Getting Started

I turned 40 last month.  Which is fine.  I’ve been almost 40 for a couple years so I’ve gotten used to the idea.  But the rest of the world seems to think this is very bad news.

A perusal of birthday cards for those of us beginning our 4th decade is downright depressing.  And not just because of the bad rhymes.  “40, the Ultimate F Word,” “ Turning 40 is like hitting the age spot jackpot,” and the worst: “Every time a woman turns 40 a cougar is born.”  Wow.  If I believed any of that, things would seem bleak.  And then there’s the old stand by: “Over the hill.”  What hill does this refer to?  It must have a looooong downslope if I’ve already hit the top and am making my descent.  What a 1950s view of age.  I reject it.

Say I’m half way to the end of my story (which certainly isn’t certain).  What sort of a story arc is it if the climax comes at mid-point?  I prefer what I was taught in high school – that the climax comes late in the tale, after mostly rising action full of ups and downs, and the falling action just a bit before THE END.  I’m not ready for the denouement.  Yes, my body isn’t working as well as it has in years past.  There are wrinkles on my face that won’t unfurl after I wake.  And I admit that some things sag and others expand a bit more each day.  But here’s the great thing:  it’s all good.  I couldn’t have said that about myself when I was in my twenties.  Though I’m not as thin, not as young, I’m so much more comfortable in this house of a body.  This home of a spirit.  So much more ready to take on the day with confidence and humility and joy.  40 is the new 30, and my thirties were great, so I’m down with being what used to be thought of as old.

I recently finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  It’s the story of Louis Zamperini, a child delinquent turned Olympic athlete turned World War II P.O.W.  Turned 70-year-old skateboarder, turned eighty-one-year-old Olympic torch bearer, turned 90-year-old skier.  Among all the amazing aspects of his life, one sparkling achievement was never deciding he was old.  He knew he was still living.  He left behind the evil he’d experienced in the war and focused on what was ahead.  It has been a sweet and forceful reminder that such a thing is possible.  And at just the right time.

“Well, it’s been a decade of awesomeness,” my son declared the morning of his tenth birthday.  A pretty great perspective.  I’m stealing it.  Four decades of awesomeness sounds a lot better than thinking I’m on my way out.  And perspective effects everything.  If you center your thinking on all things negative – the times you have failed, hurt others, looked a fool, struggled to keep your head above water – then you are doomed to keep that bummer of a world and self view.  But if, rather, you accept those things – own up to them and ask forgiveness – then move the heck on, peace and contentment are possible. Thank goodness for that.

So I choose to be glad I’ve reached 40.  Glad I’m past all the past and ready for the next decade’s story to be written.  I’m hoping for more rising action.  Not willing to welcome the denouement.  40 is nothing.  I’m just getting started.

Favorite

Dear future husband…

Inspired by Meghan Trainor’s song with this title, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d make a list of things I wish I could have told my husband before we were married.  To help both him and me have less drama and more realistic expectations in our life together.  So here goes…

  1. I don’t like being cold, and I don’t like being hot, depending on the season.  But I always like scalding showers and ice in my water.  Yes, it’s fickle.  No, it doesn’t make total logical sense.  And I’m sticking with it.
  2. When I ask you what you think we should do about something, “I don’t know” is my least favorite answer.  I’d prefer, “I’ll think about it,” and then have you actually consider my question and give me a reply at some point.
  3. Your integrity, generosity and kindness are hot.  Seriously.  Well-fitting jeans and those will get you action almost any day.
  4. When I’m tired, I’m tired.  Even if you’re not.  When I’m hungry, I’m hungry.  Even if you’re not. (A nod to our early days of marriage.  Beginning with our honeymoon.)
  5. Just a heads-up: I don’t know how to cook anything but a roast and spaghetti, and it will take me about six years to rectify this. Sorry.
  6. A compliment and a gentle hand on my back will A. make me feel loved and B. increase your chances of getting action, too.
  7. You are not right and I am not wrong.  We are different, with differing opinions.  Some people don’t need the toaster oven to be crumb-free.  But I love you, so I’ll work toward a tidy home if you’ll give me specific ideas.  Deal?
  8. My love languages are “words of affirmation” and “quality time.”  There.  That should shave off several years of misunderstanding.
  9. You are my favorite.  Let’s be best friends forever.  The “romance” will fade, especially when one of us has the flu/bronchitis/a stomach bug or a series of all three, or we’re sleep deprived from having a newborn, or stress makes us act like jerks.  But that’s ok.  It’ll come back if we treat each other like best friends.  And you wear well-fitting jeans.

 

And, to be fair, from his perspective:

  1. I don’t like being cold, but I’d rather wear lots of clothes and not turn up the heat.  And I don’t mind being hot, so air-conditioning is frivolous in my opinion.  You’ve been warned.
  2. If you would spend less time feeling blamed and more time finding a solution to our problems, that’d be great.
  3. I think you’re beautiful and sexy much more than you know.  I don’t care if you’re “bloated.”  You – clothes = fabulous.
  4. Just a heads-up: on our first Thanksgiving – the first one away from your family and the town, and state, and region of the country you’ve always known – I will be giving you the silent treatment because that’s how I will handle conflict for our first few years.  Sorry about that.
  5. I can’t be the source of your self-esteem.  Find it in yourself and in the fact that God loves you.  There.  That should save us years of disappointment.
  6. I like things to be tidy.  It helps my brain function, and I will be nicer if things are put away, especially the kitchen.  If you love me, you’ll try.
  7. I really hate nagging, so please don’t do it.
  8. If I feel like you don’t respect me, it feels crappy.  Don’t talk down to me.  And remember that I do care what you think, even if I don’t say it.
  9. You are my favorite.  Let’s be best friends forever.  With benefits.  Lots of benefits.

 

And one for both of us:

  1. For your first year of marriage you will not have a land line.  You will have a giant brick-shaped cell-phone that will run out of minutes in the first third of the month.  So if you want to talk to anyone, have them call collect to the phone booth by the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Main Street, Alhambra, California, and wait there at the allotted time.  Try not to cry too much or people will think things aren’t going so well.

 

It’s certainly not an exhaustive list of helpful tips to our young and inexperienced selves.  The full tome would overwhelm.  But this hits on some big ones.  It would have been constructive to read and digest in the months before our wedding, as much as any marriage book.  Alas, or maybe by better design, it has taken years to discover these truths about ourselves in relation to each other.  I guess that’s part of the beauty.  The storytelling element of a union.  Without the drama, the narrative would drag.  More of a dull report than a tale of adventure.  In the long run, I suppose I prefer an adventure.

So here’s to ours, babe.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

You’re my favorite.