So. 42. Not super exciting. Not “sweet 16,” or the magic 21st birthday that was the gateway to adulthood (not really, but that’s what I thought at the time). In fact, I remember turning 21 and thinking something along the lines of: “In another 21 years, I’ll be 42. Man, that’s O.L.D. That’s middle aged! By then I’ll probably be arthritic and have teenaged kids. I bet I’ll have my shit together, too.”
Well. Two out of three ain’t bad. I am arthritic (seriously), and I do have have at least one teenage kid (12 is the new 15, in case you didn’t know). But, do I have my shit together? Hmmm. Nope, not yet, and honestly, I’m not even close.
What?!? I can see you shaking your head and thinking, but Jennifer, you have a fantastic husband and two amazing kids. Jennifer, you have a roof over your head and unbelievable friends. Jennifer, you teach mindfulness and deep breathing for a living! How on earth can you not have your shit together?
Well, I’ll tell you… none of us has it all the way together, all of the time. If I am being honest, and obviously I am being brutally honest, I am pretty stoked if I make it through the day with no real harm done. In fact, that facade of perfection, that veneer of success that all of us try so hard to pervade, is really a load of crap. Honestly, most of the people I meet that act like they’ve got it all figured out scare the hell out of me. I am afraid that if they cough, a bone might pop out of their mouths, a remnant from all the skeletons in their closets.
I find it refreshingly real to be in my 40s. I am totally cool with owning all of my inadequacies, all of my foibles and flaws. I am quite frank in my inability to run a household smoothly (come check out my “laundry room” it’s my bed), my inability to remember to sign all those damn school papers, my lack of success in having all meals be organic, gluten free, homemade and local farm to table fresh. I forget appointments and sometimes even lunch dates. I am the absolute worst at dealing with mail of any kind, and am pretty bad at email and phone calls, too. I will be the first to tell you that my children, while amazing, are not perfect, and nor am I. Far from it, in fact. But, and here is the big but (and not the Kim K. internet breaking kind), I am a damn good human being. I care about others and I try to show them that. Sometimes I fail, but overall, I can put my head on the pillow at night knowing that I tried hard that day to be a decent person, and that is ENOUGH.
What’s so rad about these revelations and the ownership of it all is that I am no longer attached to what others think of me. I am no longer driven to be someone I am not. I will no longer torture myself for perfection, or to make sure someone likes me or what I do. I will simply be content with who I am, at this moment. These are big statements for me. I am, by nature, a pleaser who truly wants everyone to like me. But guess what? That is not possible AT ALL. Whew what a relief. I can stop trying! Those of you who know how much I love yoga, both my practice and the teaching/disseminating of its awesomeness, will recognize two key points (especially if you’ve heard me on one of my 8limbs tirades): nonattachment (aparigraha) and contentment (santosha). Funny how I just had these points brought home very clearly in my own asana practice (that was my last blog), and now they are being reinforced in this “coming of age” my 42nd birthday.
Thank goodness, because I am not getting any younger. Aha here comes another realization I am in fact dying. We all are. The idea that “this” is permanent is hilarious, yet we all keep perpetuating that myth. Birthdays are fantastic reminders that nope, none of this is permanent. Those wrinkles? They’re going to deepen. Those strong legs? They’re going to weaken. That amazing hair? You’re going to have to pay for the color. Even that intellect? It will wither (especially as soon as you have a child. Approximately 20%+ brain cells seem to disappear with childbirth, never to return).
Do these statements make you sad? They shouldn’t. They are simply the truth. So, if nothing is permanent and it’s all going to end, then why not live NOW. Why not lose your attachment to almost everything. Why not be content? Why not accept yourself and others and the state of existence as it is? Trust me when I say you will alleviate a lot of suffering…
That doesn’t mean you don’t do your work. On the contrary, you must work harder than ever because to practice nonattachment and contentment is HARD. Get on your mat. Take care of others and yourself. Make the world a better place. But, and here’s the hard part, do it all without any attachment to the outcome. Do it all without worrying if it is what someone else thinks is a good idea. Do it all without worrying if you or the outcomes will be perfect (because many, many times none of it will be perfect).
If my 42 year old self could give my 21 year old self a piece of advice, just one, it would be this: understand the impermanence of it all and live accordingly. It is a very finite time we have in this shell of a body, and while purusha (the spiritual devine that is our real eternal nature) is infinite, prkriti (the material) is finite. Use your time wisely. Of course my 21 year old self would look at me like I am insane, but that is the nature of being 21 and invincible vs. 42 and aware.
Cheers to the next 42 years!