Katrina Anne Willis Sitting in a Chair

I’m sliding gently into 46 today with coffee and contemplation.

My birthday is a time in which I find myself reflective, introspective, even a bit melancholy.

Don’t get me wrong… aging doesn’t concern me. I’m learning to love myself and my life a little more every day. It’s the wisdom and perspective that comes with age, I guess. My 40s have been fabulous. I expect my 50s to rock the world.

But my birthdays make me think: Am I becoming the best version of me? Am I moving forward? Am I expanding my mind and my heart? Am I honoring those I love? Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes not.

Here’s what 45 brought to the table…

I’ve learned there are people who are beautiful on the outside and empty in the middle. That when you take a bite, expecting a solid, satisfying experience, they crumble in your hands like hollow milk chocolate. A fleeting pleasure, unsustainable.

I’ve learned that some people will say words like “love” and “forever” and still leave you crying on the floor in a heap of confusion and pain.

I’ve learned that those people include me.

I’ve learned it’s okay and necessary to say words like “no,” and “that’s enough,” and “I’m done,” and “I’m sorry.” And I’ve learned when someone says you’ve hurt them, you don’t get to tell them you haven’t.

I’ve learned we all get to live our lives the best way we know how. We all get to love in whatever way works best for us. That societal rules don’t always fit everyone equally. That belief systems are personal and complex and sacred. That we get to define our lives and loves with honesty and careful consideration. That the shackles of what should be can be thrown off to welcome what is instead. That the beauty of life is in the choices we make… for our loved ones, our friends, our families, ourselves. That our hearts will guide us if we listen and let them.

I’ve learned my sensitivity isn’t a weakness, but my strength instead. Vulnerability, kindness, authenticity… these are my Super Powers. This is the cape I wear proudly. I don’t want to be tough and hard-hearted. And that also doesn’t mean I want to be mistreated. Or used. Or thrown away carelessly. Sensitivity, self-care, and self-respect can coexist. I’m learning how to make a home in my heart for all of them.

I’ve learned that this song will always bring me to my knees:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEXhAMtbaec&w=560&h=315]

And that love isn’t about leaning, but about lifting. About walking together, side-by-side, about choosing that companionship every damn day. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. That falling into someone else’s gravity is a surrender. And that we should never, ever surrender ourselves to another. Because without our own core, we have nothing to offer… to ourselves, to anyone else.

I’ve learned — and am finally, finally owning — that my words are my gift to the world. That this is what I was put here to do. To be a truth-teller and an inspector of lives, both others’ and my own. To share my experiences so someone else can recognize — and maybe even love — herself within them. I’ve learned that it’s uncomfortable for some. But I’ve also learned that discomfort is where we discover our truest, best selves. Growing pains. Aching limbs. Swan emerges from ugly duckling.

My first book will be published in my 46th year. A lifelong dream fulfilled; a goal achieved. Books in hands with my name on the cover. I’ve learned this is what I was meant to do.

I’ve learned that time is my love language. That face-to-face interactions fuel and fill me. That I desperately miss those whose distance keeps me from hugging and holding them. That I appreciate the ones who move heaven and earth to spend time with me. That the effort itself is the love. That I’m learning how to give it back — in whatever form is needed — on the other side. That all our lives are busy, but if we don’t make time for what matters, then nothing really matters.

And I’ve also learned that I don’t matter to some. That I’m not a priority for those who cannot make time for me…. no matter how much I want to be. That I cannot force someone to see me if they’re unwilling to look. I’m learning to navigate that knowledge with grace and acceptance. Still learning. Always learning.

I’ve learned that authenticity and introspection are vital to me. That I don’t want to be a person who is blind to my own faults and shortcomings. That I don’t want to invite those who are blind to their own faults and shortcomings into my life. The always-rights. The my-way-or-the-highways. The the ways versus the a ways. That I can kiss them and wish them well and that we’ll both be better humans for having let go.

In my 45th year…

I felt sand between my toes, heard the crash of the ocean waves, held starfish in my hands, flew through cumulus cotton candy clouds, traversed mountain roads and trails, explored bustling city streets, tasted new foods and exquisite wines, and came back home to rest fireside with dogs and kids and love and solid ground.

I sent my firstborn to college, watched his life become more his and less ours.

I lost 65 pounds, two kidney stones, and a relationship I thought would be forever… one that ended up being for just a moment. And in that lesson, I lost my expectations of others and learned to love them (which sometimes includes letting them go) right where they are instead.

I was hurt by those I love most.

I hurt those I love most.

I went back on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds because sometimes the world is just too much, too big, too glorious, too bright, too challenging for me to walk through with any semblance of grace and balance. It’s like wearing those gorgeous high-heeled pumps that make your calves look fabulous and turn your weak ankles at the same time. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to switch into your running shoes when necessary — for comfort and support and safety. Life is a balance. Yin/Yang.

I learned the suicide rate among middle-aged people is steadily increasing. That mid-life is a turning point that drives many to choose an end over a new beginning. That I feel that pressure, the sadness of it sometimes. But that I also see the light and opportunity and adventures ahead. That I choose to run toward that instead… despite the obstacles that may thwart the journey.

I watched my mother’s health decline, experienced the transformation of her house to accommodate the transformation of her failing body.

I stood with my daughter as she attended her sophomore Homecoming dance with her first girlfriend. We got to discuss what it means for her to be attracted to both male and female. We got to discuss what it has always meant for me as well. The biggest “me, too” of our lives, my girl and I. How far we’ve come societally, how far we have yet to go. How sacred and profound love is, how gentle and precious and often misunderstood.

I publicly revealed pieces of my past that both broke and made me. I got to bear witness to those whose stories were parallel. To hold space for them. They did the the same. We broke for each other again and again. And then we held, lifted, carried on, created something beautiful from the pieces we discovered in the aftermath. Because as Ram Dass so beautifully states, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

I got to experience, again — on the edge of a precipice — what true love and commitment is about. What forgiveness and grace looks like.

I’ve learned that nothing stays the same. And that this reality will simultaneously make and break us. And that if we understand and embrace and welcome those changes, we get to grow and reinvent and rediscover what we love most about each other and about ourselves.

I’ve learned that life is a great unraveling, and that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of it.

I have so much yet to learn.

Teach me, 46. I’m listening.

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6 Responses

  1. How I wish that someday we will have that face to face interaction. Or, better yet, share a glass of glass of wine at the perfect time of day when the world is “just right”. Until then, I cheer you on like I would a cherished friend, I’ll be first in line to order that book and my girlfriends will pull it out of a tissue lined gift bag when we get together to celebrate another year around the sun. It’s 58 and counting over here…and the lessons never stop, ha! Your words are magical my friend, your honesty truly inspires me…and yes, you were meant to do this:)

  2. Happy happy birthday! I love reading your posts and they really reach in and touch lives because we are all living life just as you are. You are doing exactly what you are meant to do. Thank you so much for touching my life with your words.

  3. So blessed by your insights and your beautiful words! Wishing you many unexpected blessings in the coming year, and many new stories to share. I’ll be waiting for your book!

  4. Well if that is middle aged then what a big wondrous year it was. I’m excited for you for 46: the book, and the knowing that yes, you are meant to put your words into the world. Don’t stop. 🙂

  5. Have you ever noticed how people use texts as an excuse to avoid others these days? People should learn how to pick up a phone, even for 5 minutes, if they care to talk to someone. If someone can’t or won’t do that for you, turn your face to the sun because they aren’t worth the effort you’ll invest. They are self-centered by design. You’ll recognize them because they’ll try wagging that finger at you. Bless them and walk away. They’ll figure it out eventually.

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