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On Turning 40

Author: Mary Keating

For:  Family Living Magazine

Date:  November/December 2006

            735 words

October 20, 2006

10:46 pm

When I close my eyes tonight, I will say goodbye to the 30-something years. From here forward, I will be viewed as middle-aged. Wow, middle-aged, how did I get here? Clearly, the last two decades have flown by.

I guess I was so busy trying to climb the ladder, remodel a house and create a sense of order from chaos during my twenties that I ran smack into the 30s without much fanfare.

In my early thirties, I spend a significant amount of time eating my words. I got married, built a house, potty-trained a puppy and learned that life was filled with little surprises, miscalculations and many incomplete thoughts.

Somewhere around the early to mid-thirties, I gave birth to two girls, survived 49 days in the NICU, experienced my first surgery, gained weight, lost weight, and gained weight again. Perhaps the weight gain was a direct result of having to eat so many words about stay-at-home moms and other deficiencies in previous thinking. I hate to admit it, but I was pretty clueless about some things.

I have learned that parenting is sort of like learning to swim on dry land, it doesn’t really come together until you are sinking.

I experienced real heart break when I dropped my first born off at kindergarten. That is an understatement, I cried for days.

I’ve gone days without makeup and sometimes even a shower. I’ve done loads of laundry, cooked my fair-share of mac-and-cheese, and wiped faces and fannies–always in that order. You know, I cannot recall getting a full night of sleep in nearly a decade. And, I have worked diligently in learning how to multi-task. I am happy to report that I can put on my running shoes, brush my teeth and race the kids to the car in the mornings.

As I lay here in bed, I realize, I am totally exhausted! I am thankful that the busiest decade of my life is over. Perhaps I can sit back and let my running shoes gather some dust.

October 21, 2006

7:52 am

Gosh, when I looked in the mirror this morning, I didn’t look any older.

Sure, the gravitational pull on various parts of my body are still evident, but nothing really dramatic or earth-shattering happened over night. I counted the wrinkles and I sized up the sags and I have to admit, nothing has really changed.

10:17 am

Just hung up with my mom.

“You are just getting started,” informed my mother. “You have middle-school, high school, dating, driving, SATs, dance recitals, and college still to come. And just wait until your kids are driving, you’ll never sleep.”

Wait a minute. I still have another decade and a half of sleepless nights, worries, fear and personal education? Couldn’t she sugarcoat it? Okay, so perhaps I still have incomplete thoughts and deficiencies in my thinking even as the decade opens.

Even here smack in the middle of my life there are thoughts to grow, hurdles to jump, and roads to travel.

8:42 pm

There is nothing like a quiet celebration to ease into the next year.

My husband and darling little girls have done everything they could to make my 14,610th day as special as possible. As I sat eating prime rib and drinking a glass of red-wine, I saw the homemade huckleberry pies sitting on the counter. Four large candles have been carefully pushed into the filling. As I watched Hannah and Emma struggle to maintain their manners while waiting for pie and ice-cream, I had to smile. All the lessons, all the sleepless nights and all the running has been worth it. I raised my glass and toasted another forty years.

After the wonderful pie, I was handed a gift. Terry and the girls were trying not to laugh as I opened the box – another set of running shoes! Clean, white and ready for racing into the next decade of my life.

10:39 pm

Just as I find myself drifting into sleep, I remembered those wonderful words Christopher Robin says to Pooh:

You are braver than you believe.

Stronger than you seem.

And smarter than you think.

I switched off the light and hoped that my next forty years will be filled with the wonders of life, the gift of friendship, the specialness of a single moment and the joy of new beginnings