Inside: I’m turning 50! The past decade of my life has been full of sorrow, emotional and physical pain, joy, adventure, growth, and day upon day of ordinary beauty. It all came tangled up together. I’ve decided to embrace it all.
TW: suicide, grief, depression
The past decade has been a wild ride. As much as I remind myself not to jump ahead, to live fully present in what is, I feel excited about turning 50 and writing a new story for the next season of my life.
As is my tradition, I’ve written a birthday post to mark the milestone and share my new mantra. I choose a new mantra for my birthday each year and it inevitably anchors me and acts as a light for my path as I traverse what lies ahead.
If you care to celebrate my 50th birthday with me, and have a little extra to share (money, time, energy, creativity, or other resource), I invite you to sprinkle a bit of kindness into the world. While I’m never interested in birthday parties, and gifts are not my love-language, I LOVE the idea of celebrating with you – in community – this way.
It’s been a long, hard road to get here, to my 50th birthday, and I didn’t mange on my own.
It took lots of community care, the love of family and friends, patience and understanding from my clients and work community, and countless smiles, choices to be compassionate, and other small acts of kindness from strangers/people we encountered along the way.
One of the most important bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past decade? We need each other.
remembering my journey: COMING HOME TO MYSELF
My birthday posts may not be interesting to anyone else (though I enjoy peering into people’s lives, minds, and hearts so you may too) but they feel meaningful to me. They help me recap important lessons learned and to witness my strength and bravery as I walked through the mountains and valleys of my story. They also help me remember many of the small gifts I’ve collected along the way.
This post has felt like a fun exercise – like writing out my story arc to this point. Remembering my journey to this moment in time and space. Coming home to myself before turning my gaze toward what’s next. I pulled from old notebooks, dates written on the inside flap of books, files/paperwork, and amazon order history to piece this together but some dates are best-estimates.
The past decade of my life has been full of sorrow and pain, practicing strength and bravery, but joy, adventure, deep growth, and day upon day of ordinary beauty too. It all came tangled up together and I’ve decided to embrace it all. If I want to live fully, I see no way around this.
This does not mean it’s easy or comfortable or that I’d choose this all for myself but I’m learning to come face to face with reality, to accept the truth of what is, and ask myself, Now What? This feels far more empowering and hopeful than simply raging against life.
turning 50: a recap of the past 10 years
2011: I turn 40
Mantra: At this stage of the game I did not choose birthday mantras but the summer of my 40th birthday, in Drumheller, I met a group of vibrant 70-something friends gathered for their annual get-together. We spent time chatting together in the gardens of our Airbnb, and it was apparent to me that they had more life and energy in them than I did at about half their age. Their example sparked something in me – a hunger for a full, awakened life, let’s call it.
Family: My oldest leaves homeschooling to attend a local high-school; I continue homeschooling my girls.
Personal: I want to feel more vibrant and alive like the group of 70+ friends I met in Drumheller in the summer. Their example gives me the courage to say yes to my hip replacement (I wish I’d done this a year earlier) and to go back to school. I’m in severe pain and can barely walk with a cane. I ask for help in the form of 6 months of therapy for the first time. I want to feel whole apart from motherhood too and I realize I need something positive to focus on that’s just for me, to help me loosen my grip and let my children fly freely when it’s time.
What I’m Reading: My therapist recommends the book Loving What Is by Byron Katie and while I definitely don’t agree with all of her beliefs, it makes a significant, positive impact on me around the idea of surrender or accepting reality. I continue reading Dave Ramsey books and other books related to simple living and financial health (I’ve been doing plenty of this and financial visioning since about 2008-09).
ALIP: I decide to go back to school even though from an energetic and financial perspective this seems completely illogical but I have a loud and clear calling and I trust this and my husband supports me fully. Deep in my spirit I hear “change is coming; you need to get ready.” I don’t know what this means but suspect if I need a warning then it won’t all be easy.
2012: I turn 41
Mantra: Come aside and rest awhile.
Family: My dad is diagnosed with terminal cancer and his suffering is great. We already lost my mom to cancer in 2002 and I’m afraid of my family imploding.
Personal: I have a hip replacement, August 2012 – it is a difficult surgery and recovery. Lots of physio is needed. I’m in great emotional and physical pain. My dad sent me a letter about the strength and struggle he sees in me; this is a beautiful gift.
What I’m Reading: The Gifts of Imperfection, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Cottage by the Sea, loads of books related to natural living and health.
ALIP: I register to start a diploma in Natural Nutrition in January 2012 (and I take other courses along the way around mind-body health, mindfulness, etc.). There is a 6 mos period where I can’t study because my pain is so severe. In general, though, studying serves as a life-line for me and reminds me to take one small step and then another and to care for myself well. I start my first blog called Embracing Imperfection but it’s too much work in addition to studying, homeschooling, etc. so it’s short-lived.
2013: i turn 42
Mantra: I am enough.
Family: We value travel but raising kids hasn’t left much room for it. At some point in my early 40s we switch to a visa that offers airline points and begin to travel again. My husband and I leave the kids behind and visit Québec. This is where we met, when I was 23 and he was 33. We drive up the Gaspé Peninsula to meet my friend, Renée and her family, in person, for the first time. I notice clear signs of depression in my son who is in grade 12. I’m homeschooling my girls. My dad dies in November.
Personal: I’m not feeling well physically – I’m in a dark, weary place and something is up with my health. I return to my therapist for a while as I seek medical support. I’ve been vegan then vegetarian for about 20 years and it’s no longer working for me. I listen to my body and begin slowly adding in some animal products (homemade broth at first).
What I’m Reading: Daring Greatly, World War Z (because my son asked me to read it and discuss), Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Magical Journey, The Happiness Project, loads of health-related books.
ALIP: I continue studying. I broaden my learning beyond my diploma and deepen my knowledge (gobbling up as much as possible) around gut health, hormonal health, and autoimmunity and see my current symptoms reflected in what I’m learning. I question whether or not to return to university or trust that I am on the right path. I choose to keep building my business. I take a mini-course called 12 Entrepreneurial Laws of Joy and Ease by Cigdem Kobu (no longer offered) and this simple course speaks my language; it gives me courage and helps me believe in myself.
2014: i turn 43
Mantra: Live imperfectly with great delight.
Family: My older daughter leaves homeschooling to attend a local high-school. My son leaves to college. My youngest continues homeschooling.
Personal: I ask my doctor to test my antibodies and I am diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. It takes lots of trial and error to get stabilized and start feeling better. I adopt a more omnivorous diet to help get my iron up/improve my health and go off gluten, soy, dairy (and something else) for 18 months to test antibodies. I’m really rigid with my eating – everything is homemade from scratch.
What I’m Reading: The How of Happiness, Bird by Bird, loads of health-related books with a focus on gut health, autoimmunity, epigenetics.
ALIP: I continue studying.
2015: I TURN 44
Mantra: Just offer your small gifts.
Family: I’m still homeschooling my youngest (year 15), my son is in college, my older daughter in high-school. My son’s health is declining, I try to get him medical help, and we work together to address his health holistically.
Personal: We go to France and Italy (my son chooses not to come). I’m experiencing sometimes severe joint and muscle pain due to Hashi’s (testing/getting my Vit D levels up resolves this).
What I’m Reading: The Gifts of Imperfection, Essentialism, Crush It, The Four Hour work-week, business-related books, books around mindfulness and mind-body connection.
ALIP: I write my school exam, March 2015. I take a health and business coaching program through Dr. Josh Axe. I launch my business/website, late August 2015; I briefly debate between three biz names: encouragedandequipped.ca, wholeheartedlyhealthy.ca, and alifeinprogress.ca. I feel like I’m “stepping out upon the water” in a new way but my mission is clear and though I start my work with a focus on mind-body health and Holistic Nutrition, I know this is not my forever home. I take a course or two with Josh Gitalis, Clinical Nutritionist. I begin coaching and create and offer my first online course called Mind-Body-Reboot (I think I had 18 people join me). I begin to write and hit “publish” and oh, my, this scares me. I commit to publishing one post a week to practice showing up through fear.
2016: i turn 45
Mantra: Choose joy.
Family: My first year with no kids at home! Feels like a delicious taste of freedom. I’m supposed to be taking a Gap-Year for myself but rest doesn’t come easily to me.
Personal: I spend my birthday with my friend, Anno, in Montréal. Maybe my first friend-trip? I grieve hard leading up to my daughter leaving home. It feels like the end of an era though I still have one kiddo at home.
What I’m Reading: Big Magic, Let Your Life Speak, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Charge, The Upside of Stress. Lots of reading around stress-reduction, mental health, functional health, the mind-body connection, stuff from Dr. Aviva Romm.
ALIP: I teach my course again but rename it, Revitalized, and continue coaching.
2017: i turn 46
Mantra: Don’t try so hard, just enjoy yourself.
Family: Son’s final year of college, daughter leaves to university, youngest in grade seven at the local public school.
Personal: My older daughter and I take our first of hopefully many “girls trips” to San Francisco. I always wished I could have travelled with my mom. I buy myself a silver and blue tourmaline ring (that I still wear today) to remind me of my mantra. All year I feel something is off with my health and I go to the doctor for help twice. She sees nothing on my blood work and sends me home. But in the spring I crash and experience suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, it only takes a micro-adjustment of my thyroid medication to bring me back up and my doc promises to listen to me from here on out, if I tell her something is wrong. I have to learn to lower my standards (including in the kitchen) for my mental health.
What I’m Reading: Becoming Wise, The Misfit’s Manifesto, Being Boss, In the Company of Women, Chasing Slow.
ALIP: I finally start an email list in September. I’m coaching and create and teach a new course, Show up Afraid. My gut or spirit or inner wisdom tells me it’s time to pivot closer to the truth of my heart and vision for my work. This feels scary but I do it anyway. I want to start the Brave + Beautiful Community but it isn’t time yet. People have been seeking my support to help them launch and grow their small businesses in a sustainable way and I have fun with this new learning curve/adding this thread to my work. At the end of the year I have an interesting experience in which I see a big, gaping wound being stitched up and hear “this is no longer your story, you will write a new story.”
2018: i turn 47
Mantra: Listen to your life speak.
Family: Jairus is spiraling down fast and hard – we are in crisis. In the fall he tells me for the first time he is going to die. I hold space for him as he pours out rage, pain, longing, fear. He tells me his wishes for after he dies. In March he tries to hang himself for the first time and we bring him home. This time was a gift – not easy but a gift. We live what feels like a nightmare needing help, dealing with dysfunctional and sometimes uncompassionate medical and law enforcement systems. We get him into a good inpatient treatment program for youth and young adults but they let him out in three weeks against my warnings/will. We’re losing him and he wants me to let him go but I fight with everything I have to find help and hope for him.
Personal: Family trip to Jamaica. I feel angry a lot – I think something is “wrong” with me at first and then I realize that of course I’m angry; my son is suffering horribly and we are not finding help. I am allowed to feel angry!
What I’m Reading: Life Reimagined and I don’t remember what else. I don’t think I had much time or energy to read.
ALIP: I visit Nashville with a group of other bloggers in the simple living niche – this is lots of fun. I coach personal and business clients, offer Behind the Scenes Support for small business owners, and start a tiny Etsy shop. My priority is my son and family but I can’t stop working because we need my income to help care for him; I balance advocating for him with my own work, family, home, marriage, and my own health. Looking back, I have no idea how I survived this.
2019: i turn 48
Mantra: Say YES to life; dive-in heart-first.
Family: Family trip to Mexico – my son comes with us and I’m grateful for this time together even though it’s really hard. He is not well/he remains on suicide watch. He takes his final selfie on my phone. I hold on for dear life. My husband and I visit New Orleans for our 25th anniversary (two months before Jairus dies). It’s hard to leave home because our son isn’t well but we need to keep living. It would be easy to spiral and live mired in fear.
Four weeks after I begin my Brave + Beautiful membership, my husband and I are in a serious car accident caused by someone else, I think we are going to die and leave our children behind. We lose our vehicle which is almost paid off ($1500 left) throwing us into debt, and I have a concussion and injuries to attend to. Three weeks after that, our son succeeds in ending his life. 5+ years of suffering have drained him of hope. Friends and family gather to help us survive this – to plan a memorial (my friends Jenn and Lara do a beautiful job of bringing my vision to life), to clean out his apartment – to do the myriad tasks required when you lose an adult child. I have to remember how to breathe.
Two of my kids come out as bisexual: my son in the months before he dies, my youngest daughter in the months after. They know they are safe at home. After our son/brother dies, we take just three weeks off to mourn and then try to return to school and work. This is a survival decision. We move toward each other and love each other well. I am so proud of each of my kids, including my beautiful boy. Four months after Jairus dies, I take my girls on a girls trip to the UK and we meet my friend, Betsy, face to face for the first time. Covid arrives in Canada just after our return home.
Personal: Insurance won’t pay for my son’s funeral because he died by suicide but our local community and friends give generously to cover costs. After the car accident and my son’s death, I begin having severe panic attacks and flashbacks. I am diagnosed with PTSD and panic disorder. I ask for help from many sources, try many things, but the panic consumes my life – it lasts up to 8-10 hours/day with few days of reprieve. This lasts 17 months. Friends agree to be my walking partners to get me out into the wooded trails three times a week, rain, sun, or deep-freeze. Walking is one of the ways I fight for life.
What I’m Reading: Permission to Feel, lots of memoir around loss/death/overcoming trauma or easy novels on audio because my ability to read is impacted by a concussion and then grief.
ALIP: In partnership with my friend Betsy, beginning spring 2019, I write and publish four seasonal mindfulness journals one season at a time throughout the year. This creative project feels like “saying yes to life” and serves as a life-line as I walk my son home. The winter journal is published shortly after my son dies and I funnel all profits into an art scholarship in my son’s name. I recognize that it’s time for me to say yes to my membership and the Brave + Beautiful Community is born (I’d originally started in 2017 but my anxiety roared to life and I refunded everyone’s money). I’m also coaching and doing Behind the Scenes Business Support for clients but when my son dies, I let go of most of my work. Over the next year, I work about 5 hs/week. My friends Zina and Erica take over my FB page to keep things running for me when I cannot show up.
2020: i turn 49
Mantra: Tell the truth.
Family: Covid on top of grief, PTSD/panic (for me and my youngest daughter), and healing from the car accident is rough. At about the one-year mark after Jairus’ death, we adopt a sweet, clumsy, and wild kitty; she is named Box (as in Pandora’s Box). She brings heaps of joy, laughter, and healthy distraction to our home when we need it most. She’s officially my youngest’s “anxiety-pet” but we all fall in love. My son would have loved her too. We celebrate Jairus on his 25th birthday in May; I was 25 the first time I held him in my arms and this spring is hard.
Personal: I join a grief circle for moms of child loss and these monthly meetings are raw and painful and also a life-line; several people in our online communities introduce me and Kathy Escobar (we lost our sons to suicide 5 days apart from each other) and we walk this grief journey together. Year two of grief starts out even worse than year one which feels impossible but I’m grateful that I’ve been warned by parents ahead of me on this journey. I begin micro-dosing with psilocybin and within two days, after 17 months of severe panic, the panic stops all at once. It feels like being handed my life back.
EMDR helps me process trauma from the past few years and also name some childhood trauma. Just naming it brings freedom. As I near my 50th birthday, Jairus has been gone 20 months (it still feels surreal and I don’t want this to be my reality) and I am three months panic-free. Grief is incredibly hard work. I work hard to face my new reality instead of fighting it. There is so much beauty mixed into my life and it lives side-by-side with a sorrow and pain that I still cannot believed I have survived. That I am surviving.
What I’m Reading: Lunar Abundance, This is How it Always Is, Seven Fallen Feathers, The Creative Doer, My Grandmother’s Hands, The Conscious Enneagram.
ALIP: My work focus this year has been “deeper not wider.” I feel perpetually behind but I think I always have, from the launch of my business. This is real life. I work to strip away, simplify, reduce to allow for the expansiveness and room to breathe that I want and require in this season. Year 2 of my Brave + Beautiful Membership comes to a close and as much as I want to serve and love the women who gather here, these women have been an incredible gift to me in the worst season of my life. I’ve created a “red tent circle” of wise women.
I signed a book contract back in January but still have done little writing. Summer 2020 I hired a VA and I am so grateful for her support (I needed her at least a year earlier but didn’t have the energetic capacity to hire and train someone). Since the panic stopped, I’m able to work closer to 15 hours/week; I love coaching but can still only do a tiny fraction of what I could with ease before the car accident and losing Jairus. My drive and concentration are at an all-time low but I feel hopeful.
2021: i’M turning 50!
Mantra: Come home.
Family: We have a family trip booked to Nova Scotia and as Covid loosens it’s grip, it looks like we might be able to go. This will be a happy thing – building new memories together after a long and incredibly hard three+ years. Our oldest daughter graduates university and this is likely her final summer at home. Bittersweet as most endings and new beginnings are.
Personal: I’ve booked us an Airbnb in the mountains to celebrate my 50th birthday. I plan on celebrating a full birthday week.
What I’m Reading: TBD but starting with White Fragility, When Things Fall Apart, Fierce Self-Compassion. I’ve been more intentional the past two years about diversifying my reading list and recommit to this.
ALIP: My work priorities as I look ahead at the next year, are to serve my clients and BB community, finish my manuscript, and collaborate on a not-for-profit book about child loss with some of the women in my grief circle. I will likely need to push dates for my book contract but my publisher is compassionate and treats me as a person-first. I hope I can return to a consistent 20-25 hours of focused work each week. I witness the truth that I have the built the business I dreamed about many years ago, one faltering step at a time. As I handcrafted this imperfect business of mine, I unfurled and have been finding my way home to myself. My mantra for the year will guide me in my personal and creative life: Come Home.
MY THREE PRIMARY DREAMS: LOOKING FORWARD TO 50 and beyond
I’ve had three primary dreams in my life so far. The first, was to have a creative, connected family. The second, was to own my own small business. The third was to write and have my words published.
For much of my life, I didn’t find living easy and I am proud of myself for how I advocated for myself, dove into learning, and didn’t quit. I said yes to deep, soul-stretching growth and healing and to becoming my full and most honest self. And somehow, here I am, still standing, thriving even in the midst of the messiness of life, turning 50, and my primary dreams have all come true (they’re yet in progress but they’ve nonetheless also come to fruition).
The beauty, the wisdom, the incredible gifts of my life (first and foremost I’m thinking of my beautiful inner circle of wise friends and my immediate and extended family) are all tangled up with deep pain, loss, compassion, and scars.
They came together.
They live side-by-side in my life.
We are on a three-year home-stretch as we close out a season of nesting and raising kiddos and transition into empty-nest. Our home will be paid off, my husband will quit teaching FT and sub instead so we have flexibility to travel more, and off-season, as per our life vision, and I hope to keep working PT until my mid-70’s in some capacity. I have built my business intentionally to be able to travel with me.
My husband is 10 years older than me and this influences my hunger to get out adventuring sooner rather than later. We’ve woven travel into our current life but we’d like the chance to explore one place for more time. To settle in a bit and go to the local markets and maybe even absorb the language.
Who knows how many more years I’ll get – my mom died at 53, my dad at 66, both to cancer. But then again, one of my grandpas lived to 90 and the other is in amazing health at 99. And as our car accident reminds us, you can be out for a drive on a wide and clear highway, heading to the Farmer’s market for a date with your sweetheart of 25 years, in perfect and gorgeous fall weather – and life can change in one heartbeat.
So, I decide, I may as well be about the business of living: wholeheartedly, awakened, with joy, and on purpose.
NOW WHAT? If you feel ready to Come Home to Yourself (or curious), I’d love for you to consider joining me inside the Brave + Beautiful Community in September. Registration will open in August and those on my email list will be first to hear when space opens up. Or, if you haven’t done so yet, sign up for The HOPE Map, my mostly weekly letter to you (+ access to the ALIP Resource Library).
birthday posts FROM PAST YEARS
2020 Mantra: Tell the Truth
2019 Mantra: Say yes to life: Dive in heart-first
2018 Mantra: Listen to Your Life Speak
2017 Mantra: Don’t try so hard; Just enjoy yourself
2016 Mantra: Choose Joy