Life is so interesting. Early on we really can set ourselves up for success by embracing our inner adventurer or for a lifetime of ‘not quite there yet’ by attempting to follow a prescribed notion of what life “should” look like.
I’m about to turn 40. It’s a number I’ve been dreading for a while because early on I subscribed to a “this is what your life should look like by the time you’re 40” mentality. And, I’ve known for a while that I wouldn’t meet that expectation: Marriage. Kids. Successful career. Or, at least one or two if not all of the above. So, I’ve been inching my way toward the big 4-0 with fear and trepidation. But, really, who decides what is “normal” for anyone? Who gets to define success or happiness for anyone but themselves? (She asks with a newfound curiosity.)
In a course I facilitate for persons affected by cancer, one of the questions in our life review class is, “If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title of the next chapter?” One of my participants recently wrote: “Seeing beyond the horizon. The earth is not flat.”
I LOVE this! For reasons of confidentiality and anonymity I can’t give this person the due credit, but I also can’t claim it as my own. It’s genius. And, it sums up my intention for myself in this coming year and the years ahead. I’ve been staring at a predetermined horizon for years, praying that the distance between me and it would hold until I could figure it all out and meet my prescribed expectations.
Well, guess what?!? There’s more life beyond that horizon, and a single 40 year old woman who hasn’t done all those things she thought she should have by now won’t drop off the earth into oblivion. She might (I might) just find herself on an adventure into unknown worlds with limitless possibilities for encountering joy.
Why do we limit ourselves so? What is it about societal, familial, and cultural norms that blind us to other paths? Thank God for those adventurers who have bucked the norms and “proper” expectations through the years and blazed their own trails!
Kelly Rae Roberts is a self-described “artist. author. possibilitarian.” A friend of mine shared one of Kelly’s posters on Facebook this week, and it’s so appropriate for this post and for my life. (You can find it here: http://shop.kellyraeroberts.com/collections/prints/products/be-present-print)
It reads: “be present. Her favorite moments were those when she let go of all expectations and worries and just simply celebrated the moment she was living.”
So powerful. There’s a lot to be said for living in the moment, but I find that most of us struggle to do so. We’re so busy planning and looking ahead, forging towards the next big thing, the next goal or appointment or whatever, that we forget that life is happening NOW. As I’ve written in earlier posts, I’ve been stuck in a pattern of waiting for my life to begin when… (fill in the blank: I get married. I have children. I settle into the perfect career. whatever your “when” may be.) It’s a frighteningly limiting way to exist. And, I use the word exist here intentionally, because it’s not really living. It is in many ways merely existing.
I had the flu over the holidays and was basically confined to the bed and couch for over a week. I had very little interaction with others as this dreadful illness kept me quarantined. So I had a lot of time to think and reflect (and sleep, which was a welcome luxury). In all my thinking and reflecting, I decided that this year will be different. I will not dread turning 40. In fact I will embrace it wholeheartedly. And, I will live into the possibility that accompanies an open heart and mind. AND, it’s as simple as choosing to be open, choosing to see beyond the horizon, choosing to see the possibility that lives in letting go of prescribed expectations and embracing what is.
I have to admit it’s been a very liberating few weeks. I’m really excited about the possibility I feel as I approach my once-dreaded birthday. The closer I get to the big day, the more I will reveal – BUT, as a little hint – I’m planning a yearlong series here at onbecoming.me. I hope it will be helpful for anyone wanting to free themselves from the burden of expectations and embrace an open and joy-filled life. It’ll be a little different, a bit of practicing what I’ve been preaching and inviting readers on the journey. I’m totally stoked and now can’t wait to CELEBRATE my 40th year of existence by LIVING each day fully and wholeheartedly, with grace and gratitude. It’s going to be great! (It already is.)