WHAT I LEARNED DURING MY YEAR OF BEING 40

I will be turning 41 in four days and have been reflecting back on the last year, noticing all of the changes and attempting to mentally compile a list of things I have learned. I feel like I’m coming up a bit short, but I am going to take an honest stab at this anyway.

THE NECK

I have a twin sister who is obviously the same age as I am, and we both agree, for whatever reason, it was as if the moment we turned 40, our necks changed. I’m trying to find a goddess way of saying that my neck turned “ugly” but I can’t come up with anything. I lump the words “fat” and “ugly” in the same lot and think that both of them should be removed from the human vocabulary. But here I am, using one of those forsaken words. Let’s see if I can spin this another way–a more goddess way. My neck is now showing signs of wisdom, and the once supple flesh so reflective of my immaturity has now transformed into a delicate representation of my experience as a woman who has survived, thrived, accomplished, learned, expanded, lost, gained, loved, and lived on this Earth for the last four decades.

Yeah, I think that sounds much better than, “my neck turned ugly.”

THE BODY

I am currently attempting to lose a bit of my quarantine weight, and it’s taking a REALLY LONG TIME. When I was younger, even just a year or so ago, I remember going through phases of putting on a few pounds and then pulling back and attempting to shed the few juicy bits that I had gained. And I could honestly spend about two weeks of mildly cutting back on sweets and other snacks, no exercising, and seeing results within probably the first week. Not so when you’re 40! I’ve been at it a month now, and I’m pulling back, not 100%, but in the way that I always have. I have drastically reduced my sugar intake (which usually always does the trick) and I have replaced salty and fatty snacks with fruit and other healthy nuts and stuff. And my body is still pretty much the same. At least the scale says so, although I do feel a bit less expansive. About a month ago, it kind of felt like my flesh was not equipped to contain the intense density lurking underneath. So, that bursting feeling has definitely subsided. But the tummy is still rounder than usual and the arms are still beefy and cellulite-y, after pretty much a full month of being a bit more disciplined.

I want to say a few things about this however, because I have mixed feelings about women and weight in general. I personally believe that the pressure for females (of any age) to maintain a certain weight (in order to be what? attractive? lovable? powerful? worthy of respect?) feels extremely oppressive and incorrect. I do believe this pressure stems from a fundamental misogyny within our culture and is yet another way to keep women from owning their power. Think about the incredibly abusive and literally suffocating concept of corsets–women were literally rendered breathless and could sometimes not even stand while wearing one. How can any woman exert any kind of power when she can barely breathe? And yet, this was something devised for women, with the double whammy mind-fuck that we are not only more appealing when we are powerless and weak, but we are also more desirable when we are emaciated. This obviously extends into our culture today in a very real way on a daily basis.

This is not natural. This is painful. This is unhealthy. This is not fair. Image obtained here.

The kooky thing about women and weight is that this pressure does not just come from men (and let me be clear that there are PLENTY of men who love juicy, fleshy, healthy, bumpy, lumpy, “imperfect” bodies, and they are fabulous), but much, if not most, of the pressure to be thin comes from other women. I don’t want to really get into it here, but let’s just say that this pressure is so deeply ingrained within us, that we often support our fellow females when they have obtained certain weight goals. Of course, healthy is always the ideal, no matter what weight. A woman who is struggling with obesity and has lost weight for health reasons should 100% be supported, rewarded, admired, respected, and encouraged. But the kind of weight loss that I’m talking about that is mostly superficial, is really a slippery slope, and it’s complicated to say the least. But for now, I will just say that once I turned 40, my body does not shed weight like it used to. And so, to add a goddess-like spin to this one, I’ll say that turning 40 has taught me to be patient with my deeply all-knowing temple of a figure. She knows what she is doing and she will take as long as she needs to take in order to realign in the healthiest way possible. My only job is to help her along and follow her lead, eating healthier food, moving my body in healthy ways, and abstaining from food that makes me sick. As an added bonus, not only is my insanely intelligent body taking care of herself on her own watch, but she is simultaneously teaching my soul the art of patience to boot. Thank you, 40-year old body! You never cease to astound me, and you continue to command my utter and devoted respect.

QIGONG AND MEDITATION

I have written recent posts about beginning my commitments to meditation and Qigong for the first time, after having never really established any kind of mindfulness practice up until now; and I have to say, they are true blessings and really take my body and my soul to the next level.

I think my lesson gained from these newfound commitments is the embracing of an okay-ness with gentleness. As my body ages, it seems to be less interested in taking on harsh energies and harsh activities, and much happier with gentle movements, gentle thoughts, and gentle experiences. There does seem to be a stigma with activity and youth, and that stigma may actually stem from reality. But oh well, I feel better when I’m moving slowly. I used to rush and get stressed out, running around and pushing myself harder than I really wanted to. Now, I take the extra time (even if that means waking up earlier than I normally would) to make sure my moments are not rushed, and it makes for a much more peaceful, 40-year-old existence.

Image obtained here.

CREATIVE CYCLES

After almost 40 years of creating (okay, let’s say 35 years, since I probably couldn’t successfully utilize crayons until about age 5), I think for the first time, I have a bit more clarity about my creative cycles. It actually just hit me a few weeks ago. I looked back on much of my creative work and realized that typically, during the fall and winter months, my creativity lays dormant (I mean duh, winter, dormancy, duh); and during the spring and summer months, I often experience my most creative explosions of energy. I used to go months and months and months feeling uninspired and completely guilty about not creating, longing for the days when I had those explosive sparks of inspiration that would literally keep me up at night until I put something down on paper. I would think I was a sham, calling myself an artist when I hadn’t created anything in months. And then inevitably, the flow would always return, and I would feel authentic once again. This year, I noticed it was like clock work. I began my Quarantine Series in March, followed by a burst of new creative energy related to my connection with nature and magic. I reached my creative peak in July (during this time I literally felt like my body could not keep up with all the ideas and projects I was inspired to create and there were just not enough hours in the day–I felt so alive and on fire with life!), culminating in my dear Fairy Project. And once I completed my “Okamelle Fairy Habitat,” it’s like the energy was gone. I tried to hold onto it, not yet understanding the cycle, and attempted to create a few pieces of crap here and there. And then I finally understood that it was okay to let go. I put away my work surface and accepted that I will most likely not be feeling much inspiration in the following months, and that this is okay. What a relief to finally understand and embrace this. I’m not sure what turning 40 has to do with this, but the timing feels related, and at the very least, perhaps contributes to my new level of understanding about and acceptance of myself.

Detail, Okamelle Fairy Habitat, Mixed media, 2020 © Libby Saylor

LOVE

During my year of being 40, I have learned (who am I kidding, I’m definitely still in the middle of learning) that the act and/or art of letting go in love is a necessity when it comes to intimate relationships. I don’t mean letting go like surrendering my body in ecstasy, although of course, that’s always useful. But I mean letting go, like, just drop it. Getting into an argument over something stupid is not worth the destruction within an intimate relationship. Of course, there are times when tough issues need to be discussed and dropping it is just not the right thing to do. But when it comes to little things (even if they feel like big things in the moment), it’s important to step out of the drama for a second and determine whether or not this or that needs to be said. Dropping it and letting things go in order to avoid an ugly conflict that leads nowhere, is something I’m learning to do and something that I’m convinced is the most loving and beneficial act within a relationship.

Growing up, I always needed to be heard, feel heard, and know that I was being understood. It was a dysfunctional setting and many of my emotional and physical needs were not often met. As a reaction, and in an attempt to survive, I just got loud. I got angry. I needed everyone to know that I was not okay and not happy. That was the best I could do for myself at that time, and there is no shame in any of that. But that kind of needless power doesn’t exactly fit into my relationship and can cause a lot of damage and hurt to my partner. It’s so ingrained in me that I often don’t even realize that it’s gone too far. But I’m realizing now, at age 40, that a new way of being–in love–is called for. I really have no idea where to begin, but maybe the answers are in the 4 and the 1?

Loving someone is also teaching me to be loved. I don’t always understand why I’m loved, but I know I am. I don’t think I need to know exactly why at all times. I don’t exactly know why I love the people I love. I just do. I just wanna hug ’em. And I just feel happy when they are near me and when they are in my life and when we are together. So, the street must go both ways. I must be that for those around me as well. I don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved. I just need to go easy on myself and trust that those loving people around me who like to keep me close have pretty good taste in people 🙂

Happy Birthday to me and my twinnie (one of those jeweled people mentioned in the above paragraph), celebrating 41 years of living on September 19th, 2020!

That’s me in the middle and my twinnie in the front 🙂

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The Goddess Attainable

I am from Reading, PA and I live, work, and create in the Philadelphia area. The Goddess Attainable is for goddeses like me, living each day as perfectly imperfect women in the real world. I hope this site inspires you as much as it inspires me!

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