Rebuilding myself at 40
We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. – Anne Lamott
I am finally finding and beginning to become myself.
Turning 40 has a way of bringing up moments in your past and challenging you to assess them. I guess it’s a precious, frustrating age to recount what you have done with your life. And you don’t have a choice to walk through 40. You are going to go through it if you haven’t already. You don’t have a choice on how your mind is going to wander to the first 40 years of your life and bring to mind the mistakes, joys, failures, tears, shit, successes, travels, relationships, values, regrets, the words you have spoken and the words that have been said to you.
Maybe it’s not just turning 40 that has me in this place. Maybe it’s because I’m still grieving. Maybe it’s because I’m angry. Maybe it’s because I’m not satisfied. Maybe it’s because I am reinventing who I want to be. Maybe it’s because much of what I allowed into my life and mind for the past 25 years is now going through a complete detox. Maybe it’s because I am going through a complete re-wiring of how I think. Maybe it’s because I want to be the most authentic person I can be. Maybe it’s because I have cared too long what people think of me and that kept me paralyzed from living freely, just as I am. Maybe it’s because my connection to God is finally real and free from performance and I have to unclog my soul from all the deception I gave into.
I told my therapist recently that I want to figure out how to move through this relentless undertow of anger I’ve been feeling. I want to be able to write about my experiences being intertwined in the institution of the church and help others find validation and healing. But I have been reluctant to freely write, because I feel so much anger toward people’s jiggery-pokery and heartless behavior all in the name of God. I want my words to be heard not blown off. While anger is a just emotion and it’s important to feel it, it does not solicit listening ears as much as vulnerability does.
As I started unraveling the foundations of this anger, our conversation weaved itself to ground zero. Ground zero being that I was ultimately angry at my 22 year old self. I was angry that at 22, I was not more put together to withstand being sucked into a loving group of people who had given themselves over to a destructive system that promised to lead them to be the best Christians. So, as part of my healing I sat down after that session and freely wrote a letter to myself at 18 years old. 3,500 words later, I was filled with deep sadness, empathy, and understanding.
This “inside job” work hasn’t taken away the anger completely. I still have moments of rage when I hear more stories from friends and family of how awful things have been done and said to them by church leaders and church-goers. I am reluctant to call them Christians. I am reluctant to call myself a Christian. That word and a collection of other church words have left a rancid taste in my mouth. I’m sure this will alarm many of my readers, but I’m not alarmed. I’m being real. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not just so you will like me. I’m done with that. I hope you are set free from that disease too.
Not only have I been detoxing my mind at 40, but nearly every other part of me. My words, my values, my perspective, my beliefs, my relationships, my hopes, my behavior, my evaluations. It’s a lot of detoxing. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Thank God for safe friends and family, whom I can truly be myself with. Thank God for his perfect nearness and unconditional love that I never question.
I realize this is a heavy post, but this is where I am right now. I still laugh and find joy in my days and with others. I resolve to live the next 40 years of my life intentionally and freely. If that means that I have to spend a few years shedding the first 40 years of illusionary living, then so be it. It will be worth it.
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I hear you, Jill. I empathize with you. I am also 40 and human and angry and joyfully embracing what is simple and real. I still go to church, but things have changed and I find the church owns less of my soul and innocence these days than it used to. The institution left me sick but relationship with Truth is slowly healing me again. Maybe someday we can talk about it, together, if it doesn’t do more harm than good. I don’t want to revisit the anger and loss but I don’t know how to really put it away either. Maybe a blog on how to do that? I could use some helpful hints… Maybe someday I can see you as blood family again and not as church family… I’d really like that. It takes bravery to call beautiful comfortable deceptions out for the dirty killing lies that they are. I respect that bravery in you. Thank you.
Gayle, I love your sentence about the church owning less of your soul and innocence! I stayed innocent far too long being in the church and it feels so good to have experience and knowledge now AND to think for myself. I also don’t wish to keep revisiting this topic with anger, but I do believe that there is more healing for many of us who have been hurt in the institution of the church. If there is anything specific in regards to “helpful hints”, please email me. I would love for this to be a place of healing for people.
I look forward to hugging you this weekend!
This is your very best writing in my humble opinion. I love and respect your brutal honesty about how you are in this moment. When we are willing to be vulnerable and seen for who we are it is then that we define ourselves and we actually inhabit our space on this planet and open ourselves up to the possibilities and purpose for this one holy life we have been granted. This is where we can live honestly, out loud and with integrity.
I personally think it takes some good old fashioned suffering that always seems to show up eventually – and midlife’s pretty typical – I like to call these the shape shifters. Painful, ugly, brutally honest feelings of loss, grief and acceptance for the reality of our lives can be our greatest teachers – provided by The Ultimate Giver to lead us Home to our Heart of Hearts. It is here where I find compassion, kindness and forgiveness for others and myself alike. I’m not a masochist, but I really do have a reverence for embracing our pain – it’s there that life gets really juicy, and we learn why we are here – TO BE BROKEN OPEN Again and again ❤️
Thank you Jill for showing up more brightly in your life, my Friend. We need you. I need you. You are Loved 💗
Thank you for your constant support and truth! Thank you for living honestly, out loud and with integrity because you have reminded me that is who I am.
Being broken open again and again!
Jilly Bean – you’ve always had such a way with words! I’m proud of you for being brave enough to go through the detox – it’s hard work, but so worth it. We still haven’t had our FaceTime chat yet! I miss you so much and love you too!!
Thank you! I miss you and love you too! Tell me when you can FT!
Dearest Jill, the words/emotions that reached out across the expanse of you, orbiting/coping/living/journeying in your world and me, orbiting/coping/living/journeying in mine, seems to have disappeared as I read/felt/absorbed your process, your detox, your work… this is the pilgrims journey that the lovers of Truth and livers of Love find as those challenged, and yet finding it more meaningful to be awakening, alive, broken, humbled, in touch with our emotions, at choice every moment. Intentional, on purpose living… messy, human, inches of healing, moments when something makes sense, other moments challenging the status quo. Agreeing with you about the term “Christians”… I too, struggle with that term… Boiling it all up or boiling it all down, for me, it has come down to “God is Love” and Jesus came to demonstrate that kind of eternal love (unconditional), even to the death… that kind of love knows not judgment, forgives self and others because sweating beads of blood is hard when one is doing “their work”… Jesus also demonstrated courage… courage to be authentic, to be who he was created to be… Grateful for you and knowing you are struggling, the way an unsuspecting worm struggles to emerge into his full authentic self – delicate, strong, colorful, inspiring, beautiful – the butterfly! With you in spirit, Jill!! Love you and admire your commitment to your work (authentic self), Always your pilgrim sister, Patti
Thank you for your deep, sweet words! I wholeheartedly agree with you that it is all about God is Love! We make it so much more complicated most of the time. I feel His love has expanded immensely in my life since I intentionally quit putting Him in a box. Of course that is ongoing work to see Love so vast and so unconditionally, but that is the beauty of being His creation.
Love you Patti!
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