An article called “How to Survive Your 40s” popped into my Facebook feed yesterday and gave me a little fright.
I thought “ooooh, some life advice!” then suddenly remembered I’ve moved into the “How to Survive Your 50s” years.
Slow, deep breaths.
I decided to read it anyway to see if it struck any retrospective chords.
Author Pamela Druckerman notes in the New York Times: “For older people I meet, the 40s are the decade that they would most like to travel back to. “How could I possibly have thought of myself as old at 40?” asks Stanley Brandes, who wrote a book in 1985 about turning 40. “I sort of look back and think: God, how lucky I was. I see it as the beginning of life, not the beginning of the end.”
Good riddance to the first six years of my 40s … they kinda sucked … aside from the kiddiewinks bit.
But a beginning of life did belatedly occur around 46.
However, I reckon Pamela gets it wrong when she says her 40s are “strangely lacking in milestones”.
“Childhood and adolescence are nothing but milestones: You grow taller, advance to new grades, and get your period, your driver’s license and your diploma,” she says. “Then in your 20s and 30s you romance potential partners, find jobs and learn to support yourself. There may be promotions, babies and weddings. The pings of adrenaline from all these carry you forward and reassure you that you’re building an adult life.
“In the 40s, we might still acquire degrees, jobs, homes and spouses, but these elicit less wonder now.”
Nah, Pam! For me they elicit more wonder – my head literally spins with it.
I don’t think – as Pam suggests – that my “possibilities feel more finite”.
I’ve started having crazy business ideas again … building apartment blocks … boarding dogs … opening chambray-centric homewares stores … starting a business making ’70s style stamped leather handbags …
I’ll probably never do any of them, but the point is I’m dreaming about all the possibilities.
And there are so many things I want to see and do … snorkel over living coral (again) before its all gone … traverse New Zealand’s South Island in a camper van … watch the Northern Lights …
Pamela reckons that once we hit 40 we’re no longer preparing for an imagined future life. Our real lives are, indisputably, happening right now. We’ve arrived at what Immanuel Kant called the “Ding an sich” — the thing itself.”
I haven’t arrived anywhere, I’m still on the journey.
I wonder if Pamela might be looking at her 40s differently if they involved a marriage breaking down.
I recently read a blog post from Gillian at Champagne Cartel – her experience was spookily similar to mine in many ways.
The abridged version is that her husband announced earlier this year that he was leaving her after 16 years together. After “a period of deep, dark crisis” something amazing happened.
“From a place of the greatest fear, I have emerged into a place where I realise I am capable,” Gillian writes. “And resilient. And WOAH, if I am capable of THIS, I can bloody well pretty much do anything! That’s wild, man. Somehow I am able to stand neck deep in the shittiest point of my life, but look out with hope and realise that one day I am not just going to be okay, I am going to be great.
“The thing is that in life there are not that many opportunities to be completely reborn without extreme trauma such as illness or death.”
And if that isn’t a wonder-eliciting milestone, I don’t know what is.
Song of the day: Priscilla “I will survive”