Musings from the life of a forty something or my wants no longer matter

For the past several months, my body has started to remind me of my early teen years when I was clearly entering puberty. Except that at 41, I am pretty sure this isn’t midlife puberty.  Hell, depending on who I am talking to, it’s debatable whether or not I am even middle aged yet! Though with life expectancy coming in at 76 or so for Black women and a family history that falls well short of that number, I think at 41 it is safe to say that I am probably at the midpoint of my life.

No matter what though, it is clear that my 41 year old body is just not down with living life the way that I have in the past. Unlike the late childhood and early teen years when we would feverishly clutch at our copies of Are you there God? It’s me Margaret or sheepishly talk about our bodily changes with our besties, it seems that in our 40’s most of us aren’t talking about these new life changes, so have no fear, I am doing the talking for you.

Maybe it’s just me, but gone are the days when I could function on little sleep. In fact anything less than seven hours of sleep these days and I wake up feeling as if I consumed an entire bottle of wine. Which reminds me, wine… what happened? After years of a great relationship, suddenly Merlot no longer loves me. Anything more than a glass and the odds are high that I will feel like a hot mess the next morning, needless to say, I do not like feeling like a hot mess. So that means more tea in my life and less wine.

I used to foolishly assume that anyone over 40 who was really into working out and eating healthy was doing it to look good and hang onto their youth. Not that there is anything wrong with looking good or hanging onto one’s youth but as I am learning, when I eat relatively healthy with an emphasis on my fruits and veggies and decrease the emphasis on my beloved sweets and chips, I feel amazing. Just like wine, too much indulging in snack foods creates a feeling of ugh…bloat and ugh feel bad; so much so that my new thing is a beet, carrot, apple and ginger drink that costs more than a halfway decent bottle of wine but leaves me feeling great, No heartburn either.

Last month, I inadvertently didn’t spend as much time on my yoga mat as I normally do, seeing as how I was preoccupied with my new job and a 200 mile round trip commute. By the end of the month my body felt like shit, there were parts aching that I didn’t even know existed. When I start feeling bad, it leads to a short term focus on fulfilling my immediate wants and that includes overindulging in snacks which created a cycle that lasted several weeks. Where I just felt like a pile of hot steaming shit. Last weekend, I kicked my ass in gear and hit the yoga studio three times in four days and I am back on track and my body is thanking me.

Growing older seems to be making me more mindful of my needs versus my wants and what I am learning is that much of what I want is short term and not necessary and sometimes even harmful. Staying up late, drinking wine, eating artisan desserts and playing online are all things that I want to do but when I do them, rarely do I feel good. Instead when I keep a consistent bedtime, bypass the wine and sweets, skip sleeping in and grab an early morning yoga class, I feel amazing. Throw in some balanced meals that are heavy on the fruits and veggies and I feel even better. As someone who has always tried to do what I want,  it seems that I am moving into that stage of life where my needs matter more than my wants. Lately my body has been suggesting to me that I add more exercise and for the first time in years, I am thinking of joining a gym and I am the original anti-gym gal. Hell, I proudly failed PE all four years of high school!

What about you? As you have grown older, have you had to make lifestyle changes? Or given up things that you enjoyed because they no longer enjoyed you?

PS: Tweezers are a middle aged gals best friend but that’s another post for another time.


4 thoughts on “Musings from the life of a forty something or my wants no longer matter”

  1. I’ll be 40 in two and a half years. I haven’t necessarily made any lifestyle changes as much as I’ve gone back to the foundations of good eating that I practiced 10-13 years ago.

    My diet had fallen off. And my body could feel it. So, I recently overhauled my diet. I’m not eating out anymore (unless it’s a real special occasion). I’m sure as hell not eating meat that isn’t organic. And I’ve cut back on alcohol consumption because I feel AWFUL the next day.

    I’ve always been one of those people whose body is very vocal about what it wants and doesn’t want. Some people can eat junk consistently and it doesn’t affect them. But my body cannot handle imbalance at all. And, it doesn’t like excess weight either. So, I’ve no choice but to eat well and exercise if I want to feel and function well, not be depressed, and not suffer from serious ADHD-induced distraction.

    I’ve no desire to be hopped up on medications for diabetes or hypertension or hunched and inflexible over in my 40s, 50, 60s, and onward. So, here’s to healthy eating, yoga, running, and weight training.

  2. Hi Shay,
    Very refreshing to feel so completely in line with your eloquent expression of your experience your body changing with age along with being able to enjoy your dash, attitude and hilarity in sharing your head on adjustments to them. Boldly we go where those who have enjoyed middle age (and gone on to enjoy their golden years) have surely gone before! The tweezer line has me in stitches with tears! Grateful hugs to one fabulous black woman today: you!
    As always,

  3. Shay, another excellent post, thanks! First, I’d love to read a post about plucking stiff facial hairs. They’re the beauty bane of my existence. “Have tweezers will travel.” I’m not particularly hairy, but I don’t want to look like a bearded lady.

    I’m 56, and although I’m overweight, I’m still in fairly good shape. I’ve noticed, however, that I’m now getting morning aches and stiffness. So I counteract that condition by stretching and doing sun salutations. I’ve never been a gym person either, and also “proudly failed PE.” Multiple times. We bought a recumbent bike last fall, and it’s been a great indoor exercise for our long, Maine winters. (Please tell me that spring is finally here.)

    You eloquently expressed it too, when you wrote: “As someone who has always tried to do what I want, it seems that I am moving into that stage of life where my needs matter more than my wants.” Yes! I might yearn for Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, but I’d be better off with rice cakes and carrots. Sad to say, but true.

  4. at 59 I’ve got a few more years and the body betrays! it’s a terrible thing – I am encouraged by your words to make an attempt to improve my physical being but dang, it’s still girl scout cookie time.

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