One year and one month ago, I hit the big 4-0, started a blog, graduate school, and reinvested in my career. I made the bold declaration I was a new woman with a renewed sense of self, purpose, and motivation. For the most part, the declaration held true: I’m more in charge of my direction than I’ve ever been.
I also set out to finally become the organized machine I’ve always wanted to be (FAIL) and to run like the wind until my pant size and blood pressure dropped (BIGGER FAIL). It’s safe to say I still have some work to do in the areas of order and fitness.
Despite my renewed approach towards life, I also dreaded the actual number of the age I turned. FORTY. When I was a kid, 40 seemed so incredibly far away that I’d never, ever reach it. My parents, who were far younger than any of my friends’, still seemed so OLD, and I couldn’t imagine having any more responsibility besides remembering to check in periodically while playing outside with friends. Given my lifelong affliction with forgetfulness, you can guess I was late for check-in more than a few times.
Out of all the things I resolved to do better at 40, there was one I kept a little more private, mainly for fear of people calling me out every time I fail. These people I live with may not be able to see their dirty clothes on the floor as they step over them, but they can spot a double standard from a mile away. They’d be the first ones to shoot me “the look” dare I err, and boy, do I err at this a lot.
MY WORDS. My words need improvement. The words I speak. The words I tell myself. The words I tell the ones I love. The words I allow to shape my thoughts, my responses, my words.
Words are hard. They’re reflexive and habitual. They wake every day anticipating the same course of action. They are hard to break, hard to stop, hard to take back once they’re loose. They are the hardest change I have to make, but the change that reaps the most benefits. And those benefits aren’t just for me.
I still remember words from my adolescence, words that shaped me, told me what I should be, and more boldly, what I would be. Adults, when given the chance, assert absolute knowledge over children through their words.
For instance, I was told I was the smart one, the good one, but I was uptight.
I was told I would do great things, but I needed a sense of humor.
I was told I had a “great shape” (that’s how a Grandma tells you you’re curvy), and I was told I had thick thighs (WHO thinks that’s a good thing to tell a 13-year-old girl?)
I was told God would use me in mighty ways, and I was told I was bossy. Hmm.
So here I am at forty-one. FORTY-ONE. And I still hear the words.
Words are residual.
My words need improvement. The words I speak. THE WORDS I TELL MYSELF. The words I tell the ones I love. The words I allow to shape my thoughts, my responses, my words.
When my children bicker or answer with sarcastic quips and comments, which, during these summer months, occur in greater frequency, I ask them to pause and think about if their response adds value to the conversation. And then I ask myself to do the same.
My words need improvement. And for me, I have to take it one day, one minute, one word at a time. I cringe AT LEAST once daily at the words that come out of my mouth, and I cringe even harder when I hear my children using my words.
Each birthday is a time to reevaluate progress from the prior year, and nothing holds you to commitments made like putting them in print for all to see. It was a big kick in my thick thighs to reread last year’s birthday resolutions and then compare to my running app, which is about 100 entries shy of where it should be. But words are so much harder than running. Birthdays are no longer about parties and presents. Sure, those things are nice, but the best gift I’ve ever given myself is accountability.