I thought turning forty was one of those things that only happened to other people. Er, nope. Here I am, celebrating my 40th birthday this week. Even writing that seems weird because my brain still thinks I’m 26. My body, on the other hand, definitely got the memo…
But birthdays should always be celebrated. Because whatever the number, it’s better than the alternative, right?
Forty is traditionally the age of the mid-life crisis. But I won’t be buying a red sports car any time soon (is it just men that do that? Along with that other cliché of upping and leaving their family for a younger woman because they don’t feel ‘understood’?). Nope, none of that, because rather than feel in crisis I feel…calm.
If this is the top of the hill, I think I’m going to take a while, enjoy the view, and do a little mid-life review.
So, after being alive on this wonderful planet for 40 years, here are some of the things I have learned. No promises that any of this is useful but hey, it’s my birthday. Indulge me…
(Also there is unlikely to be forty ramblings here. One thing I haven’t learned is attention to detail. Or when to stop…)
Forty (ish) thoughts on life from the top of the hill
- I distinctly remember when I was about 19 telling my friends (with some authority based on nothing but the arrogance of youth) that no-one over the age of 25 should wear short skirts. Well, I was WRONG. Wear whatever you want and whatever makes you feel good. We have to wear clothes so we might as well wear ones that make us happy, right?
- Washing up liquid gets most fat-based stains out of clothes. Squirt it on quickly and then wash as normal. They don’t call me a domestic goddess for nothing (actually, they don’t call me a domestic goddess at all…)
- Never ask for a cup of tea with milk in a café unless you are in the UK. I’ve had condensed milk, frothy milk, hot milk…as a British person, this is very upsetting
- Your children will always want to discuss existential issues when it is time to turn out the light for bed – ‘Why do we exist?’ ‘Why do we have to die?’ ‘Where do you go after you die?’
- There is a parallel universe with a porthole from the back of the washing machine. This is where odd socks disappear to and live their best lives
- The food you put in your body makes a difference to how you feel. Honestly, how could it be that it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I fully understood this? More vegetables, more wholegrains, more greenery…and less processed stuff
- The greatest gift I have been given is an education and, more specifically, being taught to read (thanks Mum)
- The second greatest gift has been my two sisters (thanks again Mum…and Dad)
- Having a dog gives you a lesson in unconditional love. And humility…you can’t be proud when you’re picking up dog poo from the side of the road
- If you smile at someone they almost always smile back. You both feel good and it costs you nothing (disclaimer: don’t try this on the Paris Metro)
- Sometimes people you really know and care for can surprise you and turn out to be total shits. Like the Frog Prince in reverse. But this is about them, not about you
- Sometimes people you barely know can turn out to be lifesavers. Literally and metaphorically speaking
- Try to be kind, all the time, especially when it’s hard. You never know what other people have got going on
- Be kind to yourself. You know that snippy, self-loathing little voice that lives in your head? Zone it out. Turn her off. Ignore her. Speak to yourself as you would do to a much-loved friend
- It’s pretty much impossible to be kind to everyone, all the time. Give yourself a break
- If you make an obscene gesture while driving in Germany you can get in trouble with the police. Also, if you are ever tempted to gamble through an amber light, always check your rear view to make sure there isn’t a police van behind you…
- In France at a stop sign you have to wait for three seconds EVEN IF THERE ARE NO OTHER CARS ON THE ROAD. If you fail to do this, there will likely be a police car hidden round the corner, waiting for you
- Almond croissants are yesterday’s croissants filled with almond paste. And they are delicious – proof that older can be better
- Therapy is not just for rich people and Americans. Talking to someone when you have any kind of problem always helps
- Relationships are not always easy, but there is a reason why therapists always go on about communication. Things go wrong if you aren’t talking. And remember to listen more; to others but also to yourself
- An opportunity always means risk…but opportunities should always be explored. Never turn down an opportunity just because you are scared (unless the ‘opportunity’ is unsafe sex or, you know, taking hard drugs with used needles. This are not risks anyone needs to take)
- As Maya Angelou so beautifully put it, be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud
- Whether you are moving countries every year or staying put, keep all your health checks up to date and write things down. You think you’ll remember the date of your smear test/ vaccinations/ eye test. You won’t
- Check your breasts for lumps regularly – and do it standing up AND lying down. If you find something, don’t ignore it
- ‘Home’ is a state of mind
- Everything feels better after a good night’s sleep
- When you feel like your dreams are dissipating, remember George Eliot’s wise words: ‘It’s never too late to be who you might have been.’
- Learning to ski in my mid-thirties is one of the best things I have ever done. Why did I ever think I wouldn’t like it?
- You know how everyone says your body changes when you hit 40? It does. And I’m sad to say the only solution seems to be – eat smarter, work out better. Resistance training all the way…which also applies to training myself to resist those almond croissants
- When you are finding things difficult, there is always someone in a worse situation than you. But this is not something you need to feel guilty about! What’s bad enough for you is bad enough
- There are people who radiate positive energy and people who drain it. Fill your life with radiators, not drains
- No-one ever gets to the end of the week and thinks ‘If only I’d spent more time scrolling mindlessly through my phone.’ All that scrolling is draining – of your time, and of your self
- Have people take photos of you with your kids; don’t moan about what you look like. You look fabulous. And even if you don’t agree with me, in forty years’ time you’ll look back and be like, “what was I complaining about, I looked FABULOUS!”
- Give less of a shit about the stuff that doesn’t really matter; social media, worrying whether people like you (they do…and if they don’t it’s their loss), worrying about things that are out of your control, worrying about the things that are in your control (thanks to the Dalai Lama for that one). Worrying doesn’t make anything good happen
- Give more of a shit about the stuff that does matter; real-life relationships, making sure you vote, being part of the effort to cut down plastic pollution, being really present for your children and the important people in your life
- I’ve gone overboard on the ‘shits’ but seriously: eat more fibre
- I once asked a friend who is a psychotherapist the ‘secret’ to good parenting. She didn’t miss a beat. ‘Just love them. Really love them and make sure they know and feel that they are loved.’
- Loving people means listening to them, even if they are telling you things you don’t really want to hear. And listening is about observing what people do, how they act, as well as hearing what they are saying
- A cup of tea makes most things feel a bit better. A cup of tea with a good friend is a panacea for all ills
- As Ferris Bueller said, ‘Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ (Case in point – that movie is 33 years old). So take a moment, see where you are, check in with yourself. Celebrate the little things as well as the big milestones.
- There’s always more to learn
- And finishing with Seamus Heaney, who basically sums all this up and more in three beautiful lines:
“The way we are living,
timorous or bold,
will have been our life”
*1979 T-Shirt Image from Pinterest
11 Replies to “Forty Thoughts on Turning Forty”
Great advice, well presented. Love the pics, I always wondered what your Mum and dad looked like when they were new parents! See how well their kids turned out! Anyway, I can assure you I don’t feel a day older than 26 either and I’m 30 years (and a bit) older than you! x
Becci, I love this and you. Happy 40, Chic. Xoxoxo
Fabulous post. Love it, and love you. Lucky to have such a smart, kind, thoughtful big sister.
Love your posts Rebecca 💞 Growing old is most definitely better than the alternative 😊 Have a wonderful birthday and enjoy your celebrations 🎁🎂🎉🍾🥂 xx
Brilliant sense of humor and mind. Forties
of joy 🎉🌸💕
Thank you 😘
Lovely post Rebecca and happy birthday 🥳 (again) x
Thank you my lovely 😘
Happy Birthday from the other side of the World, Beijing to be specific.
Thank you very much!