S ince beginning my coaching practice seven years ago, one of my annual traditions is to catalog my lessons learned over the last trip around the sun around my birthday. Taking time to sit with the awareness around what have Honoring Lessons Learned become my truths is not only about honoring my journey.  It’s an act of vulnerability, trust, and intimacy with you, my darling readers.

By choosing to share my lessons with you, I am able to serve as an example of what choosing to grow and evolve can look like…because, despite what many might tell you, growth and evolution is not always beautiful.

In fact, sometimes it can be pretty darn messy.

((Find other birthday posts: 201220132014. 2015. 2016.))

Becoming forty-nine has been a breathtaking ride, one in which I’m still learning about myself and the life I’m curating. Because I believe in sharing, here are some of the life-lessons I’ve collected over the past year.

How I’m Honoring Turning Forty-Nine

  1. You must choose to care for the body your soul is housed in. Ensure that you always get adequate sleep. Buy the best quality foods your budget can afford. You don’t have to run marathons, but move your body. It also means that you must go to the doctor for regular check-ups.
  2. When you put off those regular doctor’s appointments – physicals, dental cleanings, eye exams, etc. – it will cost you in some way, shape, or form. If you think you can ignore a physical problem of some sort in hopes that it will go away you are deluding yourself. If you choose to do so, just make peace with the fact that the longer you put it off, the more expensive it will probably be to remedy.
  3. Honoring yourself by listening to your body will give you clues to how to better love your life. What your body loved – and was capable of doing at 30 is different from what it thrives on when you’re 49. I’ve learned this year that while I love bread, my body (hello arthritis) doesn’t. It doesn’t mean you have to cut out things you love, but at least listen to what your body is telling you and go from there. Your body will also give you clues when a person or place isn’t a good fit for your life.
  4. No relationship in your life, especially a romantic partnership, will ever be 50/50. Most of the time, it will feel as if its 60/40 or 80/20 and each person will likely feel as if they are giving the most.  This is why it’s so important to communicate with your partner (or friends).
  5. Speaking of communication and partnerships, please choose to see your relationships as that – a partnership – rather than as a way to keep score. Honoring your commitment to a relationship demands this. Because, when you keep score in any relationship rather than seeing it as a joint effort, you’re going to lose out. Every time.
  6. When you’re not exactly feeling pure love for your relationships, before you start pointing the fingers at how the other person isn’t meeting your needs, ask yourself where YOU are being of service to the other person and the partnership. Are you honoring everyone’s needs as well as your own? Are you choosing to tend the relationship? In other words, look in the mirror before you start pointing fingers.
  7. That said, don’t allow yourself to be a doormat. Recognize that we all go through seasons when we need more support to manage life or have the space to be the one to offer more support than we are receiving. If it’s the other person is always in the season of taking more than they are giving, have a conversation or get some counseling.
  8. There will always be pain and suffering when it comes to relationships with others. If talking or counseling doesn’t help, be willing to leave or make the changes needed to reduce your suffering. Honoring yourself by making hard choices will always turn out in the long run.
  9. And you know what typically causes us pain? Unmet or unrealistic expectations. When our expectations of a situation, job, vacation, or date night doesn’t coincide with the vision our partner has, then there will be conflict.  Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. And be open to experiences over your expectations of them.
  10. No one can read your mind. So, if you need or want something specific, speak up.
  11. Know that someone in your life will always be going through something. This doesn’t mean you have to put up with Drama Queens or Negative Nellies, but get real with the fact that no one’s life is perfect. Expecting friends and lovers to always be positive, happy, and drama-free will likely mean you won’t have many friends… Honoring the concepts of grace, compassion, and empathy will help you and everyone you care about.
  12. You get to indulge in whatever you want to indulge in. Make-up, fashion, beauty treatments, books, food, or whatever strikes your fancy is your choice. No one else’s opinion on your choices matter, so it’s time to stop apologizing or over explaining why you like a particular lipstick or brand of soap.
  13. Frankly, if folks try to shame you for the choices you make, maybe they aren’t meant to be in your life. And, if they are co-workers or family that you’re “stuck” with, sometimes the smartest decision you can make is to keep your mouth shut.
  14. Speaking of keeping your mouth shut, not everyone needs to know your opinion on every little thing. Talk about art instead of politics. Talk about a great book you read instead of gossiping. Honoring yourself by choosing not to discuss some hot topics is a kind of magical freedom.
  15. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
  16. Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not compare yourself, your body, your house, or your life with people you see on the Internet. Comparison will never help you in honoring your own journey. Let’s be honest: most folks  – including you and me – share a highlight reel on social media. While we were on vacation, I witnessed some popular fashion bloggers and models working while making their Instagram feeds appear as if they were on vacation. Their feeds are a delight, but not a portrayal of reality.
  17. Speaking of those perfect people on the web, know that a good majority of them are styled by pros, have had their hair done, and are using professional photographers to curate a perfect view of their lifestyle. Honoring your own life by choosing to see the “perfect feeds” the way you would a glossy magazine like Vogue or Home and Garden will go a long way in helping your put things in perspective.
  18. Perception is always reality. And no perception is ever 100% true. Your version of truth may not be someone else’s.
  19. The number one trait you can curate for yourself is curiosity. Each day presents an opportunity to grow your brain, expand your horizons and change your perspective. If you get too closed to this as a possibility, then your life will shrink and you will become more and more brittle. Kindle and feed your inner fires. Feed your own passions.
  20. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. Since my last birthday, I’ve tried a completely different approach to make-up and invested in all new skincare products as a way of honoring the aging process. I also visited a waxing professional, given my eyebrows more attention, and participated in making a movie. Honoring your need to expand and grow will always enhance your life.
  21. Read more. Not just internet articles, but books and magazines and newspapers. Read the latest best seller. Read a classic. Devour a book of poetry.
  22. You don’t have to share your vulnerable thoughts with others, but it’s imperative to be honest with yourself: about your choices, your motivations, and what you secretly desire. We humans take action and make decisions based often on either the motivations of either fear or desire. We are also motivated by sex, power and money. You don’t have to tell anyone what’s motivating you, but at least be honest with yourself.
  23. You can’t make anyone change. Anyone that’s tried to dress a toddler knows that if someone doesn’t want to do something, you can’t make them. People will ask your advice and not take it. People will choose to stop growing and you can’t force them. People will only change when they are ready to change.
  24. You can also choose not to grow or change or evolve. Well, until it becomes too painful not to do so. But know that you can choose to just stay right where you are. However, know that you will have to face the consequences of that choice.
  25. You are always in choice. Even if you can’t choose something that happens to you, you "Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor." -- Rumican at least choose how you react to it. That’s a clear way of honoring yourself.
  26. I’ve discovered that choosing to see things happen for me instead of to me is a way to decrease my own suffering around unexpected or painful events. I go a piece of a Rumi poem to remind me ==>
  27. Find something to be passionate about. Maybe it’s your kids, a television show, or a breed of puppy. Passion fuels the energy to be alive and experience life.
  28. Turn off the screens. Unplug. Take time off. Take a vacation or simply an afternoon to do nothing. This doesn’t mean work a little, but don’t work. Unplug from social media. Turn off your email. Honoring your own life by getting out from behind screens and experiencing it has magical effects.
  29. Pamper yourself. Get a facial or a manicure. Buy a beautiful purse or a nice pair of shoes. Take yourself to lunch.
  30. Speaking of taking yourself to lunch, make peace with being alone.  Learn to revel in it. Being alone in a public place like a restaurant, café, or movie theatre can be incredibly freeing, not to mention confidence-boosting.

We are often told that we should never stop learning or growing, and I am a firm believer in that advice. However, I also believe that we must apply what we learn, not just memorize it.  Birthdays come only once a year, but life is ongoing.

Honoring yourself and your life will always nourish your mind and soul. It’s never the wrong time to take stock, to identify things that could be better, and to make changes that will enable you to live the life you truly desire.

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By Debra Smouse: Writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle, Debra helps people fall in love with their life. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that within every woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar. A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams.

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