Well, I just turned the big 4-0 last week! Yikes! This midlife milestone has me reflecting back on my life so far and some of the mistakes I’ve personally made and the lessons I’ve learned up to this point. I thought I would share a few of them with you.
1. Grey Hair Is a Blessing – There are so many adages that come with turning 40 years old: “Forty is the new thirty,” or “It’s not how old you are, but how old you feel,” or “The best years of your life are yet to come.” The truth is – none of those sayings will make you feel any better. However, what I try to remind myself as I begrudgingly hit 40, is that aging is truly a blessing. Working in oncology, I see patients younger than me dying of cancer. Their life was just beginning – they recently got married, had their first baby, or finally settled into their career – when all of a sudden, everything they’ve worked so hard for is abruptly taken away. They don’t feel that 40 is old. On the contrary, they feel that “Life had just begun.” What they would give in order to live longer and see old age. So, the next time you look into the mirror and sigh about the wrinkles and grey hair that you see, or the next time you cringe at a photo you’re tagged in on Facebook because you think you look old, just shake it off. Shake it off. Don’t get me wrong, botox and hair coloring are still two of my best friends.
2. Enjoy the “Bad” Days – If half of your life is already behind you, why keep living for the future? Enjoy each moment of each day, no matter how mundane it may appear. Enjoy the good days and even the not-so-good days. If you’re driving the kids to school, be in the moment and relish the chaos of screaming kids, running ridiculously late, and forgetting their lunches. Not before long, they will be off to college, the house will be vacant, and the back seats of your car will be empty. You’ll be missing these days and trying to text them to see how they’re doing. Embrace that the calendar on your refrigerator is jam packed with a million things to do. Rejoice in having a hectic schedule and a full life. There will come a day when that calendar will be sparse and your free time will be plenty. Even at work, be present. None of us have the perfect job, but love what you do and give it your best daily. One day, you’ll be old and retired, and reminisce about those productive days of your life. Live in the moment. Enjoy the now.
3. Just Show Up – Whether it’s a party, wedding, baby shower, funeral, or simply lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, make a real effort to attend what you can. Don’t come up with bullshit excuses. Everyone hates those. These events are important celebrations in people’s lives, and what is the point of having people in your life if you cannot celebrate them? Your friends will long remember and be grateful who attended their milestone event, and disappointingly recall who didn’t show up. So, if you’re sick, take some medicine, put on some lipstick to give your pale self a little color, and rally. If you can’t get a babysitter, leave your husband at home with the kids, put your party shoes on, and go solo to support your friend. If you have to arrive late or leave early because of prior engagements, then so be it. Just, be, there. I canceled last minute on a friend’s baby shower when the twins’ were sick, and I once missed an opportunity to see an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years who was in town for a just couple of days. I regret those times.
4. Have Major Girl Crushes on Your Friends– Sure, you already learned in your 30’s that you should get rid of the overtly negative, drama-filled, toxic people that were in your life in your 20’s. Now, though, you should be even more selective with your friends. You just don’t have the time. Don’t spend precious time with people that are even subtly negative, discreetly competitive, or not genuinely supportive. Don’t feel obligated to stay friends with someone who’s not your cheerleader just because you’ve known them for a long time or because you run in the same social circles. Surround yourself with positive people that you can’t get enough of. In fact, you should have major girl crushes on your friends. Your friends are people whom you love spending time with and wish you could do it more often. It’s okay to start making brand new friends at this stage in your life – friends who maybe didn’t know you during those crazy college years, friends who were not in your wedding party, friends who were not there for the birth of your child – but friends who are there for you now. In fact, it’s great to make new friends.
5. Spend Time With Mom and Dad – Turning 40 can make you feel like life is flying by, knowing that you only have half your life left to live. However, it also made be realize that not only is my time on this Earth on the downside of the hill, but that my parents’ time is even shorter. People always tell you to try to spend as much time as possible with your children because they will grow up so fast. However, it’s also important to spend as much time as you can with your parents because they will soon be gone. If you’re fortunate enough to still have your parents around, spend some quality time with them. It’s great to have them come along on family vacations. However, once in awhile, spend time with them without the kids. Have a lunch date with them, go shopping with mom, or catch a movie with dad. Spend time with them while they are still relatively healthy and able, not once they’re sick or unable.
6. Nothing Exciting Happens after 10 pm – Think about it – what are you doing after 10 p.m. on weekdays that is so darn exciting or important? Are you just scrolling down your Facebook newsfeed over and over again, or watching some mindless reality show on TV? While it’s necessary to de-stress and unwind in the evening after a long day, it doesn’t mean you need to stay up late to do so. On the weekdays, get yourself to bed early enough so that you get eight hours of sleep. At 40, it’s important to start taking care of your health. That means eating well, exercising regularly and getting proper sleep. It’s no longer about dieting or losing weight just to get back your pre-baby figure. It’s now about reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer, the number one and two killer of women, and both of which can be reduced to a certain degree with a healthy lifestyle. Good sleep can lead to better health and actually extend your life. Added benefit? It can also minimize those under-eye bags and keep you looking younger. My girlfriend swears that early bedtime is her secret to looking youthful without having any cosmetic work done.
7. Do Things Your Parents Did at 40, Do Things Your Parents Never Did – Sure, in this day and age, it’s so easy and convenient to pay someone else to perform certain services or jobs for you, such as housekeeping, car washes, landscaping, clothing alterations, etc. It may not be worth your limited free time to do those things yourself. However, at 40, there are a few basic things you should be self-reliant at, things that your parents knew how to do – change a tire, sew a button, cook a Thanksgiving turkey just right. Now’s the time to learn these things. Step up and figure it out. I recently learned how to drive stick-shift.
This is also the point in your life to try new things your parents maybe never had a chance to do. Do things you never had the time to do when you were too busy studying in school, or working long hours to move up at your job, or occupied with starting a new family. Don’t wait until you’re old and retired to try out new hobbies. Keep learning and trying new things now. It’s okay to leave the kids for a couple of hours to do something fun for yourself. For me, I started stand-up paddle boarding, golf lessons, and blogging this past year!
At the end of the day, be content with your middle-age self. Look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. See a person who’s made mistakes in life, but is always trying to improve. See a person whose body has changed over the years, but who has been blessed with motherhood and amazing children. See a person who may not be the perfect wife, mom, or daughter, but is a damn good one. See a person who may not have the perfect job, but does their best at their job.
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