An Accomplished Woman

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A few days after my birthday, my son asked how I feel about turning forty. I wanted to tell him the truth without it sounding like I’m spiraling into a mid-life crisis, or worse, like I’m whining. Both of which might be true. I told him forty feels good, but when I look back over the past twenty or so years, I wish I accomplished more.

He whipped his head around in response, and said,”Are you kidding me? Mom. You’ve done more and seen more than anyone else you know!”

He’s almost right–I’ve experienced more in my lifetime than I ever dreamt possible. Not only have I seen the world, but I’ve lived into the width and breadth of it. However, experience is a different teacher than accomplishment. Experience implies a passivity, it’s something that happens to you. Accomplishment implies you happened to life.

We need experience to take us to new places, to strike a match within us. Experience sends up a smoke signal, giving us the opportunity to sniff the air, to turn our heads to the billow and plume, and show we’re paying attention. It casts mystery and shadow on the walls, inviting us to sidle up and warm our hands in the glow. Experience burns life into our soul through our senses. It is here, rich and ready and ours for the taking.

Accomplishment is the harder of the two, but it bears the most fruit. Accomplishment blooms like a garden, but it is fickle, persnickety, with a seasonal temperament. Not everything planted will grow. But hard work tilling the soil and planting the seed and caring for each filamental root will change the shape of the land as it changes the shape of you. Accomplishment is not here but there, at the end of a long line of hard work. It is abundant and alive and ours for the making.

The more I think about it, the more I recognize my need for and dependence on both. I need experience to teach me, and accomplishment is the result of applying what I learn. As I move into this next decade, I hope to grab hands and make partners of both.


What do you need more of in your life? Experience or accomplishment? Which do you think is more important?