Sunday, September 4, 2011
Life Begins at Forty
A great many people have studied and written about life's stages, and why not? Fascinating stuff. Recently I read somewhere that the definitive study of old age does not exist simply because no one has ever survived to reflect upon it. Old age is a mystery!
I'm thinking about this today because I have a rather remarkable number of friends who have just turned 40 or are about to. I feel for them, faced with what comes after the first half of life. It isn't easy.
"It" begins in earnest in the 40s - growing old, that is. I know folks in their thirties are able to intellectually understand aging. The thoughtful ones have given it a lot of consideration, but it isn't until one is IN the forties that it becomes visceral - our mortality, that is. In my culture, we mature early and age late. After awhile, it's easy to believe it will never happen. But it always does, believe me!
Two of the many things that happen to the body after forty have to do with drying up and hardening. It's gradual, but it starts to happen right around that age. Only after forty do people, after sitting for awhile, have to stretch when they stand up. People begin to notice many different ways in which they are becoming, slowly - so slowly - a salty concentration of the juicy youth they once were. It's sobering, to say the least. Hence the mid-life crisis, hey? Oh yeah.
In the decade of the forties, many people begin to come to terms with the life they have lived, which is a part of every life story, should say. Many folks question previous decisions and choices. I know I did. The luxurious feeling that your life can be anything you want begins a slow fade at forty. After forty, the thought that comes to most is something like, Wait! THIS is my life? Not all those other lives I imagined for myself? What??
I think the decade of the forties builds character. Without character, getting old is a miserable situation. But if you are able, in your forties, to shine while considering the inevitable next phase in life, you'll be fine. My forties were extremely wonderful in many ways, harrowing in others. I was at full power in that moment, having been around the block a couple of times yet only beginning to noticeably age. In my 40's I went to massage school, I became a mighty priestess, travelled and taught in the U.S., Canada and England. I learned how to cook, or should say, became confident enough to give it a go. I moved from San Francisco to Washington midway through my forties. That's when Jake came into my family, during my early forties.
From forty to fifty - well, wow. It's a powerful, expansive, challenging decade. (Thanks Ellen for reminding me to say so.)
Even those who get hair implants, buy racy sportscars, leave their spouses (that's what I did), or engage in other crazy, mid-life antics, need not worry. After fifty, many of us settle down whether or not we've developed character. We think, OK. This is my life. Could be better, could be worse. It's all good.
If you're on the brink or have just entered your forties, may the force be with you. Keep breathing. Life begins at forty, it really does.