When I was 22 and freshly married, 40 wasn’t even a thought. At 25, awaiting the birth of our first child, 40 seemed so far away. By 30, I was running my first full marathon, mothering two busy little boys, and keeping an eye on those fine lines that were just starting to form around my eyes. Turning 40 was still a solid decade away. No worries.
In August, I turned 41, and I’ll be honest with you: It’s been one surprise after another.
Had someone approached me 15 years ago and told me the things I’m about to tell you, I might not have listened so closely. It’s hard to think about the future when it feels so far away. Yet, I can’t waste the opportunity to come to you from the future and tell you the things I think you need to know about life in your 40s.
It feels like your body is betraying you. I’m currently training for my 23rd road race, a half marathon. With so many races under my belt, you’d think I’d be able to run it in my sleep. Unfortunately, this training season has been harder than ever. I’m up about 12 pounds, and I’m feeling it in my joints. My doctor said that this is typical, that as you age, putting on extra weight is easy and expected. You have to be more intentional than ever to stay fit, so while I’m cardiovascularly strong and able-bodied, my body is changing whether I like it or not.
Yet, the unexplained weight gain is nothing compared to the more serious health concerns that can arise in your 40s. To date, my closest friends and I have dealt with cancer and cancer scares, seizures and hysterectomies, digestive woes and bouts of depression. Together, we’ve worried and prayed, sought advice and reprieve. It’s a confusing time physically because even when you think you’re doing all the right things, tests come back positive, follow-up visits are set, and you wonder and worry about what’s going to happen next.
Which brings me to the next thing you need to know: Deaths become more frequent, and it’s unnerving. Among my closest peers, a quarter of them has already lost a parent. In some cases, such as my husband’s, both parents are gone. This “in-between” is a strange place to live — losing a parent while still actively parenting. Granted, I still have both of my parents, and even two grandparents, but I know what’s coming down the road. It’s the season we’re in, and it’s scary. There’s also the unexpected and tragic deaths of those who are in our age group, but that is simply too heartbreaking to write about. Just know that it happens more often than you want to know.
On top of everything else, parenting, while less labor-intensive, is more mentally taxing. No one can prepare you for the emotional roller coaster of parenting teenagers. You can read all the books and seek all the advice, but it’s all trial and error, friends. It’s one big experiment with no guarantee of outcomes. You do your best and pray for the rest. Blessed are the parents of teenagers who try to do everything right.
Mercifully, the gifts of your 40s make this season a touch more manageable. Suddenly you realize all the things you worried about in your 20s and early 30s aren’t important after all. You know yourself better, which means you’re finally able to relax in recognizing what is meant for you and what is not. You trust your own instincts because they’ve been tried and found true. You feel free to say yes and emboldened to say no. You take the time to rest because you finally understand how essential it is. You actually learn to love who you’ve become. And that confidence you’ve been chasing all these years? She finally shows up, and she’s just as beautiful as you knew she’d be.