10 things I FINALLY learned at 34

Last week I celebrated my 34th birthday. It’s not exactly a significant date or anything, but my birthdays always put me in a very pensive mood. I usually do two big journaling sit-downs a year – one on my birthday at the end of February and one on the day I arrived to live in the US at the beginning of August. Often these reflective sessions revolve around the things I’ve done, what I’ve been able to accomplish, and what impact I have made on people and communities around me. This year, however, I felt a call towards more of a “lessons learned” deep dive. It came on the heels of an overall pull towards slowing down, honoring the present moment, and valuing “being” over “doing”. There is just as much, or even more, value in the person we are becoming through life lessons as time goes on than in the accomplishments we amass each year. This took me a long time to realize, as well as some other things I am sharing here today. None of these are groundbreaking or brand new – and I have known them for a while. But it took a long time to go from knowing to feeling and truly incorporating these learnings into my very bones.

  1. Doing less is okay. Starting with the hardest! Being raised in post-USSR Ukraine where the culture had strong motifs of “good things come only to those who work hard”, “laziness is evil”, etc., left a big mark on my worldview. Additionally, in my family love was given out in exchange
    for achievement – I was only worthy of affection when I was producing positive results academically. The combination of these factors forged a personality of constant strife, pushing to burnout, and equating my value with productivity. These tendencies were further nurtured by grad school, academic work, and entrepreneurship – all perfectly poised to fuel workaholism addiction by offering 24/7 demands and no-end-point-format work projects. My overwork and stress affected my eating habits, the severity of my hormonal imbalance, and strained my relationships. Work was a way to escape any discomfort in other areas of life. It was so (cue Alanis Morissette) ironic that I was teaching the value of rest in my yoga classes and even did a book club of “Do Less” by Kate Northrup. I was not practicing what I was preaching. It surely took a global pandemic and a lockdown to force me to slow down and witness the world still spin on its axis just the same. I am sure many people can relate to this. I began taking deliberate breaks and offering myself small changes, one little step a at a time. Slow dinnertime. No
    phone/book/magazine while taking a bath. No headphones on a walk. Screen free date nights. I have deliberately shrunk my workload and removed much, leaving only things that produce little to no stress. It took a major reorganizing of my life (and an even bigger reorganizing of my brain) and I still fail almost daily and catch myself wanting to do more – but I feel that I am on the right path.

  2. People will dislike me – no matter what. Being raised a people pleaser, I have learned very early to not “rock the boat” and to go with what other people want. I developed relational hypervigilance fairly early on, and, in most situations, maintained an outward focus – worrying
    about what people thought of me, whether they had a good time around me, and whether anything I did or said upset them. I turned myself inside out trying to make sure everyone found me agreeable and liked me. But as life showed over and over again: no matter how genuinely
    good of a person I strive to be every day – there will be people who hate my guts. It took me many years to realize that these reactions are completely due to their own projections and insecurities. A business partner who called me “toxic”. A husband who said I had “jealousy
    issues”. An employer who fired me without a word of warning because my competency intimidated her. Realizing that none of these situations were reflections of me but rather of them gave me a profound peace of mind. Now, this isn’t a carte blanche to be a d*ck to other people. I still consistently work on being authentic, honest, a good listener, a kind friend, an understanding colleague. But knowing that no matter what some people will dislike me – and that is okay – has given me a profound sense of freedom, like taking a deep breath and filling my lungs full of fresh ocean air.
  1. Speaking my feelings is necessary. I’m sure you’ll see a pattern here by now… for this one was fostered in my childhood as well. It is a derivation of being raised as a “convenient” child. I recently learned of attachment patterns and recognized mine as “Avoidant” due to emotional unavailability of my parents. This attachment style develops when a child isn’t allowed to have any “inconvenient” feelings and is forced to grow up and show emotional maturity/restraint very early. Any time I tried to share dissatisfaction, my mother would get angry and give me the passive aggressive silent treatment – sometimes for days at a time. During my angsty teenage years, when I would be sad and in need of emotional comforting, she would say I was imagining things because I “liked to make myself sad” (exact quote, believe it or not). When I moved to the US, I had I really hard time expressing my feelings in a foreign language because I was afraid to be misunderstood and mocked. And later on, married to a man whose preferred way of dealing with feelings was sweeping them under the proverbial rug, I shut down emotional sharing completely. If you accept, even the tiniest bit, the teachings of psychosomatics, you will understand just how damaging this emotional suppression can be. And if, like me, you are into the woo-woo stuff and energetics – you will see the full scale of the catastrophe here. The most
    terrifying part, however, that this is the way of life for most people. When I finally began taking little steps of freedom and sharing my feelings, many things fell apart, yes. But the things that were built on my emotional suppression weren’t worth upholding anyway. It is fascinating to see how arduous the healing journey from this is: even now, with a partner who is uber supportive and praises me for sharing my feelings and thoughts, I sometimes feel like there is something stuck inside my throat when I am trying to share my feelings. But the more I do it,
    and the more I see how incredible my life is when I do, the more necessary this sharing becomes.

  2. Attraction accomplishes more than pushing. There is a really wise saying suggesting that one can attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Not sure why one would want to attract flies but I’m guessing you get the meaning behind the phrase. This one goes out to all my fellow control freaks out there and is the tendency that working with Gabby Bernstein’s content really helped me mitigate. I have spent most of my life pushing: in school, at work, in relationships. I deeply
    bought into the idea of needing to “make things happen”, and on my own timeline no less, in order to feel a sense of fulfillment in life. This notion was first shaken a bit by learning about the Law of Attraction, and in the years that followed I was led to more and more literature and
    people who have demonstrated to me that it is our ability to be a vibrational match for what we want that really makes things happen. In those rare moments when I was able to let go of control, or of notions of my rigid timeline, real magic and synchronicity happened. Gabby’s offerings taught me so much about surrender and how it allows the Universe to do her work on your behalf. One of her favorite quotes is “When you think you have surrendered – surrender more”. She asks to not pray for the things that we want (for our own understanding is so
    limited), but for the highest good for all. This has been one of the most fundamental worldview shifts in my life and has made my days so much more easeful and joyful. The more I lean into trust and surrender, the better life becomes. Only took me three decades to get here 🙂

  3. Letting go is not equal to failure. For many of us, already feeling inadequate and like we consistently don’t measure up, letting go of dreams and relationships that didn’t work out feel like an even more acute failure. Especially if much time and effort was invested. But I have
    finally learned that it is not true, and that cutting your losses can be one of the most liberating and joyful things ever. Sometimes dreams, relationships, and business endeavors die. It is painful, and we are allowed to grieve. But holding onto those things only poisons our lives with decaying matter, and it becomes rancid very fast. In a year that gifted me both a divorce and being fired, I have come to terms with letting go and seeing it as a clearing of the way for better things. A better job came around. A better partner came around. None of these things would be possible without letting go. Besides, it always takes two to tango – so no need to blame yourself, as the other party contributed to the demise as well. Sometimes there is a delay between letting go of the old and the new, better, coming into your life. This is where the surrender and faith and timing of the Universe come into play. Wait, trust, and better things will come.
  1. My joy is my only job. I am one of those people who choose a word for each year and my 2021 word is JOY. This choice came easy as, over the last few years, I surrendered to the notion that the only person responsible for my joy is me. And that I do not need any outside circumstances whatsoever to generate feelings of joy within. On the contrary, feeling good seems to magically attract the right people and circumstances into my life. Other people and things can amplify my
    joyful state but cannot create it. I placed my joy into the hands of others for most of my life, but it has been slowly changing. It takes a great deal of radical honesty to admit that joy is my responsibility – and mine only. There are still so many moments when I feel off or down and
    want to reach for social media, a piece of cake, or reach out to my partner for comfort. It takes a mindful pause to remind myself that all of these things can provide temporary soothing but if I don’t address whatever it is that bothered me – no real healing will occur. But there is also fun in it! Exploring what truly gives me joy allowed me to also release many things that don’t. Which freed more time for the things that do. It’s a beautiful catch 22 f you ask me! A few really good books that touch on this are “The two truths about love” by Jason B. Fischer and “Don’t let anything dull your sparkle” by Doreen Virtue.

  2. Routine is inevitable – and welcome. Many of us fear routine. It seems so boring, dull, and like it “sucks the life out of you”. I beg to differ. Over the years I have developed routines around morning and bedtime activities, walking my dog, and incorporating health practices. My recent
    additions are a weightlifting routine and (my favorite) weekly meal prep. Once ironed out, these healthy routines become automatic and you no longer have to spend mind energy on performing them – which frees out energy for other creative and important tasks. I learned much of what I know about routines from Ange Peters and her Beautiful Life Lab as well as Brendon Bouchard’s “High Performance Habits”. I am now working on cold showering routines per Wim Hof and meditation routines with Elena Brower. Each routine is challenging at first and feels like riding a broken bicycle uphill – but, once mastered, becomes a beautiful pattern that weaves into a tapestry of fulfilling and joyful days. Routine does not equal boredom, and discipline is not the killer of spirit. Instead, these things give you structure within which you can wield lots of creative freedom.

  3. Self is the best investment. Self growth, that is. Not clothes. Not cosmetic procedures. Not new gadgets. Definitely not other people. The most worthy focus for investing your time and money is your personal development. It is time spent in journaling, contemplation, creativity, therapy if necessary. There is an incredible piece written by Brianna Wiest in Thought Catalog titled “Self- care is often an unbeautiful thing’”. In it, the author explains that chocolate cupcakes and bubble baths aren’t really self-care. It is “making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a
    morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution. It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.” And all these things take time and effort. And the most beautiful this is that, when you prioritize this self-care and personal growth, all other things fall into place. Being debt free takes money stress out of a romantic relationship, meal prep leaves time for hanging with friends on weeknights, learning about attachment styles from a self-help book helps heal a parental connection, and attending an online course elevates your business or career. No matter how you look at it, your self is your best investment. Fill that cup before you fill anyone else’s.
  1. Health matters. Oh, the nights spent partying in order to fit in. Or the boil-in-a-bag rice dinners to save money. Or back pain earned as a result of sitting in front of the computer too much while pushing for another piece of work to be done. At the time, those seemed like small prices
    to pay. As I age, the past mistakes begin to haunt me. Adrenal exhaustion, hormonal imbalance, regular trips to the chiropractor are all ghosts of those times when I compromised my health in pursuit of whatever it is I thought I wanted at the time. But it finally (better late than never,
    right?) dawned on me that nothing – I repeat, NOTHING – is worth compromising your health and wellbeing, be it physical, mental, or emotional. I now live by my meal prep, go to bed by
    10:30 unless it’s the Armageddon, and have no reservations about unfollowing someone on social media if it means it will give me a bit more peace of mind. Nurture yourself in healthful ways. Love yourself enough to say no to things that are toxic to your body and mind. Have the courage to put your longevity, energy, and radiance first. When you glow, and are rested, and full of life force – all the other things will come.

  2. Love is all there is. I have gotten on the self-help train around 2014, so 7 or so years ago. I was struggling in a relationship and began seeking out relationship books. When I realized those were more narrow in scope than what my soul craved, I expanded to the wider realm of personal development and spirituality literature. I read many of the signature books in the genre: The 4 Agreements, A Return to Love, The Power of Now, The Secret, Super Attractor, Quantum Love, Becoming Supernatural, and so many more. All these books were valuable in their own regard and came to my life in exact times when I needed them most. Still, when you look into the very core of their teachings, you will find that they offer the same foundational though: this Universe is made up of the energy of love, and that is all that exists. We can forget this truth, numb ourselves to it with addictions and drama, we can veer off into fear and violence. But just like the sun does not disappear when hidden by a cloud – love does not disappear when clouded by separation, judgment, and despair. All that we have to do, all our lives, if to remind ourselves, moment-to-moment, to return to the right minded thinking and alignment with love. There are many paths to it (which is why many books are necessary and are useful). Yoga, meditation, presence, vibrational medicine, plant medicine, nature therapy – whatever paths you take to get there know that you are moving in the direction of love. This is why several years ago, when I was deciding on the name of my yoga and aromatherapy business, I called it LanaLoveCo. To always remind myself that love is really all there is.

    Whenever and wherever you read this, I hope it serves you. If this resonates – I would love for you to share your experiences. Like I said, none of these learnings are groundbreakingly new or out of this world mind shattering. But it took me year to embody them. It took reading and re-reading these truth many times to start incorporating them into my life. It is my hope that reading them here helps you come one step closer to integrating these principles into yours.

Once a month, I send a short and potent love note to my community containing the resources and learnings I am finding most helpful in the moment. If you’d like to receive them as well, sign up for my newsletter here.

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