Before I Was 40

by Jennifer E. 8. April 2011 08:11
"An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have:  the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.
~ Agatha Christie
Today is my 40th birthday.  Last night in bed my husband (who is not an archaeologist but does like to keep old things around) and I were discussing our "transitions into mid-life".  I asked Steve if he had a hard time with turning 40, which was almost 3 years ago.  Steve said, "I'm still having a hard time with turning 40".  I laughed and said, "Oh yeah, I forgot that 'The Elmers Do Things Slowly'."  Over the years I have often heard this family adage from both Steve and his mom and I do give Steve credit for giving me this warning early on in our relationship.
At the time I probably thought "That won't pertain to anything in our relationship" or "I can fix that".  Honestly I am grateful today that, mostly due to the pain of intolerance and lack of control over others, my patience and tolerance has improved tremendously over the past 12 years.  I am also grateful for the love and tolerance I can give myself today when I need to "do things slowly".
So, I am slowly writing and re-writing this post on before I copy and paste it into my blog site.  I have figured out that blogging is certainly not journaling.  And that blogging can be an ideal outlet for my perfectionism or a royal pain in my ass because of my perfectionism.  Today it happens to be a pain in my ass so I'm going to try something different and call it "Before I Was 40".   
Before I was 40, I started my daily meditation practice. 
Yes, I'm only on Day 3 of this daily practice but I am visualizing myself saying this 10 or 20 years down the line.
Before I was 40, I did not floss my teeth regularly.
This may gross some of you out.  I apologize.  I wish I had your discipline where this is concerned.  Maybe this is the year.
(Notice that no matter what I do from here on out these statements will be true.)
Before I was 40, I lived, studied, worked, and loved in many states, towns, homes, and meeting rooms.
I expect the adventures to continue.


Before I was 40, I stopped drinking and found a way of life unlike any I had ever known.
Actually, this was before I was 25 :).

Before I was 40, my husband and I enjoyed each other, our homes, our communities, our friends, our kitties and our travels.
While we haven't traveled much outside of the U.S., we feel especially blessed to have traveled to Bhutan in 2009.  We spent two weeks in the nation often called "The Last Shangri-La", traveling its narrow mountain roads to the cities of Thimpu, Paro, and Punakha, experiencing Bhutanese culture, visiting several dzongs and Buddhists temples, and trekking for 8 days in the Himalayan Mountains.  It was an amazing experience.
Before I was 40, I did not have any children.
When I think about what is hard for me about turning 40 years old, the only thing that I think of is the fact that I am not yet a mom.
There are many reasons that Steve and I have not focused on having children before now, including the fact that it would be best for me to wean off of the anti-anxiety drug I am taking before I get pregnant.  I have started to wean off several times in the last few years, each time returning to my regular dose after a stressful life event.  2010 was full of these "events" but I have now reduced the dose and, with the help of meetings, meditation, and moving my ass (exercise), I plan to continue doing so.
I also believe in my heart that everything in my life is exactly as it is supposed to be.  I have spent many years able to be available for others, for my husband, and for myself.  Just yesterday someone called me in the morning and said she needed help that afternoon.  I knew it was very hard for her to make that call even before she told me so.  I told her I could be there at 3pm and I worked with her for 3 hours.  What a gift for me.
As the result of a willingness originally born of pain, and the grace of a higher power, I have been available to guide several women through the 12 Steps just as phenomenal women who "came before me" have done with me.  The hours spent between me and other amazing women who are wanting to live a "more spiritual" life, learning from and supporting one another, and growing in understanding of ourselves and the world around us, are countless and priceless.  I may not have had many of these experiences if I needed to be home raising a child or two.  I have also been blessed to spend time with my friends' children.
Yesterday my endocrinologist told me that my blood work still indicates that my ovaries seem to be working fine and I will be back on prenatal vitamins by the end of the month.  I crave the love and challenge of motherhood and I would love to witness the relationship between Stephen and his child.  If pregnancy isn't in the cards for Steve and me, we have discussed adoption many times.  We are blessed to have several friends who have been through the process both within and outside of the U.S. who are happy to share their experiences with us.  I believe that we have much love to offer any child with whom God chooses to bless us and...
(before I am 50 Tongue out)
I hope to be able to say that...
"After I was 40, I became a mother." 

Should Shit

by Jennifer E. 25. February 2011 15:52

"We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement."
~ Pema Chödrön 

In my first few years of sobriety I believed that people with sober time who were in pain must not be "working their program right".  In my mind, I imagined that they did not have - or were not calling - a sponsor, did not "work" the Steps or were not going to enough meetings.  I especially (secretly, of course) thought this about people who relapsed.  Little did I know at the time, my judgment of others was a projection of my own fears.  And that the kind of sobriety I wanted happened to be the kind that meant I would be feeling everything as I learned to live life on life's terms.  In the beginning I believed that doing "everything right" in the 12 Step program would ensure a peaceful, pain-free life.     

So I was very hard on myself to "work the program right" by calling my sponsor and other women from meetings, "getting through" the 12 Steps, going to many meetings, serving in various ways, etc.  I'm not saying that these actions did not improve my life.  They certainly did, and do.  Without them I would not be sober today.  And newcomers to 12 Step programs often need the structure and rigidity they may experience in the beginning.  That was exactly where I was supposed to be at the time and I am grateful to all of my spiritual guides.

Fifteen years sober I realize that there is so much I still don't understand about life, myself, my body, my brain, and the world.  Aside from living the Steps in my life, psychotherapy helps me and I take medication that helps with my chronic depression and anxiety.  As the result of learning from good examples in the program, practicing new behaviors myself, and studying Buddhism over the past several years, I have learned not to be so hard on myself all of the time.  I have learned not to "beat myself up" with what I think I should (gosh I hate even typing that curse word ;) be doing, thinking or feeling.

Not too very long ago, I worked full-time in a professional position, swam at the YMCA in the mornings before work, ran in 5 and 10Ks, felt like I had dealt with a lot of "family of origin issues", sponsored several women in the program, felt like I understood a lot about myself, and was excited about life.  That was "Me" at that time.

Last year my estranged father, Alan, shot and killed himself.  I also lost one of my very best friends and the only constant parental figure I really had - my Mother-In-Law, Susan.  Those were the "biggies" of the year but there were other events (including major sinus surgery, a long rough recovery from that surgery, chronic back pain, my mother's struggle with alcoholism, and another dear friend's death) that made it the hardest year of our lives. 

Today "Me" sometimes struggles to leave the safety of her home.  I often feel overwhelmed with things in life that seldom overwhelmed me before.  I seem to be "back" to a time of "shoulding on myself" more frequently and harshly.  I should be exercising more, I should be going out and enjoying the world in this way and that, I should be able to get off of the medication I am on, I should be able be able to keep my home clean and the refrigerator stocked, I should be more in touch with friends and family...the list seems never-ending and it is all too easy to add to it.  On the days "the shoulds" become a deafening cacophony in my mind, I can become paralyzed with fear and unable to do much more than get back into the bed with a book and a kitty or two.

It was my very first sponsor that used to tell me "should shit".  So when I'm not okay with me - with who, what and where I am - I have tools today to help me, including reminding myself of the phrase "should shit".  

The fact is, I've never been here before.  In this place.  An estranged father who killed himself with a shotgun that I never would have guessed he owned, and finding out just shortly before his death that, along with major depression, he was also suffering from schizophrenia.  Losing dear Susan after developing such a close and intimate, albeit long-distance, relationship with her.  My husband, having lost his father to alcoholism several years earlier, now suddenly losing his mother, who had been sober and following her own spiritual path for 30 years, and packing up her house of 40 years. 

Thankfully, I have been learning and believe today, that for me, it's about staying with where I am.  Regardless of how incredibly painful some days can be.  It's about accepting who I am today and that I may be in a completely different place tomorrow.  And that's okay.  When I can love myself enough to let me be wherever it is I am, my mind becomes clearer and I have more peace.

At a retreat last year I heard a speaker say that, for her, every "should" she has about her life is tied to an "old idea".  One of the books that helps guide my life today states, "Some of us tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." 

Along with my husband and my friend, Michelle, Susan was among the people I counted on the most to remind me that taking it easy during a hard time is not only okay but very important, that I am okay exactly as I am, and that everything is going to be okay, no matter what.  I still think of calling her just about every day. 

I feel you with me sometimes, Susan, but I miss you terribly and I'd rather have you here in the flesh.  I am very grateful for the parts of Steve and me that came from knowing and loving you.  Thank you. ♥


About the Author

Jennifer fancies herself a study in dichotomies and is sometimes quite surprised that no one has actually requested the honor of researching her life.  She loves to talk about herself but quite dislikes deciding what to write in a bio.

Married to her best friend and living in Cookie-Cutter Land, TX with their four sweet kitties, Jennifer started this blog as a means of chronicling her journey through a dark time in her life.  Feeling like she is coming back out into the sunlight, Jennifer doesn't know where blogging will lead, if anywhere, but is trusting in the desire she has to do so.


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