Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Lessons Learned My 40th Year

It's true what they say about the perspective you get at 40.  It's just feeling tired, spent, and sick of stuff. Being in this state gives you clarity. I feel clarity about what I do and don't want to waste time on. I'm basically halfway through my life. I can look back and figure out what is a waste of time. At the same time, I don't feel old or like my life is over or anything because I can (probably) look forward to another 40 years. I know what 40 years feels like. You could learn and do a lot in 40 years. So it's a good place to be.

Here's what I'm not going to do anymore: Take BS from people. Why would I? This doesn't mean I will be a jerk. I've learned to respect and value good manners and I plan to use them until I die. But I'm not going to be guilted into things or play weird games or buy into dumb stuff. I care what a few people think of me, and I care about the church and being a good member of it. Other than that, Ima have to let stuff go. For example, I no longer feel any pressure to prove to my kids' teachers each year that I am a good mom. I just do what I can to be what I consider to be a good mom.

Also, I'm going to start thinking of my neurosis as a gift. I am sensitive and I worry about minutia, intentions, what people meant or thought or how they perceived something I did. It's exhausting. But I've learned that I'm usually right. If I'm picking up on a vibe it has almost always been the case that I'm right about the vibe. HOWEVER, I don't always know everything that's going on. I don't always have all the facts. Say I pick up on a vibe that someone is trying to put me down in order to make them feel better. They usually really are doing that. I've learned that I'm usually right about these things. But maybe they are sad or have a crappy life or something. I can let it go. I can think of my particular sensitivities as a superpower. It is a superpower because while it allows me to see the petty evil in people, I think it also allows me to see the sacrifices, the hard things people do, the meaningful gestures, and it makes me love people more than I hate them. But I wouldn't love people at all if I didn't hate them a little. So I will live with it and honor it, like Superman, Sherlock, and Doctor Who—even if it makes me suffer.

Because the other thing I've learned is that the people I admire and want to be like do not give refuge to feelings of angst, bitterness, resentment, or perceived (usually real) unkindness. People who are impressive and cool that I admire get what is happening, they understand what is going on. They aren't dummies. But they don't give refuge to those feelings other than to acknowledge them and maybe learn a little something about human nature from it. I am going to be more like that.

This point was really driven home to me when I went to lunch with Mo, my friend Carrie's mom. She has a new church calling that I think would be difficult and overwhelming. You kind of think that things come easier to other people. Like, I die to speak in church but it must somehow be easier for someone like a General Authority to give a talk. Obviously people have different gifts and speaking in church does come much easier to some people. Carrie's mom is the real deal. She's multi-talented, extremely qualified, and completely competent. But parts of her new job do make her feel nervous. What I learned about her is that she doesn't give refuge to those nerves. She feels them and she moves forward. This impresses me.

I have learned 2 things that seem contrary, but that are true. One is to be who you are. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to stop bad habits or improve yourself or excuse yourself from bad behavior because you are being "true to yourself." But I have a freak flag and while there is no need to throw it in people's faces, there's no need to hide it or (worse, in my opinion) pretend to be something I'm not. I like reading and eating out and buying clothes on sale, and lots of other things. I have found like-minded friends. I need to get along with people, but I don't have to be best friends with everyone or take on other people's hobbies or fake like I'm into something when I'm not.

Even though I said I don't want to pretend to be something I'm not, I've learned over my 40th year that a lot of being any kind of grown up at all is simply playing the part. This sounds like pretending to be something I'm not but it's a little different. I am, for example, a generally happy 41 year-old mother of 4 with a master's degree. Sometimes, like at girl's camp or some social situation, I might feel insecure like a little tween in junior high. I still feel like that. But I'm not that. I've had every advantage in life and I lead a nice life with many perks. I can't get away with acting or feeling insecure. I'm too old for that. So, while I wouldn't say that I'm pretending to be something I'm not, I do need to buck up and just be a grown woman. I feel self-conscious a lot of the time, but I just can't get away with that anymore. It's kind of self-absorbed to be self-conscious.

Along with this goes the realization and a constant reminder to myself that I am lucky. I tend to notice and dwell on the negative. For example, my Babble job is sometimes challenging for me. I can't just write about any old thing I want to write about and I work with editors and other writers and I get so stressed about page views. I have to remind myself that I am lucky to be a paid writer. It's one of my dreams. It's a good job that I would covet if I didn't have it. Part of being 40 is just knowing that I'm negative and reminding myself that I am fortunate. I always try to remember how my house looked when we went through it before we bought it. It seemed like a mansion to me—a complete dream house.  When it's messy and breaking and after having to basically buy it twice because of a mortgage scam compliments of Cody Moore, I sometimes feel blue that we lost money. But I remind myself that it's my dream house and we are actually lucky that we didn't lose it. My husband is nice to me. He is way better than anyone else I ever dated or that I know. My kids are the best kids for me. I would hate having anyone else's kids. See, I hate but I also love very deeply. Writing this is part of how I will remember that I am lucky.

Looking back, it is clear that a few things have had the greatest influence on me over the last 40 years. My family, a handful of friends, my husband, my education, my kids, and my church. Who knows what I will fall under the influence of during the next 40 years, but since those things have proven to be so influential, I plan to pay close attention and invest time and effort in them from here on out.

I'll report back in 40 more years. What have you learned?


  1. Hey, wise sage, these are all great insights. Since I'm 10 years behind you (it's just how it is), I'm going to go ahead and follow your lead on this stuff. Hopefully, then, I can enjoy my life rather than stress about things that aren't worthy of my time or waste time trying to be something I'm not.

    Like, here's an example: I don't like camping. I've tried to like it for so long, but I'm not going to force it anymore. I hate it. It doesn't mean I won't do it ever again, it just means I'm going to stop pretending like it's the most awesome thing ever.

    Also, I wasn't going to write this comment because I don't know you in real life and you might think I'm crazy. But then I thought, oh well. And last but not least, thanks for having a cool blog.

  2. Something I've started to learn is that I like my body the way it is. Not to be a brown-noser, but you were pretty instrumental in that process--remember your body post? It's funny and insightful and my husband and I sometimes look at each other and say, "Oh, body." But as I was saying, I've realized that my body is and can do amazing things, and I'm much happier now that I think about how I feel, not how I look.

  3. I've learned pretty much the same thing with the little secret that being 50+ is even better. Suddenly it's less about your kids and more about your marriage again. Who knew?

  4. reading, eating out, and buying clothes on sale: xanadu

  5. I love this post. Would it make you uncomfortable if I printed this out and read it every morning as some kind of a mantra? I am the king of dwelling on the negative and wondering what my life would be like if I had a better job, or if I finished my novel or if I lost 20 pounds. The truth is it would probably be mostly the same so I need to not get hung up on those things that I don't like about myself or that I wish I could change about myself. I let myself get so worked up and dramatic over them, like God and the Universe are punishing me.

    I'm glad you're my friend. And this post is awesome.

  6. Beautiful, insightful and funny! So glad I know you!

  7. Yes. If you move to southern AZ, we will hang out and be the same weird person together.

  8. This is a great post. In my 40 years, I finally learned that it's OK to not like things other people like and it's OK to send my family camping without me (because I hate to camp) and we'll all be happier.

  9. This was awesome - especially the part of having to act like a grown woman even when you're not sure of yourself. I have come to that same conclusion myself.

    I turn 40 next year, and frankly, it will be a relief.

  10. I love this. I need to remember all of these things.

  11. "I feel self-conscious a lot of the time, but I just can't get away with that anymore. It's kind of self-absorbed to be self-conscious."

    I think you blew my mind. These are great lessons. And I'm trying to get there. Happy birthday.

  12. My version of this is the line from Father of the Bride: "George Banks is saying no!" I think that to myself whenever I feel pressure from an unreasonable source. I plan on getting it put on a t-shirt.
    Great post.


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