Turning forty means something different for every woman. Some are ready to be “forty and fabulous,” while others are stunned, mouth agape, slowly shaking their heads in futile denial. There seems to be something nasty about the words “middle aged.” It gives us chills and a huge case of the heebie-jeebies! Young people are lively and beautiful; the elderly are wise and adorable…but the middle aged? According to the card-making industry, we have already peaked and are on our way down the proverbial hill we just toppled over. As I neared that epoch of life, I mentioned my upcoming birthday to my grandmother, and she said, in a dismal tone, “Oh no…it is a round one!” Whether she was feeling pity for me or uncomfortable that her granddaughter was turning forty, I could not say.
Like many others who came before me, I felt that I should mark this moment with something epic! I chose to…drum roll…get my first (and still only) tattoo! I can see people smirking now. Yes, I fully realize that is a clichéd reaction. I might as well have made an appointment for Botox or picked up a sports car catalog. For me, it was something I wanted for a long time and had even designed years prior. It was not so much about the tattoo itself. It was making a decision for something that I had always yearned to do, yet hesitated due to worries over reactions from loved ones. That is one of the beautiful things about getting older. We learn that we do not have to care about what others think of us. It is possible to respect the people in our lives while still being true to ourselves. That was one gift that the age of forty gave me.
The countdown of days from age thirty-nine to forty tend to get clicked off like a ticking time bomb. When the day actually dawned, it was somewhat anti-climactic. There is nothing particularly magical or doom-filled about that birthday, despite how it seems. I look back to my twenties and laugh at that girl who thought she was a mature adult and had it all figured out. The passing decades have been filled with hard-won experience, wins and losses, and character growth. There is a freedom that comes with the years…learning that it is okay to say no, using time better, dispensing love more openly. I am less prickly and less likely to feel the need to compete. I feel incredibly more spiritual at this age than ever before in my life.
Sure, there are a few downers. I never had acid reflux before thirty. My forties have disrupted my sleep a great deal since I now have to void my bladder a couple of times every night! It makes me wonder what fifty will bring, nine years from now. I imagine standing up that morning and feeling certain body parts around my knees, instead of where I would like them to stay! However, if that is the worst that happens, I think it is worth everything that I have gained in the process. If you are nearing one of those “round birthdays,” especially forty, please put away the leopard print clothes and put down the eye cream! You are at a special place in your journey, with enough experiences to guide you down the next forty years, happily and peacefully. Ann Landers once said, “At age twenty, we worry about what others think of us. At forty, we don’t care what they think of us. At sixty, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.”