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On Turning 40

Yesterday, at precisely 9:42 am, I turned 40 years old. Here is how I’ve been honoring this milestone:

On Sunday I went to the Cheesecake Factory with my kids and my parents, and after gorging myself on my favorite breakfast food, eggs benedict, I declined to eat cheesecake because I was full.

Yesterday, I decided to buy myself some really nice new underwear because I’ve too long neglected that part of my wardrobe. Today, I had to take them all back and get the next size up. That so-called middle aged spread didn’t even give me a one day grace period.

(Speaking of periods, peri-menopause hormones suck and apparently will continue to suck for the next ten years or so.)

I went to work and had lunch with my sweetheart, where I had to choke back said-hormonal tears from feeling totally overwhelmed by my to do list and the likelihood of canceling my beach vacation next week. He threatened me with more than 40 birthday spankings if I didn’t smile. He knows exactly how to get what he wants.

I came home to a house full of unfolded laundry. I folded it and put it away, while packing ten days worth of children’s outfits for their upcoming trip to Disney with their dad and stepmom. I’m happy for them, but sad that my only contribution to this trip is ensuring they each have enough socks and underwear. That fit.

We cleaned the house in preparation for my birthday dinner with the kids, parents, sweetheart, and his made from scratch chocolate cake. “Mommy is old,” I wrote on the top with red icing. I felt old. After tucking in kids, cuddling on the couch, and saying goodnight, I passed out watching the National Geographic channel and mating lions. They copulate every 20 minutes when the lioness is in the mood. That sounds exhausting. Even if the act itself last only 30 seconds.

This weekend I will celebrate being over the hill by climbing the highest mountain in Virginia. I can’t wait to try out my new backpack and sleeping bag, but there is another part of me that would rather be seeing my cousin’s baby being baptized on Sunday, because she is the family miracle baby. Another part would like to be home singing for the newly forming youth mass at my church. And still another feels guilty leaving behind unfinished work that sorely needs attention, and the satisfaction that comes from meeting obligations.

This whole business of “adulting” is supposedly something that people of my generation, GenX, put off and avoid. Maybe it’s because so many of us were forced to grow up before our time as latchkey kids and the offspring of me-generation divorcees. I personally was neither, but I still relate to the traits. I recently read an article that said, unlike our parents, our “midlife crisis” is not a time of trying to recapture our youth, but finally embracing adulthood, without losing our innate drive to innovate and live life to the fullest.

Maybe I’m just having a midlife crisis. But even though I often feel overwhelmed by the trappings of this adulthood in which I find myself, I am equally as overwhelmed by the gratitude that somehow, without even trying and in spite of myself, I have everything I ever wanted. And I’m not so sure that over the hill means everything goes downhill. Maybe things get better.

Today, I had a brief conversation with a dear friend in her 80s. She lost her beloved husband around the same time as my divorce, and despite an age difference of more than 40 years, we find ourselves in eerily similar emotional situations. I had a good chuckle as she began to tell me of some of the changes going on in her life, realizing that, God willing, I’ll still be learning how to love and grieve and laugh at myself in another 40 years, if I’m anything like her. God I hope I am. There are so many more mountains.

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