My Dad pushed the roll of paper across the floor in the hallway, the brown sausage unravelling as it picked up speed before hitting the wall.
“OK,” he said, looking across at me and my brother. “What are we writing on it?”
“Happy 40th birthday Mum!” we shouted. “With a BIG four-zero!”
Black marker pens in hand, we drew the numbers, ready to hang up for when Mum came home.
It doesn’t seem five minutes since that moment nearly 30 years ago, but yet here I am, on the eve of turning 40. There’s no children to write me a banner, no family around me to celebrate this milestone.
I’ve been writing this post in my head for weeks now, normally when I’m out running, but I come back and I’ve forgotten it all. Right now it’s still all a jumbled mess, so apologies. Bear with me.
This week I’m away and I’m in a weird mood. I don’t think it’s necessarily related to my birthday, rather a mix of everything over the last few weeks or so. I’ve had a lot of change, socialising and admin shit to sort out and am feeling a range of emotions and exhaustion. Pete’s had the brunt of this a couple of times, because in times like this I’d normally retreat alone and ride it out, but he’s here, in the firing line. He’s unwavering and supportive and I’m forever grateful.
When I think about turning 40, I can’t help but compare to where I was 10 years ago, when I was about to turn 30. I was unhappy, but didn’t really know what to do about it. I felt like I was stood on the edge of a big crevasse, knowing that the life I wanted to live was somewhere down inside it, and I had to make a leap of faith into that abyss. It was dark, it was scary and in a way, almost unfathomable.
I did make the leap though, eventually. I remember thinking “If I don’t do anything, I’ll be in the same place in ten years time at 40, still not having done all those things I wanted to do and be trapped, probably with a couple of kids to a man I don’t want to be with”. That thought began to grow in size to be worse and scarier than the thought of making the jump.
So I did all the things I wanted, and more. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying so many new things and throwing myself out of my comfort zone so often it’s actually unreal, when I think about it properly. No wonder I feel so fucking exhausted half the time.
I don’t feel 40 – but what does that really mean? Starting the number with a 4 instead of a 3 does sound different, and I instantly think of being a child and what I thought 40 was like, which of course is so old. Isn’t it funny how we do that? Why don’t I go back to being 20 or 30 and thinking of people I knew then in their 40’s, who were hardly much older than me?
I do feel a sense of calm turning 40 though. There’s no panic that time is running out. That’s not to say I haven’t felt that – I very much did when I was 37 – but time still passes, and I guess I’ve just accepted it now. There’s still plenty of time. And actually, even if there’s not, I’m OK with that too.
I’m generally really pleased with where I am in life. I’m not in an unhappy place, and I’m not living a life I don’t want to, which are two massive big ticks in my book. I do have a bit of a sense of unsettledness and slight impatience right now, because there’s things I want (and have plans to) do but can’t just yet (for several reasons). But they’ll come, because if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that if I want something to happen, I have to go out and make it happen. It’s not always easy, in fact it’s often quite hard and needs a shit tonne of effort, and it’s down to me.
I still don’t have it figured out. Not even close. When I was younger I thought I would by now, but I’ve realised I never will. That’s the fun, beauty and challenge of life. My 40’s feel like it’s time to work inwards, and connect with myself on a deeper level. I feel I’ve got a bit distant with who I am, and who I want to be. The last couple of years have been when I’ve truly accepted and loved myself, and it’s time to build on and explore that.
I thought maybe I’d think about the fact I haven’t had children, but I haven’t really. My thoughts haven’t changed much, I’m still indifferent, feeling I could have a perfectly fulfilling life with or without them. Occasionally I have a flicker of ‘maybe it would be nice’, but it’s generally fleeting. I suppose, if I’m being honest, I still feel like I have a few more years before the option is taken away from me, so, as I’ve felt throughout my 30’s, the option still feels like it’s there, which is comforting.
I’m not one to follow the crowd, or measure things perhaps in the same way as others, so I have zero thoughts about ‘where I am in life’, something I think decade birthdays can often prompt. You know, those questions around what type of house you live in, what car you drive, whether you’re married, kids, what’s your career and so on. I’m not saying any of these are wrong, as everyone values different things, but I’m just thankful that I don’t think about these things as a measure.
I do feel the need to look after myself more though. Mentally and physically. Generally I don’t do too bad, but the last year has been a bit of a rough ride, and I feel like I need to give myself more tlc than I am right now. One thing I’ve promised myself is that I’ll do one thing a month over the next year that will nurture me in some way. Could be trying something new, or something to do with self-development. Might just be something fun, or trying to create a new habit. You get the jist. The main thing is that it should nourish and support me.
I’m really aware that I don’t have a lot to give others when I don’t make sure I’m 100%, and it’s really important to me to give more back than I take, whatever that looks like. I want my light to shine, and I want to help others make their light shine too.
I also want to learn more about how I want to be in my relationship with The Poet. I’m still figuring relationships out, and I don’t have the greatest past examples to refer to, so this is all still new for me. I’m making mistakes and learning all the time.
I’m excited about what my 40’s will bring. I’ve learnt that nothing is impossible, but some things are harder than others, and I’m really aware of my privilege in life. I’ve started to understand how I want my life to look, and I’m really keen to keep working on that.
But I also want to slow down a bit.
I want to strip out some of the distractions and crap that can fill my time, and make sure I’m spending my time how I want, feeling healthy and fit, not scraping along exhausted, dropping balls and feeling overwhelmed. Not entirely sure how that looks, but I’ll figure it out.