What surprised you this year?
Last winter my partner, with the help of a good friend of mine, threw a surprise birthday party for me at our local pub. We had just finished a romantic dinner at a nearby restaurant. I wanted nothing more than to linger over my glass of wine while enjoying my boyfriend's company. I suspected something was up because he couldn't stop fidgeting and checking his phone.
My plan was to quietly ease into the next decade without much fuss. To be honest, I didn't want to draw attention to this particular milestone. After all, I was still adjusting to the idea of approaching midlife. My actual age doesn't reflect how I feel. I have a lot of energy and I'm physically as fit as I was in my 20's. It doesn't help me to accept my age when people mistake me for being at least 10 years younger. When strangers ask if my oldest son is my brother, I'm sometimes tempted to play along.
In light of this, imagine my surprise when we walked into the pub and everyone jumped out singing Happy Birthday. I was photographed looking dazed and confused beside a large cake bearing my name with the big four-o etched in the icing. Within minutes photos were posted on to social media, announcing to all and sundry that I had indeed turned forty. I couldn't have been happier.
Some may say it's only a number, but that's simply not true. I've noticed big shifts within myself since that cold January night. My hair is beginning to turn grey, spider veins are increasing, and my laugh lines have slightly deepened. These external differences are admittedly minor, but some of the physical changes are more significant. "The change" is looming ahead. Every time I see a newborn, I'm aware that my childbearing days are nearly over. My 3 children are quickly growing up. I'll never experience their childhoods again. I'm proud of the people they are becoming, but I miss those early years, despite how exhausted I felt during most of it.
By the time I graduated from college, I was already the mother of a small baby. For a long time I dreamed of freedom. I looked forward to my kids growing up so I could travel and pursue other ambitions. It's ironic... now that my home is filled with teenagers on the verge of independence, I frequently dream of the most gorgeous, soft, cuddly babies. Admittedly it's a relief to wake up and realise there are no diapers to change. Yet some part of me wishes I could do it all over again. Age has a funny way of playing tricks on us. When we're young, we imagine the lives we wish we could have. When we're older, we realise that we had what we needed all along, it just wasn't so clear at the time.
Perhaps that's just my experience.
Surprisingly I've grown to love being forty. I've stepped into my power as a woman. I'm not afraid to speak my mind. I trust my judgement. I know and accept myself. I care less about what others think of me. I've learned to cope with heartbreak and loss; grief won't kill me, and my scars have their own kind of beauty. Even the mistakes I've made have been a gift. Failure has led me to deeper understanding. I'm grateful for every twist, turn, and misstep I've made because they have brought me here, to this precious moment. Thank you for sharing it with me.
For the month of December I will be participating in #reverb15. If you're interested in learning more or receiving prompts such as the one I explored today, click here.