I turned forty today. I had a surprise party, thrown by my husband and attended by people I adore. Best birthday ever.
I am not sad or upset at turning forty. Actually, I am surprised to find out that I am happy. I mean it. Really happy.
As a teen, I remember thinking forty was really, really old. Maybe it was the adults in my life, or maybe it was my narrow perspective on adults–either way, I never wanted to end up completely out of touch with current fashion and music trends.
The truth: I don’t always wear all of the latest styles or like all of the latest music, but I don’t have to. That’s the difference between 14 and 40. If I look like a mom? It’s expected, but it’s my choice. If I choose to have purple hair? My choice too.
Forty is FREEDOM to be me.
At fourteen, I had very little choice about my clothes due to my parents’ strict religious ideals. I got highlights in my hair and it was a major deal. I was once grounded for wearing two different earrings. The funny thing was that my parents had no idea that I wasn’t being rebellious. Honestly, I was trying to look like everyone else by wearing the strange trends of the 1980’s, but I wouldn’t have realized or admitted it at the time. My parents’ perception of me overshadowed who I was, and I began to believe that I was a “bad kid”. In reality, I never really got into any serious trouble–I was barely tardy to class. I was a good kid.
I don’t regret my childhood–no matter how painful–because it fuels some of my writing today and it adds to who I am. My main characters all hold pieces of the struggle to become myself. When I am haunted by self-doubt or fear that people won’t like my writing, I think about a lonely teen who feels isolated like I did and I push through my insecurities so she won’t feel alone. An unpublished book will never inspire or lift up anyone, it will only drag down the unfulfilled author.
I am sure that there are moments when I embarrass my kids but I also know that they are afforded a great deal more freedom of expression than I was rationed when I was growing up. We have rules and boundaries for our tweens, but not hair style/length/color. It’s hair. It grows back. It’s not a battle worth fighting. The rule is keep it clean. We focus more on making healthy, informed choices. It’s more important that they treat themselves and others with kindness.
I am married to the hottest and most loyal guy I ever met. We have two great, intelligent boys who are hilarious and insightful. Having these three men in my life for the last dozen years has been a miracle. It has been a huge part of my healing and growth. The first twenty years I learned that men are either absent or angry. The second twenty I’ve learned that all men are not jerks after all, in fact many of them are fantastic, unconditionally loving beings.
I am mostly comfortable in my own skin. I have figured out how to be healthy and I am well on my way, after spending a decade feeling pretty crappy. I had some pretty severe food allergies–not the kind that send you to the emergency room, but the kind that give you body aches, fatigue, depression, irregular sleep, extra weight, terrible digestion and more. Thanks to an insightful allergy nurse, I have lost about 1-2 lbs per week for several months by avoiding the foods that made me sick. I feel fantastic!
So, I’m really happy being forty.
My youngest told me recently, “Mommy, you’re like Cinderella.”
“How so?” I replied.
“You started out with mean people and bad things, but then you met Daddy and now we are your happy ending.”
I told you they were wise. 😉
Forty is fabulous! Here’s to the next 40 years!