So, my last post about turning 35 hinted at a little anxiety about it. I am 2 weeks into being 35 and, of course, feel no different than being 34 – or 30…or 25 for that matter. If you had spoken to me the day before, or even the day of, you would have gotten a different story.
Truth be told, I was having some age issues. Issues I had never encountered before because I’ve never been anything but accepting and happy about turning another year older on previous birthdays. My spirit has always felt young and adventurous and I tended to think people who worried about getting older were dramatic, losing spirit and, quite frankly, a little bit painful. “Who cares’, I thought. ‘You can’t do anything about it, so why worry’.
If I was in a game of word association – mine would be Hypocrite.
Here I was staring back at my own words. Upon approaching my birthday I looked in the mirror each morning and the only thing staring back at me was an ageing face. I saw the etchings of lines around my eyes, my chin jowls had already formed a small army with heavy artillery ready to take them south and my skin looked thin and discolored. I was like an anorexic looking in the mirror at fat. Or more specifically, every morning my experience in mirror went in the reverse order of the Dove commercial.
It was shocking to me. Not the physical metamorphosis I was seemingly witnessing before my eyes, but the emotionally distorted conversation I was having with myself. ‘Why did I suddenly care?’ I would challenge, and how had I come to caring so much? And isn’t the spirit ageless?
On the day of my birthday, before the gin tears, there were real tears. Tears that were heavy with nostalgia and laced with mourning. I was flooded with memories of youth and the sheer drop that perception sometimes does to us when one contemplates that ‘this might just be it; this is what my life will always be like’.
Truth is the emotional boxing match I was having with my physical ageing process was just a cover. I know women in their 40’s who look better than I do now, and keep looking sexier and more alive as they achieve a confidence that can only come from experience. I knew, logically, that I could have some better years ahead of me, as long as I keep invested in the goodness of my life, and I stayed spirited.
What I was looking back at each morning was the passage of time. Time was creeping up behind me, like a little child playing tag – knocking (or mocking) me and then running away again. I had the visceral experience that I couldn’t hold on to it and yet, while it was constantly being offered up to me, I questioned; how was I using it?
In some deep, hidden crevice of my belief system 35 represented a marker in which my life was supposed to have some ease. Ha Ha Ha! insert a small, uncomfortable pause here________. Weird, almost humorous thoughts appeared the day of my birthday; ‘I’m single – my pool of available men is shrinking’, ‘I should probably put more effort into not being single’, ‘do I want kids? Fuck man, you gotta figure that out now’, ‘I should really get a more stable career’, ‘I’m running out of time’ and on and on and on!
It always amazes me how easily we can take ourselves down.
I, fortuitously, had a session with my life coach, Karen Jacobsen, the day after my birthday and, while I had felt a lot better about the whole ageing thing she wanted me to touch on it again. What had actually come up? So, I told her that it was everything I didn’t have right now. ‘What are those?’ She urged. I started to reveal a few things and she asked me to write them down. “Just give me 4”
A Stable income – wealthy
A healthy relationship
My own business
A certain sense of direction
“Great” she said “now give me 4 things you have achieved before now”
I set up and ran a company for 7 years
I moved, independently, across the world
I became a yoga teacher
I have reinvented my life.
“Fantastic. So Lyn, I want you to look at the ‘before’ list and see that this what you have achieved”
“And now (and this is where is all shifts), this list of ‘have not’s is what you now get to create in your life. This is your future”
The future? Oh right, yes, that’s the part of my life where I don’t know what actually happens yet. That’s the part that I get to create with my imagination, wisdom from previous experiences, and a little bit of concise action– shoot, forgot about that. My future, that thing that exists how I look at it!
Occasionally, particularly when I get into these destructive thought marathons, I forget that some of the things/experiences I thought I would have by now, I have had already. It’s safe to say that maybe I just thought there would be an upgraded 4G model of my iLife; faster, slicker, quicker downloads and a bigger memory. And when I got bored of that one, I would have an even better model.
But, truth is, I did have a more supped up model. I had checked a lot of these boxes in the past and decided, nearly 3 years ago to undertake an upheaval of everything that was safe in my life and replace it with my dreams. ‘Whoa! Step back sister – you’re doing what?’ Yeah, dreams man – those smoky, sultry voices that whisper quietly in your ear ‘what the fuck are you doing there, we’re waiting for you.’ To which you reply, much more loudly of course, “I’m being safe, and I’ll deal with dreams later”
Those smarmy little bastards is what I have to say! They entice, they seduce and then once you bite their fruit your whole world crumbles around – and that’s precisely the point. But all you have after you take that path is a trust in yourself and trust in time.
”To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~e.e. cummings~
It’s really easy to feel defeated, deflated even, from the burdens of creating one’s life. It’s also really easy to not even try to create a life you love, or more common; work hard to love a mediocre life. Sometimes the very act of even connecting with the things you want in your life, seems out of reach.
I mentioned previously that everything depends on how you look at it. If I had decided to step back and actually look more positively at my life I would have seen that;
1/. I have a good, stable income which affords me a good lifestyle (I was just wanting more)
2/. I have my own business – I am my own boss
3/. I have very healthy relationships with the people in my life (I was just looking for one which involved more sex!)
4/. I am very clear on what direction I want to go in – I am on the path already.
Perhaps the way we define time, and the fact that we get to ‘use it’, is really what causes us such anxiety when it comes to change, or personal achievements. It’s like we don’t trust that, even if we fuck it up – we’ll be given time to fix it. My yoga teacher, Mitchel Bleier, said in class the other day ‘the universe is always giving you opportunities to make it right.’ I raised a breath to that.
Carl Honore, in his TED.COM presentation, re-confirms this with the idea that in the Western world our view of time is distorted. We run it on a linear scale, where you either ‘use it, or lose it’ – defining it this way, he believes, is creating anxiety, eroding our health, productivity and quality of life.
This got me thinking a lot in the past year, and although I don’t always remember it – clearly – I have often talked about it in my yoga classes. Instead of measuring our lives in time, perhaps we should be focusing on our experience. Instead of saying “Am I wasting time?” maybe we should be asking ourselves “Am I wasting this experience?” While we are alive we have time. While we are here we can create an experience, even when we’re looking back in the mirror.
Following your dreams, creating your future in the moment takes a lot of trust in time. Trust that it will always be offered to you, that it doesn’t run out, and that is simply sits as the canvas to your life – it doesn’t define your life, but it houses it. Time offers itself – all the time – inviting you to create your life within it.
You’re not always guaranteed the outcome you want, but most often it’s an outcome with a bigger picture, one in which you’re not always aware of and you have to keep creating your experience regardless. But, like Douglas Brooks says, ‘knowing that there is uncertainty, you live as if certainty is possible’
The 14th, my birthday, started as a rainy day both in my spirit, and in the sky. Luckily for me I have friends who drink! In a bar in downtown New York, with 2 of my best guy friends, the first bottle of sparkling rose’ bought sunshine. As more friends convened I thought less and less of my age and simply enjoyed the company that I was keeping. When my friend A turned to me and said ‘thanks for turning another year older and giving us an experience to come together’ (quite likely she was feeling champagne fueled love) I understood that this is what time, or our age, gifts us – experience, friendship, connections, laughter (and the experience of a hangover the next morning – in time, that goes away!).
My morning reconnaissance in the mirror is a different experience now. I look back, not at a 35 year old physical body, but at a lucky girl. Lucky to have chosen a life coach, Karen Jacobsen, who is clear about my path and pulls me back on it all the time. Lucky for friends who are colorful and exciting and interesting and are dream makers. Lucky for a family who always accepts me, and loves me even though I’ve created distance. Lucky to have stumbled upon the practice of yoga which always reminds me; it’s just practice and the point of life, is life itself. A practice that has gifted me a stronger body and spirit now, than I ever had at 25.
If you’re at the end of this piece, thank you for using your experience here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’ll leave you with pictures of my colorful and wonderful friends, who wiped the tears from eyes (and cake from my face) and fed me champagne and gin! (Might not be the best of friends after all)