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40 and Free: Why it's Great to Be a 40 Year Old Woman
Hooray for 40!
I recently turned 40 and I couldn't be happier. Instead of believing the sad TV cliches of women freaking out and feeling like they're past their youthful prime, I feel better about myself today then I ever have before and see turning 40 as an absolute gift. It truly is great to be a 40 year old woman!
So in honour of beginning this new chapter in my life, I have decided to list some of the awesome realizations that come with turning 40.
Realization #1: I genuinely don't care what other people think of me
This was not an overnight revelation, but something that started in my mid thirties and has firmly taken root now that I'm 40. And am I dead serious when I say to all women that not caring what other people think of you is the single biggest gift you can give yourself. I have my mother-in-law to thank for planting this seed of happiness about turning 40 several years ago.
I recall the conversation quite vividly. We were sitting out on my deck together enjoying the sunshine and the sound of my girls running around when I'd asked her what she thought was the best time in her life. I'm not sure why it came up, I suspect it was close to my father-in-law's birthday and I was expecting some throw away answer about the golden years, but her answer surprised me and really struck a chord. She was 63 at the time and said that looking back her 40's were her favourite. Why? Because the hard slogging of raising young children was done by then, and she finally felt confident in who she was and had stopped caring about what other people thought of her. Her insecurities had been dulled by time and experience and no longer felt like she had to please everyone. That comment was a revelation to me. Up until that moment I had been dreading my 40's, convinced by society and cliched sitcoms that I would be all washed up by then and desperately clinging to my youth and memories of days gone by. At 40 I'd no longer be young enough to be considered sexually attractive and what I thought and cared about would no longer be of interest to anyone if market research demographics were to be believed. What a load of garbage!
From that day on I have been looking forward to turning 40. Although I am not quite free of raising my lovely girls, I have a 13 year old and two ten year olds as I write this, I do feel the shackles of other people's judgement loosening. It feels good not to care anymore.
Relaization #2: I am no longer a slave to my appearance
"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!" I know I am paraphrasing and taking some pretty big liberties here, but I doubt there is a North American woman alive today between the ages of 10-40 who hasn't looked in the mirror and said "I do not like what I see." I know I did, for such a very long time. The truth is that for a huge chunk of my life between the ages of 12- 30 I absolutely hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror and did some highly destructive things to not look like myself including a 6 year battle with an eating disorder that not only ravaged my psyche and health, but had a seriously negative impact on my relationships. Although I got some help and started finding my way back to health in my early 20's, it wasn't until I became a mother that I realized what a destructive and shallow pursuit society's version of "beauty," is.
Thankfully my husband and my children came along to show me the way. Instead of obsessing over my imperfections, my 30's were focused on parenting as I got lost in a sea of little girl giggles, tutus and sticky fingers. (4 year olds do not care about how much you weigh or how tight your abs are. The squishier the tummy the better as far as they are concerned, all the better to snuggle up to.) My husband and my children unknowingly saved me from myself.
Parenting forced my attention elsewhere. And now as I enter my 40's and move on to the next stage of parenting, I have no desire to return to the body obsessed woman I once was. I am so much more then what I look like. And apart from being healthy, I don't really care what I look like anymore. So here it is people, I am a short, chubby 40-year-old lady with good hair and a lot of tattoos. You'd never see someone like me on runways or in magazines, but I'm still pretty awesome!
Relaization #3: I'm Older and Wiser
Having done 40 full trips around the sun I feel a whole lot wiser. The life experience I have gained in living this long has taught me so much about not only myself, but how the world works. Having the feeling that I have been there and done that with many of life's daunting challenges has given me the confidence to face new experiences with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. Let's face it, by the time most of us have reached 40, we have been through some pretty harrowing and life altering stuff. I have survived everything from living in borderline poverty, to traveling in foreign countries, to infertility and the death of a parent. There is so much truth in the saying "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger." I feel like I can face any challenge, good or bad and come out the other side all the better for having experienced it. Experience and time bring wisdom. So if this is how I feel when I'm 40, I can't wait to see what 80 is like!
Relaization #4: I Know What Matters
One word, "love." It took me a long time to figure this out, literally 40 years, but I've got it now. I am no longer defined by my job or achievements. What I have in my bank account and my possessions aren't really important. What matters most is that I am loved and that I love others. It really is as simple as that. I know now that at the end of my life when I look back this is what will count, nothing else.
This lesson was driven home to me when my dad suddenly passed away days before his 58th birthday. I was 27 at the time, and truthfully not all that open to many life lessons so it took a while for this one to sink in. Looking back I realize that after my father died we didn't sit around remembering him for the money he left in the bank or his job as a welder at a pulp and paper mill, he was remembered for his big heart and how much he helped others. At his funeral the church was overrun with so many of the young people he had helped in his various volunteer roles. It took 13 years for my father's final lesson to sink in, but now that I am 40 I get it. And I can guarantee you that once you embrace this truth for yourself it is freeing and wonderful. It has taken the agony out of the "who am I?" and "what am I supposed to do with my life?" questions. Just love. I hope my children don't take as long as I did to figure this out.
40 is the New Awesome!
For my 40th birthday, my husband and wonderful friends threw me a "not-so-surprise," birthday party that was fabulous. I got some lovely gifts and hilarious cards including one super funny one that said "40 is the new 30." Upon reflection I have decided that some one should make a card that says "40 is the new awesome!" Seriously I wouldn't venture back to my 20's or 30's for anything.I am happy in this moment and beginning my 40th decade. 40 really is the new awesome!