A Fortieth Year of Blessings

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.


43 thoughts on “A Fortieth Year of Blessings

  1. Oh honey, your forties are where you reap the benefits of all the therapy and mistakes you made in your thirties. Your forties are where you can say “I’m too old for this crap” and people don’t believe you b/c you still look like you’re 33 or thereabouts and so you couldn’t possibly be “too old.” And yes, to be healthy and loved and (reasonably) sane (because really all we can hope for is reasonably, at this point in the world’s history)…that is to be blessed.

  2. Happy Birthday to you!!! The unexamined life isn’t worth living (that’s Socrates, not me), so I say you are doing this all right! You’re an inspiration to me.

  3. Happy, happy birthday! Forty looks great on you! I foresee even more greatness oozing from every pore. You’re gonna need serious medication! Here’s to being blinded by so much good. Enjoy!

  4. This post brought a tear to my eye and also made me smile! Happy birthday. P.S. WTF is up with those shorts that expose the ass? That’s a trend that cannot end too soon.

  5. What a beautifully written post. If you’re counting your blessings now, just wait as this decade unfolds. It’s so much richer and more confident and peaceful than the 30’s. And somehow, I suspect you’ll live past 80, so musings aside, you’re probably not halfway done.

  6. I think round birthdays are terrifying in general. I just turned 30, and thought I was ok with it because I have a thriving career, great marriage, and a beautiful 3 year old daughter, but then noticed that more and more people are calling me “Ma’am” and…well…there’s that.

    Happy Birthday btw!

  7. Happy Birthday! I will be right there with you in the land of forty in about two weeks. I’m trying to tell myself that it is a good place to be – no longer young and stupid, but not yet losing any vitality.
    Thanks for the reminder to count blessings.

  8. Happy Birthday!

    I had a very hard time turning 40. I remember someone saying to me that I was now middle-aged and I couldn’t understand what they meant, becase middle-aged people were OLD people. Then I did the math. Sigh.

    I obsessed about it for a while, and it still sneaks up on me at times, but I just keep reminding myself that at least at 40 I am able to appreciate life like I was never able to do when I was younger. I may only have half my life left, but I’ll be appreciating it so much more than I did the first half!

  9. Have you been crawling inside my head? Ill be 40 in a few months and the same thoughts run in and out of my mind daily. Thank you for showing me I’m not alone in my “scary” thoughts. I prefer to see it as a sign of genius 🙂

  10. happiest birthday!! welcome to the fabulous club, where you’re wise enough to appreciate what you’ve got and be terrified at the same time. Luckily, appreciation generally wins out. You’re too busy to stay terrified for any length of time. enjoy your beautiful life and family.

    • That’s a great mantra: The very best is ahead.

      Gives me chills thinking about it because it’s pretty amazing right now.

      On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 10:48 AM, Outlaw Mama

  11. Happy birthday, kitten!

    I was 39 when the “hey, wait, I’m closer to that 60-year-old than to those 17-year-olds” perspective shift. It felt seismic. But I’m halfway through 40 and it fits just fine. I was panicking about not getting stuff done when I was 30, so not getting stuff done AND I’M GOING TO DIE isn’t really that much different.

    My grandma’s 97 and her mom lived to 99. So maybe I still have 60 years left.
    You, too.

    And maybe not. A friend who’s 41 is dying. And that happens more and more with friends and family as we get older.
    You, too.

    Glass mostly full, lady. Mostly full.

  12. Hey, Mama,
    There’s only one requirement for being blessed. Saying “Thank you.” That’s all, nothing more. It can’t be earned, anymore than love can be earned. You just get it for being you.

  13. Anyone who appreciates her family enough to wonder why she deserves them, definitely deserves them, and they are blessed to have someone who loves them so much.

    As for the age thing, I’ve hit 50 and occasionally get offered the Seniors’ Discount. Now THAT’s depressing!

  14. I only have a few months before I turn FIFTY! So forty sounds totally young to me. Plus, when you’ve had cancer, like me, birthdays are celebrated! BUT, I’m totally terrified of dying. So I get that aspect.

  15. This: “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.” Yes. This. So true. It’s all about what we focus on. I love this post. And I love my 40’s. I hope not only are they awesome for you, but that you embrace all of the awesomeness nad the blessings. xo

  16. “Sometimes life is so beautiful I have to turn my face away and stare at my problems for a while. ” – Brene Brown calls this something that escapes my brain right now, but essentially it’s when we are so blessed, so grateful, that we allow the fear that the other shoe will drop to take a poop all over our happiness. (except she says it way more gracefully) FWIW, I think you’re amazing and I can only hope when I catch up to you in a few short years that I can say the same, as beautifully as you’ve said it.

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