Life begins at forty… and I have just begun to live all over again.
~ American psychologist Walter Pitkin, adopted and expanded by Russian American Vaudeville singer Sophie Tucker [see origin of this saying]
Today is my 40th birthday. Instead of feeling like it’s an event of a single day, I have been experiencing it as a process…
As I approach the fourth decade of my life, I find the following transitions taking place:
I am feeling more comfortable in my own skin. Yes, the skin has more age spots and scars than before; it is drying and starting to sag a little, ha ha, but I treasure more what’s underneath :-).
I no longer feel compelled to conform—even if it means I’m an odd ball being ridiculed by everybody. Well, I have often felt like I’m the black sheep in any group. Ok, ok, even if I’m a black sheep I am still a sheep. But I think I can actually like myself for being a black one.
I laugh at my own follies. Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too short to be taken seriously.” All my youth I had been too serious. Now it’s time to play and laugh more again.
I feel comfortable about saying “no” and setting boundaries. No more guilty feelings when I stand up for my own rights and privacy. And yes, that includes saying “No” to my own mother.
Self preservation has become my priority under stressful situations. I refuse to label this “selfish.” Remember what you always see in the safety instructions before you take off on an airplane? Adults are instructed to wear the oxygen mask before they put them on their children. Well, the same principle applies to our lives! As a female in a patriarchal society, where traditional concepts like “saving the best for the older and the male members of the family” have been ingrained in my brain since childhood, I have always put my self interest behind everybody else’s, as I have such an immense respect for people around me—but I lost sight of my own needs, to my own detriment. I’m determined not to let a senseless “tradition” govern my life anymore.
I follow my heart and not worry about what others think or how they’ll criticize me. I have quoted Eleanor Roosevelt before but I’d like to quote her again: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you will be criticized anyway.” Yeah! WTF!
I no longer do nice things for people just for the sake of gaining their approvals. I do nice things when I feel inspired or compelled by my Spirit. If I don’t, it doesn’t mean I’m not a nice person. I know my worth enough not to have to bend over backwards all the time.
I don’t change myself for someone to please them or for fear of losing them. If they don’t appreciate the way I am, I wouldn’t insist on holding on to the relationship.
I’m more relaxed about all of life’s imperfections. I am beginning to feel OK about a blemish here or there. I try not to fret about them. If I fuck up, I know there is always a chance for me to pick myself up and try, try again. People always say that “we are only human; none of us are perfect.” Ultimately, I believe that we are all born perfect in every sense. The idea of failure is man-made and self-imposed. The fact that we are all here on earth in this life time together is a grand and perfect experience in and of itself. We just need to remember that everything is as it should be. If we open our mind’s eye, we can see the Creator’s infinite glory unfolding in a million different ways.
I appreciate order in my head more than order in my physical space. Being a clean freak, this is not easy. I have learned to up my threshold for chaos. Even Einstein is known to have a super chaotic desk! Not that a clean and tiny space doesn’t matter. It does. My spiritual guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, has been quoted to have said: “Angels don’t like dust!” It’s just that if I have to choose from being stressed out to being dust-free, I now opt for the former. There is always a tomorrow to do the clean up. Mañana!
If I don’t get everything done the way I had planned it, I don’t get frazzled and feel like a failure anymore. In fact, I don’t plan my day very much at all. This way, I will not be rushing from one thing to another with no time to breathe, and more spontaneity will spring forth.
I select the thoughts that allow me to grow and thrive. It doesn’t mean I see everything through rose-colored glasses. But I try to exercise creative thinking, using the power of intention to paint my present and future. I am no longer a chronic complainer. Complaints are like cancer. They eat at the core of my being. It’s better to do without them.
I allow others to be who they are and go along their own paths in their own pace. This does not come easy. It is one area in my life that I need to work on the most. You can say I am somewhat a control freak in this regard. That’s because I care about people so much that I’d like them to see what I see, and do what I do, too! But over the years, I have understood that each person has their own paths and move in a difference pace as well. If I insist on only my way, then I’m bound to be disappointed. When I let go, and allow others to bloom in their own timing, we have a harmonious garden of flowers and greens, with all different colors, sizes and shapes.
Inner beauty is more important that outer beauty. This sounds so much like a cliché, but I didn’t truly appreciate that until I entered perimenopause recently and found this excess fat around my waist, dry skin on my limbs, wrinkles around my eyes and my lips. Having once regained a slim and youthful body just a while ago thanks to the new way of eating I adopted in my late 30’s–and admired myself for that—I have to readjust to the new me in the mirror. I gradually come to accept the “imperfections” in my body. I try to do mirror work à la Louise Hay. I look into the mirror, embrace my own image with a smile, and say, with a sense of unconditional love and approval: “I love you. I really really love you!” Instead of dreading the aging process, I am gradually starting to appreciate the evolution of myself from the “I” who defined myself by what I have and do, to the “I” with inner strength, a “longer view” and an ever-expanding internal landscape of spiritual growth and enlightenment. I enjoy the process of discovering my authentic self a little bit more every day.
Happy birthday to me today. I enjoy the richness that 40 years of life have given me thus far, and look forward to the richer years that are yet to come! I love myself, and I extend that love to all of humanity!
Now, let’s enjoy this song/poem on the beautiful age of 40:
“Life Begins at Forty” by Sophie Tucker