Posted by: innerpilgrimage | July 23, 2010

The Existential Non-Crisis of Being 40

      It’s been 7 months and just over a week since I turned 40. For the first time in a decade, I don’t feel like the time is just slipping through my fingers like dry sand at a beach. This year has felt longer (in a good way) than even the last decade.

      I don’t fear being 40. I don’t fret about turning 41. While I do fret about other things, I believe that taking this real and probably existential approach to my life (accepting my freedom of choice and taking personal responsibility for my actions despite sometimes facing off with a hostile universe) has slowed down my life to one day at a time.
      I have challenges, even today. I have to go to the department of motor vehicles for the state and prove that I am insured to un-suspend my cars’ license plates. I admit I should have checked the mail earlier, but I can’t change that now. Not sure if there will be fines, but I am certainly not in complete chaos like I would have been this time last year.
      I am taking action, getting it done at the first opportunity (today). I accept I will be spending a decent amount of time at the motor vehicle office, and instead of lamenting it, I am taking the opportunity to sit and have time to finish the hat for the homeless I am crocheting so I may deliver it in November to the organization I volunteer with.
      The Universe has seen fit to reward me for taking responsibility for this immediately. After I am done there, I get to pick up a book I had reserved at the library. One I thought would take months to get because I was in a queue behind five other people. How five copies for the five others became available days after my request is beyond me, but I attribute it to the workings of the Universe and my Higher Power. It is what it is. The Universe, despite sometime hostility, works in ways I cannot even begin to understand when I “let go and let God”.
      These types of physical manifestations of spiritual release of control keep rewarding me to relieve myself of control of things I cannot control. I consider these days that if I cannot put my hands on something to make it happen directly, it’s my responsibility to let it go to my Higher Power. Reserving the book was my footwork. I could have my hands on that. Once I reserved the book, it was out of my control and in my Higher Power’s control. I even told myself (inner monologue this time) that I would get the book when it was the right time (by my HP’s estimation) to read it. By releasing that “I want for me” control and taking a stance of “My HP wants for me” release, I find that the times I am supposed to wait are less painful.
      I have been reading a lot recently, though yesterday I watched several movies. The one I finished most recently was called, “The Savages”.
      I am the target age for those people, though honestly the father in the movie was older than my own parents. Or, at least, he appeared older than I remember my parents being the last time I saw them–July of 2009. It’s strange that I am in a similar place, facing the nearing mortality of my own parents just as my parents faced it from 1992 (when my mother’s mother died) to the early 2000’s (when my father’s mother passed away–I honestly don’t remember the year she passed any more). It’s been a strange journey, one which has revealed to me a lot of things about myself. And in these last seven months alone, I have found more sense and meaning to my life than I have in decades.
      I like the life I am living right now. It’s honestly a huge blessing. Having gotten to live sanely has given me perspective on my own mortality. I think I am finally okay with dying some day, despite my desire to complete the things I have started.
      I have books I want to finish editing. I think the Mission Point series is done. Though I’m not sure how many books, offhand, I have written in that series, I know it’s more than 15. I do admit I have a couple more books which really should be sandwiched in and a major rewrite of the flagship book of the whole series. My goal is to have it edited and prepared for self-publication by the time I am 42. The same goes for my science fiction novels. Then, I think, I am going to be done with my writing career and move on to something . . . different. I’m not sure what, but I want that part of my self closed, finally. The drama I’ve built up in that literature had its purpose, yet now I am seeking something more substantial. I have no idea what direction my life will take after my books are out in the world. Whatever it is, I am not going to fret about it. I am a published author, self-published or not. People like my books, whether or not they’re on the New York Times bestseller list (though my reviewer friend thinks they have too much action . . .). I don’t need the success, I realize. I have created thousands upon thousands of pages of readable fiction since 2003. I’ve done what I didn’t even realize I set out to do.
      I’m also not sure where I am going to be going in my life over the next ten years. I hope whatever happens, 40 to 50 will be a decade of a life lived. If I am fortunate, I will get 50 to 60 to have the same richness of existence. All I can see at this point is twenty to forty good years of existence, despite the worries I have about dementia (though the dementia in my family had external triggers, like excessive drinking and strokes) and a calamity in my physical health. As I progress, however, one day at a time, I feel each day now. They’re not bleeding into each other even though I am choosing to stay at home sometimes.
      I worry sometimes, as a sexual human being (Gaspers! To even admit this!) that I will reach a threshold of attractiveness. I only need to look to my own family for the answer. My grandmother, in her fifties, found a man who she was married to for over a decade and had a rich life with him. She was in her fifties when they met and married, and they were very affectionate toward each other. I don’t doubt they had a full intimate life.
      Youth did not make her attractive to this wonderful man who accepted his role of grandfather with love and generosity. He was, even in those years, more a grandfather to me than the man who impregnated my grandmother with my father. Ten full years makes more difference than thirty-or-so empty ones, part of the reason that I believe even getting to live for this one year in food sobriety (HP willing, of course!) has given me the gift of, well, of real life.
      I have definitely been given the gift of mental wellness, even if it is not an everyday thing. I accept that I’ve built up forty years of not-so-hot mess. One year will not turn it around completely, though the practice of being sane has made a difference already. And I am living between the crazy days, filled up with a sense of purpose and hope.
      So, while I struggle with whether or not I am a love addict or a social anorexic or whatever I am in SLAA (if I am anything at all, to be honest), I know I am growing as a human being. That precious spiritual growth, that “Will to Meaning” I am finding is a gift which actually leaves me wordless. And, of course, being wordless and deeply moved means it’s spiritual. That’s a positive to me. As my spiritual self grows, my mental self can be cleansed of the broken messages of my past. Yes, I have to do a serious Spring cleaning of my mental life–a house of complete and utter chaos–but I’m doing it one lived day at a time. Let me repeat that, because it is significant:
      One lived day at a time.
      No longer do I wail to the Heavens in desperation, “Why is this happening to me?!” Instead, I appreciate that I have made any advancement at all. Uncomfortable things happen in this imperfect life. I am not in a position to deny that I will sometimes have real suffering among the perceived suffering. Real suffering–losses out of my control which have reasonable grief attached–is part of being human. Perceived suffering–losses which aren’t really losses because I grew fantasies and was disappointed when they did not align with the facts or with reality–is unnecessary and part of the angst living in a First World Nation affords me. It’s silly to me to create perceived suffering when I will be faced with the real deal. Instead of practicing suffering and piling on perceived suffering so that I am overwhelmed when real suffering does occur, I have found that appreciating the gifts of seeing life as beautiful because of the knowledge it can be desperately ugly allows me to handle the small moments of suffering with a grace that does not come from mundane sources. I repeat again and again, in word and in writing, that it isn’t me doing it. While my body and mind are the vehicles for footwork which allows me to handle real suffering, my spirit drives me to find purpose within and without while I live through it. It’s not about enduring suffering any more. It’s about finding a shining beacon of hope and making an oasis of peace within the real suffering.
      I see every small setback as an opportunity to practice for the “Big Game”. A day will come when my parents will be gone and it will be my turn to face off with my mortality–if my Higher Power has a plan for me to live a long time. If this is my last year on earth, then I can say I have done real footwork to go from being a martyr every day to being a humble petitioner to a Higher Power which returns peace and serenity when I relieve myself of perceived Godhood and perceived control of everyone’s life. I don’t really want to control anyone’s life any more, because it makes me upset all of the time. Being upset is drama and intrigue, not living. What I am doing now? That’s living.
      My name is Jess and I am a food addict and I think love addict who has chosen social anorexia to deal with it (still looking for my SLAA addiction’s label, which I know will come in my HP’s time, not mine). I have to get going because I have real footwork to do and a real reward–getting to read a book I want to read–at the end of the practice opportunity to “act as if” I can be a serene person with a sense of real meaning to my life through a time of suffering.


      Meh. The state-run stuff was closed today. I got some volunteering in, but I wasn’t able to do the other stuff I wanted and needed to do.
      Oh well, there’s Monday for the car stuff and tomorrow for the library. It’s all good.


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