You are embarking on a new journey in a few months. One that will take you places many others have gone before you. One that takes you on paths you never dreamed of. One that will challenge you, make you question yourself, make you laugh, cry, and want to scream. One that will ultimately be the most defining chapter in your life. You will be part of a great crowd of people – those that have experienced heartbreak, suffered incomprehensible loss, made bad choices, suffered the consequences of their actions, started a family with the love of their life, watched their children grow into almost adults, realized what their body can (or can’t) do, had friendships end for good reasons and bad reasons and no reason at all, been successful, been a total and complete failure, watched with pride as their children have achieved something they worked so hard for, had their heart break for their child when something they worked hard for didn’t work out they way they wanted, been judged, have judged, been angry at God, and been grateful to God.
This a good crowd of people. This over 40 group. They get it. They’ve experienced it all. You’re in good company. Strangely, the list of what-if’s will get shorter and less weird. The comparisons among others will diminish. You will be happy for others when they have successes, you won’t push yourself on others. You will be genuine. Get it? GENUINE! Be you. You’ve earned the right to finally be yourself. Quit caring so much what everyone else thinks…because, really, they don’t care; they don’t! You have friends, not hundreds or thousands, but a good handful and that’s okay; in fact, it’s probably ideal. You know those who really love you and care for you. Those that speak truth when you need it and still love you. Those that love your quirks and your obnoxious laughter. Those are your real people. That’s your personal army.
40 is a good number. You’re ready. You’ve jumped out of an airplane, you’ve bungee jumped, you’ve climbed a mountain (well, part of one, and it was more like hugging the side of it because you were so afraid you were going to fall to your premature death, but whatever), you’ve white-water rafted, you’ve snorkeled (if you want to call sticking your head in the ocean for 10 seconds and then getting back on the boat because you were afraid of sharks and barracuda eating you alive ‘snorkeling’), you’ve tattooed your body, you’ve lived some crazy adventures. Appreciate this journey, this number. It’s going to be fun, promise.
That marathon dream you’re chasing? Keep chasing it. We get it, once upon a time you were a fast runner and now you’re not. Big deal. Seriously. We all have “once upon a time’s” and you know what? No one really cares anymore. Live in the now. Run that marathon – complete it on your own schedule. If it takes you 7 hours, so what! (but, now that you’re getting older, do it safely – stretch, warm up, drink plenty of fluids, eat right, stretch some more, drink more water, etc. Safety first at your age!)
Those people you once called friends who no longer are a part of your life? Delete them from facebook, instagram and twitter. If these people attend your church or they send their children to the same school as your children attend, you can still be courteous and respectful in person, but there is absolutely no reason why you need to see their lives through social media. They hurt you unapologetically and didn’t think twice. It’s the right move to move on. What benefit is there in being reminded of the hurt? Besides, life is too short to care what they think. Obviously they didn’t care about you in the first place or they wouldn’t have hurt you and not looked back. On that note, the same goes for the two-faced people in your life. If someone is only nice to you when it’s convenient for them, move on. MOVE ON! People will enter and leave your life for a variety of reasons. You can’t make someone want to be your friend. You cannot be everything to everyone.
Mistakes you’ve made? Those are in the past. Move on. Seriously. GET.OVER.IT. Everyone does stupid stuff; sometimes the stupid stuff is REALLY stupid, but everyone has regrets. Every single person in the world makes mistakes. We all mess up, screw up, and are ashamed of ourselves at some point. Forgive yourself. Ask forgiveness of those you’ve hurt. Be the adult. The past is the past. If someone can’t forgive you when you’ve asked for forgiveness, that’s their problem – not yours. There is nothing wrong with owning your mistakes, acknowledging the junk, and moving forward; in fact, it shows maturity…and 40 year olds are supposed to be mature, right??
That body you see in the mirror? The one you hate, the one you think is old? Guess what – it is almost 40. So, yep, there are saggy parts, wrinkly parts, broken and bruised and damaged parts. There are scars – visible and invisible. There is a muffin top that drives you crazy and stretch marks from pregnancy (newsflash: those stretchmarks are the most beautiful of all the marks on your body). There are no longer the muscles or the tone you had when you were 18. Know why? BECAUSE YOU’RE ALMOST 40! Be healthy. Eat healthy (ok, healthy-er), exercise regularly, laugh daily (yes, daily), and embrace this body that scares you when you look at it in the mirror. Get over the idea that you need to be perfect. You don’t. You aren’t. You never will be. Just be the perfect you (as cliche as that sounds).
Those children you and your husband are raising? They are turning out to be pretty amazing humans. They have their own personalities, their own hopes and dreams, and you are allowing them to pursue those things while gently nudging them to keep working hard and not give up just because once in a while life is really really hard. You’re a good mama. You ARE! You are teaching those children to be genuine and not apologize for it. That’s good stuff.
That husband you have – well, he’s a looker. Handsome as ever and a great example of a Christian man that others only wish to be. He loves you more now than he did 20 years ago and will tell everyone as much. He will do absolutely anything for you. He’s rather smitten with you. And your eyes that change color, your quirks, bad moods, wrinkles, stretch marks and cellulite and scars? He loves it all…know why? Because they tell a story…your story, which, coincidently, completely intertwines with his story. You’ve got a genuine man. (see the theme here?)
A few character traits that will serve you well as you face your forties – learning to listen, patience, love, forgiveness, and the ability to see other peoples’ perspective. Not everyone has the same upbringing, the same income, the same lifestyle. Be open to other ideas and processes. Not everyone has the capacity to deal with things the same way you do and vice versa. Quit comparing yourself to everyone else. There isn’t anything wrong with their way, it’s just different than yours. No.big.deal.
Now, some advice and none of this will be easy – keep improving a little more each day. But, don’t lose yourself in the process. Love the woman you’ve become. Spread that love and confidence to those around you. Make decisions and stick with them, even when others don’t like your decision. Don’t gossip. Take a stand. Learn to say no. Forgive – especially when it’s hard. Be genuine, don’t apologize for who you are – some will love you for it, others will leave you for it, and many will want to copy it. 40 is not the new 30. 40 is 40 and it’s not something to be afraid of. (Bring it, 40). Finish 39 with your head up and do 40 proud. You are an amazing, kind, beautiful, loving, forgiving, caring, fun-loving, passionate, hilarious, tender-hearted, spirit-filled woman. Your sparkly personality is one of your best character traits. Don’t be fake; be you.
Be a strong woman; be genuinely YOU.
p.s. you will likely adjust and change this letter as time goes by. Good! If you are never changing or making yourself better, you’re missing the point.