Reflections on turning 40
It’s 2020. The world is going through a major existential flux, and I just turned 40. In the absence of being able to throw a massive party with bad 80’s music, a silver ball, disco lights and a hangover, I decided to reflect on some of what life has taught and shown me to date, and share it with you all.
In my 30’s I have come to know the tragedy and ecstasy of being myself. That no matter how hard you try, you can’t be what you’re not, not forever anyway. Eventually, the truth will come out. You can wish to be different, read a million self-help books, try to force yourself to change, fantasise about what movies told you your life would be, deny your flaws (or strengths), and a million other things to avoid the hard truth of what is. You are who you are. The lessons you need to learn will not go away, and they will take their own damn time making you live them. Sometimes the change is instant; sometimes it’s excruciatingly slow.
The great thing about this whole horrible mess though, is that despite anything you’ve ever believed, it’s easier to be yourself. It’s not easy, just easier.
There is no avoiding pain. It will find you.
A broken bone has nothing on a broken heart.
Love in leadership is as important as love in your home.
Say yes, and thank you to everything; the why will reveal itself. Know that saying yes, does not mean I am obliging you. Saying yes is simply acknowledging and accepting that this experience has been brought into my life. What I decide to do with it is mine to choose and to live with. This is my freedom and my responsibility. Saying thank-you reveals the gift of the experience. Painful as it may be.
Creative genius is in all of us. It is not only available to the artist and the writer and the musician. It is the ability to be Simone in Simone-and-all-the-world. It is the desire to leave your own unique footprint, however small or big. It’s yours. It’s the answer to the question, “what can Simone-uniquely-me bring to this situation?”
You can support change in others. But if you try to take away their creative genius by deciding for them, you won’t make it past the starting line. The secret to enabling others to change is creating a space in which they can decide for themselves if they want to change and how. A space that allows others to decide for themselves is one that accepts, empathises, and is utterly unattached to the outcome of their decision. This is the greatest gift you can give another person. And it takes inordinate amounts of courage and faith. Especially when the person whom you are giving the space to is the rock on which you have built your life. But know that their true choice is your true experience, no matter how painful.
It helps to practice with those whose decisions you are not deeply attached to. The workplace is a great place to practice. The hardest work of love happens at home.
Sitting and watching a bee flitting about a lavender bush is as important as giving a TedTalk that millions watch. I don’t know why I just do.
Just knowing, is enough of an explanation for your own story, and never enough of an explanation for someone else’s.
The earth and all its suffering is a mirror of our own and that healing one will heal the other.
Dogs are God’s gift to the lonely hearted, the brokenhearted and the joy-seekers.
A smile, even if behind a mask, connects us.
Love is allowing others to be who they are, and you, to be yourself. Loving yourself could mean everything from accepting your wrinkles and embarrassingly bad taste in clothes and music to admitting that you need something from another that they are not able to give. Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves, as Mary Oliver says.
Your body will tell you the truth, in sickness, and in health.
Death is not a full stop. It is a transformation into something I do not yet fully understand. Yes, the physical body breaks down, forms part of earth, water, fire, air, and flows into the cycles of life on this planet. Becomes sun and rain and plant and food and nourishment. But what of the beings’ story? Is their story part of these things too? Or is there another element we don’t know of yet, and this is also what they become? Is love the 5th element? Do the lessons they learned in love become part of the cosmos the way their body becomes the earth?
I am still afraid of suffering: mine and others. But I know that when I am in love, I am not afraid.
Love can change everything in an instant.
Forcing things: Does. Not. Work. Let it flow or let it burn. But God help the woman who tries to control which one.
Meditation, walking in nature, and dogs can heal any heart. Ice cream not so much. But it does taste good.
Every morning, I can try again. Every moment too, but it’s easier in the morning.
Stillness is sweet.
I’ve learned that we need to be equal parts containment and expression. Mystery and truth revealed. That anger must be disentangled before it does damage beyond repair. That breathing deep in my belly can take the fire out of the anger and bring me back to understanding. That just 1 minute of breathing, or stillness or attention to nature, really can change everything.
And lastly, I am simply grateful for all my years and the glorious chance to be part of it all.