Most people would tell you their best thoughts and ideas occur in the shower. For some reason mine are in the last five minutes of Soul Cycle. The wind down, the darkness, and the last song of the 45 min class takes me away to a place I try to visit often. I am swept away into my head where all I wish I had were a pen and paper.
I have been trying for months to write the “perfect” this is what it means to be 40 article, the article that everyone can relate to, but I have been in some weird funk and have been staring blankly at a computer screen on and off for days. I write a paragraph, I hate it, I delete it and try again. Months of this.
Last week I was in Christina’s Soul survivor class, she put on Zeppelin “Going to California” as the “unwind” song and it all came flooding.
Maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t but here it goes:
This is 40.
Today is my 40th birthday. I have been dreading this day since the day after I turned 39. For the past year I have been on a mission to look and feel the best at 40. I spent eleven months running, jumping, spinning, hanging upside down, kickboxing, practicing yoga, trying Pilates and Bari. I had a boob job (I did. not big. just better), I went for facials every 6 weeks, I obsessed over lash and hair extensions. I tried 20 diets, 10 cleanses and I fully lost my shit.
Jan 5th I pulled out all of my hair extensions and called my therapist. I explained I was turning 40 in just a few weeks and I have been a wreck. A full train wreck. Partly because I feel like half my life is over and partly because I can never erase the lines on my forehead even with Botox. Where did they come from? How was it that yesterday I was graduating, getting married, having kids and now I am turning 40. AHHHHH.
Everyone keeps asking me what do I want to do for my 40th birthday.
I cry. I laugh. I want a party. I want a beach. I want to dance on a bar. I want to hide under the covers. I want I want I want. But what I don’t want is to turn 40.
Oh to be 20 again. Living the New York dream working and dating. Crazy Saturday nights out and Sex in the City Sundays. Not a care in the world. No crying babies, no fighting over who gets to sleep in and who has to do the middle of the night feeding. Easy breezy. My biggest concern was how far do I go on the first date? Instead of focusing on what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was on mission to find a husband. And I did. I met Greg when I was too young to understand the word marriage. Marriage was a fantasy of someone taking care of you, having kids and living happily ever after. Nobody really sits you down before you get married and says “I just want you to know marriage is hard, it’s work, it’s patience, and most of all it is compromise.” At least nobody told me. Marriage was a fairytale and all I wanted was to be Cinderella.
My thirties were a blur. Kids, diapers, pre-school, elementary school, gaining weight, losing weight, trying to find myself. I remember a few weeks after I had Zach, Greg told me it was time for him to return to work. Wait, what? I have to do this myself? There are people who live for this day. I had a nervous breakdown. My freedom was gone. My favorite time of the day was the 10 minutes of peace in the shower when Zach was napping. I wanted to run. But the thought of returning to the city 7am-8pm wasn’t working either. Slowly I started to transition into my new life but I constantly struggled with my identity. As much as I knew my kids would love me to be the PTA mom, the mom who volunteers for lunch duty, library, and the bake sale, I couldn’t bring myself to be her. But who was I? The mom of two boys? The wife? The girl who made the monogrammed tote bags? My biggest accomplishment at 36 was opening a cupcake business and getting thrown off Cupcake Wars by round 2 for almost burning down the kitchen.
And so began the countdown to 40. I bagged the cupcake biz and started an online diary (aka Lulu and Lattes). After 38 years, I let down my guard and began what will forever be my imprint on this planet. People warned me. Even my nearest and dearest. They told me “Once you put yourself out there, every single thing you say will forever be ridiculed, scrutinized and judged. ” But at almost 40 I was willing to take that risk. The first year was the hardest. I made several mistakes. But I grew a new skin and shed the old one. I lost friends and I gained new ones. My husband gave me the wings to fly while people sat in bewilderment at his acceptance. In doing so, I began to develop a true sense of myself. I gained confidence. I learned it was okay to say no. I learned it was okay to fall down even if it meant getting up was the hardest thing I could do and I learned to stop sweating the small stuff. After losing my father-in-law and my aunt to cancer several months apart, life took on a whole new meaning. The suburban keeping up with the Jones seemed to matter less. What came into focus for me was quality. I figured out the quality of the time I spent with my family and the quality of my friends mattered most. Quantity was for my thirties. Having more didn’t make things better, having better made things better.
As I turn 40 today I realize there is no age I would rather be. I can work out four hundred times a day and try every anti-aging product from Japan to France but I will never be twenty again. I may have a few more dimples and some new wrinkles but I like me way better now at 40 than at 20. Sometimes it feels like I have climbed mountains to get here and I wouldn’t trade one moment for all that I have. I am not the girl Greg married at 28 but knowing he still loves me (maybe more), watching our beautiful kids grow, and appreciating the fact that life can change in a heartbeat has made it okay if this is 40. Sometimes the greenest grass is the blades growing under our feet. So at 40 while I may be half way through my life, I have only just begun. As I turn the page and open the door, I can walk through with a new sense of confidence, a clearer head on my shoulders, and the knowledge that 40 is not so bad after all.