April 2, 2011... the day I turn 40. Before you start in with the empathy, encouraging me with stories of other 40-year-old people you know who actually still walk on their own and don't require false teeth, I'm here to tell you that I'm totally good with it -- in fact, I'm excited.
Because what I've learned in 40 years has made me a happier, healthier, more balanced woman, wife, mom and friend. And the second I turn 40, I'm not only going to recognize these lessons, but actually apply them to my life.
So here are my Top 10 Lessons to help you (and me) live a better life from this day forward.
Forget others Stop spending so much time worrying about what others think of you. They're not thinking of you. They're too busy worrying about what others are thinking of them.
Make a decision I get it, you're scared. But not making a choice is actually making a bigger choice. Are you going to let your life's direction be determined by inaction? Imagine you make a decision that doesn't work... BIG DEAL. Make another decision! Not much in this life is permanent -- in fact, nothing is other than death. Do a little research and soul searching and it very well may work out just fine.
Stop and smell If roses aren't your thing, then grab some lilies or the closest box of cookies. It doesn't matter what you smell (or devour)... it's that you take the time. Freaking out over getting the kids to bed ten minutes late or kicking yourself because your to-do list is longer than the toe nails you haven't touched in months is not going to help. Relax, recharge and reconvene when you are feeling positive and productive.
Surprise yourself If you've ever started a sentence with "I've always wanted to..." then you owe it to yourself to get out there and do it. Unless, of course, you've always wanted to do something that would hurt yourself or another person -- I don't suggest that.
Face the fear Whether there's a person from your past you've wanted to reach out to... raise you wanted to ask for... or you just haven't gotten back on that horse after it threw you off, it's time to work through it. But remember before you do, it's not about the outcome, it's that you're facing something that scares the bejeezus out of you.
Recognize that you are unique You've got a few more wrinkles than you did a few years ago -- okay. Maybe you don't have the house that you've imagined you'd own by now. Or maybe you spend too much time comparing your looks, skills, life [or fill in the blank with your own noun here] with other people. Embrace yourself for who you are, what you offer the world and appreciate what makes you special. Because if you don't, no one else will.
Recognize that others are also unique Let me guess, your spouse doesn't do things the same way you do. Big surprise. Or maybe your mother-in-law drives you crazy when she shows up to watch the kids. Are they safe and happy? Then get over it! I've spent way too many moments missing what's important because I'm too wound up over it not happening the way I would do it. Step back, shut up and maybe you'll learn a thing or two from someone else's way. PS This lesson also applies to kids. They are not you, they are them. Back off and let them be authentic, feeling and thinking on their own is a good thing.
It's good enough Have you ever gotten caught up in wanting perfection from yourself and others? You may not have even noticed it but feel the frustration when things don't go your way. Well, sometimes... good enough is good enough. Meaning, whether you got three tasks completed when you set out to do five, or your daughter's science project didn't turn out exactly as planned...cut yourself some slack. No one ever won a Nobel Peace Prize for achieving the cleanest bathtub.
It's not personal People make choices that work for them that sometimes won't work for you. Your sister can't come to your son's birthday party? That's a bummer -- really. But are you really going to allow that to ruin your child's celebration? While losing a tooth, the first school play or buying a dress for the dance might be the most important thing in your life (and your child's), you can't expect the world to stop every time you want it to. Realizing this will save you a lot of anger and pain.
It's never too late If the calendar is right and I'm actually "middle aged," that means I have a heck of a lot of life left to live. And I'm guessing you do, too. Would you tell a baby not to bother learning how to walk or stop a teenager from working toward his dream? Of course not! So why do we stop ourselves from living the life we want, convincing ourselves that it's "too late." Grab hold of those bull horns and take a chance. Feeling invigorated could also help you look and feel younger. It's a win/win!
I'll leave you with this gem by Eleanor Roosevelt (and Master Wugui in Kung Fu Panda): Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why we call it 'The Present'.
Go ahead, unwrap it.