I have several dear friends from high school with whom I’ve remained close over the years. This year, many of us turned 40. It’s one of those birthdays that seem to be a fork in the road where you either run to it or go kicking and screaming—Ok, the kicking and screaming might be a bit dramatic, but let’s just say that some folks are not excited about turning 40.
I could not wait to be 40. I couldn’t wait. I’ve been ready to be 40 for a couple of years. Why was I a 40 runner? I enjoyed my 20s immensely. There was a season in my life when I was footloose and fancy free; I went out and partied a lot. I enjoyed the joys of tequila a lot. I had a collection of little black dresses. I met cute guys and danced until 4am on a Wednesday and was still in the office working before 9am! Then life got really, really real in the 30s. My ability to refresh and reboot between 4am and 9am started to wane. I learned how great red wine and good quality food could be. I transitioned to wanting to find a nice lounge on a Friday night rather than wanting to hit the club. I morphed into a fun loving homebody; I’d done my partying. Friends started getting cancer or having heart attacks; some died. I struggled with my own serious health issues throughout the decade. My parents started to show some age, and I began to worry about the need to help them make plans, especially when I had to start attending funerals and sending condolence cards to friends who lost their parents. A couple of epic failed relationships crystalized some long term thoughts about relationships.
It was sometime in my 30s when I realized that I was really good and grown and dealing with life’s rigors. The 40 plus crew also deal with life’s rigors but there seemed to be a bit more emotional freedom and less caring about what folks thought about how you chose to live your life. I still cared way too much about what other people thought about my decisions for much of my 30s. The day after I turned 40 it was like a switch flipped and I really didn’t care as much and sometimes I don’t care at all.
Something about that emotional freedom I started seeing just before 40 keyed me in on the time when I knew this would be the time to move into adoption and parenting. This month, I’ve noted that the pre-40/pre-Hope chapter is really coming to a close and again, I feel like I’m running to the new chapter. Sure, I’ve chuckled and raised a glass to the last unfettered happy hour, the last trip to my hometown without Hope, the last weekend of staying out to go to the movies or dinner or “the club” without the need for a babysitter. For many of my friends they experienced the first wave of this parenting transition of the ‘lasts’ years ago while I was still running around like a wild horse from Chincoteague Island. Several friends have celebrated these lasts with me with both joyous smiles and sometimes sad eyes because my “single girl, sex in the city,” ala Carrie Bradshaw, days are closing out.
Gawd, I haven’t been Carrie Bradshaw-like for about 7 or 8 years, though I like buying shoes. And even Carrie started liking being home as the show dragged on. Life’s adventure profile changed, just like mine is changing. It isn’t sad. It’s an evolution and while the transition can be…rough…it is transformative. I have no regrets about my previous chapters; they were great, but <shrug> they are what they are now, great and sometimes not so great memories.
A friend and I went to what we thought was a hookah lounge after dinner and cupcakes last night and found that it was really a 20 something club. This friend is becoming famous for dragging me into situations where I end up pondering my previous life chapters in cheeky ways. Last night, a 24 year old cutie bought us a round of shots and asked me if I was scared of the shot. Bless your heart (as we say in the South), no child, I’m not scared of this shot and took it down way easier than he took his down. Knowing I could be his MTV Teen Mom made me giggle not because a young dude was chatting us up, but because the whole scene for me was so utterly ridiculous. Young women teetering on heels trying to look a blend of young, but older and sophisticated, and apparently dancing just means grinding—there was a Miley Cyrus-VMA look-a-like out there twerking for her life with anyone she could back that thing up to on the dance floor. I had on an Old Navy sweatshirt with some sequins, a pair of jeans and some shoes similar to clogs. I watched the scene, remembered the days when I rolled out of the house in a tiny dress with spindly heels and no coat in 30 degree weather. It was awesome at the time, but now I just want a vodka tonic and a couch. And when the 20 somethings made it rain in the club with paper napkins, I puffed away on my blackberry hookah, laughed and thought I wouldn’t do my 20s or 30s again for anything, even knowing what I know now. I also looked at my watch and grimaced; it was going on midnight, and I am not into the whole “turn up” phenomenon. I was ready to turn in.
So, like I was eager to turn 40, I am eager to welcome Hope into my life. Oh it’s going to be drama at a whole new level, but it’s ok. This has been an amazing life and I have no doubt that the Hope chapters will be rich and colorful and that 20 years from now, I’ll look around and ponder my 40s and chuckle when a then 40 year old man sends me a glass of Cabernet because he likes my silver fox hair. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life but also hands down the best year. I’m so blessed to step into this next chapter; I don’t need to look back; I don’t care what people think. This life is awesome; it’s not what I would’ve planned, but God’s plan for me has worked how pretty well. I guess he’s good like that. Ha!
Life can be only what you make it
When you’re feelin’ down
You should never fake it
Say what’s on your mind
And you’ll find in time
That all the negative energy
It would all cease
And you’ll be at peace with yourself
You won’t really need no one else
Except for the man up above
Because he’ll give you love
(My life, my life, my life, my life)
If you looked into my life
Take your time
Baby don’t you rush a thing
Don’t you know, I know
We all are struggling
I know it is hard but we will get by
And if you don’t believe in me
Just believe in He
‘Cause he’ll give you peace of mind, yes he will
And you’ll see the sunshine for real, yes you would
And you’ll get to free your mind
And things will turn out fine
Oh, I know that things will turn out fine
Yes they would, yes they would
(My life, my life, my life, my life in the sunshine)
My Life by Mary J. Blige