Posted on March 19 2019
I recently turned the big 4-0 and, on the day, was continuously asked how I felt about turning 40. My answer to everyone was that I'd woken up that day feeling no different to the day before but with a definite sense of contentment. I didn't have any big plans for my big day apart from treating myself to a blow dry and meeting up with some people straight after school pick up for pizza and prosecco. That morning my husband, Dave, suggested that we go for lunch so we got a last minute booking at The Ivy in Brighton.
Actually, I've lied to you. I did have big plans to celebrate turning 40, but just not on the actual day itself. Dave turned 40 in December and last Summer we decided that instead of having big parties and buying each other significant presents, we'd take the boys to California for three weeks during their (incredibly early for some reason) Easter holidays. To say I'm excited is an understatement although it is hard for someone with OCD and a generalised anxiety disorder to tell the difference between anxiety and genuine excitement. LOL. (You've got to laugh about these things!)
With the above in mind, I thought I'd write a few words about contentment.
Wikipedia says that contentment "is a mental or emotional state of satisfaction maybe drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking contentment could be a state of having accepted one's situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness".
I wouldn't say that I'm completely at ease with my situation, body & mind, and am not sure that I ever will be, but I'm significantly closer to it than when I turned 30. I love living in Brighton and regularly feel overwhelming gratitude that I can call this place my home. In my mind, there is no cooler city than Glasgow but the unpredictable weather was really getting me down. Even on a crap weather day here, it still feels bright and the clouds don't seem quite so heavy as in the West coast of Scotland.
I've also finally opened up about my long-standing mental health trials and tribulations in the last year. That, along with, medication and weekly therapy sessions has definitely helped me feel lighter and more at ease with myself. My head used to tell me that I shouldn't do certain things or get rid of specific items that I may or may not have had for a long time because they were keeping me and my family safe. With the help mentioned above, I now know that this is not true and have successfully got rid of a lot of stuff that was weighing me down, physically and mentally. I still have my triggers, leaving the house to go on holiday is one of them, but I can now challenge all the negative automatic thoughts that pop into my head. It's really hard work but also empowering.
I've had a tab open on my laptop for ages. (Don't we all!) It's an article in The Telegraph about "Lagom" which is a Swedish word but a universally Nordic concept. It is derived from the phrase "laget om" which is literally "around the team" and means "not too much, not too little - just right", applies to everything in life, is a lifestyle and a habit of mind. It also applies to sustainability and respect for resources. I think this article is a great read (you can click on the link in this paragraph to read it yourself) and I love the Oscar Wilde quote the author ends on "Everything in moderation. Especially moderation."
Another concept I've recently discovered and have been reading about is "Wabi-sabi". This a Japanese philosophy which is centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection, an appreciation of things the way they are. In this article, Richard Powell (author of Wabi Sabi Simple) is quoted saying "wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect". There is also a lovely chapter about it in The Atlas of Happiness book written by Helen Russell. She asks a Japanese designer about wabi-sabi who says that in Japan "We respect things becoming older and well-used - from people to pottery."
I think this is great way of being and will certainly try to respect my 40 year old well-used self and appreciate all it's imperfections :-)
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