This is what 40 feels like

You are under no obligation to be the same person you were a year, month, or even 15 minutes ago. You have the right to grow. No apologies. –Unknown 

I celebrated a birthday recently….40.  Changing decades never used to be rough on my spirit, but this one has been weighing heavily on me.  Not be overly dramatic, but the reality of turning 40 is that, given the current life expectancy, approximately half of my life is now over, so I’ve been taking an inventory of my accomplishments, my failures, and the things left undone.  It’s not a fear of death, per se, but there is a new awareness about dying that wasn’t there previously.  I feel a greater sense of urgency, to plan for the inevitable, and I feel there are still far too many things on my “bucket list”.  There is a feeling of empathy, as well, for what others may (or may not) experience after I die.  Of course, it takes an incredible amount of ego to think that people will care, but I’d like to think that some would.

By the time my mom was 40, she had a 20-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.  I have a 16-year-old cat.  She owned a home.  I rent.  She was well into her career.  I am starting over in mine, for like the 6th time already.  It seems as though she had her shit together, way more than I do now.  Yet, it’s hard to compare myself to my mom – we are so different.  We’ve made different choices and have led very different lives.  This has never hindered our relationship, though.  We have always been very close.  I like that about us.  Our mutual respect, and a willingness to learn from one another’s differences, has formed a profound bond between us.  When she was around my age, my mom was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia – a disease that would consume her life for the next 10+ years.  A disease that she has thankfully, and finally, been cured from.  I keep wondering if I were faced with a similar prognosis, would I be as brave, or tenacious?

Although I have done so much work in recent years to heal from a bout of major depression, it still pops up every now and again (it’s like a recurring infection of the psyche).  I’d like to believe that after the work I did to heal from my own massive falling out with life, I’d be “cured” of such misery.    Depression runs in my family, and major life changes don’t really help matters much.  Although I gave up yoga, I still meditate and try to stay motivated to work out on a consistent basis.  Lately, even exercise has become a chore, yet it doesn’t stop me from complaining about how “soft” my body has become.  At 40, it’s time to accept that depression has been a part of me all along and I need to be kinder to myself.  I know that exercise improves not only my sagging ass, but my mood too.

Speaking of, I catch myself staring at younger women’s asses a lot lately.  I remember when my ass was in its rightful place – my boobs too – and my clothes fit me fairly well.  Youth is most certainly wasted on the young.  You never know how good you have it – I lived in a state of invincible oblivion until my mid-30s.  Now, I no longer have a 20-something ass, nor do I have the energy to commit to the regimen that a 40-year-old needs, in order to defy gravity.  I am simultaneously envious of the 40+ year olds who can make that commitment, and loathe their feigned enthusiasm.  I have never really trusted people who are overly positive.  How can you stay positive, in a world where women are judged by how they look, when your ass is dragging on the floor?!

I’m not a look on the bright-side type of gal – I  need people to give it to me straight because, again, none of us has time to waste on bull shit.  I much prefer those who state the obvious, live in reality, and are able to see things as they clearly are.  While turning 40 clearly has me in a funk, I can’t do anything to change the transition of time.  I’d like to accept this transition with the same amount of grace that I admire in others, but that shit just ain’t happening.  My mother has grace – I do not.  As I age, I have become ever more discerning about the people and things I choose to invest both time and money with/in.  And, as my time on this planet begins to dwindle, my patience for bullshit has run dry.  I simply do not have the time for anything, or anyone, which does not bring joy to myself or others – none of us do.

While I enjoy learning about other people, their cultures and their struggles, I’m no longer interested in relationships that aren’t reciprocal.  I tow a pretty hard line with this expectation of others – and it used to leave me disappointed.  Now that I am older, I have come to appreciate the consequences of these standards.  I simply refuse to relent to wasting time on people who are incapable of replying in kind, and I’m okay with that.  While this means that I don’t have many friends, I also have a deep appreciation for the ones I do have.   The older I get, the more I realize it isn’t things I want to acquire, but experiences and moments where I feel connected and alive.

This sometimes means making compromises and sacrifices, in order to cherish those connections – something a 20 or 30-something person can’t understand.  It means letting go of old habits and thoughts which do not bring you sweetness of mind.  It meant moving back to a city that I do not love, to be closer to the people whom I adore.  It means that while others may not agree with that choice, I can forgive myself because I value what is important to me.  It means being at peace with the fact that my mind is often melancholy.  It means standing in my truth and owning all of the good and bad that comes with it.

With age comes wisdom and for that, I am grateful, but I also wonder if I am doing all of the living that I could.  There are times that stand out in my memory, when I felt completely present and fully engaged in the moment.  Those occasions stand still in my mind, regardless of the amount of time has actually passed.  It seems like it was a little over a year ago I had graduated high school, or a month ago that I turned 30, or last week when I was helping my mom after her stem cell transplant, and just yesterday I returned from a 3-month soul healing mission in Europe.  There are many other moments which I have forgotten, moments I wasn’t present for, and moments that I wish I hadn’t been present for.

As I take note of the causes and conditions that have helped shaped my worldview, I acknowledge that I have no desire to relive my 20s, or go back in time to my 30s, but I do wish I could have brought my butt with me.  I am better equipped to handle those moments now – to be comfortable in the comfortable with the discomfort.  I am better able to know when a difficult person, or situation, is worth investing time in or when it is time to thrown in the towel and walk away.  I’d like to think I am anyway – and I should at least get a fabulous ass out of the deal.  Lord knows, I’ve busted mine most of my life to get to wear I am today, and I am proud of the work that went into getting me there – both from myself and from those who were willing to stick it out with me.  For those who were unable to be here for me through the difficult parts, I’ve been harboring resentment for awhile now.  As my gift to myself on this 40th birthday, I offer up forgiveness for suffering caused due to their lack of awareness.  It’s time to let that shit go and move on, for I’ve got more mountains to climb, and I don’t need heartache weighing me down.

Photo by: Laura Riggs, Mount Hood, May 2016
Photo by: Laura Riggs, Mount Hood, May 2016
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3 Replies to “This is what 40 feels like”

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