As my 40th birthday approached, I sensed that change was coming my way.
Somehow I understood that this year would be a tipping point. A critical crossroad at which I would stop being pulled to and fro by shifting mood or circumstance and make a conscious decision about who and how I wanted to be in the world.
Change did come.
I launched my first blog called Embracing Imperfection – an initial, tentative effort at articulating my deep longing to disentangle myself from comparison, perfectionism, and fear. I returned to school, ended up struggling to walk with a cane as I awaited a hip replacement and then passed through a long and painful recovery, and my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
My 40th birthday ushered in the most challenging season of my life. And I am grateful.
The strange thing is, even as I stumbled through this valley that I would never have chosen for myself, I knew I was being changed. Through the pain and sorrow, the agonizing stretching of muscle and soul, I was beginning the process of releasing everything that no longer served.
All the striving and comparison, the self-doubt and concern about what others thought of me and if they loved me, was stripped away layer by layer until I arrived, exhausted yet relieved, at a place of surrender.
Broken and beautiful.
It was like I fully awoke, for the first time.
And what I finally understood was that I was already enough. That I could love myself, with all my mess and struggle, precisely as I was.
And I saw that my simple, imperfect life was more than enough.
As I draw near to my 47th birthday and look back over the past 7 years, I realize there are four interconnected, life-giving lessons I’ve learned which allow me to walk with intention and joy today.
Joy and pain can coexist
I picked up joy in that valley and have never been the same. While I first got a taste of this when I lost my mom, it was in this season that I embraced the life-altering truth that joy and pain can coexist. Beauty and suffering are old friends. Happiness and struggle co-mingle in a beautiful, imperfect, real life.
Life simply isn’t black or white. All or nothing. And if I wait until there is no sorrow, no doubt or uncertainty, no suffering or frustration or brokenness in this big world, then I will miss my life. I will exist instead of truly living.
I can decide that I am already enough. This simple, imperfect life of mine is more than enough.
When I pull my brain back from tomorrow and my heart from yesterday, I live with joy today
Today is an incredible gift. The crumbs on the counters that speak of a family well-fed, the bills to pay and kids to drive and laundry to fold. This matters.
I grieve the people I’ve helped bury and joyfully make plans for my future but most of all I choose to show up fully present and awake today. A nicer home, more money, another vacation or a fairy tale romance will not make me happier than I already am.
If this is as good as my life ever gets I will die content. This is far more than enough.
If I can’t be happy today it is unlikely I will be happy tomorrow
I have stopped deferring happiness – life is too short, and I am worth too much, to allow imperfection or uncertainty to keep me from living fully today.
The truth is, I don’t need circumstances to be perfect in order to choose to be happy. I can take personal responsibility for my thoughts and habits and show up curious and fully engaged to my simple, ordinary life.
Instead of tipping into negativity, I choose to consciously scan for beauty. Instead of living in fear that the good things in life won’t last, I soak up every drop of beauty and joy, love and opportunity for growth, that this simple day offers. This day is more than enough.
There is wisdom in each season
Death and birth, winter and springtime, times of tightening the belt and those of abundance, seasons of being hidden before stepping out into the light – there is a primordial wisdom in each season.
I’ve learned not to panic in the winter seasons; this is where I put down roots that anchor me later on. And I have learned, in the seasons of light, to silence the voice of my inner critic so I can step through fear, into purposeful action, to joyfully do the work to which I feel called.
One season isn’t better than the other. They are both necessary and work together to build a beautiful life that is so much more than enough.
Today, like each day of these past 7 years, I choose how I will show up. I choose if I will see my strength and not just my struggle. I choose if I will see past mess and imperfection to the grace and gifts of this ordinary day. I choose if I will grow and heal and laugh like I mean it or allow frustration and discomfort and a sense of lack to hold me back from truly living.
I alone get to decide that this simple, imperfect life of mine is more than enough.