Next to marrying my husband, turning 40 was the best thing I ever did. Unlike many women I know, I am not shy to share that eight months ago I arrived at what I consider a huge milestone in my life.
Maybe I cherish this age because I wasn’t always sure I would get this far in life. You see by the time I was 16 I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease and informed I could not live without medication, which I proceeded to eliminate from my life by the time I was 22, just after narrowly escaping death in a serious car accident. I didn’t escape injury (I suffered a head injury, spinal cord injury, partial paralysis that was less than a millimeter of nerve damage away from being paraplegia and more). But I lived. That seemed to be a shock to everyone who witnessed the accident and the paramedics that attended to me as well. It was a shock to me too. But this is not the story of illness and injury.
Mine is a story of triumph. While I’d love to say it is a story of grace under pressure, it was more like triumph with a whole lot of kicking and screaming madness along the way. What I wanted more than anything else was to be normal: not bedridden when I was 19 and not suffering endless and excruciating pain at 21. Those things that most people wanted out of—school and work—I desperately sought.
I realized that if I wanted normalcy in the form of an education or job I would have to find abnormal routes to it. I found no relief from either pain or illness through the Western medical route so I sought health through the traditional medicines of indigenous people, through Eastern methods, and discovering a closer connection with the land and Nature. I loved these approaches and, more than that, I loved the results. Somewhere along the search for self-healing I discovered a passion for natural medicine.
I wish I could tell you that I cured the genetic disease and never suffer a single pain in my body, but that isn’t the case. What I can tell you is that countless medical doctors told me I shouldn’t be alive. I can tell you that I have recovered almost all of the function that was previously lost to partial paralysis. I can also share that I have only a fraction of the pain I once had thanks to natural medicine.
I can also tell you that I love being 40. I laughingly tell people that I love how much better it feels to have health that IMPROVES with age, instead of the other way around. But the health improvements I have are not the only reason I love midlife. I love having so much more confidence than I did when I was in my twenties and even thirties. I feel stronger, wiser, and more confident of who I am. I love not caring so much whether people like me. I love not having the worst problem in my life being whether my body measures up to some ridiculous number, measurement or standard.
I love having arrived at many of the career aspirations I had since childhood. Suddenly I awoke one day after years of effort to the realization that all those things I wanted to do I’m actually doing.
Along my journey, I saw an interview on television of a man who was also injured in a car accident. He said something like: “before the accident I could do 10,000 things. Now I can do 3,000 things. I could waste my time worrying about the 7,000 things I can’t do or I can really enjoy the 3,000 things I still can do.” That was an “a-ha” moment for me.
I still can’t do some of the physical activities I once could but I can prepare a delicious meal and savor every bite knowing it has tremendous healing properties for my body.
I can sit at my computer, tell stories or share knowledge that I acquired along the path to my four decades. I receive feedback on a regular basis that the snippets I share have helped someone somewhere along his or her journey through life. And that means the world to me.
I can go for walks with the love of my life, who I know didn’t choose me as his life partner for a “hot bod” I may never possess or some equally shallow reason but who stood by me, and sometimes carried me, through the most difficult times in my life because I seemed to have the combination of personality traits that he loved and that he wanted to be with me.
And I can appreciate the miracle of life, of learning and of just being. When I discover some new information about the healing power of a plant or a food and I experience the symptom relief or deeper healing it shares, I can truly appreciate the miracle of the Universe that has just been imparted with me. And I can stand in awe at the miracles, small or large that I am witness to, or a part of, every day. And I know that I am only 40 so I likely have many more years left to enjoy all these things that make my heart sing and many more.