Published Jan 15, 2017 - Jamaica Gleaner
As my impending 40th birthday drew closer, I started to panic and thought, wow 40- how did this happen? I won't deny that there were tears, a new year was upon us and with it new resolutions and high hopes. Not only was it a new year, but for me it was also a new decade, and I was also going through a broken heart. But- I prayed to The Lord, sought and embraced solitude, did some reading, and alas I was restored with hope.
So what if I was single at 40, so what if I was a single mom, many before me had done that, many after me will. After trying out many catchy ways to announce my 40th birthday, 'twenty plenty' '30 plus ' and other equal duds, my friend Andy Svoboda said, 'You know what would be great Natalie? How about turning 40 gracefully?'. Well that didn't occur to me one bit. But he was right, and after some quiet reflection I thought that's how I would turn 40 - gracefully. A new leaf was turning over, a rebirth if you will. This would be my season of intentional living.
I am not a guru, nor a motivational speaker and I don’t consider myself an authority on many things, but I have lived an interesting life in my 40 years, and I thought why not jot down some of the things I have learned along the way, and here we are....
1- Ladies, don't over tweeze your brows- I wish when I was in my 20's someone told me eyebrows would be so important today. I blame Pamela Anderson.
2- Use social media wisely. Don't let it consume your life. If you find that fear of missing out (FOMO) is taking over, then uninstall social media apps and go out and live. Trust me, you won't die.
3- Friends are the family you choose, cherish your friendships and nurture them. Friends are there to build you up when you're at your worst, to remind you of your inner beauty when you fail to see it and to keep it real with tough love.. Some will come and go, but the real ones will stand the test of time, no disputes or hurt can keep them away. True friends are a blessing.
4- Trials in life are there to measure your inner strength and you should embrace them. When you overcome your trials, and you will, the next time a mountain comes along, you can say- this little thing? I've survived worse.
5- Teenage sons will morph into unrecognizable beings with monster attitudes. You must be patient and know that it's just a phase and read all the parenting books ever written on raising said teenage son. Speak to other parents of teenage children and get support. It's important to not worry about younger siblings and panic that they will be worse. Breathe.
6- Always play music. Never become so busy that you aren't losing yourself in the art of music. Listen to all genres, open your mind and travel the world through this universal language.
7- Tithe. It's the only place in the Bible where The Lord says to test Him.
8- It's more important to be healthy and toned than to be skinny. Love your body at any size. Any shape. Later on you may look back and think - 'Wait, I wasn't fat then...I'm ....'
9- Enjoy fresh cut flowers in your home. If you can't buy them, cut wildflowers or over sized leaves and arrange in a vase. Never lose your appreciation of beautiful things.
10- Master at least 10 dishes from different cuisines. Research various recipes and test them out with friends. Later on, tweak to make them your own. Enjoy the art of cooking.
11- Take an introductory course in wines. Learn the correct pronunciations of different varietals. Then actually taste, experience and enjoy wines. Drinking wine while I cook will always be one of my favourite things to do.
12- Ladies, don't lose yourself over a man, and never allow a man to turn you into a bitter, angry person. Learn your lesson, chin up, move on and love harder. Don't trash talk exes or call them bad names because it didn't work out, remember the good in them and be confident in yourself knowing it just wasn't a good fit. Someone out there will be waiting on your kind of love.
13- Always rise above being petty. Take the high road. This admittedly is not the easiest thing to do. However, The Lord truly is the greatest vindicator.
14- Play games with your children. Take them on walks, leave the tech devices, have real
conversations at the dinner table- where valuable social skills are being developed out of practice. These are some of the things they will remember when they get older.
15- Wake up earlier than you need to and devote some one-on-one time with The Lord. A prayer and reading a scripture is the best way to get your day started.
16- Work out early in the day, you will be energized and the sense of accomplishment will carry you throughout the day.
17- Always speak your mind, but do so gently. Be your kind, authentic self.
18- Go easy on the high buns and save your hairline.
19- Always leave a job so you can get it back. Never burn bridges.
20- Big girls do cry. It's okay to cry and more important to heal at your own pace.
21- Be compassionate when giving advice to someone going through grief. The best thing to do really is just to listen and say I’m here for you.
22- Don't chase fashion trends. You will never keep up. Invest in good classic pieces with pops of trends. You can NEVER go wrong with black. Never underestimate the power of a good red lipstick.
23- Be nice to other girls. Take their pictures when they’re out and compliment them when they look good.
24- Ladies, always have your get vex money. Don't order what you can't pay for on a date, and always be nice to the server.
25- Money will come and it may go. Your happiness should not be dependent on it.
26- Teach your children to turn to the Lord when they need anything. He will have better solutions than you ever will.
27- Speak life into your children. Use empowering and positive words to build them up daily.
28- Pray. Pray for protection, wisdom and pray for The Lord's grace.
29- Forgive. Forgiveness restores the soul.
30- Read. Never stop reading. Always have a thirst for knowledge. Through books you can learn a new skill, travel the world and take adventures. Nourish the love of books early on in your children's lives. The long term benefits of this are invaluable, their writing and vocabularies will be better if they are readers.
31- Dance. Learn the new dances too so that the Irish Digicel employees don't know all the new dancehall moves better than you do. This can be embarrassing.
32- Keep a gratitude journal. The more you give thanks the more you will learn about yourself and become self-aware. It also forces you to focus on what really matters.
33- Keep in touch with your parents. You are more alike than not, and they will understand you more than anyone will.
34- Set goals with deadlines. They say a goal without a deadline is just a wish.
35- Travel. No matter your budget, wherever you live there are places to visit and new adventures to be made. We must schedule time for recreation in this busy world.
36- Don't be afraid to share your story, you never know who is listening. I am a survivor of domestic violence but I refuse to be defined by it. A big misconception is the belief that only weak women are abused. Not true, often times strong women, walk around with guilt thinking they said or did something to warrant abuse. Nothing warrants abuse. If you're in an abusive relationship, muster up the courage to expose the truth and get support from your family, friends or church.
37- It's okay to not be okay. Speak up when you're not feeling yourself. Learn the signs of depression, how to recognize them in yourself and others, then know when to ask for help. Shun the stigma of mental illness.
38- Protect your space, be mindful of the people you allow into your lives. Bad energies and negative attitudes can corrupt what you're trying to build. While we need to help the emotionally wounded, we must also be mindful that they don’t thwart our outlook or weigh down our spirits. Look internally and check yourself too, and see if you are the 'Debbie Downer' in your group- then fix it.
39- Give more. Give more love, give more to the poor, give more of your time. Try to live a life of serving others, volunteering will prove to be a blessing for everyone involved, it nourishes the soul. Your time can be the most precious gift you give to someone.
40- Don't be too hard on yourself. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. We have one life, let’s live it without regret.
Thanks for staying tuned and for not giving up on me!
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