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Ode to the Decade of Forty

Since turning 40, I’m trying to gain back control of my body. I’m walking and exercising more and working towards being a lean, mean, fat-burning machine.
This being said, my body IS changing. My skin is getting thinner and “loose.” My joints creak. I’m tired. My hair isn’t as voluminous as it was when I was…ahem…39! It’s too much for me to keep up with really!
I’ve been gray since I was 24. I went through Hurricane Andrew, and gray hair was my trophy announcing I had survived. At first, it was one or two. No biggie. Then it became necessary to color treat my hair. Now, I’m a brunette, sometimes blonde, but it’s all false advertising…I’m 50 Shades of Gray under that magical boxed color! Grey hair started creeping into my eyebrows right before I turned 40. Speaking of eyebrows, I need a brow lift! I wouldn’t have noticed…as my eyesight is also fading along with my hair color, however, they are wire rascals, and I can feel them!
As a product of the 1980s where Aquanet ruled, and you ratted it to increase height and fullness–mercy! THAT was a decade of youth!–my hair is still long. It’s still amazing, but it takes a lot more work than it did in the 80s to get it to look amazing. It’s lost its shine–Hello, Glaze! It’s lost its color–Love that magic box! It’s texture is more coarse, and it just doesn’t have the pizzazz that once had me runner-up for the role of Mufasa!
I also think I’m far more confident when it comes to my hair. I still believe it is one of my BETTER qualities. It hasn’t been permed in ten years, and I’ve learned there is absolutely nothing wrong with pulling it back and up…outta my way. Most days I choose to just pull it up in a ponytail and get on with my life. This is also desirable because my hair has become oily and required hair washing EVERY day. It’s like puberty all over again. Ay Yi Yi!
I’ve never been a Fashion Diva. I’m jeans and a tee shirt girl all the way. I am still attracted to those trendy outfits, baby doll blouses, and tailored jackets..then I remember, I no longer own the body that looks so cute adorned with such threads.
I refuse to wear the MuuMuu (aka moo-moo), house coat or “big girl” clothing. They are not flattering, and I have to ask, “Why DO they use such undesirable fabric?”…I think you can be plus-sized and still look like you have something to offer.
In 2007, at the age of 38, I chose to leave my career as a Manager and become a full-time MOM! It was frightening as I was repeatedly reminded that I was “getting up there in age” and that “going back into the work force after 40 will be hard.” Then again, raising young children is challenging. I’m not as spry or energetic as I was in my twenties.
I made this choice because my children need me. They need a Mom to come home to, to be there waiting at the bus stop when the come out its folding door. They need a mom to bake cookies and knead bread dough with them. They need a mom to sit and read with and share homework and just talk to about anything!
I have never looked back. It has been a time of struggle and cutting back and yet the most rewarding moments of my life have taken place. It has been a tranquil time that has reminded me how truly blessed I am to be a mom and that my children are amazing!
Money has never motivated me. The work force was an extension of my competitive, driving self. It was a place where I worked hard for recognition, to make positive change and hopefully to inspire people to be the best they can be every day.
I don’t believe 40 is where the difference begins. It surrounds us long before 40…girls are good in English, boys in Math. Boys are athletic, girls studious. As we climb the rungs of the ladder of age, it becomes a matter of salary, of gray being “old” vs. “distinguished.”
Women are compassionate. They are passionate. They are multi-taskers. They are creative and empowered to be amazing on all levels. I say, “Why compare the genders? Embrace that you are a woman. Celebrate that you are a woman in her 40s. Rejoice that you are a woman, in her forties who is becoming better and better every day.”
While I am not in my best shape ever, I am healthy and for that I am grateful. My knees crackle, I blame that on running track…not on being 40. I’m overweight, I blame that on having children and being lazy. I can’t run a marathon…don’t know that I have a reason to. What I DO blame on my age is this…poor vision. In my late 30s I needed glasses for the first time. Now I go every year and my prescription gets stronger. The eye doctor this year said, “Well, you’re 40 now and you don’t need bifocals!”  Yeah, I’m totally jumping for joy…but I guess I have to accept bifocals are in my future.
In my youth, I wasn’t as active as I should’ve been. I love to cook and more than cooking, I love to eat. As a youth, I felt that ice cream came in pints because that was “portion control.” The richer something was in taste, the more I ate!
If I could go back, I’d still indulge in those fine confections and savory dishes, but in moderation, with the understanding that I was going to have to work off those calories. Think before you eat. Commit to the cost of the donut before you take your first bite and keep your word to yourself.
Read labels. Follow the Recommended Daily Allowances. Live but know that as old as 40 seems, you’re going to find yourself there and it is going to be far more rewarding to find yourself there fit and fabulous than spending it trying to “get rid of” 20 years of carefree living! Trust me; I’m there now. It bites!
I think the greatest challenge I’ve faced in my 40s can best be explained by telling you this: At 40, I had a 16-year old. He’s an amazing, talented young man. He is also opinionated, struggling to discover who he is and what he believes. We went through a weekend where he wanted to runaway from his life and start over.
I left home at 15 and have no problem making it known that this was by far my biggest regret in life. I struggled. As I grew into an adult, I realized I missed out on how to buy meat, how to plan a budget and all those other life lessons that define us. I couldn’t allow my son to make that same mistake. It was the hardest thing to sit down with him and tell him that while I understood his dilemma, his pain and the need to run, I couldn’t allow him to make the same mistake.
Around this same time, my 83-year old grandmother called to tell me her intestines were “poking out” and could I call the doctor for her. It turns out she had vaginal propulsion. I called my mom to say, “Um, yeah, so did you know your insides collapse and start coming out orifices when you get older?”
Back to me, at 40, I was sitting on the fence, so to speak. I was reliving my biggest regret through my child. Wishing I could take back that decision and wonder how my life would be different now…at the same time, I was forced to look at my future and accept that my body is growing older with me. That age may be a number, but it still has some very real consequences.
So the largest challenge for me is accepting what I have done in my past (good and bad) and coming to terms with those decisions. It is balancing my present so that I am well-rounded emotionally, physically and that I make “better” choices. It is also a time where I am looking forward. Not trying to stop the clock, but realizing that time is marching forward. That in 42 years my insides could be coming out of my orifices. I’m living the moment of my first 40 because hitting that next 40 is going to be harder.
No matter what decade you’re living in, march forward. It’s not all glamorous, but it is all about you, and that’s a beautiful thing!
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