I haven’t always been in this place. It’s taken me a long time to cultivate a fearless attitude towards life. It started when I was 38 years old. At the time, I was not at all sure what was happening with my body. I certainly felt weak and very frumpy, and I seriously believed this is simply what happens after several pregnancies. Even when all my usual exercise routines failed to make an impact, I felt like this is just what happens when you approach your middle age years. It was not until my body started to hurt and become dysfunctional that I thought something might actually be medically wrong. That is actually how The Tummy Team began. You can watch me tell my story here.
What I failed to understand at the time was how much my physical limitations had affected my entire life. Because I felt broken and weak, I began to limit myself in ways that were far beyond the physical. When I turned 40 (seriously the *day* I turned 40!) I lost my youthful eyesight. I was trying to read a map and I could not make out the words. I had to adjust the angle, fix the light and squint and I stopped dead in my tracks and said, “Seriously, I just turned 40 and I need glasses?!” In the same moment, I remembered a quirky little quote my dad always says:
“If you did not know how old you were, how old would you be?”
Forty is not old! Yet, I did not know how to define this season of my life. I was finally starting to feel physically strong again and that woke up a part of me that had been stuck. But I had created a habit of acting old because I felt broken by my physical limitations. I started to dig deeper into my heart and realized how many times I was saying “no” to things because of fear. FEAR! I could clearly identify this sense of joylessness sprinkled with a series of regrets. Things in my heart that said, “I wish I had just done that… I wish I had not cared about what that person thought… I wish I could try that again.” Even though 40 is not old, it is old enough to stop thinking you will get a bunch of second chances to do things. It is old enough to stop worrying about what other people think. And it is old enough to make the decision to embrace the life I have.
“It is so easy to get caught up in the things we are supposed to do that we forget what we love to do.”
I started making a mental list of things I used to love that I just don’t do anymore. At first, it was hard. I even realized that some of the things I started doing in the name of “fun” I really didn’t enjoy at all! It has been a system of trial and error, and self-discovery. For instance, I started running in my 30’s. It was the most convenient form of fitness at the time and I was desperate to feel fit again. I even motivated a group of my non-runner girlfriends to get together and train for a half marathon. And we did it! We all ran that race (well, “run” may be a loose term). But the truth is, I hate running! I like to be able to run. I like to have the strength to run. I like to say “I just went for a run.” But it turns out, I do not actually like to run at all. I don’t have a runners body and my body does not respond well to high impact land sports (I am a swimmer).
Once I healed my core, something inside me just clicked. There was a dramatic change from feeling broken, weak and disconnected to feeling tall, connected, strong, and long, lean and lifted. I could clearly see how much of myself had been lost in that season of brokenness and, honestly, it was too much for too long. That is not who I am. That broken, collapsed, withdrawn and self-conscious woman is absolutely not who God intended me to be. After healing my core, I could clearly see that I had wasted too much time in that place. So I embraced this revelation of fearlessness and vowed not to waste it.
When I started that journey of trial and error, it went something like this:
- “I like to scrapbook!” Nope. Really I just like having my pictures where I can look at them.
- “I like to be outside!” Apparently, I like to be near or in water and I like to have time alone in my own brain.
- “I like to cook!” But my kids apparently don’t like to eat good food so then I started to hate to cook. So I decided to not waste my cooking on those ungrateful kids (I still feed them, don’t worry). Instead, we have people over at least once a week so I can do the thing I love.
- “I want to go for a run.” No. I don’t. Not even a little.
- “I like music.” I realized I had stopped listening to music because an ex-boyfriend used to make fun of the music I liked. Plus, I had several years of just trying to get kids to sleep and keep them asleep and the extra noise in the house seemed counterproductive.
When you turn 40, you realize life is too short to continue doing stuff you hate. There are so many options out there! Be creative and search for the things you love. Your gift to the world around you is to be you in your most authentic form. There is only one you. You are unique and you are a gift. So just be YOU!
“Find the things that make you come alive and then do those things as much as you can.”
But being you is not as easy as it sounds. There is a ton of pressure to be everyone else. Plus, when you have buried who you are for a long time, you may need to do a lot of searching to find yourself again. Remember, this is a journey of trial and error, and self-discovery. But this is also a journey that requires an intentional acceptance to face your fears. You may be surprised at how scary it can be to try something with the potential of failure. Fear has dominated so many of my life’s choices. Fear of failing, fear of looking like an idiot, fear of being misunderstood, fear of succeeding, fear of shining, fear of being judged, fear of who knows what! There are many reasons that have kept me from even trying. Now that I know what it feels like to embrace what makes me feel alive, every time I encounter fear, I see it as a challenge.
When I was in high school and college, I swam competitively. It had once been a 30 hour/week investment of time and I had stopped swimming for 18 years! I tried to swim on and off throughout the years but it was easy to get frustrated when I could no longer swim at the level I once had. But about 3 years ago, my youngest daughter started full-time school and I decided, despite my fear, to join a Master’s Swim Team. I had no intentions of ever racing again in a swim meet; I just wanted to get back in the water.
Returning to swimming was an emotional, physical and spiritual battle. I had to remember what I loved about the sport without comparing my 40-year-old self to my 20-year-old self. I had to not get my value or my identity from how fast I could swim. I had to recreate my relationship with the pool. It was hard. But it was worth it. There is something very therapeutic about swimming for me. I gradually see myself being able to do things I have not been able to do for years. There is a special camaraderie with other swimmers on our team. Swimmers, by the way, are a unique breed of people. Most people don’t really get it and that is okay. Plus the biggest bonus is I can swim for the rest of my life! I love that!
And guess what? I actually have competed in a few swim meets and, to my surprise, qualified and competed at Nationals in 2014! The most amazing part of that experience was seeing women (and men) in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that were still swimming (and some were ridiculously fast). What other sport can you really, really do when you are 80? Swimmers may be crazy but it is a crazy I can relate to.
Swimming has shown me that I don’t have to be what I once was, or what someone else is, to be who I am supposed to be right now. There is a tricky comparison game that we all fall into. We can be trapped and defeated when we try to compare ourselves to someone else’s story. Run your own race! Be you! But I have learned that the comparison game can be a trap even when all you are comparing to is you. You know what I am talking about. Your “pre-baby” you. Your “pre-job-and-marriage” you. Your “10-or-20-year-younger” you. All of our life experience has value (even the really bad stuff), don’t try to ignore it or wipe it clean to try to turn back the time and be someone you once were. That is a losing battle and it simply wastes a lot of energy and time. Start today and be your best self right now. Set goals, but don’t let the goals steal from the journey.
“Fearlessness is not a destination; it is a journey.”
So, over the past 4 years (I am about to turn 44), I have looked for opportunities to respond to the small whispers in my heart. The ones I used to snuff out with thoughts like: “I don’t have time for that,” “that is silly,” and even “NO WAY!” The stronger my reaction, the more seriously I am taking the whisper to face these fears.
- I had a disco ball dance party with my girlfriends on my 43rd birthday (I am fine if people don’t want to dance to disco but I do).
- I swam across the lake we were house boating this summer before the family woke up.
- I went zip lining with my bestie and tackled my fear of heights.
- I did a 3 story rope course tied to a flimsy harness while my kids watched (I was terrified but did it anyway).
- I learned to shoot a handgun and actually asked for a membership to an indoor shooting range for Christmas this year.
- I saw a deep underwater cave in the redwood forest and decided to train myself to hold my breath and swim through it and under a boulder to the other side (swimmers are quite scared of drowning).
When I was younger, I was told (directly and indirectly) that when I shine it makes other people feel bad about themselves. I was told to be less, to hide my talents, to hide my passion…it was too much. I see that now for the lie it was. When I see someone shine, it makes me want to shine too. That is how I am choosing to live my life now. I want my courage to help others shine too. We all have witnesses to our life (our kids, our friends, our family and more), I want them to live fearlessly and shine because they have seen what that looks like and they are not afraid to reach for it. With every challenge I confront, I have reclaimed a part of my true self. I feel more free and alive. I want everyone to feel this way. I want everyone to embrace their true self.
I know that for me, this all started when I healed my core. It continued when I decided I wanted to help others heal. Every aspect of starting The Tummy Team was me facing my fears and moving forward. How I choose to live my life today started with The Tummy Team. This has always been more than a job for me. Fearless is the song I want my life to sing. And I want to sing it well.