I have a birthday coming up this month. Â It’s kind of a big one. Â Society/the media/the greeting card industry say that this particular birthday should be an occasion for trepidation, fear, loathing, and jokes. Â I guess. Â But to be honest, I’m not entirely sure it’s that big a deal to me.
Okay, yes, it is a little bit depressing to think about turning forty. Â To most people, twenty sounds young; thirty sounds more sophisticated, but still young; forty is the age where you can no longer pretend that you are fresh out of college because no one is buying it. Â Forty sounds like mammograms and mortgages. Â It means no one asks you for your ID anymore when you buy a bottle of wine. Â It means that I am no longer as young as I think I am.
But on the other hand, would I want to go back to 30? Â No, because I like what the decade has brought me: two kids, a house, a writing career, new friendships, great memories. Â I had my share of suffering during my 30s, but it has schooled me in resilience and compassion. Â Â My spiritual life is different now from where it was at age 30; I believe that now it’s more nuanced, more elastic, more able to take the good and the bad together. Â That’s something I would not trade, at all. Â And if the cost of that are gray hairs and new wrinkles and odd little muscle-y twinges I never used to feel, I think that’s an okay deal.
My dad has a favorite saying, from the football coach Bo Schembechler: “You are either getting better, or you are getting worse.” Â Somehow, when I think of the big 4-0, that saying helps me understand why I’m not as wigged out by the milestone as I thought I’d be. Â I think I keep getting better at this thing called life — I’m trying to, at any rate. Â And that makes me feel like I can face forty with peace …maybe even with joy.