It’s my 40th birthday today. Entering a new decade of my life feels like a big deal, and while I feel exactly the same as I did yesterday, there’s something bubbling in me — the no more rules I mentioned last week. Forty sounds really thoroughly grown-up and I like it.
Rather than compiling a list of things to do before I turn 41, I spent a leisurely few hours this afternoon putting together 40 lessons I’ve sussed out in the last 40 years. Sidenote: I only wanted to do things I love today, and blogging was definitely on the list. Still so grateful to have this space to play in. Happy Nutella Day!
40 LESSONS FROM 40 YEARS
1. Your relationship with your self is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. It forms the basis for every other relationship in your life, making you the mother, sister, partner and friend that you are.
2. On that note, there is nothing wrong with being ‘self-centered’. I’m a firm believer in putting your oxygen mask on first. If you can’t breathe you’re no use to anyone else. That doesn’t mean ignore everybody else — just don’t ignore you.
3. Only shop in shops with flattering lights in their fitting rooms. Life is too short to look like shit when shopping for a new bra.
4. Find the type of words you like to read. Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction, self-help, instruction manuals or comics — just find the pages you can’t wait to turn.
5. Anything anyone says about you or does to you is about them not you 99% of the time.
6. Invest some cash in a really fabulous handbag (men: find a really cool wallet) so no matter what you wear, you always looked pulled together. Ditto a good pair of boots.
7. Speaking of wallets, I bought a Fendi wallet 10 years ago. I’ve used it every day since and it still looks new = best £150 I’ve ever spent.
8. Take photographs every single day. Snap the things that catch your eye, the faces you love and the moments you want to remember. Records the bits of your day that you might forget — in years to come you’ll love this glimpse into your routine.
9. Play with digital and film. iPhones and Hasselblads. Canon and Nikon. Try everything to decide which translates your eye best. Learn a few rules so you know how to break them.
10. Always ALWAYS buy free-range eggs. Preferably organic if you can.
11. Figure yourself out. Investigate the Enneagram. Do the Myers-Briggs test. Get your tarot cards done. Get curious about yourself. Unravel!
12. On the other side of that, don’t bother drinking anyone else’s kool aid. Make your own concoction instead — it’ll always taste better.
13. Make the effort to protect your leather bags and boots with leather gel. Trust me on this.
14. Start a collection. It doesn’t matter what it is — buttons, cameras, art, first editions, model cars, retro lamp shades. When you collect something you’re more likely to keep your eyes open when you’re out & about in the world. You never know when you’ll find a treasure — life becomes a treasure hunt.
15. Learn how to enjoy your own company. Go on dates with yourself often. Watch this again for ideas.
16. Investigate poetry. Poems are like awesome word snacks that nourish your brain. Find the poets who transcribe your experience of the world. Then look for the ones who show you another side of life entirely.
17. Find the music that makes you get up and dance. Play it often, especially when you’re on your own.
18. If you’re self-employed, put aside more money for tax than you think you’ll need. I always save 40% of everything I earn. If your tax bill comes to less at the end of the year you’ll have a nice little nest egg to play with or enough to cover any earnings you “forgot” to save tax for. Either way you can’t lose and you’ll sleep better at night.
19. Everybody should get at least six months of therapy. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make in yourself.
20. “I believe that by being the best and most healed version of ourselves we can truly make a difference in the world. I’m not an activist or politician, and I’m not able to have any direct impact on the areas of the world where help is needed. But what I can do is make a difference in the small pocket of the world I call home. I can live with integrity and be honest about my feelings, even when they hurt. I can put my whole heart into my work and pay forward the generosity that was shown to me when my world fell apart. I can look after myself, knowing that by healing my own hurts I won’t be passing them on to anyone else. In a society like ours, filled with so many emotionally wounded people acting out their pain, this is possibly the most important work we could ever do—heal our hurts so we don’t pass them on.” From This I Know, page 271.
21. Slow down. Take a breath. Look again.
22. Your senses are the way back into the present moment. What can you smell right now? What do you see? What’s touching your skin? What tastes do you want to experience today? What can you hear? Pay attention. Give yourself over to this moment, right now.
23. Writing a book is exactly as hard as you think it will be. But it’s not impossible. Not at all.
24. Sharing your heart with people will make you feel vulnerable at times — most of the time, in fact — but it will help you feel less alone when you see that others feel the same. By hiding the truth about how we feel we isolate ourselves.
25. The camera is only a tool — it’s your eye that really matters.
26. You can’t THINK your way out of depression. If you’re an over-thinker like me you will try very hard to do this but it won’t work. Explore all paths to find your way through the storm. Be gentle with yourself.
25. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs, and it will tell you what it doesn’t need, too.
26. Try to remember that everybody is doing their best with the tools they have and life experiences they’ve had. You never know what happened that morning, that day, that month or that year. You never know when somebody is putting a brave face on something that’s making them crumble inside. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
27. “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” – Iris Murdoch
28. Kill your expectations and assumptions. They are such a phenomenal waste of time. Most of the disappointments in my life were the result of expectations and assumptions. Keeping these in check is a life-long practice.
29. You can’t change anyone, no matter how much you want to. But you can lead by example. You can inspire them to want to change.
30. Celebrate your sensuality. Take hot scented baths and sunbathe nude in your garden. Buy lingerie that delights you and wear more silk. Take pleasure in your body.
31. If, like me, you can’t wear wool (itchy nightmare!) invest in a cashmere sweater every couple of years. If you look after them properly these babies will just get softer and softer and keep you warm for years to come. I like Brora.
32. Breathe in the sea air every chance you get.
33. It’s okay to protect yourself from the people who trigger you. Unsubscribe. Unfollow. Avoid. Make your excuses. Sometimes we just have to protect our hearts, and if there’s someone who makes you feel crap you don’t have to let them into your world.
34. Having said that, be sure to look at WHY they trigger you once you’ve filtered them out of your day-to-day. We can learn a lot from feeling uncomfortable — what’s the bigger message here?
35. When you look in the mirror, try smiling at yourself. Especially first thing in the morning.
36. Show yourself a little kindness every day. Find ten minutes to read a chapter. Listen to your favourite song in the car. Savour a cup of coffee in the garden. Lock yourself in the bathroom and do yoga on the floor. Whatever it takes.
37. Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts. Make lists. Draw mind maps. Stick in pictures that make you dream. Write when you feel inspired. Write when you feel sad. Write when you want to remember. Write when you don’t know. Just write it out.
38. Believe in something. Whether it’s science, nature, god, spirit, kindness, gratitude, politics, the universe, atoms or love, believe in something.
39. Believe in yourself. There’s nobody else in the entire world like you.
40. Go gently.