What I know to be true after 38 years
Have you ever reached a birthday and thought to yourself, “geez, I thought at age XX, things would be so different?” I thought I would be more this. Less that. And way more (insert goal) – richer, happier, healthier, less-stressed, established, successful, traveled, confident, secure and so on.
It’s something we all think. Every year. And yet we still think it.
Yesterday was my birthday. And while I have much to celebrate (like launching this website!), I for one never thought I would be 38, single, child-less and starting down a new career path. And yes, I just put that all in writing!
Yet given all of that, the big doozy that it is, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to turn a year older. I’ll even go out on a limb and say this. I reckon 38 may very well be my best year yet!
So how can I still be so flippin’ excited (given my current societal shame status)?
Because I’ve realized a few things in the last year. Beautiful gems of knowledge that have been life altering. Think cloudy skies parting to blue. And thunderstorms giving way to double rainbows.
Yes, they really are that good. So without further ado…
Progress is a series of small steps. Sometimes they go sideways, even backwards. But with time, they move you forward.
When I was diagnosed with celiac, the first of my four autoimmune diseases, my doctor told me that within three months of eating gluten-free, my lab results would be back to normal.
The reality? It took two years. A wee bit off I’d say! And my health went sideways, backwards and somersaulted upside down during that same period of time.
But I kept taking small steps every single day.
And thank goodness for that! Because had I stopped at any one of those steps, frustrated, annoyed, deflated or depressed, I would have missed out on the progress.
The progress that doesn’t happen overnight. The progress that isn’t flashing in neon lights. But rather, the progress that comes with continuing to step forward, even through the failures, to end up further along.
Life is a journey. Wellness is a journey. And neither one is a straight path. But continuing forward with each little step, you’ll see in hindsight that your progress is far greater than you ever imagined.
Life never turns out how you think. But sometimes the alternative isn’t half-bad.
When I was in high school, I remember vividly envisioning my life. And it went something like this. Meeting the tall, dark and handsome man of my dreams by age 26. Having beautiful children (maybe 2 or 3) starting around age 28. And then living the rest of my life in domestic bliss.
Oh, to be a teenager! I laugh and smile thinking about that now.
Because as a teenager I also didn’t envision the amazing experiences, career successes and global adventures that others only dream of for their life. That I’ve done and accomplished. The alternative that happened because I didn’t meet the man of my dreams and have children at age 28.
Do I still want a partner and children one day. Of course! But here’s what I know to be true. If we dwell on everything that we’re not, we forget to remind ourselves of everything that we are. And how amazing that unexpected alternative can be.
A stop-doing list can be more important than a start-doing list.
We all make lists, whether literally or figuratively. Maybe it’s a weekly to-do list or maybe it’s a bucket-list of dreams. And those are great. But how often do we make a list of the things we should stop doing?
In the last year, I’ve realized that a stop-doing list might be just as important, if not more. What are the behaviors, habits, thoughts and words that we want to stop doing or using?
For me, tops on that list was to stop working in a job that was burning me out. Ironically, the universe stepped in to handle that one!
I also wanted to stop interacting with chronic complainers and glass-half-empty people (ain’t got time for that!) and to stop using self-limiting phrases, like “I’m the type of person who…” or “I’m no where near as confident as…” or “I’m an introvert, so…”
These phrases were the “disclaimers” I had attached to my life. And to me as a person. But they had to go! So I added them to the stop-doing list.
Once completed, the stop-doing items seemed to impact my life in profound ways. Perhaps because they were more internally focused. They also created the space and freedom I needed to start checking off more of the start-doing items.
And wouldn’t you know it, my start-doing list just got way more exciting!
All the things you think you can’t do, you really can.
When I tell people that I plan to work in Thailand for a few months, I always get the same response. “That is AMAZING! I would love to do something like that. But I just can’t because….”
And while those reasons might be valid (e.g. husband, kids, job, finances, etc), I’ve learned that there’s always a way. It’s just a matter of choice. And you have to choose that doing it is more important than not doing it. Once you do that, you’ll figure it out.
When I created Downshiftology, I’d never started my own business before. I had no idea that I’d need a fictitious business name license, privacy statements, Canada Anti-Spam statements (who? what?) and about a gazillion other things.
But I knew I wanted to create this online health and wellness space more than anything. Because my desire to spread this knowledge and help others was burning deep inside me. So I stopped saying “can’t” and figured it out. And step-by-step, day-by-day it started coming together.
The old saying “you can do anything you put your mind to,” while perhaps cheesy, is true. But first, you must choose that you want it. And by that, I mean openly declare it, share it, believe in it and scream it from the mountain tops.
Once you do that, you 100% can do it.
It takes some mental training, but you should try to find the good in everything.
When I was diagnosed with one autoimmune disease after another, I was bitter and angry. And when I was unexpectedly let-go from my job this year, I was shocked and in disbelief. Both circumstances were unexpected and whacked me pretty good!
So what did I do? I did what every normal gal would do. I wallowed in those crappy emotions for probably far too long.
And when the self-pity finally ran out, I realized something great. Even though it can be challenging sometimes, we really can find the good in everything.
Prior to my autoimmune diagnoses, I shiver to think of the path my health was on. I was silently harming my body through diet, stress and lifestyle. And the culmination of several more years of that path could have been far more detrimental.
So now, I choose to be thankful. Thankful for the warning signs and ability to revamp my health and wellness. To feel the best I’ve felt in years. And to live another day, basking in the glow of one more glorious sunset.
As for my job, I know this to be true. If I hadn’t been let go, I may not have had the guts to choose passion over fear and vulnerability over stability. To create an online business where I wake up every day energized to help others. Where I have the freedom to work from anywhere, anytime and can lovingly foster a community of like-minded, radiant living soul-sisters.
Many of life’s curveballs are out of our control. And if you’re a type-A, control freak like I am, it can be hard to reconcile that. But once you do and learn to find the good in everything, to make the best of everything, you’ll be far less stressed.
And I promise, you will start to see more of those double rainbows.
Let’s hear it for 38!
Has your life turned out how you thought it would? What would you put on your stop-doing list?