When I was in my early thirties and stuck in the quicksand of raising young children, one of the things that got me through was clinging to the belief that surely, life HAD TO begin in my forties.
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Bit that idea turned out to be an old wives tale or some cruel ruse invented as a carrot to get us through that decade.
Aspects of ‘life’ have begun in my forties, it’s fair to say, but it’s not exactly been the nirvana of good health, perfect lifestyle and happiness I was led to expect. That was obviously a promise concocted in the medieval times, before our generation, because the lives we lead today are very different from the lives our grandparents and even our parents led, who married younger and if they were lucky enough, had paid off their mortgage, got rid of the kids and were enjoying afternoon naps by the time they reached their forties.
As I sat on the cusp of my fiftieth birthday at the beginning of this week, I wanted to be able to tell you how much I’ve loved my forties. But like most things in my life, this last decade has been a mixed bag of good, great and events that I can only presume happened to make me stronger!
So firstly, ‘the great’ stuff, that even my anxious, over-thinking brain can’t downplay:
My immediate family still has good physical health and we are lucky that genetic mental health issues push us quickly towards the Medicare threshold each year, (usually within the first six months), which means our hypochondriac needs are met for free for the remaining six.
I’ve lived in five very different, very beautiful homes, over the past ten years. I’ve learned that renovating causes my stress levels to reach combustion point, that I will never be a gardener, that a pool is superfluous, as is having too much space, that views are calming and worth the money and that most stains come out of the carpet with a steam clean.
The number of close friends in my circle has decreased, which at one point in my life would have caused me sleepless nights. Many have fallen by the wayside as we’ve both changed and taken different paths but I’m surprised to find that even though I’ve become more insular, judgemental and (if I’m honest) a bit of a boring fucker, I still enjoy meeting new people and the promise those potential new friendships hold. The value of my besties in my life has increased. I now understand how futile and soul-destroying it is to chase people who have no genuine interest in my friendship, without feeling hurt and psychopathic about it. I delight in the success of others without feeling envy and the most important qualities I look for in my friends are the ability to laugh, listen and empathise.
What has been a wonderful surprise after the years of sacrifice and self-loathing is to see how much I enjoy the company of my children and their peers, as adults. (Most of the time)
I have learned that dogs are people, put on this earth to provide us with unconditional love whenever we feel truly alone in the world.
That the Beatles were right when they said that ‘All You Need Is Love.’
That my husband may not fit the profile of the perfect man, just like I certainly don’t fit the profile of the perfect woman, but we tesselate comfortably. I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with feeling ‘comfortable’ in a relationship. Our mutual and unmasked enjoyment of time away from each other as well as time together, our discovery of Honey Whisky, being lazy together and quaffing Japanese food will hopefully weld us together for another decade.
I can now admit to myself and others that my personal ‘success’ and energy does not emanate from work, even though (and for the first time in my life) I enjoy my current job(s), but has everything to do with personal goals and my close relationships. My ideas vis a vis the ‘success’ of my children have changed too. I will try not to judge them but will see their success by how happy they are in their day to day existence, if they turn out to be ‘kind’, ‘giving’ people who value the gift of life and give love freely.
More importantly, I have learned that my enjoyment of life is not dependent on the happiness and fulfilment of my children, because my own self-fulfilment is valuable too; I have a right to my own independent happiness. My children have both reached adulthood now and although I will always love them, be by their side and support them, that loyalty won’t be at the expense of my own health and happiness. I see now how crucial it is to their own development to let them go and allow them to take responsibility for their own lives.
I have learned that writing is the best therapy for me and any form of communication and exercise come a close second, particularly for clearing the brain of the self-doubt monster.
I need to stop blaming the past for present-day disappointments. I need to smell the roses more often and stop hiding behind self-doubt and fear. If that means I have to increase my medication to relieve my anxiety to make my life more meaningful, I will do it without worrying about judgment. I need to treat every day as if it is my last.
And below I’ve stolen a few ideas from one of the posts that inspired me ‘What Shit Are You Too Old For’ by Tracey Moore:
From now on I will always choose quality over quantity and the bargains that tempt my cheapness.
Even though I know that coffee and wine are the devil’s food, I have decided that their pleasure outweighs the risk.
I have learnt that I need to be myself and if that means risking the loss of friendships, then so be it. I will no longer do what I don’t want to do or don’t enjoy doing. I will tell people if I disagree with them – in the nicest way possible, of course (unless I’m drunk) – and hope that they are bipartisan/intelligent/mature enough to understand that different opinions are exciting and challenging and keep us young, and not a personal attack.
I have learned that we keep on learning.