Today is a day I’ve been dreading for weeks; maybe months. I knew it would come. It was unavoidable. Some might categorize my feelings as a midlife crisis. But it’s not an actual crisis; it’s just a factual part of my life that I’ve been wishing away. Although when I consider the alternative, which is not being alive for this day, it’s a worse option. I could use code words, catch phrases, or a cutesy cliché to describe today; but if you follow my writing, you know that’s not my style.
So here it is…
I’m turning 40 today and I’m not excited about saying it. Depending on your age, you’re either thinking, “I know the feeling” and you want to burn every “Fabulous & 40” birthday card that’s about to enter your mailbox. Or, you’re 450 years old and you’re thinking, “Oh dear, you’re still a baby.” I know I have some awesome younger readers who might say, “You look great for your age!” (Ugh, it’s now a reality that I’m officially in the “for your age” category). And no doubt there are a few of you thinking, “Shit, you’re that old?” Yes, I am. I’m 40.
In mental preparation for this day, I’ve spent a lot of time examining myself in the mirror; picking apart every inch of my physical being. Overall, my body is in good shape and my breasts are still perky. (Sorry to make you uncomfortable, but that’s important to a woman. And please, no perverted comments.) Yet still, my reflection tells other truths; like an increase in lines on my face. My brain has decided that it’s nature’s “special effect” as I cross the threshold from 39 to 40. After swearing off Botox for years, I called my brother in a panic and asked him if he would inject my “elevens” (those lines between your eyebrows that stand at attention when you make an angry face). I still haven’t done it yet (the Botox). I’m more afraid of looking like a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills (not that my brother would do that to me). As my self-inspection moved from my face to my hair, the more I combed through my dark locks, the more gray hairs I started discovering. I’ve tried to groom myself by plucking those “lighter” strands with tweezers. But it was inevitable, after 39 years of virgin hair, I had to book my first color treatment two week ago. And like a cruel joke, a few dozen grays popped up again today. As if overnight my hair follicles wanted to leave me a message saying, “You can put the color on the girl, but you can’t take the age out of the old lady.” In preparation for my terrible, awful birthday, one of my good friends took me on a trip to Cancun, Mexico; a place known for swim up bars, wild nights, fruity drinks, and shots of tequila. Maybe it was the perfect way to relive my youth before I entered into a decade of maturity? My friend and I laughed, told funny stories, sunned, ate plenty of guacamole, and took lots of pictures to capture the memories of our trip. But we were also in bed before midnight every night (my choice, not hers). I prefer to be well-rested rather than hung-over! (That’s what old people say, right?).
As the days and hours were counting down to the halfway point of my life, I wasn’t sure how to change my attitude. “You’re always so positive,” I said to myself. I knew that I needed to shake off my pissing and moaning. After all, nothing about ME was going to change because I was about to be one day older. I started thinking about the root of where my worry was coming from. I knew the answer. I still have hopes and dreams that I haven’t accomplished yet; and I realized that I was allowing a number to put an expiration date on those dreams. As I was standing on an imaginary ledge; deciding whether or not to jump into a bottomless pit of my own pity and sorrow, I received a gift. And it was the best gift I could receive.
My gift arrived in the mail in an orange envelope. I knew who it was from because there was a name above the return address. But its contents were unexpected; and it was as if the writer had been reading my mind over the past several days. It was a personal note, but I’m choosing to share what was written because it’s relevant to this story.
On a small, rectangular notecard, the following message was written to me:
“You are a fantastic example of recognizing who you are and what talents God gave you, identifying your dream, and going all out to make that dream become your reality. I respect you for that and applaud your hard work and success. 40 is going to be a great year!”
I read that note over and over in the quiet space of my bedroom. My eyes filled up with tears that rested between my lashes without ever falling down my face. My letter came from a grade school friend who was about to celebrate her fortieth birthday a day after mine. We lost touch during our teenage years and into adulthood, but recently reconnected over a couple of martinis several months ago. This woman, who wasn’t aware of my internal doubts, gave me words that I needed to hear. And I realized that if she perceived me this way, I must change my perception of myself. I was focusing so much on what was missing in my life at 40, and not recognizing all of the good that has come out of forty years of living.
I’ve been blessed with the most amazing family a person could ever wish for. We support each other through our greatest successes, biggest failures, and the times of steadiness in between. Wherever they are, is home. And for me, home is a place of unconditional love in its purest form. I need that. I think we all do. My true friends may not be abundant, but they are quality individuals who never fail me. And I cherish them. On the flip side, I’ve crossed paths with manipulators, posers, people who have let me down, abusers, and plenty of people who wear two faces. But they have taught me great lessons as well; lessons I am grateful to have learned. So as I approach this new decade hesitantly, but reflectively, here’s what I know to be true after forty years of breathing fresh (and sometimes not-so-fresh) air:
Just because the first kiss is bad doesn’t mean the second or third one will be too.There’s nothing wrong with loving money. As long as you know it will never love you back (or the attention of the people you buy with it).Never reveal all of your secrets too soon. Over-sharing with the wrong person will break your heart.Don’t be afraid to trust after betrayals. There are still good people in the world. But take time to get to know someone. People always reveal themselves in time.Prayers are answered, even when it’s not exactly what you’re asking for.If it smells fishy, then it will taste fishy.Your gut is smarter than your brain. Trust it!Eat less if you want to lose weight. There’s no secret formula to this fact.If you hate tequila and someone says, “But you haven’t tried THIS KIND of tequila.” Don’t trust them. You’ll still hate it.Loyalty and honesty are the best qualities to have in a friend. They are an uncommon pair. When you find them, keep them.You are the only person getting in the way of your success. There’s always another way to get what you want.A vase of fresh tulips always brightens a room. Carnations do not.Extremists are either annoying, dangerous, or both.When someone hurts you or makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s okay to say goodbye. Not all relationships have to last forever.Be wise with your words when talking through conflict. You don’t want to regret the words you will have to own later.Forgive. It will make you feel better.Massages are not a luxury. They are a necessity for your health.Don’t text and drive. You might kill someone. You’re a good person. It could change your life forever.When you’re surrounded by chaos, be still and quiet. Look for clarity. It will give you the answers you’re looking for.Travel when you can. But home is always the best place to land.George Clooney has a great handshake. So does Matt Damon. Teach your kids the importance of a good, firm handshake.Conquer one big fear. At the very least, it will give you a good story to tell.If he/she likes you, you won’t have to beg for time or attention. Never beg.You’ll make the same mistake more than once. Figure out why.Closure is what you make of it. Sometimes you won’t get an answer. And sometimes that is your answer.Be a person of good character. When others question you, you can always be at peace with your own truths.It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on products. The true potion is in your genes.Good choices = good results. Poor choice = bad results. It’s an obvious equation.Surround yourself with people who challenge you. Their company will push you to reach greater success.Put a paper towel over your food in the microwave. This is a public service announcement. It’s gross when you don’t.Say three things that you’re grateful for every night. That routine will help you focus on the positive, and make you a happier person.A good workout will clear your mind better than a bottle of wine. #truthBe careful about judging people’s choices; one day you may walk in the same shoes.Even the best fall down sometimes. Be better, and get back up.Be mindful of gossiping. It will only lead to trouble.Floss everyday! Just do it!Smile in pictures. You’ll be glad you did years from now.Never put your face in a nude shot. Unless you’re doing Playboy.Be good to your body. Feed it. Exercise it. Pamper it. Rest it. And treat it the same way you want it to treat you.You always have a choice. It’s your greatest gift.