Aging With Grace

There’s a certain freedom to turning 40 and realizing that, even now, I am a work in progress.
 
Sure, I wanted to be able to write one of those inspiring posts—you know, the ones that say look at me, I just turned 40 and I ran a marathon, or climbed a mountain, or bungee jumped off a cliff
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This is not that kind of post. 

The truth is, I turned 40 recently, and I am not exactly where I want to be, particularly when it comes to my health. That’s kind of the nature of the beast when it comes to living with an unpredictable illness like multiple sclerosis.

And yet it’s hard not to feel that reflexive disappointment—to dwell on all the “shoulds.” I should lose weight, I should work harder, I should do more, be more, etc., etc., etc.

But that rabbit hole is never-ending, my friends. So now at 40, I’m finally learning to accept myself where I am. It’s not about giving up on setting goals—it’s about shifting those goals, and managing my expectations.

Appreciate the Good: Instead of focusing on what I haven’t accomplished, I am grateful for my blessings: an amazing husband who is the most supportive partner in life I ever could’ve asked for, phenomenal kids who are kind, intelligent, empathetic human beings; work that allows me to do what I love, write.

Find New Challenges: I’ve also realized that challenges don’t always have to equal extreme physical exertion. I’m finding different ways to push myself out of my comfort zone, including participating in a community leadership course that increased my confidence greatly.

Sometimes Rest is Best: I don’t intend to let my illness stop me, but I have come to terms with the fact that there will be days that it slows me down. Some days, all the gritty determination in the world isn’t going to push through the fatigue. Some days, my body is much better off with a nap than with a workout. So I listen to it.

Learn to Reframe: I still do set exercise-related goals; I just try to be more flexible and realize it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For instance, old me would’ve said, “I'm going to lose twenty pounds by fall.” New me says: “I’m going to exercise every day.” Sometimes I fall short—again, exercise isn’t always possible on a fatigue day. But any day I exercise is better than none.

Give Yourself Grace: That brings me to my most important point: When I don’t meet my goals, I’m learning to give myself a little grace. I intend to keep reaching for the stars, but if I fall short sometimes, I know it’s not forever—and I try to catch myself with grace and acceptance, knowing that I’m trying my best.

In my next 40 years, I hope to keep learning to accept myself for who I am, right where I am—a work in progress, fighting each day to live the best life I can with multiple sclerosis.

This might not be the post I’d first hoped to write. But it’s the post where I get to say that I just turned forty, and I am happy, I am as healthy as I can be, and I am here. And I’m grateful for each day I can continue to say that.
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Elissa

Elissa Dickey

Elissa Dickey lives in Aberdeen, South Dakota with her husband and children. A former journalist, she is now an author who also works in communications at a university.

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