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September 5, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Celebrating My 2nd Annual 40th Birthday!

On Thursday September 8, 2011 I will be celebrating my 3rd annual 40th birthday.  I will also be launching an all new Arriving At Your Own Door at http://www.jennyannfraser.comIn honour of this event, I am re-posting last year’s birthday post and my hope for creating a better world…

As we grow old…the beauty steals inward.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In honour of my 2nd Annual 40th Birthday, I thought I’d share a few of my many dreams for a better world.

I do not celebrate my 2nd Annual 40th Birthday because I don’t want to face the reality that I am 41.  My math skills, though nothing to write home about are far too good to fool myself that way. Besides, I love turning 41. It’s a good sign that I’m still alive.

My 1st Annual 40th birthday, could have gone in one of two directions. It could have been the beginning of another monumental life-threatening bought of depression due to the fact that it was the official moment marking the death of my dreams of being a mother and having a family of my own. I could have curled up into a ball lamenting the years lost to depression and anxiety and the long hard hours of work that drove me deeper into financial insecurity while stealing my youth.

Or, it could be a new beginning. The recognition that I am far from dead which means that I can create new dreams and move towards them with the wisdom that only years can provide.

Obviously, I chose the latter and threw myself a party. It was more than enough fun to warrant doing it again. Hence, the 2nd annual…

I do feel sad and more than a bit short-changed sometimes that my life did not turn out the way that I had planned. There has been far more tears than joy, and far more broken dreams than successes but I have so much that I am grateful for, I often suspect that I am happier than some of the women I know who have everything I ever wanted. Who would trade happiness? And for what?

So, as this birthday approaches, I find myself contemplating many of the things that I have learned over these years, and what I would love to share the most to mark this occasion.

I worry about the world. I worry about climate change and the fact that we don’t seem to understand that if we don’t make drastic life changes starting yesterday, we may be killing our children. I worry because I think I understand why we’re not getting it.

I understand, that we’re too focused on the wrong things and our belief in those things runs so deep that we cannot see clearly where we are headed...

I write with the hope that we will learn to see things differently without having to grow older, because we might be running out of time.

Over the years I have struggled with feminist ideals. The sadness I feel that women still do not enjoy equal rights all over the world, and the fact that women in wealthy nations are more stressed than ever balancing motherhood and career. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

What saddens me more than that, is how I see all of us, men too in some cases becoming more and more concerned with the superficial trappings of our sex. I’m speaking here of how we look, how we age, what we wear and our concerns over how others perceive us. I am sad that we still cannot believe in ourselves enough to let our accomplishments stand on their own.

It breaks my heart that even those who are incredibly successful, all too often, cannot accept ageing gracefully and instead allow time to take away so much joy. Too often we believe that they have to look a certain way to find fulfilment and self-esteem. For all that we have achieved, our appearance is still somehow tied to our self-worth.

It is the ultimate carrot on a stick as true self-worth and confidence will never be found in the reflection in the mirror. It can only be found within our hearts and minds. These are places it seems, that so many never look.

We still don’t know how to love ourselves enough to eat healthy and exercise just because it makes us feel better. We think that we need to do it so that we can get better partners, better jobs, or, just better.

Yes, I am aware, that those who are considered better looking do better in life according to some statistics. I have to ask however, why so many accept that and choose to conform? How can we improve the world if we don’t celebrate whatever it is that we have to give regardless of how we look? Why are we still buying into these myths when our survival is at stake?

Why are money, prestige, material possessions and beauty taking precedence over love, compassion and peace? Why have we still not learned to pay attention to what is most important?

We all have the potential to learn to love each other, and in doing that,  I am certain that we will finally learn to love ourselves. It really does happen in that order. We could not possibly feel so lost if the good of the whole served as our guide. I believe that it is the key we are missing that would allow us to begin to solve the monumental problems that we must face.

The key? We need to focus on what we give and practice gratitude for what we get. We need to focus on being kind, sharing smiles, learning to forgive. We need to be brave enough to share our wisdom and our love even when we feel unsure. We need to focus on gaining compassion for who and what is around us so that we might best serve for everyone’s good.

Then, we won’t need to look in the mirror to find reasons to love ourselves. Self-love will be easy to find because it will be a growing flame that we can’t possibly miss. It will be so obvious that we won’t need to look. We’ll never be able to miss the feeling of being beautiful because it will live where we can always find it. In our hearts.

What is even better, is the fact that this “inner beauty” is visible to others. Think of it. How many people have you encountered in your life that you would consider to be truly beautiful who would not in any way make it to the cover of some magazine? It stands to reason that if we were to cultivate this inner beauty and allow it to shine through, others would see it, and we would enjoy the same benefits that the stereo-typical beautiful people supposedly enjoy.

Today, I choose to accept time, gravity and age. I choose to celebrate what I have learned, what I am learning and what I will learn in the years to come.  I choose to celebrate everything that I have to give, even if it is just a smile directed at a perfect stranger. No matter who that stranger is.

Today, I choose to be beautiful!


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39 Comments

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  1. lesley / Sep 8 2010 6:48 am

    Another wonderful blog. Thank you for writing. These are issues i talk with my daughter about almost daily. You voiced them better than i ever could
    x
    lesley

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 7:26 am

      Thank you Lesley!
      I’m so happy that your daughter has you to point the way. I think it must be so hard for parents these days as children are constantly bombarded with messages that oppose what many would want to teach. Blessings!

  2. Viv / Sep 8 2010 7:13 am

    You have more courage than I.
    Happy birthday, you are a shining light.
    I hate birthdays with a passion; I told a friend last night that I have never grown up. I have long hair like a teenager and I dress like a student, and I’m 44. he said, it didn’t matter. I think our perceptions of what we “should” be at certain ages is down to what we saw people being at that age when we were growing up. We are free to be whomsoever we want, if we let ourselves.
    xx

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 7:24 am

      Thanks Viv!
      Well, I’m not much like anyone my age when I was a kid!
      You have inspired me to wear my hair in braids today! 🙂

  3. rob white / Sep 8 2010 10:29 am

    Happy birthday, Jenny. I started counting my birthday’s backward when I reached sixty… it puts me in vibrant youthful mindset… and I feel great at 55 🙂

    You have an indomitably youthful spirit, Jenny.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 8:21 pm

      Thanks so much Rob. What a great idea to count backwards. I may just add annual celebrations until the numbers get too high for me to bother doing the math. 🙂
      I can imagine my 17th annual 40th and so on. I may eventually turn it into an annual ball!

  4. Chris Edgar / Sep 8 2010 10:38 am

    Hi Jenny — first of all, I adore your new background. Second, I love how you understand that, without all the pain and disappointment you’ve been through, you wouldn’t be able to offer us the wisdom you’re giving to the world today.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 8:22 pm

      Hi Chris,
      Wisdom? Thanks for that. And thanks for the compliment on the background. Change is often a lot of fun!

  5. Emily Jane / Sep 8 2010 11:13 am

    “Too often we believe that they have to look a certain way to find fulfilment and self-esteem. For all that we have achieved, our appearance is still somehow tied to our self-worth.”

    You are always so full of wise words, and I hope you know how much I appreciate and take away from them. You truly are an inspiration 🙂

    Happy birthday!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 8:24 pm

      Well, Emily you so often inspire me. I am humbled to know that I can return the favor.

  6. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point / Sep 8 2010 11:49 am

    I love the creativity of the 2nd annual 40th birthday! It’s so fun and defiant and feisty all at once.

    I, too, am concerned about climate change and women’s rights and human rights around the world. My profession is such that I have to face these issues daily. What I find heartening are all the individuals and organizations that are in the trenches fighting these very same issues. There is not a shortage of good people who give their heart and soul to these problems. These people are rarely in the media circuit because, let’s face it, it doesn’t boost the ratings. But they’re everywhere, pouring every last ounce of energy to moving that needle.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 8:50 pm

      Thank goodness for all of those like you. I do believe that if we all cared more about the things that are most important, we could really eradicate so many problems. My dream is that we all come to realize it some day.

  7. DM / Sep 8 2010 12:06 pm

    Happy birthday. I’m 25 with 27 yrs of experience. I used to be 21 w/ the experience number tacked on, but I do feel 25 now. Would I go back? Never- I feel more alive now than I ever did for many of the very same reasons you shared here.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 8:54 pm

      Thanks DM. Another brilliant way to think of ageing. My Mum often says the same thing about her life, but just the other day lamented some mistakes she made as a parent and suggested she’d like the chance to do it all over. I told her to bite her tongue as I would NEVER want to go back even a day. I’m just fine where I am now! 🙂

  8. Gnetch / Sep 8 2010 1:34 pm

    Happy birthday Jenny. This, I think, is one of the best birthday posts I’ve read.
    Your words are incredible. 🙂

  9. shiona / Sep 8 2010 2:15 pm

    Happy birthday, Jenny!
    I’ve been down and down for a long time. Your post has given me a big sobering slap in the face.
    I’ve always disliked it when people say, “This is a great post”. Well, this time it’s my turn to say this is a great post for me.
    Best wishes to you.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 8:57 pm

      And to you Shiona. So sorry to hear you have been down but it is a gift to me to hear that I may have helped even a bit, (although I never intended to slap anyone. 😛 )
      Wishing you many blessings.

  10. Mommylebron / Sep 8 2010 8:30 pm

    Happy birthday, love! I’m so happy you recognize and acknowledge your beauty! I saw it right away…just sayin’. 😉

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 8:58 pm

      Thank you so much Amanda! This has truly been the best birthday I can ever remember… and that’s pretty amazing for a work-day!

  11. Fred Lade / Sep 8 2010 10:35 pm

    You are still, after almost 3 decades of knowing you, the most beautiful person I know. Of course, I see you with my heart and not my eyes…something I admitted to you almost 2 decades ago.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 8 2010 10:44 pm

      And thank you for being so patient. I finally get it! (and I won’t tell anyone here about those rose coloured glasses that you had crazy-glued to your head at 13!)
      Love you forever even if you run away!

  12. Ollin / Sep 9 2010 12:26 am

    Congrats on your second annual! 🙂 I’m happy and proud of you that you can see everything in a positive light. Like I’ve said in one of my recent posts, I think the shift happens when we realize that it is us who create lives, and instead of saying we need to find happiness, we need to say, why don’t we create happiness right here and right now?

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 9 2010 8:43 am

      Thank you Ollin!
      It is so true that we are creating our lives and our own happiness. I am happy to see you have been having some fun yourself!

  13. Greg / Sep 9 2010 9:21 am

    Great blog post Jenny. Thoughtful and insightful. Thanks for sharing your reflections.

  14. antony / Sep 10 2010 12:18 pm

    There are so many points in this wonderful post that resonate with me but if I were to air my view on all of them this comment would end up longer than the post itself.

    “Why are money, prestige, material possessions and beauty taking precedence over love, compassion and peace? Why have we still not learned to pay attention to what is most important?”

    I really am at a loss to understand how modern society ended up valuing money, status/prestige and material possessions instead of as you said what really matters. Perhaps this is why I so often feel like a fish out of water!

    Happy birthday

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 10 2010 3:20 pm

      Thank you and welcome Antony! I am glad you stopped by.
      That is quite a question regarding how we got here, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on this subject lately and it is complicated.
      What I think is important is not so much how we got here, but how we get out and I believe that we do it by creating change within ourselves and doing what we can to inspire others. Ideas do catch on and spread through action and I am convinced that if we focus on what we project into the world instead of what others aren’t doing we can create change.
      Thank you for the thoughtful comment and the birthday wishes!

  15. Paul Reinig / Sep 13 2010 4:21 am

    Hi Jenny, Thank you for your beauty and love. It is precious to feel when, as you say in this post, most everyone is in search of it outside themselves, thinking that if they could only just find that perfect (body, relationship, whatever)….but alas, even if it shows up….aaakkk…it’s not good enough. Crap!…and off in search we go…again….

    So anyway, this is the way of the world but it doesn’t have to be your world. Compassion does not mean taking on the pain of others and suffering with them. Far from it. It means total acceptance of what is, bar none–beginning with yourself.

    I want to comment in this part of your sharing:

    “We all have the potential to learn to love each other, and in doing that, I am certain that we will finally learn to love ourselves. It really does happen in that order. We could not possibly feel so lost if the good of the whole served as our guide. I believe that it is the key we are missing that would allow us to begin to solve the monumental problems that we must face.”

    While I understand exactly what you are saying here, I have to disagree, for this is actually a repeat of what I just expressed above, the hope that if somehow the world would just learn to love then I’ll finally be able to love me. No, it really doesn’t happen in that order, for the “good” of the world is all relative and perceptual. There are those who practice good but to us, it is bad. And then we feel bad (and even condemn) and wish things were different, and around and around we go…This is what judgment does.

    But as you so eloquently went on to say, at the end of the day you have you. Can you love you? Your smile and caring, it’s all beautiful but if it’s being shared in order to earn someone else’s love it’s not going to work because you cannot receive from another what you have not given to yourself. The only way to feel in completely in love with life is to take off all the definitions and meaning and just experience it. All around us in every moment there is only love being poured out.

    We have a tendency to base a now moment experience on the past and make it mean the same as it did before, and this keeps us locked into suffering. And make no mistake about it, thinking that we are being compassionate in the name of feeling the world’s pain, and worrying about whether we will ever learn to love, is just cloaked suffering. It’s not true love at all. They suffer and thus, we suffer. But there’s no peace there–not in you or them.

    Only when the rest of the world’s choices no longer matter to you can you begin to find the inner peace you are seeking. You have to let go of all the tears and worry about “out there” and go inside where you will find a sacred safe space–this is where the real you–the compassionate unconditionally loving one–dwells. When you’ve cultivated that space inside, the outside world does what it does but all you see is the beauty, the gift, the perfection of it all. All those things you mentioned that you worry and have fear about are not yours to have–unless you choose that of course. But why would you make it yours too? Ahh…good question—because we’ve bought into the idea that true love is to hurt (and even die) for another. But no, that idea has perpetuated suffering–in the name of religion I might add.

    To cultivate this place inside requires, again, taking off all the definitions, for that’s what unconditional means. Someone’s hurt is there choice to hurt. When you hurt with them, it continues that energy. And the rest is history…The only way “out there” will ever stop hurting is when you choose to stop hurting and just be the love that you are. And this is what humanity is being called to do at this time. A peaceful and loving world can only exist on the inside. The outside will have something new to reflect back to you when you are being the love that you are.

    Deep down I know you understand this because you try so hard and so badly want to see a “better” world. This tells me how much you want to understand. You are an amazing being, very beautiful and caring. Now share all that with yourself. Love and care for your wounds and allow them to heal within your safe and sacred space on the inside. Try this and see how your perception of the outside begins to shift. There are no problems out there. All is perfect…and in love.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Sep 13 2010 9:34 am

      Wow Paul!
      What a fabulous comment. I appreciate your words so much.
      I totally agree with you regarding mis-conceptions about giving love and compassion. Perhaps I was not as clear as I could have been and I thank you for pointing that out.
      By no means do I take on the pain of others. By compassion I am referring to working at giving up my judgement and critical thinking. It is when I began to consciously work at this that I was able to do it for myself and come to a place of self-love.
      By working towards the good of the whole, I’m referring to making choices that don’t hurt people or the planet not just serving our own self-interest.
      Thank you again. I’m looking forward to stopping by your blog.

      • Paul Reinig / Sep 13 2010 11:26 am

        Thank you Jenny. I knew that about you. I just love to share my passion for self-love and your comments were got me going. I do have a blog and it is available through my website or by clicking here:
        http://masteringtheartoftruelove.wordpress.com/
        Enjoy–and I look forward to your continuing words of wisdom as well…:)

  16. kevinmorente / Sep 13 2010 8:33 am

    Its good to read blogs about aging from the point of view of a woman. Happy Birthday I guess. I

  17. Chris Barba / Sep 6 2011 10:01 pm

    Jenny – I loved your post!

    I really think it did a phenomenal job on hacking at the “why” of life. People learn what to do and how to do it, but without the solid backbone of why you are doing it, those actions become disingenuous.

    Just like wrote about, our reasons to exercise, or conform, or look the best, or have the most have become superficial. The best reasons in life are usually the simplest. Have a life worth living. Be the author of that life and let your true colors shine. Yes the ride can get bumpy, but what is there to get out of a smooth ride that only travels down one path.

    So I think you nailed it on the head – focus on the bright spots. There are clearly plenty to see as you wrote countless examples, and to me, it’s like stars after sunset, once you see one, a starlit sky begins to emerge!

    Happy second anniversary of your 40th Birthday Jenny!

  18. pea / Sep 7 2011 5:29 am

    Jenny Ann, the best thing is that you are still here and still fighting. What more could be asked of you? And finally you made a really good choice. All the best.

    Funny isn’t it? Unlike Kevin, I didn’t see it as a post about ageing. I saw it as a post about triumph.

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