The New 40

“40 is the new 30,” said a friend of mine the other day.

That would totally and completely suck, I just realized.

Yes, my hair was blonder.

Me and my first, Dec. 2003, Tucson

Me and my first, Dec. 2003, Tucson

Yes, my breasts were firmer.

Yes, I had ten years ahead of me still ‘ til 40.

But …

wow. 30. 2004. Mom of one very restless baby. Up to my eyeballs in change … not bad change but the kind that causes upheaval that equals frequent upset. Orange vomit on my shoulder a lot. Not a lot of friends nearby. Unrealistic expectations of marriage, parenthood, community, work, friendship, life.

It’s not that I’m BRILLIANT now.

But I am now aware enough to know how dumb I am. And how age brings a wisdom born of experience that in some ways is better than firm breasts.

The more I speak about and write about 40, the more people (read “women”) say to me:

I loved my 40s

The 40s have been the best years of my life

I really found myself in my 40s

These kind of comments, from real people, are uplifting and have actually started to ignite in me a desired anticipation — the kind I remember feeling in the months leading up to 13. When was the last time we were truly excited for a birthday … not because we had a crazy evening planned or a vacation, but because it was appropriate to celebrate our advance? What happens to our birthday joy as we age?

I have a summer birthday and so I used to be very familiar with anticipation in advance of birthdays. My friends often reached milestones ahead of me : 13, 17 (driving age in NJ), 18, 21, etc. Those last few months before it was my turn were always killer. The summer I was 12, waiting for 13, I remember telling boys when they asked at the camp social, “how old are you?” that I was 13. That my birthday had been in April. For some reason, that mattered then. As if they wouldn’t ask me to dance unless I was old enough to have boobs. (The boobs wouldn’t come for 4 more summers.)

Last summer, when I turned 39, I remember feeling a sense of dread.  It didn’t help that last summer I also suffered from a bunch of moderate health issues, serious enough to impact my daily life . (It’s likely that at least half of them were stress-related, and maybe 1/4 “pre-40” related.)

My 39th birthday, spent with family by the Jersey shore was lovely, but undercut by a constant heartburn. The antacids didn’t help. The gluten-free diet didn’t help. The technology detox didn’t help. I understand now it’s because the heartburn was only partly physical. Much of it was existential. Prilosec can’t help with that. Not even the Wild Berry flavor.

This summer, I am determined to drop the burn. Be all heart. Feel 12 again. I am determined to want 40.  So badly that I pretend like I already am.

Boobs, or not.

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “The New 40

  1. I’m nearly there myself, so I know the feeling. The best advice is to not listen to any advice. Oh and to have fun with getting older. Soon you’ll get to be grumpy and you’ll have the best excuse

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  2. Nice post–and yes, 40 is a good thing to be turning. My older brother passed away at age 40, so that was an odd one for me–to reach an age older than my older brother….
    As a side note: my wife just turned 50 and she was filled with all the sorts of dread that you might expect. It turned out to be, by her own reckoning, her best birthday ever–and I think it safe to say that this decade will be filled with all sorts of growth and positive change.

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  3. I always wanted to be older older older and then around 26 I froze and started wondering how I’d gotten THERE. By 38 I was really starting to worry. Now, at 39, I am more settled, more me, more secure than maybe I have ever been. It takes a lot of living to find yourself and to settle into the real you…and that’s what we should focus on, rather than the number. Though the number COULD be a good excuse for a great celebration/trip/present!

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    • I like the number in the same way I like to-do lists. I like having milestones, goals, too. I am a planner. No amount of meditation will erase that BUT I am becoming more aware of how the planning can sometimes get in the way of the joy, and so … and so I am aware. 🙂

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  4. I’m enjoying 35. I really hadn’t thought about it, until six months ago. It was a bit of a head trip for a few weeks, but something got me past that. It’s weird. I’ve suddenly become credible to others. I haven’t changed anything I’ve said, either. The change feels more external than anything.

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  5. Pingback: Carl Jung said life begins at 40 | and yadda yadda

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