September 22, 2015

40 Already? How did that Happen?


On September 29th, 2015, I’ll officially bid my 30s goodbye. Stepping into the decade of “sophistication,” crossing the other half of the line and welcoming the “later years.”

I’m not prepared. I’m not ready. I don’t feel 40. How did this happen so quickly?

With this sense of time-is-running out I’ve been approaching 40 with an unrelenting urgency to “get stuff done.” With barely a dent made to my bucket list, I need to move quickly—before the aches and pains set in, before my body sags to unrecognizable proportions and before my wrinkles deepen and multiply.

In this fast-paced society we put a high premium on speed. Faster cars are worth more. Fast food is convenient. Learning to read in kindergarten is better than 1st grade. Let’s hurry up and graduate so we can work full-time, get married, have kids. We rush through life in a hurry to get somewhere other than here. And when we get there we’ve moved so fast we have no idea we ever arrived. We missed the whole thing entirely and we’re still in a hurry to get to the next better place.

Slow has become synonymous with dumb or inefficient. But it’s in slowing down that we discover. If we decelerate by half we notice twice as much. And it’s in those moments, in between the leaving and going that life happens.

Now that 40 is literally knocking down my door, I’ve ironically slowed down just enough to recognize this stage for the milestone it is. There wasn’t an exact moment when my foot left the pedal. It was more of a gradual letting go. Instead of a looming end, 40 became symbolic for a life half lived. It represents the experience that accompanies a certain amount of confidence and trust. Now I get to live my second half. The time when having to make sense of things isn’t as important, when the important things matter more, and when life’s fragility keeps us embracing each moment for as long as possible. Suddenly time slows. And now slow becomes a celebration.

So let’s celebrate that. Let’s celebrate love instead of fear, generosity instead of greed, kindness instead of hate, less instead of more.

It’s not about how much I’ve done or have or what I need to do. What these years have taught me is that no matter how much I do, if I live by the standards of our society it will never be enough. I’ll forever be in a hurry to end up in the same place. As long as my identity and self-worth are tied to someone else’s measure of success, I’ll never feel whole, complete or satisfied.

It took 40 years to look myself in the mirror and fully embracing the woman I am, admit that I count even if I’m not the winner or the best. Why am I spending my precious time struggling to meet a criteria set by a society that mostly celebrates speed, power and wealth?

The best thing 40 taught me is to set my own standards. So I’ve done exactly that. I’ve set only one—to remember the everyday blessings and to value them as much as I value myself.

Oh, and about that bucket…I’ve kicked it 🙂

More things 40 has taught me:

  1. Age and wisdom aren’t directly proportional. You can be young and wise or old and stupid.
  1. It’s okay to take a few steps back. Forgive yourself and start again.
  1. Stop worrying about what others think. News flash: They’re not thinking of you!
  1. Our minds love having something to ruminate about. They create problems that don’t exist just to work hard at solving non-existing problems.
  1. 95 percent of all our thoughts are useless
  1. Anais Nin had it right when she said, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”
  1. Gratitude is the best anti-depressant.
  1. At 40 friendships matter again—but this time quality really counts.
  1. Travel not to move but to be moved.
  1. “When you live your life in ‘what if’ that ends up being the only possibility.” ~ Sarah Silverman
  1. Right now is the only thing that’s real. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Don’t miss it.
  1. What you think you become.
  1. Marc Nepo describes listening as a practice of leaning in softly with a willingness to be changed by what we hear. He’s on to something.
  1. Expressing vulnerability isn’t a weakness it’s a courageous strength. Just ask Brené Brown.
  1. Get intimate with your emotions, they’re here for a reason. Get to know them.
  1. Figure out what makes you come alive and do more of that.
  1. Marianne Williamson said that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, it’s that we are powerful beyond measure. Taking time to understand that is life altering.
  1. Poison Ivy is mean.
  1. “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer (So Poison Ivy is really mean)
  1. Jeans just aren’t comfortable. Stop trying.
  1. Ask for help
  1. Be kind instead of right.
  1. Don’t try to cover up your age lines or erase them. Embrace them instead. I know. Crazy idea especially if you live in Los Angeles or New York City.
  1. Natural is beautiful, but so is a little sparkle. 🙂
  1. “I don’t have time,” is a big lie we tell ourselves. We have time. We choose to use it in other ways.
  1. “Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is a way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life…The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ~ William Martin from the book “That Parent’s Tao Te Ching.”
  1. Happy people aren’t envious. They share in the happiness of others.
  1. Self-hugs work. A little self-compassion goes a long way.
  1. Small breasts are underrated. They’re perfect for braless liberation. Free people isn’t just an expensive brand.
  1. Get to know a person before you find out what they do for a living.
  1. Being afraid doesn’t keep you safe it keeps you trapped.
  1. Go to bed every night and remind yourself that you tried your best.
  1. Spend as much time as possible with children. They can teach you more than most adults.
  1. Just do it. What are you waiting for?
  1. “Don’t ask, ‘Can I?’ Ask yourself ‘How can I?’ instead.” ~ Ellen Langer
  1. Only intrinsic rewards motivate. Extrinsic rewards actually decrease motivation. I know this sounds like a contradiction. Business models have it all wrong. Just watch Dan Pink’s Ted Talk.
  1. There are two ways to live—mindlessly or mindfully. You get to pick.
  1. About sex: It’s much better once you get the hell out of your head! Stop over-analyzing and drop into your body. And women do it before you start drying up. At that point you’ve got other things to worry about (so I’ve heard).
  1. Try to find at least one new thing you like about your partner everyday.
  1. Speak up. You may not get another chance.

Now is your chance to speak up and share your thoughts! What has your age taught you? I’d love to know.



15 Things Every Woman Should do By 40.


Author: Valerie Vandrame

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

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