On Being 40(ish)

Balance

40 is about accepting the blame

One morning when my 8year old was in a heap over the horrid inevitability that he would have to go to school again that day, he spat out, “You don’t do anything right! You promised I could skip school and you’re always lying!” It took me a minute to recover. I most certainly was not always lying but to explain this to him right now wasn’t going to get us any closer to him putting on his shoes. That I never ‘promised’ him he could skip school this particular day, wasn’t a discussion point, either. The facts of what I had said, the truth, was we discussed a time we may be traveling and, like the friends he’s so jealous of who get to miss school because they have a plane to catch, we would likely have that experience one day, too. But that was not what he wanted to hear or what he remembered that foggy, dark morning thirty minutes before the first school bell. 

In that minute I sucked my breath back in to my deflated lungs and took the punch. “One day, yes, we can skip school for a big adventure, but that is not today and here are your socks.” 

Many, and I mean many, people skip this step of 40. Blame continues to live on others’ shoulders. In their eyes, blame is a game of power and he who holds it is the loser.

In the wise words of the famous author, Christina Aguilera, “I’m sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn’t do, and I’ve hurt myself by hurting you.”  40 is about accepting your roll, your participation, and letting others off the hook. And then? the next big lesson: letting yourself off the hook, too.

40 is about compassion

As Elizabeth Gilbert said recently: 

40 is about waking up to what you’ve carried with you
40 is about being too old for this shit
40 is about quality over quantity
40 is about honesty with self and others
40 is about failing

This is the big one, the Mothership. In my twenties and thirties, failure wasn’t an option. It was a reality, of course, but never an option. These two truths collide with a force of shame and regret causing a wake of intimidation and fear. 

40 is about moving from Fear to Love 

It’s about choosing to see ourselves and a whole, connected to everyone, instead of as separate. It’s about understanding our actions are not just affecting our selves but have large scale implications on those around us. It’s about knowing all of this without judging or being overwhelmed. It’s about taking time to pause and remain in our body before we respond. 

I’ve had a full 18 months of 40 now and I can tell you these lessons aren’t immediate, nor are they persistent. They come and go and I’ll remember to take a pause shortly after I reacted out of fear or said something I regret. But being 40 reminds me that there is a lot of healing and time that comes after those words leave my mouth and there’s plenty of time for confessions and encouragement and forgiveness, even for myself. 

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