I’m probably overstating things with the title of this post, but I’m approaching a big birthday and it’s bringing with it some big thoughts. Forty *gulp* – it feels significant, and sensible. Irresolutely grownup.
And I’m just not sure I’m ready for that.
I remember my dad turning forty when I was a child. In celebration, I bought him a plastic walking stick filled with smarties. I thought it was hilarious: “Haha, Daddy, you’re so old!” Looking back, I’m not sure what he thought of it and I’m also not sure how I’d feel if one of my sons gave me the same present now. Well, I’d eat the smarties, obviously but does forty count as old? Surely not, but neither does it count as young enough for that joke to be entirely devoid of bite (except where the smarties are concerned hehe – stop eye-rolling, I’m allowed to make terrible jokes at my age).
I’ve noticed recently how forty is spoken of as if it’s crossing some sort of frontier – like a cut off point for desirability and dynamism in our youth-obsessed culture. Of course that’s not actually the case: older people can be every bit as attractive and even if our energy levels are lower than they were in the full flush of youth, our wisdom more than makes up for that. Nevertheless, forty is a point when you quite possibly have more of your life behind you than in front of you and I’m definitely finding it’s making me pause and reflect.
Have I achieved enough? Am I good enough at what I do? Have I followed enough of my dreams? And if the answer to any of those is no, is there enough time left to change that?
I’ve spoken to quite a few people about this recently. Most understand. Some say, ‘Oh forty was nothing, wait till you get to fifty!” with others’ it’s, “thirty was so much worse!” Personally, I barely noticed turning thirty: my eldest son was five months old and I spent my birthday weekend in a ‘luxury eco lodge’ (oh yes) in Yorkshire with some of my best friends. It was all healthy outdoor walks, home cooked meals and woodburning stoves, and between us we had a baby, a toddler and a pregnancy. It may be my least raucous birthday ever. We were all fully settled down and engaged with the homemaking and family-building stage of life.
And that stage of life defined my thirties, really. I had my first child at twenty-nine and my third (and last) at thirty-five. My youngest started school a couple of months ago meaning my thirties almost perfectly encapsulated the pre-school years of parenting. Perhaps that’s why this birthday feels particularly significant. I’m bidding farewell to my thirties, a decade of babies and toddlers, of constant change and challenge, of passionate new maternal love and friendships forged amidst the fires of sleep deprivation and vomit and birth stories and ‘oh-my-god-I-haven’t-a-clue-what-I’m-doing-oh-phew-neither-do-you-let’s-just-figure-this-out-together-ness’.
Of course, I had other focuses during the last decade too, but children were at the heart of it. When they’re little it feels natural for that to be the case – they need you so entirely. And now… now things are starting to feel different. My kids will always be my focus but now they’re all at school there’s more room for other things to enter the frame. And that’s great but it’s also making me feel so nostalgic for all those moments of passion and purpose and awe. For the wonder of creating new life and the craziness of living through those early years of it. Could another decade of my life ever be that intense? Would I want it to be?
And now it’s hello forties decade of…what? Career building? House renovation? (it’s all sounding a bit too grown up) dream following? Of knuckling down and get on with achieving everything I ever wanted to because time is slipping through my fingers and I’m not getting it back?
All of those? Or none of those? Or perhaps it’s just time for some consolidation – for realising what I’ve got and what I’ve created and nurtured and spending time working on the bits that need attention and enjoying the good stuff that comes my way.
I’m lucky, I know that. Lucky to have what I have and even more, who I have in my life. I think it’s enough. More than enough.
Forty isn’t time for a midlife crisis at all is it? It’s time for a midlife celebration!
And as anyone who’s spent any time with me recently will know, I’m having plenty of those!
I haven’t joined in any linkies for ages but this is the last ever week of ‘The Prompt’ which is one of my favourite linkies of all – I used to join in with it loads back when I blogged more regularly. Sara’s weekly prompts have been a huge inspiration to me (in fact, the first picture book text I ever wrote came from one of them) so it felt right to join in this last one. The prompt this week was ‘ENOUGH’. Thanks Sara!