Lessons I learnt at 40
As my impending 40th birthday drew closer, I started to panic. I thought 'wow! 40', how did this happen? I won't deny that there were tears. A new year was upon us, and with it high resolutions and high hopes. Not only was it a new year, but for me, it was also a new decade. I was starting with a new company and was also dealing with a broken heart.
But, I prayed to the Lord above, sought and embraced solitude, did some reading and, alas, I was restored with hope.
So what if I was single at 40? So what if I was a single mom? Many before me had done that, many after me will. After trying out ways to announce my 40th birthday- 'twenty plenty', '30 plus', and others -my friend Andy Svoboda suggested, 'You know what would be great Natalie? How about turning 40 gracefully?" Well, that didn't occur to me. But he was right. And after some quiet reflection, I thought, that's how I would turn 40-gracefully.
I was turning over a new leaf. This would be my season of intentional living.
I don't consider myself an authority on many things. But I have lived an interesting life in my 40 years, I thoguth, why not jot down some of the things I have learnt along the way? Here we go.
1. Ladies, don't over-tweeze your brows. I wish when I was in my 20s someone had told me eyebrows would be so important today. I blame Pamela Anderson.
2. Use social media wisely. Don't let it consume your life. If you find that fear of missing out is taking over, then uninstall social media apps and go out and live. Trust me, you won't die.
3. Friends are the family you choose. Cherish your friendships and nurture them. Friends are there to build you up when you're at your worst, to remind you of your inner beauty when you fail to see it, and to keep it real with tough love. Some will come and go, but the real ones will stand the test of time, no disputes or hurt can keep them away. True friends are a blessing.
4. Trials in life are there to measure your inner strength and you should embrace them. When you overcome your trials, and you will, the next time a mountain comes along, you can say, 'This little thing? I've survived worse'.
5. Teenage sons will morph into unrecognisable beings with monster attitudes. You must be patient and know that it's just a phase, and read all the parenting books ever written on raising said teenage son. Speak to parents of teenage children and get support. It's important to not worry about younger siblings and panic, that they will be worse. Breathe.
6. Always play music. Never become so busy that you aren't losing yourself in the art of music. Listen to all genres, open your mind and travel the world through this universal language.
7. Tithe. It's the only place in the Bible where the Lord says to test Him.
8. It's more important to be healthy and toned than to be skinny. Love your body at any size, any shape. Later on, you may look back and think, 'Wait, I wasn't fat then.'
9. Enjoy fresh-cut flowers in your home. If you can't buy them, cut wildflowers or oversized leaves and arrange them in a vase. Never lose your appreciation of beautiful things.
10. Master at least 10 dishes from different cuisines. Research various recipes and test them out, then tweak and make them your own. Enjoy the art of cooking.
11. Take an introductory course in wines. Learn the correct pronunciations of different varietals. Then actually taste, experience and enjoy wines. Drinking wine while I cook will always be one of my favourite things to do.
12. Ladies, don't lose yourself over a man, and never allow a man to turn you into a bitter, angry person. Learn your lesson, chin up, move on and love harder. Don't trash talk exes or call them bad names because it didn't work out. Remember the good in them and be confident in yourself, knowing it just wasn't a good fit. Someone out there will be waiting on your kind of love.
13. Always rise above being petty. Take the high road. This, admittedly, is not the easiest thing to do. However, the Lord truly is the greatest vindicator.
14. Play games with your children. Take them on walks, leave the tech devices, have conversations at the dinner table, where valuable social skills are developed. These are the little things they will remember as they get older.
15. Wake up earlier than you need to and devote some one-on-one time with the Lord. A prayer and reading a scripture is the best way to get your day started.
16. Work out early in the day. You will be energised and the sense of accomplishment will carry you throughout the day.
17. Always speak your mind, but do so gently. Be your kind, authentic self.
18. Go easy on the high buns and save your hairline.
19. Always leave a job so you can get it back. Never burn bridges.
20. Big girls do cry. It's OK to cry and, more important, to heal at your own pace.
21. Be compassionate when giving advice to someone going through grief. The best thing to do, really, is just to listen and say, 'I'm here for you.'
22. Don't chase fashion trends. You will never keep up. Invest in good classic pieces with pops of trends. You can never go wrong with black. And never underestimate the power of a good red lipstick.
23. Be nice to other women. Complement them when they look good.
24. Ladies, always have your 'get vex money'. Don't order what you can't pay for on a date, and always be nice to the server.
25. Money will come and it may go. Your happiness should not be dependent on it.
26. Teach your children to turn to the Lord when they need anything. He will have better solutions than you ever will.
27. Speak life into your children. Use empowering and positive words to build them up daily.
28. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray for protection, wisdom, and pray for the Lord's grace.
29. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgiveness restores the soul.
30. Read. Read. Read. Never stop reading. Always have a thirst for knowledge. Through books, you can learn a new skill, travel the world and take adventures. Nourish the love of books early on in your children's lives. The long-term benefits of this are invaluable. Their writing and vocabulary will be better if they are readers.
31. Dance. Dance. Dance. Learn the new dances, too, so that the Irish Digicel employees don't know the new dance hall moves better than you do. This can be embarrassing.
32. Keep a gratitude journal. The more you give thanks, the more you will learn about yourself and become self-aware. It also forces you to focus on what really matters.
33. Keep in touch with your parents. You are more alike than you think, and they will understand you more than anyone else will.
34. Set goals with deadlines. They say a goal without a deadline is just a wish.
35. Travel. No matter your budget, wherever you live there are places to visit and new adventures to be had. We must schedule time for recreation in this busy world.
36. Don't be afraid to share your story; you never know who is listening. I am a survivor of domestic violence, but I refuse to be defined by it. A big misconception is that only weak women are abused. Not true. Oftentimes, strong women walk around with guilt, thinking they said or did something to warrant abuse. Nothing warrants abuse. If you're in an abusive relationship, you must muster up the courage to expose the truth and get support from your family, friends, or church.
37. It's OK to not be OK. Speak up when you're not feeling yourself. Learn the signs of depression, how to recognise them in yourself and others, then know when to ask for help. Shun the stigma of mental illness.
38. Protect your space. Be mindful of the people you allow into your lives. Bad energy and negative attitudes can corrupt what you're trying to build. While we need to help the emotionally wounded, we must also be mindful that they don't thwart our outlook or weigh down our spirits. Look internally and check yourself too, and see if you are the 'Debbie Downer' in your group — then fix it.
39. Give more. Give more love, give more to the poor, give more of your time. Try to live a life of serving others. Volunteering will prove to be a blessing for everyone involved; it nourishes the soul. Your time can be the most precious gift you give to someone.
40. Don't be too hard on yourself. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. We have one life — let's live it without regret.