A couple days after Christmas, I turned 40. I’ve dreaded the big 4-0 since turning 30, which was also traumatic. I spent the first half of my 30’s pretending to be in my 20’s, and the second half of my 30’s trying to undo damage from the previous 15 years. Now that I’m here, there’s some new struggles, but it might not be as bad as I thought.
The closer I got to 40, the more I noticed little things that I attributed to age. Sitting on the floor and trying to stand up can paralyze me with pain, and I don’t have any injuries or illnesses to blame that on. Little lines and wrinkles coupled with sagging skin leave me cursing gravity and the sun that I used to worship. My arms just aren’t long enough, so I have glasses. Reading a menu in a dark restaurant without my specs and light from my phone is a luxury that is no longer mine.
Losing weight and hair falling out. Google that and it’s how you find out you are dying. In my case, it’s probably not a death sentence (yet), but a hormonal shift. Maybe it’s my thyroid, or maybe it’s just stress. Whatever the case, with 40 comes more doctor visits and supplements. I need to buy a weekly vitamin/pill case because I can’t always remember if I took my daily supply that morning.
When I was 23 with a newborn, all I dreamt about was sleep. I moaned and groaned about getting up during the night to care for my sweet little guy who didn’t care that I just fell asleep because I tried to stay up and do something normal like watch a movie with my husband. He was a night owl and never wanted to go back to sleep. I would sit in the glider and rock him back and forth with tears running down my face. Looking into his wide eyes, I prayed for the day he would sleep through the night. So now I’m 40, and he is approaching 17. He sleeps through the night, and the entire morning if I let him. Now I look at him with tears in my eyes begging time to let me go back to rocking him through the night.
The sleep I craved still isn’t here. I wake up sweaty and overanalyze it wondering if it’s my turn to slide down the menopausal slope, or wonder if it’s just the fact that I’m hot because it is in fact so damn hot here in Texas. My kids are in their rooms, tucked away without a thought of needing anything from mom. Yet still, I lie in bed awake half the night. My mind races with worry and wonder, even though I finally have the peace and quiet alone in my bed that I hoped for. Sleeping the entire night, it turns out, might never happen.
While it’s easy to wish to be young again, there’s quite a bit that I’m happy to be done with. Mommy drama is officially over for me. I’m not standing outside of school waiting for my kids to come out and trying to keep up with the other moms. Instead, I’m quietly sitting in my car and waiting for my boys to find me. There’s no more involvement in my kids’ social lives and I’m not stressed trying to plan a birthday party to outdo the others. I no longer have to volunteer for class parties or PTA to prove that I’m a good mom.
My 20’s and most of my 30’s were plagued with trying to prove to the other moms that I had my act together. I showed up to school and sporting events showered, and I dressed the best I could with my hair and makeup done. I wanted to fit in. Now, you’ll find me sitting alone in the stands at a swim meet in sweaty running clothes. Judge me all you want, but I would rather sneak in a run than try to imply that I’m the best mom because I’m sitting up front with a giant lens on my camera screaming my son’s name so everyone knows I am the mom of the kid that just won his heat. I’m not bitter, I’m just over it.
Going out? That sounds exhausting. I’m completely content staying home in comfy pants and with messy hair. Sitting on the couch watching HGTV and Bravo? That’s my kind of night. I’m not worrying who’s going where or sad learning from Facebook that there’s quite a few parties that I was not invited to.
For the first time in my life, I went for a run on New Year’s Day. We stayed home New Year’s Eve and made a good dinner with drinks and wine. My husband and I ran, chuckling most the way, thinking, “I can’t believe we are doing this.” Somehow, with age I’ve come to prefer going to bed at a reasonable hour than partying the night away and spending the next day feeding a hangover. And that is not to say I regret those moments, but it’s just different now.
Instead of pondering over the things I haven’t accomplished by 40, I’m going to focus on what I do have behind me. I had an easy childhood with 2 parents and 3 brothers under one roof. Road tripping in a station wagon, celebrating occasions with big family dinners, laughing, yelling, crying; it was all good. 19 years of Catholic education created numerous friendships and memories to cherish. A college degree, a husband that puts up with me, 2 teenage boys that will lean down and hug me, my parents and brothers that I still love to be with, and a big family with nieces, nephews and in-laws; my life is full.
Realization, clarity, and gratitude: this is my 40.
Notes: The title of this post is from one of my favorite songs by The Killers, All These Things That I’ve Done.
I love this song, especially the way it ends, which is fitting for how I’m feeling.
Over and again, last call for sin
While everyone’s lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I’ve done