Friday, February 17, 2017

How turning 40 has changed my life, and it hasn't even happened yet.

Have you ever felt lost? Like an identity you thought you had, but you don't. The need to seek out the true meaning of yourself takes on a new role that for some is exhausting, for others it's an adventure. Which is it for you?

This year I am turning 40. Many of you that have already gone through this hump, perhaps have asked yourself similar questions about all aspects of life. For those of you that have not, perhaps you are just not as much of a free thinker as I am. Maybe video games or consumerism is clouding your judgment. Or perhaps you would argue the opposite for me. Nonetheless, I feel a huge change coming on. I have not been able to put my finger on it quite yet, but there is an energy force that is driving me towards a goal. How am I to figure this out? Perhaps you have felt the same energy yourself and maybe even have struggled with it for years. Do you feel empty? or have you found your salvation, or purpose or meaning in life? We seem to call it different things.

Whatever you call it, or whatever it is you are seeking it usually takes a lot of your time. I personally have never really figured out my path. I've loved, lost, loved and lost a million times. Not all romantic love, but love of family or friends. Many have made their way to a greater power. What did they accomplish in life? Besides me, who else remembers them. Did their life matter? Does my life matter? These are questions that have perplex me for awhile now. The last few months leading up to the "big 40", these questions have become more consuming. Like a terror in the night that you simply cannot hide from.

The Susquehanna River in Binghamton, NY.

So how exactly does one find the answers? I am currently trying Yoga, meditation and Veganism. I have felt the need to cleanse. I have felt toxic in my own skin. I'm not sure if these are the true answers to resolving this part of my journey in life, but it sure is hard to ignore how good it feels in my own skin again.

Yoga has really surprised me. I see people posting about going to yoga a few times a week and other folks joining in on these rally type of yoga events. You know the ones held at Time Square or in a huge park in a city near you. I use to think to myself that there are so many people on the bandwagon of yoga. Is it just cool to do yoga? Does that give you a better shot at a job, or look smarter when talking to someone at business meetings? Why are all these people doing yoga? I kept asking myself these questions over and over and kept fabricating my own answers. Then one day, my schedule changed at work and I now was able to make it to a yoga session. That session changed me.

I look back at that first day and I was so nervous. I was overweight and could barley touch my toes. I still can't touch my toes, but I at least now understand I don't necessarily have to. The instructor was such a great lady. She was calming, and knowledgeable. You could tell she loved teaching yoga. I barely could do any of the moves. Every time I attempted to do something, she was right by my side with blocks, or moving my head, or telling me to try with knees down instead of up. Nonetheless, every class I went to there after was the same way. I had realized even just that one day a week made me stronger physically and mentally. The use of blocks faded. Then one day, she was no longer the instructor. My interest faded. The new instructor was intense. She made yoga a workout, and I had become to realize that while it is a workout, it is much greater than that. She had apparently lost that in her training. There was no chi, if you will. Just keep up to break a sweat. I never did yoga there again.

Fast forward to a year later, October of 2016, my husband and I moved to upstate New York. At that time, I was just working remotely as a contractor, from my full time job that I had just left. I was bored! What do I do? There is nothing more mind crumbling than boredom. One day I was on YouTube searching through videos. I came across a yoga video from a lady that seriously resembled my old yoga instructor that I liked. There are literally millions of videos on YouTube and somehow I found this lady. You may have seen her videos. She has over two million subscribers and all sorts of videos depending on your experience. The channel is called Yoga With Adriene and I owe it all to her for getting me back on track with yoga. She gets it!

See yoga isn't something I'm doing to be cool, or to fit in with a certain group of people. I have found it to be peace of mind. A cleanse of the soul that has taught me to relax and appreciate time. These are two things I struggle with often, and now I have better control of them. Which has now lead me to meditation. This is far harder physically, mentally and emotionally. This to me is a challenge that has been defeating me, but I am not giving up. Being an asthmatic, breathing has always been a struggle. Yoga has helped and now having to pay attention to it and nothing more, is a true test of my will power. Many people that do it for years, still struggle with it. I plan on keeping it as part of my life style for as long as I am alive. You can say yoga was the gateway drug to meditation.

Alright, so we've talked about yoga and meditation, but now let's talk about being vegan. You are probably asking why I am betting myself up by jumping the gun to a plant based diet. To be completely honest, I went through a time in my 20s where I was vegetarian for 10 years. I don't honestly recall the reasons leading me back to eating meat. That said, I have spent lots of money indulging in some of the best hamburgers our great country has to offer, to some of the best steaks, chicken and fish meals every made. I'm a bit of a cook, so all of these meats where back in my diet. I am middle eastern, and so many meats were now in my diet that had never even been in my diet before. Growing up it was mostly Mediterranean style food. If there was meat involved, it was only fish, lamb and goat. Now my diet encompassed everything.

Within the last month I have made a commitment to myself to begin a Vegan lifestyle. My husband refuses to change, but yet wants me to eat a steak or a pound of chicken with him every night. He is Polish and German, so I get it. I just have felt that need for cleansing and so far it is working out great. I have found a whole new world of recipes, some of which he has even enjoyed. I have felt myself feeling better and having more energy. Not feeling sluggish anymore.

Yoga, meditation and moving to being Vegan only seems to be a small part of reaching the summit of what it is I have been struggling to figure out. I feel like these things are the base. You know, those "first steps". This reminds me of something called the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. There are 5 levels to the pyramid theory he discusses. Yet they are better broken down into 3 segments; Basic Needs, Psychological Needs, and Self-Fulfillment Needs. I find myself hoovering between the psychological and self-fulfillment needs. If you wanted to break it down more specifically, I am floating between Esteem needs and Self-Actualization. The need of feeling accomplished in ones life to the need of finding my full potential. At least I know where I stand. So, how am I going to get to the top? That again takes me back to my original concerns for finding the true meaning of life. Maybe I should call it "the quest for finding my self-actualization"?

Sunset at Lake Santeetlah in NC.

Perhaps waking up on April 22nd 2017, my birthday, will enlighten me with the answers I seek. Maybe not. Either way, I feel more focused now that I'm following a path in my life that is going to lead me to the top of Maslow's pyramid. Perhaps the answers or my achievements won't come until I'm 60. Perhaps then I will even look back questioning why I moved forward this way. Maybe I'll look back thanking myself for making the right chooses, because the success in the future has everything to do with what I do now. I have always thought that once I have figured out my purpose, that then my fate will be sealed. Either way, I do not believe someone should live life worrying about tomorrow. Over the years I have grown to understand that living in the present is really how we succeed in life. Remembering our past and learning from it for our present and using both to get us to the future. Cheers to finding self-worth!

Have you every contemplated about your purpose? Have you ever questions your current state of mind?  If so, please share your experiences. We may learn from one another. After all, that is what life is about.

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