Think Small and Stay Home: Thoughts on Turning 40
I turned 40 recently. The big 4-0. Whether you consider that to be “over the hill,” “still fabulous,” or “the new 30,” turning 40 seems to come with some expectations. My husband wants to know if I am going to have a mid-life crisis. My kids asked if I was writing a bucket list. My good friend asked me if I had any resolutions.
I don’t think I’m in danger of having a midlife crisis. You won’t find me drastically changing my hair color, or clothing choices. I am in no way inclined to try Botox or have any of my fat sucked out. I don’t want a tattoo, or a convertible, or fancy jewelry, or any of the other material purchases that stereotypically come along with the mid-life crisis.
The bucket list question was a little harder. It’s not that there aren’t things that would be fun or interesting to try. For example, It would be nice to fly first class some day. But if it doesn’t happen, I don’t feel like it will be a major life disappointment. I have seen other people’s bucket lists and honestly, it’s hard for me to relate. I don’t want to learn to fly a plane, or perform in front of a large crowd, or ride a bull. I don’t want to go bungee jumping or skydiving. There are no celebrities I am dying to meet or concerts I HAVE to attend. I have no desire to climb Mount Everest or run a marathon. I don’t need to eat ice cream in 100 different countries.
That said, when my time comes to depart this world, I do want to feel like I have lived. I don’t want to have regrets. But for me, I don’t think the above mentioned activities are going to make or break me feeling like I have lived the life I wanted to live.
That brings me to resolutions. In the moment I was asked that question, I had trouble coming up with a response. “I’m just taking life one day at a time,” I think is what I answered. In the days since then, I have thought more about what I want from my next 40 years- assuming that I am lucky enough to get 40 more. The list is a work in progress and I will keep my own copy to add to as I think of other items of importance.
From 40 on I resolve to:
- Take better care of myself. Considering all of my genetic predispositions I really do need to start taking better care of myself. You won’t see me running a 5k or or hiring a personal trainer but I resolve to take more walks, spend more time swinging on the swings at the park and dancing around the kitchen. I resolve to move more and sit less; sleep more and lay awake worrying less; relax more and stress less.
- Spend more time with family and friends. I can’t think of a better investment to make with my time than to spend it with the people I love and with those who love me. With everyone being so busy it is a challenge to find times that work with everyone’s schedules but it’s important to surround ourselves with loved ones. It is healing and life affirming and it makes me happy.
- On the same note, I resolve to be less busy so it is easier to schedule time with the people I want to see. I have a bad habit of spreading myself too thin- committing to too many volunteer projects and completely wearing myself out so that I am of little good to anyone including myself. I resolve to find a better balance between taking care of myself, taking care of my family, and taking care of my community.
- Get off of the computer and write actual letters to people far away. I have found that the less time I spend in front of the computer (and particularly on social media), the happier I am. So I’m going to start kicking it old school and pen actual letters to friends far away. I hope that handwriting letters will force me to slow down and think about what I really want to say to the recipient. I hope it will show how much I really care about them- even if they are not a local presence in my life. I hope they will get as much joy receiving them as I think I will get from writing them. I hope they will be forced to slow down for a minute, too, while they sit and read what I have written.
- Find the joy in little things every day. My family thinks I’m crazy but one of my favorite everyday joys is feeding the squirrels in our backyard. They especially enjoy whole hazelnuts. They look super cute sitting on the back deck railing nibbling away on their tasty treat and it cracks me up when they try to carry more than one back to their tree and they can’t figure out how to hold them all. However, when they stand on their back legs and peer in through the sliding glass door as if to say, “do you have any more nuts in there?” That’s when I’m forced to admit that perhaps the biggest nut of all is me. But it makes me happy and that is what matters. I resolve to keep feeding the squirrels.
- Continue to help people in need in my community. As a mother, I can’t imagine what it would feel like for my child to be really hungry and have nothing to give them to eat. That’s why I became involved in a program at my synagogue that provides weekend food bags for over 200 children at a nearby elementary school who are not guaranteed a meal between leaving school on Friday and returning to school on Monday. You know what really makes me happy? Because of a contribution I make, a mother doesn’t have to tell her child there is no food today. I resolve to step up my support of this program because children shouldn’t have to go hungry and mothers shouldn’t have to tell their kids there is no food to give them.
- Have meaningful conversations. I remember a time before texting, email, and instant message when people would actually speak to each other. Co-workers would walk down the hall to have a face to face conversation; people would chat with each other while on line at the supermarket. Now, people stare at their cell phone screens while waiting on line and co-workers instant message each other from down the hall. It seems that people will go out of their way to avoid having conversations these days. If someone we don’t know tries to strike up a conversation we are inclined to wonder, “why is this person talking to me?” As we strive to communicate with each other, sight unseen, using as few words as humanly possible, it becomes more difficult to feel connected with each other. We misinterpret tone in emails and find ourselves on the defensive. I resolve to stare at my phone less and to talk to people more. I resolve to seek out opportunities for meaningful conversations.
As you can see, I’m not planning any big ticket bucket list adventures now that I’ve turned 40. I’m going to stay home and focus on small changes that I think will improve the quality of my life. I’m sure I will think of other “resolutions” for the next 40 years as the days go on but this seems like a good place to start. And of course, I resolve to keep on blogging, whenever the inspiration strikes!!