with, but there is always something we can do to make it better (call the police or EMS or make someone aware of the situation who is in a position to help.  There is always something we can do, somehow).  My husband said, after I filled him in on the events of the afternoon said, “It doesn’t surprise me.  We’re Christians.  That’s what we do.  Most people don’t do what we do (in those situations).”

My hope and my prayer is that my son learned a valuable lesson and, even though it was inconvenient for us, it didn’t ruin our day, it didn’t make us late for anything (and even if it did, we wouldn’t have acted any differently).  There was no reason not to help.  I don’t think I did anything worth praising, so please don’t think that’s what I’m searching for.  I’m simply trying to call attention to the fact that SO many people did nothing.  NOTHING.  What if I hadn’t acted?  What if I, too, turned and walked away?  What if that woman had laid there, crying in pain, for 15 minutes?  What if no one had thought to get her grandchildren away from the area so they didn’t have to see their grandmother in so much pain?  What if humanity never helped each other?  Thankfully, we won’t know.

MLK Quote

And for those of you wondering, the real story of the Good Samaritan can be found here: Luke 10:25-37, in the Bible.