Monday, June 23, 2014

Finding Your Fit After 40 - A New Series from Elemental Fit

I am fascinated with reinvention. People who are willing to venture outside their comfort zones and reshape their lives, or some aspect of them, are sometimes equally as daring as explorers venturing into a new territory or uncharted sea. Breaking free from unproductive habits, shedding unhealthy perceptions, and refusing to be limited by patterns of the past - whether internally or externally imposed - allow space for exciting new growth and reshaping.

In 2008 (at the age of 42) I started to work toward what I wanted to BE in my post-kid-rearing life. The first step in that transition occurred when I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to study holistic health. I earned my certificate just two weeks before my oldest daughter got married. A second monumental step occurred when I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree at Belmont University 3 years later. My first semester in college coincided with me becoming a grandmother for the first time. I completed that degree in early May, anticipating the arrival of two more grandchildren later this year.

Life can get in the way of many of the most noble plans, but there is a fine line between being responsible and hiding within duties and busyness. Keeping a goal in sight was what helped me maintain my focus.

There were lots of steps in between those two major milestones of my "reinvention," and while it's not fully completed (hopefully, I'm never completely "done"), each event - no matter how mundane - that kept me moving forward has been necessary in creating my project of transition.

Too often, people allow themselves to be pigeon-holed into a particular role or function just because they've always been the ____________ person: the "shy" one, the "talkative" one, the "responsible" one, the "careless" one, or the "reserved" one. To view ourselves in a manner that causes (allows?) us to deviate from that function can be unimaginable and frightening for some. For others, it can be a lifeline to a world of freedom and fulfillment.

The mere idea of getting on an airplane used to make me panic - REALLY panic…

For most of my life I was the "fearful" one. My fear of flying had restricted where I could vacation and with whom I could visit. Just before my 40th birthday, I broke free of that role. "I am a flyer," I repeated to myself after a friend dropped me off at the curb of the airport for the first time (and then drove away). My husband was traveling for business, so without someone who could remind me of what a big hurdle this was for me to finally be getting over, I wasn't the "fearful" one. I was just a person with a mission: I no longer wanted to be limited to driving or taking a train wherever I went. I reshaped my own image of myself, and with that experience, I started to believe a new truth about myself: yes, this wasn't "like me," and that was OK. While I may never willingly get on a roller coaster, I have stopped allowing fear to cause me regrets.

Getting over that fear was accompanied by the reward of getting 
to spend more time with these cuties!

A recent article in Psychology Today Magazine ("Reinvent Yourself") highlights some important components to consider when approaching possible reinvention. I gathered that the most important one is the necessity of being true to yourself - as much as your circumstances allow. Granted, if you have a family to support, odds are that quitting your day job to pursue a career as a balloon artist might not be the best means to lessen the stressors of daily life while simultaneously living a life of bliss and fulfillment. In the case of dependents, it is often more important to suck it up and make the most of a situation (as long as it is not threatening your safety or moral compass) until you are less encumbered and the setting is more conducive to being a little selfish.

For this series, I have chosen to focus on subjects who are experiencing reinvention during their middle-life years. Some might be less encumbered than others. My subjects come from a variety of backgrounds and current circumstances. Some have reinvented themselves physically, while others have chosen to pursue spiritual, relational, or vocational renewal. What they all share is that they have experienced an evolution in how they lived their lives - many intentionally, but some others have done this out of necessity. Most would admit that they have not "arrived," nor do they ever intend to. Giving up the rigid rules of expectation - whether those that our family/social groups have imposed on us, or the ones that we have created for ourselves - creates a fluidity and flexibility that is difficult to institutionalize or turn into a formula. There is much freedom in this fulfilling way of life and it makes our "old way" dramatically unappealing.

Yes, change can be hard, but hard does not always equal bad. My hope is that you will find encouragement and motivation to pursue your own freedom wherever you feel boxed in; that you find light and flexibility in the areas of your life where you previously experienced darkness and restriction. It's like going years and years wearing shoes that - while they may be the correct size - simply don't fit your foot correctly. Perhaps they pinch or rub. Maybe they've caused bunions or calluses. Sometimes, the wrong pair of shoes can cause damage to tendons and ligaments, toenails and joints. When you finally give up your dreams of wearing the same shoes as your best friend or neighbor, and focus on finding the ones that fit your foot, there is a relief and deliverance that is almost unimaginable. You walk around feeling like a new person simply because you are no longer attempting to force your feet into someone else's idea of a good fit: you have found your fit. THAT'S what this is about.

"Finding Your Fit After 40," by Elly Haddad of Elemental Fit, will feature 40 subjects over the age of 40 who have experienced an inspiring reinvention. These pieces will be published 1 − 2 times per month. To recommend a subject, or for questions, email here.

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