mending while bending

44 Things I Learned By 44

Today I turn 44 years old, and what I’m about to tell you may seem cliché, but it’s all true. I’ve lived through some serious crap in my life but it has made me who I am, and truth be told – I’ve never been better or loved myself more.

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Honestly, I’ve never been better.

I’ve been younger

I’ve been thinner

I’ve been heavier

I’ve had fewer wrinkles and less gray eyebrows (not sure what my actual hair color is)

I’ve been more well rested, and I’ve been less busy, but I’ve NEVER been BETTER

For whatever reason, we don’t value age in our society.

We value youth

We value perfection

We value inexperience

In many ways, I don’t feel like I truly LIVED until I experienced life-altering grief, and in many respects that pain opened up for me a life and a depth of emotion I never knew existed before.

I’m not perfect, and that’s okay by me. I believe that once we stop evolving, growing, and changing our mission on this earth is complete.

I value my experience

I appreciate my pain

I appreciate my choices – right and wrong

I don’t want my younger years back to do over – I want to be right where I am right now

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Here 43 things I’ve learned over my past 43 years. I think they are valuable tips for everyone on our collective journey.

1 – The more you know – you realize the less you truly know

When you scratch the surface of knowledge in this life, you realize just how little you understand about the universe and our place in it. Quiet the mind, listen to your soul, and explore life on a new level.

2 – Everything that happens to you is a life lesson

Each moment of our lives is a chance to grow as a human being. Life is an opportunity to learn about who we are and where we want to go. If you look at life this way, it opens your eyes to so much.

3 – Take the high road – it’s never crowded

People are going to bring you down and be unkind to you – it’s just reality. Do yourself a favor and turn around and be kind at any cost back to them. If you take the high road, you will always live a more peaceful existence.

4 – Love every moment of your life when it’s happening

My late husband always lived in the moment, and I often looked forward to the future. His death taught me that life is now and we can’t worry about a day that may never come. Love and live in the moment.

5 – Don’t sweat the small stuff

I know, cliché, cliché, cliché, but it’s so true. You aren’t going to remember that fight, that nasty comment, or the toilet seat being up. Let it go not only verbally but also emotionally.

6 – I am enough

Hell yes, I am enough!!

My soul and the physical case that carries my soul have seen a lot in my 43 years. I’ve given birth to two amazing children and am helping to raise two more, I’ve said goodbye to a husband and spread his ashes, I’ve loved two men with all my heart, and I’ve lived countless adventures. You think someone else’s viewpoint of my shortcomings (in their eyes) is going to stop me from loving ME? Nope. I’ve lived this life complete with all its difficulties, trials, and tribulations. I am enough. No other person on this earth can validate me except for me.

7 – Weight doesn’t mean crap

Your weight doesn’t define who you are as a human. It’s your relative relationship with gravity, and you don’t wear it on your forehead. Don’t allow a number to have that much power in your life.

8 – Lifting weights won’t make you bulky

I spent so much of my life persuaded that weight lifting was a bad thing for women. Once I learned the truth, I wondered why I hadn’t been taught the reality sooner. Muscle is long and lean and when women appear bulky it’s because there is fat trapped between the muscle and the skin. Change your diet, lift and watch your body get stronger, leaner, and better in all ways.

9 – Lift weights in a controlled manner

Momentum does not build muscle – time under tension does. Lift in a slow, controlled and safe manner. It’s not about the weight you can lift it’s about the quality of the movement.

10 – Food is everything

I know you are sick of hearing it, but the food you eat is everything! You are what you eat! You want a strong, healthy and lean body – you must eat for it. Food makes up who you are, how your skin looks, how you feel, and so much more. Give food credit it deserves and load up on the real stuff. Skip the boxes, bags, and cans.

11 – Work up a solid sweat daily

Listen, my advice to exercise has very little to do with how you look and everything to do with how you feel. Exercise is a powerful life-changer. If you aim to sweat daily, it will completely change your life. You will be happier, more efficient at work, and find greater peace all around.

12 – Grief changes you FOREVER

Once you experience profound grief, you will never be the same person you were before. You can allow that to make you a better person or a bitter person. It’s your choice.

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13 – You never stop loving people who die

The Western culture likes to stuff a lot of feelings. We are told there is a time to grieve and a time to heal. I don’t believe that it’s that cut and dry and I think it’s time we start openly talking about how grief works. You will forever love the people in your life that pass over – that’s okay. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty for that or tell you that you are stuck. You are not stuck, you are human and love after loss is an entirely normal occurrence. You can also love again after loss. People are not replaceable, and love is not mutually exclusive.

14 – Happiness is a choice

Life is difficult for nearly everyone; those who look for happiness are more likely to find it. You must look; however; it won’t find you if you don’t.

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15 – Material objects don’t last – experiences do

This may be my favorite lesson of all time. Material objects all fade away and when the people you love pass those material objects won’t be what matters most to you. Your memories, your experiences will be a treasure, and you will never regret working less and living more.

16 – Wear sunscreen

I know this one seems light compared to the rest, but I sincerely regret not wearing sunscreen when I was young. I love the sun, and it loves me, but everything should be done in healthy moderation. :-)

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17 – Spend more time in nature

Have you ever been high on a mountaintop and been stressed out about emails, traffic, or the line at the grocery store? Nature has a powerful way of putting life into perspective. Problems seem small and insignificant when you stand at the edge of the ocean or the summit of a peak. Nature is a healer – a little more time in nature and life just seems to get better.

18 – Never stop learning

This point circles back to my first comment – the more you know, the less you know. Life is an endless growth and learning opportunity. Never think you’ve got it all figured out because you don’t. Neither do I.

19 – You are NEVER stuck

Many situations in life seem impossible to get out of, and we end up sticking ourselves. If you don’t like your job – take baby steps to find a new one! Maybe you will have to sacrifice the big car or the beautiful house, but those material objects don’t define you! It’s your life – don’t waste time on things that don’t make you happy. That goes for other situations as well. Baby steps will lead you amazing places, but you have to take the first step to getting someplace new. Repeat after me – I AM NOT STUCK.

20 – Get the life insurance

I know thousands of widows/widowers who have the added financial stress from loss, and that compounds their grief. ALWAYS get life insurance. ALWAYS. Get enough to pay off your debt, the house, and give yourself a year of cushion. Should anything happen to a spouse, I can assure you this added security would be a life-saver for the surviving spouse.

21 – Write down your wishes

Make sure your loved ones know where you want to be buried (or cremated), what you want your celebration to look like, what to do with your internal organs and even the music. Dealing with all of this on top of loss is crippling. Just write it down NOW because you love those people in your life enough not to leave it to them.

22 – Write letters to those you love.

Right now, do it, don’t wait. Write love notes to your kids, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, or anyone else who matters. Those words may sustain them in their darkest hours and for many years to come. I know you think they already know you love them, and they probably do but what does it hurt to write it down? I’d sure like my kids to be able to read a note from their dad when their heart hurts from his loss, and I’m pretty sure he wishes they could as well.

23 – Community is a secret key to success

Want to become more successful at fitness, health, good nutrition, good education, and good energy? Check your community and tell me how strong it is. The people we surround ourselves with truly can make or break our success in life. You are the sum of the five people you spend your most time with – pick wisely.

24 – Don’t numb your pain

This is what the officer told me after he delivered the news of my late husband’s plane crash. He said, “Michelle, whatever you do don’t drink. Don’t numb your pain in any way, live it experience, and survive it and you will be okay.” Priceless advice.

25 – Follow the Golden Rule

Do unto others – yep, still good stuff. Call it Karma, leading by example, or whatever you want – treat others like you want to be treated.

26 – Live and let live

I live my life by this one piece of advice. I’m not the judge and jury, and I can only speak to my personal journey. Enough said.

27 – Less is more

Less makeup, less material objects, less clutter – in nearly all aspects of life with the exception of love – LESS IS MORE.

28 – We live beyond this world

Believe what you wish in this department but as a deeply spiritual person I don’t think energy can be destroyed so have faith that your consciousness will continue when your body doesn’t. I won’t discuss further – see Live and Let Live.

29 – Those who pass will send you signs

Be open and aware of signs, and you will receive them. You will know when you see them, trust me.

30 – Anger will destroy you

If you are angry – let it go. It will destroy all the good in life. I realize that this is easier said than done but practice it daily for greater peace.

31 – You don’t always have to be right or have the last word

Honest, you don’t. Opt for peace above being right. Make the last word – I love you.

32 – Your gut is always right

I’ve seen this one repeated and again in my life. Always trust your intuition. It’s always right.

33 – Follow the road less traveled

Do your own thing, make yourself happy, and get off the beaten path. The road less traveled can lead you some amazing places that most people will never go.

34 – Your mindset is your most powerful tool

If you live a positive life, you will find more positivity. If you lead a negative life, you will find more negativity. That’s just how energy works.

35 – Helping others will bring the most happiness

When you give to others, life can’t help but get better. Give, give, give.

36 – You are not what you do for a living, what you drive, or wear

Some of the best people I’ve ever met don’t have impressive titles, big cars, or fancy clothing – they have big hearts and an evolved soul.15492437_10208179733151086_27426206543947888_n-300x300.jpg

37 – Age is just a number

I’m 44 today, but I feel 24 physically and 84 emotionally. I’ve lived through some shit in my life, and I’m evolved because of it, but physically I’m fit, healthy, and happy – my years don’t define me.

38 – Your kids will do what you do – not what you say

Lead by example in all aspects of life. Teach your children manners, respect for everyone, love, kindness, fitness, health, and that THEY ARE ENOUGH.

39 – Consult a Naturopath

I have a great general physician who has done beautiful things within her limited, insurance bound parameters. My naturopath took my health to a new level and provided me with the missing pieces to a complete health picture. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

40 – See a good counselor

No judgment, no stigma, no guilt. We all have issues in our life from childhood, death, insecurities, financial stress and so much more. Find someone who is good at what they do, makes you feel safe and go talk it out. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

41 – Don’t try to prove yourself to anyone who is determined to misunderstand you

I know it’s hard when you are a good person, and you want others to believe that you are too – but it’s just not worth it. You will never convince anyone of your value if they are determined not to see it.

42 – Family photos are priceless

My family photos are some of my most prized possessions in my life. Don’t wait to drop 10 pounds or get a new wardrobe. Take the pictures now and remember those you cherish – they love you just the way you are. You can find my favorite photographer here. She is well worth the money.

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43 – Don’t wait to love your life

Life is now. Don’t wait for some perfect day that may never come. Learn to love your life in the current moment and where you are. Remember – YOU ARE ENOUGH just as you are.

44 – You are still here for a reason.

Remember, regardless of what you go through in life, you are still here breathing each day and writing new pages in your story of life. Take all the time you need to grieve but don’t forget to live again.

Much love and hope for your happiness,

Michelle

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Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is a published author, international speaker, virtual fitness coach, mother and a re-married widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009, she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate job to become a fitness trainer. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. In addition to her virtual training business, Michelle recently launched her nonprofit focused on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future. You can read much of Michelle’s words on One Fit Widow and her new blog – Mending While Blending Facebook

Michelle is currently working on her first book for HarperCollins that is expected to be released in early 2017.

You can find our more about Michelle’s nonprofit at: Live the List

You can learn more about Michelle’s training programs at 1fw Training