Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Forty isn't old, if you're a tree

I turn 40 this year

I announce this not because I’m on the verge of some sort of a breakdown about being 40 but because one time, I thought I was 32 and it turned out I was 33

A co-worker whose son was born a few months before me was the one who corrected me

One day she overhead me telling someone (who had asked) I was 32
No you’re not she said
Uhh, yeah I am
No Maria, I think you’re 33
I think I know how old I am
Oh…I thought you were born the same year as my son
I was, I reply, we’ve had this conversation; he and I graduated from high school the same year
Well, he just had a birthday and he turned 34
Yeah, she says, he was 33 now he’s 34

33, you’re 33
He turned what?
34, he was born in 1972, like you

Firstly, I was mad at being a year older than I really was (read I was mad I was wrong)
Secondly, I was mad because I thought I got shorted a birthday cake

So I need to remind myself now and then of how old I am so I don't miss cake

Sometimes other people remind me

My husband will randomly say wait till you turn 40 in a few months (weeks as it were now) and then you’ll feel all kinds of new aches and pains (ok its usually not random that he’ll say this; it’s usually prefaced by me complaining and whining about something…like how much my feet hurt or about the ache in my neck from falling asleep on my book or when I can’t see/hear the computer screen/TV)

Sometimes it comes in a failed reference to Pop Culture (and I’m not talking about failed references I make to my English husband as many of my TV references from the ‘80s are lost on him and he’s older than me)
Like one time, at work, I made a reference to Welcome Back Kotter (ooh ooh, pick me Mr Kotter, pick me!) and the three people in the room had no idea who Mr Kotter was let alone Horse shack

Sometimes, someone will straight up ask me how old I am and when I tell them, they respond with
Oh, I thought you were older……which is sort of a bitch slap which turns into a kick as they back peddle by saying
You know because you seem so mature…..
When someone is in their early 20s and you mistake them for being older than they are, you can use the whole “you are so mature for your age” thing for back peddling out of insulting them
When someone is 39, not so much

By 39, you should be mature

Sometimes, I accidentally remind myself

Like the other day, I was preparing a census of employees and saw the age 39.11
I chuckled because I was all ha-ha, that person is about to turn 40…plus, 39.11 just looked funny to me
Then I realized it was my name to the left of the listed age of 39.11

Other times, I’ll just say out loud, I’m going to be 40 this year
I just remind myself so I don’t miss out on birthday cake

Last January, my youngest sister turned 30 so for a spell, all 7 siblings were in their 30s
Birthday wishes were sent via email and one sister pointed out we would not all be in our 30s for long as our oldest (and only) brother would be turning 40 days later

He responded with this email:
Yes I am the eldest.  Unfortunately for women in our society, being in your “30s” is equivalent to a man being in his 50’s.  So, as I approach 40, technically older than all of you, society will still view me as “young,” whereas all of you are either past your prime or approaching the business end of 35.  However, unlike me, at least you women still have most of your hair. So you got that going for you.   
Sorry, I don’t make the rules.  It’s just the way our society works. 
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

So according to my brother, and society, I am, potentially, past my prime
I don't even remember having a prime

If you Google turning 40 or what to know about turning 40, you’d be amazed at what comes up:
tips on how to handle it
what it should feel like
how you should celebrate (big party, little party, trip to Paris, trip to a plastic surgeon, lipo, a mani and pedi)
what you should do and not do
how 40 is the new 20
how 40 is when you find yourself and know how you are

Sometimes, I wonder if people write what they wrote just to make themselves feel better about getting older….that is I wonder how true their sentiments really are

You know what I think about turning 40?

That I’ll be 40
I won’t be in my 30s anymore
I’ll be 40

And I’m not really seeing a problem with it

Did I have a problem turning 30?
Maybe a bit…..but I think that had more to do with sobering up than getting older

Did I have trouble turning 35?
Not really – I was a newlywed – I was shrouded in bliss, nothing bothered me that year

I break it down like this:

For ten years, I lived in the bubble of protected me, allowed me to have fun and zero responsibility

I had no idea of the struggles, frustration, and pains my parents went through to provide for 7 children while maintaining a marriage

I was a kid

My 5 younger siblings were being born
I was sharing a room, clothes, toys and sometimes even a bed with my siblings and loved every minute of it
We had games of hide and seek, tag and softball in the yard
I spent ten years riding bikes, climbing trees, fishing in the ditch
Playing, just good old fashioned playing
There was spending the night at Grammy and Grampy's, catching fireflies, going to the beach, Fort Knox
And school, oh how I loved school!
I loved going to school so much that I was actually disappointed when it was Summer Vacation
Ten years of Santa, the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and Paul Bunyan (yeah, I thought he was real)

I loved being a kid – it was 10 years of little or no responsibility, no awareness of the world around me and no fear….I think it was the only time in my life I’ve had no fear

In this decade, love is unconditional
There are no lines in the sand
No sides, no cool table to be excluded from,
Everything is unconditional

The next ten years were my least favorite
Struggling to grow up but still be a kid
Struggling to be a grown up but still a kid
Thinking I knew it all and not wanting to hear differently
Jr High and High School were a nightmare
I longed to either be a kid or be a grown up…..but I had no idea which one to be

Being 10-20 is like being in purgatory

There were seven kids and I was starting to realize what my parents were going through trying to raise all of us and balance a marriage
I saw their struggles and the struggles of others around me
It was in this decade I learned life is not as easy as it starts out
It was in this decade I realized that it gets harder as you get older, not easier
It was in this decade I learned fear, hate, selfishness, jealousy
It was in this decade that I learned there are conditions; there are lines in the sand, sides to be taken and being excluded from the cool table sucks

I think this is the decade that ruins so many people
I think this is the decade in which kids need their Moms and Dads the most
This is the decade which dictates how you’ll venture out into the world – with your eyes wide open and your head held high or your eyes wide shut and your rose colored glasses firmly affixed on your face

It’s this decade that a lot of people will spend their next two decades undoing, fixing and analyzing…with or without professional help

Thank God for my 20s
The last two years of college were a blur - worked my ass off to get out of there and hurry up and start living
I just wanted to be on my own; I wanted to come into my own
I wanted to find other people like me to be around
And find them I did, and then I settled into my 20s

Ten years living life like a rock star
I was now an adult who was of legal drinking age, living on my own with a great job and surrounded by other twenty something year olds who wanted to have as much fun as I did

We laughed, we dated, we broke up, we drank, we laughed some more, sometimes we dated again but mostly we just laughed and drank
We got arrested, pierced things, got tattoos, quit smoking, started smoking again
Went to weddings together, took road trips, got drunk, went to concerts
We spent Friday night at the Pub, Saturdays shopping and at the movies, Saturday night back at the Pub and Sundays sleeping the weekend off
We were there for one another no matter what time of day it was and no matter what the circumstance were
We cried together, hugged it out, then drank

I was lost when I was removed from this little insular world of mine
I had zero self confidence outside of my world
When I was away from my friends, I was so scared it came off as an attitude, as my being better than those around me
Really, I was just like a fish out of water; I did not know how to exist outside of the life, the world I had created for myself

And then we all started growing up....and by that I mean getting older

Some moved away, then back
Some moved away never to come back again
Some started having babies and 30 was fast approaching

The I turned 30
I hated turning 30 because I had had so much fun in my 20s
I loved my 20s and was so not ready to give up that life…but I needed to

I was starting over – new city, new job, no friends - the first few years were awful
But I started to make new friends, found a new pub to hang out in and settled in to my new 20s
And then, one day I woke up and things started to change….mostly because I realized if I was going to be in my 30s, I could not do what I did in my 20s…my 30s could not be my 20s

I was changing and no matter how hard I tried to fight it, I could not

I truly believe that we all change weather we want to or not – you have little or no control over it
The world changes, we have to adapt
The environment changes, we have to adapt
Circumstances change, we have to adapt
Our bodies changes, physically, emotionally, hormonally….so we have to adapt

We have to change

Does not mean our core changes….integrity, ethics, morals, beliefs….you don’t have to change or adapt those unless you want to, unless you choose to

But we all change
And try as one might, it is not something that is easy to fight

So once I stopped fighting, stopped trying to still be young and 20 somethingish, once I got rid of all preconceived notions about where I should be in my life (married, with kids, a kick ass job and a big house) and went with it, my 30s were great

And I feel better about myself than I did in my 20s for as fun as they were, not everything was quite right…there was still some uncertainty that I sort of just ignored and figured would go away the more fun I had
But it didn’t…as hard as we laughed, as much as we drank, as many concerts we saw, as many road trips we took, there was always something missing

I think it was my self-worth

And when I about 32/33, I found it
I was less worried about what people thought……
Co-workers, friends, the guy behind the counter where I bought my cigarettes, my brother and sisters, my parents…whatever thoughts they had about me, whatever judgments they were going to pass, I realized that was on them not me
Nothing I did or said would change that and the less I worried about what they would think, the happier I became

And the happier I became the more settled I became
And I relaxed
And I was less worried about being right
I was less worried about how gray my hair had become
I was less worried about being accepted
And I was less worried about doing the right thing because for me, doing the right thing had somehow turned into what I thought others wanted me to do

And the next thing I know, I’m getting married, having a baby, buying a house and suddenly, I’m thirtysomething and right where I should be

Now I’m on the cusp of 40…and by that I mean a mere 3 weeks away

And it is far less intimidating than I thought it would be

And I have much more than I ever thought I would

I read an article that said something to the effect of ‘The forties are the old age of youth, and the youth of old age’

I suppose that is a pretty accurate statement…too old to be young, too young to be old….this must be what it feels like to be the middle child

40 is the mid way point

I will not be having any type of melt down because I am 40
I will not put myself through some crazy makeover thereby changing my appearance because no matter what I do, I’ll still be 40
I am not about to embark on some sort of mid-life crises because I’ll be 40
I will not change my political beliefs, find a new religion, sell all my possessions and buy a backpack or get a tattoo or a piercing because I’ll be 40

I’m just going to be 40……….and I'm going to have cake with it…………..

Maria the 40 year old Mum

1 comment:

  1. I'm older than you so shut up. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. : )


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