A Whole New Way to Be

RedefineEditor’s Note: For many of us, turning 40 is an opportunity to redefine ourselves. We begin to focus more intently on the life we want, the life we were meant to live. For me it’s rediscovering the joy of writing and creating art. But for this WAF reader (who wants to remain anonymous), mental illness, misdiagnosis, and treatment that comes at a price, redefining herself takes on a whole new meaning...

It’s a quiet thing.  It doesn’t burst in and announce itself, no.  It steals into the rooms of my mind and takes over my heart, occupies my soul.  I don’t know that it’s come until it’s too late, and I am powerless to push it out.

I was fifteen the first time it happened, and it took away a year of my life.  No one knew what it was; no one could help me.  A doctor told my mother then that it was “the ultimate in growing pains.” Ten years later, it was back, and I was lost, bereft. This time, the doctors gave it a name and gave me a solution.  It was depression, and I needed Prozac.  That was the beginning of a whole other thing.

This thing was louder.  It was bold, and it made me into someone else.  I was driven, sleepless, creative, and immensely productive.  I accomplished more in the next ten years than I could have imagined or hoped for.  But there was a price.  I was reckless, unwieldy in my emotions, dangerous in my thinking and behavior.  I was having hypomanic episodes, I was bipolar.  But hypomania was my normal, so the doctors didn’t see it.  They only saw the depression, and kept giving me antidepressants, which made the hypomania worse.

I would spend the better part of my adulthood struggling to be okay.  The misdiagnosis cost me my sanity.  And after three hospitalizations, I was lost as to how to manage my life.  I was dying–slowly, painfully, dying.

I was forty years old when my therapist figured it out and sent me to yet another doctor, who also figured it out.  And now, at forty-two, I am what’s been termed stable, well, okay…But again, there’s been a price to pay.

I’ve lost some very strong parts of myself—my passion, my creativity—parts I’d like to have back.  I have to find a whole new way to be myself, to access my own soul.  This is the price I’ve paid to be sane.  This is a new pain.

My dreams are smaller now, my life less bright, like a light on a dimmer switch.  I’m not sure who I am, or what I am still capable of doing.  But my dreams have survived.  And so I’m taking this small action—writing this—to say to myself: dream on.  Dream past the pain and the self-doubt.  There is still a you to discover, a wholeness to encounter.  A way to live and be that makes sense.

Starting over as a whole new person at this age is a tricky thing.  But it’s all I can do.  To breathe, and just begin again.  Who knows where I’ll end up?  Maybe on the shore of some distant self.  Maybe in a place I can call home.

We’d love to hear your stories about life, love and reality in your 40s. If you’d like to share your story with the WAF community (anonymously or otherwise), please email us at contribute(@)womenatforty(dot)com. And don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook and on Twitter.


Who you might have been

never too lateThere’s something about turning 40 and being in your 40s that can be SCARY. There’s the getting older thing and time seemingly going by so much faster as you get older. So. Much. Faster… (wasn’t it just Y2K?!?)

And then for some it’s arriving at 40 feeling as if your life isn’t even close to being what/where you thought it would be. Or maybe you are exactly where you thought you’d be but now that you’re there things just don’t feel the way you thought they would.

Along with our own personal doubts come the whispers (and often shouts) from society that it’s too late.  With a few well publicized celebrity exceptions, according to the ubiquitous “them”, if you’ve made it to 40 but you haven’t made IT, whatever IT is, it’s Too. Damn. Late.

Too late to have the life you want, the career/body/mind/love you’ve always felt was yours to have. “Sorry ladies,” society scream-whispers (because it’s not PC to be too obvious about it), “YOU’VE MISSED THE BOAT.”

And then there’s the other end of the spectrum which says you can still be that woman…if you buy [fill in the blank] and only if you buy [fill in the blank]. Buy that self-help book, that guide to banishing cellulite, shedding those pounds and blasting those God-forsaken wrinkles. You can have IT at 40, they say, but not without a lot of help from us.

I beg to differ.

I personally know women in their 40s (and beyond) who have transformed their lives – bodies, minds, souls and bank accounts – and they didn’t have to compromise who they were at their core or buy into the marketing message that they had to be in their 20s or 30s to do it.

So, as cliche as it might sound, your time, woman at 40, is now. Your 20s and 30s are in the past, where they should be. Would-coulda-shoulda is an anchor keeping you stuck in one corner of a vast ocean that’s wide open to you. 40 doesn’t need to be the new 30 – 40 is the best 40.

Reshape the dreams and desires of your 20s with your 40 year old mind, your 40 year old sensibilities and all the wisdom and power that come along with it. Take it from someone who at 38, started this blog because I wasn’t happy with who and where I was. Take it from the women 40 and older – friends and family alike – who I’m watching redefine what it means to be women of a certain age and proving it is never too late to be who you might have been.





Here’s to an awesome 2013!

create a lifeHappy 2013, WAF!

I didn’t make any resolutions this year. In fact, I didn’t even make any plans really. I’m working on several “projects” (business, health, spiritual, relationships) and I intend to keep working on them and toward them in some way. Every day. That’s as close to making plans as I’m willing to get this year.

One of these projects involves sharing with the WAF community more frequently, even if it’s just a daily nugget of truth.  So…

Today’s Truth…

So many New Year’s resolutions focus on the physical – which is fine – good in fact, but let’s never lose sight of the fact that looking good, feeling good, living good begins on the inside. A house that boasts awesome curb appeal but has shaky foundations and bad plumbing is technically still a house, but no place to live. And, it certainly isn’t someplace you’d want to call home.

So here’s to repairing foundations, fixing leaky plumbing and spending as much time on what and how we feel as we do on how we look.

Five for Friday: The Breast Cancer Awareness Edition & Colonial Candle Giveaway

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and as women in our 40s that has significant meaning for us in particular. The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older). But it’s not all bad news. Over the past few decades breast cancer cure rates and treatment options have gained strides and there’s an ever increasing network of support and resources for the women, and men, affected by breast cancer. Here are five helpful websites and organizations that support prevention and finding a cure:

1.  NBCAM – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) is a collaboration of national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease, and provide greater access to services.

2. Prevent Cancer Foundation Prevent Cancer Foundation strives to reduce cancer mortality rates by focusing individual behaviors, public policy and discussion, and research on prevention and early detection.

3. Men Against Breast CancerMen Against Breast Cancer educates and empowers men to be effective caregivers to those impacted by cancer.

4. The American Cancer Society – Comprehensive breast cancer pages on The American Cancer Society site offer information on understanding pathology reports, signs, symptoms and mammogram reminders.

5. Avon Foundation: Breast Cancer Crusade – Since 1992, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade has worked to help prevent, treat and ultimately eradicate breast cancer. With more than $780 million raised and donated to breast cancer programs around the world through 2012, Avon is the leading corporate supporter of the cause globally. This year Colonial Candle is teaming with the Avon Foundation to support research to find a cure. 10% of the proceeds from sales of Colonial Candle’s Pretty in Pink candles will be donated to the Avon Foundation. Pretty in Pink is a 16 oz. 3-wick oval jar candle. The fragrance is a soft floral blend of gardenia and jasmine topped with fresh greens.The candles retail for $25 and are available online.

To help spread the word about available breast cancer awareness resources and about Colonial Candle’s Pretty in Pink promotion, Women at Forty is giving away two of these beautiful candles. To enter the drawing, simply hit like on the Facebook , Twitter or any of the share buttons below or repost directly from our Facebook page. Only one candle per household/family.

Edit: Please leave  your first name & last initial in the comment section at the bottom of the post so I can properly track your entry. The FB like button isn’t including the proper info (but please, keep liking too) – Thanks!

Thanks for reading and sharing. Let’s keep working towards prevention and finding a cure!

Beignets, Boys, and the City of Bath: My Travel Manifesto

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my upcoming big, fat, European vacation and how it had taken me two years to plan because I kept getting in my own way.

But now that the tickets are booked and it’s a sure thing (God willing and the creek don’t rise) I am BEYOND excited. (Photo: Beignets and Croissants via Flickr)

And still a little anxious.

I probably need several hours days on someone’s couch to figure out all the reasons why, but I know a big part of that is my fear of things not turning out the way I think they should. I usually try to deal with that by over-planning everything. But this time, not so much. This time instead of letting the anxiety and worry rule, I intend to let the trip reveal itself to me. There are definitely things I’m planning on doing – as a Jane Austen fan, visiting the city of Bath is a must for this trip – but there are also things I don’t want to do. Planning my day from the crack of dawn until the sun sets is one of them.

So I wrote a manifesto. A travel manifesto. The official definition of manifesto is a public declaration of intentions, opinions or motives. This started out being my travel manifesto, but then I realized that these are all things that I’d like to be doing everyday, especially the part about the men…

Beignets, Boys, and Bath: This Woman at Forty’s Travel Manifesto

I will expect the best, prepare for the worst, and be grateful for all of it as it comes.

I will eat croissants and beignets in Paris, pizza and pasta in Rome, and in London…well, in London I’ll find something to eat, without guilt, without anxiety, and without fear. I won’t eat as though my happiness depends on it (see my struggle with compulsive eating ), but as though my life – the life I want – does.

I will walk. Everywhere I can. Up stairs, around neighborhoods, whenever and wherever it’s a viable option I will choose to move instead of being moved.

I will take pictures – lots of them. I’ll allow myself to be in many of those pictures (more on that in a later post).

I will begin conversations with strangers and hope to end them as friends. I hope a high percentage of these conversations happen with men :-).

I will attempt to speak in the language of the country I’m visiting even though my vocabulary is limited and my accent and grammar are imperfect.

I will live outside of my comfort zone, every day doing at least one thing I wouldn’t normally do.

I will pay attention. To everything. The sights I’m not used to seeing, the accents I’m not used to hearing, the foods I’m not used to tasting. I will be present in the moment during all these experiences not wondering what’s next.

My experiences won’t be overshadowed by my expectations because I will enjoy the journey, regardless of the destination.

I will write. And then I’ll write. And then I’ll write some more.

And if I’m bold enough to share what I’m dreaming, it’s that I can organize a trip like this for a group of Women at Forty in 2014. A tour where we can continue to live out our own personal manifestos.

You don’t have to be in the process of planning a trip of a lifetime to write a personal manifesto. What’s your intention and how will you give direction to that intention? Share your manifestos (travel and otherwise) with the Women at Forty community. Email them to contributeatwomen(@)forty.com (no parenthesis) and I’ll post them here.