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An Ode to Turning 40

Ok so this isn't actually an ode... maybe I will surprise myself and write a "lyrical masterpiece"... but until then, I'm going to "wax poetic" about what it feels like to turn 40. This is for posterity and as a commemoration of the sad event...

Because let's be honest - 40 hits you like a ton of bricks. 40 is the age in the distance when you are growing up - the age that you laugh smugly at and think to yourself "I'll never be that old". Or, if you are destined to be *that* old, you won't be *that* lame. (Deep sigh). So one day you're a kid collecting rocks and then you somehow become cool in your 20s. You think you have problems, but you really look fabulous and the problems you have are relatively minor. Then, you turn 30 and joke about how old you are now - but really, you still feel like you have an ace in your pocket because 30 is just 20 with a little wisdom.

And then you hit 35 and you think, hmmmm I'm getting a little too close for comfort - no matter, I'm still in my thirties... 36, 37, 38, 39... still in my thirties.... (laughs nervously). This is the denial phase. What comes next? Bargaining. 

40 won't be so bad! Heck, its just another day! Just the same as yesterday... right? I'm still the same. Still as good as I once was... and who wants to be a dumb kid anyway (we are moving into the anger phase now). I think I may have these stages mixed up - I think anger is supposed to come before the bargaining... but does it really matter? No. See, now I'm in the depression phase. Nothing matters anymore. Bring on the gray hair and the cane and the calcium supplements. Well, you're too late! I already take calcium supplements! And have gray hairs... 

I'm getting off track here. We all know how this ends. No, I'm not talking about death. I'm talking about acceptance.... you know, the last phase of grief? Acceptance is making peace with something- and I don't know if I have made peace with 40 yet. I think that I wanted to write this post to help me move in that direction - so bear with me. 

Now don't get me wrong - I don't disparage my age - I took all the steps to get here so far. Some of those steps were not the wisest, some of those "steps" looked more like stumbling. Some of the progress was triumphant and some of it was less than triumphant. There was that one time that I joined a cult... not one of my proudest moments. But there are other things like loving myself and having mercy and grace for others in their weaknesses that I wasn't so good at in my younger years. 

Now, I know it sounds like I think that I'm a wise old sage and I know that everyone who is a few years my senior is laughing smugly at me thinking "you young whippersnapper"... well,  just hold on a minute because I know myself enough to know I don't know everything. 

And that might be the best thing about turning 40 - you start to know yourself. 40 is vulnerable. You're not a kid and you're not old. 40 is reflective. It's a time to take a look at where you've been and where you are now and where you are going. 

That's why so many people have "mid-life crises" in this decade - you really feel the need to hurry up and make things happen that haven't happened yet - you feel the weight of time ticking away and know that you won't be here forever. You might have regrets or dreams that seem too far out of reach now that life has settled in and your time has gotten occupied with various responsibilities. So you impulsively buy a new car or motorcycle or boat....ironically all forms of transportation... because you are trying to outrun time. Well, I haven't bought anything yet, but the idea is appealing.... anyway, I digress.

So, at 40, you either come to a place of acceptance of your life and all of its complexities or you try to run away from life and all of it's complexities. If you come to a place of acceptance, it is by grace. You realize that the body that you have is the only one you're going to get, so you better start taking care of it (ahem, calcium supplements). You realize that the crazy friends and family you have are actually woven into your life in an inseparable way.

I could see how 40 could make you feel trapped in some ways - the carefree life of possibilities of your 20s is fading in the past and you have "become" someone who is obligated and entangled in various roles. But 40 is also a firm foundation for building the rest of your story - a plateau if you will - and I think acceptance is the path to take on the journey forward.

Acceptance of what has been, what is now and embracing the possibilities of the future with grace. That's the goal anyway. I'll write another post when I turn 60 and laugh at myself for taking myself so seriously at 40. Cheers to 40!  

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