If you’ve been here before, you probably know that I usually lean towards complain-y lists that focus on all of the things that are wrong with me and my world. I tend to write about my “struggle” (over-used word alert!) to keep my head above water and to stay on task while trying to improve, enhance and enrich my life and the lives of those who surround me and for whom I am responsible.
With that truth in mind, I have consciously decided to think about things that I usually make conscious decisions to NOT think about, like my age or my weight, or my hair, future aspirations and goals and to commit to think about them with an open mind and not with knee-jerk negative or self-defeating ideas. And it’s been an uncomfortable experience to say the least. And although I was sure that Oprah was full of shit when she aired her 40th birthday show and had her 40-something friends on to talk about how great 40 was, I’m beginning to see some of the beauty of our 40’s. So, sorry for doubting you Oprah. I should have known better.
Here are a few things about being in my 40’s that I am discovering are totally righteous:
1. I’m not in my teens anymore. My hormones are raging, my skin is being a vindictive prick, my boobs aren’t behaving and all I want to eat is junk food and chocolate. Ugh. Shit. Maybe I am in my teens again. Now, where my hairspray, scrunchies and leg warmers at?
2. I can appreciate time so much more now. I spent so much of my life before 40 waiting on or wishing for some future day when this or that or the other would happen. I think I missed out on really savouring some experiences that I should slowed down for rather than being so busy rushing forward. I have gained some much needed perspective and can now slow down and really see and take in the wonder of NOW.
3. I have great car insurance coverage and rates. I’ve totally become Kathy Bates (minus the red sun visor) in 1991’s ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ so look out younger, cuter, faster, perkier girls, ’cause I could go all Towanda on you in a Walmart parking lot and my insurance wouldn’t even breath hard. (If you don’t get the reference, here’s the clip, but the whole movie is worth your time to watch).
4. I’m still young enough to believe that I have another 50 good years left to accomplish all that I want to accomplish, so I’m not in a panic to get it all done RIGHT NOW. I have lots of time to raise my babies, learn new things, spend time with the people I love and stay up too late reading, writing, or goofing off. BUT, on the flip side, being in my 40’s also grants me the wisdom of how quickly those 50 years can fly by, so I’ll not be wasteful and take them for granted.
5. I may not look as good as I did in my twenties (by some people’s standards), my waist
may be is thicker and my skin may be is looser, but since I never appreciated just how smokin’ hot I was back then anyway, I have to say that I prefer the version of ‘me’ that I am now. I’m comfortable in my skin (if not my jeans – yay yoga pants!), and I’m ok with my imperfections, the changes in my skin, body and looks. I don’t need to create an allusion of artificial youth to feel good about myself as a person or a woman. I have a 21-year-old son and four other children. Do I really need to look like I’m still 30? Nope.
6. I can be honest with myself and others about my mistakes. In my teens and twenties and into my thirties, I had to be perfect – real or imagined. I kept myself under intense pressure to a) not make mistakes b) not appear to make mistakes and c) not admit to making mistakes. And it was depressing, exhausting and inauthentic as fuck. I’m so much more comfortable and happier now that I allow myself mistakes, allow myself to own and admit my mistakes, apologize for my mistakes, learn from my mistakes and move on from my mistakes. When I didn’t or couldn’t own my mistakes, they held me hostage. Now in my forties, I’m mostly free from that brand of self-inflicted psychological warfare.
7. The realization that so many things just don’t matter has been beyond liberating. As a child, teenager and young adult, I was a social butterfly. I had many friends and was always embroiled in someone’s drama. Usually in the role of advisor or voice-of-reason and not an integral player in the drama, it nevertheless wore me down and made my soul tired and jaded. So many of the situations that we afforded countless hours of our lives to, just did not matter. They should have been cleared up, solved or walked away from within minutes and not revisited. But they were not. I gave the situations much too much attention and life energy, far more than they deserved. And now, I don’t. I let far more things go and I ‘own’ far fewer of other people’s issues. If asked, I will give my opinion or advice, but age (ha!) and experience have taught me that once I share my thoughts that it is then time for me to let it go and move on. This is a very liberating space to be in and one which I’m so glad that I figured out.
8. I’m really enjoying that it’s okay, and even maybe BETTER to be NICE, as Pollyanna as that sounds. Figuring out that I don’t have to be cutting or sarcastic in order to be funny or smart. I can be encouraging, positive and still be witty, clever and make others laugh. Self-deprecating humour is still one of my go-to schticks, but let’s face it. It’s funny, so why would I stop? But I have stopped taking the piss out of others quite so often and quite so brutally. I may poke a bit, here and there, but I no longer take it so far. I’ve learned when to stop before I hurt anyone’s feelings. And I’ve finally realized that it’s okay to just say nothing sometimes. Not for the sake of comedy (although a well-placed look can sometimes be funnier than any words) but rather because it’s better to be quiet than to be insincere, dishonest or hurtful. Not every thought in my head needs to be released into the universe and not every opinion that I have needs to be shared with another person to be valid. And perhaps I’m learning, now in my forties, that just because I may feel frustrated, tired, angry or put out about something, I do not the right nor have I been given free rein to flood my surroundings with negativity and darkness. There is great peace in keeping one’s own counsel at times. Sometimes, silence serves the greater good far better than the temporary and minor relief that follows releasing those vibes into the universe.
9. Just knowing that my life does not end when someone I meet doesn’t like me is a HUGE improvement in the quality of my life over that of my younger years. And the freedom I feel knowing that my life also does not end when my jeans refuse to fit. Nor does it end any those times that I cannot find my chapstick (or keys, purse, or flip flops). It just does not. I keep living, and more often than not, just as happily as before. This is in stark contrast to my life as a teenager when each of those things on their own were deal breakers, and had the power collectively to bring about a complete shutdown. Life was over; cue inconsolable angst. But now, in my forties, those frequent and common moments are barely a blip on my life radar and no longer hold a place on the ‘life is not worth living’ list. Whew!
10. I have always had a fair-to-good appreciation for my parental units, I usually liked them and I always loved and admired them. They have, in my estimation, been good parents to me. But as is true in so many other areas of my life, my appreciation has changed now that I am older. Today I can recognize all they did for me and how good my childhood was, largely due to their unending efforts. And no, it was not all sunshine and lollipops in our family. I got in trouble. I talked back, broke curfew, got grounded, lost privileges and was generally an asshole to them during much my adolescence, but they did what parents are supposed to do and they loved me anyway. They supported, encouraged and believed in me, even when I was a jerk, an emotional basket case, or an ill-tempered pain in the ass. Often times I was all three of these beauties at once.
When I think of my parents, I still think of them as being in their 30’s (which I admit is weird since I’m not even in my 30’s anymore). In my mind’s eye they are frozen in time and remain young, healthy, strong superheroes who can rescue my stupid ass from whatever trouble I get it into. Every now and then, something happens to remind me that I may not get to have them forever and I try to be brave and philosophical when those thoughts enter my consciousness. I mean, I am a parent as well, so I like to think that I can relate to parental issues from both sides, but as desperate as I was twenty years ago to NOT be treated like a child and to assert my independence as an adult, I now realize just how much I need and value knowing that to my parents, I will always be a child and they will always have those fierce parental instincts to love, encourage and protect me.
When I was in my twenties, forty was OLD. Like one-foot-in-the-grave, just waiting to die, old. Now that I’m in my forties, I’m almost embarrassed by how stupid I was in my twenties. Luckily, I’m getting all this shit figured out while I’m still so young and able to benefit from these lessons and live the next 50-odd years a little bit smarter, kinder, and gentler. Although, I imagine that I will still remain mostly unbalanced and prone to moments of assholio outbursts.