Turning Forty and Dealing with Grief
Kim Smith felt her 30s were “cursed” after four important people in her life died, and she couldn’t wait to turn the page on that decade. She felt called to do what she called “Forty to Forty,” posting reflections on Instagram every day for the 40 days before she turned 40. It allowed her to approach her birthday, and the next decade, with anticipation and more positivity than she felt in her 30s. A girls’ weekend to celebrate her 40th was a revival for Kim. She left that weekend feeling like a new woman. Like someone who is well on her way to figuring out who she is.
K. Danielle is a poet, blogger, and children’s book author from Mississippi whose love for reading and writing was nurtured by her mom, Zerlin Dean Jones. She began her writing career in 2015 with the publication of Pieces of My Reflection, a collection of poetry that spans over ten years. Shortly after, she founded Peppermint Publishing to publish a series of children’s books for young readers ages 4-9 about characters inspired by her children.
After losing her mom to cancer in 2017, K. Danielle launched her second publishing company, Red Ink Publishing, in honor of her mom. She released her book F Cancer in late 2020 to help others cope with the tremendous loss of their mothers, as well as face her own battle with grief.
She resides in Indianapolis, IN with her husband, Sherwin, and her three children, Kyndal, Saniya, and Tre. In addition to writing, K. Danielle also provides virtual bookkeeping services to small businesses and non-profit organizations.
Forty to Forty (1:30)
Leading up to her fortieth birthday, Kim Smith did a “forty to forty” project on Instagram where she posted pictures and recollections for the forty days prior to the big day in September 2021.
Kim’s birthdays have not been the same since she lost her mom four years ago. They had big plans to take their first mother-daughter trip to Las Vegas to celebrate the milestone and, without her mom, she didn’t know if she wanted to celebrate at all. But this idea kept showing up in her brain. Ultimately, the project made celebrating the milestone without her mom a little bit easier.
Kim’s 30s were very emotional and full of loss. She lost some of the most important people in her life during that decade: her grandfather in 2013; her mom in 2017; and her godmother in 2018; and then her grandmother in 2020. She felt like her 30s were cursed and she couldn’t wait to turn the page on that decade.
She didn’t plan any of her Instagram posts ahead of time. In fact, most of them were late at night, partly because that’s the time of day when she settles down and has time to herself, and partly because she was hesitant to share some of the posts.
She didn’t have any expectations; didn’t over analyze or overthink. It was something she did for herself alone. It allowed her to approach her birthday, and the next decade, with anticipation and more positivity than she felt in her 30’s.
She wanted to enter her 40s as the woman her mom knew she was and that she hadn’t quite grasped for herself yet. Kim’s mom’s dreams for her were much larger than the ones Kim dared to dream herself.
Four years isn’t long to grieve; Kim had spent those years in depression, sadness, frustration, anxiety, loss and anger. Now she wanted to figure out how to feel everything she feels about the loss of her mom and still wake up and honor her in some way every day. She feels like she would be doing her mom a disservice if she gave up on the dreams her mom had for her.
Now she’s working on changing her mindset. Her life will never be the same but, just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad. She’s trying to find her way through the good days and the hard days.
She’s consciously trying to work through her grief and not go around, above or under it. We all have baggage and it’s our job to find a way to deal with and carry that baggage so we can move forward in life. If we play emotional whack-a-mole, we never really get beyond the loss or trauma.
But why were Kim’s mom’s dreams for her so much bigger than her own? That’s something she’s working through in therapy. It goes back to childhood trauma. She went into survival mode, which meant that she didn’t embrace the gifts her mom saw in her.
Her way of dealing with that was to create worlds in her head. That’s why she loves to write so much. If she never made a single cent from writing, she’d still do it until she couldn’t write any more. Her mom was the biggest cheerleader for her writing. After Kim published her first book of poetry, her mom dreamed that Kim would write a book that would make the New York Times Bestseller list someday. But with that dream came pressure to live up to what her mom thought her writing career could look like.
Kim found that her mom and those dreams became the reason why she was writing. When her mom died, Kim lost her passion for writing. It became easy to put writing on the back burner.
Kim has published three children’s books, with characters based on her children, a book of poetry, and F*ck Cancer, a book about the journey from diagnosis to the death of her mom. Written in just 30 days, Kim was proud of the book until she was visited by doubt and fear. And then her grandmother died. So the book, and her writing career, got put on the shelf for a time.
The difference between her dreams for her writing and her mom’s was this: she thought writing was a hobby – just something she loved to do; her mom thought it could be a career. She wondered: if she made writing a career, would she love it as much?
Then she wrote a couple children’s books – not because she thought she wanted to be a children’s book author, but because the stories came to her and she had fun writing them and reading them to lots of children. It also showed her the potential to make writing a profession, providing she can get out of her own way. Doubt and fear became crippling. Imposter syndrome set in.
Now she’s learning how to manage those emotions so they’re not so detrimental. And to simply be herself and write like herself, without chasing money or a title. Not making the NYT Bestseller’s list doesn’t change anything about who she is as a person or as a writer.
Second Adulthood: Learning Who I Am (19:37)
One of the big things that came out of her Forty to Forty project was recognizing, understanding and giving herself grace for not knowing who she is. Until she turned forty, her life was centered around three people who are no longer here.
Now, instead of looking at the milestone birthday as “I’m forty years old and I have no idea who I am,” she approached it with the mindset of “I’m forty years old and now I get to find out who I really am.”
She told her cousin, Pastor Michael Jefferson, “God is making me so uncomfortable and when you’re uncomfortable, you’re on the right track.” He suggested an alternative interpretation. Uncomfortable sounds negative. He proposed looking at it as, “God is taking you on an adventure.” That clicked for her. It sounded a lot better than being uncomfortable. It still showed she was outside her comfort zone but it was more positive and inspired her to wonder “what’s next for me?”
Kim’s Forty to Forty project gave her perspective on where she was mentally, and set the course for the next stage of her life.
The Healing Power of Girlfriends (21:38)
Kim spent the weekend after she turned forty with nine of her girlfriends, “the most amazing women.” Kim left that weekend with them refreshed, empowered, inspired and grateful for the love they shared with her.
The women she invited to the girl’s weekend were from all walks of her life. The oldest relationship was more than 30 years. When we spoke in the late fall, she still hadn’t completely unpacked so she could hold on to all the memories and energy of that weekend.
That girls’ weekend birthday party was a revival for Kim. She left that weekend feeling like a new woman. Like someone who is well on her way to figuring out who she is. And to know that she has those women in her corner, she could not have asked for a better birthday celebration.
“I’m the Strong One” (28:00)
Kim was intentional about the women she brought together for her birthday weekend. Many of them had never met each other but there was no awkwardness, no fakeness. The weekend was full of genuine connection. People shared a lot about what they were going through in life. There was a lot of recognition of shared issues and sharing on how each one handles different things.
The weekend was life-changing for Kim. It wasn’t an ego boost; it was more of a realization of how grateful she was to have this many women in her corner who genuinely love her. These women see things in Kim that she can’t see in herself.
“I’m the strong friend.” That’s the badge she thought she was wearing well. She did not let her friends see her vulnerable. She didn’t want to do anything that would make them think they couldn’t come to her. She didn’t ever want to make her friends feel like their needs were too much for her. So she kept her vulnerabilities hidden.
An article reminded her: just like you want them to trust you, you have to trust them.
“Even though I would trust them with my life, I didn’t trust them with my emotions. Not because they’re not trustworthy. It was me trying to protect them from ever feeling like they couldn’t come to me.” Kim says, it may sound insane, but she didn’t want to show any weakness.
She had to give her friends credit for understanding her loss, the things she’s been through and the things she’s still going through – and still support her. She got a reminder that she’s got women in her corner who, when it gets to be too much, she can call and say “hey, I need to talk.”
She finally had to accept that she could break down in a pool of tears and know that, next week, if one of them needs her, they’re going to call. There were times that she was so far in her grief, and weeping, and a friend would call and she would pull herself together like nothing was wrong to talk to them.
One day, her husband put his foot down and said “that stops now.” He told her it wasn’t healthy and, if she didn’t start sharing with her friends, he would! That gave her the push to start sharing more and being more vulnerable with her friends and she found out that she didn’t lose anything.
She realized that her hesitance around making decisions and periodic bouts of overwhelming doubt comes from the trust she lost in herself as a child experiencing trauma. She carried that uncertainty and lack of confidence in her choices throughout her mom’s battle with cancer. It got to the point where deciding what’s for dinner became overwhelming. Therapy has helped her tremendously as she works through these issues.
Sharing vulnerability with her friends has changed their relationships.
Ten years ago as she turned 30, she thought by the time she turned 40 she would be sitting in a rocking chair crying and singing spirituals. She thought 40 was OLD. Now she’s embracing 40 and blown away by the change in her perspective.
My life is forever changed (37:13)
She doesn’t know what’s going to happen down the road, what obstacles she’ll face, what kind of losses she’ll have. But she has a positive outlook. She’s started doing morning affirmations. She is trying to learn to meditate. She’s learning how to remove chaos from her life.
She’s realized she can only do what she can do. She can’t do everything, for herself, for everyone else. It’s too much. She couldn’t see that it was too much and so her life was full of chaos and she had no idea what normal was anymore.
She was neglecting her own health, not only throughout her mom’s battle with cancer, but even before that. She was traveling back and forth to Mississippi. She wasn’t eating right. She wasn’t exercising. And she was in physical pain for the last 4-5 years. She can count the days she wasn’t in some amount of pain and not use all her fingers.
She recently had a hysterectomy. When the pain of the procedure wore off in a couple weeks, she felt like a completely different person. She thought something was wrong because she was having consecutive days without pain. Being in pain had become normal for her. Not being in pain was foreign. She had energy! Her brain fog had cleared! She thought the cloud of brain fog that had been following her around for years was just a part of her grief.
She hired a personal trainer as soon as she was able and she’s working out 3 days/week. And she can stick with it now that her pain is managed. Now she can be consistent. She can build momentum. She gets up at 4:30 in the morning to go see her personal training!
During her battle with grief, she became irrationally afraid of death, so every time something was wrong, she thought it was worse than it actually was.
She knows that bad things will still happen. But now she knows that she needs to recognize which things she can control and have better reactions to those things. She’s ready to accept there are things she can’t control. But she can control how she reacts to them.
So many of her physical issues felt to her like grief. It felt like depression. It felt like grief. It felt like sadness and anxiety. So having that surgery saved her life.
Managing Grief (47:05)
With the alleviation of so many physical symptoms, Kim feels like her grief isn’t as heavy as it once was. She’s able to recognize things a little easier. She couldn’t focus on managing her grief because she was so focused on managing pain in her physical body. And each one exacerbated something else. Now that she’s got a handle on her physical pain, she can focus more on the mental side.
As the anniversary of her mother’s death approaches, she knows she doesn’t want to be in bed sleeping the day away this year. The day is going to come no matter what. She’s being intentional and planning something that will either bring a smile to her face or honor her mother, or both.
If she can just do that, she can call the day a success.
The Forty Drinks Podcast is presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications
00:00 Hi, and welcome to the 40 Drinks Podcast. I'm your host, Stephanie McLaughlin. Today I'm talking to Kim Smith, who did a big Instagram project leading up to her 40th birthday after losing the three most important people in her life in her 30s, the looming age 40 meant a lot to her. Listen to how she changed her mindset and how she channeled her difficulties into creativity and writing. A Girl's getaway weekend to celebrate her birthday acted as a revival for Kim, she says it changed her, but we'll get to that part in a little bit.
00:45 Hi, Kim. Welcome to the 40 Drinks Project. Thank you so much. I'm definitely looking forward to chatting with you, Stephanie, and I appreciate you inviting me on. Well, I found you.
00:57 You are one of my first guests that were sort of new to each other. We're just meeting each other. I found you on Instagram. I was doing some scrolling through hashtags around turning 40 and that milestone birthday, and I found a bunch of posts from you. You did a whole lead up to turning 40 that I was just captivated by. So I reached out and said, will you please come and talk to me?
01:28 Yes. I'm so glad. That whole journey was transformational for me in so many ways. It was something that I was very hesitant about doing. If I had to be honest, I didn't want to do it, but I am a believer. And it was just in the forefront of my mind. And it kept us coming back to me and coming back to me and coming back to me. And I was like, there must be something around this. So I'm not very present on social media, so that was a challenge, but I definitely enjoyed it and definitely experienced some changes because of it.
02:01 Wonderful. So you just turned 40 September of 2021? Yes. And tell me how you got the idea to do your lead up to turning 40 and what made you do it? This was my stone birthday. Not just because I was turning 40, but it was a milestone because I lost my mom four years ago. I lost her then, and we had some huge plans for my 40th birthday.
02:26 My mom had never flown before, so we had planned for me to fly to Mississippi because that's where I was born and raised and we were going to fly to Vegas together and spend the weekend. It would have been our first mother and daughter trip. And I had some reservations about even celebrating. Honestly, my birthdays have not been the same since she passed. And with a little encouragement from my friends and definitely my husband, I started to make plans to celebrate it.
02:57 And about several months ago, I kept just coming to my mind, 40 to 40 days to 40. And I was like, okay, so what am I supposed to do with that? So I started jotting some things down every time it would come. And so finally I had to talk with God. And it was like, this is what I want you to do. And I started and it was with a lot of trepidation about being vulnerable on social media.
03:25 But I'm blessed and thankful for the journey, and it definitely made celebrating that milestone without her just a little bit easier. That's wonderful. So tell me about the journey, the 40 days, and your 40 posts. There's so much in those posts, and I have some of the text here that I want to ask you about. Okay. You said you had mixed feelings about the approach of the milestone.
03:54 While you were sad, you were also excited and some apprehension. Was that about just the number 40 or was that about wider things in your life or tell me a little bit about what 40 meant? It was about wider things in my life, just thinking about everything that I had experienced. My 30s were very emotional and full of loss.
04:19 And so part of that anticipation about turning 40 was getting the heck out of my 30s in that I lost three of the most important people in my wall in my 30s, starting with my grandfather, who was my first love, and he passed away in 2014, my mom in 2017, my Godmother, who was my mom's oldest sister just seven, eight months later in 2018, and then my grandmother in 2020. And it was just too much loss.
04:50 And so I felt like my 30s were cursed. And I know you're not supposed to feel like that, but that's how I felt. And I was like, I'm ready to get the heck out of my 30s and just embrace this number. I'm big on numbers, too. So I did some research about the number 40. I had a close friend sister send me a post. Like, during that same time when I was just like, what is this, 40 to 40? Why does it keep coming to mind?
05:18 And so she sent me some information on it, and it was just like everything aligned. And I was like, okay, this is meant for me to do it. And so I didn't plan any of the posts. If you notice, like, on my timeline, most of them happen 1011, 12:00 at night. Part of that is because it's when I'm settling down and can actually think. And then the other part of that is, I don't want to share this. I was like, I really don't. But I was pulled to.
05:49 I had to just scroll through my phone, land on a picture, and whatever I felt about that picture is what I will post. And then it became something that happened during the day that I posted about. And then I just made it whatever it was going to be. I didn't have any expectations. I didn't over analyze or overthink. I didn't wonder what people would think about me doing it. It was for me.
06:15 And so I think that's also what made it part of basically a journey and an experience in exiting my 30s with anticipation and more positivity than I experienced in my 30s. Wow, that's wonderful. Can you tell me a little bit about what the information your friend gave you about 40 or about turning 40? That sort of helped put a little bit of more momentum behind the idea.
06:44 For the most part, it was the study of the numbers, and I don't remember verbatim, but the number four represented what the number zero represented and what they represented together. But it was just about, for me, transformation and being in alignment. Another thing that kind of like I said, I'm weird with numbers, so it might sound weird to someone else, but when my mom had me when she was 18 and I had my daughter, my first child when I was 22 and 22 and 18 is 40.
07:20 And so there's so much in the milestones in that my daughter will be celebrating her 18th birthday later on this month. It will be her second milestone without my mom. And so I just made it all about being the woman that my mom knew that I was and that I hadn't quite grasped yet. Her dreams and expectations for me were much bigger than I could have ever imagined for myself.
07:48 And so it's almost like changing the way that I grieve. Four years isn't that long, but I've spent that four years in depression, anxiety, sadness, frustration, loss, anger. So it was now figuring out how I can feel everything that I feel about the loss of my mom, but still in some way, every day wake up to honor her in some way, and I will be doing her disservice if I gave up on the dreams that she had for me.
08:26 And so it's just been about changing that mindset like my life will never be the same. But just because it's different doesn't mean it's going to be bad. And so getting in that mindset where I am being more positive, but also allowing myself to be vulnerable and feel and understand that even though I'm on this high of turning 40, there are still things that are going to come my way. There are still days that I'm going to wake up and miss her every day, actually.
08:57 But some days are going to be worse than others. And then just finding my way through that, not trying to go around it, under it, above it, just straight through it, isn't it? The truth. I have to tell you, I had a boyfriend for five years in my 30s and not a good match. But one of the things he would have been a lovely, wonderful man if his emotional baggage hadn't really ground him down.
09:27 And he definitely had some trauma in his childhood. Not to take that away from him, but I always used to say emotional whack a mole anytime something came up that he didn't like the way it felt, and then it would pop up over here. And a lot of times he was whacking the mold with alcohol. And that was I think it was a great visual for me to go through that relationship and realize that you can't go around these things because they don't go away.
10:02 They're always in you. And so we all have baggage, and we have to figure out how to get that baggage so it's manageable and we can carry it with us and move on. And like you say, honor the folks that have gone before us and those things they wanted for us. Yes. So I'm curious to know you said your mom had much, much bigger dreams for you than you did. And I'm so curious to know why were your thoughts for yourself so much smaller than her?
10:29 That's actually something that I'm working through in therapy that's associated with childhood trauma and being an only child. I created this is how I got into writing, actually. I created alternate worlds that I could experience outside of where I was and all of that childhood trauma I learned. I went into survival mode, and so I realized I was just surviving every day, every month, every year.
11:02 I was just in survival mode, and I didn't really embrace the gifts that my mom saw in me. I love writing. If I never made a dime from any book I published or anything, I would write until I could not write anymore. My mom was very passionate about writing, and I don't know if a lot of people knew she was an amazing writer. And it's just that when I found that passion for it, she was my biggest cheerleader.
11:32 It wasn't anything that I couldn't give her that I was like, oh, mom, check this out. Read this. Tell me what you think about this. And it was just like she became my biggest cheerleader. And I think somewhere in my journey of writing, I started to do it more for her than I did it for myself. Okay. And her biggest dream for me was for me to write a book that makes The New York Times bestseller list. I think that kind of started right after I published my first book of poetry.
12:03 And we both love Kimberla Lawson Roby. She is my all-time favorite author. I've met her so many times, and she's actually the first author that my mom and I met together. Okay. And so she has numerous books on the New York Times bestseller list. And I think after I published my first book, my mom was like, you got to keep writing. And she was like, one day your name is going to be on that list.
12:30 And the pressure from that, I know she didn't realize it, but I'm not sure if I even think that is something that is achievable, but it became the thing that I was going to chase because I knew it was something that would make her happy. So I was like, I'm decent. And she was like, no, baby, you are amazing. It was like she was waiting for me to tap into that and realize it.
12:58 And just her idea of what my writing career looked like. It was something that I could not fathom. And it was part of the reason why after she passed, I lost that fire because it became centered around her, and I lost the reason why I was writing. And so it made it easy for me to put it on the back burner after she passed away.
13:25 So tell me, you said you've published a book of poetry, and I think you've published a children's book, too, right? Yes. I published three children's books, two for my oldest daughter, the character that kind of resembles her personality, and one for my middle daughter. And I was supposed to be working on some for my son. The vision for that has since changed. I'm not sure where I am with that right now. And I had taken a break from making any major decisions because I didn't feel like I was in a good space mentally.
13:59 So when I decided to go on the right in Sabbatical, I made sure that I assessed where I wanted my business to go and then just decided, no major decisions right now. And so I'm not sure where I will land on the whole children's book aspect. And then the book that I released right before my grandmother passed, it's called F Cancer, and it is actually telling our story what that journey was like from diagnosis to death.
14:30 Yeah. And I wrote that book in 30 days. And it was a challenge. I had to relive some things. And so I was very proud of the product when it was finished. And then doubt set in and fear set in. And then my grandmother passed, and I just put it on the shelf. And that was how long ago now? That was last year.
14:59 You said yes. Last year in September. So I have a question for you, and I'm going to take the long way around. So I did my 40 drinks project when I turned 40. And after that, I was always looking to see what could come of this. So many people, whenever they heard the story, they'd say, oh, my God, that's a book. That's a television show. You got to do something with that. So for a long time, I worked with a writing partner.
15:28 I worked on a book proposal, and we've several times shopped it around to Editors and agents and stuff. And we always got great feedback, great idea. We love it. We love it. It's not for me. And so nothing ever came of it. But among and amidst all of that, I just have become so captivated about 40 and what 40 means and turning 40. So I've read books about different people's journeys and some even about adult developmental sort of stages.
15:57 And one of the concepts that I've been really interested in is one that's first adulthood and second adulthood, and the sort of thought process behind that is that our first adulthood is, let's say, whenever we leave home 1820 to sometime between 35 and 45. And in that phase of our lives, we make a lot of our choices and we do a lot of things based on influence from external authorities.
16:24 So whether that's our parents or our bosses or the media or society or culture or whatever. And then there's a period of sort of evolution at some point in our late 30s or early 40s where we move into our second adulthood, where we're looking for things that are true to us specifically and that are more meaningful to us and more fulfilling to us. And we have, whether lost faith in those external authorities or we've left them behind and realized that we can be our own authority.
16:58 And so I'm curious, when you're talking about your mom and your writing career, it sounds like a lot of your writing career was influenced by your mom. And so I'm curious, is that what you would pick for yourself as well, or might you do something else without all of that mom energy around it? Actually, it is something that I would pick for myself.
17:25 But when I talk about her dreams for me, I saw it as a hobby, something that I love to do, something I was very passionate about that I would do whether I was getting paid or not. It wasn't until I actually started researching, publishing and self publishing and did release my first book, I was like, this could actually be a career for me. It's something. And the bonus for me will be getting paid to do what I love to do anyway.
17:54 And so I think she saw the potential for me to do both. And I hadn't quite grasped making a career out of being a writer. It was just something that I love to do. And honestly, in the beginning, I was like, if I change it so that it becomes a career, would I love it as much? Okay.
18:19 And so I had to go through that phase of and I think that was the experiment with doing the children's books because I never wanted to be a children's book author. But the ideas came. The kids loved it. I enjoyed reading to so many kids. So that period was definitely beneficial. And now I see the potential for me to do both. Okay?
18:43 I just have to get out of my own way in the fear and the doubt and learning how to manage that better so that it is not so detrimental. Doubt before fear, before as I'm transforming, I feel like was crippling and I suffer from imposter syndrome. The fact that, do I really look at some of the authors that have made The New York Times bestselling.
19:12 Am I really that good? And then just learning how to be me, to write like me, and to always put the writing as a passion first. I never want to chase money. I never want to chase a title. If I make The New York Times bestseller list amazing. I can't even imagine how that would feel. And if I don't, it won't change anything at all about who I am as a writer.
19:38 You spoke about those in the second adulthood, learning who you are without all of those external influences. And that was one of the huge takeaways from my 40 to 40 in recognizing, understanding, and giving myself Grace for not knowing who I am. Because I was centered around three people who are no longer here. Wow.
20:06 And so now instead of looking at it as, oh, my God, I'm 40 years old, and I have no idea who I am. I look at it as like, I'm 40 years old, and now I get to find out who I really am. I love that. That's amazing. And it's such a shift, too, isn't it? It's interesting because it seems like such an easy shift. On one hand, it is.
20:33 And yet, on the other hand, it's the hardest shift you'll ever do. Yes. And so I was like, I'm in this stage of my cousin. I love him. He's also a pastor. His name is Michael Jefferson. And we were talking, and I was like, God is making me so uncomfortable. And they say when you start to feel uncomfortable, you're on the right track. And he's like, Why don't you look at it differently? Because when you think about being uncomfortable, it sounds negative.
21:02 He's like, Why don't we look at it as God has taken you on an adventure? And it clicked. For me, that sounds a lot better than being uncomfortable. It still shows that I'm doing something outside of my comfort zone, but it's an adventure. Like, we're going on a journey. And now what's next? What's next? For me?
21:26 That 40 to 40 challenge did so much internally and helped me gain some perspective on where I was mentally and I think actually set the course for whatever is next. I can definitely tell you I'm still on a high. I spent the weekend after I turned 40. I had nine of the most amazing women in my life.
21:52 We spent the weekend together, and it was such I left that weekend with them. Refreshed, empowered, inspired, grateful for the love that they imparted on me during that time. I have no regrets about celebrating my birthday. It is actually the best decision that I could have made centered around turning 40. And there's a couple of them that didn't get to make it.
22:22 But the women that were there from all walks of my life and my oldest friendship was 30 plus years. Wow. And I had all of them in the room together. And we spent an amazing weekend. And I still haven't even completely unpacked. I'm harboring all of those memories of that weekend. And so now, even with you contacted me, I was like, at first, I was like, I don't really want to talk to you, you know what I mean?
22:57 But my husband said this is an opportunity for you to share with somebody else what that transformation will look like for you, what that journey to 40 looks like for you, and what you're expecting to share about the things that you lost and how it impacted your life. And honestly, with where I see my writing career going over the next three to five years, I have to get out of my own way and be more open to doing things like sharing.
23:26 And I feel great about it. You're fantastic at it, I have to tell you. Right? So. Right. If you're over the next five years, if you're going to be evolving your writing career, you have to be willing to share your voice, to be vulnerable, to explore things that you might not have thought you were ready to explore. And this already is an amazing conversation. So you're well on your way. Thank you. Thank you so much.
23:55 Thank you. We'll get right back to my conversation with Kim, but I wanted to pause for a moment to say, if you're enjoying this conversation, please join me on social media. The 40 Drinks podcast is on Instagram and Facebook as 40 Drinks F-O-R-T-Y drinks all one word. Head over there and tell me what you think about today's conversation and how you relate to what Kim's saying. It sounds like you left your girl's weekend just full to the brim.
24:28 I did. Just full up. I love that there are certain people that when I visit, I get in the car afterwards. There's a particular people that I'm thinking of. We get in the car afterwards and my husband's pulling out of the driveway, and I'm like, oh, I felt so good. My soul feels good. Yes, it was a revival for me, the way they just showered me with love.
24:53 And I know I feel that love year round, but it was different having all of it in one house to the point where I ended up canceling the plans that we had that Sunday and just enjoying. I was like, I want to enjoy this house, and I want to enjoy you guys' company. We had an amazing time. We went to dinner, everyone try something new. I chose a sushi restaurant here in Indianapolis, and I'm new to sushi. I think I tried it the first time.
25:22 My 37th birthday, 38th birthday, maybe. And so I took them to this restaurant, and some of them try something new for the first time. We listen to music, we dance, we play games. It was just and then that Sunday was the end of that time. And we had brunch. So I had a chef come in and Cook for us. And it was just an amazing time. And when I tell you, I left there full like, I talked about it for the entire and then when I got the pictures because I hired a photographer, I didn't want us to try to stress, did you get a picture with me?
25:55 I hired a photographer to come in for brunch and take pictures of it. And I still scroll through my phone and just look at the pictures because I left that weekend feeling like a new woman, feeling like somebody well on their way to actually figuring out who they are. And then to know that I have those women in my corner praying for me, encouraging me, thinking about me, asking how they can help.
26:25 I could not have asked for a better birthday celebration. That's amazing. It's interesting because I'm listening to you talk, and I'm thinking that there's some sort of thematic similarities between that sort of girls weekend that you did and my 40 drinks project. When I started my 40 drinks project, I thought, oh, this is just something ridiculous that I could do to sort of extend my birthday for a year and make lots of people celebrate with me. My birthday is the first of the month, so I have always celebrated a birthday month.
26:54 So I thought 40. I got to go bigger than that. But what ended up happening was I called on people through all different parts of my life, people from grammar school and high school and College and different jobs and family and friends. And over the course of a year, I had, yes, 40 drinks, but mostly 40 visits with these people. And they reflected back on me what they knew about me, what they remember about me and things that I had either forgotten or had covered up or buried.
27:32 And that year changed my life completely. And so it sounds like you had a turbo version of that with all these girlfriends loving on you and just sharing their world with you and just really just celebrating you. It sounds like if you had people that you've known for 30 years and then friends from newer than that, did anybody reminisce with you about when they knew you or how they knew you or when you met? Was there any of that happened that weekend?
28:02 For the most part, the history that I had, most of them, it was about them all meeting each other for the first time. Some of them met for the first time and understanding why they were a part of that circle, why they were there that weekend, and understanding not so much as why do we click? And why it wasn't about that. Because at first I was like, I was very intentional about the list of who I could invite because it was all being planned, not just by me.
28:34 But I was very intentional. And for those women to meet for the very first time and you not know it, there was no awkwardness. There was no fakeness. There was really genuine connections. And we did a lot of talking about sharing things that we were going through with life and mental health and parenting in the midst of having fun and learning that, oh, my God, I experienced that. And this is how I handle it.
29:05 How do you handle it? And then just imparting wisdom in each other. That's what it was centered around. We had a blast, but everybody left there with something, and it was life changing for me. It wasn't an ego booster for me. It was, oh, my God, how grateful am I to have this many women in my corner who genuinely love me, who genuinely believe in me, and who can see things in me that I can't even see it myself.
29:42 And knowing that they're going to help me embrace those things. Even when I think about that weekend, I get emotional about it because I left there a changed woman. That sounds magical. Yes, it was. What things did they see in you that you didn't even know? I'm the strong friend. Okay, so that's the badge that at first I thought I was wearing.
30:10 Well, okay, I did not let them see me vulnerable, not because I didn't trust them. I trust them with my life, but it was because, okay, I can't show this because I need them to be able to come to me, and I don't want them to ever feel like it's too much for her. I actually read an article about being a strong friend, and it put a lot of those feelings and emotions in check.
30:38 Like, you have these women around you for a reason, just like you want them to trust you, you have to trust them. And even though I could trust them with my life, I did not trust them with my emotions. Not because they aren't trustworthy, but it was me. It was me trying to protect them from ever feeling like they couldn't come to me. I know it sounds absolutely insane, but that's how it was.
31:05 And so knowing that they understand the loss, they understand the things that I have been through, the things I am still going through and still see those things still can tell me. You're an amazing mother. You're an awesome wife. You're an amazing writer. You can do anything you put your mind to. You can write that book. I share some of my ideas. Oh, my God, that's phenomenal.
31:35 You should follow through on that. It's just that the fact that they can see that I can do it, and they're there with me, not to force me, but just to remind me that you have women in your corner, that when it gets too much, you can call and say, hey, I need to talk to you about this. What do you think about this? And you don't have to worry about them going anywhere else with that information. And so just finally accepting that I can break down in a pool of tears right now.
32:07 And next week, if one of them needs me, they're going to call me because I was actually looking. I didn't want to show any weakness. And there were times when I would be so far in my grief that I am, like, weeping, and one of them will call. And it was like, okay, I got to get myself together. Hey, how's it going? Blah, blah, blah. And then one day, my husband was like, that stops now.
32:38 It's not healthy. And if you don't start sharing, I'm going to start sharing. So he's like, he got their phone number. I'm going to call your friends and let them know what's really going on. And so it put me in check a little bit. I did start to share more and be vulnerable more, and I didn't lose anything. They still know what my strengths are. I don't feel weak about it.
33:07 I don't feel weak when one of them calls me. And I'm like, Today is not a good day, and they're there to what do you need? If you need me to not call you, I can do that. If you need me to call you, I can do that. What is it that you need? And sometimes, even when I don't know, they're just so understanding. When you figure it out, you just let me know. It's just embracing that. I love that. It's interesting that you said that you trust them with your life, but you said something like, you didn't trust them with that vulnerability.
33:40 And I wonder, did you not trust them or did you not trust yourself with the vulnerability? Probably mainly not trusting myself. If one thing that I've realized is my hesitancy with making decisions, the overwhelming doubt sometimes is all about that trust that I lost in myself during childhood trauma and being so unsure of if is this decision the right decision and being afraid of the outcome.
34:15 I carried that even through my mom's battle with cancer. It's like it got to the point where she no longer wanted to make the decisions, and it fell on me as the only child. And did I choose the right doctor? Did I choose the right hospital? Did I choose the right treatment? If I had done this differently, if I had done that differently, I stopped trusting myself to the point where even deciding what we were going to have for dinner was overwhelming.
34:47 I didn't even want to make that decision. It was like, whatever you guys want, just tell me what it is. I don't want to have to decide. And so working through that therapy has been a tremendous help. I know that I would not have been able to get this far without it, but I do have goals for therapy and that I don't want to be in therapy for the rest of my life. I know where it helps, but I've established goals with my therapist, and we're tackling those goals.
35:18 Will I be in therapy three years? Probably. But my ultimate goal is to treat it almost like a doctor's appointment. I want to get to a point where I do quarterly check in once a quarter. Right now, I go once a week, and it's helpful. It is life changing. No, I would not have made all of the progress that I made without that tool. Yeah.
35:43 It sounds to me just from our conversation that there are some pretty obvious indicators that you are at least beginning to trust yourself if you've gone from not being able to decide what to make to dinner to being able to really open up to your girlfriends and be vulnerable and be soft. I'm with you on the strong friend and the tough friend. I am her as well.
36:11 And so a lot of that resonates really strongly. And being able to let people in and show them the soft underbelly. It's a scary thing. It is. It is very scary. But I definitely can feel the change that it has made in our conversations and our interactions, how we check in with each other. It's almost like realizing I could have done this a lot sooner. But it took some time to get there. It took some to get there.
36:41 And so now, as I am learning to embrace because I want to say about ten years ago, turning 30, I was like, oh, my God. When I turned 40, I would be somewhere crying in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth, singing or spiritual. And I think about my vision for myself ten years ago to now. And to be able to embrace 40. The way that I have is mind blowing.
37:18 My life is forever changed. And that is not to say I don't know what's going to happen down the road. I don't know what kind of obstacles I'm going to face. I don't know what kind of loss I'm going to have. I still, right now in these moments, have such a positive outlook. I've started doing morning affirmations.
37:40 I'm trying to learn how to meditate, learning how to remove the chaos, because my life has been pure chaos. It didn't just start when my mom got sick, but I would say the last ten years and then just finding those areas and working on those areas, and that's all I could do. That's a big thing, too, isn't it? Realizing that you can only do what you can only do that's it that's a huge realization.
38:07 I was trying to do everything, everything for me. Everything for somebody else. Everything for everybody else. It was too much, but I didn't see that. I didn't see that it was too much. And I became so accustomed to chaos that honestly, normal fee. I was like, what is that talking about? All the things get back to normal. Exactly what is normal? Define it. Define normal. Right.
38:37 And so recently, a lot of things, like, even with my health issues, because I was neglecting myself when during my mom's battle with cancer, even before everything was about her, everything was I was traveling back and forth to Mississippi. I wasn't eating right. I wasn't exercising. I was in pain. I want to say, for the last three and a half years, about four and a half to five years, I can probably count on two sets of hands the days that I was not in some sort of pain.
39:11 And so recently, I'm full disclosure, I had a hysterectomy after suffering from issues with fibroid. And when the pain wore off, about two and a half to three weeks, the difference that I felt physically, oh, my God.
39:33 It was like night and day to the point where I thought something was wrong because I was having consecutive days with no pain, no headaches, no stomach aches, no back pain, like, no brain fog. It was unreal. I was like, this is how normal people have felt all of this time. Because that had become my normal. Yeah.
40:03 Being in pain had become normal to me. Not being in pain was foreign. And so I was like, I have energy. I know I bug my husband after the first three weeks because I was like, okay, what do you need me to do? What can I do? What can I help? He's like, Sit down. You're in recovery for six weeks. Sit down. And it was I have all this energy, and this is what I've been missing out on. I actually hired a personal trainer as soon as my recovery period was up.
40:33 And I've been working out three days a week before when I would try to work out, I would get two days in, and then I'd be in pain. Like, literally sometimes I fell all over my body, and so I could never be consistent. And so that was weighing on me and that I feel so unhealthy. But there's nothing I can do about it. I work out two days, and then I'm in pain for three or four days. And then I tried again, but I could never get consistent to get any type of momentum.
41:05 And now I feel I'm not where I want to be, but I'm on my way. Being able to get up at 430 in the morning and go drive to see a personal trainer unreal. Wow. And I'm doing that at 40. Yeah. And it's amazing to me that you said when you went a couple of days consecutively with no pain that you stopped and said, what's wrong?
41:33 The brain fog that I was feeling, most of it for that whole time, I thought it was just centered around my grief. I didn't have any clarity. I couldn't see clearly at all. It was like this cloud just followed me all the time. I was straining my eyes. I thought that I was having. I thought my vision was changing. And the week before my surgery, I got a call from my doctor that my hemoglobin was a 7.9, and they needed it to be between ten and twelve to even consider me to go through with the surgery.
42:08 And so I had to have a blood transfusion. I was scared to death because I was like, oh, my God, what is wrong with me? I only see blood transfusions on TV when you're watching a medical show. And then she said, no. She said, Sweetie, there's nothing wrong. She said, Your blood is just low, and we need to give you some blood so that we can do surgery. I had a whole panic attack.
42:33 I thought something was seriously wrong with me, because even during my battle dealing with grief, I won't say it's a battle, but just dealing with grief, I had developed this irrational fear of death. So every time something was wrong, I thought it was worse than it actually was. Sure, everything was warped. And so I had that blood transfusion. I felt better that same day driving home.
43:00 I was, like, looking around, and I don't know, my husband was looking it's wrong with her. What kind of blood did they give you? Because I was looking around, like, actually clear. Like, I can see they gave you the good kind of blood around week three, week four, walking through the house because I still couldn't do too much. I was looking around, like, Where's the fog? It's going to come back any day.
43:31 This is just maybe it's the Med. And it was like, I stopped taking the pain meds, and I'm looking around, and everything is so clear. My eyes don't feel heavy. I don't feel like it's this cloud following me everywhere I go. And it was like, wow, my body was suffering that much. Go ahead. No. After I had the surgery, and when I tell you, I've almost been paying for, I think maybe four or five days since I had my surgery in July.
44:07 My migraines. I've only had three since July, where I was having two, sometimes three a week. I was just waiting for it to have, like, when is it coming back? And it hasn't. I've been doing better, trying to do better with eating. I'm an emotional eater that is sometimes not very easy. With that, clarity came, okay, I can do this. I can decide on this.
44:37 I can recognize. I can't make that decision right now. And it's like I was making so many decisions and I wasn't focused. And so now everything is coming together. But I'm not naive. And knowing that bad things are going to happen, I have to figure out and learn how to recognize the things that I can control and have better reactions to those things, the things that I cannot control, I cannot control.
45:11 The only thing I can is how I react to it. Absolutely. And if we can manage our reactions, then they don't feel so out of control. Absolutely. I'm just blown away by the story of your physical transformation because I share with your past self the brain fog. I actually have been managing chronic Lyme disease for probably six or seven years now, and then an autoimmune thyroid disease even before that.
45:41 So it's interesting. I'm listening to you, and there's a bunch of stuff I can relate to really well. And I God, the day that the fog clears and my eyes clear, I'm looking forward to that. So I envy you that it sounds magical and miraculous. It does. And I had no idea that's what I was dealing with and walking around in I had no idea that my blood was that low. It just felt like everything else. It felt like grief, it felt like depression.
46:11 It felt like sadness. It felt like anxiety. It felt gastro issues. It felt migraines. It was one thing was related to this, and this symptom was a symptom of this. And I had no way of knowing that my blood was actually that low until that appointment because they only do your physical unless something is absolutely wrong. Your physical is once a year. That's when they do all of the blood work. And I had no idea.
46:38 So in a sense, I feel deciding to have that surgery helped save my life because as a woman losing blood monthly and then not knowing that your blood is that low, I had no indicator because, like I said, the symptoms, everything felt like everything else. And so to have that get that resolved, have the surgery and now feel the way that I do physically, I'm more intentional about the work that I'm doing on myself mentally.
47:07 That's wonderful. Let me ask you one last question. I know our time is winding up, but with all that's happened with you physically and the alleviation of so many physical symptoms, do you feel like your grief is more manageable now? Not as heavy? I'm able to recognize things more and compartmentalize things more. The milestones managing my grief day to day, it is what it is.
47:40 Absolutely. But I have a nice thing. Whereas it was my grief, my depression, my anxiety, my physical pain all compounded. And then it was like I couldn't focus on the grief or healing or even managing it because I was trying to manage my pain in my physical body and so exacerbated everything else. So now I've gotten a handle on my physical pain, and now I can work on my mental and understanding.
48:12 Like, now I make plans. Her death-aversary is coming up. And I don't want to be in bed this year. I don't want to just sleep the day away. The day is going to come no matter what. I'm trying to be more intentional in making plans to do something that either is going to bring a smile to my face or honor her or both. That's wonderful. I feel like if I could just do that. Yeah. Then you can call the day a success.
48:41 Yes. For all kinds of reasons. That's wonderful. Kim, I am so grateful that you chose to join me today and talk to me about your 40th birthday and your journey and all the bits and pieces that go into it. I'm exceptionally grateful for this conversation. So thank you. So am I. Thank you for reaching out to me. I thank you for even reading my story and getting to know me through those posts and inviting me on. I love what you did. I read about it and I'm like and that's right up my alley, 40 drinks.
49:12 So I'm like I'm sold and just the concept and what has evolved from that? I can't wait to continue to follow you. What's next? It's not just about this one interview. I do want to keep up. I want to listen to other amazing stories about this milestone and see what I have in common with them or what they can share that will help me to continue on in embracing being 40. And I do have some things that I have planned for capturing, some things during the year of 40 leading up to my 41st birthday.
49:43 So we'll see how that works out. You keep the celebration going. All right. Thank you so much. Thanks, Kim. Take care. Thank you so much for listening. If you liked what you heard today, please subscribe wherever you listen and share this episode with your friends. If you know someone who has a great story about turning 40 or the midlife transitions that accompany it, I want to hear it and I probably want to talk to them on the podcast.
50:10 Go to fortydrinks.com guest next week, put on some lip gloss and your favorite shoes and listen to my conversation with image consultant Susan Osborne. I cannot wait to share it with you. The 40 drinks podcast is produced by Outpost Productions and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications.