On Turning 40

Yep. The Big 40. I just did a quick google search for articles and blog posts with the same title as mine and it seems that opinions on the matter are divided- either people are super psyched about it or, well, let’s just say they are NOT super psyched about it.

I happen to be in the former category. Or is it the latter? Why is the English language so freakin’ complicated? Maybe that should be my goal for the forties- master those elusive grammatical rules. Former/latter. When to say “you and me” instead of “you and I”. Figure out what the hell is up with “whom”.

On second thought, I might have better things to do.

Which is why I am part of the super psyched group. Here are some of my reasons:

1. At least I’ve got my health.

I am fit with no major diseases or conditions (that I know of). In fact, the argument could be made that I am WAY healthier than I was in my 20s, when I lived off grilled cheeses and beer. This also translates into more energy to do more stuff.

2. Older kids=less home work.

Not only am I relatively spry, my kids are getting older. By the time my 50th birthday comes around it is conceivable that I might be a grandmother, and not in a “oops- teen pregnancy” way either, but in the “Hey Mom! I am the age you were when you had me” way (I can’t believe I just put that horrifying thought into words, let alone on paper.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean that there is no parenting involved when the kids are teenagers. Oh, trust me, there is. Anyone with kids this age will be laughing their heads off at that myth. However, if J and I feel like going out for a drink after work, all I have to do is text them to say we are going to be late and that they should make themselves dinner. That is very different from having younger kids where cocktail hour is a desperate affair, balanced between mushy cookie puddles and poopy diapers.

3. The older I get, the less I care what you think of me.

If I could tell my younger self how it feels to truly not give a shit about what other people think of me, the freedom, the absolute liberation of not having to be any shade of cool, I would gladly travel back in time, on a rickety time machine invented by a mad scientist who thinks Delorions are are the cat’s pajamas.

Then again, my younger self would not think I was cool and would not listen to me, so that would be a waste of a time travel trip…

But seriously folks, my youth was overshadowed by a debilitating shyness. It meant that I never raised my hand in class, even when my tongue was burning off with something to say. It meant that I could not eat in front of people (okay, read boys here), or manage any sort of coherence when strangers talked to me. It meant panic attacks in the girls bathroom until late in my twenties.

So, you can see how, at the tender age of forty, not really caring about what people say about me feels a lot like I’ve just been released from prison. It was a slow release, one shackle at a time, but I am confident that, by the time I reach 60, I will be yelling out my opinions out in crowded rooms like some sort of haggard Turrets sufferer.

4. The rage, the rage, my beautiful cultivated rage.

Oddly enough, my rage at the injustice at the world has channeled itself into rage against the sheer impoliteness of people. And now that I care less about what people say about me, I tend to let them know. Not that I am not angry at the injustice of the world. That still gets to me too. It’s just that the opportunity to kick the SUV of a  cellphone talking, hairy bastard who almost runs me over happens a lot more frequently than being able to show my outrage at our asinine government and their asinine policies.

Actually, now that I think about it, the thing that is pissing me off more and more as I get older is issues around the glass ceiling. I was one of those stupid young people who thought that feminism had done its job. Sort of a “thank you for you service, oh hairy arm-pitted, surly feminist ladies of the 60s and 70s, but we have now reached parity. Feminism is no longer required.”

Oh how I regret my youthful shortsightedness. Maybe it is because I have two daughters. Maybe it is because I see in my own behaviour the limits of my own empowerment and how I sabotage myself with my own reticence to promote my own abilities, but the older I get, the more I see how equality is a myth. This alone will fuel my rage for at least another decade or two. Hopefully, I am old enough to be able to channel it in a useful manner.

5. I gots stuff to do, yo.

My husband’s dad, the illustrious artist James Gordaneer, swears that the forties were his most productive decade, which is saying something as he is one of the most prolific artists I know and is still going strong in his 80s despite some very real health issues.

I feel like it is going to be the same for me. My kids are older. I am more disciplined than I ever was in my twenties and have learned to truly enjoy work. Yes work that I do for money (I enjoy my job) and of course my own writing, but I think work in general. The older I get, the more I relate work to a kind of prayer, a way of being in the world and contributing to it. I like to work.

I also really want to be a writer. I guess I am a writer – I write. Sometimes I even publish. Maybe in my forties I will be able to say that I am a writer without feeling like a fraud. One can only hope…

UPDATE

I started this post weeks ago, closer to my actual 40th birthday. I had a huge birthday bash organised by my good friend Penny and J. We had a speak easy and everybody stepped up and dressed in 20s garb. The evening did not end until around 5 in the morning, which I think is a very good way to begin my 4th decade (or is it 5th? I think it might be my 5th decade…)

However I just received an official document from my province giving the date I should be retiring (2034) and the amount of pension I will get. Let us just say that it was a sobering thought.

Also, although I am happy to be in my forties, I am also having to confront my one big terror- that of losing my mind to some sort of dementia or alzheimer’s. I get these weird little holes in my memory, like little moth bites on a wool sweater, where I can’t remember the word for something I know I know. For example, the other day I was walking home and admiring all the spring flowers. Tulips, lilacs, daffodils and…these heavily perfumed, purple flowers. The ones whose name begins with an H and which has a prominent place in the Wasteland by T.S. Eliot. What the hell was the word? For the life of me I couldn’t remember it- it was like some hooligans had gone into my brain and thrown all the words around and the word I was looking for was still there but hiding under the couch or something. I finally had to ask J who told me right away. Hyacinth. And I just looked up the passage, and Oh god, it is a little too fitting for this kind of terror:

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

They called me the hyacinth girl.”

–Yet when we came back, late from the Hyacinth garden,

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Yeah. Here’s to staying in the Hyacinth garden as long as possible.

 

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