I didn’t think I had issues with turning 40. Then again, for years I thought I would be a high school teacher in Conroe, Texas so I guess people change.
It started one week from my 40th birthday when I got a headache so bad I thought I’d hurl my vital organs across my bedroom. I figured it was because I’d cried so hard during Willie Nelson’s Ravinia concert that I gave myself my first migraine. Because a girl’s gotta know how to treat herself real special. But underneath it all there was some sadness about getting older (me and Willie) and some terror about my own mortality.
Shortly thereafter I embarked on what I like to call “charming but morbid reflection”. And I can’t stop it. Everywhere I go I see mortality and finality. I’ve had to drop the “charming” because now it’s really just morbid reflection.
Like when I took the bus the other day. I did not embrace the ride as an opportunity to breathe in the aroma of my fellow travelers or to savor the slice of Americana that is the southbound Milwaukee Avenue bus. No, I preferred to chronologically sort everyone’s ages so I could tell if I’m closer to the young people or the old people. I was pleased to be right in the middle until a group of high students got on. At that point, I became one of several old ladies staring at everyone with a scowl on my wrinkled face.
But, even in my darkest moments, I know that being alive and healthy at 40 ain’t bad. What’s wrong with being half way between my mama’s birth canal and my grave?
Yesterday, I watched as some teenagers whisked by me, their arses hanging out of their ridiculous and tiny neon shorts. My first thought: They have their whole lives ahead of them. Me? Only half. Maybe less. My second thought: They’re gonna have to learn about pants that cover their assets soon enough. Their days are coming. But look at me! No one can see my butt cheeks!
This whole line of thinking snuck up on me. What am I doing bemoaning anything? I have the life I want– beautiful family whose flaws I appreciate and can work with– a first-world existence, loyal and talented friends, a Costco card. Really? What’s the problem here?
The answer is nothing except I know it won’t be like this forever. That makes me crazy with terror and grasping. Sometimes life is so beautiful I have to turn my face away and stare at my problems for a while. Because the problems make sense to me– not enough money or time or patience or discipline– but these blessings make no sense. These beautiful children leave me a-quiver with gratitude that sometimes hurts my heart cells. And my husband? The same. To paraphrase the Talking Heads, how the hell did I get here and who are these beautiful people who love me and wipe their snotty noses on me?
My worries and morose musings fit my mind like an old leather glove. My blessings bring the discomfort of the unexpected and the undeserved. I don’t understand a thing about any of this, but I know I am blessed. Deeply blessed, and it scares the shit out of me to imagine how to be worthy of it all so I’d rather think about death. Because I’m weird and now I’m 40 so no more apologizing for that.