I confess, turning 40 was difficult for me. (It was also quite a while ago.) It was difficult because I expected my life to be different than it was by the time I was 40.
What did I expect? I expected I would be more successful, according to the ways we define success in our culture. Basically, that I would have more “stuff”. At the least a house, actually several, in a few exotic locations, probably a lot more money, even a relationship. I expected that from the outside view I would fit all the categories of a successful self-made woman. I would be famous and wealthy.
Not only could I NOT believe I was 40, I just hadn’t made it to my picture of 40. While I wasn’t devastated, and still managed to function quite well post 40, only now, some 8 (nearly 9) years later, am I integrating the whole experience of life not turning out the way I expected it would.
It is a most curious thing, this business of life. Some people with seemingly little intelligence or effort seem to do very well, others with great talent either hit the jackpot and fly, or spend their life in struggle.
I always thought ~making it~ was about intelligence. Hence I have always derided myself for not being all that intelligent. After all, if I was I would have ~made it~!
I have since realised that it is a little more complicated than that. And in its own way, infinitely perfect.
We have people who are born to wealth and privilege. Not me.
We have people who ride on the back of wealth by marrying it, or stealing it, or seducing it. (These can be the same things, and are applicable to both men and women). This was never my path. There were offers, especially in the early days, from very wealthy men who wanted to set me up in some lovely place, but the independent part of me which has a strong internal sense of not wanting to be owned, just couldn’t choose this path.
We have people whose greatest talent is the talent for commercial business as we know it. These people are naturals. They have the Midas touch. While I am not a slouch at business, hard core commercial business is not my natural arena. I prefer business that is created with soul and for a ‘serving humanity’ purpose.
As we have also discovered in the last few years, some of these people with the Midas touch have been financial engineer’s, and their wealth has come not from the real economy but from the global casino…the smoke and mirrors economy.
Then we have the ones who have lady luck as their companion. Through no explicit talent or application, they seem to land on their feet every time. I am not bereft of this lucky streak, after all I am an Australian, and have a lifestyle that is fabulously wealthy in every way, in comparison to being born in parts of Africa, Bangladesh etc. I am certainly not unlucky.
If I look back at my life, would I change anything? Really?
From a three year marriage I have the most incredible gift of my life, my daughter. No matter how bad the marriage was, (And it really wasn’t bad at all, and isn’t now as an ongoing relationship), I have only gratitude for the gift of being a mother, something I never expected to be, and for being a very lucky steward to another human being. Actually, if I really dwell on this alone, I realise without too much effort that my life is richer in so many ways, because of my being a mother. I certainly have more compassion, more patience and a greater ability to love than I would ever have had by staying childless. These qualities are of such immeasurable wealth. The simple joy I get on a daily basis from being a partner in a child’s life – no money can buy that.
From living my life in free form, not conforming to the traditional, I have incredible flexibility, developed great courage (most of the time), the ability to be immensely creative, and to emerge through emergency. It’s not always the easiest path, as there are times when I am not sure where the next dollar will come from, but come it does.
There have been times, particularly as a single parent, when I have suffered momentary paralysis from the fear of lack. However, the reality is that to be in paralysis for more than a moment was simply a luxury I couldn’t afford at all, so it was simply – take a deep breath, get up and create something. Immediately. Get into motion. I have learned to really respect this quality in myself, as many people don’t possess this ability.
Security – what is that? How real is security as we traditionally define it? Having lots of money in the bank, having assets, a pot of gold under the bed? Does this really make us secure? It could all be gone in an instant.
My form of security is trusting that I have the ability to create. More than anything though, for me security has been about giving up the fear of lack and scarcity. (This fear is endemic in our society – it runs us, fuels us and feeds us. Most of us don’t have a clue just how much we live with a mindset of scarcity. We fight wars over it, we treat our neighbours badly because of it, our need for excess is a symptom of it.)
Under no circumstance am I implying that my way of living is the right way. Could I have had a little more strategy around spending money in my younger years? Sure. Are there other ways. Absolutely. Have I been exceedingly smart with my money? Not always. Do I regret the choices I made? No.
For what reason though do I need a large asset pool? So I don’t have to work? Why would I not work? I simply don’t understand that. I love my work. I love what I do. I love it so much that everything I do is my work. The books I read, the movies I see, the travel I do. It all contributes to my work.
Oh joy, for the most part, I get to do things I love. Sure there is wood to be chopped and water to carry, metaphorically speaking, however, these tasks keep me humble. I don’t see myself ever retiring. It would drive me crazy. Besides, there is far too much to do in the world!
The only reason I can see I would have a large asset pool is so I can have more stuff. And stuff requires that it be cared for. Stuff also begs the question..how much is enough?
Already even those on the lowest level of middle class live in more luxury than any King or Queen of 150 years ago, and in better health.
Some people would say that money buys freedom – the freedom to do as you please. I have seen many people with great wealth and such huge responsibilities to take care of their wealth and their stuff that their freedom is limited. I have also seen people of great wealth who would trade it all for health. I have incredible health, through a great genetic pool and very consistent daily action towards its continuance.
I really do see that my life is very free. If I want something enough, no matter what the price tag, I know I have the resources inside of me to create it. However, I will not do anything to have it. And this is where the greatest distinction lies.
That there are things I simply wouldn’t do. There are principles involved here, and my own self disciplines. These principles I am revisiting today, to be sure that they are consistent, appropriate and support me in the highest way possible. Principles such as living in my own integrity. (Big word, “integrity”; very overused in our society I believe, so I use it with care.)
Integrity to me means wholeness. Natural design. Living in integrity is doing what I am born to do, in the most complete way possible. Honouring my truth from moment to moment. Acting with consistency on it. This sounds very easy, and is actually not. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
So where does this leave me at 48, looking at my life fast approaching 50? No, my life did not turn out as I expected. My hunch is that the next 50 plus years will also not turn out as I expect. Maybe the lesson is to give up the expectation entirely. Hmm. What am I expecting? Probably more of the same old expectations – wealth and fame. And if this NEVER happens, how will I be with myself in that? Will I continue to consider myself a failure? Or will I realise that I have been fabulously successful. Off the charts successful.
I have raised a child almost single-handedly, and she has wanted for little, we have traveled the world, made the very best of friends with some amazing people who are doing wonderful work. I have been true to myself as much as I have been able, and always challenged myself to be increasingly more true to myself. I have learnt that I am perfectly capable to make my way in the world as an independent. I work with the most inspirational clients. I have beauty in my life in abundance. Instead of stuff I have collected experience and knowledge sprinkled with some adventure.
My work now, and probably my biggest of all challenges, is to stay completely centred in my connection to my truth, daily, hourly, moment to moment, and to honour this, to the letter, small and big. To trust..and serve.. As my great teacher Buckminster Fuller says:
“So, I simply say, what you can do personally is commit yourself to what is truth. That’s all.”
If I can do this, and do this with my life now dedicated to service to as many people as possible, to support their healthy emergence, then I will have been a success and one of the wealthiest women in the world. To that I will drink deeply.