Magic 42. The softening.

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I always knew 42 would be a magic number. I’m not quite sure why, but I always knew that turning 42 would be auspicious.

Let’s start with the basics.

I have never felt so loved as I did this week. Let me rephrase that. I have never felt so receptive to the love in my life as I have this week. It’s as if every pore in my being was open. I feel supple + soft.

I have softened over the last couple of years.

Let me first give a shout out to the Zoloft. It has been exactly one year since I started taking it and my life has shifted dramatically. There is a clear before and after – life before Zoloft and life after. I still say a prayer of thanks every morning when I take that tiny blue pill. Thank you thank you thank you.

Now that the wound-up, hypervigilent, fight or flight, oh-my-god-the-world-is-way-too-stimulating, what’s-with-all-the-freaking-noise-on-the-internet, nervous system has calmed down, there is so much more space.

I can let so much more in.

The chaos of  having two boys. The loudness of their cries and whines. The tactile stimulation, the whirl of them sprinting (literally) in circles around the house. The way they dive bomb me, knocking me down in a playful wrestle whenever I kneel toward the ground.

I have the capacity to hold so much more now.

I can hold their energy + embrace their bodies. I am like a wider, heartier version of myself – grounded, arms outstretched, willing to take them in. Where before I had an aversion to their intense boy-ness, kept them (sometimes literally) at arms length, I am so grateful for this new capacity.

And with this ability to hold the bigness of their energy also came an ability to let more love in too.

And I haven’t felt that so palpably until now. This birthday. This week.

It started with an incredible storytelling event called Journeys on Wednesday with my “joy buddies” Ellen + Sherry. (We take a course called Awakening Joy together) We heard amazing stories by the creators of Life Factory and Numi tea plus one of my all time favorite storytellers – Joel Ben Izzy. Then I went to Golden Gate park and rowed a boat in Stowe Lake with my dear friend and mentor SARK. We rowed and chatted for hours… If that isn’t a perfect date, I don’t know what is!

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The amazing SARK, in our row boat in Stowe Lake

Then Matt and I laughed for hours on Saturday night at a Mortified event in Oakland. If you haven’t seen a Mortified show, get to it! Kind of like The Moth, but everything is based on the storyteller’s junior high and high school diaries. Unbelievable. Hilarious. Genius. (You can watch the trailer for their documentary here)

But I’m getting off topic.

The point is this: I am 42 years old and what I am celebrating most right now is that I have the capacity to hold so much more of all of it – the chaos and the joy. There is something my friend Brene Brown says that has always stuck with me. “You cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. When we numb those emotions, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”

And I think it worked the same way for all of those years of post-partum anxiety. With my nervous system all whacked out, I was overstimulated by everything. I had to keep life at a distance in order to shield myself.

But over the last year, a profound softening has unfolded. An unexpected gift.

It began with saying I love you more.
Then I noticed I was allowing myself to be hugged a bit longer.
I can look into your eyes now and be with you in a more grounded way.
I can hold my kiddos big feelings and let them dissolve into me.

And as of this birthday, I can see how I am finally letting in more joy. The neuroscientist Rick Hanson teaches that when you are experiencing joy, it’s good to put your hand on your heart and say, “This is joy.” Then those particular neuro-pathways can deepen.

I have been doing that a lot this week, trying to seal all the goodness in.
This is joy. This is joy. This is joy.

 

 

 

41 Comments

  1. Posted November 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I love this for you. So good.

  2. Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday, Andrea! I am so grateful for you and your work, and these honest and awesome words. Here’s to you and softening!

  3. Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m so happy for your joy. Happy birthday!

  4. Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    <3 u to the moon and back with a side trip to Mars and Jupiter! oxo :)

  5. Shosh
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful picture of you, and post! Happy birthday – have a wonderful year, a wonderful life :)

  6. Kristen
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I am so happy that you are a few years older than I am, as you always make me look forward to reaching the ages you write so beautifully about. I can only hope that I am as courageous, as wise and as full of joy that you seem to be at my next birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!

  7. Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    How beautiful…

    I am a big fan of your photography and first saw your work in Shutter Sisters. I must admit I don’t normally read your blog (purely due to the fact that most time I spend on the computer is spent working on my writing), and today, when it popped up on Facebook I felt compelled (as spirit guides the way!). I’m so glad I opened up to your beautiful words. This evening we had a reminder of how fragile life is. Our nanny’s husband was in a serious motorbike crash in Sri Lanka and we have now sent her on a plane to go and be with him. I spoke to the Dr and her words were “We have done all we can for him and now it’s up to him” as I sat completely helpless as Shalika (our nanny) was crumbled in a heap on the floor, sobbing, vomitting, and praying to God.

    Your words are a reminder to be open even in moments of pain and angst. Why I would be drawn to read a blog post after such a tragic event had happened made me feel odd (as I was posting a photo on FB to encourage others to send reiki and healing vibes their way), but I can tell you that your words connected to the truth that we all walk our own path, and no matter where that leads or what decisions we make, we should always do so with an open mind, heart, and intent. Thanks again for your words. Happy Birthday, enjoy it knowing that every breath brings the possibility of something more……..

    Love and light,
    Steph x

  8. Nicole H
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday Andrea! You have always been surrounded by so much love and I’m so excited for you to be able to take it all in!

  9. Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday! I am reading this post while on a plane to SF, and staring HARD out the window so that the guy sitting next to me doesn’t see my tears. 42 has been such a struggle for me, and as I’m on the downhill slide to 43…your words are helping ME to soften. Thank you for being amazing, and for sharing.

  10. Tanis
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    THIS IS JOY! Happy Birthday. Wishing you a powerful year ahead.

  11. Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    So glad to hear you are taking advantage of the benefits of speaking love out loud and lingering embraces . . . happy birthday, indeed!

  12. Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday … I am so glad to be in a world that you are also in!

  13. Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Even in the midst of a day that is should be about celebrating you, you offer such wise advise. I am going to remember all that you have said about joy!

  14. Lillie
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Happiest birthday to you, sweet Andrea! Cheers to a beautiful new year unfolding before you. Your words here brought extra joy to my day. Hugs!! xxoo

  15. Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I love this. I love you. Happy birthday. May your continually soften into your soul’s love embrace. xo

  16. SarahWT
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday, dear Andrea!! :)

  17. Posted November 13, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    This IS joy. And loveliness. Happy birthday xo

  18. Posted November 13, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m so deeply happy to read this.
    x

  19. Posted November 13, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday, sweet friend.

    K.

  20. Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Reading this post has given me more joy. Thank you so much for this, Andrea. I’m sooooooo glad you are feeling more joy and more openness and more calm and more of everything. Yay for you.

    I’m coming up on 48 in a month, and I’m hoping to be able to report on similar openings happening within me. Thanks for the inspiration – again, as always you move me to deeper places.

  21. Shelly Haxton
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Sweet Andrea, So many things come to mind. I relate on almost every level. I remember after my second child was born I read a article about depression and how the mother was annoyed by someone explaining the beauty of a flower. She was POST..All Of It…and the idea of enjoying a flower, seemed like even too much energy. I simply related to that women. Flower or shower? Or back to bed. Let alone, nurse, park, books, inspire, nourish, cook the food groups, love them to my fullest.

    Last week also at 42 I decided to focus on fitness. Decided my big belly should be my first goal. Even trying to focus on exercise means I’m on the flower side of my life. 24 hours later, my 17 year old son got sick. Waiting 3 hours in the emergency room the only soft spot for his 17 year old head was my tummy. MY TUMMY. Where it all began, the place I decided to make smaller. Became our soft spot, our only pillow, amongst a see of strangers & no comfort. I was never in my life more grateful for the tummy that brought me All Of It ( my entire flower or shower life ) & agree at 42 …. we should simply be allowed to embrace all that’s ours however we need to.

    I almost always try and find time to read everything you write. Not just as my childhood friend but as a voice I enjoy reading & know that you’ll always be honest… a true gift. This one inspired me to share…. must be 42.

    So this is the first Happy Birthday Card I’ve written in a long time. Happy Birthday and thanks for the great blogs.

    Love, Shell

  22. Posted November 14, 2013 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    While I was reading this I put my hand in my heart and said “this is joy”. Happy birthday my sweet brave forever friend. Xx

  23. Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    Happy 42, Andrea! You are a beautiful and inspiring being. I celebrate your joy and gratitude with you. Thank you for your raw honesty and openness. I look forward to meeting you in person someday…

  24. Alisha
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    This is so beautiful. Thank you so much for your honesty. I really enjoyed taking one of your classes, and icontinue to enjoy reading your posts. It is so empowering to know that others struggles on this journey of motherhood, love ans life. Hugs, alisha

  25. Ewa
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Andrea, this is joy to read you. Thank you! Have joyful life!

  26. Julie
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Happiest of birthdays to you! You are a gift in my life & this world! Kep shining on!

  27. Julie
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    * keep Ha!! ;)

  28. Christina
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Congratulations! I have been following your blog for such a long time that I tend to compare your progression to mine – and I am always amazed how true you are to your current knowledge of yourself and how aware you are about the shifts. I find you are truly a person of grace and integrity and thanks so much for sharing!

  29. Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    This is beautiful. SO happy for you!! Congratulations at having arrived at such a joyous, embodied place. Oh, and Happy Belated Birthday!! <3

  30. Jo Finney
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Very happy birthday! x

  31. Chris
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Love your work! This piece really speaks to me. Thanks so much. Birthday blessings to you….

  32. Posted November 14, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Amazing post–thanks for sharing! I love that nugget of “this is joy”–I’m definitely going to try that out.

  33. Posted November 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    So lovely! I hope the joy grows and grows.

  34. simone
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday!! I always look forward to your writing…thank you for sharing and wishing you more joy!

  35. Posted November 14, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Great writing is like music …there is a hum ….you can feel it as you read. In some cases you might just dance to it and that is what I did after reading this. I did a little dance – a jig – and smiled, looked to the sky and said, “Happy Birthday”. I thought about singing but I like you and wouldn’t ever hurt your ears like that. As I sing Happy Birthday here (it’s FAR safer for you to imagine the singing) I am handing you a sparkler – remember those? Take it, hold it, close your eyes and make a wish. Let it burn brightly all year – a reminder that you sparkle when you soften.

    (She clears her throat, opens her arms wide,closes her eyes and begins)
    Happy Birthday to you
    Happy Birthday to you
    Happy Birthday dear softly sparkling Andrea
    Happy Birthday to YOUUUUUUU! (yes always drag that last line out)
    And many morrrrrreeeeeee!

    Enjoy it! (she exclaims as she cartwheels out of sight)

  36. Elisa
    Posted November 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your honest blog. I’m so tired of everyone else’s sanitized self-promotion. Your posts make me feel inspired, not deficient.

  37. Posted November 18, 2013 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Happy happiest birthday ever!! :-)

  38. Lara
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    this is beautiful! Here’s to embracing the joy! Xoxox

  39. Posted December 12, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    In my group of Sisters, we know 42 to be the year of wisdom. You’re the wise woman now. Sounds like you’re the wise woman full of love now. = )

  40. Posted December 12, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Celebrating you today! And the new You that has unfolded this year! Hurray! xo

  41. Deborah
    Posted December 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday, Andrea!

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