I had a birthday recently; I am now in my forties. Those are unusual words to type. I admit I looked at them for a long time.
The thing is, though, and at the risk of sounding utterly twee, I’m pretty excited about my 40s and at the same time, I don’t care about it. It’s a nice in-between place to be. I have no perception of how I ‘should’ feel at 40. I just feel like me. But I must admit I feel like a more solid version of myself. And as I reflected on what has made me feel this solidity, I had the mini-epiphany that I care a lot less about things that used to torture me. I used to be so hung-up on what others thought of me, of how I was doing on life’s path, on how I looked… It’s all a bit draining, time consuming, and very, very boring.
Who knew, or rather believed, that the old adage was true about life beginning now. I always thought it was a phrase bandied about to soothe the ailing, aging souls as they withered into invisible middle age. How dare I!
But when I think of the differences between me now and me a decade ago on the dawn of my thirtieth, it is a self-awareness that I didn’t possess then. And the below points, I hadn’t learnt these things yet…
Loads of curveballs come along. LOADS.
Sickness – yours or others. Money worries – yours or others. Career worries and family worries, relationships coming and going, and the loss of calm and confidence resulting from these peaks and troughs.
The way through? Roll with it. Try to accept it. They are a necessary part of the story. Not all things should be fought against. This, my friend, is the beginning of wisdom! And wisdom will be your greatest ally.
Parenting in Public
Babies? Or not? To have and to have not, are life-defining states that you have to navigate not only your perception of, but also others perceived judgment of same.
Remember that a lot of things about your life are nobody else’s business. You may choose to share your every meal, shoe purchase, and fertility treatment on social media, and then, you are making it open to opinion and haven’t a leg to stand on, but ultimately, try to know that your life choices are yours alone. When you become a parent, you feel an Insta-guilt and insecurity, before utterly unknown. With ‘am I doing it right?’ being the Mum mantra of dis-ease…
There’s a lot of judgement – most of it internal. Try to go easy. You are doing it right.
People you love get sick.
This is going to happen. You feel it like a knife. It’s not easy to handle, in fact it’s horrible. But if you can imagine that there is a chance here for connection to grow, let me tell you there is. You have a chance here to help, to be involved, to be there for someone.
And actually, that’s all they want you to do… be there for them. Everyone knows it can’t be fixed, so just be there.
When Sh*t Happens (as it will)
How about stopping trying to place blame? Yes, it feels nicer to feel it wasn’t your fault, but some things are- that’s how you learnt what you know now.
Do you feel you don’t know stuff? You do… it just takes a particular access that you may be ignoring. To me, self-awareness is the sole goal. An unexamined life ain’t worth living and all that…
Recognise the real story in things. It’s liberating. Own up for your part. You’re a grown up after all. Say sorry. But only if you have to –never say sorry to make a conversation end – that shifts blame on you and is a great dis-service to yourself.
So it’s truly not your fault? If you get an apology, accept it and then move on immediately. This can take practice, as we all know the moral high ground is a pleasing place to be, but life is definitely too short to dwell in bad vibes. Get over yourself as well as the issue!
Feel a bit lost?
It happens. Work to try to remember yourself. Lot’s of things come along that could make you forget. Births, deaths and marriages are not the only life altering events – try mortgages, divorces, business loan arrears, being de-friend’ed on Facebook… All can potentially throw you off course and you may need a light shone on the path back to you.
If you can’t quite recall what makes you, you? Turn the lens around. Tune into your own life and ask the people who like you. Anyone in your corner can tell you who you are if you forget. This can be a homecoming for the soul, way better than any 20 year school reunion (although, they are nice too – make sure you go to those).
If none of that works, go to counselling. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign you’re more bad-ass than most people. End of story.
Enjoy the little things.
They are the big things.
Remember that great thing you talked about? You should do that.
The years speed up – I swear it. I’m a great one for talking about things. I’d be more of a great one, if I actually did them. Check that #selfawareness right there!
Seriously though, take the risks; they might work.
Know your worth
Financially, emotionally, sexually and professionally. Do not under-sell yourself or stay silent when you want to speak. This is another tough one to enact sometimes, but if we’ve learnt anything from the feminist waves, it’s the importance of taking your place at the table.
(if you’re finding it hard to tap into the fiercer version of you, watching Beyonce videos is a good place to start!)
Happiness is an inside job
One thing I know is that, without exception, you have to take responsibility here. No-one else should feel as though they are the key to your contentment. That’s too tough a gig, and one that is a tad unfair. Play your part in finding your happy place. Be good on your own before being good as part of a pair.
And the main reason to do this is so you don’t get bored with your own company when you inevitably have to spend time solo. And on that note, turn off the phone sometimes. Get off Facebook and take a walk… You’ll feel infinitely better about most things. And while you’re at it, go to the cinema alone. It’s way better!
That body you’re in?
You are damn lucky it still works for you. The post-baby mid-thirties body slips into a squishy forty year old body with alarming rapidity. Walk more and take fish oils (at the very least). And those lines around your eyes? Learn to like them. But dye your hair. You’re not 50.
Cry, Talk & Listen
And get good at them. These three points alone will ensure your soul is supported.
Life is tough darling, but so are you.
We are almost always stronger and more resilient than we know. The tough stuff makes us. And what’s more, it gives you self-respect.
As the saying goes, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. This was never more true than in this digital age- so she has a thigh gap/ hot boyfriend/gazillion Insta followers/pug puppy/apple watch? Who cares? It’s all just white noise…
Find meaning in things with meaning. Learn to see the difference.
Don’t be an asshole.
Play nice. You’re familiar with karma, right?
Above all else, be kind.
No explanation needed.