This past April I did something truly heinous and scary. I turned 40.
I have been dreading my fortieth birthday for most of my life.
When I turned 20, I knew that I was technically an adult. Technically. I mean, I was a mother and was married and living my own life, wherein I paid bills and did laundry and the state of Colorado proclaimed I was indeed an adult. Yet, I still sort of felt like I was simply playing house. I thought, no, I'll give it a few more years, then I'll feel like an adult.
I turned 30 (despite having denied that I was having birthdays, anymore) and found a grey hair. Actually, I found several. Almost to the day of my thirtieth birthday. I was fucking devastated. I savagely ripped those blights from my head. And then I cried. Somehow I went from feeling like a fake adult, to an old lady, over night.
Somewhere in my 30's I started to realize that I was no longer in my 20's. That was a little bit devastating for me. Actually, it was a lottle devastating for me.
No longer could I race down a ski slope like a bat out of hell (without a helmet!) like I did when I was in my teens. No longer could I drink like I was in my 20's. No longer could I stay up all night. No longer could I run a mile in under ten minutes. No longer could I go hard like I did when I was younger. Recovery was slower and far more painful.
So, as you can imagine, I was fucking terrified to turn 40.
My 40's are making it clear that, physically, I wish I was still in my 30's.
Drinking is something to be done under the supervision of a doctor and a fully staffed support system. As one of my friends recently put it, "having a hangover at 40 is like recovering from surgery." True dat, my friend, true dat.
Taking a hike requires a small recovery period of three weeks and a handful of Tramadol and Percocet and a couple of muscle relaxers for good measure.
A ten minute mile? Ha!
Ha ha ha ha!!!!
Skiing??? Are you fucking crazy?!?!?! Dude, I managed to fracture my foot (a bone my orthopedic surgeon assured me is capable of withstanding an insane amount of pressure...meaning I'd done a really superb job in managing to fracture that puppy) by doing nothing but walking.
Skating also goes on that list of not fucking happening.
As I got closer and closer to turning 40, I started thinking a lot about just why I was dreading it. Physically I hadn't changed all that much since my 30's. I was less likely to take risks with my person, but I think that's maybe a sign of maturity of another kind.
I found what was truly behind my fears wasn't that I didn't want to look/be old. No, I actually don't mind the number. I'm damned lucky to have made it this far in life. Childbirth was something that nearly killed me. Stupidity in my teen years nearly killed me. Stupidity in my 20's and 30's nearly killed me. I'm happy to be "getting up there," actually.
What had me terrified of 40, is what it means in relation to the time I have left. I'm no where near ready to leave this life. I have stuff I still want to do, see, experience, teach, learn. I want to see my daughter graduate from med school. I want to see my grand kids graduate and get married. I want to see the whole world. I want to climb a glacier and explore volcanoes and run with the bulls!
My first 40 years were devoted to growing and learning and raising kids. I've been dreading getting old and what I should have been doing is embracing it and looking forward to it all! I have a bucket list that's nearly a mile long. I have many things to do and a long way to go, and I'm ready to get started.
My body is trying to betray me and keep me grounded, but I'm stubborn. I don't feel like I'm getting old. I still play in puddles and dance in the rain. I still play games and act silly. I still read children's books and fall in love with old stories each time I read them. I still laugh at farts and burps. I still watch Scooby-Doo and love it now just as much as I did when I was a kid. More, probably. I still like making out in a car. Actually, does that ever get old???? I still like to line dance at the bar. I still like to climb up dangerously high places.
I still have a lot of life left to live. I think my 40's will be my best years, yet. Aging is the mother of all eff you's. But only if you let it.