Three months from today I will turn 50 years old. That fact doesn’t frighten me or make me feel sick, which puts me outside the norm, I suppose. It’s a number. A nice, even number that describes how long I’ve lived on this earth. It doesn’t describe my eternity. It’s just a marker of time. A dot on the timeline.
Decidedly middle-age, I agree. But there is no crisis here. I don’t lament what I have or haven’t done with my life. I’m mostly satisfied (of course it would be nice to be a better meal planner and cook and have a supermodel’s body with exactly ZERO effort to do either…but therein lies the rub. Gotta do the work to get the result and I have other priorities). At this point in my life’s trajectory, I am content with exactly where I am. The fact is that I don’t want to look younger. I don’t want to BE younger. I want to look, act and feel good. I want to be here, now. Fully present.
I’m not perfect. I gave up that pursuit a long time ago. I don’t strive toward perfection, nor do I expect perfection from myself or anyone around me. I am, however, authentic. I strive towards being genuine. It probably bears mention that my poker face needs a LOT of work, which can be considered an unfortunate side effect of being authentic, but since I’m not a professional poker player, I can live with that (I should also note I’m not ANY kind of poker player—someone tried to explain that game to me once and I finally just stopped them and said, “save your breath, that sounds too much like math.” But I digress).
In my nearly 50 years of resilient life on this planet, I can tell you that the struggles, the heartache and the challenges I’ve overcome have taught me the value of resilience and refusing to surrender, but peace has only come after acceptance, forgiveness and mindfulness. I lived a lot of years being resilient but being peacefully resilient has made the past 10 years so much better. It’s a subtle difference, but one worth noting and a lesson I hope you can learn from my mistakes. I hope these 3 steps help you to start the journey toward peaceful resilience.
1. Accept your past acts. I know. I know. I started off with a tough one. All of us have done some things in our youth that make us cringe. I made immature choices at 19, some of which followed me around until I made better choices much later in life. Much. Later. Finally went back to college just before I turned 29. All the time in my 20’s I should have been in college and striving toward my dreams: wasted. I hate everything about some of the choices I made, the ways I acted. The person I became. But I don’t have the power to change it, and while I may not lead a conversation with “listen to this horrible choice I made as a twenty-something,” I don’t try to hide those past failures.
2. Forgive yourself. It seems so trite, but the practical value of forgiveness is immense. I literally had to develop compassion for the girl I was. Mostly, I was pissed off at that stubborn, headstrong teenager, but I found that attitude didn’t lead to peace. When I looked back with adult eyes to see that child as one who lacked the proper guidance to even balance a budget on her own and I just gave her a break for being young, that is when the door was opened in my mind to peace. It took me years to get there, to forgive her. And I still shake my head at her sometimes, but the self-compassion I found after doing the work to accept her bad decisions was worth all of the effort I put in.
3. Be here now. Mindfulness. I was raised to disdain any sort of mental health activity—from counseling to any sort of “weird” eastern cultural phenomenon like meditation. But those teachings of my youth were wrong. I was in my 40’s before I experienced the power of mindfulness. I am still quite particular about who I can “listen” to as far as meditation practices go, but I think that is more about style and preference than anything. If the whole idea of mindfulness is new to you, I would suggest the CD Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat Zinn. Also, buy a box of raisins to have handy. Trust me on that last part.
The journey to peaceful resilience isn’t easy. It’s simple, mostly, but not easy. But man, is it worth it! Obviously, three simple steps you read in a blog aren’t going to magically lead you to a place of peaceful resilience, but they can be a start. And it’s never too late to start. Even at 50. I start new every day because just like that song from the way-bitchin 80’s says, “All we have is here and now. All our life, out there to find.” I can’t live on the accomplishments of yesterday and I can’t count on tomorrow. But here I am, right now. Ninety days from 50 and full of peace.