Editor’s Note: I’m continuously amazed by how expressive women at 40 can be. Few are poets or writers by profession, yet each week they share their stories of love, loss and triumph, shaping and bending words in just the right way to express exactly what they’re feeling, when they’re feeling it. Jenny is one of these women. I first “met” Jenny when she sent me an email about her own reflections at turning 40. Soon after she sent me this…
I Am Forty Years Old
Jesus, just writing that makes me gasp! And for different reasons, not just because of the number…40. Good grief.
I gasp because 40 just kind of snuck up on me.
I gasp because I let time slip carelessly through my fingers.
I gasp because I didn’t plan right.
I gasp because I planned too much.
I gasp because I didn’t plan enough. (photo: Jenny & Sonya)
Truth is, it was someone else’s plan, not mine. I’ve never been on my own, EVER, until now, my 40th year on earth. There was always someone else to mold and adjust to – I moved from my parents home to college where I lived in a dormitory for a year, then moved in with my boyfriend. Then we married, few years later divorced and I moved in with another boyfriend. The cycle repeats…we get married, then hard times come again. My starting-over life felt like shampoo instructions – lather, rinse, repeat. Plan, execute, start over….but still, not my plans, never what I wanted. I always gave up my big dreams, and that was too much of a compromise. I just didn’t know it then.
My life was like wearing a dress that just didn’t fit right. You’re not naked, not exposed at all and you have the appearance of normality even though you’re always adjusting, making temporary fixes, fussing, fussing…and that became routine and normal. But until you listen to that little exasperated voice inside and really look into the mirror do you realize the real problem. That dress just doesn’t fit. It NEVER will. And that was what my life was like – a dress that just didn’t fit. Was someone else’s dress, not mine.
I didn’t like my life anymore.
And that kind of epiphany really hurts. The ill-fitting lifestyle I was keeping up caused me so much pain – I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life. At 165lbs and 5’2”, I had fallen into a pattern of self-medication by over-eating and drinking heavily to stifle the unhappiness and depression I suffered from. I was prescribed anti-depressants 3 years prior, but even that coupled with therapy didn’t seem to help me much. I had to make a decision about my life. I didn’t like who I had become and was stuck in a marriage that really wasn’t a marriage anymore. There was no pill to reverse time or make you fall in love with your partner again. My marriage became like a habit that became toxic because it no longer made sense. I had to make a decision. All of it was a lie, not the way I had envisioned my life.
At 39, staring down the barrel of my 40th birthday, I made the first change. I had always wanted to run a marathon. So one day I registered for it. And last December, I completed my first marathon, the Honolulu Marathon in my home state of Hawaii. It took me forever, but I did it. It gave me the faith in myself that I had misplaced.
When I got back home to Oregon where I currently live, my husband and I had ‘the talk’ and decided to get a divorce. It was Christmas Eve.
In January, I weaned myself off of anti-depressants.
In February, he moved out. I started a weight-loss challenge at work.
In March, even though I couldn’t afford to do it, I threw myself a 40th birthday party at a restaurant and had a great time surrounded by my family and friends. On that day, I was down to 156lbs.
In April, at the end of the weight loss competition, I weighed-in at 148lbs.
In May, I hit my 25lb weight loss goal, weighing in at 140lbs.
In June, my divorce was final and changed my name back to my birth name. I felt truly renewed.
In July, I completed a 4-day hike through Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui, and finished my second marathon, the San Francisco Marathon.
In August, despite the fact that I couldn’t afford more than about $20 for groceries that month, I booked a trip to France. I had met a man online who lived there, and after months of friendship, I decided it was time to move forward and meet.
In September, I went to France for the first time. I had dreamed of going to France since I was 15 years old. Now, 25 years later, I realized that dream. It was the first time I had crossed the Atlantic, my first time in Europe and my first real adventure in dating. I met a man whom I’d fallen in love with in Paris for the first time and it was fabulous.
Now it’s October and I’m taking stock of my life again, evaluating my dreams and exploring ways to make those come true too.
Looking at my 40th year both in hindsight and at the journey ahead, I still gasp. But for different reasons now.
I gasp with the shock that comes with accomplishment.
I gasp with excitement at the fullness of my future.
I gasp at the boldness of the risks I took and fears conquered.
I gasp with delight.
I am forty years old. And I love my life now.