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Hello, from the Middle

A little reflection on the beginning of middle age and self love

I recently had a birthday. It’s not an age that gets much celebration, but it did give me pause and realize that with care (and some luck), I am at the beginning of the middle of my life. The space between youth’s end and golden years still far on the horizon. It’s honestly something I’ve never put much thought into. When I was a child, I never pictured my life in my mid-thirties, forties, fifties or sixties. I kind of started at whatever age I was, jumped over the middle, and then pictured myself looking back from the end of my life.

I aim to trust and honor the wisdom my mind and body has developed after all of the firsts - even when there are no words to describe the sensations I feel.

Reflecting on the beginning, I’m reminded of joyful firsts. First day at school, first friend, first move, first time driving, first love, first job. Everything new, exciting, and filled with anticipation. I still remember the days when each hour felt like an eternity and each year that went by was counted with candles on a cake, trophies, or diplomas. I can feel the crackling energy when I went to my first wedding and feeling that pure joy at my own. I’ve watched families grow from two to three (or more) - my loved ones’ lives filled with a whole new set of beginnings for themselves and their little ones.

But…along with joy, I feel the sharp edges of painful memories rising to the surface. Those times I felt misunderstood and learned what loneliness felt like. The moments when my mind, heart, and body felt at war, I learned the disorientation of mistrusting myself. I distinctly remember learning about the permanence of loss the day my dad took my dog to the vet and came home alone. I learned about my personal limitations and failure after accepting an impossible workload and when I think about it, my body becomes hot with adrenaline, my heart begins to race, and I feel the weariness behind my eyes.

Those recollections have given me pause this birthday, and I’ve begun to ask myself: what do I want to cultivate more of during the middle? How will I show up for myself with love and generosity through this stage in my life?

I’ve spent decades intentionally and unintentionally disconnecting my mind from my body and my emotions. Growing up in the 90’s taught me to focus on my body’s deficiencies from a sizeist and ableist viewpoint, resulting in too often treating my body as a vessel chaperoning my brain from one place to another or a machine created with the intention of specific movements at my mind’s command. I’ve also spent so many years mistrusting my feelings and emotions, viewing them as a barrier to logic or reason. I can recall times where I’ve ignored my intuition instead choosing to follow advice from others or what I thought was “right.”  But now, with distance, I am clearly able to feel something deep inside me screaming to make a different decision.

It feels silly and embarrassing to admit how long it’s taken me to begin piecing myself back together, yet so novel to be in a space recognizing that my whole self, in whatever state of being I’m in physically, mentally, or emotionally is entirely worthy of love and care.

So, from here, in the middle, I aim to trust and honor the wisdom my mind and body has developed after all of the firsts - even when there are no words to describe the sensations I feel. I want to give myself permission to feel deeply and express myself authentically, while welcoming the vulnerability of showing my whole self. I hope that with this wisdom comes the courage to be more expansive in my dreams of how things could be, to embrace evolution, and to say “yes” only to opportunities that are aligned with my values.

Additionally, I want to honor the unspoken language of my body. Understanding that anxiety may help me consider more options or work harder, but also requires slowness and gentleness. That after the intense energy bursts of anxiety, comes an overwhelming exhaustion that requires rest. That pit in my stomach is my intuition calling out for me to pay attention. And pausing when I feel that very specific reverberation beginning in my chest and expanding through my shoulders and arms, up my neck, and all the way to my eyes, telling me I’m very close to something important.

From this place on my journey with plenty firsts to look forward to, ongoing adventures still to be resolved, and endings on their way, I feel a sense of peace I’ve never known before. This peace gives me confidence in trusting my process to lead me to achieve my goals or to a lesson I still need to learn. And perhaps most importantly, for the first time I can see myself navigating the middle - with all of its challenges, failures, and celebrations - and feel ready to experience each moment of it.

Article featured in this issue:
February 2022
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