Last week I found myself at the local walk-in clinic after hours because my back decided it just wasn’t in the mood for the physical activity that I had been subjecting it to. It turns out that I had pulled a muscle. Yet while I was at the clinic, I mentioned another issue I had been having and the nurse practitioner raised her eyebrow and said well you are 40. Yep, I am 40. I turned 40 a few months back. While I won’t speak for anyone else; I am noticing that unlike that catchy saying that is popular, 40 is not the new 30. While Halle Berry may be a glowing Mom to be at 46, I suspect for most of us, if we are glowing in our 40’s, it’s not because we are pregnant, it’s because we are dealing with a warmth surge better known as a hot flash.
Today’s 40 year old and women in their 40s in general are vastly different than the 40 year old of our moms, grandmothers and great- grandmothers day. On the surface today’s 40 year old looks almost identical to a twenty something year old. My generation (Gen X and even the Baby Boomers) make 40 look so much like a cakewalk that few of us about the very real changes that still happen internally as we age.
Every woman’s body will age differently but I will say that in recent discussions I have had with women I know personally, I have found that while we don’t openly talk about these things the way previous generations of women did, life changes still happen. The change of life is actually pretty damn real, just that most of us look younger than our elders did when it happened to them. Also the goal post has been moved since it is now up for debate whether or not 40 is middle aged or not.
The upside of 40 is that frankly I just don’t give a damn. Let me explain that. I spent most of my 20s and 30s always wondering and worrying about others and their thoughts about me. So much so that I basically spent almost two decades trying to avoid acknowledging truths about myself because my concern was always others. What would they think? Now, I could care less. I am who I am and I am pretty damn comfortable in my skin.
Speaking of worrying, I do a lot less of it now. Life is too short to worry; life is too short to get myself worked up over minutia. I pretty much reserve my worry for the big issues and trust that everything else will work itself out. I am still passionate about things that matter to me, but I know that sweating the small stuff does nothing but cause me angst. I am a mother, creating humans is angsty enough because no matter how old my kids get, I will always worry about them. Says the woman whose 21 year old son is on a two month tour of the US this summer.
Acceptance is also a lot easier for me now. Some of the hopes and dreams that I had at 25, 30 and even 35 are just those…dreams. I still have dreams, but my dreams now are based in reality and knowing myself. Gone are the 5 and 10 year plans for my life, I have lived long enough that for me the only constant is change and that I need to be willing to adapt and change to meet reality. Rather than a plan, I have an outline that is flexible enough to meet me where I am.
The area where 40 is knocking me on my ass is physically. It’s official; I can no longer stay up all night and expect to be a functioning human the next morning. I need a good 7-9 hours of sleep every night now. Of course I am stubborn, so some days are better than others. On that note, when I now have that extra glass of wine at night, oh I feel that too. It is nothing nice. Moderation is my new word, live it, love it, be moderate at all times.
However when it comes to physical activity, the key word is consistent not moderate. I pretty much need to move my butt daily but not overdo it. If I take a break from yoga or walking for a few days, holy stiffness…where the hell did you come from? If I overdo it, I will feel it but if I don’t do it at all, I really feel it. Years ago that was unheard of, if I took a hiatus from working out and then went back, my body didn’t say anything, now my body screams at me.
Lastly let’s talk about the lady parts. This is an area where the changes are just rocking my world. Over the years, I had heard friends who had already crossed the forty threshold tell me about periods that came either every 20 days or every 50-60 days but truthfully it didn’t register as something that I thought would happen to me anytime soon. After a 25 plus year relationship with Flo, she has become fickle, no rhyme or reason. Yeah, I knew about that perimenopause stuff, but in the past few months it has become very real. Emotional roller coasters caused by hormonal surges and lessened by my yoga practice. Never ending PMS that brings new and exciting changes, can you say bloat? PMS symptoms that stay even once Flo has gone and I could go on. While I have my annual well woman visit on the calendar this week, I have had more than a few healthcare professionals tell me that none of what I am experiencing is abnormal. It’s just part of aging, for women it is the start of that journey that will eventually lead to menopause, the point at which Flo will decides to break up with me for good. I am sure when Flo leaves me for good, it will create a whole new set of issues but right now, I am looking forward to the day we break up for good.
So at almost five months into 40, that is what the view looks like in my world. If you are a woman in her 40s, what have the 40s brought you? Or has anything changed? (you lucky woman!)
2 thoughts on “Musings on 40…a journey”
It has been 20 years since I was in my 40’s, yet everything you speak of re the physical changes, I remember well. I found one thing that was fabulously helpful to me with the “endless PMS”. An herbal tea: equal parts Red Raspberry Leaf, Uva Ursi (Bear Berry) leaves and Dried Burdock root. Use a really big tea ball or one of those little woven straw tea baskets and fill the ball or the basket 2/3’s full. Pour boiling water over and let steep 20 minutes, at least, in a large mug. I brewed mine in a ceramic beer stein. It will make a very strange, but fairly mild tasting tea. You can re-heat in the microwave, or if you’re like me, just chug it down luke warm and get it over with. I often would lie down for a minute or two and I would usually feel a whole lot more like myself within 15 – 20 minutes. I do not know the origin of the mixture, but I suspect it is First Nations. Oh, tip on the straw basket. I used an old fashioned hair pin to fashion a “lip” to catch on the side of the cup opposite the basket handle. Poked the legs of the pin through the basket about 1/2″ apart, then wrapped them around the rim of the basket. The “remedy” may not work for everyone, but it became my go-to solution for the mood swings and bloating. It was useful all the way through menopause. You can find the leaves and root at any health food store that carries bulk herbs as they are pretty commonly used in a variety of ways. Cheers!
Um, enjoy your forties because when fifties hit, unless you’re an active person getting plenty of fresh air (and yoga doesn’t count unless you’re doing it at a high level vs. neighborhood feel-good routine) with a healthy diet, your joints might start getting sore (new allergic reactions and inflammation?), digestion slows down, you might experience hair loss — those wonderful hormones that brought inconvenient monthly visits from Flo also regulate your metabolism and keep you youthful. I think I understand the source of the expression “dried up old crone”. There’s a fluidity and flexibility that I took for granted in my younger days that takes more effort to recover because I just don’t have the energy now. Welcome to afternoon naps. Basically, I don’t recognize my life or myself anymore but
reinvention keeps you young : )
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