As much as I hate to admit it, turning 40 was tough.  Every year I celebrate by turning the whole month of July into #Audrika, cutting down my workload and increasing my fun factor.  My 38th (here and here) was a very typical example of how I’ve embraced celebrating my birthdays.

But I wonder… 40… is this a mid-life crises?

An article in the Huffington post says men might experience it between 45-60 while women might feel it in their late 30’s.  Questions they pondered:

‘Is this all there is?’ …. ‘why am I doing this?’ …. ‘what about what I need’ …. ‘who am I anymore?’ …. ‘what is the real point of me?’ …. ‘why put my life off any longer?’

My life, when I look back on it, has been one giant juicy adventure.  A true blessing in regards to following my heart, carving my own path, and not falling prey to my society’s ideas of success or to the status quo.

I’ve built a life on experiencing amazing things, like racing my mountain bike down hill, dancing salsa at the semi-pro level, epic trips around the world for months at a time, moving to Spain, learning a new language, building two businesses.

The point I’m trying to make here is that when I see my life for what it is and what it has been, I step back and think it must be dream…. who gets to live like this?!?  My cup definitely over-floweth… : )

And I even had some serious fun for my 40th.  Besides getting to spend some awesome-sauce quality time with my family over the past 5 weeks,

I also learned how to ride motorcycles!

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I spent a weekend on a freaking amazing ranch in East Texas, riding horses, herding cattle, and learning how to rope and shoot a gun! (yes I know.… sooooo Texas!)

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And two of my BFF sisters flew into Dallas and surprised me with a weekend at the Ritz!

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Seriously… how blessed am I?

But the night before my actual birthday, I kinda lost my shit.  I felt deep waves of sadness roll through my body and from there the tears wouldn’t stop.

I saw all the big mistakes I’ve made in my life and recognized their life altering consequences.  I saw the directions I took with certain friendships and career moves that I would never have made today.  I cried for all of my shortcomings inside of intimate relationship that I wish I could go back and change.  And I cried deeply for not being a mom and seeing how my ambiguity in my 20’s and 30’s perpetuated my reality today.

All in all, as much as I love to be happy and upbeat—and truth be told my natural state is light and joyful—life comes in so many different emotional colors and spectrums.

So when I realized the depth of my sadness, I just let it flow.

We live in a culture that encourages happiness is the only way, and discourages us to feel or express sadness, anger, rage, disappointment, etc.

And I know this because no other culture prescribes and consumes anti-depressants the way we do despite overwhelming evidence exercise and other non-pharmaceutical therapies work better.

I wonder what would happen if we as a culture had more emotional intelligence, were able to feel our feelings at a deeper level, and held the capacity to experience a broader range of emotions without being embarrassed.

The thing is, most of us aren’t taught these skills.  We learn dysfunctional emotional patterns from our family which perpetuate a legacy of closing off, shutting down, and shielding our hearts.

But here’s the kicker… when you actually allow yourself to go there… to experience the depth of what you’re experiencing, to get real with the pain you’re feeling and let it course through your body….

You don’t reach for a drink
You don’t reach for food
You don’t reach for sex
You don’t reach for your wallet

Instead you sit there to experience the full depth of what you’re feeling.

  • You cry like a mo’fo.
  • You journal
  • You talk it out with your BFF’s
  • You talk it out with your therapist
  • You listen to Nina Simone or Beyonce’s Lemonade
  • You exercise
  • You go to yoga
  • You meditate
  • You take bubble baths
  • You love all over your little poop-face puppy

You just let yourself sit in the experience for as long as it wants to stick around, and then out of nowhere, something inside lightens up.

The act of surrendering fully to the sadness that’s real and true in that moment becomes the elixir itself.  It’s so fucking paradoxical.

The real precursor to dis-ease and dysfunction is NOT allowing yourself to feel what needs to be felt.

So my birthday wish for you, while it might sound a bit morbid and definitely NOT very sexy, is to have the courage to feel your feelings, get real, fall apart, and maybe even lose your shit. 🙂

To really, truly, and authentically feel your feelings.  Even the shitty ones.

Especially the shitty ones.

Here’s to the next 2/3 of my life!  (See what I mean?  Damn cup is always half full!)

I’d love to know two things:

1.  What do you do to fully experience the more difficult emotions?
2. What’s your favorite way to celebrate your birthday?

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