Upon Turning 35, a Final Look Back

IMG_1866When I first began my pity party path to recognizing and acknowledging the blessings of turning 35, I wasn’t sure how the experience would play out. I couldn’t predict what it would feel like having to come up with 35 truly positive things about my life as it is now, without only citing banal, yet genuine daily items of gratitude that might put you to sleep. To be honest, some days were harder than others—not because I didn’t feel truly grateful for things in my life, but rather I didn’t know exactly how to express feelings into words on a screen.

Yet here on this final day—the day of turning 35—I can honestly say I have earned every single virtual candle on that birthday cake. I cherish all the experiences I’ve had in my life—both amazing and not so great, the ordinary day-to-day and the life-changing moments, as well as the expected and the surprises. They have helped shape and mold me into the person I am today. While flawed, still constantly growing and learning, I happen to appreciate and like the person whom I’ve become.

Upon turning 35, today I am grateful for…

1.I am grateful for having made it through to the other side of some very dark days. I’ve lived through some pretty rough experiences, both physically and emotionally, and I’m proud to be able to say I truly am a stronger and better person for it. Instead of staying in a wallowing, poor-me state that would’ve been so easy to do, I kept pushing ahead, learning from my challenges, and grown to further understand the human spirit. My compassion and empathy for others, while always rather keen, has expanded so much more and is very much broader in scope.

2. I am so grateful to have found a career where I can use those difficult experiences I’ve been through to help counsel and educate others. I eventually discovered and built my own virtual support groups many years ago. Yet it would have helped me even more to have a personal mentor who was both knowledgeable about what I was going through and who could also help show me how I could improve my health without simply telling me which medications to take and to go get treatments that would just keep me stuck at a plateau. I envisioned this career for so many years without knowing exactly how I would get here, so when it did finally show up, I just about cried. This is what it was for.

3. I am grateful for all the people who have touched my life over the years. My brothers who were my second set of parents, making sure I never got into too much trouble, who kept me humble, kept me in giggles and made sure I felt loved. The teachers who recognized and encouraged my skills and talents, who made sure I had the support to blossom academically. Different friends I’ve made along the way—people to talk, laugh, cry, and share endless memories with. Acquaintances who have crossed my path—casual compliments that meant more to me than I could thank them for. Strangers who have gone out of their way to help me up a mountain or make sure I navigated through a foreign city. Old classmates or family friends who remember something I did or said to them, what feels like a lifetime ago, that made a huge impact on them. The romantic partners who’ve taught me so much about loving and relating, while learning about what makes them tick, shapes who they are and how they love, and revealing so much of the same in myself through my experiences with them. My fellow health coaches who inspire me every single day, and who have been so amazingly warm, uplifting and supportive—you are all beautiful, loving superstars! I could go on and on, but thank you, thank you, thank you.

4. I am thankful for the white hairs. I am thankful for snow fingers and shoulders. I am thankful for the stiff joints in the morning. I am thankful for the reminders of the joy of sports played hard, of a life well lived and a life lived to its fullest. And I know this sounds incredibly strange, but I am thankful for the health issues that have taught me so much about the mind-body connection, about listening to and honoring my body and the importance of self care, a lesson that had to be beaten into me. I am listening. I know. I am ready to move into my next phase of living.

5. I am thankful for yet another year to experience awe. To live life to the fullest. To laugh. To love. To cry. To sing from my heart. To embrace my inner child. To savor what I’ve got. To dream. To go after those dreams and make them my reality. To give thanks for another year, another month, another day, this breath…

When it Comes to the Quest for Love, Be Your Own “The One”

src: blog.buckheadchurch.org/

If you were to look to at my love life as following a trajectory, forming one neat and perfect line (ha), it would appear as if, since the tender age of 17, I were perpetually engaged in an active search for The One. With the exception of what amounts to a total of about a year and a half lost to housebound illness and heartbroken depression, adding in some month or two breaks here and there in between active dating, I have spent nearly 16 years of my life in serial monogamy, AKA some form of a relationship.

These relationships have ranged from the short-lived, failed attempts of one to three months to serious, deeply committed, live-in relationships lasting three to four years. In perhaps too many, I have turned out to be the heartbreaker, but I have also had my share of experiences where my heart had been utterly destroyed as well. Yet each time, I eventually dust myself back off, heading back into the adventures of love, though perhaps with my heart more carefully protected the next time.

My married childhood friends who thought I’d be the first of us down the aisle—as did I—observe my endless adventures with men with amusement and/or not-well-disguised pity. They wonder if I’m too picky, too flighty or, if they’re feeling generous, wonder when a truly great guy will realize just how amazing I really am.

“He’s out there,” they say, not really meaning to come across as condescending, I’m sure. “Be patient.”

Some of my perpetually single friends have expressed concerns that I at times might be too eager to be paired up with a mate, but I contend that desperation has been not my driving urge. On the contrary, I love to give and receive the sincerest form of love. I have been driven by the mission to find and keep that love—I know that is possible, at the right time, with the right person. I have seen in it very close to home, as my parents’ own love affair only grows deeper and more beautiful with each passing year. I know I want that too some day.

In my periods of self-reflection—which by the way can still occur in the midst of a struggling relationship, which as those of you who have lived there know can be even lonelier than being single—I have also come to a realization about love that relationship experts repeat over and over because it’s true. You cannot truly expect to really find and keep the genuine, enduring love from another person until you can learn to find and accept that same love from yourself.

Don’t roll your eyes at me. Think about it. If you can’t appreciate your own inner beauty, your gifts, talents, strengths and what you can bring to the table, not just in romantic relationships but to the world in general, how can you expect someone who may be starting off as a perfect stranger to you to learn to either?

Of course, a great partner can see beyond the b.s. you sometimes hold up as a mask to protect yourself from hurt. A great partner can be your biggest cheerleader and in the most loving and respectful ways encourage you to be your best self that is most genuine to the real you. A great partner can help you to open your eyes to that beautiful person you truly are inside and out.

But you can’t depend on a partner to do all that hard work for you. At some point you’re going to have to take a look in front of the metaphorical and literal mirror by yourself and say, “Damn it, I am an amazing person, worthy of love. I deserve happiness, wonderful friendships, a career I love, success and all the great rewards of life. Regardless of whether I ever find The One or not.”

Your quest for love should be directed inward first and foremost. Because really—you are your One. Anyone else is just bonus.

The Ah Ring

And what better way to show that commitment to discovering, loving and celebrating yourself than with The Ah Ring—the first and only diamond ring designed especially for single women. Worn on the pinkie ring, the 14-karat, white gold ring with 11 round full cut diamonds is a gorgeous symbol of self-love.

Oprah, Anne Hathaway, Kirsten Dunst and Serena Wiliam are just a few of the powerful single women who have embraced this “symbol of single’s pride.” Yet priced at $350, treating yourself to the Ah Ring is an affordable way to celebrate being joyfully single and your own true love. Look for it at Divine Diamonds, www.divinediamonds.com.

Tossing Out the Ticking Time Clock

Couple in Love by fajridet

They call me SingleInMy30s, and I am a serial monogamist.

It boggles my mind to think that I have spent 13 of the last 16 years of my life in a serious, committed relationship. Beyond that, for one year I mourned the loss of the four-year relationship. And the remaining two years of my adult romantic life (if we start at age 17 ½), I spent dating and searching for the partner who would stick.

I have been looking for that best friend and passionate lover and tender partner who would stick by my side through thick and thin, through the ups and downs of the rollercoaster of life. Stick with us through courtship and marriage, family shenanigans and creating a family of our own and supporting each other through the inevitable transitions we each would go through over the course of life.

At times, I have been so busy looking for that, I have sacrificed looking to find my own self. I believe I know who I am, what I stand for and what I believe. However, years of dating man-boys with domineering personalities sometimes threatened to extinguish the spark that was the unique spitfire of me. In a way, being sick and single while I am forced to make my recovery has been my salvation.

I read whatever I want to read—be it serious literary fiction or young adult graphic novels, critical commentary on the Western food diet or books on how to have a strong spiritual life—for as long as I want. I can explore all these interests without anyone batting an eye. I can stay up until 3 a.m. in the morning reading without anyone complaining. I can write my missives on whatever topic strikes my fancy at whatever hour it pops into my head.

I can watch political documentaries in the middle of the day and blog about them in the afternoon without someone saying, “Are you getting paid for that?” I can watch marathons of entire seasons of Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood, Game of Thrones and Small Ideas for a Big Planet. If I get hungry in the middle of the night, I grab food to snarf in bed.

If I were not on leave from work, I’d have all the time in the world to cover the bevy of cool events that occur over the weekend—events I always missed spending my entire weekend at a boyfriend’s house.

I can talk to my friends and see them when my body allows, without feeling like I am stealing any of my time away from my boyfriend—with limited energy for many years, I constantly had to make choices about who to squeeze into the few blocks of time when I was able to be out and about and social. Inevitably, someone was always being left out.

Now, I have plenty of time with my family, and I can appreciate them more as individuals instead of “characters” to complain about in a story to other people. I can find time to support my friend as she embarks as laughter yoga instructor. I can go over my musician friend’s house and jam with her and other female musicians—once I am feeling stronger.

There’s time. So much time. Maybe too much time. My mind is always thinking, plotting. What am I going to do with the next stage of my life? I’m not tied down anymore. As I begin to heal, I want to go back for my master’s. But there are steps to take before then, but how will I go about doing them? Where will I do it?  Which program is best for me?

I’m a 33-years-old single woman. Probably the most single I’ve been in a very long time. I know that I might not be 100 percent healthy in my lifetime. I recognize I will probably have challenges having children. I realize the clock is ticking for certain things.

Or maybe, if I am brave enough I will have the courage to just take the batteries out of the clock, and look at the journey in a completely different light. It’s a bit terrifying, but also incredibly exciting. I can’t help feeling a sense of exhilaration thinking, What’s next?

Things To Remember About Myself

My self-worth is not determined by:

• My work (or ability to do it)

• Whether my boss thinks of me as bringer in of “ratings” or as a human being—I know being really sick can’t compare to having a cute baby

• Whether my “boyfriend” thinks I am a high enough priority to spend time with

• Whether I have a boyfriend or not…and I decided four weeks ago, regardless of what he’s thinking, I don’t want his half-assed approach to dating anymore

• The fact that I am once again bed-bound for most of the day, that I have to crawl or have someone help me to the bathroom and walk the halls or risk a fall, and that I need a wheelchair to go out in public.

• The fact that I can’t take a shower (and sometimes brush my teeth) unless someone else is in the room with me

I am:

• Still intriguing because of my mind, my sense of humor, my looks, my interests and my intelligence. Men from OKCupid keep telling me so, haha.

• Still sexy and beautiful, despite the extra 6-10 lbs that taking prednisone for too long puts on my body. A sexy ex told me so–even after seeing me puke into a pink bucket. No, just having my parents and doctors tell me I’m beautiful doesn’t resonate in quite the same way.

• Not an old maid just because I am 33, currently living at home, never been married and have no kids

• That my body is still strong, my mind is still sharp and that I still have a bright future and this is all just temporary. I can get through all of this one day at a time

• So blessed to have people who love me, books, music, videos, a weird cat and more to keep me occupied, intrigued and entertained.

• Never finished learning more about this world and about my self.