Lessons at 39

I had a birthday a week and a half ago! Birthdays are a time to reflect on my life over the past year, and this particular birthday, I found myself reflecting on the past decade. The last couple weeks, I have been reminded of some important lessons I’ve learned over the past 10 years, so while the literal paint dries (more on that later), I thought I would make the time to share.

You may have seen on social media that I fell on my ass in ballet class a couple weeks ago. I was attempting an assemblé and my feet slipped out from under me. Down I went. Thanks to a generous backside, my pride hurt more than my body. The ironic thing was earlier in class, I was feeling out of sorts at the barre and very aware of the fact that my curves did not conform to the typical ballet body. I would have been hurting a lot more without those curves!

At the end of class, after asking again if I was ok, the teacher commented on how much I had improved in class. Really? I felt like a bumbling elephant seal during that class, but she saw my feet pointing more, my elbows staying up, and improved balance in my relevé. Lesson/Reminder #1 – you’re doing better than you think you are, even on the days you fall on your ass.

The following week, we did the same assemblé sequence and I did not fall on my butt. Progress! We also did pique turns across the floor and I was delighted to feel how easily they flowed. During the first lockdown of the pandemic, I took a Zoom ballet class with one of my ballroom coaches and I could barely balance in a pique, let alone a pique turn.

My birthday was March 30. I turned the big 3-9! The 30s have been my favorite decade so far. I discovered competitive ballroom dance, started The Girl with the Tree Tattoo, published three books and two journals, won a World Championship title, and most recently, found my home in Maine. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, not even close. Through it all, I gained Lesson/Reminder #2 – the best things happen when you show up as your best authentic self.

It’s interesting to look back into my 20s and teens and remember how I tried to fit in and act how I thought others wanted me to act. It was in my 30s that I started the transition from caring about what others thought of me to prioritizing my own thoughts and feelings. It’s wonderfully liberating to not worry about how others, especially strangers, will perceive you just because you’re not wearing makeup or the latest fashion. Worries over being judged would even stop me from asking questions or speaking up for myself. Now, if I don’t understand something, I ask about it! And if the response is mocking laughter (my former worst fear, and yes, it’s happened), then I know to not waste my time and energy in that space with that person. Byeee!

It’s also interesting to note that the longer I’ve gone showing up as me, instead of who I thought others wanted me to be, the more I’ve found myself among people who would never laugh because someone didn’t understand something or judge them for how they appeared. My authentic self attracts pretty awesome humans! If/when the occasional asshole sneaks into my circles, they don’t stay long. So I guess Lesson/Reminder #2.5 would be – the best people show up when you show up as your best authentic self.

In house news, a ton of furniture is scheduled to show up at the end of April, which means I have less than 3 weeks to get four rooms painted in preparation. I have one and a quarter complete. When I wasn’t blogging last weekend, I was painting. And I was painting today between Zumba and sitting down to write this post. I’ll be painting again tomorrow. It may sound like something I could knock out in a couple weekends, but the walls in these rooms are board and batten. They take fooooorever to paint!

Room #1 in its beginning stages. One panel takes about 20-30 minutes.

The other challenge is my day job takes up most of the daylight hours during the week. Painting isn’t something you can do 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there, so I’m just doing my best to find at least one or two hours in a row to get a few panels painted.

On top of painting, I’m coordinating contractors for other house projects starting in May/June and helping my family through a medical situation. April has been quite the month and we’re not even halfway through! It has also been the perfect environment to bring out Lesson/Reminder #3 – one day at a time.

It would be so very easy to look at everything that needs to be juggled right now (you don’t know the half of it) and feel totally overwhelmed. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to juggle a number of stressful circumstances though, so I know it’s best to just take things one day at a time. Ask myself “what needs to get done today?” Then do that. Sometimes I need to look ahead a few steps to know what needs to be done now, but there’s always that point past which the unknown variables take over. The key is to not go past that point.

Today, I needed to go to Zumba (self care is also important) and then work on Room #2. So I did that. Tomorrow, I will be painting more in Room #2 and I have a group coaching call, which brings me to Lesson/Reminder #4 – ask for support.

Another bad habit of my youth was not asking for help because I didn’t want to be a bother or draw attention to myself. I was so painfully shy as a child that I didn’t even tell the teacher that I had hit my head on playground equipment during recess. I just sat on a swing while a goose egg grew on the back of my skull until they asked me if I was ok. I grew up to be a strong and independent woman, which I’m proud of, but looking back, I see that I pushed through a lot of things alone when it wasn’t necessary. In my 30s, learning to ask for help went along with learning to speak up for myself. My move to Maine last year came with a lot of plot twists, and those twists would have caused a lot more stress and grief if I hadn’t reached out to people for support. Even if it was just asking for someone to listen!

So to sum up, my 30s (including the last couple weeks) have taught/reminded me:

  • Lesson/Reminder #1 – You’re doing better than you think you are, even on the days you fall on your ass.
  • Lesson/Reminder #2 – The best things happen when you show up as your best authentic self.
  • Lesson/Reminder #2.5 – The best people show up when you show up as your best authentic self.
  • Lesson/Reminder #3 – One day at a time.
  • Lesson/Reminder #4 – Ask for support.

Hopefully, there is a reminder in that list that will be helpful to you. I think we all know and understand these concepts, but we still can use a reminder from time to time.

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