Many of you know that yesterday was my 40th birthday! I had an amazing weekend at the NYBG Evenings (the orchid show was amazing!!) and having a very civilized tea at the Plaza with my hubs and three year old. It was a classic New York weekend, which is fitting as that’s just how I think of myself: Classic NYC.
I don’t really feel 40, but then again what does that even mean? When I look around I feel basically the same age as most everyone around me. Age has never been super important or scary to me — I’ve always felt pretty balanced and “in the moment” of the age I was at the time. At 22 I started dating a man 15 years older than me. At 37, he seemed like a “Man” with a capital M. None of my friends could believe I was dating “an old guy” but I just shrugged. Age is mental, and I still believe this to be true.
While every phase of life has had it’s share of good and bad, there are some things about aging in general that remain consistently true. Here are a few things I actually love about aging:
I no longer “should” myself to death.
I come from a very conservative family with a lot of social and familial obligations. The way we “should” look or act has been a constant theme in our house growing up. And of course, there ARE certain ways you should act…(politely, with respect for others…) but back in my 20s I did things solely to please others to a fault. My mom (who is amazing) is the ultimate “should-er”: I “should” go to church, I “should” wear more makeup, I “should” put a barrette in my daughter’s hair. There were stale friends having parties that I “should” go to, even though I didn’t want to, and ended up overextending myself and exhausting myself just to save face. The thing is, I have reasons that I DON’T do these things, and I’m finally confident enough in myself and my decisions not to buckle to external pressure. And so I don’t wear more makeup, I don’t put barrettes in my kid’s hair, I only go to the parties I really WANT to go to, and I go to church as often as I feel is right for me without guilt. And it feels great.
Feeling good in my skin.
Think back to how you looked when you were 20. My guess is that you were HOT but that you didn’t think you were at the time. At 30 you probably looked back on your 20s thinking, “I WISH I appreciated how cute looked!” I sure do. I’m a solid 10 pounds heavier than I was before I had my first kid just 4 years ago! I had no idea, or at least no appreciation for how svelte I was looking, and what a shame. It’s so hard to take a step back and see yourself as you really are, so difficult to be kind to yourself sometimes, but it’s SO WORTH it. Hating on your looks is a massive waste of time (oh, and negative self-talk also ages you faster!) It would be nice to be back to that pre-mom bod, sure, but I also now know how AMAZING my body really is. I grew and birthed an incredible little girl, fed her from my body for a year, continue to support her with my body, brains, heart… and no amount of cellulite can take away my pride in that. Sometimes my daughter points to my tummy and asks something like, “is there a baby in there?” or says she likes cuddling me “because your tummy is so soft.” It doesn’t get to me, because she only ever looks at me with pure love, and I try to look at myself through those same eyes. My smile lines? There are lots of stories and happy times behind them. My forehead wrinkles? They can instruct my kid (and husband for that matter lol!) to do what I need with a mere glance. My underage circles? Well, those always existed, they are hereditary and there’s not much I can do about it so I’m not going to stress those either.
Rejecting the myth of perfection
You know that voice — the one that tells you you aren’t smart enough/successful enough/attractive enough. By 40, you know it well enough to tell it to shut the f*ck up. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive for self-improvement. But I don’t let what I’m NOT decrease the importance of what I AM, and I certainly no longer compare myself to other people. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. NO ONE is perfect, even those people who seem to be on the surface. Pefection is not only unattainable it’s frankly in my opinion, boring. I’d much rather be my own perfectly imperfect self, not hold myself to an unattainable standard and just be happy being who & what I am right now. Imperfect works.
Perspective and resilience
I’ve been a shy child, an awkward middle schooler, a ballet-loving tween, a punk teenager, a college girl in love, an on the prowl twenty-something, a blissed out newlywed, a dual-career thirty-something, a terrified new mom, a newly forty year old woman writing this post… Life has had enough downs to know there eventually is an up, and that nothing is the end of the world. Sometimes you feel stuck or lost or heartbroken, but things always change. There is always a plan B. Hard times can feel endless, but they always always end.
I also hear sex is best for women in their 40s. Just sayin.
OK, I’ll quit being a Pollyanna for a second and say of course there are things about aging that bum me out, such as:
Being Called Ma’am
Failing to understand Snapchat
The crackling sound my knees make.
Grey hairs that poke straight up on my head. I’ve been pretty lucky in the grey hair department, and I’ve finally stopped plucking them out but still, 😑
At the end of the day, it’s better to get older than NOT to get older! I’m grateful for all the experiences, (bad boyfriends included) that have led to me being this version of me.
In the words of the late, great, David Bowie: I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.