On my 40th birthday last July, a dear friend of mine pulled me aside and gave me a quiet tidbit of advice. She said that 40 isn't really any different than 39 or 45, but what is different is the moment that you learn to stop caring about what others think. For her that happened sometime between 40 and 50.
I nodded at that moment, thinking, I don't really care what others think now.
Or do I?
Since then I have been paying attention and have realized that I do care. Or at least I did. In the past 6 months or so I have felt tremendous personal growth and realization. Is it because of the age? Or the life experience? Or does that all coincide together? Suddenly I am more comfortable, happy, secure, peaceful. And I think largely because I've just stopped worrying so much about other people.
Some of the changes I have felt gradually. . .not intentional changes necessarily. . .but changes that I see in our lives versus where we were a year ago.
1. I don't feel it is necessary to accept every invitation. We won't be left out the next time just because we said no this time. Sometimes missing the party and staying home for a family movie night is the best place in the world to be.
2. I've stopped venting. . .as much. But aren't you supposed to vent when something is bothering you to get it off your chest? I've learned sometimes venting makes it worse. Because in my attempt to portray the situation to a friend or to my husband, I have elevated it to another level. But if I shrug it off and let it stew a day or two, I find the issue tends to go away on its own. Whereas if I have brought someone else into it, it will linger and sometimes is compounded by their reaction or attempt to give advice that may or may not make it worse. If after a few days, the issue is still bothering me, then yes. . .time to share with those I trust.
3. I hold secrets closely. I saw an episode of a sitcom recently where the father was enjoying laughs by sharing stories about his kids. He didn't realize that the kids were mortified by what he was saying and learned by the end of the episode to keep the stories to himself. But found himself at a loss for words in some awkward social moments and had to just smile and nod along. So, I don't think I have ever totally humiliated my kids with stories about them, but have I over-shared? Have there been things I have told friends about them that would embarrass them if they were in the same room? Oh definitely. We all do it. But why do we do it? For a laugh? For support? To make the friend feel less alone by letting them know it happens to us too? Recently I have found myself about to share a funny tale or a story my kids told me...but I have stopped myself and wondered if my child would be giving me permission or not to share it. If I want them to continue to trust me and tell me what's going on in their lives and what's on their mind, I have to keep their confidences. Believe me, this has been very hard. Just smile and nod. . .smile and nod. . .
4. I need people less. I used to be a member of Mamapedia, the local moms club and other various on-line parenting groups. I would frequently ask advice and exchange ideas on parenting. Slowly over time I have let these memberships lapse, finding that the solutions or advice I would get would usually not work for our situation and what we would come up with as a family would end up working out best. And when it comes to connecting with others through text and Facebook, I have found I am doing that less as well. My group of friends is a god-send and I couldn't ask for a better community. But lately I have been just at peace on my own with a good book or taking some quiet time by myself. I don't need to be texting or checking Facebook or calling someone or be in touch with another person every minute of everyday. I found that the phone sometimes, now is in the next room, forgotten. I don't NEED that connection as much. I have me. It's a great feeling. And when I'm with my family I am devoting my full attention to them, not trying to have a conversation via text with a friend at the same time that I am talking to them.
5. I will continue to stand up for what's right. I tend to know a lot about what goes on around me; more than I would like to know sometimes. Sometimes in the past I have been afraid to speak up because of repercussions. Or maybe I have spoken up, but then retracted because the fallout wasn't worth it. It's scary to be the whistle blower because ultimately there is someone who is on the other side of the situation who will not like what I have to say. But if it is the right thing and I feel passionately about it, I won't sit by and I won't be afraid of the outcome. There is a lot to be said about flying under the radar too. It has to be a delicate balance. This is an area I think I will forever be struggling with.
6. It's ok to be late. I have always been on time to everything. Even early most of the time; until I had kids with other ideas. These are our most stressful moments - trying to get out to the door to make it on time somewhere. I've stopped worrying about it so much. I'm not talking about a disrespectful lateness to things but if making to to dance class right at 4:00 means that we have to scream and yell and rush around, it's not worth it. Get what we need to get done, get in the car and go. Ever since I have relaxed on this in our house, I've found that even with extra feet dragging and difficulty getting that bun in the hair just right, we are never more than 4 or 5 minutes late. Sorry to the teachers. . .but life is much nicer to not be so stuck on leaving at that exact minute we need to. And there is always someone still getting there after us. This doesn't work for the bus because it doesn't wait. But I have found that we rush, rush to get to the bus stop on time only to usually find out IT's 10 minutes late. If we miss it, I drive them. Whatever.
7. And obviously I don't care about what others think if I can still show my face in public after my husband's recent karaoke and blizzard videos. Lol. . .He stopped caring about others judging him a long time ago and just lives his life the way he wants. He's happy! Used to be that kind of stuff would embarrass the heck out of me. Now I just roll my eyes and laugh with him. But he couldn't talk me into being on camera with him, so maybe I still care a little. . .
I have the benefit of being one of the youngest of my group of friends and I learn so much from the wisdom of the strong, beautiful women around me. I'm sure I will continue to make mistakes. I will continue to learn and grow. I might read this a year from now and think. ..Oh, I was so naive. I was such a silly 40 year old. But for now, these philosophies have come about out of necessity and maturity. They are me. And I am happy and fulfilled.
Welcome to 40 and a half.