Yeah, I’ve got some piercings that have closed up. But if you look closely, you see it’s still there.
And if I pushed hard enough, an earring would fit right through there with a bit of pain. Just like old behaviors. Open them back up and they have to heal all over again. I got that first rebellious piercing from a friend with a safety pin at church camp, so…..
I’m not taking anything away from younger women. Women in your teens, in your 20s and 30s – all these decades (man I’m old) are valid, important, vital experiences and absolutely necessary to get where we are now. Where we never quite imagined we could be. In our 40s.
40-something women have learned some things. Not everything by far, hell, I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time, but the difference is I’m ok with that today. Well, kind of.
Here’s what I’ve learned. If I may be so bold as to say, what we’ve learned….
It’s not about pleasing a partner – it’s about pleasing ourselves. And in pleasing ourselves, we find that’s what we needed to do all along instead of worrying so much about pleasing a partner. A worthy partner is happy if you are happy and vice versa. Desperation serves no one well in relationships.
It’s about being present for our children in ways that we never could have imagined. From wiping poop to drying tears about a ladybug dying.
It’s about caring so deeply about foundational things, the big stuff. The important stuff. The stuff we didn’t pay attention to when we were younger because we were too concerned with appearances. Injustice everywhere concerns us now. We fight and we cry for those that need us with not much care for how it looks. Because we know what is right and what is fundamentally wrong.
We link arms and we march every day. Even when we aren’t physically together, we can move mountains. We can be the change.
The women. You women. Us.
Because this is life in our 40s.
We women in our 40s aren’t here for your nonsense. From partners, from children, from family, from employers. We may sit still for a moment with it, but we won’t let it wreck us like we did when we were younger. Like water off a duck’s back, we shake it off.
We don’t compare. Or at least not nearly as often. I don’t envy the younger women in the office. I don’t look on with jealousy at a family or an outfit or a career or a hairstyle. That saying, “comparison is the thief of joy”? We get that now. We don’t need that thief. We’d rather have the joy.
We don’t need to tear each other down to feel better about ourselves. We look for the similarities rather than the differences, because they are almost always there if you look for them.
I don’t wish to harm people today. I don’t wish them harm. I don’t wish them hurt. I leave it all to karma. I try to practice empathy in everything and while I fail at times, I keep trying. I just want to be kind and to instill that kindness in my kids. It’s the most important thing.
We don’t need anybody to tell us our worth. We don’t need anybody to tell us our worth. We don’t need anybody to tell us our worth. As good as it feels to be appreciated and worthy of our place in life, we know. We know our place. We know our worth. Or at least we are working on believing it every single day. Some days are better than others.
We are more settled. We are more grounded. We are absolutely grateful for what we have and look for ways to help the have nots. Because it’s not just about us anymore.
We know our limits and we have learned boundaries. For ourselves and for others.
We’ve learned to respect the word no and we’ve learned the power wielded when we say it out loud.
We’ve learned that when we choose yes, we choose walking through some fear and trepidation, and yet the rewards can be massive.
We’ve learned to trust our bodies and our guts. Not always, because they’re not always right, but we’ve learned to at least listen. Think about heeding their warnings. That’s a big step.
We’ve learned that just because they’re family it doesn’t mean they’re the best people for our well-being.
We’ve learned that taking a break with coffee and/or a treat can help lessen the power of just about anything.
We’ve learned that getting dirty is part of life and that we can all be washed clean at the end of the day and if granted some grace, we can try again tomorrow. 24 hours is plenty for a day.
We’ve learned that older women are so valuable. Caregivers and relatives and friends and co-workers and writers and artists and women at the store. Listen to them. Ask them questions. OPEN YOURSELF UP TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO OFFER.
We’ve learned to shut our mouths and listen.
We’ve learned that we don’t have to aggressively try to make people see our view about things. We can just live our lives as an example and not force the issue. This way is so much better. Learning restraint of pen and tongue has increased my enjoyment of life exponentially. I don’t have to run around apologizing all the time like I used to. I’ve learned If I don’t want to make an amend later, I shouldn’t do or say the thing now. Simple, really. Except in the heat of the moment.
It’s about knowing when we really do get fired up, we can craft our attack to be precisely what is most effective. Because yes, we attack when it’s called for.
We’ve learned to protect and claw our way out when we need to. For our kids, for everyone else’s kids. For those who need it. We are there. It’s not just about us.
We’ve learned that our babies say the darndest things. At exactly the right moment. And it’s the stinkin’ best. When we hear our kids telling each other that they are funny smart clever and kind? We know that what we are doing is causing some goodness in the world.
We’ve learned that taking a walk or going to the park or just standing outside chatting with neighbors cures a multitude of ills.
We’ve learned when we need a break. A day off. Time away from people, places and things. And we find ways to make a break for ourselves. We’ve learned to ask for help and not feel the least bit guilty. We’ve learned that if we are truly in a partnership, that partner wants to share the load and is happy to do so and give you your time and space.
We’ve learned to work WITH our bodies instead of fighting them every step of the way. Look at all they’ve done for us. Just think of all the miraculous things our bodies are capable of. I’m comfortable wearing shorts for the first time in my life. Even with my cellulite and the jiggling. Even with that.
We’ve learned to make time for doughnuts. Unapologetically.
I eat what I want. It’s all about balance of course and being healthy is important, but there is this great quote from Lindy West in her book Shrill (read it if you haven’t – it’s a game changer):
“I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight. That then I will be a real person and have finally succeeded as a woman. I am not going to waste another second of my life thinking about this. I don’t want to have another fucking conversation with another fucking woman about what she’s eating or not eating or regrets eating or pretends to not regret eating to mask the regret. OOPS I JUST YAWNED TO DEATH.” Lindy West from Shrill
No regrets. That is what my 40s are about.
It’s about confidence and taking my place with the surely that I belong here as much as anybody else. It’s about finding the women and connecting with them on a level that just wasn’t possible when I was younger. We didn’t know what we now know because we hadn’t yet been through what we’ve now been through.
It’s about walking down the overcrowded street and not being pushed aside. It’s holding my head high and meeting the eyes of men and women and smiling sometimes. Because dammit, I belong here. If you knew how hard I’d worked to get to this moment, you would give me a high five. And I see you. I SEE YOU.
If I want to do something or be something or try something, I do it. That doesn’t mean I need to skydive or run a marathon or maybe it does, it just means, we are living on borrowed time and if you don’t try to do what your gut is telling you to do, you may regret it. I don’t want to have regrets.
I don’t need to drink or self-sabotage out of my funks any longer. I don’t need to do these self-destructive actions AT you anymore. I mean, the eating thing, YES ABSOLUTELY SOMETIMES, but nobody is perfect, right? The chaos of my younger days are gone. I don’t crave it anymore. I no longer wish to be in the muck and throwing myself in the pit of danger. Those days are in my past. I keep them close so I don’t forget, but in their place I have found some peace. I hope that you are feeling it too.
It’s not that I don’t still have extreme anxiety attacks or that I’m all of a sudden comfortable in every situation, because I’m not. I’m still a big ol’ social anxiety grenade and I am awake at night worrying about how we are screwing up our kids and how we will pay for everything and that one day the people we love the most won’t be here any longer as I watch it happening all around me, HOWEVER, today in my 40s the difference is that I feel connected.
I feel a part of something bigger. A collective of women who have been there and who have walked this walk and know. They are the “me too” in all this. We are the “me too” in all this. And that is worth the price of admission into the 40s club. I may be late arriving here, but my membership card is stamped and validated and I get a discount on my parking from here on out. I am a VIP in the women in their 40s club. There are no velvet ropes and there are no guest lists because if you’ve arrived here, you’re a VIP. You’ve done the work. Welcome. I’m so grateful we are all here.
No regrets. It took what it took to get us here, and it was all part of who we are today. Women in our 40s. Who would have ever thought? We’ve got a lot more room on our bodies for more piercings if we like. Or not.
What happened when I stopped asking for permission
Just a Mom – On feminism, Infertility and Hope