When a friend posted on Facebook about her birthday, asking friends whether she should party or cry, I began to think of my own impending big 4 – 0 at the end of this year. Party or cry? Which would I do?
How do I actually feel about turning 40? I think on a subconscious level, I’m not too happy about it. There’s this big thing about turning 40; a big taboo that says once you turn 40, you’re officially OLD. Your youth is behind you and you’re in that realm of being past your best. Your body is getting tired, and it’s beginning to slow down and not work quite as effectively as it should. I think a lot of this thinking stems from the unavoidable female CHANGE that we all must go through at some point, some earlier; some later than others. It’s the end of an era, the end of your ‘womanhood’ as you know it.
But think back to when you were only just a teenager, before puberty. Were you any less of a girl? Did you not have the latest crush pinned to your bedroom wall, or write and swoon about THAT dreamy boy in school who never looked twice at you?
I’m a big fan of self-help books; of the ones that focus on developing the self. Recent additions to my read-books (yes, I’ve actually started to FINISH reading books again!) collection include The Miracle Morning by Hal Erod, which promotes the fact that we can achieve so much more each day by rising early and with PURPOSE and passion for the day ahead (as opposed to repeatedly hitting the snooze button and delving further under the duvet); and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. One of my favourite aspects of this book is the concept that you can’t find true happiness without sacrificing what you want NOW for what you want LATER. For example; I want to be a bestselling author. But it’s not going to happen overnight. I need to work on, and hone my craft. I cannot stop working on developing my skills and improving myself, because I won’t become a bestselling author without all that hard work. The point is, we need to keep our end sights in goal and continually work towards that end goal. We live in an instant gratification society and want material items and results NOW, but the truth is we can’t have them without putting the work in first. You want the latest iPad? You’re going to have to earn the money to pay for it first. And that’s a much better feeling than paying for it with credit and then living with that nagging guilt that you now have a debt to pay off hanging over your head, because you WORKED for it.
A new era
I’ve recently gone back to work full time, which means certain things are having to be put on hold while I settle into a routine of juggling full-time work, motherhood, and everything else that comes with running a house and managing the lives of small people. But for me, it’s a period of self-development, of self-discovery after 6 years of being out of the workplace. Much has changed, but then much hasn’t. As a person, I have changed. I’m a mother now, and my life isn’t just about me anymore. I go to work, and yet I have to consider the small people either side of the work day. I can’t simply go into work early, or stay late. These things have to be carefully planned, like everything else in life.
But, returning to work after a period of full-time motherhood and focusing primarily on the children is like a period of rebirth. Much like when I went back to work for the first time after 6 months of chemo, it’s like starting work for the first time. It’s a chance at a new beginning; a new era of your life.
Failing at life
My twenties were a whirlwind of unfulfilling jobs, of failed relationships after failed relationship, of death and grief and losing loved ones, and a huge life-wake-up call of being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. It made me question why I was the person I was. Why did bad things always happen to me? Why did life keep failing me? In fact, I had been failing at life. I had no clear vision of my own values, and no self-worth. I didn’t realise that I was deserving of great things, and that it was within my own power to make my life great, until I was faced with that ugly word; CANCER. It’s a word I associate with death and decay, a disease that feeds off negativity. But that diagnosis forced me to stop. My body was sending me a very clear message: STOP. Slow down. Stop the self-neglect and PAY ATTENTION. Cherish your body, and nurture your soul. Much like cultivating a garden, I needed the right levels of nutrition, plenty of water, the right amount of light, and the right position to flourish. There are few plants you can leave on their own in the wrong conditions, and expect them to live without care and attention, and I’m grateful for that life-changing grenade which forced me to take stock, pick up the pieces, rebuild and change my direction and perception forever.
My late twenties/early thirties were a learning curve of marriage and motherhood. I gave up work at the age of 32 to focus on being a full-time mother, and went on to have two more babies, one of whom we heartbreakingly lost at 27 weeks. Dear Poppy was born prematurely through illness, and survived just 40 minutes while they attempted to resuscitate her. But she had foetal hydrops, and there was no way on this earth they could inflate her water-logged lungs. The kind of grief a mother goes through is one that can not compare to any other. You pine for your missing baby. Your body knows you’ve given birth, and so your milk comes in. You desperately want to feed her, to hold her, to comfort her. But your body doesn’t know that your baby isn’t there to lap up the nourishment, to grow and flourish from the liquid gold it is ready and waiting to deliver. You feel as though a part of you is missing. But slowly, over time, the pain lessens. It never goes away, and bringing it to the surface HURTS. So I don’t think about it. And I don’t think about having had cancer. I don’t dwell on the fact my dearly missed dad and step-dad are no longer here, missing out on their granddaughters who will never meet them. Or my dearly missed grandparents who I can no longer just pop in to see when I feel like it.
I don’t think about these things, because I always look to the future. I always look to what’s next, not what’s behind me.
Riding the rollercoaster
Life is one big rollercoaster and you can choose terror, or exhilaration. Which is why I’m not having a party for my 40th. I’m going to do something exhilarating instead. Maybe not quite a bungee-jump or parachuting out of an aeroplane (I’m not as crazy as my husband – and I have kids). Maybe a half-marathon. Or a trip to Niagara Falls. Something INCREDIBLE.
Because we only have one life. And we only have one chance to enjoy it. Turning 40 doesn’t mean the end of your youth. It means maturity and understanding. It means beginning. And it means new adventures.
It’s my life, and I dare to dream… Then live it. ❤️