After the completion of another blissful celebration of ‘birthday month’, I was happy to finally sit down and put my feet up. I had spent a month present to everyone that came my way and proactive about calling old friends and asking them to join me in celebrating the month. A month not too be missed. I mean, what could be more important than the celebration of your own life?
Yet as I awoke this morning on the first day of a new month, I was caught off guard by my reflection in the mirror. ‘You’re 52,” I said aloud to my reflection as I pretended to do a little fitness pose. 52. I had survived the ‘turning 50’ game and was now heading into some ungodly rounded number on the other side of the 50’s. What I couldn’t believe, was that image staring back at me saying, ‘yea, so what? What does that number even mean?’
Some friends would say I deserved those abs and defined arms, with all of my training for summer triathlons. While others might try to rationalize that I was lucky to have enough time on my hands to work out as much as I do. Yet all I have been hearing for decades, ‘was oh just wait, you will see what happens when you turn 40. And wait until you hit menopause!’
While I was horrified at the thought of waiting for my body to begin to do its’ own thing no matter what I wanted, I waited and watched and did my best to stay optimistic. Yet as I stood in awe of what seemed magical to me, I knew what had gotten me here. Me. It was not my obsession with food, or no food, working out or not working out, or even my body! No. It was my commitment to balance in my life. I was as committed to my workout days, as I was to my rest days. I was as committed to not withholding the foods I loved, as steering clear of the foods that made me feel sick. I didn’t give up sugar, carbs, or coffee. I didn’t give up dairy, wheat or gluten or indulge in high protein meals.
Instead, I learned to live in a way that was balanced in each corner. I learned what things I felt I needed (or wanted badly) in my life: exercise, a stomach that didn’t hurt on the inside, chocolate, a balanced work week, a life that allowed me to be present for my family, without giving up my self and friends that supported my peaceful life. I then took all of those things and made a commitment to myself to have them.
I never thought of it as an easy way of being, yet an on-going commitment to myself. I didn’t let myself off the hook because some days were more challenging than others. I didn’t tell myself stories about my age and how it didn’t matter anymore anyway. I didn’t fool myself into thinking that today didn’t matter, when I knew it was ALL that mattered and that what I did or did not do today was indicative of what my tomorrow would look like.
The hardest part of living with this kind of intention was facing and owning my fears that often attempted to sabotage my efforts. Which is exactly why I participate in Triathlons that force me to face my fears head on.
This year will be my 10th summer competing in triathlons. I use the word ‘competing’, but I am clearly my only competition. I have learned to enjoy the challenge of swimming, the feel of the wind on my face while I ride my bike and have learned to push myself (with the help of a trainer) to work through some relentless demons in my head. Demons that tell me I’m too old for this, that swimming in a dark lake is dangerous, that people die in these kind of races, that it is too hot, too humid and just too hard. There are times I can’t make them stop. There are times the demons fool me into thinking they are much smarter than I am, and since they are surely louder than I am, I often wonder if they are actually right. Yet I participate and race anyway, in spite of my fears because there is nothing more gratifying than looking fear in the face and crossing the finish line anyway. To me, this is the epitome of owning my stuff. All. Of. It.
What would it take to own your stuff? All of it: The good, the bad, the crazy…and own it like it’s yours? It is YOURS after all! That job, those kids, the house, that diet, that thing you call exercise…it’s all yours and is exactly the way you have created it. Embrace it if it energizes you, change it if it drains you. It is that simple.
Own your stuff and have the life you want.