Early Dawn – I positively love being awake in the early hours of the morning. Granted, sometimes it’s a bear to get up super early, but it’s always been worth it when I do. And sometimes I wake up naturally and actually want to get up. This is most definitely new in my 40’s.
I was the person who could easily sleep 12 hours (and hey, in pregnancy I have snuck that in a few times still), who had to be nearly dragged out of bed for school, who viewed sleep as checking out from the world for a little while- from stress, from depression, from life. Something I needed to do many times in my early life. Yet, I’m much more at peace than I’ve ever been in many ways, and I love being able to get up early and set up my intention for the day. To create my life in this way feels intensely meaningful and beautiful.
Dawn holds some of my favorite things: solitude, quiet, peacefulness, time to meditate or collect my thoughts, stillness, plus the added beauty of watching the sun rise
Bubble Baths – I admit that since childhood, the idea of taking baths and enjoyment of it really escaped me in my 20’s. It wasn’t until my late 30’s when pregnancy and motherhood began to appear in my life that my love of taking a bath was fully realized. This is one of the great pleasures in life!
Baths restore me, somehow. Something about a very hot soak, the relaxation of it. It feels like an indulgence for both my body and my mind.
People – Having spent much of my life as an introvert or even what some might call a shoe-gazer, I was never the social butterfly. In fact, more than that, I was fairly pessimistic with a dash of realism and sarcasm thrown in. I was generally not confident about myself and I’m ashamed to say, had a fairly judgmental or critical mindset years ago.
That’s not been me in a long time though. I’ve really come to love people. And this has really developed in the last 5 years or so. I think it’s a combination of mindfulness, my coaching experience at Duke and working with clients (which opens you up to sharing a kind of privacy and intimacy with a person’s innermost self) that gave me ultimate respect for every single person. Everyone has insecurities. Everyone is doing the best they can. And I see beauty in people who are billionaires, the same as I do in people who are homeless. We are all connected. People are amazing.
Top 40 Music – You may have guessed that as part of my shoe-gazer-ness in years past, that I had an affinity for alternative or independent music. That was actually what I lived on. I loved the angst and sorrowful yearnings of the brilliant songwriter Morrissey. I fell in love with a not-so-well-known band Throwing Muses, whose singer, Kristin Hersh, seemed to speak my language infinitely well. In my shameful judgment I probably thought I was better than or smarter than others for my appreciation of “the finer things”. So naive. I’ve long since let all of that go.
When I began to actually become a happier person, my love and respect for those artists remain unchanged. But I actually started listening to upbeat pop songs that made me want to dance. Previously, absolutely closed in and stiff at the thought of moving onto the dance floor (though I had danced at clubs on rare occasions in my teens), I was now laughingly busting moves in my family kitchen and having a damned good time. Lady Gaga and all the rest. I think you could say I’ve lightened up a bit!
Fruit – I cannot get enough fruit. Maybe it has something to do with following The Fruitarian, who is highly interesting to me… or maybe it’s because I spent a couple of years being vegan. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been drawn towards healthier eating. Or maybe it’s because I view fruit as one of the purest, most life-sustaining foods on the planet, but I simply cannot get enough.
I don’t ever remember enjoying fruit this much. Eating bananas was ok. Fresh fruit was definitely not a priority. But I fell in love with mangoes (and even avodados) when my husband used them to make Mexican food. I fell in love with papaya during our trips to Jamaica and Mexico. I fell in love with strawberries and blueberries, thanks to our local farms. And it just feels so vibrant, alive, nourishing, refreshing, wholesome and right. It’s one of the few foods that often (not always) goes unprocessed. And in a world of boxed foods, it’s become an absolute treat to load up on a plate full of raspberries and watermelon. This is living well.
A clean house – It’s true I’m still working to master this one. I’m shedding the belief that I’m a messy person and learning to embrace what I truly want and love, which is a clean house. I’ve been fortunate over the last couple of years that we’ve been able to hire a housekeeper, Hilda. She is amazing. And when she is done, the house is filled with a freshness and vibrancy that makes the entire family feel better.
And the craziest thing to me is how excited I get when we get the carpets steamed clean. Having freshly-cleaned carpets seems to make me equally as happy as I was to have a birthday party growing up… maybe more. This is definitely new in my 40’s.
Nature walks – Never gave much thought to walks before the last few years. Certainly didn’t fit them in during my 20’s. Occasionally, walked around a lake for an outing in my 30’s. But now, in my 40’s, I find that I am positively fed by nature walks. Physically refreshing, emotionally cleansing and spiritually restorative, my most recent walk was nearly 2 hours. In the cold, drizzling rain. And I love every minute of it.
Aside from the beauty of nature, the fresh air and the physical exercise (all powerful benefits), I find that walking in solitude allows my mind to decompress. If I want to be thoughtful and solution-oriented about something happening in my life, I take this with me on the walk. If I want to be mindful and present, I focus on my steps or my breath. If I want to become energized and focused, I mentally state my affirmations or “I am” statements. And it is in these moments, these walks, where times often occur where my heart is filled with love of life, and gratitude (while over-looking a gorgeous pond with fall leaves or finding 4-leaf clovers) so much that my eyes swell with water.
I’m finding many beautiful additions to my life in my 40’s. I’m learning what sustains me. I’m discovering what inspires me, and therefore how I can contribute to others. Self-centeredness (while often innocent in our youth) has dissipated. Purpose, kindness, self-compassion and love of life have taken center stage.
The things I love in my 40’s are are radically different from what I loved in my 20’s. In fact, I would have been much more likely to write about the things that bothered me, things I hated or things I wish I could change. I’m much more gratitude focused now and enjoy more of the simple things of life. Is this what they call wisdom? Ha! Maybe… One thing I’m sure of is that this list will change again. As life progresses, it deepens. I love today but I am looking forward to embracing what is to come. What new insights there will be to consider, new pleasures of life and ways to live well and help others. Love is what it’s all about, I think.
Keep reading my friend. I’m grateful to have you here.
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