Birthdays, Smirthdays

So I've been thinking about age this week. My birthday is charging at me and will be here in a number of days and with it will be the number 41. And this number has me pondering.

When I was nearing the big 4.0 I heard all the arguments on both sides of the fence. There was the one mindset that insisted I would become depressed and that 40 sucked and I would hate it and how awful it was to get old, and my body was going to start breaking down, etc etc. And there was the other camp who told me I would love the 40's, that it would be the best decade (and that it was, in fact, the 50's that sucked), and that aging was all in our head and numbers didn't matter, etc etc.

As I approach 41 - and granted I'm not even mid-way thru the decade so I'm perhaps not the best person to be giving testimony on the subject - but I have to say, so far, I'm with camp #2. I'm loving the 40's. Now, I could go into a diatribe here as to why I personally am enjoying this age, but I'm not sure that's helpful as we all see the world thru our own lenses and what I'm seeing may not be what you see. And clearly, some of us may have tainted impressions depending on how much alcohol we feel is necessary to get thru the 40's. (Or, hiccup, how much we needed to get thru the 30's). But I will share with you why I think it's important to embrace every age and stage of life - both the positive and the negative.

First, let me just say I don't appreciate at ALL the slowed metabolism and resulting proverbial belly pooch that seems to tag along with the 40's. I mean seriously, WHAM! ya turn 40 and there it is. Suddenly I needed new jeans. Suddenly I could no longer blame that time of the month or suck it in after a few beers. Nope, it lingers. It's just unnerving, to say the least. And an annoying accompaniment to what I otherwise consider the best age Evar. But that aside, (and I'm not saying that lightly because it truly pisses me off on a regular basis and I feel is something the 'young' deserve, not us older wiser folks), but if that's the worst of it, and I think it is, it's really not that bad. I mean, yes, we have to exercise more and watch what we eat and can barely tolerate cheese and hops and sugar and other things we loved when we were younger. And yes, it may mean we need 2 days to recover from a bottle of wine, instead of a few hours, but really, would you want to trade with the 20 or 30 year olds? And, ahem, I mean no disrespect when I say this, but HELL NO.

I went out 'clubbing' recently with some 40-ish, almost 40-ish friends recently and was surrounded by these young, pretty, solid, tanned, well-dressed 20 and 30 year olds. And I did feel older. But not in a bad, negative envious way. I looked at them with appreciation (or compassion, depending on how you look at it) and acknowledged their lack of baby hips and wrinkles and their ability to wear high heels and short dresses, and drink all nite and feel just fine the next day - but did not envy them. I remember the challenges and the rewards of being 20 and 30, and have zero interest in revisiting those ages. Those memories are now my wrinkles and laugh lines and age spots, and my kids are now my gray hairs. I've arrived at the place they will one day arrive. I feel comfortable in skin I never felt comfortable in. I have the self-awareness and confidence I once lacked, my kids are almost fully-functioning little people, and I have finally found the full range of my Bullshit Meter. That, in itself, makes the 40's Super Duper Awesome.

The way I see it, I cherish those memories. I had some fun times and did some crazy goofy adventurous things when I was younger, but I don't long to be that age again or long to relive those times, and doing so takes away from my ability to appreciate and enjoy the age and stage I'm in now. I'm grateful for those times, and I'm grateful life is constantly changing. I don't want my body to get old and saggy, but I also don't want my age, or my situation in life to always stay the same. Life is forever changing. And we get to change with it. To fight that is to fight a constantly losing battle that will keep you in a perpetual state of negativity. We can control and change what we wear, who we spend time with, what we eat, how much exercise we get, how we spend our free time, where we travel or don't travel, how many children we raise (or not), what our visions are, how we pursue them (or not), what journeys we take and what spiritual paths we walk...but we cannot control the fact that we age. And we will continue to do so. Yes, the clock is ticking louder at 40, and in many ways that's a good thing because ONLY half our life is behind us. The wisdom we longed for in our youth is now ours. The Bucket List lays before us. The impact and legacy we wanted to leave is still in our grasp and will be for many more years still. In fact, it will lay before us for as long as we choose to see it.

Each age, just as it is with our kids, comes with it's own set of challenges and rewards. There can be no 'yay' without a little 'boo'. We need both. I think it's unrealistic to expect any age to be all bliss or challenge free. Frustrations are a part of life. How we deal with them, how much we choose to whine or complain, how positive or negative we allow ourselves to be, determines the depth of those frustrations. Yes, some ages are harder perhaps than others, but what some see as 'difficult' others see as 'challenging'. It's all in your perception and the choice of words we use. And yes, the challenges can be unpredictable and diverse. Some can be quite painful. But it's the combination of challenges and rewards that make life interesting. The most exciting opportunity of any age is we can always keep reinventing ourselves. The views we have of each and every age and the views we have of aging in general, is misplaced if it's focused on the number. The number means nothing. It's merely a marker of progress.

So I shall embrace this new age. And I will wear my spots and aches proudly. Heck, I may even get maself a new tattoo. Look out world...I am officially, 40-something! Roar!!

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