15 Things I Did at 35 to Be Unstoppable at 40

Funny little power super hero child (girl) in a blue raincoat. Superhero concept
Funny little power super hero child (girl) in a blue raincoat. Superhero concept

Today is my 40th birthday. I am informed and aware that this occasion causes no shortage of wailing and gnashing of teeth for some. I, however, am delighted, ecstatic, expansive, grateful, excited.

It helps that I'm writing this from Maui.

But it also helps that I've been desperate to be a 40-year-old woman since I was 9 years old.

When I was 9, my family owned a racquet club, where I would hang out and help out in the summertime. Watching those 40-ish women Jane Fonda-it-up in the dance aerobics classes, decked in thong leotards, leg warmers and white high-top Reeboks was everything to me. It, as they say, gave me life.

That my social calendar now consists largely of dance classes and brunches, spin classes and dinners (which my friend Rebecca and I do so regularly we have given it a name: spinner) and Lululemon-clad global adventures with my fitness pals wherein we dance, cycle, swim and shop -- this feels like a mission: accomplished kind of life.

So much of my life right now reflects the best parts of what I'd dreamed, but is more beautiful than I ever legitimately hoped for. At 40, I have the groundedness, humility and good sense to sit in and appreciate these moments. I have a beautiful home, friends and community like I'd never known were even possible, a career that allows me to be creative, true to myself and flex my smarts, and the truest type of prosperity.

Beyond just the financial, I live an abundant, healthy life I love to look at -- and love to live.

Is life perfect? Definitely not. But it is beautiful. And it was hard won. Twenty years back I was a very young Mom, trying to get my education and raise my son and his brother the best I could. New friends might never know it, but my last couple of decades included two divorces, near bankruptcy in the Not-So-Great-Recession, a custody drama, a troubled teen and the heartbreak of watching my brother going to prison.

Fortunately, the last decade also included a weird and wondrous journey of serial career transitions and reinventions, spiritual and emotional healing, financial recovery (and then some) and the restoration of many of the broken areas of my life.

Right around the time I turned 35, I got still and quiet and took stock.

1. I realized that a lot was wonderful about my life, and the person I was, but also that the greatness I could have and be and live was being limited by a few bad habits, limiting beliefs, dysfunctional patterns, and toxic relationships.

2. I stopped distracting myself from looking deep at my past and my present, and made a conscious decision to press pause, do some deep cleaning and healing of my life, and do whatever it took to release the self-critique and anxiety that had been an ever-present backdrop to my existence up till that time.

3. I went to therapy, and participated in treatment for post-traumatic stresses I didn't know were called that.

4. I got grounded and comfortable with the discomfort of exploring myself and getting real about my messes.

5. I learned that neurons that fire together wire together, and began the process of rewiring some old emotions and behaviors.

6. My therapist told me that it was never too late to have a wonderful childhood, so I took up the challenge of injecting a sense of light, play, joy and wonder into my daily life, all the while 7. putting an end to relationships and patterns that no longer served me.

8. I started doing the work, and ultimately made a series of changes to my life that systematically, fundamentally changed everything. 9. I got divorced. 10. I changed jobs a couple of times. 11. I got out of debt and my finances flourished. 12. I made besties with my body, which I'd struggled with for decades, and it responded with a next-level state of energy and health.

13. I started walking the way of integrity, recognizing the sense of tightness and constriction that nearly always signals that I'm acting or living or speaking something different than what i truly feel.

14. I learned how to align and realign my words and deeds with truth.

My son recently showed me a picture of myself from college, and I had the crazy realization that at 40, I look and feel so much better, so much more joyful, and even so much more physically well than I did then.

Over 40, if you do it right (and you can), new possibilities open up. You know how to work your body. You know what to eat to feel good, and what doesn't work for you. You can be more beautiful and vibrant and fit than ever, and understand that that beauty includes your body's little endurance trophies, like stretch marks, foot pain and surgery scars.

You have some money, and hopefully little or no debt. You have clarity on what you're great at, or at least know that you can do something to get clear on that. You know that life is beautiful, and that every beautiful moment will pass. But so will the tough stuff.

You no longer feel so entitled to smooth sailing through life, so you're less outraged and resistant to the reality that sad, hard things happen. You're more confident in your ability to handle what comes your way, and you are no longer so quick to see things as "bad" or "good." Rather you see events as just life and people as wounded, beautiful children of God.

You stop taking things personally. No, really -- even the most personally directed assaults.

You realize that life is precious, and that people matter. You get out of your head, and into the game of living your life

15. I realized that that's what 40 and beyond represents for me.

I'm inspired today by something President Obama said in an interview I read a few months back, while I was on the first leg of my birthday trip, somewhere in France. In the aftermath of the Charleston shootings, he was talking about American race relations. As he sees it, Obama said, his job isn't to write the whole book of history on any given issue. All he gets is one paragraph in the book. And all he can do is everything possible to get his paragraph right.

I can think of no better perspective to take, as I commemorate moving into my fourth decade on this earth, than this. The last three decades were focused on growing into myself, understanding myself, my power, other people and the world, healing from the inevitable wounds of life and building the capacity and resources to live a life of joy, love, power and integrity.

It's become clear to me that the next eight or 12 decades of my life will be focused on boldly doing what it takes to get my paragraph right, in terms of how I impact and experience the people in my life, in my communities and in the world. I hope you'll come along for the adventure.

So much love + onward + upward,

T

This post is an excerpt of one that originally appeared on Tara's blog at taranicholle.com - sign up there for her newsletter. Follow Tara on Facebook at and on Twitter @taranicholle.

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