If ten years ago…wait…if three years ago, someone told me about the changes I’d experience as I approached and turned 40, I would never have believed them, and I may have silently and mentally scoffed, assuming that I would escape any sign of…aging.
As I started noticing the changes, or evolution, as I prefer to call them, I was shocked, confused at times. However, that did not last very long, because what I was about to discover, was truly life-changing, life-embracing and completely satisfying.
I would have captioned this list, ‘If only someone told me this before I turned 40’. But the truth is that I never would have given them the time of day. So I would need to name my list something more real, simpler and more to the point.
Turning 40 – My Brutal Truth!
1. Is it early onset dementia?
More often than before, I’d walk into a room and forget why I went in. Worse than that, I’d go to the supermarket for a specific item, only to get home, unpack 8 shopping bags and realise I had forgotten the item. Vitamins on a daily basis is almost impossible, because they’d be staring at me and I’d still forget to take them. I literally started wondering, frightened, if this was early onset dementia. It was truly worrisome, at first. Now I realise that it’s because my brain most likely self-prioritises what it truly needs to remember, and the rest simply needs to be listed, on a daily basis. Needless to say, quick trips are only as easy as they used to be, if I prepare a written list, a week before packing.
2. Weight loss is a mother bitch
I used to be able to lose weight very easily…even the weight I didn’t have. A few weeks of some resistance training and my body was always back in order. At 40, cabbage soup diet, Atkins and daily yoga for 8 weeks, and I may lose a pound, not necessarily an inch, just the pound! Losing weight has become a task, something that needs an insurmountable amount of dedication, patience and time. Carbs are the enemy; bread is now the devil; carbonation and cocktails are made from the water of Styx. The way I figure it is that there is so much more wisdom and grace to love at 40, that fat doesn’t want to do anything but stick to me.
3. I don’t recognise my skin
This one was a bit much to accept since it happened, literally overnight! Furthermore, I think the night it happened was the night I went from 39 to 40, and I kid you not. Although I have no extremely visible wrinkles, age spots or saggy boobies, the skin on my face just no longer looks or feels the same. Make-up just does not go on as smoothly or flawlessly as before, no matter how expensive the product. And at 40, money is no object when it comes to beauty products! The cellulite appears out of absolutely nowhere and shorts suddenly seem safer if they are an inch or 2 longer. The most difficult to look at is the skin on my torso. The tightness loosened. And I never had a chance.
4. Walking up the stairs
I have heard many-a-40 year old complain about the pain and ache that accompanies simple tasks such as these. I have even heard my younger friends complain even more about the same. However, I have to admit that these are not tasks for me and turning 40 has NOT AS YET plagued me in this way. I found myself, just months before turning 41, running up the stairs at work when a colleague commented on it. She asked me how I could still do that so easily. It was only then that I even realised that there are many physical activities that I CAN do without pain and without thought. At that point, I felt that maybe it’s my constant attempt at healthy eating and an alkaline diet that has saved my joints, thus far. Dancing on a daily basis is my job and I could only hope that it has helped, as well. I am just assuming that age hasn’t caught up with that as yet, so I shall just await the inevitable.
5. Fashion, Fashionistas and Fuss
When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to be able to make all the fashion choices I wanted, without the input of my mother which was really the actual permission she did or did not grant. In my 20’s, when I started working, I started wearing very risqué clothes because I was of age and of physique. In my 30’s I became more aware of what brands I liked and did a lot of experimenting with trends. In my 40’s, I look at young, self-proclaimed fashionistas and I am grateful that I am beyond it all. Fashion is a pressure that society places on people who aren’t strong enough to know their own style. By this age, I wear what suits my perfectly imperfect body; I am unaffected by the opinions of the fashion world; I buy the brands that I like for very real reasons; I spend my money on as much clothes, shoes and handbags as I choose because they make me so incredibly happy. Most significantly, IDGAF about who has opinions about my style. It is incredibly liberating to dress for me, rather than for what society dictates. Dress codes are my pet peeve and I don’t do well with following them, for the simple reason that I am being asked to.
After being through a terrible first marriage and its even more traumatic divorce, death, failed relationships, betrayal and lies, it takes a whole lot to phase me emotionally. The sad part, though, is that I wasn’t even put though all of these by men. I’ve been put through it by friends, as well. Tears come easier when I feel unwell, than from the hurt that another human being inflicts. The resilience doesn’t come from being strong or jaded. It doesn’t even come from being through so much. It comes from coming through it all, and being ok each time. As long as each journey may be, survival still occurs. So this knowledge that everything changes, nothing stays the same forever and this too shall pass, has resonated with me, and I know that whatever is thrown at me, I will take a deep breath, sip my prosecco and just handle it. Resilience comes from faith as much as it comes from knowledge and wisdom, that I will be ok, even if it’s eventually.
7. Make-up is my best friend
It has always irked me when people ask me why I wear make-up every day, or why I wear so much make-up, or when they inform me that I don’t need make-up for a barrage of their reasons. The one that seems the silliest to me is when a friend told me that she doesn’t wear make-up to work, so that she could look different when she goes out. It was a ‘crickets chirping’ moment for me, actually. My school of thought on make-up is somewhat different. I wear it, in the first place, because I DO NEED IT – even more so at 40. Why on God’s green earth would I WANT to look bare faced in public when I could look made-up instead!? There is a vast difference in how I look and feel. I love how I look in make-up and I feel like it is the most feminine thing I can do for myself. It makes me feel taken cared of. I take pride in how I leave my home and choose to look as though I am in public and not in my living room, with my face as dry as a biscuit. I go get my hair and nails and waxing done. Mani and pedi day has to be the best day of my month and I love spas. Life is short. I choose to look my best…or at least, look the way I want, every single day. I live what I love, especially at 40.
8. Public Opinion is as important to me as bale of hay
One of the most important things that I recently learnt was that my opinion about my life and my life choices was much more essential to my well-being than the opinion of anyone else. When you are younger, there is a standard to which you want to aim; an acceptable partner, job, home etc., of which your peers would approve. Social and familial pressures to get married, have babies and be promoted at work, seemed important, essential even, for a balanced, fulfilling life. At 40, all the dust settles and you see things so much clearer. Society and family no longer dictate my pace – I do. So I took the long vacations instead of saving for a baby’s university fund. I passed up professional offers. I didn’t care about what my friends thought about my life partner. I started living for me. I had to stand by the consequences of my actions and I had to face my choices. So my life finally started to become mine, even if it meant losing some friends along the way.
9. Alone vs. Lonely
Turning 40 made me enjoy my own company so much more than before. Especially since public opinion was as important to me as a bale of hay! Being alone never felt lonely and boredom is not something I feel. I’ve embraced who I am and what my life has become and I love time to myself. When I was just a few years younger, there seemed to be a void that always needed to be filled….with friends, going out, being out, and coming in at 4am, anything except just being home alone. Now, dinners-out end by 7 so that I can be on my couch by 8. And I love it!
If at 40 you can’t see the red flags and the warning signs that HE is as important to you as a bale of hay, then you have had a rather sheltered, uneventful, safe and stable past decade. Good for you! Didn’t work out so well (or badly) for me. So at this age, I see the worthlessness of the ‘bad boys’; the bore of the man-whores; the dread of the boasters. I finally know my worth so well that I saw theirs for what it really was, rather than what I hoped they’d be. Realising my truth in this way, saved me some heartache and it is one thing that I wish had happened sooner. But it couldn’t, you see…because with age comes wisdom. So I learnt to choose well – who to get rid of, who to keep and why to marry.
11. Love and Marriage
They say that a heartache/problem/mistake repeats itself until the lesson is learnt and sadly, this summarises while epitomising my 30’s. I married at 31 for all of the wrong and usual reasons: we were together for 6 years so it was about time; he owed me that; I was getting older; suppose I wanted to have children; what would people say about us being together for so long; I didn’t want to start over at 31; I invested so much time already; and of course, nobody is perfect so, at this age, he will do. Well, wasn’t that the mother of all mistakes! If I thought that starting over at 31 was going to be a bitch, wait until I had to do it at 38! But it took this experience for me to understand love and even marriage. Getting re-married at 40 was a peaceful, heart-warming experience because I was finally making this life-changing decision for all of the right reasons, and I felt as though this was just the beginning of all things good.
12. Life is messy
I was raised to have a compartmentalised life; everything in its place. Public opinion should not be met with criticism so I should aim to create the perfect life, or at least the image of it should be projected. This was frustrating, and it was most likely one of the reasons why so much went awry in my 20’s and 30’s. Life is as messy as f#ck! There is no black and white – it is an entire rainbow of greys! There is no mould in which to fit me or my life and I stopped trying because it no longer mattered. I CAN go to bed with a dirty glass in the sink overnight. I didn’t need to cook every day when there was a restaurant just a drive away. I can sleep until 11 am or 6 am on a Sunday and still just spend the day watching TV. A Christmas tree meant nothing and did not need to be decorated if I hated packing away the decorations in January. I can drink a glass of scotch or prosecco every evening if I wanted since I didn’t have to cook. And so what! Life still went on just fine! I no longer cared to be a slave to the routine. Every day is now a new and different adventure and an opportunity for new shoes! So I stopped compartmentalising and I started living.
13. Ruffle my feathers, why don’t ya!
You ever notice how easily we curse out someone who gives us a bad drive on the highway…even if it’s from our closed windows; or how easily a co-worker can get under our skin for not doing what they were supposed to, whether it directly affected you or not; or how family judgement about our life, masked as concerned questions, enraged us to jump to our own defence? Well! Turning 40 was the most mellowing thing that ever happened to me. A sigh, chuckle or shrug is the sum total reaction that any of the above would get from me now. Why? Because the clouds have cleared and I see clearly now. Silliness and foolishness is more apparent now and have replaced things that used to be meaningful. I simply do not care about the trivialities around me that do not concern me. I understand when a woman is attacking me because she is jealous or unhappy, and I no longer need to react vengeful to that. I can simply look away and walk away and be back to my life in a matter of seconds. This truth of turning 40 has been quite de-stressing.
40 – the age of mammograms, stress tests, blood pressure testing, insulin monitoring, and the list goes on…and on and on. [My disclaimer is that the health decisions I made at 40 are mine and are not in any way a testament to rightness. It’s a choice and a decision I made based on my circumstances. It’s a decision by which I will have to stand if it’s the wrong one, and I’m ok with that.] I vege juice on mornings. I eat my fruits and yogurt. I limit fried foods. I drink my lemon, ginger, cucumber, mint water all day, every day. I eat salads as often as I can. I exercise – weight lifting, yoga, dance of course. And that’s it. I decided, very deliberately, that I did not want to be prodded, squashed, poked, drained and tested for what MIGHT be wrong, JUST BECAUSE I am 40. The slightest feeling of pain, discomfort or anything of the sort, I consult my doctor. But the buck stops there for me. I decided to take the ‘irresponsible’ route of live and let live! I want to live free and happy until I can’t anymore. I have no children to depend on me; enough money to throw me into a hospice; and husband who is young enough to be able to find love again, should I die! So in the meantime, based on what society (drug companies, insurance salesmen, the media) has decided is the inevitable (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, old age), I will do my best to be and stay healthy, with some extra dietary and exercise precautions. I choose to just live happily in my ignorance for as long as I can!
In my 30’s and especially after my divorce, my friends were my everything. I am an only child and while family was important, it was my friends, and selected cousins, who I turned to, in time of needing emotional support. I don’t regret this because without them, my journey would not have been the same and my divorce transition would have been so much more painful. But now I see the value in family. I can’t choose my family! But they are still mine, to keep and hold dear, for as long as I can. The drama that oftentimes accompany friendships, is no longer attractive or a viable way of life for me. I no longer need people who use me and are there for me when I’m down, because they prefer me unhappy, as it gives them company in their misery. I no longer want in my life, people that I cannot trust implicitly. My circle has become smaller, lighter and truer.
16. Social Media
This one is simple and to the point…points. At 40, I really don’t care what you think about my social media activity, and I proclaim this, vehemently!
• If I don’t know you, don’t add me
• If you don’t like my posts, don’t read them
• If you don’t like me, please unfriend
• If you think my every post is about you, the Internet is really not for you
• My forums weren’t meant to make you feel comfortable – they are mine
• No, I am not too old for social media
• And yes, I do have time for Facebook, Instagram and Blogging, because your life is not mine
• And yes, I like putting things on social media
• And yes, I feel the need to share a lot. Maybe if someone shared with me in my 20’s, I would have made less mistakes because I learnt from theirs
• Do not assume WHY I post things on social media – my reasons will surprise you. They aren’t as simpleton as you assume
Since my mother and mother-in-law will probably be reading this, I’ll keep it simple, with the rest left to intelligent interpretation (which I failingly hope they both lack). At 40, I finally know my body inside out. I know how things work, how they work well and how they work even better. Parts finally feel as though they fit. My proclivities are not up for judgement or justification and all that was rumoured about turning 40, was completely true! Ok, fine. My husband is 30, so that doesn’t make it worse. (Sorry mums, especially his)
I loved every minute of turning 40. It was a milestone for me because I feel like I have finally found myself and I have unleashed it to the world…even if it is just to my world. I have grown, I have stumbled, I have gotten up, and I have grown some more. Turning 40 was liberating because it freed me from the shackles that I allowed to entrap me for so many years.
When I was younger, I was afraid to change my perspective if it didn’t fit neatly into a box. Now I live outside the box and there is an entirely different world there. I walk peacefully, thoughtfully and happily on a different path. I have no point to prove to anyone and no points to gain from reaching someone else’s standard of acceptability and conformity. I blaze my own trail, for me, and all I can do is hope that others learn from my mistakes. I feel empowered to try anything or to choose to do nothing because choices are finally all mine. The tranquillity that comes from being who you were truly meant to be, cannot be adequately explained with words – it must simply be lived.
What I have accepted and how I feel are two different things:
I accept that I have most probably lived more than half of my life already and that I am tad bit closer to the end than to the beginning. But how I feel is that life, MY LIFE, has only just begun.
So my advice, whether asked for or not, is to go on the extravagant vacation, drink the wine, dance, buy the shoe, leave the dishes, kiss the boy and live!
Understanding and acknowledging that everyone can have a completely different experience in turning any milestone age, and also understanding and acknowledging that any age can be a milestone, the experiences outlined here are mine. This is a reflection of my journey and a sharing of my truth.