On Turning 41: Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like?

Peace out Forty and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

You arrived when I was trying to get up from a long nap and you kicked out my feet from under me. You swept in with hyperbolic headlines. “Polar Vortex! Outside Exposure Ten Minutes to Frostbit Death.” All I wanted that day was simple: an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, to play hookie with my son at Chuck E. Cheese, and to find some time that day to write. I wasn’t asking for much. I didn’t ask for eternal 39-ness, or effortless skin elasticity, or even any surprise luxury gifts from my husband. I was keeping it reasonable. But you couldn’t even do that. You came in and locked me up with the threat of death outside my cozy home and a stark reminder that Climate Change doesn’t care if we believe in it or not.

You didn’t stop there. You kept it coming. I was coping, reckoning, dealing with the fact that my #thisis40 Insta posts would never get more than a dozen likes and, in spite of my conviction of its inevitability as a 25-year-old, my Roth IRA balance just wasn’t allowing early retirement, no matter how many times I refreshed the TD Ameritrade page for real-time market updates. Plus, I sweat a lot at night now, so I couldn’t even ignore you while getting the pitiful excuse for a good night’s sleep that every parent knows. You were fucking relentless 40.

I knew I should be able to take you down, but then you’d laugh and say, “Well, I bet you sure thought you’d be more than this by now, huh? Forty. 40. FORTY! Is this what you always dreamed 40 would look like?”

We both know the answer. I wish you would stop rubbing it in.

I’d coach myself, meditating on the mantras– “everyday is a gift,” “I get better with age,” “be here now”–and then I’d be interrupted by the halftime cheerleaders, warming up in the locker room. Wait, I spent a lot of time thinking this was just a low-key scrimmage. How can it already be nearing half time? I haven’t even mastered cooking more than 3 dinners a week for my family, let alone ridden my bike across the continental United States, written a second book, or learned Tai Chi yet. You expect me to get pumped up for the third quarter comeback right now? C’mon guy. That’s a little extra.

So I did what I could. I took a lot of walks. I read a lot of great books. I wrote every day. I took pictures of trees and the sky. I enjoyed my kids, loved my husband as best I could, and found at least something to be grateful for each day. And even though you suck, I’m softening on the idea of forgiving you for showing up.

Forty, you son of bitch, you taught me so much. I didn’t want you to. I wanted to own you, make you my pedestal to stand atop and shout, “See world! All those personal development audio books were right! I just had to visualize riches and perfect health, easy love and amazing sex, flawless skin and a sub-30-minute 5K run and …BAM..they manifested. All you need to do is saddle up and life is yours to tame and ride to the bank.”

Well, you were one hell of a bumpy ride forty.

It was you 40, who taught me:

  • The importance of self-care when my doctor suggested I stop “putting yourself 47th on your to-do list.”
  • The joy in patience, when watching my kid learn to tie his shoes (for the fifth time in seven minutes in the busy grocery store, knowing they’d be untied in a few steps.)
  • To say yes to the invitation to a 72-year-old’s “Staying Alive Party” that was the most life-affirming model of aging I can imagine for anyone.
  • The joy of reading our first chapter book together with my children. It’s just as good as it was 30-some years ago.
  • How to hold back tears when the doctor gives you bad news.
  • That if you try to pretend your bedroom is an office during virtual office hours with students, your children will unlock the door, jump on your bed within the video frame, and blow your cover.
  • That there’s something called the “Joy Zone” and that work meetings with over-sized post-its, worksheets, and a facilitator just aren’t in mine.
  • To get over that “what-if” lover from decades ago was as simple as sitting down to finally read his favorite book.
  • That “passive income” from side hustles is just “shit ton of work” rebranded.
  • That it was time to say goodbye to a seven year stint of nourishing and sustaining life when I weaned my youngest. And my tits will never be the same.
  • That saying “no” gets easier with practice.
  • That no matter what, I can find three things to be grateful for each day and write them in my journal.

It was you 40, who reminded me that there is no halftime, of course. At least, no one blows a whistle and tells you it has arrived. But I already knew that; no one can make it to forty and not recognize this. By then, we’ve all seen too much: both the tragic and the magic.

Thank you 40. I am so fucking glad I only have to meet you once. Send in your replacement, 41. I’ve spent a lifetime waiting.

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