Why is Turning 40 So Difficult?

Let’s be honest — I spent the past year dreading last month. Yes, a full 365 days of dreading January 2016. Possibly even longer if I think about it. Just the thought of January 2016 made me cringe. Why? Because it was the month I was going to turn 40. Ugh!

Under normal circumstances (all the other years before 40) I have loved January. Come on now, who doesn’t like their birthday? I may not want to make a fuss over myself or have a big party, but I love the little things my husband does to spoil me. I enjoy laughing and watching the kids sneak around and trying to surprise me by baking my favorite lemon cake. I look forward to choosing a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I enjoy going out with our friends and having a great time. There is always a reason to smile and be happy.

But this year, I was not looking forward to it. In fact, my plan was to turn “38” again. It sounds like a good number, don’t you think? My initial thought was maybe I just start losing a year every year until I turn 30 again, and then I will go up from there (now you see where 38 came from).

But then my youngest asked, “how long do you plan on doing that?”

“Until I am 30 again, and then I will start my way back up” was the obvious reply that I uttered. But his look said it all. He thought I was crazy.

Then the girl piped up and said: “Maybe you should just pick an age and go with it.”

Pretty smart I thought. She came up with 33 because she thought that was fitting for me. But as time went by, that didn’t sound right either. So back to 38 I went.

38th bday

I don’t know why it upsets me so much to think of myself as being 40. I am perfectly fine watching my friends and husband turn 40, just not me. I have to say it has felt like a car has been driving slowly towards me this past year, and with each passing day, it got faster and faster. And then, it crashed right into me. It hit so hard that a couple of days after I turned 40 I was in a situation where I had to write my age, and the simple motion of the pen made me want to vomit. Why is it, that a number has such an awful effect on me?

Ironically, as I sit here thinking about my life and all that I have accomplished, 40 sounds about right. I gracefully maneuvered my way through my youth and survived middle school. I met the love of my life while doing up high school right. I went out on my own in college and explored the world. I spent my 20s having babies and barely making enough money to pay bills. I welcomed my 30s by searching to find myself. And now, at the start of my 40s I have found myself and know who I am, what I want, and where I am going. I live my passion and write every day. I spend a lot of time traveling. I am a wife of a man I love and adore. I am a mom of four teenagers who are growing up to be incredible people even though they often drive me crazy. Honestly, I feel very blessed. If I really think about it, I have everything I have wished for — minus the fact that I thought I would have written a book by now, but that is coming and is a great thing to look forward to this decade.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to bore you there and go on and on. But I had to list it out so I could see it for myself. And it’s not like everything is so perfect that I am not experiencing the usual things for my age — No longer can I drink or eat as much as I used to without having to increase equally the time I spend exercising. I look in the mirror each morning hoping I don’t see another wrinkle or line. I monitor my hair looking to see if any has turned gray — thankfully that hasn’t happened yet.

I get it, I don’t have a reason to complain, and I don’t have a real answer as to why I continue to do so. The number simply puts me off.

It probably stems back to when I was “young” and I would watch my parent’s friends show up to 40th birthday parties with stupid black balloons and terrible gag gifts. They made such a big deal out of turning 40 as if the birthday guy/girl was on his/her way to their deathbed and there was no turning back. They would spend the evening joking and giving the birthday person a hard time. Although I thought it was funny at the time,  it isn’t surprising that I feel so negative towards having that kind of attention aimed at me.

It is kinda fascinating to me that I have held onto that negative connotation of the number “40” for so long. Especially when in today’s world you hear things like “40 is the new 30” — and I have loved my 30s. But I guess some things stick with you.

I see people around me who are 40 and older, and they all have this who cares kind of attitude. The attitude that I hear, you are supposed to have when you turn 40. An attitude that I wish I had, but for some reason can’t seem to grasp. Come on 40, where are you? I thought that on that magical day, I would all of a sudden feel that way — why am I still not feeling it?

Or is it like pregnancy?

When I was pregnant people would tell me “enjoy it, as it is the best feeling in the world to be pregnant.”

Unfortunately, I would smile and say “yep,” but inside I was frustrated. I counted the days until my children would arrive. I hated being pregnant. I hated sharing my body and being sick all of the time. I hated having my ribs broken by my lovely wrestling son who evidently started his career in wrestling early in life. But here I was smiling and telling people, “it is the best experience I have ever had!”

So maybe turning 40 is similar to that — some people love it while others despise it.

I feel more like Leslie Mann in ‘This is 40’. In fact, from the moment I saw this movie I thought Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters were eerily familiar. He calmly takes turning 40 with grace and devours cupcakes (although it isn’t cupcakes in my household, more like anything sweet), while I demand that I am 38 and find all kinds of ways to make sure that I’m the best I can be. Plus our poor kids must think we are nuts. We often limit their internet and electronics. We tell them to go outside and find something to do. And my favorite is when we say things like “when we were kids we…..” Yep ‘This is 40’ pretty much sums us up.

That is not who I want to be.

I want to be the woman who is comfortable being 40 instead of cringing. I want that who cares attitude that I keep hearing 40-year-olds have. I wish I could say “Damn I look good for 40. I am thin, I don’t have gray hair, and I have accomplished so much in my life already.”  Actually, I wish I could say it and really feel it in my soul.

Maybe the answer is, all 40-year-olds ‘fake it til’ they make it’. Or maybe I am just wishful, and they do throw their arms up and say “who cares, it’s just a number!”

For me, I think I will have to work at it and pretend I am good with being 40 until I truly feel that way — or I could just stick to 38!

But in the spirit — cheers to you and me and turning 40!


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