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My Era of Refinement

LAST WEEK I TURNED 46.

Admittedly, sometimes it's hard to believe that number when it feels like 1998 was just a few years ago. I actually love birthdays. I love the attention, the celebrations, the presents, the cake – all of it. I try not to take life for granted and feel lucky I've made another year around the sun. But it's easy to get lost in the shit storm of everyday life, where your priorities don't always align with those around you (family, friends, work, etc.). Each day I attempt to have a few minutes of quiet reflection (usually when I'm walking my dog) to breathe in the good and exhale the shit that keeps me from focusing on my goal — a good life. I was ready to turn the page on my 45th year. While I'm thankful for every year I get, this one just wasn't one of my favorites. There were loads of great moments and a handful of awful ones – I'd give it an overall 3.5 out of 5-star rating – definite room for improvement. Looking back on 45, I'VE ISOLATED THE PAIN POINT — not being comfortable in my midlife skin. Being comfortable in your skin sounds easy enough, but damn is it hard. When I think about the internal work I've done to truly love who I am at my core – flaws and all – it kills me to think there's still a naysayer hidden in my mind, taking the piss out of my physical appearance. MY BODY HAS CHANGED recently, and I've struggled to wrap my head around this. Some changes are self-imposed, and some are not – thanks to perimenopause and gravity. For reference, I'm petite – short (5'2" or 155 cm) with a slight muscular frame. I've always had a proportioned body – I have B-cup boobs and a bit of a booty. Being a product of the Kate Moss era – when being a waif (tall and uber thin) was coveted by anyone reading Glamour magazine, I had realized early on that I would never look like her. I was too short, and my body was built differently - this was okay with me because I liked how I looked. (Sadly, I took this for granted back then.) Even though I've known this for thirty years, the idea of "thin is better" had somehow been branded into my psyche. While I've never chronically struggled with my weight (insert your groans here), I'm human – I still judge my body and nitpick the imperfections. Fortunately, I've never had a weird relationship with food. I love to eat and drink, and as an adult, I have always eaten a pretty balanced diet — Cheeseburgers and fries are my favorites, but eating my leafy greens is necessary. I've always been a person who's tried to live a life of moderation – not always successfully – but at least I'm self-aware. Anyway, back to my story… A while back, I read an article emphasizing THE BENEFITS OF WEIGHTLIFTING FOR WOMEN . It described how women lose muscle mass more rapidly as they age (Yeah… I'm talking to you, 30+.) and that weightlifting helps to build strong bones, increase joint stability, and boost muscle strength and tone, allowing for better overall health. This information resonated with me since I deeply desire to be an ass-kicker when I'm 75. In talking with other women, I found many of them were afraid of getting bulky with weight training, so they stick to things like running, Bootcamp, yoga, and Pilates – all excellent practices, but they're missing something – heavy weights. I've weight trained for many years, but the weights have been too easy – until recently. Over the past year, I HAVE BEEN CONSISTENTLY MAKING STRENGTH GAINS . And, while I don't look bulky, my body is different – it's stronger, more stable, and capable of doing more than I ever imagined. My shoulders are broader, my biceps are bigger, and my legs and butt are thicker – all in a good way. I mean, my husband isn't complaining. But here's the hard part – Even with all the incredible progress I've been making, it's frustrating to pull on my favorite dress from last season's wardrobe and find myself stuck in it – stuffed like a sausage with my arms sticking out of the top. I had to yell for my husband to rescue me from the straight jacket by pulling (and I mean pulling) the damn thing off me. Last summer, I put on a chambray shirt I'd had for years, and when I crossed my arms, the shoulder seam split like a chasm. And people… my underwear and bathing suit bottoms are unintentionally beginning to resemble thongs instead of bikinis. I recently went through my entire winter wardrobe, from jeans to jackets, and rid myself of all the ill-fitting clothes in my life. I kept the ones I think look good, or at least the ones that are comfortable or make me feel attractive or sexy – though I'm not sure if I ever truly feel sexy. I worry every time I go to my closet to find an outfit that can't consist of stretchy joggers and a t-shirt… luckily my life is pretty laid back, so adding hoop earrings and a little lipstick can class me up. Buying new clothes sounds fun, but since I'm not sure how to dress my body anymore, it adds another layer to my already stressed-out life that I'm not in the mood to deal with now. The other day I went to a new physical therapist for the phantom pain in my hip/butt/back. This is the third person I have seen to help with this problem – THE MIDLIFE AIN'T FOR SISSIES . Anyway, she had me do many different movements. When she was finished, she said, "Normally, I'd say strength is the issue. Women your age don't tend to have a lot of strength in their legs. But strength isn't your issue because your legs look great. They're powerful. I can tell by just looking at them." 🦵🏻 And just like that, I kinda fell back in love with my body. I didn't need a random person complimenting me to see the light, but I guess it was how she said it. She's a physical therapist – helping bodies optimally work is her business. Her being a total stranger helped, but I think her knowledge of the body shifted my thoughts. She followed up with, "Don't stop whatever it is that you're doing because it's really going to help in this next phase of your life." This comment validated my decision to focus more on weight training and lifting heavy things. Again, I didn't need her approval, but when someone agrees with the choices you are making… it feels pretty damn good. SO, HERE'S MY THEORY... If we want to make the most of the midlife, we can't dwell on the past – we must focus on the future. Sure, high school and your twenties were fun… who doesn't love reminiscing about the good old days when you could party all night and have ripped abs without going to the gym? Even though bar-hopping and bad decisions were fun, I don't want to do it again – some of it is painful to relive in my head. Taylor Swift has had ten eras in her 33 years. I have no idea how many I've had, but I believe right now is my "Era of Refinement" – the part of life where I don't have to give a fuck, can make my own rules, and pick and choose what gets my energy. It's definitely not an easy time to navigate. Still, it will be filled with rich experiences built on wisdom and failure. By defining and refining what is important to me today – family, relationships, health, longevity – I'm allowing myself to create A FUTURE FILLED WITH INTENT AND SATISFACTION . My new ideal evening is sharing a great glass of red wine and a cheese board with good friends – and in bed before 10PM. The conversation with my physical therapist completely shifted my mindset. I no longer look in the mirror and long for the older versions of me because I now realize I haven't been her in years. Instead I'm lovingly embracing this stronger and, if I say so myself, more badass rendition of myself. I feel free not to compare myself with the past anymore, mainly because the goals I've set for the future are so much bigger than what Claire from 10 or 20 years ago could have imagined. Figuring out how to dress this new version of me is not the end of the world, and ultimately, going through the process will boost my confidence... maybe it'll even make me feel a little sexy one day too.

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