So yesterday I turned 41 – and again, as my son would say, “So that happened.”
When I first thought about going back to my 40 at 40 article from last year to see how I did, I was very reluctant because I am pretty sure I didn’t manage to do a damn thing on the list. Despite how good I felt going into the winter, last year was particularly tough for me, and I backslid hard.
My overarching goal of 2018 was supposed to be blogging. I did great at this through December 2017, and then I stopped cold because life happened and I straight-up lost my mojo. I’d love to be able to say I turned my frustrations and worries into deep and meaningful discussions on my blog, but instead my reaction was to dive deep into my introverted hibernaculum and hide from everything because doing stuff is hard. I did peek my head up in February to write about Imbolc, but I burrowed right back down again to ride out the stupidly long winter as best I could.
My physical and mental self-care last winter sucked. The winter of 2018 was a particularly shitty one for me with fibromyalgia and arthritis, and being stuck indoors during one of the coldest and snowiest years we’ve seen in a while shut down my exercise routine completely. Not only did I fail to lose the additional 30 pounds I’d hoped to shed, I gained back 30 of the 40 pounds I’d lost in the first place. Without the impetuses of recovery from my hamstring injury and gaining strength to go on my son’s class trip to Washington D.C. to drive me on, I just quit trying because, again, doing stuff is hard. The one thing on my physical self-care list that I did with any regularity was to wear pretty scarves and paint my fingernails – a tiny bright spot that I’m going to give myself credit for even if the rest of the winter was crap on a cracker.
In addition to my physical issues, my anxiety was kicked up from my mom’s struggles with complicated cataract surgery, some new family stress on my side of the tree as well as rehashed family bullshit with my husband and in-laws, and my feeling like I didn’t have a purpose to call my own, since I was neither subbing nor blogging and was only sitting and waiting to be required at that point. What I should’ve done was control my diet so I’d hurt less, exercise to strengthen my body and raise my moods, journal to sort those moods out and deal with them appropriately, and create pretty and useful things to make myself feel like I had something to offer the world. Instead, I sat on my ass, ate whatever made me feel better at the time, and just flat hid from the world until the sun came back out.
I started feeling a little better around the Vernal Equinox – Spring usually does that for me, but it was slow in coming this year and took a few roller-coaster dives back into Winter before it finally settled in late April. Despite the slow start, I began to try to do something again, at least. I restarted the DASH diet and started walking again to get myself back into a healthy shape – not much weight loss to show for it, but definitely better mobility and general feeling. I took up Tai Chi to help me out both physically and mentally. I started reading extensively about Paganism and the Wheel of the Year, which gave me new purpose and something new to study. I looked into visualization and manifesting, which led me to start picturing myself doing something that made me feel creative and skillful and fulfilled beyond my role of just waiting to be needed.
And then, I’ll be damned, it seemed like the Universe dropped exactly what I was looking for right into my lap. I got a call to be a substitute secretary full-time for several weeks at my son’s former school district, where I’d substitute taught for 8 years running. I hadn’t taken a subbing job all year, having decided I wanted to blog instead, and the idea of full time work was way outside my comfort zone, but since it was for the district I knew and with the students and teachers I already knew, I took the job. At the time, I clearly remember thinking that at the least, it’d be a good way to earn the $1,500 we needed to replace our failing water heater.
I did damn good work over the course of 5 weeks, and I really liked the job and the vast majority of the people I worked with, so I manifested the hell out of it using the Law of Attraction. My family really enjoyed my transformation from clingy and anxious to excited and engaged – my son loved talking shop about his old school and my husband told me repeatedly how happy it made him to see me smiling. I formally applied for the job and was assured by all involved that my permanent hiring was an imminent formality. I really thought this was the Thing I Was Waiting For, and I even allowed myself to start dreaming past just my own fulfillment to putting money away for my son’s college education and house repairs and all kinds of great things I could do with a full-time salary. After waiting a couple of weeks to hear the final word that I had the job, though, I was passed over at the last minute with no more explanation than that they’d decided to go with someone who had “more experience.”
I won’t lie to you, gentle readers – that fucking STUNG, especially after the years of my life I’d spent working and volunteering for that institution. And frankly, the Law of Attraction seemed to have delivered me a steaming pile of horse shit rather than the bright working future I’d envisioned. My husband was almost more devastated than I was, and in his disappointment, he told me the thing he’d miss most was my smile – assuming that without the fulfillment of the job, my aimless hunkering into the hibernaculum would recommence immediately.
Wow some more, but completely understandable, given the past year.
I was crushed by the rejection, and I was very disappointed, but this time, thankfully, I didn’t feel hopeless. What was the real reason I started working there anyway? To get money for the water heater – which I did. (And it’s a fancy-schmancy 40-gallon behemoth, so now there are NO COLD SHOWERS EVER.) More importantly, what feeling did the job give me that made me want to do it every day? Purpose and focus and engagement in a common goal – a place to go to do interesting things with people who share my interests. And what else do I have access to at my fingertips that can give me that same feeling if I just do the work to make use of it?
That’s right, my blog.
Instead of turning hard inward and shutting out the world, this time I threw that energy outward – I dove into gardening, crafting, raising monarch butterflies, and studying Paganism – all things that really tripped my trigger. And I dove into writing about what I was doing and learning, then posting it to my blog. None of these things was going to make me a single red cent, but doing them and talking about them made me happy. And while it took a bit for him to recognize it, my husband started seeing that fulfilled smile again – not quite the same as it was, but plenty good enough for our needs.
There are a lot of things that make blogging hard for me, including my lack of knowledge of the medium, my insecurity in handling internet comments, and the entropy that makes it very hard to get rolling again anytime something slows me down or stops me for a time. However, my takeaway from this rough spot is that hiding from hard things has never worked for me, and it’s not going to start now. I want this hard thing, so I’m going to make it happen.
For my 42nd year, my goal is less about a to-do list and more about a to-be list – I want to be creative, healthy, loving, industrious, helpful, and purposeful, however that comes to pass. I’m focusing on my Everyday Magic framework – connecting with nature; making time for crafting/creating; taking care of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually; keeping my hearth and home comfortable and nourishing for my family; and connecting with my friends and loved ones in ways that benefit us all. I’m hoping that if I keep my eyes on fewer prizes and give myself lots of leeway on what activities fall into each of those categories, I’ll feel more settled in my achievements and keep moving. Time will once again tell.
Growing up is hard, y’all. I’ve heard that if you haven’t done it by age 50, you don’t have to do it after all. Only 9 more years to go…