Turning 40 with toddlers

I had a plan, in my 20s. A plan with timeline targets, one that allowed me to accomplish EVERYTHING. No choices to make, no experiences to miss or disappointments. And I’ll admit, my university years were great and the plan held strong.

Then I hit my 30s, Divorce, career change but not by choice, country change but not by choice. It didn’t feel like a momentary lapse in growth; more like an entire house of cards coming down around my ears, all sharp edges and really a sham to begin with.

The thing is, my 30s was also the era of meeting Dave, learning how to learn from my mistakes for real, discovering skill sets I didn’t know I had and becoming a mother. It’s the decade when I decided to be who I was, to hell with the consequences. I learned that when we stop trying to be everything to everybody, we become more to a few important somebodies.

For my 40th, I started with a workout in the basement. I heard the kids whispering on the stairs, trying to figure out what I do down there in the morning. When I came around the corner, they jumped up and down with excitement and then swarmed me yelling, “Happy birthday!” Amazing. We went to swimming, did the grocery list and shopping, parented. Because we’re parents first, even on birthdays. I got drawings and hugs and love all day. And then we celebrated with friends. Only grownups, yummy food and cocktails, laughter and stories.

My birthday didn’t feel reflective; it was fun and full, not momentous. But Dave made a comment that blew my mind. My whole life started over at 30. This decade was dramatically full of change… everything that makes my days “typical” was completely unknown to me the last time I had a zero at the end of my age. Dad’s parting words the next day were, “And you won’t believe it. It just gets better and better!” Strangely, I believe that may be accurate! It’s a fun thought.

I asked friends to share their favorite books with me this year. At 2am after celebrating, I looked through the myriad books and was astounded at the variety. From a pocket constitution to a beautiful novel I haven’t read in 20 years and should revisit, I couldn’t believe how broad the topics are. And finally, I had my moment of wonder. I met most of these people in the last few years; we’ve worked together, our kids met at the playground, or we’ve been introduced by mutual acquaintances and struck up a friendship.

Random! It’s so random. And wonderful. And if that much great can come from chaotic change, it has to get better and better. So I’m looking forward to reading my unexpected books from unexpected friends. And I’m looking forward to another decade of change. When I turn 50 Tess will be in high school. (Gulp!)

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