There are plenty of reasons to give a positive twist to getting older.
Some cultures see the number 40 as a good omen, a sign of eternity, plenitude, and greatness. But for most women, the number 40 can seem like the beginning of an inexorable end.
At age 40, your body decides to tell you a few things. And not in a conversational tone, but as a complaint. You start to get wrinkles that you can’t cover up with makeup. The two rebellious gray hairs have expanded and now you have to dye your hair if you want to avoid “going gray.” Your body changes: your hips may widen, you may lose your waist, your muscles get more flaccid. Pregnancies may have left stretch marks on your belly, and the law of gravity dictates that everything (and you know what I’m talking about) begins to sag. Oftent our spirits begin to fall with it.
It’s tough. You look around and other women your age seem to be doing just fine. Your friends spend their days in the gym and are toned and fit. The magazine models are spectacular. The wives of presidents get younger every year, and the Hollywood actresses, thanks to a few retouches and procedures, look gloriously exuberant.
Upon arriving home after work, you spend a moment at the bathroom sink and look at yourself. Instead of seeing your face, you see responsibilities: children, kitchen, work meetings, car repairs … an endless list that exhausts you. The next four days are the same, and you start to fall into a depression: “I can’t anymore,” you think. “How do the other women do it?”
A solitary battle
So we can believe that the 40s are the end of life as we’ve known it and we are now in a survival phase where we start to see a gray, arduous horizon. And worst of all, it looks lonely.
I say lonely because the single woman arrives alone, but the married woman also thinks that she can’t count on her husband in this process. He’s got his own endeavors — his work, his sports and hobbies … No matter how much he says he loves her, she thinks he would never understand this particular problem. After all, she tried once to tell him about it and he changed the subject after three seconds. So that must be it.
It may also happen that our interior conversation topics change. Before, we talked a lot about our projects, dreams, hopes, what we were going to study or do for our career. There was a lot of expectation and activity. Our calendars were full, and our weekends were packed. Now, in our 40s, some things may have changed or slowed down a bit. It can also seem that the “fun” in life has stopped in some way due to an illness, a family situation, financial hard times, etc.
But my friend, stop for a second and think about all the hours you needed to graduate from school. Do you think you’ve lost all that? Now you have graduated and you have a body of knowledge that you didn’t have before.
The same in life: before, you spent all day with your friends, but now, when you are able to steal away some time to have coffee with one of them, those moments are so wonderful for sharing your life. And even just a quick text to say “I’m here and I’m with you” when something serious happens and you’re hundreds of miles away is worth gold. And maybe there isn’t as much action, but there is reflection, maturity, events that you’ve lived through, experiences you can share with others.
Embrace and celebrate your life
What can we do when our fourth decade seems to be dragging us along? First, you have to decide that it’s your life. The 40s are also yours, and that doesn’t mean they will drag you to failure but that you are the one to make them take you where you want to go. You may or may not achieve your goals, but what you do achieve will be the result of your decisions, not of some irresistible force that drags you along without your being able to help it.
If you are sad in your 40s because you feel that your life has lost its value, then you need to ask yourself what it was about your life that you thought had value. Because the primordial value of each person is his or her dignity, and that cannot be lost no matter the change of circumstances. We can lose our job, our physical strength, our beauty, our money, our possessions, a loved one … but our deepest value will still be there: our own dignity as a person, as a woman.
At age 40, life starts to be a life you’ve lived. You decide the intensity.
You’ve learned and you’ve taken note. Share your experiences with others.
Try not to live anyone else’s life but yours.
Don’t let them steal away the treasure you’ve stored up; it’s not true that a woman’s value declines after age 40; it increases.
If one day you think it’s a bad idea to celebrate birthdays, listen to the people from the Buenavista Social Club. They range in age from 67 to 95 and love to celebrate their birthdays. Maturity, wrinkles, and a youthful spirit shines in each one — it is medicine for the soul!
This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.