I remember my dad turning forty. There was a bulletin board in the lower level of the church — it read, “Lordy, Lordy, our pastor’s forty!” I think there were some tombstones pinned up as well. I remember my mom turning forty too. We were in the community room at the church she was serving. I’m grateful that I haven’t found pictures from that day as I was in my Debbie Gibson phase — complete with a vest and black hat. I think she may have received a cane and I’m certain the cake had a lot of black icing.
My how times have changed! Since I’m one of the younger ones from my high school graduation class, I’ve watched most of my classmates turn forty over the last year. There were no tombstones or canes or any symbols of death. Instead I’ve seen girlfriend getaways and fun surprise parties. I’ve seen children happily celebrate their parents and couples head out of town without the kids. None of it looked old or depressing. Thank goodness!
Today I turn forty.
I find this hard to believe because I don’t feel forty — at least not the forty I knew about when I was a kid. I thought my parents were super old when they turned forty. I thought they’d be using those canes within a year or two. They are now much older and still far from needing canes. How our perspectives change as we age!
I find this hard to believe because I thought forty meant wise and put together and very adult. Most of the time I do not feel wise or put together or even a little bit adult. I suspect I’m wiser and more put together and adulting more than I realize. Still, it’s hard to believe.
I took a look back at my birthdays the other day — one from each decade: 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009 and now, 2019. As I was gathering these photos, I felt a little sad. I cried just a little bit. I mean, I was a cute baby — don’t you think? I was hoping to have a cute baby too. I’ve thought for a long time about what my baby would look like. So, seeing those photos — my parents so young — caused my heart to ache a bit.
And then, I smiled. I smiled because I was a cute baby and I love looking at my baby pictures. I smiled because I’ve had that cake on my birthday so many times that I can’t keep track. (I’m having it tonight with my nieces!) I smiled because the past four decades have taught me a lot. There have been some hard lessons, to be sure, but look at all the joy!
Each decade brings me something new and exciting. Each decade teaches me more about myself. Each decade leads me closer to my truest self.
What will my forties bring? I have some ideas…
A deeper relationship with my husband as we continue to explore what our lives look like as a family of two. More travel, maybe a move, new hobbies together, new friendships. This decade will be about exploring who we can be as a couple.
Stronger connections with our nieces and nephews as they grow older. I want to take them places and teach them things. I got a taste of this with Rosemary last month and it got me excited for what we can do with each of them. Now that they are a little older, it will be fun to go on adventures with them!
Opening up to my identity as an author. I will be a published author in my forties (Lord willing!) and that in itself is exciting, scary and hard to believe! The book I’m working on now is just the beginning, I think.
Continuing to become more and more comfortable with me — my personality, my body, my abilities. I’m grateful this began in my thirties but I want to see it continue to grow through this next decade.
Growing and maintaining good friendships. I want to go on my trips with my friends, I want to have longer talks and find new ways to connect with one another. This may mean developing new friendships. This may mean rekindling friendships as their kids grow older. This may mean cultivating the ones I already have. I can never replace our dear friend who moved away, but I’d love to have a “let’s grab dinner after work” kind of friend again — the one that’s nearby and comfortable with last minute plans.
I also just realized that this decade will also mean saying goodbye to my baby dog, Denali, at some point. There will be much joy in this decade, but some sadness too.
More grey hair — we can’t forget that!
And lots and lots of space for the unknown, the unexpected, the delights…
I hear that the forties are better than the thirties. Or maybe everyone just says that about the new decade they enter. Either way, I’m encouraged by the way I’ve seen so many of my friends and acquaintances gracefully enter this next decade of life. Here’s hoping I can follow suit! I trust I will because today I turn forty.