Project 40/40: The Things That Make Me Uncomfortable

‘Tis the season for a life crisis…

I’ve only been 40 for eight weeks and it has been a wildly unpredictable ride so far.

It’s 2.01am as I write this blog post and there’s no good reason for me to be awake.

Just like there’s probably no good reason to be writing these words because statistically, 95% of all the blog posts I write never get published.

I’m not sure I’m really cut out to be a blogger.

I thought I’d be writing more instructional articles on this website to help other multipotentialites, but most of the time I’m posting quarterly or half yearly updates to explain what’s been happening during my many months of silence.

Every time I sit down to write a blog or social media post, I get overwhelmed by how much there is to say. There’s so much going on, both in the world at large and in my own little bubble, that I can’t possibly cover everything.

So either I write for pages and pages until my blog post becomes a book. Or I just get paralysed and end up saying… nothing.

That’s one of the reasons I post so infrequently on my website and social media channels. The other reason is a deep, agonising discomfort about being “seen”. I enjoy writing blog and social posts because I like putting words together, but I’m not a fan of publishing them so other people can read and scrutinise them.

This is just one of the many “normal” things that others seem to do easily but make me squirm with discomfort.

Honestly, when I turned 40, I half expected these anxieties to magically disappear. I’d heard all these stories about how women in their 40s are more self-assured, decisive and confident but I’m still waiting for that to kick in.

That’s not to say nothing changed when I turned 40, because it did…

Let me catch you up really quick on what’s been happening in Lauraland.

I got diagnosed with a thing

For the last month, David and I have been living in a rural area of the NSW mid-north coast on a house on a hill with sheep, lemon trees and a Belgian shepherd named Hudson.

This was our first post-covid gig for the new business David and I started earlier this year working as “professional simplifiers”. Before the pandemic, we were helping people downsize their lives, declutter their homes and delegate their “to do” lists when they were feeling overwhelmed.

We also offer a fun little service called “Housesit Decluttering”, which is what we were doing in June.

We take care of people’s homes and pets when they’re away on holiday and sell off their old unwanted items while they’re gone. So they come home from their holidays to a clean house, happy pets, more space and some extra cash.

At the same time, we live rent-free in their homes and take a commission on every sale. Everyone’s happy.

Our fur client, Hudson, sat at my feet while I worked every day, asking for an occasional scratch.

But right before starting this assignment, just days after my birthday, I’d made a big decision. After 27 years of struggling with endometriosis, I was going to undergo major surgery in July. I’d been agonising over the decision for almost a year, but my condition had now become unbearable – often leaving me unable to walk or even get out of bed for several days each month.

As a precaution, the surgeon ordered a round of routine tests to make sure there were no red flags before I underwent surgery, and that’s when they found a whole different problem. My operation was immediately cancelled.

What followed was blood tests, more blood tests, being rigged up to heart monitors then getting more blood tests until eventually I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition.

It’s overactive. A bit like me.

My thyroid, I have only just discovered, is a little butterfly in my neck that is kind of the boss of my entire body. Or at least it’s the assistant manager. And at the moment, it’s flapping its wings too hard like it’s flying into the wind.

These days, it seems like thyroid disorders are common to the point of being boring but they have a huge impact on people’s lives. When I was diagnosed, I suddenly had an explanation for the countless symptoms I’d been dismissing or attributing to other things going on in my life.

I’m lucky. My condition is bad enough that I can no longer have surgery, but not severe enough to warrant invasive medical intervention. We caught it early and I have a good chance of reversing the issue with some significant diet and lifestyle changes.

I’ve sought the advice of an expert in hyperthyroidism and I’m now following a strict autoimmune elimination diet to cut out all foods that may be causing my butterfly to freak out, then I’ll slowly reintroduce foods one by one to see if there’s a trigger.

This process is quite challenging because I love cooking like I love getting a Pap smear. So it’s been quite a shock to suddenly find myself spending three hours in the kitchen every day, milking coconuts and making “rice” out of cauliflower.

Until recently, I used to experience a kind of kitchen rage whenever I had to “waste time” preparing food for myself. I’ve spent the last 20 years living on salads and pasta – quick, easy meals that are difficult to screw up. Which, let’s be honest, probably hasn’t helped my cause…

Now I find myself buying parsnips and pomegranates, and getting advice from a farmer at his roadside market about the best way to cook a pimply squash (you have to smash it on the concrete first, apparently).

I’ve also stopped drinking Champagne. Which, although confronting to admit, has felt like losing part of my identity…

But I know I’m on the right path.

In just a few weeks, my body has changed dramatically. I have more energy. My pelvis no longer feels like I swallowed a bowling ball. My resting heart rate has come down. And my brain has emerged from a fog I didn’t know it was in until it wasn’t anymore.

There’s still some sleeplessness (obviously, because it’s now 3am) and other niggling symptoms but honestly, for someone who has just been diagnosed with a whole new medical thing, I’m probably feeling better now than I have in a long while.

Which is lucky, because I have a lot of lovely stuff going on right now that need my energy and attention.

2 new businesses + an update about my book

David and I have been working hard on building the website for our new business which will all officially launch NEXT WEEK. We have a quirky little name that sums up who we are and how we can help people, and we can’t wait to share that with you all.

At the same time, I’ve been working with an international publishing house on getting my book out to the world.

The book is about the trip we took with our Nepali “parents”, Ama and Baba, to France in 2014. It follows the story of these two wonderful souls as they leave the only home they’ve ever known in a remote village of the Himalayas and travel to Europe to experience Western culture.

First glimpse of the ocean in France…

The publishers are really enthusiastic about the story and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about my writing, but there’s one big problem with the book.

Remember that issue I have with either needing to say everything or nothing at all? Yep, well, it turns out it took me five years to finish the manuscript because I wrote EVERYTHING I thought I needed to say and subsequently ended up with four books worth of material.

So under the publisher’s guidance, I’m currently neck-deep in another rewrite to extract just one story from the book, and the rest will be put towards a second and maybe third manuscript.

And on top of all of this goodness, in my spare time, I also co-founded a business experiment with my old boss and one of my besties. We’re still nutting out the details, developing website content and building the tech, but it’s a really exciting concept and also due to soft-launch in July-Augustish.

So yep! I am multipotentialiting all over the place. My life right now is as active as the butterfly in my neck and most days it feels like there’s not enough time for sleeplessness or milking coconuts.

But I know that if I don’t make time, none of these exciting opportunities will be available to me anymore. Health comes first or the rest isn’t possible.

So that’s me in a nutshell. Except for one last thing…

Project 40/40 is underway…

When I turned 30, some of you may remember I launched a blog called Project 30/30 and documented my journey as I crossed 30 things off my bucket list.

Talk about a life crisis…

That year, I finally learnt how to ride a bike, took belly dancing classes in Morocco, drank champagne in Champagne, learnt the entire Thriller dance, and stood up on stage in front of a room full of people and sang.

Solo.

In Swedish.

It was unbelievable fun — all the laughter and madness of the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson movie except without any of the actual dying.

Camel trek in the Sahara towards the Algerian border… tick!

I had no intentions of doing a Project 40/40 but as this birthday approached, and the mid-life soul searching began, I realised something.

Blogging about Project 30/30 kept me accountable to a goal that felt really important to me as I entered a new decade. I’m a multipotentialite so it’s no surprise that about 10 goals into that project, I’d had enough fun and was ready to move onto something else.

But I’d told everyone I was doing it, and I’d started an entire blog about it, so I felt compelled to keep going because other people now expected it of me. The end result was one of the most productive and laughter-filled years of my life.

So in the week before my birthday this year I asked myself, “What do I want to be held accountable for as I turn 40?”

And the truth is, by 40 years old, I’d kinda hoped I’d have nailed some rudimentary life skills. Like being able to boil an egg or drive a car on a freeway without freaking out about the trucks.

I also thought I’d have a smidgeon more confidence. Maybe a bit more belief in my ability, less perfection paralysis, and the guts to step up and be seen now and then.

Because many of the things I want to do — like taking my businesses to the next level or publishing a book — cannot be done while cowering in the shadows.

For a woman who has spent her life trotting around the globe, living in different countries, learning new languages and changing jobs constantly, you would think I’d be used to stepping out of my comfort zone.

But that kind of change is my comfort zone, and you’d probably be surprised to learn of all the “normal” things I avoid doing because they make me uncomfortable.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that make my squirm:

  • Telling strangers what I do for work. Not because I’m embarrassed (I love what I do), it just feels awkward and I’m not sure why.
  • Being on video or having my photo taken. If you point a camera at me, I turn into an ironing board.
  • Preparing food that someone else has to eat. I’m such a bad cook that I legitimately worry I’ll poison people.
  • Letting anyone read my writing (she types ironically on her public blog)
  • Posting in private Facebook groups. I might comment now and then, but usually I just lurk in groups like a creepy stalker.
  • Calling or messaging friends and family to ask for something. Anything. Excruciating…
  • Promoting my own products and services for my business. I’ve so far managed to run a business for 5 years with only clients who have found me somehow.
  • Speaking up when I know my words could offend anyone anywhere. Even when I deeply believe in what I want to say.
  • Using big words without first checking online to make sure I really do understand the meaning (although I’m told this is a common quirk amongst people who speak multiple languages.)
  • Driving a car over 80kms per hour. I hit a 9 year old kid with my car 2 months after getting my license (actually he hit me) and I never got my confidence back.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg…

So in an attempt to get over myself this year, I decided to do a Project 40/40.

It probably won’t be as much fun as Project 30/30. There will be no krav maga, family history trips to The Netherlands, laughing yoga or camel treks into the Sahara this time.

Instead, in the year after I turn 40, I’m committing to doing 40 different things that make me UNCOMFORTABLE for my own good. All the things I dread and avoid but my life might be better if I didn’t.

Because I’ve still got half a lifetime left to hit some of these big, crazy dreams but to do that, I need to step up and out of my safety bubble.

I’ve already started by handing my manuscript over for the first time in five years, giving it to three industry professionals to read and give me feedback. To put that into context, doing this felt like a mum handing her toddler to a bunch of strangers and asking if they think she’s ugly. Or stupid.

I also prepared an autoimmune protocol compliant curry for my sister’s family on Saturday night (with their help) and no one died. I’m not counting that towards my 40 because I didn’t cook it all by myself, but it was a baby step in the right direction.

And here I am, publishing all of this online in a blog post containing deeply personal information about my health struggles that I usually work hard to hide from the world, so that’s definitely uncomfortable.

But this year, I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and find a way to calm the overactive butterflies in my life – the hormone butterfly in my neck and the crippling, anxious butterflies in my belly.

Anyone else out there struggle with this kind of thing? Hit reply and let me know what makes you uncomfortable. Maybe we can do this together.

‘Ofa atu,

Laura xx

P.S. In my brain, I’ve written an entire blog post about Black Lives Matter and white privilege, particularly as it relates to our work in human trafficking prevention in Nepal. Not only are black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) still suffering at the hands of systems built when their ancestors were slaves, but ongoing racial inequality means many are still enslaved and exploited around the world today. We cannot forget this is still happening.

We have been having these conversations for many years, and will continue to have them until we reach a deeper understanding and the world shifts dramatically, so I don’t feel the need to add my voice publicly now because it’s “trending”.

What I will say now is David and I are slowly working through the steps in a great book called Me and White Supremacy. I highly recommend it if you’re new to having these conversations and looking for a starting resource. We have to keep learning and talking about this, even after Twitter moves on.

P.P.S. Our Covid-19 isolation game The Magic of Everywhere is paused because, well, we’re out of isolation… but also my new diet doesn’t allow for the exotic dishes we were cooking while virtually travelling through Sudan and Suriname. And, in true multipotentialite style, I’m over it for now. #multipotentialite #sorrynotsorry

Laura Maya
ABOUT Laura Maya

Laura Maya is an Aussie-French nomad, writer and alternative lifestyle coach. She’s the author of Work The World and curator of the free self-coaching program GPS for the Soul

Laura has been working and travelling the world slowly since 2001 — exploring cultures, writing stories and learning languages in almost 60 countries. Now she helps other restless and curious souls design a life they love by exploring alternative ways to live, earn, explore and impact the world.