on Life, Love and What's Happening Now
Let's be real. Nobody likes the idea of turning 40. While I admit that oh-so-glorious day was a few years back for me, I've been thinking about aging lately.
When Charles Dickens wrote “It was the best of time. It was the worst of times,” I am pretty sure he was talking about people in their 30’s. While it still feels like the 90’s wasn’t that long ago, this “not quite old, but not quite young” decade has already revealed a few truths anyone can appreciate.
My first and favorite is:
1: You Stop Caring What Other People Think.
Looking back at my 30's, it seems life is a ball of fire. Our kids are small, our careers are taking off and there is a nagging drive to do absolutely everything. On top of growing job responsibilities, every week is a marathon of kid activities, volunteer commitments and social obligations. I remember feeling drained mentally and physically. My mind was a running computer with 50 windows open at the same time.
We had just moved to a new state and those first years, I ran myself ragged. I remember feeling frantic if my three boys weren’t involved in absolutely every opportunity available, if my new house wasn’t magically filled with furniture, clean and perfectly decorated. What people thought of our family snowballed, taking up way more brain space than anything that frivolous deserved.
What’s worse, the more boxes I checked off each day, the less joy I got from them. The noise in my head (and all around me) made it impossible to know I wanted anything more than a glass of wine at the end of day.
For women—especially mothers—there is so much “function” in our dysfunction. The new normal is over-scheduled, bogged down and tightly wound. There are a million mixed messages telling us how to look, parent, and especially how to “have it all.” We rarely stop to think which parts we truly want.
But the gift of forty is self-reflection. Ages forces you to look in the mirror. For me, I had to stop caring and release all the minutia so I could figure out what I really wanted.
The writer Anne Lamott said, “everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy and scared, even the people who seem to have it most together…so try not to compare your insides to other people's outsides. It will only make you worse than you already are.”
Letting go is the holy grail of aging. At some point, it just becomes obvious then finally:
2. You Do What You REALLY Want to Do:
In your 40's, nothing is more precious than time. One day you wake and up and it seems there’s never enough. Whether it’s a new job, a break-up or playing guitar in a garage band, this is the “Now or Never” phase of life.
Maybe it’s because concepts like empty nest or retirement suddenly become tangible or because such a frenzied life is unsustainable, but introspection breeds change.
For me, I’ve always wanted to write. After bumping around the edges of it in a variety of advertising and teaching jobs, on my 40th birthday I verbalized it for the first time. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
Another gift of approaching midlife is passing on that permission to others. The moment I uttered those words—it just felt right. I am so lucky to be able to teach my kids to own who they are and to embrace what frightens them. It’s not always easy putting myself out there and I’m still getting used to it, (can you believe I have a website!?) but I’m going for it.
I wasted a lot of time spinning my wheels, and even that’s OK because there is wisdom in the rear view mirror. With time, it becomes apparent:
3. There Is Good Even In The Bad:
By now, life has kicked everybody in the teeth a few times. Someone we love has had cancer or passed away. Likely, there’s been more than one moment where you wondered how you would get up off the floor. I think aging takes away the rose-colored glasses of youth and replaces them with spectacles for a reason.
Maybe it was a necessary failure that led you a later success or a lesson you would have never learned otherwise, but maturity gives you space to see things.
It's funny because a few year ago, the idea of turning 40 made me ill. Now it feels one of those great things I never knew would happen. This stage of life lets you see that it’s all connected, that we are all storied and dented, and that even the hardest lessons have hidden gifts.
Without my past, I’m not sure I’d have much to write about.
I still miss sleeping through the night, but I think it’s an even trade. A few years from now, I hope to re-read this post and find that I’ve measured the time in stories and lessons instead of years. That the breadth of my dreams (and my writing) far outweighed the constraints of my silly ego.
I’m done wasting time worrying about who people think I am. I’m ready now to figure out who I can be.
So check back each month, because I’ll be here—unpacking life, offering motivation and maybe dissecting the latest scandal. The best is still ahead, and I hope you’ll join me for the ride.