5 Ways I Found Freedom at 45

It seems that every five years things change drastically in my life.  So much can happen in just one year….five years can be a lifetime.  Five years ago, when I turned 40, life was much different.  Both girls were in elementary school.  I was a principal of a private K-12 school and my marriage was…..ehhhh.  We were so busy with our careers, kids, and outside obligations that we passed each other quickly and communicated mainly through email and text.  John even tried to plan a trip for my 40th and I refused to go.

Life is always about becoming but we often forget that we have to unbecome (I made that word up) to actually become more authentic.  The process of unlearning plays a significant part of growth.  We often just want to add to things to be better without removing things first.

The last five years brought me to a place where I have removed and unlearned sticky points in my thought process, character, and daily habits.  I didn’t do many of these willingly or quickly.  This has been an ongoing process, however, when John got sick, I realized how fragile life was and how the small things mattered more in our lives than the large events and goals.

  1. I stopped skipping the struggle.

Nobody likes pain or being in discomfort.  We will do whatever it takes to not feel the pain.  When bad things happen they do not come with a warning.  It always reminds me of a big wave at the ocean.  The one you didn’t see coming that has the riptide.  The lifeguards tell you to relax into it but panic makes you fight.  I have learned to relax into the struggle and I have realized that it eventually spits you out on land.  Fighting makes it so much worse.

When struggle comes, I try to control my anxiety and breathe.  I hate panic attacks….but I do get them.  They wear me out.  But I let it happen knowing I always come out of it just like the wave.  I am a disheveled mess but I am ok.  I am in one piece and that moment of struggle just made me a little bit stronger.

  1. I stopped apologizing.

I have spent most of my life apologizing.  I have been sorry that I talked too much.  Sorry for not dancing well enough.  Sorry for being big.  Sorry for not being as smart.  Sorry for being late.  Sorry for the inconveniences.  Sorry for bothering you.  Sorry for the mess.  Sorry for the problems.  Sorry I wasn’t what you wanted.  Sorry I was me.

I have apologized my way into living everyone else’s life but my own.  Guilt and shame have a way of doing that.  You are either not good enough or when you achieve something, you are asked, “Who do you think you are?”  I do not play that game anymore.

  1. I stopped the superficial.

I took off the mask.  I have been asking myself who am I for some time and the process to figure it out has been rewarding.  I do not do superficial conversations.  I do not ask people “How are you?” unless I really want to know.  I do not engage in polite conversation because I find it quite exhausting.   Instead, I may just say “Hi” or wave.

I also have been open about the messiness of my life and my demons.  With this openness and vulnerability, I have grown some authentic relationships.  I am amazed at how much time and energy it takes to pretend you have your s**t together.  I have taken the energy and time that I spent pretending and focused it on more authentic moments.

  1. I stopped peopling.

When John couldn’t do much, I didn’t.  There comes a point in your life when everything falls apart.  It is not if, it is when.  Nobody can be there for you 100 percent of the time.  There are times that you need to sit in the darkness by yourself.   At this moment, this is when you will grow a friendship with yourself and if you reach out, grow a relationship with God.   I love being by myself.  I love the quiet and I love to think and ponder things.  This used to scare me because being by myself meant I had to think of the bad things.  Now I push through the bad and have begun to discover the real me and it is freeing.  Absolutely freeing.

Instead of big groups, I choose more intimate moments with people.  One on one with a friend or small groups.  The intimacy and friendships that have grown are so much more rewarding.  I have discovered that time is very valuable so how and with whom I spend my time is very important to me.  I choose wisely because busyness does nothing for me and people can be quite exhausting.

  1. I stopped dieting.

Another time killer is hating your body and the constant mind game many women play out in their head.  These thoughts hold you captive.   I have written much about this but what you may not know is that I have weighed over 200 lbs. and less than 100 lbs.  Quite frankly, I have seen all the numbers.  I gained 80 lbs. with each daughter and each daughter only weighed 7 lbs.  You can do the math.  I did not walk out of the hospital in my before pregnancy pants.  I had to fight hard to lose every pound.

The idea of THIN has been forced down my throat my entire life.  It has been a 27 year process to grow, unlearn, and relearn a different way of thinking about food and my body.  My distorted thinking about this has been a lot to overcome but it has been worth it.  My body was made to be strong and do things.  I need to give it the opportunity to do that.

Over the years, I have worked with nutritionists and nutrition coaches to hold me accountable through these processes.  I am working with the best one yet.  One reason she is my favorite is because she is just as direct as me.  No sugar coating.  No excuses.  When I told her that I wanted to get stronger, I was told that I was still restricting my calories and that I would have to go into a calorie surplus.  She has “virtually” held my hand as I have done this and you will not believe how empowering it has been.  I am getting stronger AND in my calorie surplus, I need more calories because I am still not gaining.  DID YOU HEAR THAT?  LADIES….WE ARE NOT EATING ENOUGH!!!  I will write another blog about this and CrossFit at a different time.  But realizing you have been doing it all wrong for 27 years is quite humbling.  Overcoming your mindset of always losing and instead becoming more is priceless and freeing.

I have given up these things in order to gain more out of life.  These were all roadblocks for me that I battled in my head and kept me from living a life of freedom.  Our thoughts hold us captive and until we take the time to work through them they will always hold us in bondage.  The biggest take away from this is that I can contribute to my most important relationships better.  My marriage and my relationship with our girls have grown and improved because I have worked on MY growth.

Am I finished?  Have I arrived?  Oh no….. I am working on other things now.  Some of those things are humility, becoming a better listener, showing love better, etc.  The art of becoming never ends but I like that.  I will never arrive but I have embraced the process that will lead to constant and consistent growth.  I am modeling for my daughters so that they may learn to grow, unlearn, and become the best they can be just for right now.

 

Anger Is Sad’s Bodyguard

I love the renovation shows on HGTV.  I love seeing the process and the big reveal.  I like demolition day when they get out the sledgehammers, destroy walls and rip down everything to expose the studs and foundation.  I like to see the homeowners’ reactions when they realize that there are more problems under the walls than they originally anticipated and it is going to take longer to complete and more money.  That is when things get interesting.

That is exactly what has happened to me in my forties.  I have been under a renovation.  It is one that I did not ask for but was thrown into.  I am trying to swim instead of sink.   I usually write once I have things figured out but I do not have it figured out right now and that is okay.

My dad died at the time we were trying to figure out what was wrong with John.  At the time, John could barely stand up and his sight was questionable.  At the time, I went into auto pilot.  I took care of John and the girls.  I worked.  I worried.  I did the next thing in a fog.  I felt like I was climbing a gravel mountain trying to gain my footing but sliding down more than I climbed.  People would see us and comment, “Wow.  You are so strong.”  They had no idea.

I thought I knew what grief was but little did I know.  When the doctor told us that the blood clots would never go away and we would need to deal with this the rest of our lives, I got mad.  Adding to the fact that I never grieved my father, the walls began to fall down.

One day, I stopped the fake smile, looked up and said, “I can’t do this anymore.”  I wasn’t fine.  I wasn’t strong.  I wasn’t anything but pissed and it SCARED me.  The intensity of the anger consumed me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I was mad at the big things and the little things.  I was mad that people would say, “He looks so good, so glad he is doing better.”  I wanted to scream, “No, this sucks.  It is hard.  Just because someone looks good doesn’t mean s**t!”  I would see older men with suspenders like my dad and cry.  My heart hurt so much because it was broken.  I felt like I lost my two favorite men.

Anger has a way of consuming you and when not expressed and dealt with appropriately can take hold of your heart.  Also, the good girl in me tells myself, “You shouldn’t be angry.  This is wrong.  Get it together.”  Heaven forbid I feel any emotion.  That is a lie that many people believe and I refuse to act on anymore.

Just like the exposed wood and wires in a wall, our emotions can look very ugly. The surges of anger are real.  How I deal with the anger is the most important.  I went to counseling.   I also have a handful of friends that I confide in that I call “Friends In a Pocket”.  They do not judge.  They listen.  They let me vent and help me find the good in the anger most of the times through laughter.  I also stay away from people if I can.  It is not their fault and when I am out in public, I do not say much.  It is better that way.

I have found an outlet for my anger.  For me, it is lifting heavy weight.  I mean REALLY heavy weight.  I take my anger out on a barbell.  I push through the heaviness to rise up and that illustrates the reality of the messy process of grieving.  Once the anger is felt and processed it reveals what is really there….a deep and profound sadness.

Anger is sad’s bodyguard.

There is something happens when your raw emotions are exposed.  A raw vulnerability is revealed and something deep inside you changes and you will never be the same.  Death, sickness, divorce, or friendships that brought about great love when gone will leave a huge hole that will forever change you.  This change reveals true friendship, true character, and flaws that need to be worked on within yourself.

Anger gives you energy.  Sadness depletes you.  Anger helps you to get things done.  Sadness makes you want to stay in bed.   Anger pushes you through.  Sadness helps you retreat.  Both emotions are needed and necessary to grieve what once was and what may never be again.  Anger and sadness are part of the process.

As Christians, we feel that these feelings are something we should not feel.  However, I have learned that they are necessary and crucial to navigating the fallen world we live in.  I find myself drawn to the book of Psalms.  The book in the middle of the Bible that truly expresses the groans and pains of humanity.  It also expresses the worship and gratitude. The psalmists expressed every emotion and did not mince their words.  I love how those confessions brought forth a deeper relationship with God. Feeling pain is part of the journey and helps us appreciate the rise from struggle when it happens.

Life is filled with doubts, fears, angst, and despair.  Life is also filled with joy, hope, perseverance, and celebration.  Anger helps me persevere.  Anger helps me process my sadness.  Anger helps me grieve.

I am not ready for the great reveal.  My walls and studs are still exposed right now.  This remodeling project of myself is a bigger project than I realized.  I do not have a timeline of completion and I never will.  I will be taking the time to fix and mend the broken parts during this renovation so that my foundation is stronger than before.  My anger is the sledgehammer that reveals the deeper emotions of love that has been lost, changed, and renewed.  God often goes underground to grow us.  I need to remember the work God has already done in me.  I need to trust His faithfulness and accept the beauty of the process.  I readily admit that I am a work in progress.  I also realize that sometimes life is worth groaning about and I must be patient as I look for the fresh reserve to be able to paint beauty with the ashes again.