The birthday notifications on Facebook are one of my favorite features of that pesky, obnoxious social media site. Weed through the garbage and there are good things to find — updated family photos, announcements of job promotions, and funny memes that make you giggle on a down day. The birthdays, though, are my favorite. When I’ve been off Facebook for a few days, I feel bad because I’ve likely missed an opportunity to make someone feel important, even if it’s for a brief moment. Everyone enjoys Facebook on her birthday.
This year, the birthdays I’m seeing on Facebook are something special because my high school classmates and I are all turning 40. In addition to the usual photos of birthday cakes and smiling faces, I’m seeing pictures of surprise parties, spa days, and dream vacations. It’s a biggie, after all. Live it up! We’re entering a new decade and that’s a worthwhile celebration.
For the record, I have no qualms whatsoever about turning 40.
I have a few months left of 39, but every time I think of my birthday I feel grateful and proud, like I’m at the precipice of crossing a milestone. My life isn’t perfect, but I’m still here clawing away at it. I’m still growing, still trying, still striving for things I hope to attain before this breath of life runs out.
Amidst all of the wonderful gifts that come with turning 40 — that long sought-after self-confidence, the ability to choose what you care about and discard what’s not worth your time, the reassurance of solid friendships — we also have the challenge of living in the tension of still raising our children while simultaneously caring for aging parents.
Today, for example, we are burying my father-in-law who passed away five days ago. Over the last three weeks we’ve been visiting him while under hospice care, which means I’ve been having difficult conversations with my two boys. We’ve been here before, though, when my mother-in-law passed on eight years ago. It doesn’t get easier, and it will only become more frequent.
It’s not just loss and funerals but also about rearranging expectations. I was to be in Atlanta celebrating my best friend’s 40th birthday this weekend, but I stayed home because there were funeral plans to be made and tender hearts to comfort. The paradox is not lost on me. This is what living in the tension means. In other words, this is 40.
Still, this is a precious season because there is so much good to be discovered. The self-confidence? It finally showed up. (I’ve been chasing that beast for 20 years.) My marriage? We’ve settled into a new phase of solidity. (I’ve been chasing that for 20 years too.) My kids? The teen years aren’t the easiest, but the rewards are bigger and better. There is nothing like seeing glimpses of a mature, responsible man in the face of a 14-year-old boy.
This summer will be the last one spent in my 30s. I don’t have big plans. I’ll write, I’ll run my 20th half marathon, and I’ll try to sleep in a little more often. I’ll wear sunscreen and eat well and grab coffee with friends. Maybe I’ll get another tattoo. I’ll date my husband and goof around with the kids. I’ll watch laugh lines get a little deeper and count the age spots as they appear. Some already have.