Finding Direction and Turning 40

After my harassment last year, when Hubby turned 40, I deserve a hellish birthday. I’ve earned it. You know, one of the highest hitting keyword phrases on my blog for awhile was “Mean things to say to people turning 40.”

That cracked me up. Hubby was not amused. LOL.

Well, now it’s my turn to get older, to pass into that next decade. And I can say that turning 40 isn’t the drama I’d expected. I do hope that my 40’s are spent a little less hell-bent on proving myself to me. I think that job is mostly done. It won’t be spent proving myself to others — I’m too old for that foolishness and time is too valuable.

I do have difficulty with finding the right direction sometimes… and this last week has been really hard on me in that area — especially after all the dust settled from the previous three weeks of personal/family trials and tribulations.

But things have settled down… and I think I’m starting to get a grip on what’s next. My sister says I have a genetic disposition toward having “issues” with the new year. I can laugh when she says this because she has them too. She says I set my barre too high and that I’ll never be satisfied with what I have accomplished. She tells me to look back at what I have done and compare my now to my personal best instead of my ideal.

My friends (both professional and personal) tell me the same thing. They understand my frustrations — apparently there is an epidemic of them this new year — but they say I need to relax.

My husband urges me to attain patience. He says it’s the one thing about me that makes him nuts — I’m not willing to wait for things. He says once I decide to do something, that I always feel it should already be done. I know he’s right. Once I can visualize it, it’s like THAT was the deadline for it’s completion. I don’t know why. I’m impatient. I always have been. And, I’d achieve patience now if I could — if I didn’t have to wait for it. :O)

Maybe that’s something that I need to work on in 2006. Maybe — but can one “work” on becoming less uptight and more patient? I dunno.

I talked with a client earlier this week that was ready to throw in the towel on a huge new project because there were roadblocks at every turn. She was frustrated and tired and was wondering if the universe was sending her some cosmic signal that she was on the wrong path. It was easy for ME to see that was not the case — because I was on the outside looking in — and because I’ve had the same struggles she has now. I could see it and could talk with her about it.

My own struggles of late, are more difficult… or so I thought. I had an appointment with a client today and we started with the usual niceties… how’s it going, what’s on the schedule for the new year, where do you want to be by the end of the year, etc.

This is one of my most driven and hard to “corral” clients. He’s a big picture guy — and he has varied interests and is good at anything he undertakes. He’s brilliant and motivated and successful and he knows that if what he’s doing isn’t working he can push through it.

He can MAKE it work through sheer stubbornness and will. (This is a belief he and I share which obviously frustrates those around us — and often causes us to frustrate ourselves.)

He and I went “off the clock” and never quite went back on — we talked about business, goals, directions and the tribulations of being someone who WAS terribly self driven. And he gave me some of the best advice I’ve had in ages. He told me…Make a list of ten things, JUST ten and get them done this year.

I’d hit serious “overwhelm” with trying to figure out how I wanted to approach my new projects this year. The canvas of my life right now seems so open and bright, blindingly white right now as the new year begins. It seems that nothing is impossible — and there is a full palette of color to be spread on the canvas. And that fact left me hobbled. There is so much I want to do. Way more than I’ll ever be able to accomplish in a lifetime, much less in a year.

This client said “Quit concentrating on the big picture and just narrow down 10 things for this one year.”

It was like a lightening bolt of brilliance.

I can advise clients all day long, I can see through their “overwhelm” and help them take the next step. I can counsel and listen… but I have fits doing that for myself. I’d HATE me as a client. I’d fire me, if I were my own client. Sad, isn’t it?

But his one statement run as true and clear as a crystal bell. That statement was followed by several others, including his urging to consider speaking engagements this year (he said one per month, but I think a couple this first year is plenty).

I’ve considered speaking several times, and have given a few presentations in the last few years and enjoyed them. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have caught me in front of a group of people by choice. It would have been one of my worst nightmares. Now, it’s fun. Ten years does wonders for a person’s confidence as does running a business. Things change.

I was upset that this year, 2006, was supposed to be the year that I traveled. This was my “Bambi and a Jeep” year. And that has changed. Hubby confided that he wasn’t ready for that. The cabin didn’t get finished in 2005 as we had hoped. Derrick moved home. My business is speeding up, rather than calming down.

The stars didn’t align properly.

Things didn’t stay on schedule. The unexpected happened. There were snags. And I think that was a huge part of my horrid mood and sense of being completely overwhelmed. Making big decisions, like what to do with a year of my life, is tough for me. And January always brings these to me. I do a little “warm up” stress-out in the fall and then go into overtime in January. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it — it’s just me. It’s what I do.

I listened to this client and, once I hung up, I took the two things that resonated from the conversation — “Pick 10 things” and “You should be speaking” and I pondered them. And things started making sense.

I have a wonderful husband who would support my decisions. He would not try to make me feel guilty if I took a few business trips this year. I’d already told him I wanted to do one, possibly two conferences this year and he’d said “Great!” He doesn’t have a crisis whenever I have commitments. He handles the crisis. I’m lucky that way.

I have an 8-year-old daughter. But, I also have an extremely responsible 15-year-old son that’s willing to help out. So, I’d not have to move heaven and earth to be sure that there was someone here to care for Alex for a few hours each day before Hubby gets home, if I needed to be gone a couple days. I’d not thought about that.

I like being mobile — I like traveling. Having a few trips this year to meet face to face with clients and professional peers would be a welcome bonus for someone who spends most of her time in a home-based office. And, doing it solo means I wouldn’t have to worry about what Hubby was doing — whether he was bored out of his mind in a hotel room (or the Bambi) or wishing he was somewhere else while I’m at a conference or an event.

And I wonder why I didn’t “get” this before. Who knows. It’s not black and white. So I don’t get to “go mobile” full-time this year. Maybe I can get the lion’s share of the benefits and the joy from being mobile while not enduring all the associated difficulties of doing it full-time. Maybe I can enjoy it more this way and determine if it’s something I’d like to pursue with more vigor later, after Derrick has gone off to college in a couple years. Or maybe, even after Alex leaves home.

Maybe, just maybe… this is actually the perfect compromise. Maybe this is what I should have been planning for this year all along. There it was staring right at me. Patiently (there’s that word again) waiting for me to recognize it.

You know, sometimes following the glory of the “Ah-HA!” moment, there is an instant of “wow, that was stupid, I shoulda seen that ages ago.” That’s what I’ve enjoyed today.

With all that said, I’m going now to determine my 10 things for the upcoming year — or to at least start on that list — so that I can fully enjoy tomorrow and turn 40 gracefully.