This week I turned 40 and I don’t feel it (whatever 40 is supposed to feel like) – in fact sometimes I still feel very much like a child!
Take last night for example. After a couple of days away in London I was feeling totally wiped out. I moved back to Kent from London in the summer and I love being home but I’ve lost my immunity to the city and commuting (even though I only do it once a week) really stresses me out.
London is a wonderful city – it’s vibrant and exciting and I’ve had many great years living there, but travelling to and from it in commuter time is quite frankly horrendous – the volume of people, the noise, the underlying anger in the air, the pollution, the traffic, the sneezing, no one smiling, no one making eye contact – the zombified masses staring at their phones.
I was carrying a lot of stuff and I got barged out of the way, glared at and tutted at, and after all that I missed my train home (by 10 seconds). Every inch of my body felt full of stress and when I eventually got on the next train and sat down to take a few deep breaths and re-balance my mind, the woman next to me was screaming down her phone having a blazing row. I moved. The next woman had dance music blaring out of her headphones. I moved again. The next was Face Timing her boyfriend. I moved a third time and sat next to an old lady. She was smiling and not on a phone and we actually exchanged a few pleasantries when I sat down and apologised for all the stuff I had.
When I got off the train my dad was waiting to pick me up and when I saw him I burst into tears. I may be 40 but as he always tells me, “I will always be his little girl” and in that moment I didn’t feel like a grown woman at all. I just had a good old cry on my dad – relieved to be home.
When I got home, I went and lay down on my bed and cuddled my childhood teddy. I’ve had her since I was born and she brings me comfort when I’m feeling overwhelmed. What I needed was a good nights sleep – like a child I’m cranky and prone to tears when I don’t get enough sleep – so I went to bed at 8pm.
Waking up the next morning I felt a lot better, but the thought did occur to me that I really should be a little more grown up than that now I’m 40, which then got me thinking about my inner child and how much more joy I have in my life when I actually just embrace it rather than being all Murtaugh about it and saying “I’m “too old for this *#%$”.
One of the things I love about being an aunty is that spending time with my nephew has reminded me of all the things I loved when I was little. I’ve rediscovered my love of crafts and painting and drawing – no masterpieces, just rainbows, caterpillars, letters and lots of glue and glitter!
Last weekend we went down to the canal in Hythe and played Poohsticks on the bridge. We then went to the park where I went on the swings and roundabout with him. Being on the swing made me feel free and light and I really enjoyed it, but had I not been with a toddler there’s no way I’d have gone and sat on a swing for fear people would think I was weird! We then went down to the beach and ran away from the waves – I misjudged one and got soaked (much to his delight).
There’s so much potential for stress in adult life that these moments of not having a care in the world and being present like a child fill me with happiness.
It reminds me of that episode of Friends where Phoebe and Rachel go running and Phoebe runs flapping her arms about like an excited little kid and Rachel is embarrassed.
It also got me thinking about one of the most powerful things anyone has ever said to me during my journey with mindfulness and in trying to find some love and compassion for myself. They said: “when you are about to be unkind to yourself, abuse yourself or say horrible things to yourself in your head, imagine yourself as a little child. Would you starve a child, force feed them junk food, berate and punish them for not being perfect or for falling down? Would you say any of the things you say to yourself in your head to a child?” I was horrified, “of course not” and it actually made me quite emotional to think about it.
I love my little nephew and would never want any harm to come to him. I show him love and compassion and kindness, but why was I not capable of giving that to myself? Visualising myself as I was as a child has really helped me in these moments.
Practising mindfulness doesn’t mean I no longer get stressed or overwhelmed or cry like I did yesterday, but it does mean I’m able to have some compassion for myself these days, to know that it’s ok and that all I need is to rest and be kind to myself.
It’s the weekend so I’m going to try and embrace my inner child – eat cake without thinking about calories and whether I have chocolate round my mouth; run for the sheer joy of it not to to cover a certain distance or get a certain time; laugh or cry whenever the emotion takes me without worrying what other people will think, and say what I really think and feel. Maybe I won’t stand up on a chair in the middle of the cafe and announce that “I need a pee pee” but hey, why not?