My good friend Nana Tush had an epiphany on her fortieth birthday. Here’s her story, in her words.
Turning 40 was horrible. I wasn’t a millionaire (or “thousandaire”). Financial independence was as close as the nearest lunar swimming pool. Being the mother of a huge happy (or unhappy) brood of children wasn’t going to happen. While mourning my marriage’s demise, panicking about my child’s custody court date, and recuperating from emergency surgery, I didn’t know that when facial hair sprouts on your face, LEAVE IT ALONE! or else it brings “friends.” So there I was — the fuzzy faced belle of the ball — at my pity-party of one.
It didn’t matter I had paid substantial sums of money and took multiple seminars to “maximize my potential.” Or, that I purchased at full retail (gasp!) a hardcover book for Advanced Daily Organizer Users, to further maximize my potential. Life still wasn’t following my Goal Setting, Type-A Personality, Daily Organizer Plan. Aside from one child I adored, what did I have to show for 40 years of life? Zip. Not one single wonder-kid bone in me!
For 40 years only the destination mattered. Always rushing, no matter what popped up along the way. “Get it done yesterday” was my motto. Proving my worth to all the “Thems” and “Theys” my goal. Forty years of busywork-filled days came to a head. On my fortieth birthday I was officially a Big “F,” a Big Failure. Being of extremely thick skull, it took a face-to-face meeting with my fear of failure before I “let go” and got on with life.
Once my worst fear was realized, it finally stopped. Rather than being paralyzed because I was a Big “F,” I felt liberated. While busy being afraid of the worst, there wasn’t time or energy for anything else. Once the worst happened and I stopped worrying about it happening, I began focusing on what I wanted. By that time I figured it didn’t matter what I did, being a Big “F” and all. Ironically, that was when I succeeded.
Post pity-party my attitude changed. Decided I might as well watch the sunset on any given day since I was certainly not on any fast track. Besides, I didn’t know if I’d be here tomorrow. From where I stood my “golden years” didn’t look too promising. My IRA — which had been set up for my tomorrow — had been cashed to keep myself afloat today.
On my fortieth I wrote, in big red letters, a single word on each page of my Goal Setting, Type-A Personality, Daily Organizer — “write.” Every time I saw that word, it ticked me off. One day I was so irritated, I sat myself down, wrote an article, submitted it for publication, and was could barely contain myself when it was published! Flew higher than a kite for a month on that one. Sent copies to everyone I knew and carried copies to give to all I hadn’t met yet. (Imagine if I’d been paid?)
Feeling inspired and flushed with success, I jotted down a few post-40 observations.
* Dirty dishes don’t leave. They’ll be there later today. Tomorrow. Even the day after tomorrow.
* When it’s a lovely “ain’t it great to be alive” day and taking a stroll in the park (or on the beach) seems the thing to do, do it.
* When you come home hot and tired from running around (or from your job) just to find the never-ending chores waiting. Let them wait. Sit down, prop your feet up, drink a cup of tea, read a good book or chat for a bit with a friend or family. You’ll feel better, the world will look better, and your attitude toward the task at hand will be better.
* If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, give it a try. Time will pass whether you do or not. Besides, do you really want to be on your deathbed wondering “What if?”
*If you’re are lucky, one day you’ll be old. It’s a shame to waste your life holding onto petty and useless things like anger, stress, or grudges. When you race around like a chicken without its head you miss so much, including your head. You’re here for the duration, so give it your best, conquer your demons, set your dreams free, and enjoy.
Remember, it’s your life and up to you to live it. No one else can.
Nana Tush finished by telling me her life had become a delight once she took her own advice.
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