I turn forty this month. Forty. It even looks daunting to write it. Say it out loud and it goes into slow motion talk all on it’s own: F-o-r-r-r-r-t-y-y-y-y-y-y-y. Did you hear the echo afterwards? Whoa.
Being the “Pollyanna of positivity” that I am, I have celebrated and fully embraced every birthday with joy-filled gusto. Turning twenty caused me to stand a bit taller and grasp the concept that leaving my teen years meant I needed to be a real grown-up. Bring it. Thirty was fun—I felt like I knew myself better than ever. I cared more about what I thought than what others thought about me. Freeing! This hard-core happiness guru is prepared for the annual celebration of aging! Come find me, forty–Let’s start a new decade!
Somewhere along the way, my laid-back love of birthdays got side-swiped by the sweet sucker-punches of reality. Gray hairs started peacocking out of everywhere—no matter which direction I parted my brunette mane. One afternoon I spent a good half-hour on my stairs investigating the groaning noise I was hearing only to find out it was my knees creaking and grinding. (I guess being a ninja gets cut from the bucket list.)
Then I went to the Y to play some basketball—good stress reliever, stellar workout and a game I really enjoy. Although I have lost a step (or three) on my fast break, I was draining shots like crazy and impressing not only myself, but I’m sure the gymnasium full of tweens and teens! (Did you sense the sarcasm?) Sweaty and satisfied, I went home with a salty grin. I still got it, I thought. And boy did I get it. I got a sore body for a week. I couldn’t sleep for days without heat, ice and Ibuprofen as my constant companions. This used to be easier to bounce back from…
As a charter member of the eternal optimist club, I wasn’t going to let these obstacles way-lay my attitude. I will overcome! Nothing will get me down! Nothing, except a visit to the eye doctor.
Well, crap. I needed glasses. Not just glasses… but trifocals! I opted for the progressives (no lines) and tried to console myself with the fact that this would cure that splitting headache that plagued me every time I read. I kept it together pretty well until my sweet husband asked me how it went at my appointment. Open floodgates….
I had perfect vision—in fact, better than perfect vision—my whole life! It honestly felt like the ONLY body part on me that worked properly and didn’t need to be fixed. And now, my eyes were broken, too. All hope was lost. It’s like each of the previous setbacks were direct hits, but needing glasses sunk my battleship of youth.
This body. All I could see (and feel) were the things it couldn’t do as well as it once could. My body was failing me. And it felt like I was failing as a result. My poor haggard, old body….
While diving headlong into the pity-pool, something caught my eye. My scars. The ones from three significant surgeries I have had in the last seven years. Remember the pain, the long recovery, the physical restrictions that lasted not just weeks but months? Hey, I kinda forgot I went through all that! Way to go, body! You healed up pretty well! I thought. My four boisterous kiddos burst through the doorway and tackled me to the floor. That’s when it hit me—This body carried those kiddos, birthed them and survived to tell the tale. Wow!
Not only has my body been through a lot, it has given me a lot.
Suddenly, I wasn’t seeing all the things I couldn’t do anymore, I saw all the things my body has allowed me to do in my very full 40 years of life. Catching tadpoles and making forts in the grassy acres of my childhood home; playing volleyball on a State Championship caliber team in high school; snowboarding in the Alps (and failing miserably at it, but nonetheless it happened;) playing basketball till sundown at the park; surviving the dark days of a sleep challenged and colicky baby; pushing a double stroller up our neighborhood hills with a surprise child growing inside; postpartum depression times four and all the other lovely symptoms that came with building a human within my body…
Back in the optical shop where I bought my glasses, there were loads of frames from which to choose. Some stylish and sleek, others bold and artsy. Chunky frames with tortoise shell fragments. Slender metal frames with barely visible lines. Cat-eyes, flamboyant patterns, neutrals and naturals…. I chose the ones that fit me best: Color and class with just a touch of sass. The style was fun, the fit was comfortable, but the central job of the frames is to hold the lenses which with the right prescription, would put everything I view into perspective—the right perspective.
Completing a fourth decade of life is no longer a millstone weighing me down, but a milestone to be enjoyed. The fact that I am turning forty has not changed. But now that I am seeing this birthday through the right lens, my perspective is radically different. Instead of lamenting all that I am losing with age, I am now starting to see all the things I have gained through living my life. I am grateful for all the ways in which my body DOES still work. I am thankful for trifocal glasses and crazy gray hairs; for aching muscles from family wrestle time and my precious collection of surgery scars.
Come on, forty—Let’s start a new decade together!