Today I left a paint can on the kitchen table and went to the basement to find a screwdriver to pry it open. My nearly two-year-old woke up, jumped out of his crib, toddled downstairs and had it open before I had even found my toolbox. I walked upstairs and was greeted by a green child, table and floor and the notion that I am no longer what’s happening around here. My time, my home, my kitchen table, my life, are no longer my own. Wesley is here and he is taking over the world, color by color.
When I was 20 the world felt like mine. By the time I was 30 I had gotten better about sharing. My 20’s were all about learning what “my life” would be like someday, and my 30’s were all about assembling that life. My forties will likely be about refining “my life;” right? Wrong! The little green monster was standing in front of my saying, “life is not going to be what you expected!!”
I recently turned 40; say, 36 minutes ago. Yes, I am writing after midnight on a Friday night because, to reiterate, my life is not my own. The middle of the night is ME time. So, now that I have been this age longer than it takes to paint my kitchen green, I’d like to offer some reflections on 40;
1) This is the decade in which I will finally learn to take my vitamins, 2) I will learn how to say “no,” 3) I will exercise regularly and with vigor, 4) I will be the mom I always dreamed of being, 5) I will keep up with the laundry, 6) I will be in control, 7) I will live the dream, 8) I will admit that NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE EVER GONNA HAPPEN.
Maybe its the paint fumes or sleep deprivation, but I think my forties is going to be fun. I feel free. Its nice not to have the big day looming anymore. When I was twenty, I thought I would be a Senator by this age. In my 30’s I thought at least I would have finished the kids’ baby albums and updated my resume by now. But today I am forty, my life is not at all what I expected, and any nagging distress that this should cause me I simply cannot be bothered with.
So, here are my honest thoughts on turning 40;
1) I will know myself well enough to eat good food because I am never going to like taking vitamins. 2) I am going to say “yes,” “no,” or “maybe,” depending upon how I feel at the moment. I will be honest. 3) I will exercise with friends and family for another few years, and then I might have more time for myself. I will be patient for that time to come because I will miss our crazy life someday. 4) I will show my kids love and praise and I will have good days and bad days like any job. I will stop kicking myself for the things I DON’T do and I will love myself and praise myself too. 5) I will make my youngest wear the oldest’s underwear when I run out of size 4’s and if he puts up a fuss I will put my husband’s boxers on my head while I make breakfast and make everybody laugh. 6) I will enjoy life’s twists and turns, or I will recover when I don’t enjoy them. 7) I will re-define the dream based upon the wacky things my brain invents in between R.E.M. sleep and fuzzy blond heads saying “mama will you sweep with me?” 8) I will cherish more and wish less.
The paint can incident was funny, but some of the feelings I had this week were not. They were deep. I felt truly challenged by my children, my spouse, my body and my thoughts. When I thought it could not possibly get more difficult, I got the stomach flu. Sometimes we make these weeks happen, and I am sure I had a hand in making it harder, but sometimes life can be crazy. I was looking for the reason this all struck just before the end of a good decade. In my 20’s I regularly climbed mountains. In my 30’s I regularly accomplished goals. The pay-offs were tangible, like exquisite views, a Master’s Degree, or our first born. But since I’m not often bagging 14,000 foot or proverbial peaks these days, this week was a good reminder that I can endure. I cannot quit my current job, but I have family and friends that love me and support me. I will make it through. At 40, I am prepared for unexpected craziness. I just have to remind myself when it strikes, I own crazy.