I turned 41 a few days ago. I spent the day at work and the night on my couch by myself with a pizza, a bottle of wine, and a little Netflix. I was sleeping by 9:00. As recently as ten years ago, I would have been horrified to think of spending my birthday night like that. I would undoubtedly be out celebrating and getting drunk with my friends, because duh, that’s what you do on your birthday! But a funny thing happens as you get older (besides hangovers becoming more painful): you start to prioritize things differently. Things that were so important when you were 18 or 24 or 32 just aren’t that high on the list anymore. Instead, other things have taken their place. Things like a good night’s sleep, and a clear-headed morning.
Another thing happens as you get older. You begin to come to peace with who you are. There is a calmness that replaces anxiety when you come to terms with who you are as a person, as a mother, a friend, an employee, etc. When you stop doing things to appeal to others’ perceptions of you and start doing things because you truly want to, you begin to live a more peaceful, authentic, happy life. As I ate my birthday pizza and sipped my birthday Pinot Noir, I mused these things over in my mind. Here are some of the things that I’ve come to accept about myself, for better or worse.
My body. This is me: I make working out a priority, running about fifteen miles a week. I drink at least 80 ounces of water every day and eat a ton of vegetables. This is also me: I chase each of my four giant slices of pizza with a glass of wine and still have room for a brownie sundae. This is what I refer to as balance (*winky face*). The truth is, I like carbs and cheese way too much to ever be a size 2. I take care of my body in a way that works for me, and while I have a list of complaints a mile long, this body has also grown and fed two human beings, and I’m pretty proud of that.
The other thing I try to keep in mind is this: we so often look at pictures of ourselves when we were younger (and thinner) and think, if only I could go back to how I looked then. How did I not appreciate having a flat belly and no wrinkles? But the thing is, I didn’t appreciate it. In fact, I think I had more complaints back then about my appearance than I do today. Instead of wishing I looked like I did when I was 18, I think about how in the future, ten or twenty years from now, I’ll wish I could have the 41 year old me back. So instead of looking backwards, appreciate what you have now. Just remember, one day soon you’ll long for what you see in that mirror today.
I have helicopter tendencies. I am an over-protective mom. I know this about myself. My kids are getting older and becoming more independent. Sleeping all night is now possible, and I can take a shower in peace. But they’re still young enough that they need me for a lot of things, and I’m struggling to find a healthy the balance between letting them do things for themselves and helping them. While I’ve come to terms with my helicopter tendencies, this is something I want to improve about myself. I need to stop hovering and start letting them grow and figure things out for themselves. It’s definitely a work in progress…I’ll let you know how that goes….
I am single. I am very, very single. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok. I am happy. I have so much love in my life, I truly don’t feel like anything is missing. Don’t get me wrong, if Leonardo DiCaprio wanted to take me out, I wouldn’t say no (*another winky face*), but my focus right now is on my kids. My time and energy goes to them. Every last ounce of it. One day if I meet someone who complements me and my values, that would be great. If that never happens, that’s ok too. I’m complete as is.
I am not a pizza. And by that, I mean I can’t make everyone happy. And neither can you. There will always be people out there who disagree with you, who disapprove of the way you do things, aren’t satisfied no matter how hard you try. However, there are more people who love and respect and care about you. Listen to them. Give them your attention and time. Ignore the others.
My life is half over. If I’m lucky. My life is half over if I am lucky. That’s a pretty sobering thought right there. And to make the most of this half, I intend to surround myself with positive, non-judgmental people, and focus my energy into doing good – whether that’s raising empathetic children, lending a shoulder to a friend, or offering small acts of kindness to others.
So, this is my 41: time to embrace those laugh lines, and bask in the serenity and peace that comes with middle age. Let’s do this.