So many people fear 50. I chose to see it as a major milestone and embrace it. I made my epic 50th year about embracing adventure. As with all things that sit before you in the future, I had no idea what to expect. I knew I had to face every day by leaning in, purging what didn’t work for me and be present in the moment. None of these things happened overnight, but they all happened. I am turning 51 on Thursday. Let me share what happened this year. If you are interested, I will be exploring these points in great detail over at my other space Still Life, it isn’t for everyone. But it might be for you.
- Embrace Change.
At the age of 49, I was desperate for change. I knew I didn’t like where I was. I felt mired in grey matter and desperately needed sunshine. I was called on my birthday and was asked to come in for a job interview. I said yes. 5 days later I interviewed. 14 days after the interview I had a job offer. 30 days after the phone call, I was sitting at my new desk completely overwhelmed trying to navigate my new job with very little direction because my employer also wanted change but wasn’t really sure what that needed to look like. 11 months later, we are still collaborating and planning for the future. It’s exciting, inspiring and exhausting. For the first time in my career, I feel respected and valued. Never underestimate that. It has opened my world up to infinite possibilities and that feels amazing. Being valued means different things to different people. For me, it means, have someone listen to you, respect your ideas even if they are not going to work, ask for your input and is kind and supportive.
2. Take time to value yourself.
I made a promise to myself 609 days ago. I promised myself I would take the time to meditate every day because when I did, I was calmer, kinder and felt peaceful. I sat on my chair for 609 days and sat in silence. It wasn’t easy, I have a voice that reminds me I am not enough. I had a boyfriend who validated this message. I wasn’t thin, pretty, smart, skilled…enough. He didn’t choose me so it also validated I wasn’t enough. I heard this message echoed in ‘friends’, family, colleagues, strangers and me. I sat for 609 days repeating my Sankalpa, it began with ‘I am happy’. Once I felt happy after months of repeating my mantra, I changed it to ‘I am enough’ as I learned I was enough I changed it to ‘I am forgiving’ because I needed to forgive myself before I could forgive others. This year I am grateful. I learned to love me, let go of outer expectations and focus on my life’s purpose. Not someone else’s. So it may feel like I abandoned you and in some ways I did. You’ll be okay.
3. Health is more important than you think, listen to your body.
Last December I had a trip planned to go to New York City. I was excited about it. In November when I sat quietly with myself I began to feel like I shouldn’t go. It began with a friend’s reaction. I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach thinking about this trip. I cancelled the trip and immediately felt better. I learned that intuition is my greatest ally. One week later, I was in the hospital. My daughter calls it the time I died. In many ways, I did die. It was a life changing experience. I experienced an awaking. I will talk more about that experience over on my blog Still Life: Finding Peace in Chaos. But I had ignored my body until I couldn’t. Listen to yourself. Don’t let yourself down.
4. Nurture your circle
I was incredibly ill for months. I was home from work for six weeks. If I had gone to New York, I would have died. I didn’t have anyone there to help me. I would have been alone in my hotel room with cleaning staff finding my body. I spent months having tests, hanging out in doctors offices. Learning about my health and understanding what is normal and what is not. I finally have my health sorted and back on track. I feel better than I have in 20 years. Health is important. I sat in the hospital with my daughter and went through the list of people she should call if things became too much for her to manage. I have 8 people in my circle of trust and 3 were all vacationing in Europe at the time. Two others in my circle, my children, were living with me taking care of me at a time in their life when they should be focused on friends, school and fun. The other three were close by and I knew if I needed them, they would be there. Interestingly enough, my circle consists exclusively of family. I love them fiercely.
I went through a phase where I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a close-knit circle of friends. I never really experienced that. I had one or two friends that I sort of felt close to when I was a kid. But I never really felt like people got me. As an adult, I wanted to experience that. I made the mistake of picking people who were fun but also had fun at other people’s expense. They were fairly focused on themselves and took from me at every turn with the exception of one. He treated me well until he didn’t. It was stressful. I didn’t know if I was speaking to the good guy or the bad guy. My values didn’t align with anything these people did for fun. Because values were misaligned, I was hurt in ways I never expected. It distroyed me. I sat for a long time asking ‘What do I need to learn from this’. I received my answer. I learned about the true meaning of friendship. I went through a purge that rid me of toxic people. I purged things. I gave away truck-loads of things. I burned things to exorcise the demons. I purged my schedule. If I didn’t see value in it, I didn’t do it. Saying good-bye and NO were the greatest gift I gave to myself.
I have a circle of trust – family. They come first in my life always. I have a few friends who I would do ANYTHING for. There are family and friends that do not hear from me very often anymore. My health took centre stage this year. Some people in my life are emotional vampires. As an introvert, I need alone time to recharge. Emotional vampires literally sucked the life out me. While I was recovering, there were people who kept taking from me and never once asked how I was doing. I thought about this for a while. Why do I keep nurturing this relationship? I reach-out and if the time is not convenient to them, they would swear at me, or blow me off. You would think by the age of 50 I would understand that a friend is loyal, trustworthy, KIND and dependable to the extent they are capable of. I made a list of people who I thought fit those attributes, I have two and with a new friend I made recently it may bump up to three. Friends never want to feel like they are an inconvenience. I hope I have never made my friends feel that way. Please be frank with me if I have, it was never my intent. I am at the point in my life where I need a best friend. I want honesty, loyalty, kindness, as their values. I want someone with the same interests as me. I want someone who loves deep, meaningful conversation about life, spirituality, books, and experiences. But most importantly, I want a friend who I can call up and say, ‘Something just happened, I need you.’ And they say “Yes” or they say, “I am doing this right now….I am going to call in in 15/30/4 hours so I can give you my undivided attention.” That person exists. I just haven’t found them yet or I haven’t recognized them.
I found my purpose. I found my life’s mission. The universe takes you there without you seeing it and then it hits you over the head with a brick and says – can you see it yet? I see it. In every situation I have ever been in, I have been in a position to help people by raising them up. This is my purpose. I have a unique skill that searches for the quality in someone that is special. I point it out to them and then I teach them to use it to the best of their ability. Typically it only takes kind words or encouragement to inspire someone into action. As a child, I was told I was too sensitive. Being sensitive IS NOT A BAD THING! It’s amazing. I am empathic. I can feel what others are feeling. I can see things from other people’s perspective. This is my gift and it helps me fulfil my life’s purpose. I have set this as an intention to use in every aspect of my life including work. As a species, we can do better. It is my mission to spread kindness. I am not doing this every day because people can be cruel and it wounds me then I get crabby and angry. But I try to be this every day. Try. I am getting better at it.
I want to experience things. What I mean is, I want to watch/read/learn/do things. I did things this year I haven’t done before. I stood in the ocean and felt it. I mean really felt it and I was overcome by emotion and sobbed my heart out. I explored Alberta’s prairie and appreciated it for what it was, and didn’t criticize it for being something it wasn’t. Prairies aren’t trying to be mountains. So I enjoyed them for being prairies. I read book genres I hadn’t explored before. I was correct in knowing I don’t need to read frightening books. Now I know for sure. I took the time to learn about First Nations Art, I always enjoyed it but now I have learned its purpose. I took big risks because no one is going to do it for you. I learned more about myself by doing this than by wishing someone would do it for me. I subscribed to a Broadway streaming channel because I love theatre and I have reconciled with myself that I am not going to New York or London to see these plays in person. I want to see them now not some day. This has brought me a surprising amount of joy. I love my city. I want other people to see what I see. I explore it and photograph it. I try different experiences and festivals. I have been all over the world and if you said to me, ‘Robyn, you can no longer travel where do you want to live out the rest of your days?’ I would answer ‘Edmonton…just let me live a bit closer to the valley’.
Happy Birthday to me. We had one hell of a year.