06 February 2014

forty is the new forty

hi

forty is not the new twenty. forty is not even the new thirty. forty is the new forty. because forty is forty. forty is good, forty is great, forty doesn't need to pretend to be anything it isn't.

I did not always feel this way. I mean, I opened my arms to forty. or, said I was going to or something like that. I said I was ready, I said I wanted it. but I didn't mean it, I didn't want it, not even for a second. I stood at forty's door and just stared through it, hopelessly. and that cool woman I thought for sure I would be, the one who'd embrace every wrinkle, every grey hair, every bit of sag and droop, the unashamed, unapologetic one who'd wear every imperfection like the aging champion she would surely be, that woman was nowhere to be found. truth be told, that woman was probably someone my twenty-something self foolishly invented. and so I began to see myself in photographs and think, is that what I really look like? and then: omg am I actually that woman? who sees herself in photographs and says things like that?

and then vanity became the least of my worries. things fell apart. my mom got sick and I watched her die. slowly. some other sad things happened and I got tired. I blamed forty. if this is what it means to be forty, I want no part of it, I said. if turning forty means things only get harder, that the hill before me tilts impossibly upward, no thank you. if it means I will care (more than I'd like to admit) about what kinds of clothes I should or should not wear, what shade of lipstick is age appropriate, where that one wrinkle come from or why I look so tired all the time (when I'm not tired, not even one little bit), if this is what forty means, I don't want it. if it means wallowing in a tepid pool of nostalgia for the rest of my days, then you can have it. and more importantly, if it means watching the people I love die then I DON'T WANT IT, OKAY. I DON'T WANT YOU, FORTY. I REJECT YOU.

so, I rejected forty, I refused it. as you know, it does not work this way. as it turns out, this is not exactly possible. and when things finally quieted down, so did the crazy talk. I cannot tell you when things changed for me but they did. somewhere along the way, I softened. there was no lightbulb moment, no woo-woo life altering experience. I just gradually found myself in that place, that good place you sometimes hear people talk about, that place you've earned simply because you have lived. and you love the way you look but you don't love the way you look and somehow, those feelings now co-exist in a way you never thought possible. you lose people you love and the heartbreak changes you so profoundly you cannot help but see your time in the world with new eyes, you cannot help but live with just a little bit of a lump in your throat. thing is, this is what makes the living good. better, even. the fragile, teetering part, the knowing part, the one that finally acknowledges that time is not infinite and you are not actually immortal. and when you see things with these eyes, the world around you changes. when you see forty with these eyes, forty is beautiful. because you are alive and you know what that means, what that really, really means. you are both flawed and flawless, broken but completely intact, imperfectly perfect. you are in your own skin, your own God given skin. finally. and it feels good, even if it is changing, it feels right.

which is when you realize forty is not the new twenty. it is not the new thirty, it is not the new anything. forty is forty because calling it anything else would be an insult to the decade you've worked so hard to find your way into. pretending it's anything else means you've missed the point entirely. forty is forty and what you know in your bones is that you wouldn't have it any other way.

(for lovely susannah and all the lovely women who've shared their story in honor of her 41st birthday and for all women everywhere, whatever your age)

22 comments:

  1. I started reading here in 2005. Weird, right? Not that I was reading a blog, but that this much time has passed. I had a 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old when I met your blog. They are 13, 10 and 8 now. I don't read every day, not even every month. But, I sometimes think of huluseventy and Google you. I peruse through your lovely pictures and all your silly photobooths. I've seen ezra and ava grow up in those photobooths. Coming here today i couldn't help but reflect on all your words. They resonate with me. I've had very specific moments in the last 16 years with my little family that I have had complete clarity, satisfaction and bursting love. It's like i realize in that tiny moment, everything is perfect. I mean of course its all messy, lots of tears, laughter, adventure, heartache along the way. But just exactly where i want to be. I'm rambling. Anyway, Thank you for your words, your pictures. Sharing your family and your light. It's beautiful. I feel a kinship with someone I've never met. Happy 40's.

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  2. We've earned forty, just like i know we'll earn 50 and 60 and beyond. But right now? The 40s is where it's at. I'm with you, sister! Thank you for this light beam through my computer screen xxx

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  3. yes yes yes!!! As a 45 year old woman i know the truth in this post! My daughter was diagnosed with a rare syndrome a few months before I turned 40 so i didnt appear out of shocked daze till 43! But 40 is awesome! i have said goodbye to my adored father and recovered from the grief of my daughter's disability and i have now found more joy in living and more acceptance of life and love and magic hunting than i ever had before! a beautiful post x

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  4. What an amazing post. Thank you

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  5. This is beautiful. I'm 28 and a half, and I'm starting to stare sideways at the idea of 30, and I'm staring head-on at becoming a mother in 7 months, and I find myself fearful that "my" time is over. Thank you for the reminder that life continues and that there's a freedom to be found there. (And while I'm at it, thank you for the color series, which is making my heart so happy right now!)

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  6. As I approach my 38th birthday (next month!), I'm definitely looking at forty and thinking "no bigs, I can do this." We'll see if that changes! But I'm definitely looking forward to 42 - I've heard that's the magic age of wisdom, acceptance, and loving wholeness for a woman. We'll see how that goes, too. Yay for forty!

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  7. you cannot help but see your time in the world with new eyes, you cannot help but live with just a little bit of a lump in your throat

    I know. I know. This was so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. xo

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  8. I just turned 40 in January, and let me tell you, I was dreading it more than I have ever dreaded anything, ever. And just like you, I wonder if now I should dress differently and stop wearing the red lipstick that's been my trademark since I was 14, or that somehow I should be someone else at this age rather than the person I have always been before. Thank you for this post, I relate to it 100,000% and I'm glad I'm not alone...

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  9. This is beautiful. I always cringe at the socially accepted habit of complaining about birthdays. They are magical, and like each morning, I want to wake up and say, "I'm still here!"

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  10. thank you for this. so beautifully written. i just welcomed my 35th trip around the sun last week, my second birthday without my mom (and my twelfth without my dad). it is helpful to know that other people have similar experiences and feelings and that we're all in this crazy thing together-- your words comfort me when my own cannot. xo

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  11. i love this, i love you. you are a spectacular 40 and i want to be just like you.

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  12. What a beautiful reflection - I started tearing up at the lump in your throat bit. This was the exact thing I needed to read today. Glad I found your little piece of wisdom.

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  13. I think your freakin' amazing...

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  14. I needed to read this because turning 40 this past year has been weird. Really weird. Empowering in many ways, but also strange. It feels surreal.

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  15. what a great mindset! 30 was exciting but I was dreading 40. I have 4 more years until then but this has really made me look at it in a different light.
    And I recently realized, the older I get, the more I like myself :)

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  16. beautiful, andrea. "somewhere along the way, i softened." yes.

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  17. such a moving post, just before my own b-day (37! really??)

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  18. My 13.5 year old daughter asked me to read your post today. Your words reached out to her. They reach out to me. You have no idea how wonderful you are. oxox

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  19. Oh.
    Always so heartwrenchigly just right. 32 has felt hard for me - life can really mess you about, but what you write is so true. This is everything there is. All these days and years count - they have to.
    Thank you xx

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  20. Happy belated birthday Andrea. This is brilliant. How do you do that? Always put in words so perfectly what so many of us feel. Loved every single bit.

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